Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court granted in part and denied in part a writ of prohibition sought by Defendants challenging the circuit court's denial of Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint, holding that the circuit court erred when it refused to dismiss Plaintiff's claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress but did not err when it refused to dismiss Plaintiff's claim for general negligence. Plaintiff brought his complaint alleging that he suffered emotional injuries after witnessing a co-worker sustain fatal injuries due to Defendants' negligence. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss under W. Va. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) because the Plaintiff and his co-worker did not meet the "closely related" requirement. The circuit court denied the motion. Defendants then filed this petition requesting a writ of prohibition challenging the denial of the motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court granted the writ in part and denied it in part, holding (1) an employee cannot recover damages for emotional distress after witnessing an injury to an unrelated co-worker under a claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress; and (2) the circuit court did not err in denying Defendants' motion to dismiss as to Plaintiff's claim for general negligence because the claim was not duplicative of Plaintiff's claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress. View "State ex rel. Maxxim Shared Services, LLC v. Honorable Warren R. McGraw" on Justia Law

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In 2012, Timothy Hinton was deer hunting when he fell from his tree stand. He was using a fall-arrest system (FAS), but the tree strap snapped, and Timothy plunged eighteen feet, eventually dying from his injuries. In 2013, Timothy’s parents, Marsha and Thomas Hinton, filed a wrongful-death suit based on Mississippi products-liability law. The defendant manufacturer, C&S Global Imports, Inc., defaulted and was not a source of recovery. So the litigation turned its focus to the manufacturer’s insurer, Pekin Insurance Company. After the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled Mississippi had personal jurisdiction over the Illinois-based insurer, Pekin successfully moved for summary judgment based on the clear tree-stand exclusion in C&S Global’s policy. Retailer Sportsman’s Guide, which sold Timothy the tree stand and FAS in 2009, also moved for and was granted summary judgment, giving rise to this appeal. As grounds for its decision, the trial court relied on the innocent-seller provision in the Mississippi Products Liability Act (MPLA), and found no evidence of active negligence by Sportsman's Guide. The Hintons argued in response: (1) Sportsman’s Guide waived its innocent-seller immunity affirmative defense; (2) a dispute of material fact existed over whether Sportsman's Guide was an innocent seller; or (3) alternatively, Mississippi’s innocent-seller provision should not control: instead the trial court should have followed Minnesota’s approach - the state where Sportsman’s Guide is located (under Minnesota’s law, innocent sellers may be liable when manufacturers are judgment proof, like C&S Global was here). Finding no reversible error in the trial court's judgment, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Hinton v. Sportsman's Guide, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this case stemming from an incident that allegedly took place while Plaintiff was held in pretrial detention at the Adult Correctional Institutions (ACI) the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in favor of Defendants following entry of an order that denied Plaintiff's motion to file a second amended complaint, holding that Plaintiff was not entitled to relief on his allegations of error. In his complaint, Plaintiff, who was serving consecutive sentences of life imprisonment, alleged that he was attacked by a fellow inmate and that the attack was made possible by a correctional officer. Plaintiff sued ACI, the state, and various John Does, alleging negligence for failing properly to protect him. The trial justice granted Defendants' motion to dismiss based on Rhode Island's civil death statute, R.I. Gen. Laws 13-6-1. Thereafter, the trial justice denied Plaintiff's motion to file a second amended complaint. