Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the hospital in an action brought by the family of an emergency room patient who was released from the hospital and died eight hours later of "acute dissection of aorta." The court held that no evidence showed that the nursing staff caused or contributed to the patient's death; no evidence showed the hospital was negligent in the selection and retention of the two emergency room doctors who treated the patient; and the evidence conclusively established the emergency room doctors were not the ostensible agents of the hospital. View "Wicks v. Antelope Valley Healthcare District" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Juan Morales-Hurtado filed a vehicular negligence claim against defendant Abel Reinoso. The Supreme Court shared the Appellate Division's view that the cumulative effect of multiple errors deprived plaintiff of a fair trial and of a verdict based on the merits of the parties’ claims, and that he was entitled to a new trial. The Court took the opportunity to comment on the Appellate Division’s reversal of the trial court’s decision to exclude the opinion of Dianne Simmons-Grab, a certified life care planner. Simmons-Grab was not a physician or other health care provider, and was in the Court's estimation, "clearly unqualified to opine on plaintiff’s prognosis or to identify any medication, surgery, therapy, or other care necessary to treat his injuries over his lifetime." The trial court found that Simmons-Grab’s opinion was based on unreliable sources of information and excluded her testimony. As the court observed, she relied on medical records and questionnaires that she “prepared in detail . . . and submitted to the doctors for their markings and then sign off.” Although the questionnaires were “purportedly filled out . . . by the medical providers,” the court noted that “[t]he responses . . . by the medical providers were not certified,” and there was no indication that each physician had offered an opinion to a reasonable degree of medical certainty within his area of expertise. The Supreme Court held that in appropriate circumstances, an expert witness could rely on the opinion of another expert in a relevant field. "That principle, however, does not obviate the need to demonstrate that the treating physician on whom the life care expert relies actually holds the opinion attributed to him or her, which can be accomplished by means of a report by the treating physician, his or her trial testimony, or other competent evidence. . . . In the event that plaintiff seeks to present the expert testimony of Simmons-Grab on remand -- and defendant challenges the reliability of that opinion -- the trial court should conduct a hearing pursuant to N.J.R.E. 104(c), and determine the question of admissibility in accordance with the standards prescribed by N.J.R.E. 702 and N.J.R.E. 703." View "Morales-Hurtado v. Reinoso" on Justia Law

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Shane Berryhill fainted and fell out of an 18-foot deer stand while hunting five days after undergoing major heart surgery. Plaintiffs Berryhill and his wife sued his surgeon, Dr. Dale Daly, and Savannah Cardiology (collectively “defendants”), claiming Daly’s negligent prescribing caused him to faint. The trial court instructed the jury on assumption of risk, and the jury returned a defense verdict. The Court of Appeals reversed and held that the instruction should not have been given. The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari and found there was at least slight evidence presented at trial to warrant the instruction: Berryhill knew he had just had major surgery for serious cardiac problems, and evidence (although contradicted) existed to show that he had been instructed not to engage in strenuous activity and not to lift more than ten pounds, bend, or stoop over for at least seven days after his procedure. Even though Berryhill was not informed of the specific risk of fainting, violating such explicit medical instructions immediately after major heart surgery "poses an obvious cardiovascular risk to which competent adults cannot blind themselves," and constituted the slight evidence needed here to warrant a jury instruction. Judgment was reversed. View "Daly v. Berryhill" on Justia Law

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David Turner appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of State Farm Mutual Insurance Company. In August 2017, Turner was on duty as a paramedic and was riding in the passenger seat of an ambulance while responding to an emergency call. While traversing an intersection, the ambulance collided with a vehicle being driven by Michael Norris. Turner suffered multiple injuries, including a broken leg. In November 2017, Turner sued Norris, asserting claims of negligence and "recklessness." Norris answered the complaint, denying that he had been negligent or reckless. Because the Alabama Supreme Court Held that State Farm was discharged from its obligation to pay Turner UIM benefits based on State Farm's payment of a "Lambert" advance and Turner's repudiation of his policy with State Farm, the Court pretermitted consideration of Turner's alternative argument regarding State Farm's failure to disclose the substance of its investigation of Turner's claim for UIM benefits, and expressed no opinion concerning that issue. The Court also expressed no opinion regarding any potential liability State Farm may or may not have to Turner in tort because Turner did not assert such a claim in this action. View "Turner v. State Farm Mutual Insurance Company" on Justia Law

