Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

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After plaintiff, who was employed by Hulcher Services, lost several fingers at work in an accident at the railyard, he filed suit against Norfolk, the railyard owner, under the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA).The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Norfolk, concluding that plaintiff failed to show that he was an employee of Norfolk and thus he could not recover under FELA. The court explained that plaintiff failed to show that Norfolk controlled the performance of his work or retained the right to do so. View "Wheeler v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), alleging that various medical professionals working for the VA breached their legal duty to exercise ordinary medical care and negligently failed to diagnose his throat cancer and immediately treat it. The district court dismissed plaintiff's complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, concluding that judicial review of his claims was precluded by the Veterans' Judicial Review Act (VJRA).The Eleventh Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in pat, concluding that the district court did lack jurisdiction over some of plaintiff's claims but that it had jurisdiction over his tort claims alleging medical negligence or malpractice. To the extent that plaintiff alleges that any delay in his receipt of needed medical care was a result of the VA's failure to timely approve and/or authorize his care or payments therefore, the district court could not review those allegations without second-guessing a decision by the VA necessary to a benefits determination—when to grant the requested benefit. As for plaintiff's allegations related to the VA's failure to follow its own policies, procedures, and protocols, if the district court lacks jurisdiction to review the VA's approval, authorization, and scheduling decisions, it must also lack jurisdiction to determine whether the VA followed its own internal procedures in making those decisions. However, plaintiff's medical negligence and malpractice claims do not require the district court to decide whether plaintiff was entitled to benefits nor do they require the court to revisit any decision made by the Secretary in the course of making benefits determinations. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Smith v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Lisa Braganza sued defendant Albertson’s LLC (Albertson’s) for personal injuries and other damages she sustained as a result of slipping and falling on the floor of an Albertson’s grocery store. The trial court granted Albertson’s motion for summary judgment after denying plaintiff’s request to continue the hearing on the motion in order to allow plaintiff time to conduct discovery necessary to oppose the motion. The trial court later denied plaintiff’s motion for a new trial, based on her claim that the court abused its discretion in denying her continuance request. Appealing those judgments, plaintiff claimed the trial court abused its discretion: (1) in denying her request to continue the hearing on Albertson’s motion; and (2) in denying her new trial motion. The Court of Appeal found no abuse of discretion in either ruling, and affirmed the judgment. View "Braganza v. Albertson's LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Janae Sherman brought child abuse claims against the Oregon Department of Human Services (defendant), alleging that it had negligently failed to protect her from abuse while she was in foster care. Defendant moved to dismiss, claiming it was immune from liability under a provision of the Oregon Tort Claims Act, ORS 30.265(6)(d). Defendant argued that plaintiff’s claims were barred by the provisions of ORS 12.115, a statute of ultimate repose for negligent injury claims. The trial court agreed with defendant, rejecting plaintiff’s argument that ORS 12.117, and not ORS 12.115, applied to child abuse claims and did not bar plaintiff’s claims. The Court of Appeals reversed. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded ORS 12.117 applied to child abuse claims and that ORS 30.265(6)(d) did not provide defendant with immunity. View "Sherman v. Dept. of Human Services" on Justia Law

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In this maritime negligence case involving a "cruise to nowhere," plaintiff filed a class action complaint against Royal Caribbean, on behalf of other similarly situated cruise ship passengers, alleging several tort theories, including negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Plaintiff alleged that Royal Caribbean canceled her cruise because of Hurricane Harvey and offered refunds only on the day the cruise ship was set to sail. Because the ticket contracts provided that no refunds would be given for passenger cancelations within 14 days of the voyage, and because Royal Caribbean repeatedly told passengers that they would lose their entire payments for the cruise if they canceled, the plaintiffs claimed that they were forced to travel to Galveston and nearby areas (like Houston) as Hurricane Harvey approached. Therefore, plaintiff alleged that, while in Texas, they were forced to endure hurricane-force conditions, and suffered physical and emotional injuries.The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and remanded for further proceedings. The court concluded that the district court committed two errors in ruling that diversity jurisdiction was lacking in this case, and each one provides an independent basis for reversal. First, the district court failed to give the plaintiffs notice of its intent to sua sponte address the matter of diversity jurisdiction. Second, putting aside the aggregation of damages issue, the district court failed to consider whether any individual plaintiff had satisfied the $75,000 amount-in-controversy requirement. On remand, the district court should also consider whether there is maritime jurisdiction. Because of the uncertainty over jurisdiction, the court did not address the class action waiver or the claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress. View "McIntosh v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd." on Justia Law

