Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

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Dennis Borden, individually and as father and next friend of his son J.B. (minor), appealed the dismissal of his defamation, negligence, wantonness and wilfulness claims against Bobby Malone and Malone's counseling clinic, B.L. Malone and Associates, Inc. Borden and his then-wife, Kathy Smith, received marriage counseling from Malone at the clinic. Borden filed for divorce in 2010. The complaint here alleged that in the divorce proceedings Malone "served in the role of custody evaluator" and recommended to the court that Smith be given sole custody of J.B. Instead of following Malone's recommendation, the court awarded Borden and Smith joint custody. The divorce was finalized in 2012. In 2019, Smith petitioned for modification of custody, seeking sole custody of the child. Borden opposed the petition, alleging that "during the pendency of an adversarial custody dispute involving litigation," Malone began seeing J.B. for counseling at Smith's behest without Borden's consent. J.B. allegedly related to Malone in counseling sessions many deeply personal statements concerning the child's relationship with Borden. Borden's complaint alleged that Malone made numerous defamatory statements in a letter to Smith's custody attorney, that was eventually presented as evidence in the custody hearing (the letter was stricken from evidence because that court ruled the counselor-patient privilege applied). After review, the Alabama Supreme Court reversed the trial court's dismissal of defamation claims to the extent it precluded Borden from maintaining his claim that Malone and the clinic bore some culpability for the dissemination of the letter beyond those who had a direct or close relationship to the custody-modification proceeding. Furthermore, the trial court's dismissal of the count alleging negligence/wantonness/wilfulness was reversed to the extent that it precluded claims based on a breach of confidentiality on behalf of J.B., which were not foreclosed by the litigation privilege. The trial court's dismissal of the claims asserted in that count as to Borden was affirmed. View "Borden v. Malone" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court entered on the jury's verdict finding Defendant not negligent, holding that there was sufficient evidence to support the jury verdict.Following a car collision, Plaintiff sued Defendant for negligence. During trial, Plaintiff moved for judgment as a matter of law on the issue of Defendant's negligence. The district court reserved its ruling on the motion and gave the case to the jury. The jury found Defendant not negligent, and the court entered judgment on the verdict. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the court acted appropriately in sending the issue of Defendant's negligence to the jury; and (2) the jury could reasonably conclude from the evidence that Defendant failed to meet his burden to establish that Defendant breached his duty of ordinary care under the circumstances. View "Wageman v. Harrell" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals denying the request brought by Manor Care, Inc., a self-insured employer, for a writ of mandamus ordering the Bureau of Workers' Compensation to reimburse it for lump-sum permanent-total-disability (PTD) compensation payments, holding that Manor Care did not establish a clear legal right to relief.Manor Care made lump-sum payments under protest to two injured workers in order to correct its long-term underpayment of their permanent-total-disability (PTD) compensation. Manor Care then requested reimbursement from the Disabled Workers' Relief Fund, contending that Manor Care's underpayment of PTD compensation should be offset by the Bureau's corresponding overpayment of relief-fund benefits to the same employees, for which Manor Care had reimbursed the Bureau as part of its annual assessments. The Bureau denied the request. Manor Care then filed this action alleging that the Bureau abused its discretion by requiring Manor Care to, in effect, double-pay the purported PTD underpayment to the employees and refusing to reimburse Manor Care for the PTD underpayment amount. The court of appeals denied the writ. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Manor Care identified no authority granting a clear legal right to the relief it sought. View "State ex rel. Manor Care, Inc. v. Bureau of Workers' Compensation" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court remanded the judgment of the trial court in this civil case against Appellant based upon a finding that she had violated Va. Code 8.01-40.4 by unlawfully disseminating images of Appellee, holding that further factual findings were required on the issue of whether the voluntary-payment doctrine mooted Sheehy's appeals of the now fully satisfied judgment.Appellant filed two appeals after the trial court entered judgment. While the appeals were pending, the judgment was paid in full. Appellee filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the voluntary-payment doctrine mooted Appellant's appeal. The Supreme Court temporarily remanded the case to the trial court for factual findings on the voluntary-payment issue, holding that it was necessary for the circuit court to make findings of fact for deciding the motion to dismiss the pending appeals. View "Sheehy v. Williams" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court determining that Montana law applied to the wrongful death action brought by Nicole Buckles on behalf of the estate her deceased son, Zachary Scott Buckles, whose death occurred in the State of North Dakota, holding that the district court did not err.Zachary died of exposure to high levels of hydrocarbon vapors while working on Continental Resources, Inc.'s well site located near Alexander, North Dakota. Buckles, acting as personal representative of Zachary's estate, filed a wrongful death action against Continental and other entities in a Montana district court. Two defendants filed a motion for declaration of applicable law requesting that the district court apply North Dakota substantive law to Buckles' claims. The district court denied the motion, determining that Montana law applied. