Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries
Ex parte Sonia Blunt.
Sonia Blunt, a teacher in the Tuscaloosa City Schools system ("TCS"), petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Tuscaloosa Circuit Court to enter a summary judgment in her favor on the basis of State-agent immunity as to claims asserted against her by Keith Langston, as next friend and father of Joshua Langston and Matthew Langston, minors at the time the action was filed. Marcus Crawford, a student attending one of Blunt’s summer-school classes at TCS, left campus for lunch at a nearby fast food restaurant. Crawford testified it took longer to get his food order than he estimated, and hurried back to campus. Approximately one mile away on a two-lane public road, Crawford attempted to pass a vehicle in front of him by crossing a double-yellow center line and driving in the oncoming lane of traffic. In doing so, Crawford collided with a vehicle driven by Susan Kines Langston, a TCS teacher, in which Matthew Langston and Joshua Langston were passengers. Susan Langston was killed in the accident, and Matthew and Joshua were seriously injured and eventually had to be life-flighted to Children's Hospital in Birmingham. Crawford was charged, tried, and convicted of reckless manslaughter for his actions in causing Susan Langston's death. He was sentenced to five years and nine months in prison. Thereafter Keith Langston filed suit against Blunt and Patsy Lowry (another TCS teacher). Langston asserted claims of negligence and wantonness against Blunt and Lowry for failing to follow the "policies and procedures" of TCS, which failure allegedly proximately caused the injuries sustained by Matthew and Joshua Langston. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded Langston failed to demonstrate the existence of a detailed rule binding upon Blunt that would establish that she acted beyond her authority in supervising students when she allowed Crawford to leave the school campus at the time and in the manner he did. Therefore, Blunt was entitled to State-agent immunity from Langston's claims of negligence and wantonness pertaining to her alleged violation of a TCS policy or procedure. View "Ex parte Sonia Blunt." on Justia Law
Ex parte Burkes Mechanical, Inc.
Burkes Mechanical, Inc. petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct a trial court to vacate its order denying Burkes's motion to dismiss claims of negligence, wantonness, and the tort of outrage asserted against Burkes by Alexsie McCoy and to enter an order dismissing those claims. In 2018, McCoy was injured during the course of his employment as an iron worker for Burkes. McCoy and two other iron workers were working in a hot, confined space at a mill owned by International Paper Company ("IP") and were using welding torches to cut heavy metal plates in IP's debarking machine. A worker employed by another company broke a welding line, which ignited the air. McCoy sustained severe burn injuries. According to McCoy, Burkes failed to notify IP, which had an emergency-medical-response team on site to address workplace injuries. Instead, a Burkes employee sprayed an "improper substance" on McCoy to treat the injury. Rather than calling an ambulance, Burkes transported McCoy by private vehicle to a local doctor's office, which advised McCoy's injuries were too severe to be treated at his office and that McCoy needed to be taken to a hospital. A Burkes employee took McCoy to a drugstore to purchase over-the-counter burn cream and then to Grove Hill Memorial Hospital. That hospital determined that the burns were too serious to be treated there, and, as a result, McCoy was transported by ambulance to the University of South Alabama Medical Center in Mobile, where he was hospitalized for approximately one week. Burkes filed a motion to dismiss McCoy's negligence and wantonness claims against it, asserting that the exclusivity provisions of the Alabama Workers' Compensation Act barred those claims. The Supreme Court concluded Burkes, with its reliance on a few distinguishable cases, did not demonstrate a clear legal right to have the negligence and wantonness claims against it dismissed. It agreed the tort of outrage was not pled sufficiently, but denial of a motion to dismiss was not reviewable through a petition for mandamus relief. As such, the Court denied relief. View "Ex parte Burkes Mechanical, Inc." on Justia Law
Ex parte Tim Tucker.
