Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

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Barbara Bobo's husband, who worked for the TVA for more than 22 years, was diagnosed with asbestos-induced lung cancer and in 1997 died from a heart attack. Mrs. Bobo was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma in 2011 and died from mesothelioma in 2013. Before her death, Mrs. Bobo filed suit claiming that the TVA's negligence resulted in her being exposed to "take-home" asbestos when she washed her husband's work clothes over the years. The district court entered judgment against the TVA. The court concluded that, assuming that the district court erred in considering the state court deposition testimony of Mr. Bobo to support its finding that he had been exposed to asbestos while employed by TVA, the error was harmless because there was plenty of other evidence proving the same fact; the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the testimony of plaintiff's expert; under Alabama law, TVA owed a duty to Mrs. Bobo to prevent take-home asbestos exposure and TVA violated that duty; the court rejected TVA's argument that the district court applied the wrong exposure standard, concluding that which standard applies does not matter because the evidence of exposure was enough to satisfy either tests at issue; and TVA is not shielded from liability under the discretionary function exception. The court affirmed as to these issues. The court vacated the award of damages, remanding to the district court for it to recalculate the damages award in order to exclude from it any amounts that were written off by Mrs. Bobo's providers and to correct any other errors that may appear to the court when the parties have a chance to focus exclusively on the medical expenses component of the damages award. View "Bobo v. Tennessee Valley Authority" on Justia Law

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TCI Architects (TCI) entered into an agreement with Gander Mountain to serve as the general contractor on a construction project. TCI subcontracted with Craft Mechanical, which subcontracted with B.A. Romines Sheet Metal (Romines) to perform heating and ventilation work for the project. Michael Ryan, an employee of Romines, sustained serious bodily injuries while working at the Gander Mountain construction site. Ryan filed a complaint for damages for the injuries sustained, naming TCI and Craft as defendants. The trial court granted summary judgment for TCI. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the contract between TCI and Gander Mountain did not create a duty. The Supreme Court granted transfer, thereby vacating the court of appeals’ opinion, and reversed, holding that TCI affirmatively demonstrated an intent to assume a non-delegable duty of care toward Ryan by entering into a contract containing language that required TCI to assume responsibility for implementing and monitoring safety precautions and programs for all individuals working on the site and by agreeing to designate a safety representative to supervise the implementing and monitoring. Remanded. View "Ryan v. TCI Architects/Engineers/Contractors, Inc." on Justia Law

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Shane Marcum, who was being held on felony charges, allegedly sustained injuries during a cell extraction. Marcum filed a civil action against the West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority (the Regional Jail). The proceeding was removed to federal court. During the federal court proceeding, Marcum requested, pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, a copy of a videotape that recorded his cell extraction. The Regional Jail refused to turn over the videotape, arguing that it was exempt under W. Va. Code 29B-1-4(a)(2) and (19). Marcum then filed a complaint for preliminary injunction and declaratory relief against the Regional Jail seeking a court order requiring the regional Jail to produce the cell extraction videotape. The circuit court entered an order requiring the Regional Jail to turn over the videotape to Marcum. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) pursuant to section 29B-1-4(a)(19), disclosure of a videotape of the cell extraction of an inmate is prohibited; and (2) therefore, the circuit court committed clear error in ordering the disclosure of the cell extraction videotape. View "W. Va. Regional Jail & Correctional Facility v. Marcum" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal granted the writ application of the employer, City of Jackson (City), after the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (Board) disregarded the apportionment determination of the qualified medical evaluator (QME) on the ground the determination was not substantial medical evidence and directed the workers’ compensation administrative law judge (ALJ) to make an award of unapportioned disability. The QME concluded that the employee’s disability - neck, shoulder, arm, and hand pain - was caused by cervical degenerative disc disease, and that the disease, in turn, was caused in large part by heredity or genetics. The QME thus assigned causation 49 percent to the employee’s personal history, which included, but was not limited to, the genetic cause of the degenerative disease. The ALJ agreed with the QME’s apportionment, but the Board did not. The Board concluded the QME could not assign causation to genetics because that is an “impermissible immutable factor[].” The Board also concluded that by relying on the employee’s genetic makeup, the QME apportioned the causation of the injury rather than the extent of his disability. Finally, the Board concluded the QME’s determination was not substantial medical evidence. After review, the Court of Appeal disagreed with each of the Board’s conclusions, annulled its order, and remanded with directions to deny reconsideration. View "City of Jackson v. WCAB" on Justia Law

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Respondent Walter Smith was injured in December 2012 following a motor vehicle accident. Smith settled with respondent Corbett Mizzell for the policy limits of Mizzell's liability coverage in exchange for a covenant not to execute. Smith then sued Appellants Norman Tiffany, Individually, Brown Trucking Company and Brown Integrated Logistics, claiming Appellants' negligence was a proximate cause of the accident. The issue before the South Carolina Supreme Court stemmed from Appellants' efforts to have Mizzell added as a defendant. In the South Carolina Contribution Among Joint Tortfeasors Act (Act), the legislature abrogated pure joint and several liability for tortfeasors who were less than fifty percent at fault. The Act directed the fact-finder to apportion one-hundred percent of the fault between the plaintiff and "each defendant whose actions were the proximate cause of the indivisible injury." The trial court rejected Appellants' various arguments and, in granting Mizzell summary judgment, applied the Act as written. In affirming the trial court, the Supreme Court was “likewise constrained by the plain meaning of the unambiguous language in the Act. While we appreciate the equity-driven argument of Appellants, we must honor legislative intent as clearly expressed in the Act, lest we run afoul of separation of powers.” View "Smith v. Tiffany" on Justia Law

