Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

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In this case, the Supreme Court of the State of Colorado was called upon to decide a matter related to the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act (CGIA). The case involved a wrongful death action brought by the family and estate representatives of two brothers, Walter and Samuel Giron, who died when Officer Justin Hice accidentally collided with their van while pursuing a suspected speeder. Officer Hice and his employer, the Town of Olathe, claimed immunity under the CGIA. The Plaintiffs countered that the Defendants were not entitled to immunity because Officer Hice failed to use his emergency lights or siren continuously while speeding before the accident.The court had to interpret the CGIA and related traffic code provisions to determine the relevant time period for an officer’s failure to use emergency alerts. The court concluded that the CGIA requires a minimal causal connection between a plaintiff’s injuries and the fact that an officer did not use emergency signals while speeding. This means that an officer has access to immunity while speeding only during those times when the officer is using alerts.The court disagreed with the lower court's interpretation that an officer who fails to use his alerts at any point during the pursuit waives immunity for the entire pursuit. Instead, the court held that under section 24-10-106(1)(a) an emergency driver waives immunity only if the plaintiff’s injuries could have resulted from the emergency driver’s failure to use alerts.The court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and remanded the case for the court of appeals to determine if Officer Hice’s failure to use his lights or siren until the final five to ten seconds of his pursuit could have contributed to the accident. View "Hice v. Giron" on Justia Law

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The plaintiff, Srecko Bazdaric, was injured while painting an escalator during a renovation project. The escalator was covered with a plastic sheet, which Bazdaric slipped on, sustaining injuries that left him unable to work. He and his wife sued the owners of the premises and the general contractor, alleging violations of Labor Law § 241 (6), which requires employers to provide safe working conditions. The Court of Appeals of New York held that the plaintiffs were entitled to summary judgment as to liability on their Labor Law § 241 (6) claim. The court found that the plastic covering was a slipping hazard that the defendants failed to remove, in violation of Industrial Code 12 NYCRR 23-1.7 (d), making the defendants liable under Labor Law § 241 (6). The court also found that the plastic covering was not integral to the paint job but was a nonessential and inherently slippery plastic that caused Bazdaric's injuries. The court reversed the lower court's conclusion to the contrary. View "Bazdaric v Almah Partners LLC" on Justia Law

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In a wrongful death action against an assisted-living facility, the Supreme Court of Tennessee held that the claims were subject to arbitration as per an agreement signed by the deceased's attorney-in-fact. The court clarified two key points. First, signing an optional arbitration agreement is not a "health care decision" under the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Act. Second, the attorney-in-fact had the authority to sign the arbitration agreement on the deceased's behalf, considering the durable power of attorney gave her the power to act for him in "all claims and litigation matters". The court further ruled that the deceased's son, who brought the wrongful death action, was bound by the arbitration agreement because his claims were derivative of his father's. Consequently, the court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals and remanded the case to the trial court.In the case, Granville Williams, Jr. died while residing at an assisted-living facility run by Smyrna Residential, LLC. His son James Williams filed a wrongful death action against the facility. The decedent's daughter, acting as his attorney-in-fact under a power of attorney, had signed an arbitration agreement with the facility at the time of his admission. The arbitration agreement was not a condition of admission to the facility. The key issues were whether the attorney-in-fact had the authority to sign the arbitration agreement and whether the son, who was not a party to the agreement, was nevertheless bound by it. View "Williams v. Smyrna Residential, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this case from the Supreme Court of Alabama, the court held that the Majestic Mississippi, LLC ("Majestic") and Linda Parks did not owe any duty of care to the passengers on a charter bus that crashed en route to Majestic's casino. The bus was chartered by Linda Parks, a resident of Huntsville, to transport herself, family members, friends, and acquaintances from Huntsville and Decatur to the casino. The bus was owned by Teague VIP Express, LLC, a separate entity. As a result of the accident, Betty Russell, an occupant of the bus, was killed, and other occupants, including Joseph J. Sullivan and Rachel W. Mastin, were injured. Felecia Sykes, as administrator of the estate of Russell, and Sullivan and Mastin, sued Majestic and Parks on various theories of negligence and wantonness.The court found that Majestic did not have a duty to provide accurate weather information to the passengers. The court also found that Majestic did not have a duty to conduct due diligence on the bus company before allowing it to transport patrons to its casino. Moreover, Parks did not have a duty to ensure the safety of the bus passengers. The court further held that no joint venture existed between Majestic, Parks, and Teague VIP Express.Thus, the court affirmed the lower court's decision granting summary judgments in favor of Majestic and Parks. View "Sykes v. Majestic Mississippi, LLC" on Justia Law

