Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

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These consolidated actions arose from fatal injuries suffered by James Andrew Brenek, II when he was electrocuted by an electrically-energized generator housing cabinet on a rig in Jefferson County, Texas. Brenek was employed by Guichard, which had leased the generator involved in the accident from Aggreko. Guichard had a primary commercial liability policy with Gray and an excess commercial liability policy with Chartis. Aggreko had a primary insurance policy with Indian Harbor. Indian Harbor appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Gray, and Gray conditionally appealed the district court's decision to apply Texas, rather than Louisiana, law to the issues before it. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment, concluding that the outcome of the dispute would be the same under both Texas and Louisiana law. Therefore, the court need not engage in a conflict-of-laws analysis and applied Texas law. Under Texas law, the court held that Gray exhausted its policy limit and its duty to defend Aggreko when it paid $950,000—the remainder of its liability coverage limit—to the Breneks in exchange for the Breneks agreement not to execute any judgment against Aggreko and to recognize Aggreko's entitlement to claim a $950,000 damages credit. View "Aggreko, LLC v. Chartis Specialty Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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In this medical malpractice action the Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court granting summary judgment to Defendant and finding that Defendant did not have a duty to provide follow-up medical care after Plaintiff left Raleigh General Hospital against medical advice, holding that the circuit court properly granted summary judgment to Defendant. The day after Defendant performed surgery on Plaintiff, Plaintiff left the hospital against medical advice (AMA). Plaintiff was later diagnosed with an infection resulting from the fact that the temporary stents she received in her surgery had never been removed. Plaintiff sued. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Defendant, determining that the patient-doctor relationship between the parties ended the day that Plaintiff left the hospital against medical advice. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff failed to establish that Defendant had a duty to provide medical care to her after she terminated their physician-patient relationship; and (2) in discontinuing the physician-patient relationship she had with Defendant when she left the hospital AMA, Plaintiff removed herself from the class of individuals sought to be protected by the West Virginia Medical Professional Liability Act, W. Va. Code 55-7B-1 to -12. View "Kruse v. Farid" on Justia Law

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Ultratec Special Effects, Inc. ("Ultratec"), filed two petitions for mandamus relief from the Alabama Supreme Court, to get the trial court to vacate its October 25, 2018 order denying Ultratec's motion for a summary judgment on claims asserted against it by David Cothran, as the administrator of the estate of his sister, Aimee Cothran, and by Donald Ray Sanderson, as the administrator of the estate of his wife, Virginia Marie Sanderson (collectively, "the Estates"), based on, among others, Ultratec's claim that it was immune from suit based on the exclusivity provisions of the Alabama Workers' Compensation Act. Aimee Cothran and Virginia Sanderson were working at an Ultratec HSV plant when they were killed by an explosion. They separately sued Ultratec, alleging, among other causes of action, negligence and strict liability. Ultratec’s answer asserted the exclusivity provisions of the Act. Specifically, Ultratec argued that it was immune because it and Ultratec HSV were a single employer group for purposes of the Act; because Aimee and Virginia were jointly employed by both Ultratec and Ultratec HSV; and because Ultratec HSV operated as a division of Ultratec. The Estates filed a response in opposition to the motion for a summary judgment, arguing that a parent corporation is not entitled to the immunity provided by the exclusivity provisions of the Act in a tort action for the injury or death of an employee of the corporation's subsidiary; that questions of fact existed as to whether Ultratec and Ultratec HSV were separate entities; and that the joint-employer doctrine is inapplicable as a matter of law. Following a hearing, the trial court entered an order denying Ultratec's motion for a summary judgment, holding that Ultratec was protected by the exclusivity provisions of the Act. Given the “abundance of disputed facts,” the Alabama Supreme Court could not say Ultratec demonstrated a clear legal right to mandamus relief on the issue of whether Ultratec and Ultratec HSV were separate entities, or that the Alabama Legislature intended to extend immunity to parent corporations for employees killed on the job. Ultratec’s applications for relief were granted in part, denied in part, but the petitions were ultimately denied. View "Ex parte Ultratec Special Effects, Inc." on Justia Law

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Allstate Insurance Company ("Allstate") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Perry Circuit Court ("the trial court") to vacate its order denying Allstate's motion to transfer an action filed against it by Devin Harrison in Perry County to Shelby or Bibb County. Harrison, a resident of Bibb County, was driving an automobile in Perry County. The automobile was owned by Thomas Hobson, a resident of Bibb County ("Hobson"), and was insured by Allstate, whose principal place of business is in Shelby County. Dylan Gardner and Alexander Hobson, Hobson's grandson, were passengers in the vehicle Harrison was driving. While Harrison was driving, the automobile was involved in a single-vehicle accident. Gardner died as a result of injuries sustained in the accident, and Alexander Hobson was injured. Gardner's estate filed a wrongful-death action against Harrison and obtained a $2 million dollar judgment. At some point, Alexander Hobson also filed an action in the trial court against Harrison and Allstate seeking damages for injuries relating to the accident. In May 2018, Harrison filed the action underlying this petition in the trial court against Allstate in which he asserted claims of breach of contract and bad faith based on Allstate's alleged refusal to defend or indemnify him in the wrongful-death action. Allstate removed the action to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Alabama. After that court remanded the case to the trial court, Allstate filed a motion to transfer the action to Shelby County or Bibb County, arguing that venue in Perry County was improper. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded after review of the trial court record that Allstate demonstrated venue was improper in Perry County, and was proper in Shelby or Bibb County. The trial court was directed to vacate its order denying Allstate’s motion for a change of venue and to transfer the action. View "Ex parte Allstate Insurance Company." on Justia Law

