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Plaintiff-appellant Michele Coyle sued defendan-respondent Historic Mission Inn Corporation (the Mission Inn) for negligence and premises liability. Coyle ate lunch with a friend on a patio at the Mission Inn. During lunch, a spider bit Coyle’s back. As a result of the spider bite, Coyle “was hospitalized with numbness and weakness in her extremities due to demyelination in [her] thoracic spine.” In the negligence and premises liability causes of action, Coyle alleged the Mission Inn “knew or should of known that spiders were prevalent in the outside patio area of its restaurants.” Coyle asserted the Mission Inn was aware or should have been aware of the risk the spiders posed to patrons. Coyle alleged the Mission Inn was negligent in failing to warn of the danger of the spiders, or in failing to take reasonable care to prevent spiders from coming into contact with patrons. Coyle sought compensatory damages. In its defense, Mission Inn asserted, “[A] hotel operator does not have an absolute duty to insure the safety of its guests, and this includes a duty to protect against spider bites.” The Mission Inn contended, it “did not owe [Coyle] a duty to protect her from the alleged black widow spider bite [because s]uch a duty would be unreasonable under the circumstances in this case” due to: (1) the Mission Inn following “pest control protocols that exceeded industry standards”; (2) the Mission Inn lacking any knowledge of black widow spiders on its dining patio; and (3) the costs of a duty outweighing the benefits of a duty. Further, the Mission Inn asserted it exercised reasonable care in this case because the Mission Inn “met and exceeded the industry standard of insect inspection and extermination.” The trial court granted the Mission Inn’s motion for summary judgment. The Court of Appeal concluded after review of the trial court record, that the evidence presented did not preclude a finding in favor of Coyle on damages. Therefore, the trial court erred by granting summary judgment. The matter was reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Coyle v. Historic Mission Inn Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants on Plaintiff’s claims challenging his termination. Plaintiff, a former chief administrative law judge of the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Bureau in Iowa Workforce Development (IWD), alleged retaliation under the whistleblower protection provisions of Iowa Code 70A.28 and that Defendants continued to retaliate against him when he sought other positions in state government. Plaintiff further alleged wrongful termination in violation of public policy based upon the same conduct. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants, concluding that Plaintiff could not bring his claims because he failed to exhaust his administrative remedies available to merit employees. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) Plaintiff’s ability to bring a direct claim under section 71A.28 is not precluded by the availability of an administrative remedy under Iowa Code 8A.415; and (2) the district court correctly granted summary judgment on Plaintiff’s wrongful termination claim. View "Walsh v. Wahlert" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Jimmy Larry Beddingfield ("Larry"), his wife, Rebecca, and their adult son, James Cody Beddingfield ("Cody") appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendants Mullins Insurance Company, Mullins & Company Insurance, Rand Mullins, and David Mullins (referred to collectively as "Mullins"), on the Beddingfields' claims stemming from Mullins's alleged failure to properly procure insurance coverage. In 1997, Larry and Rebecca purchased a homeowners' liability-insurance policy from Rand Mullins that protected Larry and Rebecca's primary residence. In 2001, Larry and Rebecca purchased a second liability-insurance policy that provided coverage for a rental house located in Florence; they later constructed another house in Guntersville and, in 2003, purchased an additional liability-insurance policy for that property. In July 2003, Mullins canceled the insurance policy on the Florence house allegedly based on a belief that "the policy was issued in duplicate." Allegedly unbeknownst to Larry and Rebecca, however, the requested cancellation left the Florence house uninsured. One month later, pursuant to a mortgage refinance on the Beddingfields' residence, Larry and Rebecca paid one year's insurance premium on that residence; the check was endorsed and deposited into Mullins's account. In March 2004, the policy on the Beddingfields' residence was canceled because of nonpayment of the premium; neither Larry nor Rebecca, however, was able to recall receiving notice of the cancellation. After those two events, Larry and Rebecca were without insurance on their residence and the Florence house, leaving them with liability insurance only on their Guntersville house. In July 2004, a minor guest at the Beddingfields' Guntersville house, Trace Linam, suffered a serious eye injury in a fireworks-related incident. In 2008, Linam and his father, Linam, sued the Beddingfields, alleging that they, and particularly Cody (who was a minor at the time), were responsible for the injury. Because the underwriter of the Beddingfields' policy had been placed into receivership in Texas in 2006, the Alabama Insurance Guaranty Association ("AIGA") covered the Beddingfields' legal-defense costs in the Linam