Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

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Dr. Thomas C. Franchini, the former Chief of Podiatry at the Department of Veterans' Affairs Maine Healthcare System at Togus, sued several publishers and reporters for defamation. Franchini alleged that articles written by the defendants, which described malpractice allegations related to his treatment of veterans at VA Togus, were libelous and defamatory. He also claimed negligent infliction of emotional distress and fraudulent or negligent misrepresentation against some defendants.The United States District Court for the District of Maine granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, finding that Franchini was a voluntary public figure and had failed to plead actual malice in his Second Amended Complaint (SAC). The court determined that the issues surrounding the quality of care at VA Togus were matters of public concern and that Franchini had voluntarily injected himself into the controversy through his actions, including creating a blog and giving an interview to a reporter. The court also found that Franchini's claims of negligent infliction of emotional distress and fraudulent or negligent misrepresentation were not supported by sufficient evidence.The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The appellate court agreed that a public controversy existed regarding the quality of care at VA Togus and that Franchini had voluntarily become a limited-purpose public figure by engaging in public discussions about the controversy. The court also held that Franchini failed to show that the defendants acted with actual malice, as required for a public figure to succeed in a defamation claim. The court noted that the defendants had conducted due diligence in their reporting and included Franchini's statements in their articles. Consequently, the appellate court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendants. View "Franchini v. Bangor Publishing Co., Inc." on Justia Law

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Three foreign nationals, crewmembers aboard the vessel MARGUERITA, were detained in the United States after the vessel was held in port in Maine due to alleged improper disposal of bilge water and inaccurate record-keeping. The plaintiffs were ordered to remain in the U.S. as potential material witnesses. They were later allowed to leave but returned for trial and were awarded for their contributions to the conviction of the vessel's operator.The plaintiffs filed a lawsuit under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics and the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) against various U.S. government entities and officials, alleging violations of their constitutional rights and various tort claims. The U.S. District Court for the District of Maine dismissed the Bivens claim and granted summary judgment for the defendants on the FTCA claims. The court found that the plaintiffs' detention and the revocation of their landing permits were authorized and that the plaintiffs did not show that the actions taken by the government officials were unlawful or unreasonable.The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit reviewed the case and affirmed the district court's decision. The appellate court held that the requirement for ships to maintain an Oil Record Book under 33 C.F.R. § 151.25 is valid and that the plaintiffs' detention was justified under the circumstances. The court also found that the plaintiffs failed to establish their claims for false arrest, false imprisonment, abuse of process, and intentional infliction of emotional distress under the FTCA. Additionally, the court concluded that the Bivens claim presented a new context and that special factors counseled hesitation in extending a Bivens remedy, particularly given the availability of alternative remedies and the implications for government policy and international relations. View "Hornof v. United States" on Justia Law

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Eugene Bowen, employed by Team Industrial Services, Inc., was injured after falling from a ladder inside a jet fuel tank at San Francisco International Airport. Bowen sued Burns & McDonnell Engineering Company Inc. and HMT, LLC, alleging premises liability due to negligence and negligent supervision. The trial court granted summary judgment for the defendants, citing the Privette doctrine, which limits a hirer's liability for injuries to independent contractors' employees unless specific exceptions apply.The San Francisco County Superior Court found that the Privette doctrine applied because the defendants had hired Team to perform work, and Bowen was injured while working for Team. The court ruled there were no triable issues of material fact regarding exceptions to the Privette doctrine. Specifically, the court noted that Burns did not control the means by which Team performed its work, and HMT had not directed or required Bowen to use its ladder and scaffolding.The California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, Division Two, affirmed the trial court's decision. The appellate court held that Bowen failed to raise a triable issue of material fact regarding the applicability of the retained control exception to the Privette doctrine. The court found no evidence that HMT directed Bowen's work or required him to use its equipment. Additionally, the court noted that Bowen's execution of a Job Safety Analysis indicated Team's responsibility for its own safety measures. The judgment in favor of the defendants was affirmed, and they were awarded costs on appeal. View "Bowen v. Burns & McDonnell Engineering Co., Inc." on Justia Law

