by
The Modisettes were traveling in their car on Interstate 35W in Denton County, Texas. Wilhelm was also driving on I-35, while using the FaceTime application on his Apple iPhone. Wilhelm crashed into the Modisettes’ car, which had stopped due to police activity. The accident caused severe injuries to each of the Modisettes; Moriah, age five, subsequently died. Police found Wilhelm’s iPhone at the scene with FaceTime still activated. The Modisettes sued, alleging that Apple’s failure to design the iPhone to lock out the ability of drivers to use the FaceTime application while driving resulted in their injuries. The complaint incorporated data that show the compulsive/addictive nature of smartphone use and concerning the number of accidents that involve smartphone use. They alleged that Apple had failed to warn users and that Apple applied for a patent for its lockout technology in 2008, to disable the ability of a handheld computing device to perform certain functions, such as texting, while one is driving. The patent issued in 2014. Apple released Wilhelm’s iPhone 6 model in September 2014; FaceTime was a “factory-installed, non-optional application.” The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of the action. Apple did not owe the Modisettes a duty of care. The Modisettes cannot establish that Apple’s design of the iPhone constituted a proximate cause of their injuries. View "Modisette v. Apple Inc." on Justia Law

by
A forklift backed over Hutchison’s foot while it was loading his tractor‐trailer. Hutchison’s employer, Borkholder, who owned the forklift, had contracted with Fitzgerald to provide maintenance on the forklift. Hutchison sued Fitzgerald, alleging that Fitzgerald was negligent in failing to warn Borkholder to install a backup alarm and was liable in concert with Borkholder for failing to install such an alarm. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Fitzgerald. OSHA regulations did not require backup alarms on forklifts at the time of the accident; Borkholder, as the owner, was responsible for deciding whether to install a backup alarm. The duty to warn does not encompass a duty to recommend optional safety features to an owner who already knows about them. Hutchison has no evidence of unequal knowledge between Fitzgerald and Borkholder giving rise to a duty to warn. Even if Hutchison had established a voluntary undertaking, he has not established a breach; the mere knowledge of a risk does not impose an affirmative duty. Hutchison has not shown Fitzgerald increased the risk by failing to recommend the installation of a device that was not required nor requested, that was already known to Borkholder. Hutchison has no evidence that he relied to his detriment on Fitzgerald to recommend that Borkholder install a backup alarm. There is no plausible inference that Fitzgerald substantially assisted Borkholder in breaching a duty to Hutchison View "Hutchison v. Fitzgerald Equipment Co." on Justia Law

by
Betzner filed suit in Madison County, Illinois alleging that during Betzner’s employment, he was exposed to asbestos fibers, which caused his mesothelioma and that defendants, including Boeing, manufactured these products. Boeing filed a notice of removal, alleging that Betzner’s deposition and affidavit show the negligence claims arise from his work in Dallas, where Betzner was involved in the assembly of Boeing B-1 and B-1B Lancer bomber aircraft for the Air Force in 1982-1987. Boeing asserts that the government controlled the design and development of the aircraft and required adherence to its detailed specifications. Betzner did not move for remand or challenge the factual allegations in the notice of removal. The district court, sua sponte, remanded the case concluding that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction due to Boeing’s failure to provide evidentiary support for its government contractor defense and explaining it was “not required to take Boeing’s allegations at face value.” The Seventh Circuit reversed. Boeing alleged sufficient facts to support federal officer removal under 28 U.S.C. 1442(a). Boeing’s plausible allegations include that when designing, manufacturing, supplying, testing, and repairing the aircraft it acted as a government contractor under the detailed and ongoing direction and control of the U.S. military, which required adherence to precise specifications. Boeing alleged the aircraft it manufactured conformed to those specifications and the government was independently aware of the potential health hazards related to asbestos exposure. View "Betzner v. Boeing Co." on Justia Law

by
Mobile Infirmary Association d/b/a Mobile Infirmary Medical Center ("Mobile Infirmary") filed a petition for a writ of mandamus asking the Alabama Supreme Court to direct the Mobile Circuit Court to vacate paragraph 11 of its February 6, 2018, protective order. Lula Battle, as personal representative of the estate of Willie Trainor-Battle, filed a wrongful-death complaint against Mobile Infirmary, Dr. Rabin Shrestha, Jr., and various fictitiously named defendants. In the complaint, Battle alleged that Trainor-Battle was admitted to Mobile Infirmary Medical Center ("the hospital") for the treatment of a sickle-cell crisis with severe pain; hospital personnel attempted to manage the pain by using IV administration of Demerol, methadone, and Phenergan; Trainor-Battle was found unresponsive and not breathing; efforts to resuscitate Trainor-Battle were unsuccessful; and that Trainor-Battle was pronounced dead. Battle filed a proposed protective order that included the language ("Paragraph 11") to which Mobile Infirmary had previously stated its opposition. Mobile Infirmary moved to reconsider or delete the paragraph entirely; the trial court denied the motion. Mobile Infirmary argued that paragraph 11 of the protective order "provides an extra-procedural method for introducing documents produced in the instant case into other cases, contrary to the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure and Alabama Code 6-5-551, Ala. Code 1975." Pursuant to paragraph 11 of the protective order, Battle's counsel will be allowed to share any confidential information counsel obtains in this case with medical- malpractice plaintiffs in other cases against Mobile Infirmary, so long as those other plaintiffs are represented by Battle's counsel's law firm, regardless of whether such evidence is related to any acts or omissions alleged by those plaintiffs. The Supreme Court determined Mobile Infirmary established a clear legal right to the relief sought. Accordingly, it granted the petition for a writ of mandamus and directed the trial court to vacate paragraph 11 of its February 6, 2018 protective order. View "Ex parte Mobile Infirmary Association d/b/a Mobile Infirmary Medical Center." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs, aggrieved at their portrayal in a documentary on gun violence called Under the Gun, filed suit alleging defamation by the film's creators. The crux of plaintiffs' defamation claims was that an edited interview manufactured a false exchange that made them look ridiculous, incompetent, and ignorant about firearm ownership and sales, including the policies surrounding background checks. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint, holding that the edited footage did not arise to the level of defamation under Virginia law. The court held that plaintiffs' defamation per se claims failed, and that the edited footage was not reasonably capable of suggesting that the Virginia Citizens Defense League and its members were "ignorant and incompetent on the subject to which they have dedicated their organizational mission." Finally, regardless of how certain media outlets covered the short-lived frenzy surrounding this incident, the Supreme Court of Virginia has consistently stressed that it is the province of courts to perform the gatekeeping role of distinguishing defamatory speech from mere insults. In this case, the district court properly performed its independent gatekeeping role and the district court reached the correct result on the merits. View "VA Citizens Defense League v. Couric" on Justia Law

