Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

by
The Supreme Court denied a writ of prohibition sought by Morgantown Health and Rehabilitation Center, a nursing home, holding that the circuit court erred in applying the statute of limitations contained in the Wrongful Death Act, W. Va. Code 55-7-6, instead of that contained in the Medical Professional Liability Act (MPLA), W. Va. Code 55-7B-4(b).More than one year after Jacqulin Cowell, a resident of Morgantown Health, died, her daughter and administratrix of her estate sued Morgantown Health, alleging that poor care, neglect, and abuse resulted in Cowell's death. Morgantown Health filed a motion, arguing that the one-year statute of limitations in section 55-7B-4(b) had lapsed and, therefore, the complaint was untimely. The circuit court denied the motion to dismiss, concluding that the statute of limitations in the Wrongful Death Act, rather than that contained in the MPLA, applied. Morgantown Health requested a writ of prohibition. The Supreme Court denied the writ, holding that the circuit court did not clearly err in applying the Wrongful Death Act's statute of limitations to Plaintiff's wrongful death claim. View "State ex rel. Morgantown Operating Co. LLC v. Gaujot" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff Darren Hulbert, a self-represented indigent inmate, appealed the dismissal of his medical malpractice suit Richard Cross, M.D. Dr. Cross performed a radial head resection and arthroplasty on Hulbert’s right elbow. Hulbert alleged that Dr. Cross negligently failed to tighten a screw in the implant, which resulted in the screw coming loose and damaging Hulbert’s elbow joint, cartilage, and surrounding tissue. To help establish his claim, Hulbert filed a motion for appointment of legal counsel and a medical expert. The trial court denied the motion and subsequently found that Hulbert could not rebut the declaration of Dr. Cross’s medical expert without providing medical expert evidence of his own. On this basis, the trial court granted Dr. Cross’s motion for summary judgment. On appeal, Hulbert contended: (1) he was deprived of meaningful access to the courts because the trial court denied him the assistance of a medical expert while requiring a medical expert to establish a triable issue of material fact; (2) the trial court failed to exercise its discretion by considering all of the remedies available to ensure that he had meaningful access to the courts; (3) the trial court erred in determining there was no triable issue of material fact because the loose screw itself did not prove medical negligence; (4) the trial court erred in refusing to appoint legal counsel; (5) Dr. Cross did not provide informed consent prior to the procedure; (6) the declaration by Dr. Cross’s medical expert was insufficient to overcome a presumption of negligence because Dr. Cross’s operation notes failed to show compliance with the implant manufacturer’s instructions. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded the trial did not properly exercise informed discretion with respect to ensuring access to the courts when it denied Hulbert’s motion for appointment of a medical expert. The trial court’s statement that it lacked authority to appoint legal counsel required remand to allow the trial court to consider and clarify which remedies were appropriate in this case to protect Hulbert’s right to meaningful access to the court. View "Hulbert v. Cross" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff Cameron Crogan was seriously injured when he rode his motorbike into a cable strung across a beach access road at the lakeside residential development where he lived with his family. As a result, his mother filed a negligence action against several entities related to the development, including the homeowners’ association and a separately formed beach association, as well as certain individuals in both their individual and representative capacities. The civil division granted defendants’ motions for summary judgment primarily on the grounds that, given the undisputed facts of this case, Vermont’s Recreational Use Statute protected them from liability, and the individual defendants did not owe plaintiff a duty of care in connection with the accident that led to this lawsuit. The Vermont Supreme Court concluded the individual defendants were entitled to summary judgment, but reversed the trial court’s determination that the Recreational Use Statute was applicable in this case. Accordingly, the case was remanded for further proceedings concerning plaintiff’s claims against the non-individual defendants. View "Crogan v. Pine Bluff Estates et al." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court conditionally granted a petition for writ of mandamus sought by the Diocese of Lubbock, as relator, asserting that ecclesiastical abstention prohibits the trial court from assuming jurisdiction over a suit brought by one of its ordained deacons against the Diocese and that, therefore, the trial court should have granted the Diocese's plea to the jurisdiction, holding that dismissal of the deacon's underlying lawsuit was required.This lawsuit arose out of an investigation by the Diocese into its clergy and the inclusion of the deacon's name on a list of the Diocese's clergy credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor, as well as the Diocese's public statements regarding the list following its release to the Diocese's public website. The court of appeals concluded that the Diocese's investigation lost ecclesiastical protection when it related to the issue of sexual abuse, which is not strictly and purely ecclesiastical. The Supreme Court granted the Diocese's petition for writ of mandamus and directed the trial court to dismiss the deacon's underlying lawsuit, holding that exercising jurisdiction over the underlying case would encroach on the Diocese's decision to investigate its clergy consistent with its internal policies. View "In re Diocese of Lubbock" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court vacated the trial court's underlying interlocutory order denying a motion to dismiss under the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA), Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 27.003, and the judgment of the court of appeals denying the Diocese of Lubbock's mandamus petition, holding that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to proceed in the underlying litigation.The claims at issue arose out of the Diocese's inclusion of Jesus Guerroro's name on a list of clergy credibly accused of sexual abuse. Guerroro sued, claiming defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The Diocese filed a plea to the jurisdiction and followed the plea with a motion to dismiss under the TCPA. The trial court denied both. The court of appeals denied the Diocese's mandamus petition and affirmed the trial court's TCPA order with respect to the defamation claim. The Supreme Court vacated the orders below, holding (1) the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine deprived the trial court of jurisdiction over Guerroro's suit; and (2) therefore, the trial court erred by not sustaining the Diocese's plea to the jurisdiction and dismissing the underlying case. View "Diocese of Lubbock v. Guerrero" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court accepted certification of a question about theUnderground Facility Damage Prevention and Safety Act, Fla. Stat. Chapter 556, and answered that the Act creates a standalone cause of action and that the cause of action sounds in negligence.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit certified the question of whether a member-operator has a cause of action under Fla. Stat. 556.106(2)(a)-(c) to recover damages or obtain indemnification from an excavator for payments to a third party for personal injuries related to the excavator's alleged violation of the statute. The Supreme Court answered (1) liability under the Act is subject to proof of proximate causation and to the defense of comparative fault; (2) losses recoverable under the Act can include purely economic damages, independent of personal injury or property damage; and (3) the Act does not create a cause of action for statutory indemnity. View "Peoples Gas System v. Posen Construction, Inc." on Justia Law

