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Plaintiff Jessica Ayon appealed an adverse summary judgment in a personal injury case. Late one evening in May 2013, Brittini Zuppardo was driving home from her boyfriend’s house while talking on the phone with Michelle Halkett. Zuppardo was defendant Esquire Deposition Solution’s (Esquire) scheduling manager; Halkett was a court reporter for Esquire. Zuppardo’s vehicle struck plaintiff, who suffered significant injuries. The issue here at trial was whether Esquire could be held liable under a theory of respondeat superior. In their depositions, both Zuppardo and Halkett testified they were good friends and were talking about family matters on the evening of the accident. It was not within Zuppardo’s job description to call court reporters after hours for work purposes, though on rare occasions she had done so. Plaintiff contended a jury could have inferred from evidence admitted at trial that the two did not, in fact, have a close friendship, and that the call concerned work matters, not personal matters. Code of Civil Procedure section 437c(e) provided that “summary judgment shall not be denied on grounds of credibility,” with certain exceptions. The Court of Appeal determined no execution could be applied in this case; ultimately, plaintiff had no evidence that Zuppardo was operating within the scope of her employment at the time of the accident. Plaintiff attacked Zuppardo’s and Halkett’s credibility. "But that is not enough, and thus the court correctly granted summary judgment." View "Ayon v. Esquire Deposition Solutions" on Justia Law

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An expert witness in a personal injury trial varied from his written report, expressing new opinions to justify a bar employee's use of force. The plaintiff sought to cross-examine the expert with testimony the expert had been given to review prior to writing his report; the testimony was contrary to the expert's new opinions. The superior court refused to allow this cross-examination, telling plaintiff she could try to call a rebuttal witness. Defendant objected because the new witness was not on the witness list. The superior court then refuses to allow the witness to testify. The jury found the employee was justified in using reasonable force to defend against a trespass. On appeal, plaintiff argued the superior court erred in precluding her cross-examination of the witness and for refusing to allow her rebuttal witness. The Alaska Supreme Court determined it was prejudicial abuse of discretion to preclude the rebuttal witness due to the defense expert's new and unexpected trial opinions, so it vacated the judgment and remanded for a new trial without reaching the cross-examination issue. View "Johnson v. J.G. Pattee, Inc." on Justia Law

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A taxi driver injured in an accident while working filed a report with the Alaska Workers' Compensation Board. The nature of the relationship between the taxi company and the driver was disputed. The driver retained an attorney for a lawsuit against the other driver, and settled that claim with the other driver's insurance company without his taxi company's approval. Because the taxi company did not have workers' compensation insurance, the Alaska Workers' Compensation Benefits Guaranty Fund assumed responsibility for adjusting the workers' compensation claim. The Fund asked the Board to dismiss the taxi driver's claim because of the unapproved settlement. The Board dismissed the claim, and the Workers' Compensation Appeals Commission ultimately affirmed the Board's decision. The taxi driver appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the Commission's decision. View "Atkins v. Inlet Transportation & Taxi Service, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court dismissing Plaintiff’s amended complaint against two religious organizations alleging fraudulent concealment, holding that the district court properly determined that Plaintiff’s claims were barred by the statute of limitations. In her amended complaint, Plaintiff alleged that when she gave birth, Defendants kidnapped her newborn son and fraudulently concealed his adoption. The district court dismissed the amended complaint based upon the statute of limitations. On appeal, Plaintiff argued that her allegation of fraudulent concealment tolled the statute. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Plaintiff failed particularly to allege fraudulent concealment, the statute of limitations did not toll. View "Chafin v. Wisconsin Province Society of Jesus" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Anthony Franciosa, as father and next friend of Vaneesa Franciosa, appealed a superior court order granting summary judgment filed by the defendants, Jessica Elliott and Hidden Pond Farm, Inc. a/k/a Hidden Pond Farm, and denying plaintiff’s cross-motion for partial summary judgment. The trial court ruled that, pursuant to RSA 508:19 (2010), defendants were entitled to immunity from liability for the injuries Vaneesa sustained in a horseback riding accident. Vaneesa was thirteen at the time of the accident; she had been riding horses for eight years and taking weekly riding lessons from Elliott, an expert equestrian, for almost two years. Approximately once a week, Vaneesa went on a "free ride," one that did not involve a lesson. On free rides, Elliott was not always present, and she rode unsupervised. After riding for approximately 30 minutes, Vaneesa fell off her horse trying to dismount. She was seriously injured when the horse stepped on Vaneesa. In its order, the trial court concluded that Vaneesa’s injuries resulted from the “inherent risks of equine activities.” The New Hampshire Supreme Court agreed and affirmed the superior court order. View "Franciosa v. Hidden Pond Farm, Inc." on Justia Law