by
Defendant struck Plaintiff, a pedestrian with his vehicle. Plaintiff filed a personal injury suit. Defendant filed an answer with an affirmative defense. Defendant answered an interrogatory about his drivers' license by stating that he had diabetes and required medical approval to drive, but refused to answer follow-up questions about his medical condition, stating that the question violates HIPAA, doctor-patient privilege; the Defendant has not placed his medical condition at issue. The court found that Plaintiff had legitimate cause to believe that Defendant had sight problems that could have been related to the accident and held Defendant’s attorney in contempt. The court found the attorney was not entitled to assert the physician-patient privilege, 735 ILCS 5/8-802. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court’s reversal of the contempt order. A plaintiff may not waive a defendant’s privilege by putting the defendant’s medical condition at issue. Neither the plaintiff nor the defendant asserted anything about defendant’s physical or mental condition. If these allegations put a defendant’s medical condition in issue, then it will be at issue in most traffic accident cases. The court urged the legislature to clarify the meaning of “at issue” and noted that, when a patient obtains a physician’s report to maintain his driving privileges, he is not seeking treatment so the privilege does not apply to the record filed with the Secretary of State. View "Palm v. Holocker" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court dismissing Plaintiff’s personal injury action, holding that the trial court and the Court of Appeals did not err in their respective analyses of the matter as to whether Plaintiff’s status as a trespasser was mitigated by the attractive nuisance option. Plaintiff, who was sixteen years old at the time, was injured while a trespasser on Defendant’s construction site. Plaintiff, through his parents as next friends and natural guardians, filed this action alleging negligence based on attractive nuisance. The trial court granted Defendants’ motions for summary judgment, noting Plaintiff’s age and his awareness of the dangers inherent in heavy construction equipment. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the doctrine of attractive nuisance was inapplicable to this situation, where Plaintiff, a minor trespasser, occupied the same position as an adult; and (2) the record contained no evidence that Defendants intentionally inflicted Plaintiff’s injuries by willful, wanton, or reckless conduct. View "Hayes v. D.C.I. Properties-D KY, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit against NCL, the owner and operator of a cruise ship, alleging negligence claims after he fell down an emergency-exit hatch in an area designated for crew members only. The Eleventh Circuit held that plaintiff as a Canadian citizen and NCL as a Bermuda company, with its principal place of business in Florida, did not support the exercise of jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1332(a)(2). However, the district court validly exercised admiralty jurisdiction over the case under section 1333(1). On the merits, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claim that the cruise line was negligent in over-serving him alcohol, holding that the claim was time-barred and the claim did not relate back. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on plaintiff's claim that the cruise line was negligent for letting him fall down the hatch where NCL's uncontroverted record showed that no injuries similar to plaintiff's had been reported on any of NCL's ships in the last five years, and plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence of negligence on the part of NCL's crew. View "Caron v. NCL (Bahamas), Ltd." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the superior court’s order allowing in part and denying in part the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) motion for judgment on the pleadings on Plaintiff’s action alleging that Derek Smith, an MBTA bus driver, assaulted him, holding that the trial judge did not err. In his complaint, Plaintiff asserted claims for negligent hiring, training, and supervision; and vicarious liability. In allowing in part the MBTA’s motion for judgment on the pleadings, the superior court held (1) the MBTA was immune from the vicarious liability claim, and (2) Plaintiff failed adequately to present the negligence claim as required by the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 258, 4, but the MBTA had waived the defense of defective presentment. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the superior court judge was warranted in concluding that the MBTA waived the affirmative defense of inadequate presentment by failing to plead it with the required specificity and particularity. View "Theisz v. Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting Defendants’ motion to compel arbitration and dismiss the case, holding that the district court did not erroneously compel arbitration. Plaintiff entered into a construction contract that contained an arbitration agreement. Plaintiff later filed a complaint against Defendants, asserting claims for breach of contract, negligence, and other torts. Defendants filed a motion to compel arbitration and dismiss. The Supreme Court granted the motion to compel arbitration and dismissed the action. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err (1) in concluding that the arbitration agreement required arbitration of matters within its scope rather than merely authorizing it as a matter of discretion upon timely demand; (2) in failing to conclude that Defendants equitably waived the right to arbitrate; (3) in compelling arbitration without consideration of Plaintiff’s proposed declaratory judgment claim challenging the validity of the arbitration agreement; (4) in concluding that Plaintiff’s asserted non-contract claims were subject to arbitration; and (5) in failing to conclude that, as a non-party to the agreement, one defendant lacked standing to enforce the arbitration agreement. View "Peeler v. Rocky Mountain Log Homes Canada, Inc." on Justia Law