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In this personal injury action, the Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the district court granting a new trial on Plaintiff's claims against the driver of a motorcycle upon which Plaintiff was riding when the motorcycle collided with a farm tractor, holding that the district court correctly omitted the farmer from the new trial. Plaintiff brought negligence claims against both the farmer and the motorcyclist. When the claims were submitted to the jury, the jury answered "no" to the question of whether the farmer was at fault. The verdict form mistakenly instructed the jury to stop there. The jury was then discharged without deciding whether the motorcyclist was at fault. Plaintiff moved for a new trial, and the district court ordered a new trial solely against the motorcyclist. The court of appeals reversed and remanded the case for a new trial involving both defendants. The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals, holding that the district court properly granted a new trial on Plaintiff's claims against the motorcyclist alone because the farmer should be excused from retrial where the jury's no-liability finding was untainted by the error affecting the motorcyclist. View "Whitlow v. McConnaha" on Justia Law

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For four years, nurse practitioner Jordan treated Clanton’s severe hypertension. Jordan, an employee of the U.S. Public Health Service, failed to properly educate Clanton about his disease or to monitor its advancement. Clanton’s hypertension developed into Stage V kidney disease requiring dialysis and a transplant. Clanton successfully sued the government under the Federal Tort Claims Act. The court determined that Clanton had not contributed at all to his own injuries, noting that Clanton did not understand why it was important to take his medication and to attend appointments. The court awarded $30 million in damages. The Seventh Circuit vacated, finding that the court erred in its analysis of comparative negligence. Clanton’s subjective understanding does not end the inquiry. Illinois law requires the court to take the additional step of comparing Clanton’s understanding of his condition to that of a reasonable person in his situation. Clanton was in the position of a person whose caregiver failed to provide information about the severity of his condition but he had external clues that he was seriously unwell: two employment-related physicals showed that he had dangerously high blood pressure. The court upheld the court’s method of calculating damages and agreed that Clanton’s Medicare benefits are collateral to his damages award under Illinois law, so the government is not entitled to a partial offset. View "Clanton v. United States" on Justia Law

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J.B. was born four weeks prematurely but progressed normally. At his four-month well-baby visit, J.B. was healthy, with normal chest and lungs and no fever, nasal congestion, or cough; J.B. received vaccinations for diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis, inactivated polio, pneumococcal conjugate, rotavirus, and Hepatitis B. That evening, J.B. reportedly had a fever. At 4:00 AM and 8 AM, J.B.’s parents gave him Advil. In the early afternoon, J.B.’s father put him down for a nap on his back in his crib. J.B.’s mother checked on him and found him unresponsive on his right side. At 2:39 PM, J.B.’s mother called 911 and attempted CPR. Responders transported J.B. to the hospital. J.B. was pronounced dead at 4:01 PM. His crib contained soft blankets and a flat soft pillow but no clutter or toys. The medical examiner concluded that the cause of death was SIDS. In a case under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, 42 U.S.C. 300aa-1, a Special Master found that the parents were entitled to compensation. The Claims Court reversed and the Federal Circuit agreed, holding that the Special Master erred by lowering the standard of proof for causation in a case involving an injury not listed on the Vaccine Act Injury Table. The parents failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that vaccinations can and did cause or contribute to J.B.’s SIDS death. View "Boatmon v. Secretary of Health & Human Services" on Justia Law

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In this personal injury action, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's judgment in favor of Yashana Spruill and against Angela Tyler only on liability, holding that the trial court erred in admitting certain medical records, but the error was harmless. Spruill was a passenger in Tyler's vehicle when it was involved in an accident with a vehicle driven by Brendon Garcia. Spruill sued Tyler and Garcia seeking damages for personal injuries allegedly resulting from the accident. The jury reached a verdict in favor of Spruill against Tyler only on liability and awarded $0 in damages. Spruill appealed, arguing that her medical records were improperly admitted into evidence because they had not been properly authenticated and were inadmissible hearsay. The Supreme Court held (1) as to the admission of the medical records, neither the requirements of the authentication statute nor Va. R. Evid. 2:308(6) were satisfied; but (2) in the unique context of this case, the admission of the medical records was harmless error. View "Spruill v. Garcia" on Justia Law

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A driver who causes an accident on a highway is not liable for a second one occurring in the traffic backup that follows. The Eighth Circuit applied Missouri law and held that the backup along the interstate did not lead the driver in the second accident to drive too fast or limit his ability to see the traffic ahead. Nor was it foreseeable that another accident would occur under these circumstances—eight-or-more minutes later in a spot nearly half a mile back—when every driver before the driver in the second accident had managed to stop. In this case, the court held that the causal chain stops with the driver in the second accident, not the driver in the first accident. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the driver in the first accident. View "Simler v. Dubuque Paint Equipment Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit denied a petition for panel rehearing and withdrew its prior opinion, substituting the following opinion. At issue was whether a claimant in a civil forfeiture proceeding may counterclaim for constitutional tort damages against the United States. The district court adopted the First Circuit's reasoning and held that a claimant may never file counterclaims of any kind. The court affirmed the district court's judgment, dismissing the counterclaims for a different reason. The court found the First Circuit's reasoning unpersuasive and declined to adopt it. Rather, the court held that the United States has not waived sovereign immunity for claims seeking damages based on alleged Fourth and Fifth Amendment violations arising from the property seizure. View "United States v. $4,480,466.16 in Funds Seized from Bank of America Account Ending in 2653" on Justia Law