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In June 2020, a local newspaper in Polk County published an article criticizing a local assistant district attorney, Tommy Coleman. The article claimed that Coleman had "assisted with the prosecution of Michael Morton" while he was a prosecutor in Williamson County. Michael Morton was wrongfully convicted in 1987 due to prosecutorial misconduct, a conviction that occurred before Coleman began practicing law. Morton was exonerated in 2011 after spending nearly 25 years in prison. The article specifically highlighted an instance during a post-conviction hearing where Coleman mocked requests for DNA testing of evidence that would eventually exonerate Morton. Coleman sued the newspaper and its author for defamation, arguing that the claim that he assisted in Morton's prosecution was false and defamatory.The Supreme Court of Texas held that the article's statement that Coleman "assisted with the prosecution of Michael Morton" was substantially true given Coleman’s public involvement in his office’s efforts to resist DNA testing of the evidence that exonerated Morton. The Court ruled that even if the article was not precise in its characterization of Coleman's role, the "gist" of the article - that Coleman supported the efforts to keep Morton behind bars by resisting DNA testing - was substantially true and therefore not actionably defamatory. As such, Coleman's claims were dismissed. View "POLK COUNTY PUBLISHING COMPANY v. COLEMAN" on Justia Law

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In this case heard by the Supreme Court of Mississippi, the plaintiff, Samuel Lasseter, sustained injuries when he tripped and fell at the Jackson Hilton Hotel. He claimed that a dangerous defect in the flooring caused his fall. The hotel moved for summary judgment, which the trial court granted. Lasseter then filed a motion to amend the order granting summary judgment, which the trial court denied. Lasseter appealed these decisions.In this case, the court found Lasseter to be an invitee, someone who enters the premises at the invitation of the owner for mutual benefit. Business owners owe a duty to invitees to keep their premises in a reasonably safe condition and to warn of dangerous conditions not readily apparent to the invitee. However, the court noted that undamaged common architectural conditions such as thresholds are not considered dangerous conditions.To prevail, Lasseter needed to show that either a negligent act of the defendant caused his injury, that the defendant had actual knowledge of a dangerous condition and failed to warn him, or that the dangerous condition existed for a sufficient amount of time to impute constructive knowledge to the defendant. Lasseter failed to provide sufficient evidence for any of these elements. His claim that the strip was buckled before his fall was unsupported by admissible evidence, and he was unable to show that the hotel had actual or constructive knowledge of a dangerous condition.Therefore, the Supreme Court of Mississippi affirmed the trial court's decisions, both granting the hotel's motion for summary judgment and denying Lasseter's motion to alter or amend the order granting summary judgment. View "Lasseter v. AWH-BP Jackson Hotel, LLC" on Justia Law

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In the case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, Thanquarius R. Calhoun was appealing the denial of his federal habeas petition following his conviction for felony murder and other crimes in the state of Georgia. Calhoun had led police on a high-speed chase that resulted in a passenger's death after law enforcement used a Precision Immobilization Technique (PIT) maneuver to stop his vehicle.Calhoun's appeal argued that he received ineffective assistance of counsel because his defense counsel did not present a defense or request a jury instruction on the theory that the PIT maneuver, and not his own actions, was the proximate or intervening cause of the passenger's death.Under Georgia law, as interpreted by the Supreme Court of Georgia, a defendant's act is not the "legal cause" of an injury or damage if some other act "intervenes." However, if the intervening act "could reasonably have been anticipated, apprehended, or foreseen by the original wrong-doer, the causal connection is not broken, and the original wrong-doer is responsible for all of the consequences resulting from the intervening act." In other words, proximate cause is not affected by a reasonably foreseeable intervening cause.The Eleventh Circuit, giving deference to the Supreme Court of Georgia's interpretation of Georgia law, found that the PIT maneuver was reasonably foreseeable given Calhoun's reckless behavior during the police chase. As a result, the use of the maneuver did not break the causal chain linking Calhoun's actions to the passenger's death. Thus, Calhoun had not carried his burden to show a reasonable probability that the outcome of his trial would have been different if his counsel had argued that the PIT maneuver was an intervening cause. Therefore, the court affirmed the denial of Calhoun's habeas petition. View "Calhoun v. Warden, Baldwin State Prison" on Justia Law

