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In the underlying action, a customer purchased a headlamp on Amazon's website from a third party seller and then gave it to friends as a gift. After the headlamp's batteries malfunctioned and ignited the friends' house on fire and caused over $300,000 in damages, the insurer of the house paid the loss and, as subrogee, filed suit against Amazon alleging claims of negligence, breach of warranty, and strict liability tort. The insurer argued that Amazon was liable under Maryland law because it was the "seller" of the headlamp. The district court granted summary judgment to Amazon and held that Amazon was immune from suit. The Fourth Circuit held that, although Amazon was not immune from suit under the Communications Decency Act, 47 U.S.C. 230(c)(1), Amazon was not the "seller" of the headlamp and therefore did not have liability under Maryland law for products liability claims asserted by reason of the product's defective condition. The court explained that insofar as liability in Maryland for defective products falls on "sellers" and manufacturers (who are also sellers), it is imposed on owners of personal property who transfer title to purchasers of that property for a price. In this case, there was no evidence to dispute that when Dream Light shipped its headlamp to Amazon's warehouse in Virginia, it was the owner of the headlamp. Furthermore, when Dream Light transferred possession of the headlamp to Amazon, without Amazon's payment of the headlamp's price or an agreement transferring title to it, Amazon did not, by that simple transfer, receive title. There was also no action or agreement that amounted to the consummation of the sale of the headlamp by Dream Light to Amazon. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part and reversed in part. View "Erie Insurance Co. v. Amazon.com" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit under New York tort law, alleging that defendants conspired with and aided and abetted the Sudanese regime in its commission of widespread atrocities. The Second Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of the complaint under Civil Rule of Procedure 12 (b)(6), holding that the district court misapplied the act of state doctrine and erroneously determined that the adult plaintiffs' claims were untimely. In this case, considering the lack of evidence introduced by defendants that genocide is the official policy of Sudan, and the countervailing evidence that genocide blatantly violates Sudan's own laws, the court held that there was simply no "official act" that a court would be required to "declare invalid" in order to adjudicate plaintiffs' claims. Furthermore, the court held that the atrocities to which defendant asked the court to defer can never be the basis of a rule of decision capable of triggering the act of state doctrine, because circuit precedent prohibits the court from deeming valid violations of non-derogable jus cogens norms irrespective of the consent or practice of a given state. The court also held that plaintiffs' claims under the act of state doctrine were timely. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Kashef v. BNP Paribas S.A." on Justia Law

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Appellant Thomas Southon was employed by Oklahoma Tire Recyclers, LLC ("Employer"). In 2016, Southon sustained an injury while on the job and filed a claim for workers' compensation benefits. Employer fired Southon less than a month after he suffered the injury. Southon filed an action alleging Employer terminated him as retaliation for seeking workers' compensation benefits. Southon's petition further requested a declaratory ruling that 85A O.S.Supp. 2013 section 7 was unconstitutional. Employer moved to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction, arguing that under section 7 Southon's exclusive, and constitutionally sufficient, remedy was before the Workers' Compensation Commission and not the district court. The district court found 85A O.S.Supp. 2013 section 7 was constitutional, and agreed that the Workers' Compensation Commission had exclusive jurisdiction over Southon's claim and sustained Employer's motion to dismiss. Southon appealed, and this matter was retained and made a companion case to another cause concerning the same statutory provision. The issues presented for the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s review were: (1) whether 85A O.S.Supp. 2013 section 7 unconstitutionally restricted a plaintiff's right to jury trial; (2) whether section 7 denied Southon his right to due process; (3) whether section 7 wrongfully classifies workers' compensation claimants separately from other wrongful termination victims; and (4) whether a Burk tort was available to such plaintiffs in the district court. The Supreme Court concluded Southon's four assignments of error were without merit and affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Southon v. Oklahoma Tire Recyclers, LLC" on Justia Law

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After originally hearing this appeal, the DC Circuit certified to the DC Court of Appeals the following question regarding plaintiffs' intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) claims: "Must a claimant alleging emotional distress arising from a terrorist attack that killed or injured a family member have been present at the scene of the attack in order to state a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress?" The DC Court of Appeals answered the question in the negative. The court rejected Sudan's arguments and affirmed the default judgments with respect to plaintiffs' IIED claims. In this case, Sudan's objections to the DC court's exception to the presence requirement all presume that DC law treats state actors differently from non-state actors. The court rejected Sudan's interpretation of the DC court's holding and did not reach the substantive question whether it would be impermissible for the DC court to single out certain foreign sovereigns for IIED liability in terrorism cases. View "Owens v. Republic of Sudan" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court entering partial summary judgment against Rex Rammell on all his claims against his former employer, Mountainaire Animal Clinic, P.C., its president, and its office manager except Rammell's breach of express contract claim and then dismissing that claim as a sanction for willful obstruction of discovery and fraud upon the court, holding that the district court did not err. Specifically, the Court held (1) deficiencies in Rammell's certification did not mandate dismissal of his appeal; (2) defects in Rammell's notice of appeal did not mandate dismissal; (3) the district court did not err in entering summary judgment against Rammell on his tortious interference claim; and (4) the district court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing Rammell's breach of express contract claim as a sanction for discovery violations. View "Rammell v. Mountainaire Animal Clinic, P.C." on Justia Law