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After Gregory Tramaine Miller was crushed to death between the couplers of two rail cars while working as a conductor trainee with the railroad, plaintiffs filed suit under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the railroad, holding that Miller's failure to establish 3-Step Protection before going between rail cars was the sole cause of his death, that his going between moving rail cars was unforeseeable, and that plaintiffs failed to produce evidence of any negligent acts by the railroad attributable to causing Miller's death. View "Gray v. Alabama Great Southern Railroad Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court in favor of Plaintiff on her slip and fall action, holding that the circuit court did not err or abuse its discretion. Specifically, the Supreme Court held that the circuit court (1) did not err by not granting Defendants' motion for a directed verdict because substantial evidence supported the jury's verdict; (2) did not abuse its discretion as a matter of law by allowing a chiropractor to testify as an expert regarding the causal connection between Plaintiff's fall and the treatment provided by other physicians; and (3) did not abuse its discretion by allowing Plaintiff to give causation testimony regarding her treatments that were not rendered in temporal proximity to the occurrence of the accident. View "Dollar General Corp. v. Elder" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying the motion to dismiss filed by State Representative John Lesch on a claim brought by Lyndsey Olson, Saint Paul City Attorney, for defamation per se based on statements Lesch made in a letter sent to the mayor of Saint Paul, holding that legislative immunity did not protect Lesch's letter. Lesch's letter, which was written on Lesch's official letterhead from the Minnesota House of Representatives but was marked "personal and confidential," suggested that Olson was not the right person for the position of City Attorney. Olson brought a defamation suit against Lesch, alleging that Lesch "knowingly, intentionally and maliciously made false and defamatory" statements about her in the letter. Lesch moved to dismiss the complaint, asserting that his statements were communications that were protected by legislative immunity under the Speech or Debate Clause of the Minnesota Constitution and under Minn. Stat. 540.13. The district court denied the motion to dismiss, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that neither Article IV, Section 10 nor section 540.13 extended legislative immunity to Lesch's letter. View "Olson v. Lesch" on Justia Law

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While going down Festival’s waterslide, Sharufa inadvertently slipped from a seated position on an inner tube onto his stomach. When he entered the pool below, his feet hit the bottom with enough force to fracture his hip and pelvis. Sharufa sued for negligence, product liability (including breach of express and implied warranties), and negligent misrepresentation. Sharufa’s opposition to a summary judgment motion included a mechanical engineer's opinion that going down the slide on one’s stomach could lead to injury because it would cause a person to enter the water with more velocity than sliding on one’s back. The court found that the engineer did not qualify as an expert on the relevant subject matter and granted Festival summary adjudication on all but the negligent misrepresentation claim. Sharufa dismissed that claim without prejudice to allow an appeal. The court of appeal affirmed as to Sharufa’s negligence cause of action, Festival owes a heightened duty of care as a common carrier; but there was no evidence of breach. The court reversed as to Sharufa’s products liability causes of action; the record is insufficient to show the park provided primarily a service rather than use of a product. The purpose of riding a waterslide is “entertainment and amusement,” but where a product is intended for entertainment, to allow a supplier to be characterized as an “amusement service” provider would risk weakening product liability protections for consumers. View "Sharufa v. Festival Fun Parks, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the conclusion of the Court of Special Appeals that the release Bernard Collins provided in settlement of his workers' compensation claims did not bar Peggy Collins from asserting her independent claim for death benefits under the Maryland Workers' Compensation Act, Md. Code Ann. Lab. & Empl. Title 9. Two years before he died, Bernard settled claims he had brought under the Act against Petitioners, his former employer and its insurers, for disability benefits related to his heart disease. In the parties' settlement agreement, Bernard purported to release Petitioners from any claims that he or his spouse might have under the Act relating to his disability. After Bernard died, Peggy filed her claim for benefits based on Bernard's death from heart disease. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Petitioners based on release. The Court of Special Appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) because Peggy was not a party to the settlement agreement, Petitioners may not enforce the release against Peggy; and (2) Bernard's settlement of his claims under the Act did not extinguish Peggy's future claim for death benefits. View "In re Bernard L. Collins" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Benjamin McCormick brought this action against the State of Oregon for injuries he sustained while recreating in Lake Billy Chinook. The State moved for summary judgment, asserting that it was entitled to recreational immunity under ORS 105.682. In response, plaintiff contended that the state did not “directly or indirectly permit” the public to use the lake for recreational purposes. Specifically, he contended that, under both the public trust doctrine and the public use doctrine, the public already had a right to use the lake for recreational purposes and, therefore, the State did not “permit” that use. The trial court granted the State summary judgment, but the Court of Appeals reversed. On review, the Oregon Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals decision. For the purposes of the recreational immunity statute, the Supreme Court held an owner could “permit” public recreational use of its land, even if it could not completely prohibit that use. More specifically, an owner could “permit” public recreational use of its land if, among other alternatives, it made that use possible by creating access to and developing the land for that use. View "McCormick v. Oregon Parks & Recreation Dept." on Justia Law