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After Kirk Hollingsworth was involved in a fatal accident while working for HT, Hollingsworth's wife and son filed a wrongful death action against HT and Bragg. Plaintiffs alleged that HT lacked the required workers' compensation insurance at the time of the incident, and therefore plaintiffs were entitled to sue Bragg/HT under Labor Code section 3706. Bragg/HT then filed an application for adjudication of claim with the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB). In the Court of Appeal's previous opinion, Hollingsworth v. Superior Court (2019) 37 Cal.App.5th 927 (Hollingsworth I), the court held that the superior court, which had exercised jurisdiction first, should resolve the questions that would determine which tribunal had exclusive jurisdiction over plaintiffs' claims. Following remand, plaintiffs claimed that they were entitled to a jury trial on the factual issues that would determine jurisdiction. The trial court ultimately entered a judgment terminating proceedings in the superior court, and plaintiffs appealed.The Court of Appeal concluded that, although a jury may determine questions relevant to workers' compensation exclusivity when the issue is raised as an affirmative defense to common law claims, jurisdiction under Labor Code section 3706 is an issue of law for the court to decide. In this case, plaintiffs asserted jurisdiction under section 3706, and thus it was appropriate for the court, not a jury, to determine the questions relevant to jurisdiction. Therefore, there was no error in denying plaintiffs' request for a jury trial. The court also found that the trial court's consideration of parol evidence was not erroneous, and that substantial evidence supports its findings. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Hollingsworth v. Heavy Transport, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Prims attended a concert at the Pavilion after consuming wine and consumed more wine during the concert. After the concert, Janet, who suffers from MS, was “stumbling" and unstable. A Pavilion employee called for a wheelchair, escorted the Prims to the security office, and smelled alcohol on Eric’s breath. Deputy Stein, who was working traffic, noticed that Eric had difficulty standing and had slurred speech. Eric admitted that he had been drinking. Eric twice failed a horizontal gaze nystagmus test. A medic evaluated Janet and called Lieutenant Webb. The Prims insisted on walking home but they would have had to cross two busy intersections in the dark. The officers tried, unsuccessfully, to find the Prims a ride home. Stein arrested them for public intoxication. The charges were ultimately dismissed. The Prims brought claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Rehabilitation Act, and tort claims.The district court granted the defendants summary judgment. The Fifth Circuit reversed with respect to Eric’s assault claim but affirmed as to Janet’s assault claim and both false imprisonment claims. The officers are entitled to qualified immunity on the section 1983 claims. Given their apparent intoxication and their route home, the officers reasonably concluded that the Prims posed a danger to themselves or others. With respect to the ADA and Rehabilitation Act, the court affirmed, noting the Pavilion is a private entity and does not receive federal financial assistance. Janet was not discriminated against based on her disability. View "Prim v. Deputy Stein" on Justia Law

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On May 16, 2017, Turkish security forces clashed with protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s Washington, D.C. residence. Injured protesters sued the Republic of Turkey, claiming that President Erdogan ordered the attack. They asserted various tort claims, violation of D.C. Code 22-3704, which creates a civil action for injuries that demonstrate an accused’s prejudice based on the victim’s race or national origin, and civil claims under the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act and under the Alien Tort Statute.After reviewing the videotape of the incident, the district court stated: [T]he protesters remained standing on the designated sidewalk. Turkish security forces ... crossed a police line to attack the protesters. The protesters ... either fell to the ground, where Turkish security forces continued to kick and hit them or ran away."The D.C. Circuit affirmed the denial of Turkey's motion to dismiss. Under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. 1602, a foreign state is “presumptively immune" from the jurisdiction of U.S. courts but a “tortious acts exception,” strips immunity if money damages are sought for personal injury or death, or damage to property, occurring in the U.S. and caused by the tortious act of a foreign state. The court rejected Turkey's argument that the “discretionary function” exception preserved its sovereign immunity. Although the Turkish security detail had a right to protect President Erdogan, Turkey did not have the discretion to commit criminal assaults. The decisions giving rise to the lawsuit were not “‘fraught with’ economic, political, or social judgments.” View "Usoyan v. Republic of Turkey" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Esurance Property & Casualty Insurance Company (Esurance) paid personal injury protection (PIP) benefits to claimant, Roshaun Edwards (Edwards), pursuant to a no-fault automobile insurance policy, issued to another person, that was later declared void ab initio. Thereafter, Esurance filed this suit against defendants, the Michigan Assigned Claims Plan (MACP) and the Michigan Automobile Insurance Placement Facility (MAIPF), seeking reimbursement under a theory of equitable subrogation for the PIP benefits that Esurance had paid to Edwards under Michigan’s no-fault act before the policy was rescinded. The Michigan Supreme Court held that an insurer who erroneously pays PIP benefits could be reimbursed under a theory of equitable subrogation when the insurer was not in the order of priority and the payments were made pursuant to its arguable duty to pay to protect its own interests. On the facts alleged in this case, Esurance could stand in Edwards’s shoes and pursue a claim for equitable subrogation because it was not in the order of priority and also was not a “mere volunteer” under Michigan law when it paid Edwards’s PIP benefits. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals and remanded this case to that court for further proceedings. View "Esurance Prop. & Casualty Ins. Co. v. Michigan Assigned Claims Plan" on Justia Law

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Texas resident Gerald Hamric joined a church group on an outdoor recreation trip to Colorado. The church group hired Wilderness Expeditions, Inc. (“WEI”) to arrange outdoor activities. Before the outdoor adventure commenced, WEI required each participant to complete a “Registration Form” and a “Medical Form.” On the first day, WEI led the church group on a rappelling course. In attempting to complete a section of the course that required participants to rappel down an overhang, Hamric became inverted. Attempts to rescue Hamric proved unsuccessful, and he fell and died. Alicia Hamric sued WEI for negligence. WEI moved for summary judgment, asserting the Registration Form and the Medical Form contained a release of its liability for negligence. A magistrate judge first declined to grant leave to amend the complaint due to Ms. Hamric’s failure to (1) sustain her burden under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16(b) because the deadline for amendments had passed; and (2) make out a prima facie case of willful and wanton conduct as required by Colorado law to plead a claim seeking exemplary damages. Next, the magistrate judge concluded WEI was entitled to summary judgment, holding the liability release was valid under both Colorado law and Texas law. Finally, the magistrate judge denied as moot Ms. Hamric’s motions for additional discovery and to disclose an expert out of time. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the magistrate judge's order. View "Hamric v. Wilderness Expeditions, Inc." on Justia Law