Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

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Puma, a pharmaceutical company, created an investor presentation during a proxy contest with Eshelman, a Puma shareholder and the founder of PPD, another pharmaceutical company. Puma invited its shareholders to visit a link on its website where it had published the presentation, which indicated that, a decade earlier, while Eshelman was CEO of PPD, a clinical investigator falsified documents. The presentation was published at least 198 times. Puma also filed the presentation with the SEC, which made it permanently accessible on its website.Eshelman, a resident of North Carolina, initiated a diversity action with state-law claims of defamation. Puma is incorporated in Delaware and has its principal place of business in California; Auerbach, Puma’s CEO, resides in California. The court found defamatory per se Puma’s statements that Eshelman was “involved in clinical trial fraud” and that Eshelman was replaced as CEO after being forced to testify regarding fraud in 2008. A jury awarded Eshelman $15.85 million in compensatory damages and $6.5 million in punitive damages.The Fourth Circuit affirmed as to liability but vacated the award after finding that Puma waived its personal jurisdiction claim. Each of the statements at issue is capable of a singular, defamatory interpretation but “there is no evidence justifying such an enormous award.” View "Eshelman v. Puma Biotechnology, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2019, the television program CBS This Morning broadcast interviews with two women who accused Fairfax, the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, of sexual assault. Fairfax had previously denied the allegations. Although he admitted that both sexual encounters occurred, he claimed they were entirely consensual. The CBS interviewer, Gayle King read from a statement Fairfax had given CBS denying the allegations. King directed viewers to Fairfax’s full statement on CBS’s website. Fairfax later issued a public letter to a North Carolina district attorney, alleging for the first time the existence of an eyewitness. Fairfax demanded that CBS retract the interviews, and CBS refused. Fairfax sued CBS for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The district court dismissed the complaint in its entirety but denied CBS’s motion for attorney’s fees and costs finding that CBS established its entitlement to statutory immunity under Virginia’s anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) statute.The Fourth Circuit affirmed. Fairfax’s complaint fails to plausibly allege that CBS made the allegedly defamatory statements with knowledge or reckless disregard of their falsity, as required to state a claim for defamation of a public official. The fee-shifting statute is discretionary, not mandatory or presumptive. Fairfax’s allegations did not plausibly allege that CBS broadcast its This Morning programs despite entertaining “serious doubts as to the truth” of those broadcasts. View "Fairfax v. CBS Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs challenge the district court's dismissal of three actions seeking damages under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) against Google, Twitter, and Facebook on the basis that defendants' social media platforms allowed ISIS to post videos and other content to communicate the terrorist group's message, to radicalize new recruits, and to generally further its mission. Plaintiffs also claim that Google placed paid advertisements in proximity to ISIS-created content and shared the resulting ad revenue with ISIS. The Gonzalez Plaintiffs' appeal concerns claims for both direct and secondary liability against Google. The Taamneh and Clayborn Plaintiffs' appeals concern claims for secondary liability against Google, Twitter, and Facebook.In Gonzalez, the Ninth Circuit concluded that the presumption against the extraterritorial application of federal statutes did not prevent section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) from applying to plaintiffs' claims because the relevant conduct took place in the United States. Furthermore, the Justice Against Sponsors of International Terrorism Act of 2016 (JASTA) did not impliedly repeal section 230. The panel joined the First and Second Circuits in holding that section 230(e)(1) is limited to criminal prosecutions. Therefore, plaintiffs' claims were not categorically excluded from the reach of section 230 immunity. The panel affirmed the district court's ruling that section 230 immunity bars plaintiffs' non-revenue sharing claims. The panel also affirmed the district court's dismissal of the direct liability revenue-sharing claims for failure to adequately allege proximate cause. Separately, the panel concluded that the TAC's direct liability revenue-sharing claims did not plausibly allege that Google's actions qualified as acts of international terrorism within the meaning of 18 U.S.C. 2331(1), and that the secondary liability revenue-sharing claims failed to plausibly allege either conspiracy or aiding-and-abetting liability under the ATA.In Taamneh, the panel reversed the district court's judgment that the FAC failed to adequately state a claim for secondary liability under the ATA, concluding that the district court erred by ruling that plaintiffs failed to state a claim for aiding-and-abetting liability under the ATA. The district court did not reach section 230 immunity in Taamneh. In Clayburn, the panel affirmed the district court's judgment and concluded that the district court correctly held that plaintiffs failed to plausibly plead their claim for aiding-and-abetting liability. Accordingly, the panel affirmed the judgments in Gonzalez and Clayborn, and reversed and remanded for further proceedings in Taamneh. View "Gonzalez v. Google, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit certified the following questions to the Montana Supreme Court: 1. Under Montana law, for a claim that accrued prior to the effective date of Mont. Code Ann. 27-1-308 (2021), may a plaintiff in a survival action recover the reasonable value of medical care and related services when the costs of such care or services are written-off under the provider's charitable care program? 2. For a claim that accrued prior to the effective date of Mont. Code Ann. 27-1-308 (2021), does a charitable care write-off qualify as a collateral source within the meaning of section 27-1-307? If so, does a charitable care write-off qualify for the "gifts or gratuitous contributions" exception under section 27-1-307(1)(c)? View "Gibson v. United States" on Justia Law

