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Plaintiff Jose Sandoval was severely burned by an "arc flash" from a live circuit breaker while working with contractor TransPower Testing, Inc. and its principal Frank Sharghi, at a cogeneration plant owned by defendant Qualcomm Incorporated (Qualcomm). The jury returned a special verdict finding that Qualcomm retained control over the safety conditions at the jobsite; that it negligently exercised such control; and that its negligence was a substantial factor in causing Sandoval's harm. The jury found Sandoval's employer, ROS Electrical Supply (ROS), not liable, and apportioned fault between the defendants. Following the verdict, Qualcomm moved for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) and for a new trial. The trial court denied the JNOV motion but granted the motion for new trial on the theory the jury had improperly apportioned liability. Qualcomm appealed order denying its JNOV motion, arguing Sandoval failed to proffer any evidence to show that Qualcomm, as the hirer of an independent contractor, "affirmatively contributed" to Sandoval's injury under the "retained control" exception to the general rule that a hirer is not liable for the injuries of an independent contractor's employees or its subcontractors; the order only partially granting its new trial motion; and the original judgment. Sandoval appealed the order granting Qualcomm a new trial on the apportionment of fault issue. The Court of Appeal concluded substantial evidence supported the jury's finding that Qualcomm negligently exercised retained control over the safety conditions at the jobsite. Therefore, the Court concluded the trial court properly denied Qualcomm's JNOV. Furthermore, the Court concluded the trial court properly exercised its discretion when it granted Qualcomm a limited new trial only on the issue of apportionment of fault as between Qualcomm and TransPower. View "Sandoval v. Qualcomm Incorporated" on Justia Law

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Linda Unger, as personal representative of the estate of Marshall Unger ("Unger") deceased, appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P., and its employees, Naomi Phillips (the store greeter) and Billy Odom (the store manager, collectively referred to as "the Wal-Mart defendants" or “defendants”). On May 20, 2014, Unger, who was 77 years old, and his wife, Linda, visited a Wal-Mart discount store in Mobile. In an attempt to dislodge a stuck shopping cart from the front of the store, Unger lost his balance and fell to the floor, allegedly suffering two fractured vertebrae in his thoracic spine. Several Wal-Mart employees went to Unger's assistance and offered to call an ambulance, but Unger told the employees that he did not require an ambulance. In January 2015, Unger sued Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P., Billy Odom, and fictitiously named defendants alleging that, on the day he was injured, Phillips, the store greeter, had been negligent and/or wanton in failing to "stage a clean [shopping] cart for easy access in violation of Wal-Mart's policies"; that "the Wal-Mart employee collecting carts from outside the store overloaded the machine used for collecting carts creating an unsafe condition that consumers would have no knowledge of"; and that Wal-Mart had been negligent and/or wanton in failing to train and/or supervise its employees. Unger died in April 2016, while his action was pending. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded plaintiff failed to establish by substantial evidence that Wal-Mart had a legal duty to provide Unger, a business invitee, with a staged shopping cart when he entered the store on May 20, 2014. Accordingly, the summary judgment in favor of the Wal-Mart defendants was affirmed. View "Unger v. Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P." on Justia Law

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The presumption of parentage is rebuttable and a non-biological parent can be a presumed parent. After Brian Pickett died, his partner, two biological children, and his partner's child, A.G., filed a wrongful death action against defendants. The trial court held that A.G. lacked standing to sue, and entered judgment against him. The Court of Appeal reversed the grant of summary judgment to defendants, holding that the record did not rebut the presumption that Brian Pickett was A.G.'s natural parent. In this case, from the time A.G. was one, Pickett was the only father he knew and unrebutted testimony established that Pickett held A.G. out as his child. View "A.G. v. County of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims against defendants after plaintiff's daughter died from inhaling a large quantity of aerosol dust remover in a Wal-Mart parking lot. The court held that plaintiff's negligence claim based on premises liability failed because she did not plead that there were any issues with the conditions of the premises, and because Wal-Mart did not owe the daughter any duty of care regarding her purchase or abuse of dust remover. Furthermore, Wal-Mart was not liable for negligent entrustment under Restatement (Second) of Torts 390 and under Texas laws, and Wal-Mart employees were not liable in their individual capacities. The court affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiff's motion to remand and motion to alter or amend the complaint. View "Allen v. Walmart Stores, LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2013, while the disputed insurance policy was in effect, several guests at the Siloam Springs Hotel allegedly sustained injuries due to carbon monoxide poisoning stemming from an indoor-swimming-pool heater that had recently been serviced. The hotel sought coverage under the policy, and the insurer denied coverage based on the exclusion for “qualities or characteristics of indoor air.” This case made it back to the Tenth Circuit following a remand in which the district court was directed to determine whether there was complete diversity of citizenship between the parties, which was an essential jurisdictional issue that needed to be decided before it could properly address the merits of this case. On remand, the district court received evidence on this question and determined that diversity jurisdiction was indeed proper. The district court also certified a policy question to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, which held that the exclusion at issue in this case - however interpreted -should not be voided based on public policy concerns. Following the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s resolution of the certified question, the insurer asked the district court to administratively close the case, arguing that “no further activity in this case . . . remains necessary to render the [district c]ourt’s adjudication of the coverage issue which the case concerns a final judgment.” The hotel asked the court to reopen the case to either reconsider its previous order or to enter a final, appealable judgment against the hotel. The district court held that the case had already been administratively closed and it had no need to reopen the case, since “both its finding of diversity jurisdiction and the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s answer to the certified question did not alter in any way” the court’s summary judgment decision on the merits of the coverage dispute. The hotel appealed. The Tenth Circuit determined the hotel was entitled to coverage under the policy at issue, and reversed the district court's denial. The case was remanded for further proceedings on the question of damages. View "Siloam Springs Hotel v. Century Surety Company" on Justia Law

