Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

by
The City of Flint and city and state officials allegedly caused, sustained, and covered up the poisoning of the people of Flint. Plaintiffs filed a 2017 “Master Complaint,” containing the allegations and claims made by plaintiffs across the coordinated litigation; “short-form” complaints charted certain components of the Master Complaint, including named defendants, alleged injuries, and claims. In this case, the district court declined to dismiss all defendants other than former State Treasurer Andy Dillon. Earlier in 2020, the Sixth Circuit, in "Waid," decided that the same officials who are defendants in this case plausibly violated plaintiffs’ substantive due process right to bodily integrity and are not entitled to qualified immunity and rejected Flint’s and Michigan Governor Whitmer’s arguments that the Eleventh Amendment required their dismissal. Defendant Johnson argued that the allegations against him in this case differently than those levied against him in Waid. The court concluded that there is no reason to treat Johnson differently. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that higher-ups should be treated differently than officials making decisions on the ground. . View "In re Flint Water Cases" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court dismissing Plaintiff's complaint on the ground that his state common-law tort claims for slander and emotional distress were preempted by the federal Civil Reform Act (the Act), holding that the district court prematurely dismissed the case without the factual record needed to determine preemption. While working at the Montana Veterans Administration Health Care System (Montana VA), Plaintiff had consensual sex with fellow employee Tori Marino. Marino reported that Plaintiff had sexually assaulted her and later recanted her allegation. Marino later told Plaintiff that two other employees of the Montana VA who served as a union president and union steward had told her to falsely accuse Plaintiff in order to avoid losing her job. Plaintiff filed a complaint against Marino, the two employees, and the union seeking damages for slander and emotional distress. The union defendants moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the Act preempted Dickson's state-law tort claims. The district court agreed, holding that the union defendants' conduct constituted a "prohibited personnel practice," and therefore, the Act preempted Plaintiff's claims. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court erred in concluding on the allegations of Plaintiff's complaint alone that his claims were preempted by the Act. View "Dickson v. Marino" on Justia Law

by
At an Illinois road construction site, a flagger abruptly turned his sign from “SLOW” to “STOP.” Roberts slammed on his breaks. Solomakha, driving a tractor-trailer truck rear-ended him, causing Roberts serious injury. Roberts sued Solomakha and the Alex transportation companies. The defendants filed a third-party complaint for contribution against the construction site's general contractor, E-K, and a subcontractor, Safety. E-K settled and was dismissed. The Alex parties also settled with the plaintiffs but continued the contribution action against Safety, arguing that the Illinois Joint Tortfeasor Contribution Act allows the court to redistribute E-K’s share of liability as determined by a jury between the Alex Parties and Safety. The statute provides: The pro-rata share of each tortfeasor shall be determined in accordance with his relative culpability. However, no person shall be required to contribute to one seeking contribution an amount greater than his pro rata share unless the obligation of one or more of the joint tortfeasors is uncollectable. In that event, the remaining tortfeasors shall share the unpaid portions of the uncollectable obligation in accordance with their pro-rata liability. The district court determined that, as a matter of Illinois law, the Alex Parties, Safety, and E-K all must appear on the verdict form so that the jury could adequately apportion fault among every party, The Seventh Circuit certified to the Illinois Supreme Court the question of whether the “obligation” of a settling party is “uncollectable” under 740 ILCS 100/3. View "Solomakha v. Safety International, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit against CBS after the CBS Evening News aired two reports on the opioid crisis in West Virginia that featured plaintiff and his pharmacy. Plaintiff alleged claims of defamation, false light invasion of privacy, tortious interference, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of defendants on all claims. On appeal, plaintiff challenged the district court's rulings as to two allegedly defamatory statements in the report. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment as to the two allegedly defamatory statements in the reports: (1) "Records show Tug Valley was filling more than 150 pain prescriptions a day from one clinic alone," and (2) plaintiff "admit[ted] to filling 150 pain pill prescriptions daily for one clinic alone." The court held that, because plaintiff failed to offer evidence from which a reasonable juror could find that the allegedly defamatory statements in the CBS reports were false, rather than minor inaccuracies, and he bears the burden of proof on this element of his defamation and false light invasion of privacy claims, summary judgment on both claims was appropriate. Finally, the court held that plaintiff's attempt to raise for the first time on appeal two new implications of the news reports is foreclosed. View "Ballengee v. CBS Broadcasting, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff-appellant Nicole Packer was injured when she fell from an unlit loading dock at the Kingston Plaza in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Packer, working as a vendor at a Christmas-themed exposition, alleged she had been directed to use the rear exit by a representative of Riverbend Communications, LLC, the organizer of the exposition and the occupier of the property at the heart of this litigation. The rear exit was unlit, and when Packer left the building, she was unable to re-enter. Because of the lack of light, Packer did not realize she was on a loading dock which was five feet above the adjoining pavement. When she proceeded towards the lit parking lot, she fell to the asphalt and was seriously injured. Packer sued Kingston Properties (owner of the property), as well as Riverbend Communications, LLC. Following discovery, the defendants sought and were granted summary judgment. Packer unsuccessfully moved for reconsideration. She timely appealed the district court’s decision granting summary judgment in favor of Riverbend. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court determined the district court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of Riverbend because Packer was an invitee; the district court erred as a matter of law in determining Packer was a licensee. Because Packer was an invitee, Riverbend owed her the duty to warn her of hidden or concealed dangers and to keep the property in reasonably safe condition. On these facts, the Supreme Court concluded a jury could have reasonably concluded that Riverbend breached either or both of the duties it owed to Packer. Accordingly, the district court’s decision granting summary judgment was reversed. View "Packer v. Riverbend Communications" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs, relatives of eight Bolivian civilians killed in 2003 during a period of civil crisis in Bolivia, filed suit under the Torture Victims Protection Act (TVPA) against the former President of Bolivia and the former Defense Minister of Bolivia for the extrajudicial killings and wrongful deaths of their family members based on their alleged conduct in perpetuating the crisis. After the jury rendered its verdict, the district court granted defendants' renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law on the TVPA claims. The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court conflated the standard for an extrajudicial killing with the theory of liability tying defendants to the decedents' deaths. The court also held that the evidence of deaths caused by a soldier acting under orders to use excessive or indiscriminate force could provide a legally sufficient foundation to support a TVPA claim. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded for the district court to determine, in the first instance and under the correct standard, whether plaintiffs put forth sufficient evidence to show that the deaths were extrajudicial killings, and, if so, whether there is sufficient evidence to hold defendants liable for such killings under the command-responsibility doctrine. In regard to the wrongful-death claims, the court held that the district court erroneously admitted the State Department cables. Therefore, the court vacated and remanded for a new trial on the wrongful-death claims. View "Rojas Mamani v. Sanchez De Lozada Sanchez Bustamante" on Justia Law