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Defendant Carus Corp. (Carus) was an international company that developed and sold chemical products for municipal and industrial applications. Defendant's products included a chemical called Totalox, which essentially, was designed as a deodorizer for sewer systems. The Town of Lexington (Town) used Totalox in its sewer treatment plants. In 2010, Plaintiff John Machin, a Town employee, was exposed to Totalox when a storage container valve broke during the delivery of Totalox to one of the Town's wastewater stations. Plaintiff suffered reactive airways syndrome, which was also known as chemically induced asthma or obstructive lung disease. As a result of his injuries, Plaintiff filed a workers' compensation claim and was awarded workers' compensation benefits. The South Carolina Supreme Court accepted four certified questions from the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina: (1) Under South Carolina law, when a Plaintiff seeks recovery from a person, other than his employer, for an injury sustained on the job, may the jury hear an explanation of why the employer is not part of the instant action?; (2) when a Plaintiff seeks recovery from a person, other than his employer, for an injury sustained on the job, may a defendant argue the empty chair defense and suggest that Plaintiff's employer is the wrongdoer?; (3) In connection with Question 2, if a defendant retains the right to argue the empty chair defense against Plaintiff's employer, may a court instruct the jury that an employer's legal responsibility has been determined by another forum, specifically, the South Carolina Workers' Compensation Commission?; and (4) when a Plaintiff seeks recovery from a person, other than his employer, for an injury sustained on the job, may the Court allow the jury to apportion fault against the nonparty employer by placing the name of the employer on the verdict form? The South Carolina Supreme Court answered these questions in the abstract, without any suggestion as to the resolution of the post-trial motion before the federal court: Questions 1, 2, and 3 "yes," provided a defense seeks to assign fault to the plaintiff's employer. The Court answered Question 4, "no." View "Machin v. Carus Corporation" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, who ran a kennel, filed a petition against the Humane Society of the United States and Missourians for the Protection of Dogs alleging that various statements made in documents related to the ballot initiative entitled the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act were defamatory and placed her in a false light. The circuit court dismissed the petition on the grounds that the statements were absolutely privileged opinions and because Petitioner failed to plead any facts cognizable under a false light cause of action. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in dismissing the petition because none of the statements pleaded in the defamation claims were actionable as a matter of law and because Petitioner did not plead any facts cognizable in a false light claim. View "Smith v. Humane Society of the United States" on Justia Law

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The Lewises, driving on a Connecticut interstate, were struck by a vehicle driven by Clarke, a Tribal Gaming Authority employee, who was transporting Mohegan Sun Casino patrons. The Lewises sued Clarke in his individual capacity. The Supreme Court of Connecticut held that tribal sovereign immunity barred the suit because Clarke was acting within the scope of his employment when the accident occurred and did not consider whether Clarke should be entitled to sovereign immunity based on an indemnification statute. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed. In a suit against a tribal employee in his individual capacity, the employee, not the tribe, is the real party in interest; tribal sovereign immunity is not implicated. The suit is based on Clarke's personal actions. Clarke, not the Gaming Authority, is the real party in interest. The Connecticut Supreme Court extended sovereign immunity for tribal employees beyond what common-law sovereign immunity principles would recognize for either state or federal employees. An indemnification provision cannot, as a matter of law, extend sovereign immunity to individual employees who would otherwise not fall under its protective cloak. Connecticut courts exercise no jurisdiction over the Tribe or Gaming Authority and indemnification is not a certainty, because Clarke will not be indemnified should the Gaming Authority determine that he engaged in “wanton, reckless, or malicious” activity. View "Lewis v. Clarke" on Justia Law

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Police officer Dwayne Runnels suffered serious injuries after he was shot by Demetrious Martin. Martin, a convicted felon who could not legally purchase or possess a firearm, received the firearm by Tarus Blackburn, who made a “straw purchase” for the firearm from KS&E Sports. Runnels filed a complaint against KS&E; Blackburn; and Edward Ellis, a KS&E officer, director, and shareholder. KS&E and Ellis moved for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that Ind. Code 34-12-3-3(2) granted them immunity. The trial court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) Runnel’s negligence, piercing-the-corporate-veil, and civil-conspiracy claims, which demand only money damages, must be dismissed because section 34-12-3-3(2) functions as a limited immunity statute that insulates KS&E from suits for “recovery of damages resulting from the criminal or unlawful misuse of a firearm…by a third party”; (2) the statute does not immunize KS&E from Runnel’s public-nuisance claim seeking equitable relief; and (3) the statute is not preempted by federal law and does not violate either the state or federal Constitution. View "KS&E Sports v. Runnels" on Justia Law

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John Hasircoglu was an employee of a subcontractor to FOPCO, Inc., the general contractor on a tunnel construction project on Molokai. In response to a request by the State, FOPCO identified Donald Clark and Michael Estes, neither of whom were FOPCO employees, as “project superintendent and key personnel.” The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of FOPCO on all claims. The intermediate court of appeals affirmed on the grounds that Estes and Clark were not agents of FOPCO, and therefore, FOPCO could not be held vicariously liable for their alleged negligence. The Supreme Court vacated in part and otherwise affirmed, holding (1) there existed a genuine issue of material fact as to whether there was an agency relationship between FOPCO and Estes and/or Clark based on actual express or implied authority; and (2) summary judgment was proper as to Plaintiffs’ remaining claims. View "Hasircoglu v. FOPCO, Inc." on Justia Law