Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

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Sonia Blunt, a teacher in the Tuscaloosa City Schools system ("TCS"), petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Tuscaloosa Circuit Court to enter a summary judgment in her favor on the basis of State-agent immunity as to claims asserted against her by Keith Langston, as next friend and father of Joshua Langston and Matthew Langston, minors at the time the action was filed. Marcus Crawford, a student attending one of Blunt’s summer-school classes at TCS, left campus for lunch at a nearby fast food restaurant. Crawford testified it took longer to get his food order than he estimated, and hurried back to campus. Approximately one mile away on a two-lane public road, Crawford attempted to pass a vehicle in front of him by crossing a double-yellow center line and driving in the oncoming lane of traffic. In doing so, Crawford collided with a vehicle driven by Susan Kines Langston, a TCS teacher, in which Matthew Langston and Joshua Langston were passengers. Susan Langston was killed in the accident, and Matthew and Joshua were seriously injured and eventually had to be life-flighted to Children's Hospital in Birmingham. Crawford was charged, tried, and convicted of reckless manslaughter for his actions in causing Susan Langston's death. He was sentenced to five years and nine months in prison. Thereafter Keith Langston filed suit against Blunt and Patsy Lowry (another TCS teacher). Langston asserted claims of negligence and wantonness against Blunt and Lowry for failing to follow the "policies and procedures" of TCS, which failure allegedly proximately caused the injuries sustained by Matthew and Joshua Langston. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded Langston failed to demonstrate the existence of a detailed rule binding upon Blunt that would establish that she acted beyond her authority in supervising students when she allowed Crawford to leave the school campus at the time and in the manner he did. Therefore, Blunt was entitled to State-agent immunity from Langston's claims of negligence and wantonness pertaining to her alleged violation of a TCS policy or procedure. View "Ex parte Sonia Blunt." on Justia Law

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Mary Thomas awoke, paralyzed, after surgery. She filed a medical malpractice suit against Dr. Adam Lewis, who performed the surgery, claiming her injuries stemmed from two neurosurgeries performed by Dr. Lewis. Thomas also filed suit against Jackson Neurosurgery Clinic and Central Mississippi Medical Center based on vicarious liability. Thomas’s medical malpractice claims were based on an alleged failure of Dr. Lewis to manage Thomas’s mean arterial blood pressure during the first surgery and Dr. Lewis’s decision to perform the second surgery. However, the issue on appeal involved the reliability of expert testimony under Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993). Thomas’s expert, neurosurgeon Dr. Neil Wright, claimed that Dr. Lewis had failed to provide the proper standard of care and, in turn, caused Thomas’s injuries. However, Dr. Lewis argued that Dr. Wright’s opinions were not reliable because they were inconsistent with medical literature. The trial court agreed, struck Dr. Wright’s opinions, and granted partial summary judgment in favor of Dr. Lewis with regard to the first surgery. The trial court also ruled that Dr. Wright could testify to negligence regarding the second surgery. The trial court allowed Thomas to proceed on claims related to the second surgery. Dr. Wright admitted that the decision to perform the second surgery was a judgment call and that he failed to testify that making the decision to proceed with a second surgery was a breach of the standard of care. The trial court considered the evidence and found that Mary Thomas had failed to offer admissible proof from which a reasonable juror could find that Dr. Lewis deviated from a professional standard of care. The trial court directed a verdict in favor of Dr. Lewis, Jackson Neurosurgery Clinic, and Central Mississippi Medical Center, and Thomas appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Thomas v. Lewis" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted in part a petition for a writ of prohibition or mandamus challenging a discovery ruling compelling Petitioner to disclose the identity of his sources in a tort action, holding that digital media falls within the protections of Nev. Rev. Stat. 49.275. The current version of section 49.275 protects journalists who are associated with newspapers, press associations, periodicals, and radio and television programs from mandatory disclosure of confidential sources. Petitioner in this case was a blogger who was sued for defamation. During discovery, Petitioner invoked the news shield statute under section 49.275 and refused to provide the identity of his sources. Respondent filed a motion to compel Petitioner to reveal his sources, arguing that the news shield statute does not apply to bloggers. The district court granted the motion to compel. Petitioner then filed this petition challenging that decision as well as the order allowing limited discovery. The Supreme Court granted the writ in part, holding that digital medial falls within the protections of section 49.275 but that the case required a remand so the district court could reconsider whether Petitioner's blog fell within the protection of the statute. View "Toll v. Honorable James Wilson" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff was injured when a neck brace allegedly caused or failed to protect him from serious bodily injury, he filed suit against the makers and sellers of the neck brace. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's orders granting defendants' motions to dismiss. The district court correctly noted that, even though entry of default was proper where a party fails to respond in a timely manner, a court must not enter default without first determining whether the unchallenged facts constitute a legitimate cause of action. In this case, all but one of the allegations in the amended complaint constitute mere legal conclusions and recitations of the elements of the causes of action. The court agreed with the district court that where, as here, there are so few facts alleged in the complaint, the court need not address each individual claim to make a sufficiency determination on a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Accordingly, because the amended complaint failed to allege sufficient facts to state a claim for relief that was plausible on its face, the district court did not err in granting defendants' motion to dismiss. View "Glick v. Western Power Sports, Inc." on Justia Law

