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Claimant Joanne Perrault appealed the Commissioner of Labor’s decision on summary judgment denying her workers’ compensation benefits. On appeal, claimant argued she was an employee of defendant Chittenden County Transportation Authority (CCTA) for the purposes of workers’ compensation and, therefore, was entitled to benefits. Claimant applied to be a driver in CCTA’s volunteer program in 2014. Once through the application process, a volunteer driver was governed by CCTA’s volunteer manual. This manual, in addition to explaining certain restrictions and requirements, also stated that the manual should not be understood to mean that any employment contract existed between CCTA and the volunteer driver. Drivers received money from CCTA based on the miles driven in a given period and calculated at the federal mileage rate. The CCTA manual referred to this monetary payment as reimbursement, and stated that CCTA would perform random checks to verify the accuracy of mileage submissions. This was the only monetary or other exchange between CCTA and drivers in the volunteer program. CCTA provided insurance on drivers’ vehicles on a secondary basis and encouraged drivers to carry more than the minimum required insurance and to name CCTA as an additional insured on their personal vehicle insurance policies. Drivers in the program were required to meet standards set by CCTA and were subject to certain restrictions, which were similar to the restrictions governing CCTA’s regular drivers. On December 1, 2015, claimant had an automobile accident. At the time of the accident, she was driving a CCTA rider to an appointment. Claimant sustained significant injuries in the accident, including a broken neck at the third and fourth vertebrae, a fractured spine, and broken ribs. She subsequently sought workers’ compensation benefits. The Vermont Supreme Court held that, because claimant did not receive wages, she could not be considered a statutory employee as that term was defined for the application of workers’ compensation. View "Perrault v. Chittenden County Transportation Authority" on Justia Law

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Derek Boogaard was a professional hockey player with the Minnesota Wild. Team doctors repeatedly prescribed Derek pain pills for injuries. He became addicted. In 2009 the NHL placed Derek into its Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program. Derek was checked into a rehabilitation facility and was later subject to a mandatory “Aftercare Program,” which required him to refrain from using opioids and Ambien and to submit to random drug testing. Derek joined the New York Rangers in 2010 and began asking trainers for Ambien. Derek relapsed. NHL doctors made Derek’s situation worse by violating multiple conditions of the Aftercare Program. Eventually, Derek overdosed and died. Derek’s estate sued, alleging that the NHL had failed to prevent the over-prescription of addictive medications, had breached its voluntarily undertaken duty to monitor Derek’s drug addiction, was negligent in monitoring Derek for brain trauma, and negligently permitted team doctors to inject Derek with an intramuscular analgesic. The court found some of the claims, founded on the parties’ collective bargaining agreement, were preempted by the Labor Management Relations Act and granted the NHL summary judgment. A second amended complaint was dismissed on grounds that Minnesota law applied and required a wrongful-death action to be brought by a court-appointed trustee. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding that the Boogaards had forfeited their claims by failing to respond to the NHL’s argument that the complaint failed to state a claim under the law of any state. View "Boogaard v. National Hockey League" on Justia Law

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The trial court granted the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors’ and the City of Brookhaven, Mississippi’s motions to dismiss Samuel Wilcher, Jr.’s personal injury suit, finding both governmental entities enjoyed discretionary-function immunity. In doing so, the judge employed the Mississsippi Supreme Court’s recently created test announced in Brantley v. City of Horn Lake, 152 So.3d 1106 (Miss. 2014). On appeal, the Court faced "head on one of the unintended but predicted consequences of Brantley—that the test forces parties and judges to wade through an ever-deepening quagmire of regulations and ordinances to locate 'ministerial' or 'discretionary' duties, overcomplicating the process of litigating and deciding claims involving governmental entities." Unfortunately, this methodology had proved unworkable. "Instead of trying to retool the Brantley test to somehow make it workable, we concede this short-lived idea, which was meant to be a course correction, has ultimately led this Court even farther adrift." The Court found it best to return to its original course of applying the widely recognized public-policy function test—the original Mississippi Tort Claims Act (MTCA) test first