Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court reinstated the district court's award granting Plaintiff substitution benefits after a court of appeals panel held that married persons cannot be a provider or recipient of substitution services to each other, holding that Plaintiff was entitled to substitution benefits for the amount he promised to pay his wife for what she did resulting from Plaintiff's automobile accident. Insurer insured Plaintiff when he was injured in an automobile accident. When Plaintiff returned from the rehabilitation hospital, he and his wife agreed she would provide caregiver services for $25 a day. Plaintiff sought payment for personal injury protection (PIP) substitution benefits available to him under his policy, but Insurer refused. Litigation ensued, and the district court granted judgment for Plaintiff. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that an injured person's spouse is excluded from providing substitution services. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Kan. Stat. Ann. 40-3103(w) does not expressly preclude Plaintiff's wife from providing substitution services simply because of her marital relationship with Plaintiff; (2) Plaintiff incurred an obligation to pay his wife by entering into a contract with her to perform specific services for him that she would not otherwise have performed while Plaintiff convalesced; and (3) Plaintiff was entitled to PIP substitution benefits. View "Williams v. Geico General Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Young, diagnosed with emphysema in 2002, had worked in coal mines for 19 years, retiring from Island Creek Coal in 1999. During and after work, Young would often cough up coal dust. For 35 years, Young smoked at least a pack of cigarettes a day. Young sought benefits under the Black Lung Benefits Act, 30 U.S.C. 902(b). Because Young had worked for at least 15 years as a coal miner and was totally disabled by his lung impairment, he enjoyed a statutory presumption that his disability was due to pneumoconiosis. If Young was entitled to benefits, Island Creek, Young’s last coal-mine employer, would be liable. After reviewing medical reports, the ALJ awarded benefits. The Benefits Review Board affirmed, noting that if there was any error in the ALJ’s recitation of the standard, that error was harmless. The Sixth Circuit denied a petition for review, first rejecting an Appointments Clause challenge as waived. The ALJ did not err by applying an “in part” standard in determining whether Island Creek rebutted the presumption that Young has legal pneumoconiosis. To rebut the “in part” standard, an employer must show that coal-mine exposure had no more than a de minimis impact on a miner’s lung impairment. The ALJ reasonably weighed the medical opinions and provided thorough explanations for his credibility determinations. View "Island Creek Coal Co. v. Young" on Justia Law

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In this case involving the report of a neutral investigator - an employee of a law firm and the law firm - retained to provide a report to a governmental entity in a personnel matter, the Supreme Judicial Court held that that the employee and the law firm were protected by the employee immunity provision of the Maine Tort Claims Act (MTCA), Me. Rev. Stat. 14, 8108-8188. Appellee filed a claim alleging that Appellants, a law firm and its nonattorney employee, were negligent and preparing and presenting an investigative report regarding Appellee's conduct while serving as the coordinator of the University of Southern Maine's Multi-Cultural Student Affairs. The district court denied Appellants' special motion to dismiss pursuant to the anti-SLAPP law and denied Appellants' motion asserting immunity pursuant to the MTCA. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the order on the special motion to dismiss and vacated the motion to dismiss on MTCA grounds, holding (1) the trial court correctly determined that the investigative report at issue in this appeal did not constitute petitioning activity within the meaning of the anti-SLAPP statute; and (2) because Appellants were performing a governmental function on behalf of a governmental entity, the trial court erred in denying the motion to dismiss based on MTCA immunity. View "Hamilton v. Woodsum" on Justia Law

