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In this contract interpretation case, the Supreme Court reversed the portion of the court of appeals decision ruling that a critical paragraph in a commercial real estate lease was ambiguous and that, as a result, interpretation of the contract was a matter for a jury to resolve, holding that the pertinent provisions of the lease served as a complete bar to Plaintiff lessees’ negligence-based claims against Defendants, one of which was the lessor. At issue was the operation of the lease provisions regarding insurance and liability when the lessees sought damages allegedly caused by the lessor’s negligence. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants, concluding that the pertinent lease provision was not ambiguous and was a complete defense to the claims raised in the complaint. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the provision was ambiguous in that it did not clearly reflect the intent of the parties to bar negligence claims against each other. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the language of the lease arrangements reflected the clear intent of the parties to discharge each other from all claims and liabilities for damages resulting from hazards covered by insurance; and (2) the damages claims by the lessees resulted from a hazard that was subject to their insurance coverage. View "Morrell v. Hardin Creek, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court remanded this case for further proceedings, holding that the trial court erred by crediting the amount of a payment made to Plaintiff under his own underinsured motorist coverage against the amount of the judgment that Plaintiff obtained against Defendant arising from a motor vehicle collision. Plaintiff filed a negligence complaint against Defendant. The jury returned a verdict finding Defendant to be negligence and awarding Plaintiff $263,000 in compensation for his personal injuries. Thereafter, Plaintiff’s insurer issued a check to Plaintiff in the amount of $145,000, representing the amount of underinsured motorist coverage to which Plaintiff was entitled. The trial court subsequently concluded as a matter of law that Defendant was entitled to credit for the $145,000 payment. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that payments received as the result of the purchase of underinsured motorist coverage should not be credited against the amount of the judgment entered against Defendant in this case. View "Hairston v. Harward" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals affirming the decision of the North Carolina Industrial Commission awarding Plaintiff ongoing disability compensation and medical compensation for her medical conditions and remanded this case for further proceedings before the Commission, holding that it could not be determined from the record if the Commission, as the Court of Appeals concluded, made findings of causation independent of the application of any presumption. In affirming the Commission’s award of benefits, the Court of Appeals concluded that the Commission made adequate findings that Plaintiff met her burden of proving causation with a presumption of causation and therefore had an alternative factual basis for its award. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Court of Appeals erred by failing to remand this case to the Commission for additional findings and conclusions because the Court could not determine from the record the extent to which the Commission relied on a presumption of causation or whether it had an independent, alternate basis for its determination of causation. View "Pine v. Wal-Mart Associates, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court remanded this defamation case to the trial court for further proceedings, holding that the cap in Ohio Rev. Code 2315.18 that applies to tort actions seeking noneconomic loss as a result of an alleged injury or loss to a person or property also applies to defamation. Plaintiff filed this civil complaint against Defendant, alleging several claims. At trial, the only claim submitted to the jury was for defamation. The jury found in favor of Plaintiff and awarded her $800,000 in compensatory damages and $750,000 in punitive damages. Defendant appealed, arguing that the amount awarded in damages was in excess of the applicable caps on damages set forth in section 2315.18(B)(2). The appellate court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the cap on damages for noneconomic loss set forth in section 2315.18(B)(2) unambiguously caps the noneconomic damages that can be recovered as a result of defamation. View "Wayt v. DHSC, LLC" on Justia Law

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Nicholas Lechner appealed a judgment affirming an administrative order sustaining a Workforce Safety and Insurance ("WSI") order denying his claim for workers' compensation benefits. Lechner argued he proved by the greater weight of the evidence that he suffered a compensable injury and that his claim was timely. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed, concluding the administrative law judge's finding that Lechner failed to file a timely claim for benefits is supported by a preponderance of the evidence. View "Lechner v. WSI" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's summary judgment dismissal of plaintiff's action for negligence against three defendants. The court held that the district court erred by denying the motion to remand this action to state court due to the absence of diversity jurisdiction. In this case, plaintiff stated a claim upon which relief could be granted and it was Alcoa's burden to negate the possibility that PMIC's negligence contributed to plaintiff's injuries. The court held that PMIC was not improperly joined and the parties were not completely diverse. View "Cumpian v. Alcoa World Alumina, LLC" on Justia Law

