Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

by
Plaintiff, individually and as special administrator of the Estate of her father (collectively, “Plaintiffs”), appealed following the district court’s dismissal of her claims for legal malpractice, fraud, and deceit against attorneys (collectively, “the law firm”).   The Eighth Circuit granted Plaintiff’s motion to supplement the record. However, the court affirmed, reasoning that the court predicts the South Dakota Supreme Court would prohibit the assignment of legal malpractice claims and the district court did not err in dismissing the remaining claims. The court explained that Plaintiff asserts the district court erred when it dismissed her fraud and deceit claims against the law firm. To the extent Plaintiff intended to state a claim for fraud or deceit claim, no such claim actually appears in the amended complaint— especially in light of South Dakota’s requirement that fraud and deceit be pled with particularity. While the original complaint contained an allegation of fraud and deceit, the failure to retain that allegation in the amended complaint is dispositive. The only remaining allegations pertain to punitive damages, but an assertion of punitive damages is not a free-standing cause of action under South Dakota law. View "Teresa Thompson v. William Harrie" on Justia Law

by
Niyokia Lee and James Cooper sustained damages in separate, independent automobile accidents caused by negligent city emergency responders. Lee’s accident happened in Harrison County, and Cooper’s happened in Rankin County. The Mississippi Tort Claims Act afforded immunity to the negligent police officer, the fireman, and the governmental entities employing them. Because Lee and Cooper could not recover from the responders or municipalities, both sought recovery under their car insurance policies’ uninsured motorist provisions. Lee and Cooper had the same UM coverage carrier—State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company. And State Farm denied UM coverage to both, citing Mississippi Code Section 83-11-101(1) of Mississippi’s Uninsured Motorist Act. As State Farm saw it, because the officer and fireman enjoyed police and fire protection immunity under the MTCA, neither policyholder was legally entitled to recover from the immune responders or their city employers. State Farm thus denied UM coverage to Lee and Cooper despite the fact that, in 2009, the state legislature had revised Mississippi Code Section 83-11-103(c) of the UM Act by adding a new subsection expanding the definition of “uninsured motor vehicle” to include “[a] motor vehicle owned or operated by a person protected by immunity under the [MTCA.]” The two trial courts considering the UM coverage issue reached opposite results. The Harrison County Circuit Court granted summary judgment in State Farm’s favor and dismissed Lee’s claims against State Farm, finding because the officer was immune, Lee was not "legally entitled to recover" and consequently, was not eligible for UM coverage. The Rankin County Court granted summary judgment in Cooper’s favor, against State Farm, ruling UM coverage did apply because, otherwise, the 2009 amendment to the UM Act, which expanded the definition of “uninsured motor vehicle” to include vehicles operated by persons who are immune under the MTCA, would be "rendered virtually meaningless." The Mississippi Supreme Court consolidating the two cases found that the plain language of the two provisions made it apparent that Lee and Cooper were entitled to UM coverage. It therefore reversed and remanded the decision of the Harrison County Circuit Court, and affirmed and remanded the decision of the Rankin County Circuit Court. View "Lee v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff, a cardiothoracic surgeon, sued another cardiothoracic surgeon, Defendant, alleging that his remarks about her performance during an aborted surgery defamed her. On summary judgment, the district court determined that Defendant’s statements—that Plaintiff “misread” or “failed to recognize” the findings on the patient’s echocardiogram before beginning surgery—were not false, as Plaintiff admitted she did not read the echocardiogram at all before operating. The district court, therefore, concluded the statements could not be actionable under North Carolina law.   The Fourth Circuit vacated the summary judgment order. The court disagreed with the district court’s appraisal on summary judgment. The court explained that to say that Plaintiff “misread” the echocardiogram presupposes that she read it in the first place, which she did not. And the defamatory sting of Defendant’s statements—that Plaintiff either lacked skill in applying her medical judgment to interpret the echocardiogram or deviated from the standard of care by failing to evaluate the echocardiogram results before operating—presents a conclusion about which the parties, and the evidence, sharply disagree. For these reasons, the district court erred in finding no dispute of material fact as to the falsity of Defendant’s statements. View "Barbara Robinson v. John Williams" on Justia Law