by
After James Mays was killed in an explosion on an offshore platform owned by Chevron, Mays' widow and children filed suit against Chevron for state law wrongful death. Mays was directly employed by Furmanite, a Chevron subcontractor, which serviced valves on Chevron's platforms. At issue was whether Mays' accident was covered by the federal Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA). The jury found that Mays' death was caused by Chevron's Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) activities, and thus the LHWCA applied and Chevron did not enjoy state immunity. The Fifth Circuit affirmed and rejected Chevron's argument that the district court erred by instructing the jury to consider Chevron's OCS operations in answering the substantial nexus question. The court held that the district court did not misapply Pacific Operators Offshore, LLP v. Valladolid, 565 U.S. 207 (2012), by instructing the jury to determine whether there was a substantial nexus between Mays' death and Chevron's—as opposed to Furmanite's—OCS operations. The court also rejected Chevron's argument that the evidence linking its OCS operations to Mays' death failed to meet the substantial nexus test as a matter of law. Finally, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to reduce the jury's $2 million loss-of-affection award to Mrs. Mays. View "Mays v. Chevron Pipe Line Co." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Labor Commission awarding Appellant permanent partial disability under the Workers' Compensation Act (WCA), Utah Code 34A-2-101 to -1005, holding that the Commission's process for determining permanent partial disability benefits is constitutional and that the administrative law judge (ALJ) was not permitted to increase the amount of the award based on Appellant's subjective pain. Based on Commission guidelines, the ALJ based the amount of Appellant's award on a report provided by an assigned medical panel. Appellant argued on appeal that the process for determining permanent partial disability benefits was unconstitutional and that the ALJ erred in failing to augment the medical panel's impairment rating by three percent, resulting in an increased compensation award. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the adjudicative authority of ALJs has not been unconstitutionally delegated to medical panels; and (2) the Commission expressly precludes ALJs from augmenting an impairment rating based on a claimant's subjective pain. View "Ramos v. Cobblestone Centre" on Justia Law

by
In late 2014 Andy James was working in Deadhorse for Northern Construction & Maintenance, LLC, a company owned by John Ellsworth and members of his family. Ellsworth also owned Alaska Frontier Constructors, Inc. Alaska Frontier had some kind of business relationship with Nanuq, Inc. In late December Northern Construction sent James from his usual work assignment to work in some capacity in connection with an ice road being constructed and maintained for Caelus Energy Alaska, LLC. James was instructed to work at the direction of Scott Pleas. Despite dangerous blizzard conditions, Pleas directed James to accompany another worker, Johann Willrich, to check fuel levels on equipment idling outside; James objected due to the weather, but was threatened with the loss of his job if he did not follow the direction. James complied; he climbed a large grader to fuel it, but a wind gust blew him off, resulting in shoulder and spinal injuries. James filed personal injury lawsuits, which were consolidated, against the companies. The companies sought and obtained summary judgment rulings that they had statutory employer immunity from the injury claims under the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Act’s exclusive liability provision. James appealed. The Alaska Supreme Court found that because numerous issues of material fact made it impossible to determine whether the companies were entitled to judgment as a matter of law that they were immune from liability under the Act, summary judgment was reversed, the judgment against James vacated, and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "James v. Alaska Frontier Constructors, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Shortly before 3:00 a.m. on June 12, 2016, Sarah Ball was killed when the car in which she was a passenger drove off United States Forest Service Road 456.1A and over an earthen mound before falling into an abandoned mine shaft about 20 feet off the road. Plaintiffs, her parents and her estate filed suit against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), raising several causes of action alleging negligence by the United States Forest Service. The district court granted the government’s motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, ruling that the government was immune from liability under the discretionary-function exception to the FTCA. Plaintiffs appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court. View "Ball v. United States" on Justia Law