Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying the motion to dismiss filed by State Representative John Lesch on a claim brought by Lyndsey Olson, Saint Paul City Attorney, for defamation per se based on statements Lesch made in a letter sent to the mayor of Saint Paul, holding that legislative immunity did not protect Lesch's letter. Lesch's letter, which was written on Lesch's official letterhead from the Minnesota House of Representatives but was marked "personal and confidential," suggested that Olson was not the right person for the position of City Attorney. Olson brought a defamation suit against Lesch, alleging that Lesch "knowingly, intentionally and maliciously made false and defamatory" statements about her in the letter. Lesch moved to dismiss the complaint, asserting that his statements were communications that were protected by legislative immunity under the Speech or Debate Clause of the Minnesota Constitution and under Minn. Stat. 540.13. The district court denied the motion to dismiss, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that neither Article IV, Section 10 nor section 540.13 extended legislative immunity to Lesch's letter. View "Olson v. Lesch" on Justia Law

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While going down Festival’s waterslide, Sharufa inadvertently slipped from a seated position on an inner tube onto his stomach. When he entered the pool below, his feet hit the bottom with enough force to fracture his hip and pelvis. Sharufa sued for negligence, product liability (including breach of express and implied warranties), and negligent misrepresentation. Sharufa’s opposition to a summary judgment motion included a mechanical engineer's opinion that going down the slide on one’s stomach could lead to injury because it would cause a person to enter the water with more velocity than sliding on one’s back. The court found that the engineer did not qualify as an expert on the relevant subject matter and granted Festival summary adjudication on all but the negligent misrepresentation claim. Sharufa dismissed that claim without prejudice to allow an appeal. The court of appeal affirmed as to Sharufa’s negligence cause of action, Festival owes a heightened duty of care as a common carrier; but there was no evidence of breach. The court reversed as to Sharufa’s products liability causes of action; the record is insufficient to show the park provided primarily a service rather than use of a product. The purpose of riding a waterslide is “entertainment and amusement,” but where a product is intended for entertainment, to allow a supplier to be characterized as an “amusement service” provider would risk weakening product liability protections for consumers. View "Sharufa v. Festival Fun Parks, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the conclusion of the Court of Special Appeals that the release Bernard Collins provided in settlement of his workers' compensation claims did not bar Peggy Collins from asserting her independent claim for death benefits under the Maryland Workers' Compensation Act, Md. Code Ann. Lab. & Empl. Title 9. Two years before he died, Bernard settled claims he had brought under the Act against Petitioners, his former employer and its insurers, for disability benefits related to his heart disease. In the parties' settlement agreement, Bernard purported to release Petitioners from any claims that he or his spouse might have under the Act relating to his disability. After Bernard died, Peggy filed her claim for benefits based on Bernard's death from heart disease. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Petitioners based on release. The Court of Special Appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) because Peggy was not a party to the settlement agreement, Petitioners may not enforce the release against Peggy; and (2) Bernard's settlement of his claims under the Act did not extinguish Peggy's future claim for death benefits. View "In re Bernard L. Collins" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Benjamin McCormick brought this action against the State of Oregon for injuries he sustained while recreating in Lake Billy Chinook. The State moved for summary judgment, asserting that it was entitled to recreational immunity under ORS 105.682. In response, plaintiff contended that the state did not “directly or indirectly permit” the public to use the lake for recreational purposes. Specifically, he contended that, under both the public trust doctrine and the public use doctrine, the public already had a right to use the lake for recreational purposes and, therefore, the State did not “permit” that use. The trial court granted the State summary judgment, but the Court of Appeals reversed. On review, the Oregon Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals decision. For the purposes of the recreational immunity statute, the Supreme Court held an owner could “permit” public recreational use of its land, even if it could not completely prohibit that use. More specifically, an owner could “permit” public recreational use of its land if, among other alternatives, it made that use possible by creating access to and developing the land for that use. View "McCormick v. Oregon Parks & Recreation Dept." on Justia Law

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In April 2017, Jerry Mohr, a Mobile County resident and an employee of CSX Transportation, Inc. ("CSX"), was injured in an on-the-job accident while working on a crew that was repairing a section of CSX railroad track near the Chef Menteur Bridge in Louisiana. Mohr sued CSX in the Mobile Circuit Court, asserting a negligence claim under the Federal Employers' Liability Act ("FELA"). The trial court ultimately entered a summary judgment in favor of CSX. Mohr appealed that judgment, arguing there were genuine issues of material fact that could only be resolved by a jury. Finding no reversible error, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed. View "Mohr v. CSX Transportation, Inc." on Justia Law