Tim Tucker petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Baldwin Circuit Court to vacate its order denying his summary-judgment motion in which he contended he was entitled to State-agent immunity for all claims asserted against him by Mary Young in an action stemming from injuries Young sustained when she tripped and fell on a residential street in the City of Orange Beach ("the City") in 2015. Tucker was the public-works director for the City. In January 2015, at approximately 9:30 p.m., Young was walking her dog along Louisiana Avenue. Young testified that it was dark and that there were no street lights. Young attempted to get her dog back on the street after it had veered off the asphalt, and she then tried to step onto the street as well from the shoulder. Young's foot caught on the edge of the asphalt and she tripped and fell to the ground. Young testified that she broke her shoulder as a result of the fall and that it had to be surgically repaired. Young alleged Tucker and the public works department "breached their duty by not inspecting and correcting the significant shoulder drop offs at various locations within the City of Orange Beach, including Louisiana Avenue, at any point during or after the 2012 repaving process ...." The Supreme Court determined Young's primary argument glossed over the more than two-year gap between the completion of the 2012 repavement project and her accident in January 2015. Tucker was entitled to State-agent immunity from all claims Young asserted against him. The circuit court was therefore directed to enter a summary judgment in favor of Tucker. View "Ex parte Tim Tucker." on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Government & Administrative Law, Personal Injury, Supreme Court of Alabama
Fentress v. Westin, Inc.
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Workers' Compensation Court awarding temporary total disability and attorney fees to Suzy Fentress, holding that the compensation court did not err. Fentress received a workplace injury while working for Westin, Inc. The compensation court entered an award in which Fentress received temporary partial workers' compensation benefits. Westin later moved to terminate the temporary indemnity benefits and to determine maximum medical improvement (MMI) and permanency. After the compensation court held an evidentiary hearing to determine MMI Westin moved to withdraw its motion to determine MMI. The compensation court disallowed the withdrawal of the motion and, thereafter, awarded temporary total disability and attorney fees to Fentress. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the compensation court did not err when it (1) overruled Westin's motion to withdraw its motion to determine MMI; (2) admitted certain evidence during the hearing; (3) found that Fentress had achieved MMI with respect to mental health issues but not physical health issues; and (4) awarded Fentress medical treatment, temporary total disability, and attorney fees. View "Fentress v. Westin, Inc." on Justia Law
Rogers v. Jack’s Supper Club
The Supreme Court reversed the order of the Workers' Compensation Court ordering Jack's Supper Club and its workers' compensation carrier (collectively, JSC) to reimburse Sheryl Rogers for medical expenses she incurred, holding that where Rogers selected the physicians who provided the treatment at issue in disregard of provisions of the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Act, JSC was not responsible to reimburse Rogers. Rogers injured her back while working for JSC. The compensation court approved a lump-sum settlement, and JSC remained responsible to pay Rogers for reasonable and necessary medical care for her work-related injury. After Rogers received treatment she asked that the compensation court order JSC to reimburse her. The JSC argued that it was not responsible for the medical expenses because Rogers failed to comply with Neb. Rev. Stat. 48-120(2), a statute governing selection of treating physicians. The compensation court rejected the JSC's arguments and ordered JSC to pay certain bills offered by Rogers. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the compensation court erred in ordering JSC to reimburse Rogers for her treatment and by issuing a decision that did not comply with Workers' Comp. Ct. R. of Proc. 11. View "Rogers v. Jack's Supper Club" on Justia Law
Rutledge v. City of Kimball
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting the City of Kimball's motion to dismiss Appellant's complaint alleging that the City was negligent for failing to supervised its employee, holding that the claim was barred by the intentional torts exception to the Political Subdivisions Tort Claims Act (PSTCA). Appellant filed a complaint against the City seeking damages incurred after its then-employee, David Ford, allegedly attacked and choked Appellant in a city building. Appellant alleged that the City was negligent for failing to protect her and the general public when the City knew or should have known of Ford's past violent behavior, violent propensities, and prior assaults. The district court dismissed the case, concluding that Appellant's allegations were exempt from application of the PSTCA. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellant's negligence claim arose out of a battery and, therefore, was barred by the intentional torts exception to the PSTCA. View "Rutledge v. City of Kimball" on Justia Law
Thomas v. Lewis