litigation; however, the maximum amount of liability coverage available was limited to $100,000 –- the amount of the liability- insurance policy Larry and Rebecca had obtained from Mullins to insure that property -- and not $500,000, the amount they say would have been available had the other two policies not been canceled. In February 2011, a judgment was entered on a $600,000 jury verdict against the Beddingfields in the Linam litigation. The Beddingfields appealed that decision. Because, however, AIGA did not post the requisite supersedeas bond, and the Beddingfields were allegedly unable to obtain a bond, execution of the judgment was not stayed during the pendency of the appeal. In July 2011, while their appeal was pending, the Beddingfields sued Mullins, alleging numerous counts of negligence and wantonness with relation to Mullins's handling of the various insurance policies. After review of the trial court record, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed summary judgment as to the negligence claims, reversed as to the wantonness claims, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Beddingfield et al. v. Mullins Insurance Company et al." on Justia Law

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Retaliatory discharge claims are not categorically reserved for at-will employees. A state administrative law judge (ALJ) brought suit alleging wrongful termination in violation of public policy after she was terminated for giving unfavorable testimony about the director of her division to the Iowa Senate Government Oversight Committee. The ALJ’s employment was covered by a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The State filed a motion to dismiss, asserting that the common law claim of wrongful discharge is reserved for at-will employees. The district court agreed and dismissed the case. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the ALJ’s status as a CBA-covered employee did not preclude her wrongful-discharge claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the common law tort of retaliatory discharge against public policy is generally available to contract employees. View "Ackerman v. State" on Justia Law

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Joe and Dianne McGinty sued Grand Casinos of Mississippi Inc.-Biloxi alleging negligence and breach of implied warranty of merchantability for serving unfit food. The McGintys ate breakfast at the Island View Café inside the Grand Casinos. Mr. McGinty ordered “Mama’s Eggs and Chops,” which included two grilled pork chops. Mr. McGinty took a bite of the pork chop and “didn’t like it.” Mrs. McGinty finished the remainder from his plate. Hours later, after only consuming water following the "bad" chop, Mrs. McGinty began to feel nauseated, and she experienced diarrhea at the airport. They then caught a flight to Los Angeles, California. About an hour into the flight, Ms. McGinty began vomiting. Mr. McGinty also fell ill. He began to sweat profusely, feel nauseous, and become incontinent. The flight attendants gave him oxygen and moved the couple to the back of the plane. Mr. McGinty vomited and had diarrhea as well. The McGintys did not eat or drink anything on the airplane. When the plane landed in Los Angeles, Mr. McGinty was carried off the airplane on a stretcher by emergency medical technicians. The McGintys were transported to a local hospital by ambulance. On the way to the hospital, Mrs. McGinty began to vomit a large amount of blood. At the hospital, she received two blood transfusions and was treated for an esophageal tear. Mr. McGinty was discharged from the hospital the same day, but Mrs. McGinty stayed for three days. No tests were conducted for food poisoning at the hospital. Upon returning home, Mrs. McGinty saw her general doctor. Prior medical records from her general doctor show Mrs. McGinty had a history of digestive problems. Two months before the alleged food poisoning, her medical records noted that she suffered from “abdominal pain within 30 minutes after eating which is chronic/recurring frequently, . . . [c]rampy/colicky abdominal pain, diarrhea 15-30 minutes after eating which is chronic.” Further, Mrs. McGinty’s medical records show that she had vomited blood in March 2003, which also occurred prior to the alleged food poisoning. Mrs. McGinty’s treating physician from the California hospital concluded Mrs. McGinty’s “upper gastrointestinal bleeding was caused by the severe vomiting, which related to food and drink [she] had prior to the event.” The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Grand Casinos as to both McGinty claims, and the Court of Appeals affirmed as to negligence, but reversed as to breach-of-implied-warranty. The Mississippi Supreme Court agreed with the appellate court and affirmed. View "McGinty v. Grand Casinos of Mississippi, Inc. - Biloxi" on Justia Law