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not clearly err in concluding that although the injury occurred outside of Montana, Montana had the most significant relationship to this litigation. View "Buckles v. BH Flowtest, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Wal-Mart after a store employee incorrectly identified plaintiff as a shoplifting suspect in a photo lineup. On appeal, plaintiff challenged the district court's dismissal of her defamation claim.The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Wal-Mart on the defamation claim, holding that none of plaintiff's assertions raises a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether the Wal-Mart employee made her statement with actual malice. In this case, the employee could easily have been confident in her identification despite the absence of a facial piercing in the photo lineup; the record does not suggest a large discrepancy between the employee's description of the suspect and her identification of plaintiff, including the shade of her complexion; and the employee did not demonstrate malice by failing to review security footage. Finally, the court rejected plaintiff's attacks on the employee's credibility. View "Smith v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a negligence action based upon the alleged acts of defendants when one of the plaintiffs was staying in a hospital after surgery and received a burn from spilled hot water. The district granted defendants' motion to strike plaintiffs' witness list and defendants' motion for summary judgment. Plaintiffs appealed and the Court of Civil Appeals. After its review, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held the trial court erred in granting summary judgment striking the list of trial witnesses when plaintiffs were not provided time to respond to the motion to strike as granted by District Court Rule 4. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Shawreb v. SSM Health Care of Oklahoma" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, the lessee under a lease for commercial premises, filed suit against defendants, alleging causes of action for premises liability and negligence after he fell down a staircase after hitting his head on a beam in the doorway at the top of the staircase. Plaintiff alleged that his fall was caused by the inherently dangerous condition of the staircase due to numerous building code violations.The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of defendants' motion for summary judgment based on the exculpatory clause in the lease. In this case, plaintiff alleges ordinary, passive negligence -- the failure to discover a dangerous condition or to perform a duty imposed by law. The court held that the exculpatory clause shields the lessor from liability for ordinary negligence; its language is clear that the lesser shall not be liable for injury to the person of lessee; and these circumstances make this a case where, when the parties knowingly bargain for the protection at issue, the protection should be afforded. View "Garcia v. D/AQ Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the orders of the circuit court denying Petitioners' respective motions to dismiss the amended complaint filed by the Estate of Cody Lawrence Grove for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, holding that the circuit court erred in several respects.This appeal arose from the suicide of Groves during his incarceration at the Eastern Regional Jail, which was operated by the West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility (WVRJCA). The Estate filed a complaint agains the WVRJCA and Joshua David Zombro (collectively, Petitioners), asserting seven causes of action. Petitioners filed a motion to dismiss, which the circuit court denied. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred by (1) incorrectly failing to apply the heightened pleading standard applicable to cases implicating qualified immunity; (2) failing to appropriately consider whether qualified immunity applied to shield Petitioners from suit; (3) failing to determine whether the WVRJCA is a state agency; and (4) failing to address punitive damages. View "West Virginia Regional Jail & Correctional Facility Authority v. Estate of Cody Lawrence Grove" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court denying Petitioner's motion for judgment as a matter of law or, in the alternative, for a new trial following a jury trial in a personal injury action brought by Respondents, holding that the circuit court did not err.This action arose from an incident where Respondent was severely injured when he was struck and run over by a truck owned and operated by an employee of Petitioner. The jury returned a verdict finding that the employee was acting within the scope of his employment and apportioning one hundred percent of the fault for the incident to the employee. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in denying Petitioner's motion for judgment as a matter of law or, in the alternative, for a new trial, or for remittitur. View "Roof Service of Bridgeport, Inc. v. Trent" on Justia Law