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Henderson, a patient with Alzheimer’s disease at Watermark’s nursing home, wandered from her room unattended and died after drinking detergent that she found in a kitchen cabinet. Henderson’s estate filed a wrongful death suit against Watermark. Morrison provided kitchen services at the facility and its employees had been in the kitchen shortly before Henderson discovered the detergent, but Watermark did not implead Morrison and argued that Morrison’s employees had properly locked the cabinet before leaving. A jury awarded $5.08 million. Watermark did not appeal but settled with Henderson’s estate for $3.65 million. On a joint motion, the court dismissed the action with prejudice. Months later, Watermark sued Morrison for contractual indemnification and breach of contract. The district court dismissed, finding that issue preclusion barred both claims. The Sixth Circuit affirmed in part. While a judgment that is set aside upon settlement can be used for collateral-estoppel purposes in future litigation, only the contractual indemnification issue is barred. Under the parties’ contract, Watermark can prevail on its indemnification claim only by showing that the damages it seeks were not the result of its own negligence. It cannot do so; the jury determined that the damages were the result of Watermark’s negligence. The jury’s finding of negligence does not, however, preclude Watermark from going forward with its breach-of-contract claim, which does not rely on the indemnity provision of the parties’ contract. View "Watermark Senior Living Communities, Inc. v. Morrison Management Specialists, Inc." on Justia Law

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A jury made a multimillion-dollar noneconomic damages award to an adult child whose mother died of lung cancer after finding through special interrogatories that the decedent’s addiction to cigarettes was a legal cause of her death. The Fourth District Court of Appeal overturned the award, making a “sweeping statement” that “no matter” what the evidence shows, “an adult child who lives independent of the parent during the parent’s smoking-related illness and death is not entitled to [a] multi-million dollar compensatory damages award.” The Supreme Court of Florida quashed that decision. The Fourth District misapplied the abuse of discretion standard to the trial court’s denial of a motion for remittitur and created of a bright-line cap on the amount of noneconomic damages a financially independent adult surviving child may be awarded for the wrongful death of a parent. Precedent entitles both a jury’s verdict and a trial judge’s ruling on a motion for remittitur to great deference. Neither the Legislature nor the Florida Supreme Court has established a cap on the amount of noneconomic damages a survivor may recover in a wrongful death action. View "Odom v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co." on Justia Law

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In this workers’ compensation case, the Supreme Court held that Defendant-employer was collaterally estopped from challenging an employee’s eligibility for benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Act (state act), Conn. Gen. Stat. 31-275 et seq., because of an earlier decision by a United States Department of Labor administrative law judge (ALJ) awarding benefits to the employee under the federal Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (Longshore Act), 33 U.S.C. 901 et seq. The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Compensation Review Board (Board) reversing the decision of the Workers’ Compensation Commissioner dismissing the claims for benefits under the state act filed by Plaintiff, the executor of the decedent’s estate and the decedent’s widow. The Court held that the Board properly determined that the employer in this case was collaterally estopped from relitigating the issue of causation under the state act because the record of the Longshore Act proceedings indicated that the ALJ employed the substantial factor standard that governed the proceedings under the state act. View "Filosi v. Electric Boat Corp." on Justia Law