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A policy exclusion for personal liability “under any contract or agreement” does not apply to relieve an insurer of its duty to defend its insured, an alleged builder-vendor, against a claim for negligent excavation brought by the home buyer because the negligence claim arose from the common law duty to construct the home as a reasonable builder would. After rockslides damaged his property, the home buyer sued the alleged builder-vendor, asserting breach of contract, negligence, and fraud-based claims and alleging that the rockslides were the result of improper excavation during construction. The builder-vendor’s insurer declined the tender of defense on grounds that there was no coverage under the relevant insurance policies. The builder-vendor sought damages and declaratory relief. The superior court granted summary judgment in favor of the insurer. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the policy’s “contractual liability” exclusion did not apply. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the contractual liability exclusion did not relieve the insurer of its duty to defend the builder-vendor against the home buyer’s negligence claim. View "Teufel v. American Family Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants on Plaintiff’s complaint alleging intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, loss of consortium, and invasion of privacy. Plaintiff’s claims stemmed from an incident in which one of the defendants allegedly berated Plaintiff, a Providence Fire Department employee, for allowing one of his dispatchers to be sprawled in his chair while on duty. Plaintiff was later transferred and demoted. Plaintiff filed two grievances against the City, alleging breach of the applicable collective bargaining agreement. The grievances were settled at arbitration for a monetary payment. After Plaintiff retired, he filed this complaint against the City and some of its officers. The hearing justice granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants on all counts of Plaintiff’s complaint. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff failed to allege any conduct by the City that was extreme or outrageous. View "Gross v. Pare" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the decision of the Appellate Division affirming the order of the Workers’ Compensation Board (Board) requiring Plaintiff’s former employer (Defendant) to pay for medical marijuana used to treat Plaintiff’s chronic back pain. Plaintiff was issued a certification to use medical marijuana to treat his pain after sustaining a work-related injury. Plaintiff filed a “petition for payment of medical and related services” with the Board seeking payment from Defendant for the cost of the medical marijuana. Defendant opposed the petition, arguing that an order requiring it to pay for Plaintiff’s medical marijuana was barred by the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) even if his use of medical marijuana were permitted by the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act (MMUMA). A hearing officer granted Plaintiff’s petition, and the Appellate Division affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the Appellate Division, holding (1) in the narrow circumstances of this case, there was a positive conflict between federal and state law; and (2) consequently, the CSA preempts the MUUMA as applied here. View "Bourgoin v. Twin Rivers Paper Co., LLC" on Justia Law

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Stigma damages are a measure of damages stemming from actual injury to property, but if remediation damages are settled and a claim on the stigma damages resulting from the actual damages is reserved, the injured party may be awarded stigma damages regardless of the partial settlement on remediation. Plaintiffs’ property was damaged from oil contamination. In a federal action, the parties entered into a partial settlement that allocated $60,000 to Plaintiffs for repair costs, intended to remedy actual damages to their property. Plaintiffs agreed to dismiss all claims against Defendants except for a reserved claims asserting the diminution of the value of their real estate due to the stigma resulting from the contamination. Plaintiffs then filed this state claim alleging negligence, trespass, and permanent nuisance. Defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that the partial settlement barred the state action because Plaintiffs were fully compensated for the actual damages the contamination caused to their property. The circuit court dismissed the stigma damages claim, holding that Plaintiffs could not seek both the costs of remediation and the diminution in value due to stigma damages. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiffs’ claim for damages resulting from the stigma of the contamination may be recovered in addition to the settled repair costs. View "Muncie v. Wiesemann" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals determining that Appellant, Auslander Properties, LLC, was an “employer” and thus subject to certain employee safety regulations promulgated pursuant to the Kentucky Occupational Safety and Health Act (KOSHA), Ky. Rev. Stat. 338, and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), 29 U.S.C. 651 et seq., and that Appellant had violated duties owed to Appellee, Joseph Herman Nalley, under KOSHA. The trial court awarded Nalley compensatory damages for serious personal injuries he sustained while working on a roof at property owned by Appellant. The Supreme Court remanded the case for dismissal of Nalley’s claim, holding (1) contrary to Nalley’s argument, Appellant properly appealed the denial of summary judgment seeking reversal of the trial court judgment; and (2) Appellant was entitled to dismissal of the negligence per se claim because Nalley was an independent contractor rather than an employee of the LLC, and the responsibility for complying with safety laws applicable to the specialized work Nalley was performing at the time of his injury was upon Nalley. View "Auslander Properties, LLC v. Nalley" on Justia Law