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Stephen Powell appealed a Delaware Industrial Accident Board ("IAB") decision to deny his petition for workers' compensation benefits. Powell alleged he sufered a work injury in 2016 while employed by OTAC, Inc. d/b/a Hardee’s (“Hardees”). The IAB held a hearing regarding Powell’s petition in 2018. The IAB heard testimony by deposition from a doctor on Powell’s behalf and from a doctor on Hardees’ behalf. It also heard live testimony from a Hardees General Manager and from Powell himself. After the hearing, the IAB denied Powell’s petition, ruling that he had failed to establish that he injured his rotator cuff while working at Hardees. The IAB concluded that the testimony and evidence was “insufficient to support a finding that Claimant’s injuries were causally related to his work for [Hardees].” Specifically, the IAB noted that both Powell’s “inability to report a specific day of injury” as well as his “failure to seek medical treatment immediately” after the alleged incident detracted from his credibility. Further, it found that although “both medical experts agreed that [Powell’s] treatment was reasonable for his rotator cuff tear, there was insufficient evidence that the rotator cuff tear occurred as the result of the alleged work accident." Powell argued on appeal to the Delaware Supreme Court: (1) the Board erred as a matter of law in denying his petition, and he claims that he did present sufficient evidence to demonstrate that his injuries occurred while working at Hardees; and (2) the Superior Court erred in affirming the IAB’s decision and that it exceeded the scope of review by making findings of fact unsupported by the record. After review of the IAB and Superior Court record, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed. View "Powell v. OTAC, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the district court's entry of summary judgment in favor of the Estate of Allen J. Longsoldier, Jr. declaring that Hill County was vicariously liable for the negligence of the Northern Montana Hospital (NMH) under the non-delegable duty doctrine, holding that Hill County could not be held vicariously liable for NMH's medical negligence. Longsoldier, who was being detained at the Hill County Detention Center, died at NMH due to the effect of alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Longsoldier's Estate filed this negligence action against Hill County, arguing that it had a non-delegable duty to provide Longsoldier with reasonable medical care and was therefore vicariously liable for NMH's medical negligence. The district court concluded that Hill County was vicariously liable for NMH's actions on the ground that public policy dictated the creation of a non-delegable duty. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that under the proper tests, Hill County was not vicariously liable for NMH's medical negligence. View "Estate of Longsoldier v. Blaine County" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) claims based on lack of RICO standing in a putative class action brought against pharmaceutical companies. Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that the companies refused to change the warning label of their drug Actos or otherwise inform the public after they learned that the drug increased a patient’s risk of developing bladder cancer. The panel held that patients and health insurance companies who reimbursed patients adequately alleged the required element of proximate cause where they alleged that, but for defendant's omitted mention of a drug's known safety risk, they would not have paid for the drug. The panel agreed with the First and Third Circuits that plaintiffs' damages were not too far removed from defendants' alleged omissions and misrepresentations to satisfy RICO's proximate cause requirement. In this case, plaintiffs sufficiently alleged a direct relationship, and the Holmes factors weighed in favor of permitting their RICO claims to proceed. The panel explained that, although prescribing physicians served as intermediaries between defendants' fraudulent omission of Actos's risk of causing bladder cancer and plaintiffs' payments for the drug, prescribing physicians did not constitute an intervening cause to cut off the chain of proximate causation. The panel also held that plaintiffs have adequately alleged the reliance necessary to satisfy RICO's proximate cause requirement. View "Painters and Allied Trades District Council 82 Health Care Fund v. Takeda Pharmaceuticals Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellee Paula Knecht, individually and as executrix of the estate of her late husband, Larry Knecht filed suit against 18 defendants alleging defendants failed to warn Mr. Knecht of the dangers of asbestos. During his lifetime, Mr. Knecht developed mesothelioma from exposure to asbestos. While the case was awaiting trial, Mr. Knecht passed away. When the trial date arrived, there was only one remaining defendant appellant Ford Motor Company. A jury held Ford liable for Mr. Knecht's illness and awarded damages. Negligence was apportioned between the parties, Ford was assigned a 20% share of the total negligence. The trial judge then applied 20% to the $40,625,000 damages award and arrived at a compensatory damages award against Ford of $8,125,000. The jury also awarded plaintiff $1,000,000 in punitive damages. After the jury returned its verdict, Ford filed two motions: (1) a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law under Superior Court Rule 50(b) or, in the alternative, a new trial; and (2) a motion for a new trial, or, in the alternative, remittitur. The trial judge denied both motions. On appeal to the Delaware Supreme Court, Ford argued: (1) the Superior Court erred by not granting Ford judgment as a matter of law on the ground that plaintiff failed to prove that Mr. Knecht’s injury was caused by Ford’s failure to warn of the dangers of asbestos; (2) the Superior Court erred by not granting a new trial on the ground that the jury rendered an irreconcilably inconsistent verdict; and (3) the Superior Court erred by not granting a new trial or remittitur on the ground that the compensatory damages verdict is excessive. The Supreme Court concluded the Superior Court’s rulings against Ford on the first two claims were correct. However, the Court concurred the third contention had merit, reversed judgment and remanded to the Superior Court for further consideration of Ford’s motion for a new trial, or, in the alternative, remittitur. View "Ford Motor Company v. Knecht, et al." on Justia Law