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Rita Edwards, as mother of Raven Edwards, appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of Penny Pearson on the ground of State-agent immunity. In 2014, Raven, an eight-year-old student at Airport Road Elementary School, attempted to cross the Deatsville Highway to board a school bus being driven by Pearson, an employee of the Elmore County Board of Education. As she did so, Raven was struck by an automobile, and she ultimately died as a result of her injuries. Edwards sued for wrongful death, alleging Pearson negligently had instructed and/or invited Raven to cross the highway to board the school bus. Pearson filed an answer denying the allegations in the complaint and asserting various affirmative defenses, including, among others, State-agent immunity. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court determined Pearson demonstrated she was entitled to State-agent immunity, and Edwards failed to demonstrate that an exception to that immunity applied. Accordingly, the trial court properly entered a summary judgment in Pearson's favor. View "Edwards v. Pearson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals holding that the University of the Incarnate Word does not have sovereign immunity when it is sued in connection with its law-enforcement activities, holding that neither the doctrine's purposes nor the operative legislation supports extending sovereign immunity to the University as a private entity. A deceased student's parents sued a University peace officer and the University after the officer shot the student following a traffic stop. The Supreme Court previously held that the University may appeal from an adverse ruling on its jurisdictional plea of governmental immunity but remanded to the court of appeals to consider whether the State's sovereign immunity extends to the University. The court of appeals declined to hold that the University possesses sovereign immunity. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) private universities do not operate as an arm of the State government through their police departments; and (2) extending sovereign immunity to the University does not comport with the doctrine's purposes, nor is it consistent with enabling legislation that extends immunity to peace officers engaged in law enforcement activities. View "University of the Incarnate Word v. Redus" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that judgment creditors cannot levy on their judgment debtor, obtain the judgment debtor's chose in action for legal malpractice against the attorney representing the judgment debtor in the litigation giving rise to the judgment, and prosecute the claim for legal malpractice against the attorney as successors in interest to their judgment debtor. Janice and Jeff Gray were awarded $127 million in a civil suit against James Lee Hohenshell. The court of appeals affirmed. While the appeal was pending, the Grays caused to be issued a writ of execution on the judgment against Hohenshell. Amongst the property levied on was any claims against Michael Oliver, Hohenshell's lawyer in the underlying suit. The Grays purchased this right for $5000 at the sheriff's sale. The Grays then filed this malpractice claim against Oliver as successors in interest to Hohenshell. The district court granted Oliver's motion for summary judgment, holding that public policy prohibits the assignment of a legal malpractice claim to an adversarial party in the underlying lawsuit. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that judgment creditors cannot prosecute a claim for legal malpractice as successors in interest to their former litigation adversary where the claim for legal malpractice arose out of the suit in which the parties were adverse. View "Gray v. Oliver" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the professional rescuer rule that this Court adopted in Fordham v. Oldroyd, 171 P.3d 411 (Utah 2007), extends no further than Fordham's detailed formulation and that a person does owe a duty of care to a professional rescuer for injury that was sustained by the gross negligence or intentional tort that caused the rescuer's presence. Plaintiff, a firefighter, was severely injured while responding to a mulch fire that occurred on Defendant's property. At the time of the fire, Defendant was in knowing violation of several ordinances, including the fire code, and of industry standards regarding the safe storage of mulch. Plaintiff sued Defendant for gross negligence, intentional harm, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that it owed no duty to Plaintiff under the professional rescuer rule. The district court agreed and dismissed Plaintiff's claim. The Supreme Court partially reversed the summary judgment order, holding (1) a person owes professional rescuers a duty of care when that person's gross negligence or intentional tort triggers the rescuers' presence; and (2) the case is remanded to the district court to rule whether Defendant's actions were grossly negligent, creating a duty to Plaintiff. View "Ipsen v. Diamond Tree Experts, Inc" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeal, holding that, under the facts of this case, a witness's observation of a company's name and logo appearing on an invoice was circumstantial evidence of identity, not proof of matters asserted in the document, and therefore, Defendant's hearsay objection was properly rejected. Plaintiffs sued Defendants, entities involved in the distribution and use of pipes containing asbestos, claiming that Defendants were liable for his mesothelioma. Only Keenan Properties, Inc.'s liability was at issue in this appeal, and the question turned on whether Keenan was the source of the pipes. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiffs, and a judgment of $1,626,517 was entered against Keenan. The court of appeal reversed, concluding that descriptions of Keenan sales invoices were hearsay. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court was correct in admitting testimony describing the invoices because the testimony did not convey hearsay. View "Hart v. Keenan Properties, Inc." on Justia Law