Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiffs appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Orkin and dismissal of their numerous claims under Louisiana law. Plaintiffs had contracted with Orkin to protect their property from termites, but later discovered that their home had become infested with Formosan termites. The Fifth Circuit held that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment and dismissing plaintiffs' claim that Orkin was contractually liable for the cost of repairing the damage to their home caused by Formosan termites; the district court did not err in granting summary judgment to Orkin on plaintiffs' Louisiana Unfair Trade Practices Act and Louisiana Insurance Code claims; and the district court did not err in dismissing plaintiffs' detrimental reliance claim. However, the district court erred by dismissing plaintiffs' claim that Orkin was negligent or grossly negligent in directing and approving installation of a moisture barrier under their home. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded. View "Cenac v. Orkin, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this personal injury case where Plaintiff sued a state university for negligence the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the trial court's denial of the university's plea to the jurisdiction, holding that the Recreational Use Statute applied and that the Tort Claims Act therefore did not waive the university's immunity with respect to Plaintiff's ordinary negligence claim. Plaintiff sued the University of Texas at Austin seeking damages for injuries she received when she was struck by a vehicle driven by a university employee while she was bicycling on university-owned property. The University filed a plea to the jurisdiction, arguing that the Recreational Use Statute classified Plaintiff as a trespasser and because Plaintiff failed to allege or produce evidence of conduct beyond ordinary negligence, the Tort Claims Act did not waive its immunity. The trial court denied the plea. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that the Recreational Use statute did not apply. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Recreational Use Statute applied; and (2) because Plaintiff did not assert claims premised on conduct involving malicious intent, bad faith, or gross negligence, the Tort Claims Act did not waive the University's immunity from suit. View "University of Texas at Austin v. Garner" on Justia Law

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In this action for negligence and premises liability the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court entering summary judgment in favor of Defendant, holding that there was no evidence from which a reasonable finder of fact could infer that Plaintiff had established all the elements of his premises liability case. Peggy Williamson was injured when she fell on a curb outside the entrance to Bellevue Medical Center, LLC (BMC). There was no defect in the curb, and the curb did not violate any code or ordinance. Peggy brought this action, and after her death, the action was revived in the name of her husband, Jay Williamson (Plaintiff). The district court granted summary judgment for BMC, concluding that Plaintiff failed to produce evidence that the curb created an unreasonable danger. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that evidence existed supporting an inference that the unpainted, tapered curb posed an unreasonable risk of harm to lawful entrants, such as Peggy, who would fail to protect themselves against the danger. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that BMC carried its burden to show it was entitled to summary judgment. View "Williamson v. Bellevue Medical Center, LLC" on Justia Law

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Rapper Jayceon Taylor, also called “The Game,” starred in a VH1 television show called She’s Got Game. While filming in Chicago in 2015, Taylor took contestant Rainey on an off-camera date at a bar. Taylor sexually assaulted her by repeatedly lifting her skirt, grabbing her bare buttocks and vagina, and “juggling” her breasts in front of a large crowd as Rainey tried to break away. Rainey sued Taylor for sexual battery. Taylor evaded process, trolled Rainey on social media, dodged a settlement conference, and did not appear at trial. The judge denied his attorney's request for a continuance, dismissing Taylor’s proffered “dental emergency” excuse as an elaborate ruse. The judge instructed the jurors that they could infer from Taylor’s absence that his testimony would have been unfavorable to him. The jury awarded Rainey $1.13 million in compensatory damages and $6 million in punitive damages. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. District judges have wide discretion to manage their proceedings and resolve evidentiary issues. The rulings at issue lie well within that discretion. “Taylor has only himself to blame for the missing-witness instruction, which was plainly justified.” The verdict is well supported by the evidence; the compensatory award is not excessive under Illinois law, and the punitive award survives constitutional scrutiny. View "Rainey v. Taylor" on Justia Law