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Appellant Christiana Care Health Services, Inc. (“CCHS”) brought an interlocutory appeal of a Superior Court decision to deny its motion for partial summary judgment. The alleged medical negligence at issue in the underlying case occurred during surgery performed on Margaret Rackerby Flint at Christiana Care Hospital, which is operated by CCHS. The surgery allegedly caused her death two days later. The complaint was filed by Meeghan Carter, Ms. Flint’s daughter, individually and as administratrix of Ms. Flint’s estate. It named as defendants Dr. Michael Principe, who performed the surgery, Dr. Eric Johnson, who assisted him, and CCHS. Later, the medical practices of the two doctors were added as defendants. The sole claim against CCHS was that the two doctors were its agents and it is vicariously liable for their alleged negligence. Mediation resolved claims against Dr. Principe and his medical practice. As part of that settlement, plaintiff signed a release which released all such claims. CCHS was not a party to the settlement or the release. Following that settlement, CCHS filed its motion for partial summary judgment against plaintiff on the theory that the release of Dr. Principe released it from any vicarious liability for Dr. Principe’s alleged negligence. The Superior Court denied the motion. CCHS argued: (1) the release of an agent released a vicarious liability claim against the principal as a matter of law; and (2) the terms of the release which plaintiff signed when she settled with Dr. Principe and his medical practice also released it from liability for Dr. Principe’s conduct. The Delaware Supreme Court agreed with CCHS’s second contention, finding that the written release operated as a complete satisfaction of plaintiff’s vicarious liability claim against CCHS arising from Dr. Principe’s alleged conduct, and the motion for partial summary judgment should have been granted. View "Christiana Care Health Services Inc. v. Carter, et al." on Justia Law

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In 2014, Brian Shotts was injured in a car accident caused by Dana Pollard. Shotts was insured under a policy issued by GEICO General Insurance Company (“GEICO”), which included underinsured motorist (“UM”) coverage. Pollard had automobile insurance through Farmers Insurance (“Farmers”). Shotts filed a claim with Farmers, which offered Pollard’s policy limits as settlement. Before accepting the offer, Shotts notified GEICO of the accident. GEICO opened a claim, assigned an adjuster, and began an investigation. GEICO also waived its subrogation rights, allowing Shotts to accept the offer from Farmers. GEICO’s investigation determined that Shotts’s injuries exceeded Pollard’s policy limits by $3,210.87. GEICO offered Shotts a settlement of that amount, but Shotts declined the offer as “unreasonably low.” Shotts demanded GEICO promptly “pay the first dollar of his claim, up to the value of [the] claim or the total available UM limits” of $25,000. He also asked GEICO to reevaluate the offer. In response, GEICO requested additional information about Shotts’s injuries. It then proposed a peer review to determine whether his injuries exceeded the $3,210.87 offer. Shotts sued for bad faith breach of contract, alleging that GEICO acted in bad faith by: (1) conducting “a biased and unfair investigation and evaluation of [his] claim”; and (2) failing to pay the full value of his claim. He also requested punitive damages. The district court granted summary judgment for GEICO on both bad faith claims and denied punitive damages. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court. View "Shotts v. GEICO" on Justia Law