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A plaintiff, Robert Trebelhorn, suffered a serious knee injury at his apartment complex when a section of an elevated walkway collapsed due to deterioration. The defendants, Prime Wimbledon SPE, LLC, and Prime Administration, LLC, who owned and managed the apartment complex, were aware of the deteriorated condition of the walkway but chose not to repair it. Trebelhorn sued the defendants for negligence and violation of Oregon's Residential Landlord-Tenant Act and won. The jury awarded him just under $300,000 in damages and also imposed punitive damages of $10 million against each defendant. On post-verdict review, the trial court concluded that although the evidence supported some amount of punitive damages, the amount of $10 million would violate the defendants' due process rights. The trial court reduced the punitive damages to just under $2.7 million against each defendant. On cross-appeals, the Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court and affirmed. The Supreme Court of the State of Oregon also agreed with the trial court that $10 million in punitive damages would violate the defendants' due process rights and affirmed the judgment of the trial court and the decision of the Court of Appeals. View "Trebelhorn v. Prime Wimbledon SPE, LLC" on Justia Law

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In the medical malpractice case concerning the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment from Lillian Birt, her daughter Jenafer Meeks sued the treating doctors, Wei Peng and Christina G. Richards, both individually and on behalf of Ms. Birt's heirs and estate. The children of Ms. Birt had decided to discontinue her life support based on the misinformation they received from the doctors about her condition. The doctors inaccurately portrayed her condition as terminal, leading the children to believe that the treatment was only prolonging her life unnaturally. However, Ms. Birt's condition was not terminal, and there was a high probability of her recovery if the treatment had continued.In the Supreme Court of the State of Utah, the doctors appealed on two issues. Firstly, they argued that the trial court's jury instruction 23 was incorrect as it did not explicitly state that Ms. Meeks had the burden to prove the standard of care. Secondly, they contended that the lower court erred in denying their motion for judgment as a matter of law on the survival claim due to lack of evidence that Ms. Birt experienced pain and suffering in the hours between the doctors' negligence and her death.The Supreme Court held that the trial court correctly instructed the jury that Ms. Meeks had the burden to prove the standard of care, as the instruction implicitly required the jury to determine the standard of care as part of proving a breach of it. However, the Supreme Court agreed with the doctors that Ms. Meeks failed to provide evidence of Ms. Birt's experience of pain, suffering, or inconvenience during the period between the doctors' negligence and her death. Therefore, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the lower court. View "Peng v. Meeks" on Justia Law

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In this case heard before the Supreme Court of Kentucky, the primary issue was whether the Breathitt Circuit Court correctly dismissed Teresa Spicer's lawsuit against James Combs for intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED). Spicer's suit arose from damages linked to Combs' actions, following a fatal ATV accident which resulted in the death of Tiara Combs, James Combs’ wife and Spicer's daughter. Prior to the lawsuit, Combs and Spicer, as co-administrators of Tiara's estate, had signed a release settlement with Progressive Casualty Insurance Company, effectively absolving both Combs and Progressive of any further liability relating to the accident.After learning that Combs was intoxicated at the time of the accident, a fact he allegedly hid from her, Spicer sought to sue Combs personally for IIED. Combs moved to dismiss Spicer's complaint on the grounds that the previous release signed by Spicer barred her claim, and that her complaint did not meet the standard for an IIED claim. The circuit court dismissed the action, holding that the release was intentionally broad and included all potential claims, including IIED.On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal, ruling that the release did not prevent Spicer from asserting a personal cause of action against Combs. The Supreme Court of Kentucky affirmed the Court of Appeals' decision. The court ruled that the language of the release only covered claims possessed by the estate and not Spicer's individual claims. Furthermore, the Court held that Spicer's complaint was sufficient to proceed under a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, leaving it to the circuit court to resolve whether Spicer can sufficiently establish her claim at a later time. View "COMBS V. SPICER" on Justia Law