by
In 2016, plaintiff Jennifer Buhl and her husband went to a party store in Oak Park, Michigan. As she was walking, plaintiff saw a raised crack in the sidewalk outside the store and tried to step over it. Because plaintiff did not notice that the sidewalk was uneven on the other side of the crack, she fell and fractured her left ankle. The specific question this case raised for the Michigan Supreme Court’s review was whether an amendment to the governmental tort liability act (GTLA) that went into effect after plaintiff’s claim accrued but before plaintiff filed her complaint could be retroactively applied. The Supreme Court held that the amended provision did not apply retroactively. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals’ judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Buhl v. City of Oak Park" on Justia Law

by
Linda Black sustained second-degree burns on her back while undergoing electrotherapeutic treatment at Superior Physical Therapy (“SPT”). Black’s treatment was performed by Bart McDonald, a licensed physical therapist and the sole owner of SPT. Black brought a product liability claim against the manufacturer and seller of the self- adhesive carbon electrode pads used during her treatment. The manufacturer moved for summary judgment on the grounds that Black was unable to prove that the electrode pads were defective or that the injuries Black sustained were proximately caused by its negligence. The district court ruled that: (1) McDonald’s conclusory statements that the electrode pads were defective were inadmissible because he was not a qualified expert; (2) the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur did not apply to Black’s case; and (3) Black’s prima facie case failed because there was evidence of abnormal use of the electrode pads and other reasonable secondary causes that could have contributed to Black’s injury. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the manufacturer. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s decision. View "Black v. DJO Global" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Appellants' motion to intervene in this wrongful death action, holding that heirs of the decedent cannot intervene in a wrongful death action brought by the wrongful death representative.Carrie Linn died after undergoing elective surgery. Carrie's niece, Kallista Mills, was appointed Carrie's wrongful death representative. Mills brought this wrongful death action against Charles Linn, Carrie's husband, alleging that he had negligently caused Carrie's death. One year later, Mills signed a release releasing Charles from all causes asserted against him. Mills and Charles then filed a stipulated motion to dismiss the wrongful death action with prejudice. After the execution of the release but before the filing of the stipulated motion to dismiss, Appellants - Carrie's daughters - filed a motion to intervene in the wrongful death action. Because Appellants did not timely serve counsel the motion, the court dismissed the action with prejudice. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that beneficiaries, unless appointed as the wrongful death representative, are precluded from intervening in wrongful death actions. View "Archer v. Mills" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs filed a second amended complaint (SAC), seeking (A) to hold the bank liable as a principal under the Antiterrorism Act of 1990 (ATA) for providing banking services to Hizbollah, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization alleged to have injured plaintiffs in a series of terroristic rocket attacks in Israel in July and August 2006; and (B) to hold the bank liable as a coconspirator or aider and abettor of Hizbollah under the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA). The district court granted defendant's motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).The Second Circuit concluded that plaintiffs having abandoned their ATA terrorism and JASTA conspiracy claims, and thus the court addressed only their JASTA aiding-and-abetting claims. In regard to the JASTA aiding-and-abetting claims, the court found merit in plaintiffs' contentions that the district court did not correctly apply the analytical framework set out in Halberstam v. Welch, 705 F.2d 472 6 (D.C. Cir. 1983), specified by Congress as the proper legal framework for assessing such claims. The Halberstam requirements for a claim of aiding and abetting are (1) that the person whom the defendant aided must have performed a wrongful act that caused injury, (2) that the defendant must have been "generally aware of his role as part of an overall illegal or tortious activity at the time that he provide[d] the assistance," and (3) "the defendant must [have] knowingly and substantially assist[ed] the principal violation."The court concluded that the district court erred in its findings as to the plausibility of, and the permissible inferences that could be drawn from, SAC allegations of the bank's knowledge that the customers it was assisting were affiliated with Hizbollah and that it was aiding Hizbollah's terrorist activities. The court explained that the plausibility of the allegations as to LCB's knowledge of Hizbollah's terrorist activities and of the customers' affiliation with Hizbollah is sufficient to permit the inference that LCB was at least generally aware that through its money-laundering banking services to the customers, LCB was playing a role in Hizbollah's terrorist activities. Furthermore, the SAC adequately pleaded that LCB knowingly gave the customers assistance that both aided Hizbollah and was qualitatively and quantitatively substantial. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's dismissal of the JASTA aiding-and-abetting claims and remanded for further proceedings. View "Kaplan v. Lebanese Canadian Bank" on Justia Law