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Tony Gunter injured his shoulder on the job. After Gunter had surgery to repair the injury, his doctor imposed work restrictions. Thinking the restrictions prevented him from performing his job, his employer, Bemis Company, fired Gunter. Gunter sued, alleging Bemis violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. A jury ruled in favor of Gunter and awarded him damages, some of which the district court reduced. The parties cross-appealed. The Sixth Circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. The Sixth Circuit determined the district court erred in giving the jury the option of awarding front pay rather than reinstating Gunter, and vacated the front-pay award. The Court affirmed the district court's judgment in all other respects. View "Gunter v. Bemis Co., Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that chapter 2013-107, section 1, Laws of Florida, which revised section 90.702, Florida Statutes, which the Court previously declined to adopt to the extent it was procedural, infringes on the Court’s rulemaking authority. After developing mesothelioma, Plaintiff filed this personal injury action claiming that sixteen defendants caused him to be exposed to asbestos. The trial court awarded Plaintiff $8 million in damages apportioned to certain defendants. At issue on appeal was the admission of expert causation testimony. The Fourth District Court of Appeal reviewed the admission of the experts testimony under Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. 509 U.S. 579 (1993), found that the trial court failed properly to exercise its gatekeeping function as to three experts, and reversed for a new trial as to R.J. Reynolds and remanded for entry of a directed verdict for Crane Co. The Supreme Court quashed the decision below, holding (1) Frye v. United States, 293 F. 1013 (D.C. Cir. 1923), not Daubert, is the appropriate test for Florida courts to determine the reliability of expert testimony before allowing it to be admitted into evidence; and (2) because the causation of mesothelioma is neither new nor novel, the trial court’s acceptance of the expert testimony was proper. View "DeLisle v. Crane Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Ira Martel appealed the trial court’s decision granting summary judgment on his personal injury claims in favor of his employer, defendant Connor Contracting, Inc., and two co-employees, defendants Jason Clark and Stephen Connor. This case was about two separate exceptions to the exclusivity rule of workers’ compensation, the first of which applied when an employee is injured other than by accident, and the second of which applied when a person or entity could be held personally liable for an employee’s injuries. In August 2013, plaintiff was part of a four-person crew employed by Connor Contracting to perform roof repair work at the Montpelier Health Center. Defendant Jason Clark was the worksite foreperson, and defendant Stephen Connor was the treasurer of Connor Contracting and one of the company owners. While working on the project, plaintiff and the other members of the roofing crew used a personal-fall-arrest system (PFAS), which was safety equipment provided by Connor Contracting and required by the company’s safety program rules, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Administration (VOSHA). Plaintiff was completing the soffit work when he fell from the edge of the roof, hit the ground below, and was injured. He was not wearing a PFAS at the time he fell. The parties disputed whether a complete PFAS system was still at the project site on that day and available for plaintiff’s use. Connor Contracting disputes the removal of the PFAS and states that defendant Clark left two harnesses and lanyards at the project site. The Vermont Supreme Court held plaintiff’s action against Connor Contracting was barred by the exclusive remedy provision of Vermont’s Workers’ Compensation Act. Furthermore, plaintiff’s action against the individual defendants is barred because the acts that plaintiff alleges give rise to liability fell within the scope of a nondelegable corporate duty and defendants, therefore, cannot be held personally liable for plaintiff’s injuries. View "Martel v. Connor Contracting, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the orders of the trial court setting aside the default judgment against certain defendants and denying Plaintiff’s motion to correct error, holding that the defendants made the requisite showing under Trial Rule 60(B)(1) of a meritorious defense. Matthew Joseph accidentally discharged a firearm while cleaning it, and the bullet struck Genia Wamsley, the occupant of the adjacent unit. Plaintiff, the personal representative of Genia’s estate, brought suit against the insurer of the apartment complex and its management company (collectively, Landlords) and Joseph. None of the defendants timely answered the complaint, and Wamsley was granted an entry of default judgment. Thereafter, Landlords moved to set aside the default judgment on grounds of excusable neglect. The trial court granted the motions and denied Plaintiff’s motion to correct error. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there existed “even slight evidence of excusable neglect.” View "Wamsley v. Tree City Village" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s complaint alleging negligence and violations of 42 U.S.C. 1983 after Linda Gelok was injured after being left unattended for twenty-five hours at the Wyoming State Hospital (WSH), holding that the complaint alleged sufficient facts to state a claim for relief under 42 U.S. C. 1983 against Paul Mullenax, WSH Administrator, in his individual capacity. On behalf of Linda Gelok, an involuntarily committed incompetent person, Plaintiff sued the WSH, the Wyoming Department of Health, and Mullenax, WSH Administrator, in his official and individual capacities, alleging negligence and violation of her constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court dismissed the negligence action as time-barred. As to the constitutional claims, the district court found that the WSH, the Department, and Mullenax in his official capacity were entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity and that Mullenax was entitled to qualified immunity in his individual capacity. The Supreme Court held (1) Wyo. Stat. Ann. 1-3-107 barred Plaintiff’s negligent health care claim; (2) the district court properly dismissed Plaintiff’s 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims against most defendants; but (3) Plaintiff’s complaint alleged sufficient facts to state a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against Mullenax in his individual capacity. View "Wyoming Guardianship Corp. v. Wyoming State Hospital" on Justia Law