Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

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Years ago, Mynatt an IRS employee, “blew the whistle” to a member of Congress about a “wasteful IRS manager conference” and gave an interview to the Washington Post in which he was critical of his union president. Mynatt asserts that federal employees formed a plan to retaliate by framing Mynatt for stealing union funds: two separate employees reported his alleged theft to government agencies, triggering internal investigations. The Department of Justice “determined the alleged crimes did not occur,” and that the investigations “were political in nature,” and declined to prosecute. The co-conspirators then lobbied Tennessee district attorneys, presenting “false testimony and forged documents” to prosecutors, despite admitting that “the charges were political in nature and not based on provable facts.” Special agent Kemp testified before a state grand jury “using false testimony and altered documents,” which resulted in a two-count grand-jury indictment of Mynatt. The District Attorney ultimately dismissed the charges.Mynatt filed several lawsuits against the United States, his union, and their employees. In this suit, Mynatt claims that the United States is liable for malicious prosecution and civil conspiracy under Tennessee law via the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The district court dismissed. The Sixth Circuit reversed. A federal employee’s use of false testimony and forged documents to secure an indictment from a state grand jury does not fall within the FTCA’s discretionary-function exception, 28 U.S.C. 1346(b)(1), 2680(a), so, the government is not entitled to sovereign immunity. View "Mynatt v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff is an inmate at United States Penitentiary (“USP”) Hazelton who filed a pro se civil action in United States district court alleging violations under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”) for denied and delayed medical care of his chronic illnesses. Plaintiff also filed a Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”). Following the Magistrate Judge’s recommendation, the district court denied Plaintiff’s IFP motion on the grounds that he did not meet the “imminent danger of serious physical injury” exception. Plaintiff now appealed to the Fourth Circuit.   The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court’s judgment and remanded. The court explained that a plain reading of the statute requires that litigants allege sufficient specific facts to demonstrate a nexus between the claims presented and the imminent danger alleged. Here, both parties agree that it is a “commonsense requirement that a prisoner’s allegation of imminent danger must relate to their underlying claims.” Moreover, the Government concedes that “a fairly traceable relationship exists between Plaintiff’s alleged imminent danger and the claims set forth in his FTCA complaint, as they both arise from his allegations of delay and denial of medical treatment.” Plaintiff has passed this threshold because he alleged that the prison’s continued denial and delay in providing medical treatment are directly causing his worsening physical and medical conditions which present an imminent danger of serious physical injury.   Finally, the court remanded writing that the district court did not have access to Defendant’s medical records and, thus, did not have a complete record to determine whether Defendant satisfied the “imminent danger” exception based on the court's clarified standard. View "Marc Hall v. US" on Justia Law

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Gary and Shiela Womble appealed a circuit court’s dismissal of their tort action against Collie Moore, III based on their failure to prosecute the action. In March 2018, the Wombles were injured as the result of a motor-vehicle accident in which Moore's vehicle rear-ended the Wombles' vehicle. The Wombles subsequently filed a complaint in the trial court asserting claims of negligence, wantonness, and loss of consortium against Moore. A little more than two months after that status conference, the Wombles' attorney filed a motion to withdraw as their counsel, in which he stated that he could "no longer effectively represent" them and that he had "informed the [Wombles] that they will have to timely comply with" the trial court's orders. The trial court granted that motion. The Wombles proceeded pro se, and participated in all scheduled proceedings and status conferences conducted between January and April 2021. The case was called for trial September 13, 2021, but the Wombles did not appeal. Moore’s counsel moved to dismiss based on the Wombles’ failure to prosecute. The trial court granted the motion and dismissed the complaint with prejudice. In October 2021, the Wombles moved pursuant to Rule 60(b), Ala. R. Civ. P., asking the trial court to set aside its judgment due to their own “excusable neglect.” The trial court dismissed the complaint. But finding no reversible error in the dismissal, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court. View "Womble v. Moore" on Justia Law