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial justice properly denied Plaintiff's motion to amend; and (2) Plaintiff's arguments that the civil death statute is unconstitutional on various grounds were barred by the "raise-or-waive" rule and procedural law. View "Gallop v. Adult Correctional Institutions" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted the writ of prohibition sought by PrimeCare Medical of West Virginia, Inc. (PrimeCare) to dismiss the Estate of Cody Lawrence Grove's (the Estate) claims against PrimeCare for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, holding that the circuit court erred by failing to dismiss the claims against PrimeCare brought under the West Virginia Medical Professional Liability Act (MPLA). The Estate sued a correctional officer, a regional jail authority, and Prime Care, which provided monitoring of inmates, arguing that Cody Grove was able to commit suicide while he was an inmate because the correctional officer failed to conduct one or more safety checks on Grove. PrimeCare filed a motion to dismiss, alleging that the Estate failed to serve the notice of claim and the screening certificate of merit required by the MPLA. See W. Va. Code 55-7B-6. The circuit court denied the motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court vacated the circuit court's order, holding that to the extent the MPLA's pre-suit notice requirements were not complied with, the circuit court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to proceed. View "State ex rel., Primecare Medical of West Virginia, Inc. v. Honorable Laura V. Faircloth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court dismissing Plaintiff's claims against a sheriff's deputy, a county, and its sheriff's department alleging that his earlier arrest violated his constitutional rights and was intentional infliction of emotional distress and battery, holding that Plaintiff's claims were time barred and that Plaintiff's motions for disqualification were properly denied. The circuit court dismissed Plaintiff's claims because he did not file within the two-year statute of limitations. On appeal, Plaintiff argued that the circuit judge should have been disqualified from the case and that the tolling provision of W. Va. Code 55-17-3(a) should have applied once he gave notice of his claim to the sheriff's department. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the tolling provision of section 55-17-3(a) did not apply because the sheriff's department is not part of the executive branch of state government; and (2) Plaintiff's allegations that the circuit judge should have been disqualified were properly adjudicated by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and were without merit. View "Patton v. County of Berkeley, West Virginia" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants and dismissing Plaintiff's claims, holding that the circuit court did not err in finding that Defendants were entitled to qualified immunity. Plaintiff, an eighteen-year-old high school student, filed a civil action against Defendants, the county board of education and the county's sheriff's office and deputy, based on injuries he received while wrestling on a public school soccer field after leaving the high school building without authorization after the seventh period of class. The circuit court ruled that Defendants were entitled to qualified immunity and that, because Plaintiff was an adult when he left the school, Defendants did not owe him a duty at the time of the injury. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the county board was a state actor for purposes of determining whether it was entitled to qualified immunity; and (2) Defendants did not violate any statutory duty to Plaintiff, and therefore, Defendants were entitled to qualified immunity. View "Goodwin v. Board of Education of Fayette County" on Justia Law

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These consolidated actions arose from fatal injuries suffered by James Andrew Brenek, II when he was electrocuted by an electrically-energized generator housing cabinet on a rig in Jefferson County, Texas. Brenek was employed by Guichard, which had leased the generator involved in the accident from Aggreko. Guichard had a primary commercial liability policy with Gray and an excess commercial liability policy with Chartis. Aggreko had a primary insurance policy with Indian Harbor. Indian Harbor appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Gray, and Gray conditionally appealed the district court's decision to apply Texas, rather than Louisiana, law to the issues before it. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment, concluding that the outcome of the dispute would be the same under both Texas and Louisiana law. Therefore, the court need not engage in a conflict-of-laws analysis and applied Texas law. Under Texas law, the court held that Gray exhausted its policy limit and its duty to defend Aggreko when it paid $950,000—the remainder of its liability coverage limit—to the Breneks in exchange for the Breneks agreement not to execute any judgment against Aggreko and to recognize Aggreko's entitlement to claim a $950,000 damages credit. View "Aggreko, LLC v. Chartis Specialty Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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In this medical malpractice action the Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court granting summary judgment to Defendant and finding that Defendant did not have a duty to provide follow-up medical care after Plaintiff left Raleigh General Hospital against medical advice, holding that the circuit court properly granted summary judgment to Defendant. The day after Defendant performed surgery on Plaintiff, Plaintiff left the hospital against medical advice (AMA). Plaintiff was later diagnosed with an infection resulting from the fact that the temporary stents she received in her surgery had never been removed. Plaintiff sued. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Defendant, determining that the patient-doctor relationship between the parties ended the day that Plaintiff left the hospital against medical advice. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff failed to establish that Defendant had a duty to provide medical care to her after she terminated their physician-patient relationship; and (2) in discontinuing the physician-patient relationship she had with Defendant when she left the hospital AMA, Plaintiff removed herself from the class of individuals sought to be protected by the West Virginia Medical Professional Liability Act, W. Va. Code 55-7B-1 to -12. View "Kruse v. Farid" on Justia Law

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Ultratec Special Effects, Inc. ("Ultratec"), filed two petitions for mandamus relief from the Alabama Supreme Court, to get the trial court to vacate its October 25, 2018 order denying Ultratec's motion for a summary judgment on claims asserted against it by David Cothran, as the administrator of the estate of his sister, Aimee Cothran, and by Donald Ray Sanderson, as the administrator of the estate of his wife, Virginia Marie Sanderson (collectively, "the Estates"), based on, among others, Ultratec's claim that it was immune from suit based on the exclusivity provisions of the Alabama Workers' Compensation Act. Aimee Cothran and Virginia Sanderson were working at an Ultratec HSV plant when they were killed by an explosion. They separately sued Ultratec, alleging, among other causes of action, negligence and strict liability. Ultratec’s answer asserted the exclusivity provisions of the Act. Specifically, Ultratec argued that it was immune because it and Ultratec HSV were a single employer group for purposes of the Act; because Aimee and Virginia were jointly employed by both Ultratec and Ultratec HSV; and because Ultratec HSV operated as a division of Ultratec. The Estates filed a response in opposition to the motion for a summary judgment, arguing that a parent corporation is not entitled to the immunity provided by the exclusivity provisions of the Act in a tort action for the injury or death of an employee of the corporation's subsidiary; that questions of fact existed as to whether Ultratec and Ultratec HSV were separate entities; and that the joint-employer doctrine is inapplicable as a matter of law. Following a hearing, the trial court entered an order denying Ultratec's motion for a summary judgment, holding that Ultratec was protected by the exclusivity provisions of the Act. Given the “abundance of disputed facts,” the Alabama Supreme Court could not say Ultratec demonstrated a clear legal right to mandamus relief on the issue of whether Ultratec and Ultratec HSV were separate entities, or that the Alabama Legislature intended to extend immunity to parent corporations for employees killed on the job. Ultratec’s applications for relief were granted in part, denied in part, but the petitions were ultimately denied. View "Ex parte Ultratec Special Effects, Inc." on Justia Law

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Allstate Insurance Company ("Allstate") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Perry Circuit Court ("the trial court") to vacate its order denying Allstate's motion to transfer an action filed against it by Devin Harrison in Perry County to Shelby or Bibb County. Harrison, a resident of Bibb County, was driving an automobile in Perry County. The automobile was owned by Thomas Hobson, a resident of Bibb County ("Hobson"), and was insured by Allstate, whose principal place of business is in Shelby County. Dylan Gardner and Alexander Hobson, Hobson's grandson, were passengers in the vehicle Harrison was driving. While Harrison was driving, the automobile was involved in a single-vehicle accident. Gardner died as a result of injuries sustained in the accident, and Alexander Hobson was injured. Gardner's estate filed a wrongful-death action against Harrison and obtained a $2 million dollar judgment. At some point, Alexander Hobson also filed an action in the trial court against Harrison and Allstate seeking damages for injuries relating to the accident. In May 2018, Harrison filed the action underlying this petition in the trial court against Allstate in which he asserted claims of breach of contract and bad faith based on Allstate's alleged refusal to defend or indemnify him in the wrongful-death action. Allstate removed the action to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Alabama. After that court remanded the case to the trial court, Allstate filed a motion to transfer the action to Shelby County or Bibb County, arguing that venue in Perry County was improper. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded after review of the trial court record that Allstate demonstrated venue was improper in Perry County, and was proper in Shelby or Bibb County. The trial court was directed to vacate its order denying Allstate’s motion for a change of venue and to transfer the action. View "Ex parte Allstate Insurance Company." on Justia Law