by
While working as a standup forklift operator, Anderson hit a bump and fell onto the floor. The forklift continued moving and ran over her leg; the resulting injuries necessitated its amputation. Anderson sued the forklift’s manufacturer, Raymond, alleging that the forklift was negligently designed. The parties disputed the admissibility of the testimony of Dr. Meyer, one of Anderson’s experts. Meyer believed that Raymond could have made several changes to its design that would have prevented Anderson’s accident. Meyer’s primary suggestion was a door to enclose the operating compartment, which would prevent operators from falling into the forklift’s path. Like other standup forklift manufacturers, Raymond offers doors as an option but does not fit doors to its forklifts as standard, claiming that a door could impede the operator’s ability to make a quick exit if the forklift runs off a loading dock or begins to tip over. The district court concluded that Meyer’s opinion about a door was inadmissible because it did not satisfy Federal Rule of Evidence 702 or the “Daubert” test but admitted Meyer’s opinions on other potential design improvements.The Seventh Circuit reversed a judgment in Raymond's favor. The exclusion of Meyer’s opinion was substantially prejudicial to Anderson’s case. Meyer has a “full range of practical experience," academic, and technical training and his methodology rested on accepted scientific principles, Raymond’s critiques go to the weight his opinion should be given rather than its admissibility. View "Anderson v. Raymond Corp." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court sustaining the motion to dismiss filed by the City of St. Charles due to Plaintiff's failure to provide notice of suit, as required by section 12.3 of the City of St. Charles Charter, holding that Plaintiff's claims on appeal failed.Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the City of St. Charles and St. Charles County seeking damages incurred as a result of falling off his bike while riding across an open-grated metal bridge, alleging negligence and premises liability. The City filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the premises liability claim was barred because Plaintiff failed to give proper notice, as required by section 12.3 of the Charter. The circuit court sustained the motion and dismissed the premises liability claim. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that the Charter's notice requirement conflicted with various statutes and must be stricken. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no irreconcilable conflict between section 12.3 of the Charter and the statutes cited by Plaintiff. View "Zang v. City of St. Charles" on Justia Law

by
Petitioner Nicholas Casson was a firefighter for the City of Santa Ana for 27 years. In 2012, he retired and began collecting a pension from California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS). He immediately started a second career with the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA), where he was eligible for a pension under respondent Orange County Employees Retirement System (OCERS). He did not elect reciprocity between the two pensions, which would have allowed him to import his years of service under CalPERS to the OCERS pension. He started as a first-year firefighter for purposes of the OCERS pension and immediately began collecting pension payments from CalPERS. Five years into the job, he suffered an on-the-job injury that permanently disabled him. He applied for and received a disability pension from OCERS, which, normally, would have paid out 50 percent of his salary for the remainder of his life. However, because he was receiving a CalPERS retirement, OCERS imposed a “disability offset” pursuant to Government Code section 31838.5, the statute central to this appeal. This resulted in a monthly benefit reduction from $4,222.81 to $1,123.87. After exhausting his administrative remedies, Casson filed a petition for a writ of mandate; court denied the petition, finding that the plain language of section 31838.5 required a disability offset. The Court of Appeal reversed: Casson’s service retirement from CalPERS was not a disability allowance and thus should not have been included in the calculation of Casson’s total disability allowance. OCERS should not have imposed an offset, and the trial court should have issued a writ of mandate. View "Casson v. Orange County Employees Retirement System" on Justia Law

by
“Old Consumer,” a wholly owned subsidiary of J&J, sold healthcare products such as Band-Aid, Tylenol, Aveeno, and Listerine, and produced Johnson’s Baby Powder for over a century. The Powder’s base was talc. Concerns that the talc contained asbestos resulted in lawsuits alleging that it has caused ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. With mounting payouts and litigation costs, Old Consumer, through a series of intercompany transactions, split into LTL, holding Old Consumer’s liabilities relating to talc litigation and a funding support agreement from LTL’s corporate parents, and “New Consumer,” holding virtually all the productive business assets previously held by Old Consumer. J&J’s goal was to isolate the talc liabilities in a new subsidiary that could file for Chapter 11 without subjecting Old Consumer’s entire operating enterprise to bankruptcy proceedings.Talc claimants moved to dismiss LTL’s subsequent bankruptcy case as not filed in good faith. The Bankruptcy Court denied those motions and extended the automatic stay of actions against LTL to hundreds of non-debtors, including J&J and New Consumer. In consolidated appeals, the Third Circuit dismissed the petition. Good intentions— such as to protect the J&J brand or comprehensively resolve litigation—do not suffice. The Bankruptcy Code’s safe harbor is intended for debtors in financial distress. LTL was not. Ignoring a parent company’s safety net shielding all foreseen liability would create a legal blind spot. View "In re: LTL Management LLC" on Justia Law