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Laura Henry filed a lawsuit against Olakunle Oluwole and their former employer, Bristol Hospital, alleging that Oluwole had sexually assaulted her. Shortly after the complaint was filed, Oluwole was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident, which he claimed prevented him from receiving timely notice of the action. Oluwole did not initially appear in court, leading the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut to enter a default judgment against him. Five years later, Oluwole appeared and moved to set aside the default judgment, but the district court denied his motion. The case against Bristol proceeded to a jury trial, which resulted in a verdict that Henry had failed to prove that Oluwole sexually assaulted, assaulted, or battered her. Following the jury verdict, the district court vacated the default judgment against Oluwole for the assault and battery claims but left it in place for other claims.The U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut initially entered a default judgment against Oluwole due to his failure to appear. After Oluwole eventually appeared and moved to set aside the default judgment, the district court denied his motion, finding his default willful and that setting it aside would prejudice Henry. The jury trial against Bristol resulted in a verdict in favor of Bristol, finding no proof of sexual assault, assault, or battery by Oluwole. Consequently, the district court vacated the default judgment against Oluwole for the assault and battery claims but maintained it for other claims, including false imprisonment and emotional distress.The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reviewed the case and found that the district court erred in denying Oluwole’s motions to set aside the default judgment. The appellate court held that the district court should have set aside the default judgment based on the factors established in Enron Oil Corp. v. Diakuhara. Additionally, the appellate court determined that the entire default judgment should have been vacated following the jury verdict, as maintaining it was inconsistent with the jury’s findings, pursuant to the principle in Frow v. De La Vega. The Second Circuit reversed the district court’s judgment and remanded with instructions to enter judgment for Oluwole. View "Henry v. Oluwole" on Justia Law

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Pedro and Aida Alonzo filed a personal injury lawsuit against Richard Menholt and Menholt Farms, alleging negligent selection of an independent contractor. The case arose from an accident where Alberto Lopez, a driver for Braaten Farms, crossed the centerline and collided with Pedro Alonzo's semi-truck, causing serious injuries. Lopez had a suspended license and a history of driving offenses. Menholt Farms had hired Braaten Farms to haul sugar beets, but neither Menholt Farms nor Braaten Farms conducted thorough background checks on Lopez.The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Menholt Farms, recognizing the tort of negligent selection of an independent contractor but finding no genuine issue of material fact regarding Menholt Farms's alleged negligence. The court concluded that Menholt Farms had no duty to inquire into Braaten Farms's hiring practices or Lopez's qualifications. The Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's decision, holding that Minnesota does not recognize the claim and that, even if it did, no genuine issue of material fact existed.The Minnesota Supreme Court reviewed the case and recognized the tort of negligent selection of an independent contractor under Minnesota common law. The court noted that the tort is supported by the Restatement (Second) of Torts and is analogous to other recognized claims like negligent hiring. However, the court was evenly divided on whether the district court erred in granting summary judgment, leading to an affirmation of the lower court's decision by default. The court emphasized that the duty of care in selecting an independent contractor depends on the risk involved and the nature of the work, requiring a higher degree of care for more dangerous or specialized tasks. View "Alonzo vs. Menholt" on Justia Law

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Charles Johnson, Jr. was arrested by Officer Garrett Rolfe for driving while intoxicated. Johnson alleged that Rolfe used excessive force during the arrest, resulting in a broken collarbone. Johnson sued Rolfe and the City of Atlanta under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Georgia state law, claiming excessive force and battery. Johnson's complaint stated that he was respectful and did not resist arrest, but Rolfe threw him to the ground, causing his injury.The United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia reviewed the case. The City moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing it failed to state a claim for Monell liability. Rolfe moved for judgment on the pleadings, submitting body camera and dashcam footage showing Johnson resisting arrest. The district court considered the video evidence, determining it was central to Johnson's claims and its authenticity was not disputed. The court found that Rolfe did not use excessive force and was entitled to qualified immunity on the federal claims and official immunity on the state law claims. Consequently, the court dismissed the Monell claim against the City, as there was no underlying constitutional violation.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reviewed the case. The court affirmed the district court's decision, holding that the video evidence was properly considered under the incorporation-by-reference doctrine. The court found that Rolfe's use of force was objectively reasonable given the circumstances, including Johnson's resistance and the dangerous location of the arrest. Therefore, Rolfe was entitled to qualified immunity on the federal claims and official immunity on the state law claims. The court also affirmed the dismissal of the Monell claim against the City, as no constitutional violation occurred. View "Johnson v. City of Atlanta" on Justia Law

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Daoud M. Janini and Feryal Janini filed a complaint against London Townhouses Condominium Association, alleging that the association failed to maintain the sidewalk by not removing snow and ice, leading to Daoud Janini's fall and subsequent brain injury. The plaintiffs owned a condominium unit in the complex, and the association was responsible for maintaining common areas, including the sidewalk where the incident occurred.The Wayne Circuit Court granted the defendant's motion for summary disposition in part, dismissing all claims except for the premises-liability claim. The defendant appealed, and the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed the trial court's decision, holding that because the plaintiffs were co-owners of the land, they could not bring a premises-liability claim. The plaintiffs then sought leave to appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court.The Michigan Supreme Court held that a co-owner of a condominium unit is considered an invitee when entering the common elements of the condominium project. The court determined that the condominium association owes a duty of reasonable care to protect co-owners from dangerous conditions in these common areas. The court overruled the previous decision in Francescutti v. Fox Chase Condo Ass’n, which had precluded such claims. The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals' decision and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. View "Janini v. London Townhouses Condominium Association" on Justia Law