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Byram Café Group, LLC (BCG), moved for summary judgment against Eddie and Teresa Tucker in a premises-liability action arising from Eddie’s slip-and-fall accident. BCG sought judgment as a matter of law based on a lack of evidence supporting any of the elements of a slip-and-fall case. In response, the Tuckers argued that genuine issues of material fact existed as to dangerous conditions that may have caused Eddie’s fall. The circuit court denied BCG’s summary judgment motion. BCG sought interlocutory appeal, which the Mississippi Supreme Court granted. The issue the appeal presented was whether the Tuckers could survive a motion for summary judgment without producing evidence that a dangerous condition existed, that BCG caused the hypothetical dangerous condition, and that BCG knew or should have known about the dangerous condition. As a matter of law, the Supreme Court found the circuit court erred by denying BCG’s motion for summary judgment. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded the circuit court’s order. View "Byram Cafe Group, LLC v. Tucker" on Justia Law

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Defendants were reporters with CIR (“Reporters”) and they published stories alleging misuse of funds by two charitable organizations, Planet Aid, Inc., and Development Aid from People to People Malawi (“DAPP Malawi”). In response, Planet Aid and the director of DAPP Malawi, Lisbeth Thomsen, filed a defamation suit.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s order granting the Reporters with the Center for Investigative Reporting (“CIR”)’s anti-SLAPP motion to strike a complaint alleging defamation under California law.The court held that the district court correctly found that Planet Aid and Thomsen were limited-purpose public figures and that the Reporters did not act with “actual malice” within the meaning of New York Times Company v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964). The panel agreed with the district court’s determination in applying the Makaeff test that: (i) there was an existing public controversy with respect to Planet Aid and Lisbeth Thomsen’s use of charitable funds; (ii) the Reporters’ alleged defamation was relevant to this preexisting controversy, and (iii) the voluntariness requirement—which examines whether the plaintiff voluntarily injected itself into the controversy for the purpose of influencing the controversy’s ultimate resolution—was satisfied. The court further agreed with the district court, for the reasons stated by the district court in its order, that a reasonable factfinder could not find, by clear and convincing evidence, that the Reporters acted with actual malice. The court, therefore, affirmed the district court’s grant of the Reporters’ motion to strike complaint under California’s anti-SLAPP statute. View "PLANET AID, INC. V. REVEAL" on Justia Law

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The Government and Hyten (together, Appellants) seek review of the district court’s decision denying Appellants’ motion to dismiss Spletstoser’s First Amended Complaint (FAC). Specifically, the district court concluded that the Feres doctrine does not bar Spletstoser’s claims because the “alleged sexual assault [could] not conceivably serve any military purpose.”The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision. The court wrote that the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”) created a broad waiver of the federal government’s sovereign immunity. The court applied the factors developed in Johnson v. United States, 704 F.2d 1431 (9th Cir. 1983), and held that the Feres doctrine did not bar the claims raised by Plaintiff at this stage of the proceedings. The court initially emphasized that this case involved an allegation of sexual assault, and that this case was before the court on a motion to dismiss where the court must assume the truth of the allegations as pled. After considering the Johnson factors and other cases analyzing the Feres doctrine, the court agreed with the district court that Plaintiff’s action was not barred by the Feres doctrine at this stage, and therefore the motion to dismiss was properly denied. View "KATHRYN SPLETSTOSER V. JOHN HYTEN" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff brought suit alleging medical malpractice by government physicians at Naval Hospital Bremerton in the state of Washington. Plaintiff first submitted a timely administrative claim to the Navy under the FTCA, which was denied. She filed her complaint in the Western District of Washington within six months thereafter, as required by the FTCA. The Government sought dismissal on grounds that Plaintiff’s claim had been extinguished by a Washington statute of repose.The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s order and remanded for further proceedings to determine the constitutionality of the statute of repose under Washington’s state constitution. The panel held that the only question at issue was whether the FTCA’s statute of limitations supplanted the eight-year statute of repose embodied in the latter clause of Section 4.16.350.The U.S. Supreme Court addressed a similar question in a parallel context in CTS Corp. v. Waldburger, 573 U.S. 1, 3-4 (2014). CTS explained the consequences of the distinction between a statute of limitation and a statute of repose. Here, Plaintiff concedes that the eight-year limit in Section 4.16.350 is a statute of repose, and that it represents substantive law of the state of Washington. The court held that because there was no contradictory statute of repose in the FTCA, and the FTCA generally applied the substantive law “of the place where the omission occurred,” it followed that Section 4.16.350 applied to Plaintiff’s claims and precluded them., The court rejected Plaintiff’s contention that state statutes of repose do not apply to claims under the FTCA. View "BETTE BENNETT V. USA" on Justia Law