by
In 2020, an accident, fire, and explosion occurred in the hydrocracker unit at a Valero Refining-Meraux, LLC refinery in Meraux, Louisiana. No significant levels of chemicals were detected as a result of the explosion. Multiple residents in the vicinity of the refinery filed suit for the negligent infliction of emotional distress. Plaintiff Brittany Spencer and her two minor children, Chloe LaFrance and Lanny LaFrance III, were at home sleeping when the explosion occurred. Their residence was approximately 2,000 feet from the epicenter of the explosion. Spencer and Chloe were unexpectedly awakened by a loud sound of unknown origin and a significant shockwave and vibration of unknown origin. Lanny was not awakened. The sound and/or shockwave shook Spencer’s bedroom window. Spencer went outside and observed a large flame of the fire coming from the refinery, and the sky was lit up. Almost immediately after the explosion, Spencer began to hear police vehicles, fire trucks, and ambulances as part of the emergency response that lasted for several hours. Spencer went back inside, and she and Chloe went back to sleep. On the morning of the explosion, Spencer and her children left their residence out of an abundance of caution and did not return until two days later. Spencer eventually returned to her normal sleep schedule, albeit with some trouble; she did not allow her children to play outside due to concerns for their safety. Thereafter, Spencer and her children began staying at their residence less and later moved away from the refinery in June 2020. Spencer, individually and on behalf of her minor children, and Lanny LaFrance, Jr. on behalf of his minor children, filed suit against Valero alleging damages for emotional distress, but did not allege physical injury, property damage, or financial loss. Valero appealed when a trial court awarded damages to plaintiffs for negligent infliction of emotional distress. The Louisiana Supreme Court found no Plaintiff met their burden of proving they were entitled to such an award, and reversed the trial court. View "Spencer v. Valero Refining Meraux, LLC" on Justia Law

by
In this dispute over an arbitration clause within a contract, the Supreme Court held that the minor children who joined Plaintiffs, their parents, in bringing this action seeking damages for construction defects in their home may be compelled to arbitrate along with their parents on the basis of direct-benefits estoppel.Plaintiffs, Tony and Michelle Ha, signed a purchase agreement with Taylor Woodrow Communities-League City, Ltd. to build a home in Texas. The agreement included an arbitration provision. The Has sued both Taylor Woodrow Communities-League City, Ltd. and Taylor Morrison of Texas, Inc., for negligent construction and other claims, alleging the home developed significant mold problems due to construction defects. Plaintiffs' second amended petition named both Tony and Michelle and their three children. Taylor Morrison moved to compel arbitration, but the trial court denied the motion as it pertained to Michelle and the children. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that when a family unit resides in a home and files suit for factually intertwined construction-defect claims concerning the home, a nonsignatory spouse and minor children have accepted direct benefits under the signatory spouse’s purchase agreement such that they may be compelled to arbitrate through direct-benefits estoppel. View "Taylor Morrison of Texas, Inc. v. Ha" on Justia Law

by
In this dispute over an arbitration clause within a contract, the Supreme Court held that the minor children who joined Plaintiffs, their parents, in bringing this action seeking damages for construction defects in their home may be compelled to arbitrate along with their parents on the basis of direct-benefits estoppel.Plaintiffs, Jack and Erin Skufca, signed a purchase agreement with Taylor Woodrow Communities-League City, Ltd. to build a home in Texas. The agreement included an arbitration provision. Plaintiffs sued both Taylor Woodrow Communities-League City, Ltd. and Taylor Morrison of Texas, Inc., for construction defects and fraud, alleging that less than a year after they moved in, the home developed mold issues that caused their minor children to be ill. The petition listed Jack and Erin as plaintiffs individually, as well as Erin as next friend of the couple's children. Taylor Morrison moved to compel arbitration, but the trial court denied the motion as it pertained to the children. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the minor children sued based on the contract and were subject to its terms, including the arbitration clause. View "Taylor Morrison of Texas, Inc. v. Skufca" on Justia Law