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While driving a car insured by Arizona Automobile Insurance Company, Marlena Whicker rear-ended a taxi and injured its passenger, Georgiana Chavez. Chavez sued Whicker in Colorado state court and won a default judgment when neither Whicker nor Arizona entered a defense. Whicker, unable to satisfy the judgment from the lawsuit, assigned her rights against Arizona to Chavez, who then filed this diversity suit against Arizona in federal court for failure to defend Whicker in the underlying state court action. Her theory was that Arizona had a duty to defend Whicker under Colorado law because Arizona knew that she was a driver covered under its policy. The district court disagreed with Chavez and granted Arizona’s motion to dismiss. The Tenth Circuit determined that under Colorado law, Arizona was only required to defend Whicker if Chavez’s complaint plausibly alleged Whicker was insured under the Arizona policy. It therefore reached the same conclusion as the district court and, affirmed its dismissal of Chavez’s case. View "Chavez v. Arizona Automobile Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Elizabeth Frost died in an accidental house fire. At the time, ADT provided security monitoring services to the premises. During the fire, ADT received several alerts through its monitoring system. Although ADT attempted to call Frost and the back-up number listed on her account, it did not get through. After several such attempts, ADT cleared the alerts without contacting emergency services. The administrator of Frost’s estate and her minor heir, M.F., sued ADT. The central theme of the complaint was that ADT’s failure to notify emergency services contradicted representations on its website that it would do so, and that failure wrongfully caused or contributed to Frost’s death. The district court dismissed the complaint, holding the one-year suit limitation provision in the contract between ADT and Frost barred the claims and that Claimants failed to state a claim with respect to certain counts. Because the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals found the contract between Frost and ADT provided an enforceable suit-limitation provision that barred the claims at issue, it affirmed dismissal. View "Frost v. ADT" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, an employee of 4T Construction, filed suit against McKenzie under both negligence-based and strict liability law principles after he was seriously injured while replacing a high voltage transmission line for a project. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for McKenzie, holding that the parties' contract clearly and unambiguously stated that 4T was retained as an independent contractor. In this case, the parties' contract stated that 4T was an independent contractor that performs its work without supervision by McKenzie. The court held that McKenzie did not retain control over 4T's and plaintiff's actions. Finally, the North Dakota Supreme Court has declined to hold a utility company strictly liable for injuries and damages from contact with high tension power lines, and McKenzie was not liable under a theory of strict liability for abnormally dangerous activities. View "Meyer v. McKenzie Electric Cooperative, Inc." on Justia Law

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GEICO Insurance Company appealed a trial court judgment entered in favor of plaintiffs Johnson Evans, Jimmy Smith, and Bernard Smith on plaintiffs' claims for damages resulting from an automobile accident caused by GEICO's insured, Bernard Grey. GEICO argued that the April 17, 2019, judgment entered against it was void because it did not receive notice of plaintiffs' claims against it or notice of the hearing on plaintiffs' claims. For their part, plaintiffs did not dispute that GEICO never received actual notice of any action pending against it in the present case. Instead, they argued GEICO had "constructive notice of potential litigation" because it had actual notice of Grey's accident involving plaintiffs -- which occurred in 2010 -- and that GEICO was aware that plaintiffs claimed to be injured by Grey's actions. The Alabama Supreme Court agreed with GEIDO that "constructive notice of potential litigation" clearly fell short of "even the most basic requirements of due process." Because it was undisputed GEICO never received notice of any claim pending against it, the April 17 judgment violated due process, and was therefore void. Because a void judgment would not support an appeal, the trial court was instructed to vacate its judgment, and GEICO's appeal was thus dismissed. View "GEICO Insurance Co. v. Evans" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Court dismissing Plaintiff's petition alleging that she had sustained a severe and permanent brain injury as a result of an accident with a nail gun while she was at work for Builders Supply Company, Inc., holding that the compensation court did not err in concluding that Plaintiff had been willfully negligent. The workers' compensation court dismissed Plaintiff's petition upon finding that she intentionally shot herself in the head with the nail gun. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the compensation court (1) did not abuse its discretion in excluding the testimony of Plaintiff's expert witness as a discovery sanction; (2) did not abuse its discretion in declining to grant Plaintiff a second continuance; and (3) did not err in finding that Plaintiff acted with willful negligence. View "Eddy v. Builders Supply Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court granting a Des Moines bar's motion for summary judgment and dismissing an injured party's dramshop action on the ground that the notice given to the bar or its insurance carrier did not comply with Iowa Code 123.93, holding that the notice given substantially complied with section 123.93. In its summary judgment motion, the bar contended that Plaintiff did not provide the bar with statutory notice of his intent to pursue a dramshop claim against the bar. The district court agreed and granted the motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiff's notice substantially complied with the requirements of section 123.93. View "Hollingshead v. DC Misfits, LLC" on Justia Law

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In March 2018, Renaulta Mayze, Markhail Mayze, and Tydarius Sago (“Mayze”) were involved in a vehicle collision with Casey Weir. Mayze filed suit alleging that the collision had occurred in Hinds County. Weir filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, to transfer venue, alleging that the collision had occurred in Madison County. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found that the trial judge abused her discretion in denying the motion to transfer venue. The Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s decision and remanded the case to the Hinds County County Court to be transferred to the Madison County County Court. View "Weir v. Mayze" on Justia Law