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In December 2014, Steve Tenny sustained a right-sided lumbar disc herniation injury during the course of his employment with Loomis Armored US (Loomis). He immediately began treatment, receiving a series of right-sided steroid injections in his back. At some point shortly after the second injection, Tenny began to complain of increasing left hip and groin pain and underwent testing and treatment for these symptoms. However, the worker’s compensation insurance surety, Ace American Insurance Co., ultimately denied payment for treatment related to the left-side groin pain. Following the matter going to hearing, the Referee recommended that the Industrial Commission find that the left-sided symptoms were causally related to Tenny’s December 2014 industrial accident. The Industrial Commission adopted the Referee’s findings, and after unsuccessfully moving for reconsideration, the employer and surety (collectively, "Defendants") appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court. At issue before the Supreme Court was the question of causation: Was the left-side groin pain experienced by Tenny causally related to his industrial accident? Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the Industrial Commission's decision. View "Tenny v. Loomis Armored US, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court dismissing, for failure to state a claim, Plaintiff's complaint alleging malicious prosecution, holding that a withdrawal of a prior proceeding may satisfy the favorable termination element of a malicious prosecution claim.In dismissing Plaintiff's complaint, the circuit court concluded that the complaint failed to establish that the prior proceeding was terminated in Plaintiff's favor. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) this Court hereby adopts the Restatement (Second) of Torts, section 674, cmt. j addressing whether a withdrawal constitutes a favorable termination; and (2) whether or not the withdrawal in this case constitutes a favorable termination remains a question for the fact-finder. The Supreme Court remanded this case to the circuit court to apply the analysis set forth in this opinion. View "Monroe v. Chase" on Justia Law

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Puchalski, a Wisconsin citizen, took a cruise aboard an RCL ship. While the ship was docked in Juneau, Alaska, he experienced shortness of breath and went to the ship’s infirmary. The ship’s physician prescribed medications. Puchalski returned to his quarters, then collapsed. He was taken to a hospital and died days later. Puchalski’s estate sued RCL, a Liberian corporation headquartered in Florida, alleging negligent medical care and treatment. Florida law would have authorized non-pecuniary damages for loss of companionship and mental pain and suffering. Wisconsin law would not. The parties agreed to address the issue only if a damages award made it necessary. A jury awarded $3,384,073.22 in damages, $3,360,000 of which represented non-pecuniary losses. The district court denied RCL’s Motion for Remittitur, finding that Florida law governed damages.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. General maritime law does not allow non-pecuniary damages for wrongful death, but the Supreme Court has held that state law may supplement general maritime law for damages in suits for deaths that occur within state territorial waters. In determining that Florida law applied, the court applied the “Lauritzen” factors: the place of the wrongful act, domiciles of the injured and of the defendant, place of contract, law of the forum, and location of the defendant’s base of operations. Wisconsin’s interests would not be served by applying Wisconsin law to this case. Applying Florida law, however, would further Florida’s interests in wrongful death suits involving its domiciliaries. View "Goodloe v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, LTD." on Justia Law