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In 2012, appellant Stephen Taulbee suffered catastrophic injuries after driving his Jeep into the back of a truck parked in a triangular-shaped zone demarcated by the freeway and the exit ramp (gore point). Taulbee and his wife (collectively “appellants”) sued respondent Carlos Aldana, the truck driver, and his employer, respondent EJ Distribution Corporation (collectively “respondents”). The trial court instructed the jury that it could find Aldana negligent per se for parking in the gore point, and that Taulbee could be found negligent per se for driving into the gore point. The court declined to instruct the jury that Aldana also could be found negligent per se for driving into the gore point to park his vehicle, although appellants requested the instruction. After the jury found Aldana was not negligent for parking in the gore point, the court entered judgment for respondents. Appellants argued the trial court erred in refusing to give their requested jury instruction, and that substantial evidence supported their theory Aldana was liable for the traffic collision by driving into the gore point. The Court of Appeal determined the trial court properly declined to give the requested instruction because Aldana’s negligent driving into the gore point was not a proximate cause of the traffic accident. In any event, the Court concluded any instructional error in failing to give the instruction was harmless given the jury’s finding that Aldana was not negligent for parking in the gore point. View "Taulbee v. EJ Distribution Corp." on Justia Law

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McCarty and Parks went to an Illinois Menard’s store to purchase sheets of oriented strand board (OSB). They drove a pickup truck to the store’s lumber shed and found the OSB piles, stacked side-by-side, behind display signs. The display sign at issue was knee high with protruding wooden legs. McCarty moved some top boards from a central OSB pile over to a right side adjacent pile while searching for undamaged boards. Parks did the same on the left side. After McCarty moved a few boards, he tripped over a piece of wood that was part of the display sign in front of the right‐hand pile. The display sign was normally set flush against the stacks, as were the other signs. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of McCarty’s injury suit. The open and obvious doctrine applies when “[t]he open and obvious nature of the condition itself gives caution and therefore the risk of harm is considered slight; people are expected to appreciate and avoid obvious risks.” The only reasonable conclusion is that McCarty saw the protruding sign while standing in front of it. A reasonable person with McCarty’s knowledge of the situation would have appreciated and avoided the hazardous condition. View "McCarty v. Menard, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the summary judgment in favor of Encanto Adventures LLC on Marcie Normandin's premises liability claim, holding that Encanto was not immunized by Arizona's recreational use statute, Ariz. Rev. Stat. 33-1551, for injuries Normandin, a recreational user, sustained after falling in Encanto Park. The trial court granted summary judgment for Encanto based on the recreational use immunity provided by section 33-1551(A). The court of appeals affirmed, concluding, among other things, that Encanto was immune as a "manager" under section 33-1551(A). The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Encanto was not a "manager" of land used for recreational purposes and, therefore, was not immune from liability under the statute. View "Normandin v. Encanto Adventures, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed as modified the district court's entry of a judgment for the estates of Arlene L. Pantano and Anthony R. Pantano in the amount of $195,000 in this negligence case brought against American Blue Ribbon Holdings, LLC, holding that there was sufficient evidence that American Blue Ribbon was negligent but that the district court erred in instructing the jury with regard to comparative negligence. Arlene and her husband, Anthony, filed suit against American Blue Ribbon alleging damages for injuries and loss of consortium suffered when Arlene fell at a restaurant owned by American Blue Ribbon. Arlene subsequently died of natural causes, and Anthony died four months earlier. After a trial, the jury found for the estates in the total amount of $260,000 but found Arlene was twenty-five percent negligent. The Supreme Court affirmed as modified, holding (1) American Blue Ribbon's arguments on appeal were unavailing; but (2) the district court erred in instructing the jury on comparative negligence and including comparative negligence on the verdict form and in thus reducing the judgment in favor of the estates by twenty-five percent. View "Pantano v. American Blue Ribbon Holdings, LLC" on Justia Law

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Sonya Chaffee, on behalf of her minor child, Fredrick Latham, Jr., sued the Jackson Public School District; Lonnie J. Edwards, the School District superintendent in his official capacity; and Jackson Public Schools Board of Trustees (collectively, “the School District”) alleging negligence and res ipsa loquitur. Fredrick was a student in Tracy Scott’s first grade class at Woodville Heights Elementary School. While Scott was standing at the front of the classroom readying the students for lunch, Fredrick and another boy got out of line and ran to the back of the classroom to use the single restroom. Bernice Anderson, Scott’s teaching assistant, was present at her desk in the back of the classroom nearer the restroom. Fredrick was injured when his hand slipped off the door and his finger got caught in the crack of the door as the other boy was closing it. After hearing a student scream that Fredrick had smashed his finger, Scott went to the back of the classroom, wrapped Fredrick’s finger in papers towels, and took him to the principal’s office. Fredrick’s mother was called, and he was taken by ambulance to the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Surgery was performed to reattach Fredrick’s fingertip using a skin graft. The School District defended on sovereign immunity grounds pursuant to the Mississippi Tort Claims Act (“MTCA”). After engaging in discovery, the School District moved for summary judgment which was granted. Aggrieved, Chaffee appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Chaffee v. Jackson Public School District" on Justia Law