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Russell Foutch and Randall Barrios died while incarcerated in Oklahoma jails: Barrios by his own hand; Foutch from complications related to pneumonia. Their estates sued the respective jails, one sheriff, and various employees and healthcare contractors of those jails. Their claims included: (1) federal civil rights claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 alleging violations of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the federal constitution; (2) negligence and wrongful death claims; (3) negligent conduct, training, hiring, and supervision claims; and (4) tort claims alleging violations of rights guaranteed by Sections 7 and 9 of Article II of the Oklahoma Constitution. Two federal courts certified questions of law to the Oklahoma Supreme Court: (1) the Governmental Tort Claims Act renders the State immune from any tort suit arising out of the "[p]rovision, equipping, operation or maintenance of any prison, jail or correctional facility." Do Sections 7 and 9 of Article II of the Oklahoma Constitution nonetheless allow an inmate to bring a tort claim for denial of medical care? and (2) if so, is the private cause of action to be recognized retrospectively? Responding required the Court to determine whether to extend the holding in Bosh v. Cherokee County Governmental Building Authority (305 P.3d 994) to include tort claims brought by inmates alleging violations of their rights to due process and to be free from cruel or unusual punishments. The Oklahoma Legislature responded to Bosh by amending the Governmental Tort Claims Act ("GTCA"), 51 O.S. 151 et seq., to clarify that the State's immunity from suit extended even to so-called "constitutional" torts. The Court, therefore, answered the first certified question "no," and did not reach the second question. View "Barrios v. Haskell County Public Facilities Authority" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the orders of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants, three professionals, on Plaintiff’s claims of malpractice, breach of fiduciary duty, and conversion arising out of conservatorship and divorce proceedings, holding that the district court did not err. Defendants were Plaintiff’s conservator and counsel during the divorce proceedings. After the divorce concluded, Defendant filed this lawsuit alleging conversion, professional malpractice, and breach of fiduciary duty. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) collateral estopped precluded Plaintiff from prevailing on his conversion claim; and (2) the district court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants on the malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty claims. View "Tozzi v. Moffett" on Justia Law

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After Katherine Rosen, a student at the University of California, was severely injured by another student who had been receiving treatment for mental illness, Rosen filed a negligence action against university personnel for failing to take reasonable measures to protect her from the foreseeable violent conduct. On remand from the California Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal denied defendants' petition for writ of mandate, except with respect to defendant Nicole Green. The court held that the standard of care governing a university's duty to protect its students from foreseeable acts of violence is the ordinary reasonable person standard; triable issues of fact exist as to whether defendants breached their duty of care to Rosen; and although Civil Code section 43.92 precludes liability against defendant Nicole Green, the remaining defendants are not statutorily immune from suit. View "The Regents of the University of California v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County" on Justia Law

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George Straub, an employee of BNSF Railway Company (“BNSF”), injured his back and neck when, in the course and scope of his duties, he attempted to adjust the engineer’s chair of Locomotive #6295. Straub brought suit, asserting BNSF was (among other things) strictly liable for his injuries under the provisions of the Federal Locomotive Inspection Act (“LIA”). BNSF moved to dismiss; the district court concluded Straub’s injuries did not implicate LIA. The district court ruled the adjustment mechanism of the engineer’s seat was not an “integral or essential part of a completed locomotive.” Instead, according to the district court, the seat adjustment mechanism was a non-essential comfort device. In reaching this conclusion, the district court relied on the Tenth Circuit’s decision in King v. Southern Pacific Transportation Co., 855 F.2d 1485 (10th Cir. 1988). Straub appealed, arguing the district court’s reliance on King was misplaced. The Tenth Circuit held that the allegations set out in Straub’s complaint (i.e., that the engineer’s chair failed when moved initially and stopped abruptly as Straub was attempting to adjust it) stated a violation of LIA: “Once BNSF installed an engineer’s chair with a seat adjustment mechanism, 49 U.S.C. 20701(1) mandated that BNSF maintain the chair so that the seat adjustment device be ‘in proper condition and safe to operate without unnecessary danger of personal injury’ and 49 C.F.R. 229.7 mandated that BNSF maintain the chair so that the seat adjustment mechanism was ‘in proper condition and safe to operate in service . . . without unnecessary peril to life or limb.’” The Court reversed the district court’s grant of BNSF’s motion to dismiss Straub’s claim to the extent it depended on LIA-based strict liability, and remanded this matter for further proceedings. View "Straub v. BNSF" on Justia Law