Mary Thomas awoke, paralyzed, after surgery. She filed a medical malpractice suit against Dr. Adam Lewis, who performed the surgery, claiming her injuries stemmed from two neurosurgeries performed by Dr. Lewis. Thomas also filed suit against Jackson Neurosurgery Clinic and Central Mississippi Medical Center based on vicarious liability. Thomas’s medical malpractice claims were based on an alleged failure of Dr. Lewis to manage Thomas’s mean arterial blood pressure during the first surgery and Dr. Lewis’s decision to perform the second surgery. However, the issue on appeal involved the reliability of expert testimony under Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993). Thomas’s expert, neurosurgeon Dr. Neil Wright, claimed that Dr. Lewis had failed to provide the proper standard of care and, in turn, caused Thomas’s injuries. However, Dr. Lewis argued that Dr. Wright’s opinions were not reliable because they were inconsistent with medical literature. The trial court agreed, struck Dr. Wright’s opinions, and granted partial summary judgment in favor of Dr. Lewis with regard to the first surgery. The trial court also ruled that Dr. Wright could testify to negligence regarding the second surgery. The trial court allowed Thomas to proceed on claims related to the second surgery. Dr. Wright admitted that the decision to perform the second surgery was a judgment call and that he failed to testify that making the decision to proceed with a second surgery was a breach of the standard of care. The trial court considered the evidence and found that Mary Thomas had failed to offer admissible proof from which a reasonable juror could find that Dr. Lewis deviated from a professional standard of care. The trial court directed a verdict in favor of Dr. Lewis, Jackson Neurosurgery Clinic, and Central Mississippi Medical Center, and Thomas appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Thomas v. Lewis" on Justia Law
Toll v. Honorable James Wilson
The Supreme Court granted in part a petition for a writ of prohibition or mandamus challenging a discovery ruling compelling Petitioner to disclose the identity of his sources in a tort action, holding that digital media falls within the protections of Nev. Rev. Stat. 49.275. The current version of section 49.275 protects journalists who are associated with newspapers, press associations, periodicals, and radio and television programs from mandatory disclosure of confidential sources. Petitioner in this case was a blogger who was sued for defamation. During discovery, Petitioner invoked the news shield statute under section 49.275 and refused to provide the identity of his sources. Respondent filed a motion to compel Petitioner to reveal his sources, arguing that the news shield statute does not apply to bloggers. The district court granted the motion to compel. Petitioner then filed this petition challenging that decision as well as the order allowing limited discovery. The Supreme Court granted the writ in part, holding that digital medial falls within the protections of section 49.275 but that the case required a remand so the district court could reconsider whether Petitioner's blog fell within the protection of the statute. View "Toll v. Honorable James Wilson" on Justia Law
Glick v. Western Power Sports, Inc.
After plaintiff was injured when a neck brace allegedly caused or failed to protect him from serious bodily injury, he filed suit against the makers and sellers of the neck brace. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's orders granting defendants' motions to dismiss. The district court correctly noted that, even though entry of default was proper where a party fails to respond in a timely manner, a court must not enter default without first determining whether the unchallenged facts constitute a legitimate cause of action. In this case, all but one of the allegations in the amended complaint constitute mere legal conclusions and recitations of the elements of the causes of action. The court agreed with the district court that where, as here, there are so few facts alleged in the complaint, the court need not address each individual claim to make a sufficiency determination on a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Accordingly, because the amended complaint failed to allege sufficient facts to state a claim for relief that was plausible on its face, the district court did not err in granting defendants' motion to dismiss. View "Glick v. Western Power Sports, Inc." on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Personal Injury, Products Liability, US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
Powell v. OTAC, Inc.
Stephen Powell appealed a Delaware Industrial Accident Board ("IAB") decision to deny his petition for workers' compensation benefits. Powell alleged he sufered a work injury in 2016 while employed by OTAC, Inc. d/b/a Hardee’s (“Hardees”). The IAB held a hearing regarding Powell’s petition in 2018. The IAB heard testimony by deposition from a doctor on Powell’s behalf and from a doctor on Hardees’ behalf. It also heard live testimony from a Hardees General Manager and from Powell himself. After the hearing, the IAB denied Powell’s petition, ruling that he had failed to establish that he injured his rotator cuff while working at Hardees. The IAB concluded that the testimony and evidence was “insufficient to support a finding that Claimant’s injuries were causally related to his work for [Hardees].” Specifically, the IAB noted that both Powell’s “inability to report a specific day of injury” as well as his “failure to seek medical treatment immediately” after the alleged incident detracted from his credibility. Further, it found that although “both medical experts agreed that [Powell’s] treatment was reasonable for his rotator cuff tear, there was insufficient evidence that the rotator cuff tear occurred as the result of the alleged work accident." Powell argued on appeal to the Delaware Supreme Court: (1) the Board erred as a matter of law in denying his petition, and he claims that he did present sufficient evidence to demonstrate that his injuries occurred while working at Hardees; and (2) the Superior Court erred in affirming the IAB’s decision and that it exceeded the scope of review by making findings of fact unsupported by the record. After review of the IAB and Superior Court record, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed. View "Powell v. OTAC, Inc." on Justia Law
Posted in: Delaware Supreme Court, Government & Administrative Law, Labor & Employment Law, Personal Injury