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In this personal injury action, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the district court deducting from a damages award to Respondent the amount of discounts negotiated by Respondent's managed-care organizations, holding that the discounts were payments made pursuant to the United States Social Security Act under Minn. Stat. 548.251, subd. 1(2). After her car struck a school bus that failed to yield at an intersection, Respondent brought this action against the driver and the owner of the bus (collectively, Appellants). The medical expenses of Respondent, a medical-assistance enrollee, were covered by two managed-care organizations that contracted with Minnesota's Prepaid Medical Assistance Plan under the state's Medicaid program. The jury awarded damages, but the district court deducted from the award the discounts negotiated by the managed-care organizations. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the negotiated discounts were "payments made pursuant to the United States Social Security Act" under section 548.251, subd. 1(2), and therefore, Appellants could not offset the damages award for those payments. View "Getz v. Peace" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court overruled Barto v. Weishaar, 692 P.2d 498 (Nev. 1985), and its conclusion that a suggestion of death emanating from the deceased party must identify the deceased party's successor or representative to trigger the deadline set forth in Nev. R. Civ. P. 25(a)(1) to file a motion to substitute, holding that Barto expanded rule 25(a)(1) beyond its plain language. James McNamee was sued for damages. During the litigation, McNamee died. Counsel for McNamee filed a suggestion of death without naming a successor or representative. Thereafter, the probate court appointed Susan Clokey as special administrator to defend the negligence suit. McNamee's attorney later filed a motion to substitute Clokey as the party defendant in the negligence suit. The district court denied the motion and named Fred Waid as general administrator of McNamee's estate. McNamee's attorney moved to dismiss the personal injury case because his motion to substitute had been denied. The district court denied the motion and substituted Waid as the defendant in place of McNamee. The Supreme Court held (1) a suggestion of death that is properly served triggers the deadline for filing a motion to substitute regardless of whether it identifies the deceased party's successor or representative; and (2) the trial court abused its discretion when it denied Petitioner's motion to substitute. View "McNamee v. Eighth Judicial District Court" on Justia Law

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Michael Weaver, a former City of Everett firefighter, contracted melanoma. He filed a temporary disability claim, which the Washington Department of Labor & Industries (Department) denied, finding the melanoma was not work related. The melanoma spread to Weaver's brain, for which he filed a permanent disability claim. The Department denied it as precluded by the denial of the temporary disability claim. The issue his case presented for the Washington Supreme Court's review centered on whether the doctrines of collateral estoppel and res judicata properly precluded Weaver's permanent disability claim. The Court found collateral estoppel did not apply because the doctrine would work an injustice in this situation, given that Weaver did not have sufficient incentive to fully and vigorously litigate the temporary disability claim in light of the disparity of relief between the two claims. Likewise, the Court held that res judicata did not apply because the two claims did not share identical subject matter, given that the permanent disability claim did not exist at the time of the temporary disability claim. View "Weaver v. City of Everett" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff walked into a round concrete pillar called a bollard, she filed suit against the City, alleging that it created a dangerous condition that caused her to trip and fall. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment against plaintiff, holding that the City successfully invoked the design immunity defense. The court held that there was discretionary approval of the design before construction, and there was substantial evidence of the reasonableness of the public entity's approval of the design. In this case, the bollard was big, designed to stop cars, and was obvious to pedestrians who looked where they were going. View "Dobbs v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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The Railroad sent Abernathy and Probus to repair a railroad crossing, which required them to transport ties several miles. The Railroad had a “tie crane,” which runs on the railroad tracks but it had been inoperable for years. The employees had two options: a backhoe or a pickup truck, traveling on public roads. Abernathy drove the backhoe. Probus drove the pickup, with the tools. Two ties fell out of the backhoe’s bucket. Abernathy stopped to lift the ties back into the bucket, injuring his back and smashing a finger. Despite the accident, the men finished the job. The following morning, Abernathy reported the injury. Abernathy worked through the pain on lighter duty for a year but was unable to return to his regular work. The Railroad terminated his employment. He had physical therapy, epidural injections, and surgery but continued to experience pain. At the time of trial, his surgeon had not cleared him for any type of work. Abernathy sued under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act, 45 U.S.C 51. A jury found that Abernathy was 30 percent at fault and awarded a net amount, $525,000. The court awarded Abernathy prevailing party costs but declined to award witness fees above the statutory amount. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The jury could reasonably find that the Railroad did not provide Abernathy with appropriate equipment and that his working environment was not reasonably safe; a reasonable person in the Railroad’s position could have foreseen that transporting ties in a backhoe or pickup could lead to injury. There was sufficient evidence that the Railroad’s negligence played a part in causing Abernathy’s injury. View "Abernathy v. Eastern Illinois Railroad Co." on Justia Law

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In this declaratory judgment action, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the trial court denying a claimant's motion to set aside a default judgment in favor of an insurance company and allow the claimant to intervene as a necessary party, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, the claimant was not a necessary party and the trial court could decide the coverage dispute between the insurance company and its insured without the claimant's participation in the action. The claimant sued the insured for damages arising from an automobile accident. The insurance company sought a declaratory judgment that the company was not required to provide liability coverage to the insured. The trial court awarded the insurance company a default judgment. The claimant moved to set aside the default judgment and allow her to intervene on the basis that she was a necessary party. The trial court denied the motion. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the claimant had no interest affected by the dispute between the insurance company and its insured; and (2) therefore, the trial court had authority to grant declaratory relief because all necessary parties were before the court. View "Tennessee Farmers Mutual Insurance Co. v. Debruce" on Justia Law