adopted by the Court in 1999. Applying the latter test to this case, the Supreme Court held that Wilcher’s claim that County and City employees negligently left an unfinished culvert installation overnight, without warning drivers they had removed but not yet replaced a bridge, was not barred by discretionary-function immunity. "Wilcher is not trying to second-guess a policy decision through tort. He is seeking to recover for injuries caused by run-of-the-mill negligence." Because, from the face of the complaint, the County and City were not immune, the Court reversed the grant of their motions to dismiss. View "Wilcher, Jr. v. Lincoln County Board of Supervisors" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the judgment of the circuit court granting summary judgment for Defendant, a used-car dealer, on Plaintiffs’ claims alleging that the used vehicle they purchased from Defendant was sold without a muffler and that they suffered carbon monoxide poisoning from the vehicle. The circuit court granted Defendant’s motion for summary judgment on all claims, concluding that Plaintiffs failed to generate a question of fact as to causation. On appeal, the Supreme Court held (1) the circuit court erred in granting Defendant’s motion for summary judgment because there was sufficient evidence in the record for a jury to conclude that the defective exhaust system probably caused Appellants’ carbon monoxide exposure; and (2) the circuit court did not err in denying Appellants’ request for fees incurred by their expert in preparing for a deposition noticed by Defendant. View "Garrido v. Team Auto Sales, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Steven and Jane Iliades brought a products-liability action against Dieffenbacher North America Inc., alleging negligence, gross negligence, and breach of warranty after plaintiff was injured by a rubber molding press defendant manufactured. Plaintiff was injured when he attempted to retrieve parts that had fallen to the floor inside the press by reaching behind the light curtain without first placing the press into manual mode. Because of plaintiff’s position behind the light curtain, the light curtain was not interrupted, the press resumed its automatic operation, and plaintiff was trapped between the two plates of the press. The trial court granted summary disposition to defendant, ruling that plaintiff had misused the press given the evidence that he had been trained not to reach into the press while it was in automatic mode, knew how to place the press into manual mode, knew that the light curtain was not meant to be used as an emergency stop switch, and knew that the press would automatically begin its cycle if the light curtain was no longer interrupted. The court further ruled that plaintiff’s misuse was not reasonably foreseeable because plaintiff had not presented any evidence that defendant could have foreseen that a trained press operator would crawl beyond a light curtain and partially inside a press to retrieve a part without first disengaging the press. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded in an unpublished per curiam opinion, holding that, regardless of whether plaintiff had misused the press, defendant could be held liable because plaintiff’s conduct was reasonably foreseeable. The Michigan Supreme Court determined that whether the misuse was reasonably foreseeable depended on whether defendant knew or should have known of the misuse, not on whether plaintiff was grossly negligent in operating the press. Because the majority of the Court of Appeals did not decide whether and how plaintiff misused the press, and because it did not apply the common-law meaning of reasonable foreseeability, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and remanded for reconsideration of summary judgment entered in defendant’s favor. View "Iliades v. Dieffenbacher North America, Inc." on Justia Law

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Under Montana law, when a plaintiff claims he or she was injured directly by a law enforcement officer’s affirmative acts, the public duty doctrine does not exclude all duties that may arise pursuant to generally applicable principles of negligence. Plaintiff was injured in the course of a law enforcement officer’s (Officer) pursuit of a criminal suspect. Plaintiff brought a state-law negligence claim and a 42 U.S.C. 1983 violation against the Officer and the City of Billings, alleging that he was injured directly by the Officer’s affirmative acts. A federal court entered summary judgment in favor of Defendants on both claims. Regarding the negligence claim, the court found that the public-duty doctrine shielded Defendants from liability because no special relationship existed. The court of appeals certified to the Supreme Court the public duty doctrine question. The Supreme Court held (1) the public-duty doctrine applies only to an officer’s duty to protect the general public and therefore does not apply to exclude the legal duty an officer may owe to a person injured directly by the officer’s affirmative actions; and (2) in this case, the Officer owed Plaintiff a legal duty to exercise the same care that a reasonable officer with similar skill, training, and experience would under the same or similar circumstances. View "Bassett v. Lamantia" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the order of the district court dismissing Plaintiff’s amended complaint against several lenders, holding that the district court did not err in dismissing some of Plaintiff’s claims but erred in dismissing the remaining claims. After Plaintiff defaulted on her loan on real property, she received at least nine notices of sale. Plaintiff filed an amended complaint against Lenders, alleging six causes of action. The district court granted Lenders’ motion to dismiss the amended complaint pursuant to Mont. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). The Supreme Court held that the district court (1) did not err in dismissing Plaintiff’s declaratory judgment claim as a matter of law or in dismissing Plaintiff’s negligent and/or intentional infliction of emotional distress claim fore failure to state sufficient facts to entitle her to relief; and (2) incorrectly determined that Plaintiff’s amended complaint failed to state a claim on her asserted breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), and Montana Consumer Protection Act (MCPA) claims. View "Puryer v. HSBC Bank" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment in favor of Defendant after this Court remanded the case, holding that any error in the district court’s evidentiary rulings was harmless and that the district court did not commit prejudicial error when it found that Plaintiffs waived their negligence claim. Plaintiffs Barbara and Michael Bradley filed a second amended complaint alleging medical negligence, battery, and the failure to obtain informed consent. The district court granted summary judgment on the battery claim. After a trial, the jury returned a verdict in Defendant’s favor. The First Circuit vacated the judgment and remanded for a new trial on account of an error in excluding the testimony of Plaintiffs’ proffered expert witness. After a second trial, the jury again returned a verdict in favor of Defendant. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) assuming, without deciding, that the district court erred in admitting an entry from Barbara’s diary and in admitting an excerpt from Barbara’s medical records from a different hospital, these errors were harmless; and (2) the district court did not commit prejudicial error in finding Plaintiffs to have waived their medical negligence claim. View "Bradley v. Sugarbaker" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether the mailing of a claim filed pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) for wrongful death was timely presented to the appropriate federal agency where Plaintiffs mailed the notice through the United States Postal Service (USPS) via certified mail and USPS attempted delivery on the last day of the two-year period. The district court dismissed the FTCA suit on the grounds that Plaintiffs had not first timely presented their claim to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) because ICE did not come into actual possession of Plaintiffs’ mailed notice of their claim until after the two-year period had run. The First Circuit vacated the dismissal, holding that this case must be remanded for consideration of Plaintiffs’ contention that Plaintiffs’ claim had been timely presented by virtue of the fact that USPS arrived at ICE with notice of the tort claim on the last day of the two-year statutory period. View "Ortiz-Rivera v. United States" on Justia Law

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The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) did not err in ruling that an injury suffered by Plaintiff that arose while she worked as a Public Health Educator IV for the State Department of Health (DOH) resulted from an “accident occurring while in the actual performance of duty at some definite time and place” and was therefore a covered injury under Haw. Rev. Stat. 88-336. Section 88-336 provides service-connected disability retirement benefits under the Employees’ Retirement System’s (ERS) Hybrid Plan to Class H public officers and employees, such as Petitioner. Petitioner submitted an application for service-connected disability retirement in connection with permanent incapacitating injuries she suffered to her elbow, arm, and hand. A hearing officer concluded that Petitioner’s excessive keyboarding over a period of time did not constitute an “accident” because it did not occur at a “specific time and place.” The ERS denied Petitioner’s application. The circuit court affirmed. The ICA vacated the circuit court’s decision and remanded to the circuit court with directions to vacate the ERS Board’s denial of disability retirement to Petitioner. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Petitioner’s injury occurred “while in the actual performance of duty at some definite time and place.” View "Pasco v. Board of Trustees of the Employees’ Retirement System" on Justia Law