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Petitioner Trina Engles received temporary total disability benefits in 2006, for a December 2, 2005 injury. She had fallen backwards in a chair at work, which caused the injury. On January 15, 2010, Engles received permanent partial disability benefits for the neck injury. She had previously suffered a non-work-related injury in 1998. That injury occurred from an electrocution and fall at her home. She had multiple back and neck surgeries as a result. Ultimately she was awarded benefits from the Multiple Injury Trust Fund based on the most recent Court of Civil Appeals decision. MITF filed a timely petition for certiorari to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, arguing the Court had never before addressed the conclusion and holding of the Court of Civil Appeals. It argued the holding that a PTD benefit claimant against MITF may reopen an underlying case during the pendency of a claim against MITF, settle the reopened claim, and then use the settlement to later obtain a MITF award after another division of the Court of Civil Appeals ruled there was no jurisdiction for claimant's claim of benefits against MITF. MITF also argued the court did not follow the Supreme Court's jurisprudence, arguing it ignored the law-of-the-case doctrine. MITF claims the court did not correctly apply the statute, ignoring the Court's case law that a change of condition for the worse was not a subsequent injury under section 172. MITF contended that Engles was not eligible for benefits as she only has one previous adjudicated injury and her change of condition for the worse just reopened the original injury. Finally, MITF argued the court determined the competence of evidence sua sponte, contradicting Oklahoma case law. The Supreme Court agreed that Engles had one adjudicated injury, and suffered no subsequent injury after her 2005 injury; she could not be a physically impaired person and the appellate court lacked jurisdiction against MITF. "Reopening a lone injury and characterizing the resulting compromise settlement as a second adjudicated injury cannot establish jurisdiction over MITF." The Court vacated the opinion of the Court of Civil Appeals and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Engles v. Multiple Injury Trust Fund" on Justia Law

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This case arose from a 2015 motor vehicle accident between Ronald Fox and James Mize in Norman, Oklahoma. Mize was traveling northbound on Sunnylane Road in a tractor-trailer owned by his employer, Van Eaton Ready Mix, Inc., when he made a left turn onto Van Eaton's property. According to the traffic collision report, Mize made an improper turn in front of oncoming traffic. Fox, who was travelling southbound on Sunnylane Road on a motorcycle, collided with Mize's tractor-trailer and was declared dead at the scene from a head injury. The report provided that Fox made no improper driving action and that neither driver appeared to be speeding at the time of the collision. Mize held a Class "A" commercial driver's license subject to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR), and Van Eaton stipulated that Mize was acting in the course and scope of employment at the time of the collision. Mize was taken from the scene to Norman Regional for a blood test, which showed he was under the influence of a prescription narcotic banned by the FMCSR at the time of the accident. Plaintiff, the personal representative of Fox's estate, brought suit against Mize for negligence and negligence per se and sued Van Eaton for negligence and negligence per se under the theory of respondeat superior. Plaintiff also asserted direct negligence claims against Van Eaton for negligent hiring, training, and retention, and negligent entrustment. Van Eaton stipulated that Mize was acting in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the collision and sought dismissal of the Plaintiff's direct negligence claims, arguing that negligent hiring and negligent entrustment were unnecessary, superfluous, and contrary to public policy because Van Eaton had already admitted to being Mize's employer for purposes of vicarious liability. The district court dismissed the negligent hiring claim but allowed the negligent entrustment claim to proceed. Upon consideration, the Oklahoma Supreme Court concluded an employer's liability for negligently entrusting a vehicle to an unfit employee was a separate and distinct theory of liability from that of an employer's liability under the respondeat superior doctrine. An employer's stipulation that an accident occurred during the course and scope of employment does not, as a matter of law, bar a negligent entrustment claim. View "Fox v. Mize" on Justia Law