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In February 2016, three-month-old A.K., daughter of respondents Michelle Desmet and Sandro Kasco, was taken into protective custody after she suffered a spiral fracture to her left femur. When the parents could not explain the injury, A.K. was placed with her paternal aunt for six months while the Department of Social Health Services (DSHS) initiated an investigation. By August, A.K. was returned to her parents and a dependency action was dismissed. In August 2018, the parents sued the DSHS (the State) for negligent investigation, negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED), and invasion of privacy by false light (false light) based on the Department’s allegedly harmful investigation and issuance of a letter indicating that allegations of child abuse/neglect against Desmet were founded (the founded letter). The Department moved for summary judgment, arguing it was immune from suit under RCW 4.24.595(2) because its actions in A.K.’s dependency proceedings were taken pursuant to the juvenile court’s order to place A.K. with her aunt. The trial court denied summary judgment and entered a final order finding that no immunity applied. The Department appealed on the immunity issue, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court. The Department claimed on appeal to the Washington Supreme Court that the Court of Appeals’ decision rendered RCW 4.24.595(2) meaningless and that the court erroneously refused to consider the legislative history of RCW 4.24.595(2), which, in the Department’s view, was enacted to bar claims like those brought by the parents. The Supreme Court found the unambiguous text of RCW 4.24.595(2) did not grant the Department immunity for all actions in an investigation of child abuse/neglect that might coincide with a court order in related dependency proceedings. The Court of Appeals was affirmed and the matter remanded back to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Desmet v. Washington" on Justia Law

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In this tort suit brought against an employer by an employee the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the circuit court denying both parties' motions for summary judgment, holding that the court erred in denying the employer's motion for summary judgment.The employee in this case died after falling off the roof of a building he was working on for a subcontractor. After the employee's estate brought this tort action the employer moved for summary judgment, asserting that under S.D. Codified Laws 62-3-2, workers' compensation was the estate's exclusive remedy. In response, the estate argued that the exception to S.D. Codified Laws 52.-3-2 for intentional torts applied. The circuit court denied summary judgment for either party. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that there was no issue of material of fact in dispute on the question of whether the employer committed an intentional tort in this case. View "Althoff v. Pro-Tec Roofing, Inc." on Justia Law

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The United States Government seized $69,940.50 in cash from Plaintiff’s car. Plaintiff and his girlfriend challenged the seizure, claiming that the cash was not subject to forfeiture. To forfeit the seized cash, the Government bore the burden of establishing a connection between the cash and the illegal activity—in this case, illegal drug trafficking. The district court, in granting summary judgment, found that the facts painted a picture that definitively established that the cash was drug money.   The Fourth Circuit reversed finding that the record is unclear regarding whether a reasonable jury might well decide that the painting of these facts shows the cash came from drug trafficking. The court explained that summary judgment in a forfeiture proceeding is like summary judgment in any other civil case. Applying those standards correctly ensures that the Government must prove its case before depriving citizens of their private property based on an allegation of wrongdoing. Here, the Government has the burden of proof. The Government lacks any direct evidence of a drug transaction or involvement in the drug trade beyond Plaintiff’s possession of a single marijuana blunt and medical marijuana cards. The Government would have the court rely on its own inferences from its circumstantial evidence, which the court may not do. View "US v. Dereck McClellan" on Justia Law