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Teddy and Melanie Scott filed a lawsuit against Dyno Nobel, Inc., alleging that Teddy suffered serious injuries from exposure to a toxic gas cloud negligently emitted from Dyno’s nitric acid plant in Louisiana, Missouri. The incident occurred on March 20, 2015, when an equipment failure during a startup led to the release of nitrogen oxide gas, which enveloped Teddy while he was working at a nearby plant. Teddy experienced immediate physical symptoms and has since suffered from ongoing health issues, including irritable larynx syndrome, headaches, and back pain. Melanie claimed loss of consortium due to Teddy’s injuries.The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri initially granted summary judgment in favor of Dyno, concluding that Dyno owed no duty of care to Teddy. However, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed this decision, finding that the issue of foreseeability, which determines duty, should be decided by a jury. On remand, a jury trial resulted in a verdict for the Scotts, awarding Teddy $13,750,000 in compensatory damages and $30 million in punitive damages, and Melanie $3 million in compensatory damages. Dyno’s post-trial motions for judgment as a matter of law or a new trial were denied.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reviewed the case and affirmed the district court’s judgment in part. The appellate court found that the jury had sufficient evidence to determine that Dyno’s actions created a foreseeable risk of harm and that Dyno breached its duty of care. However, the court reversed the award of punitive damages, concluding that the Scotts did not provide clear and convincing evidence that Dyno acted with a culpable mental state necessary for punitive damages under Missouri law. The case was remanded for entry of an amended judgment omitting the punitive damages award. View "Scott v. Dyno Nobel, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff’s daughter, Alexandrianna Lowe, who had an opioid addiction, was admitted to Hackensack Meridian Jersey Shore University Medical Center (JSUMC) for complications related to Type 1 diabetes. Two days later, Lowe was found unresponsive, and hospital staff administered anti-opioid medication but failed to check her blood sugar levels. An autopsy revealed no illicit drugs in her system. Plaintiff filed a complaint against JSUMC and others, alleging negligence. At the time of filing, plaintiff had not been appointed administratrix ad prosequendum of her daughter’s estate and did not have access to Lowe’s medical records.The trial court dismissed Dr. Michael Carson from the case as he was not involved in the events leading to Lowe’s death. Plaintiff submitted an Affidavit of Merit (AOM) by Dr. Joseph Fallon, which defendants argued was insufficient because it did not name the surviving defendants, did not state that Dr. Fallon was a similarly licensed physician, and did not indicate that Dr. Fallon reviewed Lowe’s medical records. Without holding a Ferreira conference, the trial court dismissed the complaint with prejudice for failure to submit a sufficient AOM. The Appellate Division affirmed the dismissal.The Supreme Court of New Jersey reviewed the case and held that the AOM submitted by plaintiff complied with N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-27. The Court found that the AOM statute does not require the affiant to state that they reviewed medical records or to name a specific defendant by name. The Court emphasized the importance of holding a timely and effective Ferreira conference to resolve issues related to the AOM. The Court reversed the Appellate Division’s decision and remanded the case for further proceedings, including consideration of plaintiff’s motion to amend her complaint to add Dr. Vikas Singh as a defendant. View "Moschella v. Hackensack Meridian Jersey Shore University Medical Center" on Justia Law

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In 2021, Brian McLain filed a negligence lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lansing, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore, and Father Richard Lobert, alleging sexual abuse by Lobert in 1999 when McLain was a minor. McLain claimed he only discovered the causal link between the abuse and his psychological injuries in 2020 during therapy. The defendants moved for summary disposition, arguing the claims were time-barred by the three-year statute of limitations. McLain countered that MCL 600.5851b(1)(b) allowed the claim because it was filed within three years of discovering the causal link.The Livingston Circuit Court denied the defendants' motions, agreeing with McLain that MCL 600.5851b(1)(b) changed the accrual date for claims by minor victims of criminal sexual conduct. The Diocese and the Archdiocese appealed, and the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed, holding that MCL 600.5851b(1)(b) did not change the accrual date and did not apply retroactively to revive McLain's claim. McLain then sought leave to appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court.The Michigan Supreme Court held that MCL 600.5851b(1)(b) creates a discovery rule for measuring the accrual date for claims related to criminal sexual conduct occurring after the statute’s effective date. However, it does not apply retroactively to revive expired claims. Therefore, McLain's claim, which accrued in 1999 and was subject to a three-year statute of limitations, was untimely. The Court affirmed the Court of Appeals' decision, remanding the case for entry of summary disposition in favor of the Diocese. View "Mclain v. Roman Catholic Diocese of Lansing" on Justia Law