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For a brief time period, OCGA 9-3-33.1 allowed time-barred civil claims for childhood sexual abuse to be revived. During that time period, Joy Caroline Harvey Merchan sued her parents, Walter Jackson Harvey, Jr., and Carole Allyn Hill Harvey, under the revival provision of the statute for damages resulting from alleged childhood sexual abuse that occurred decades prior to the filing of the action, principally in Quebec, Canada. The Harveys moved dismiss and for summary judgment, arguing that Merchan’s claims were time-barred and could not be revived. Alternatively, the Harveys argued the revival provision of the Act violated Georgia’s constitutional ban on retroactive laws and the due process and equal protection clauses of the federal and state constitutions. The trial court largely denied the Harveys’ motions, and the Georgia Supreme Court granted interlocutory review to decide: (1) whether Georgia or Quebec law applied to Merchan’s claims; (2) whether OCGA 9-3-33.1 could revive a cause of action for acts that did not occur in Georgia; and (3) whether Georgia’s constitutional ban on retroactive laws and the due process and equal protection clauses of the federal and state constitutions would bar Merchan’s pursuit of such a cause of action against her parents. The Georgia Supreme Court concluded: (1) Georgia substantive law applied to those torts committed in state, while Quebec substantive law applied to the torts committed there; (2) Georgia’s limitations period applied to torts committed in state, but for torts committed in Quebec, the trial court had to determine in the first instance which limitations period was shorter, and the shorter period would control. Merchan could pursue a cause of action for acts that occurred in Quebec as well as Georgia, because OCGA 9-3-33.1’s definition of childhood sexual abuse was broad enough to cover acts that occurred outside of Georgia. "And such a result does not violate Georgia’s constitutional ban on retroactive laws or the Harveys’ due process or equal protection rights. Therefore, we affirm the trial court’s judgment in part, vacate it in part, and remand the case for the trial court to compare the respective limitations periods." View "Harvey et al. v. Merchan" on Justia Law

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Manuel Hernandez was shot and seriously injured by unknown assailants as he approached the doorway to his apartment. Hernandez filed suit against the owner of the apartment complex, Terraces at Brookhaven, and the operator of the complex, Star Residential, LLC (collectively “Star Residential”), asserting, among other things, a nuisance claim under the Georgia Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act (the “Gang Act”). Hernandez claimed that he was entitled to treble damages (i.e., three times the actual damages he sustained in the shooting) and punitive damages under OCGA 16-15-7(c) because his injuries occurred as a result of a criminal street gang creating a public nuisance on Star Residential’s property. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s denial of Star Residential's motion to dismiss, holding, in relevant part, that whether to hold a property owner liable under OCGA 16-15-7(c) of the Gang Act for maintaining a public nuisance was always a question for the factfinder to decide, and not for the court. The Georgia Supreme Court granted Star Residential’s petition for a writ of certiorari to determine whether the Court of Appeals properly construed the civil liability provision of OCGA 16-15-7(c). After review, the Supreme Court concluded the Court of Appeals’ interpretation of the statute was incorrect: "there is nothing in the language of subsection (c) to indicate that the General Assembly intended for a jury to usurp the judiciary’s role of determining the meaning of the statute at issue. ... This means only that, once a legally appropriate cause of action is submitted to the factfinder for decision, that factfinder must be instructed on the legislative intent codified in OCGA 16-15-2 in order to determine if the circumstances of the case warrant the imposition of liability under OCGA 16-15-7(c). The statute simply does not say that a factfinder must determine the meaning of subsection (c) in the first instance, which is a role reserved for the courts." View "Star Residential, LLC et al. v. Hernandez" on Justia Law

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Michael and Katherine Gatto filed suit against the City of Statesboro and City Clerk Sue Starling, alleging negligence and maintenance of a nuisance, after their son, Michael, died following an altercation at a bar in the University Plaza area of the City. The trial court granted summary judgment to both defendants, based in part on sovereign immunity. The Court of Appeals affirmed as to the City, solely on the ground of sovereign immunity. The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari to address municipal immunity in the context of a nuisance claim. The Court held that the Citywasis immune from liability for the conduct alleged here, because municipalities never faced liability for a nuisance claim based on alleged conduct related to property they neither owned nor controlled, and "nothing in our Constitution alters that principle." Accordingly, judgment was affirmed. View "Gatto et al. v. City of Statesboro et al." on Justia Law