Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court in favor of Gagne & Son Concrete Blocks, Inc. on the claims brought by Thomas and Lisa Coward that arose out of an accident at the Cowards' home involving Thomas's son, Philip Coward, holding that the court misapplied the contemporaneous perception factor as articulated in precedent regarding bystander actions.Philip died after a one-ton load of rebar fell on him while a Gagne & Son employee was unloading the rebar from a truck using a forklift. The Cowards' complaint alleged, in part, claims of bystander negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED). The Cowards argued that Thomas contemporaneously perceived the accident because he heard the accident occur, arrived seconds later, and witnessed his injured son die. The trial court entered summary judgment against Thomas on his bystander NIED claim, concluding that Thomas did not meet the contemporaneous perception factor for a bystander NIED claim. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) a bystander may satisfy the "contemporaneous perception" element by demonstrating that he otherwise perceived that event as it occurred and then witnessed the immediate aftermath of that event; and (2) Gagne & Son was not entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. View "Coward v. Gagne & Sons Concrete Blocks, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit denied a petition for review of the Benefit Review Board's decision affirming the ALJ's award of disability benefits to an employee of a defense contractor under the Defense Base Act (DBA), which extends workers' compensation benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act to certain employees of U.S. government contractors working overseas.In this case, the employee alleged that his injuries arose out of and in the course of his employment, thereby establishing a prima facie case for benefits under the LHWCA. The court held that the record supports the Board's conclusion that petitioner failed to present sufficient evidence to prove that the named defendants were not employers. Therefore, the Board did not err when it affirmed the ALJ's finding that the employee's claims were not barred under Section 933(g) of the LHWCA. View "G4S International Employment Services (Jersey), Ltd. v. Newton-Sealey" on Justia Law

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On October 25, 2011, Appellant Nicole B.’s then-eight-year-old son N.B. was sexually assaulted by three of his male fourth-grade classmates in a bathroom at his public elementary school in the City of Philadelphia. According to Appellant, N.B. had endured two months of pervasive physical and verbal harassment at school leading up to the sexual assault. During that time, both Appellant and N.B. reported the harassment to his teacher and to school administrators, to no avail. In November 2011, Appellant withdrew N.B. from the elementary school after learning of the attack. Over two years later, in 2014, Appellant filed an administrative complaint with the Human Relations Commission against the Philadelphia School District (“District”) in her individual capacity and on N.B.’s behalf, asserting claims of discrimination on the basis of gender and race under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (“PHRA”). The Human Relations Commission rejected Appellant’s complaint as untimely, because it was filed beyond the 180-day time limit. In this appeal by allowance, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court considered whether principles of equitable tolling found in PHRA, or Pennsylvania’s Minority Tolling Statute (“Minority Tolling Statute”), applied to an otherwise untimely complaint. After review, the Supreme Court found the PHRA’s equitable tolling provision applied to a minor whose parent failed to satisfy the applicable statute of limitations for filing an administrative complaint prior to the minor reaching the age of majority. By this finding, the Court reversed the order of the Commonwealth Court. View "Nicole B. v. Philadelphia Sch. Dist., et al." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals denying a writ of mandamus ordering the Industrial Commission to vacate an award of medical-service reimbursement to Diana Garringer for a right reverse total-shoulder arthroplasty, holding that the Commission did not abuse its discretion.Garringer injured her right shoulder while working for Omni Manor. The next year, the Commission granted Garringer's request for medical-service reimbursement for a reverse total-shoulder arthroplasty. Omni Manor requested a writ of mandamus ordering the Commission to vacate its order granting the reimbursement request. The court of appeals denied the request. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Commission correctly applied the standard set forth in State ex rel. Miller v. Industrial Commission, 643 N.E.2d 113 (Ohio 1994); and (2) the Commission did not abuse its discretion in considering certain evidence. View "State ex rel. Omni Manor, Inc. v. Industrial Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court reducing Plaintiff's personal injury award against Bi-State Development Agency (hereinafter, "Metro") to comply with the statutory cap set forth for public entities afforded sovereign immunity pursuant to Mo. Rev. Stat. 537.610, holding that there is no conflict between section 537.610 and Mo. Rev. Stat. 70.439's adopted federal regulations.Plaintiff was injured when a Metro Call-A-Ride bus collided with Plaintiff's school bus. The jury awarded Plaintiff $1.878 million in damages. Metro filed a motion for remittitur, asserting that the award should be reduced pursuant to section 537.610, which sets the liability limitations for public entities. The circuit court sustained the motion and reduced the damage award to the statutory maximum plus interest. On appeal, Plaintiff argued that section 537.610 conflicts with section 70.249 because the latter statute adopted specific federal regulations and was enacted after section 537.610. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there is no conflict between section 537.610's plain statutory language providing for a damages cap and section 70.439 providing that Metro needs to comply with federal safety regulations to receive state funding. View "Moore v. Bi-State Development Agency" on Justia Law

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John and Tammy Sadek, the surviving parents of Andrew Sadek ("Andrew"), appealed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Jason Weber and Richland County, North Dakota. Defendant Jason Weber was a deputy with the Richland County Sheriff’s Office and a member of the South East Multi-County Agency Narcotics Task Force (“SEMCA”). Richland County was Weber’s employer and a participating agency in SEMCA. In 2013 Andrew Sadek was a student at the North Dakota State College of Science. In April 2013, two confidential informants purchased small quantities of marijuana from Andrew on two occasions. On November 21, 2013, officers searched Andrew's dorm room and found a marijuana grinder. At the time of the search, Weber informed Andrew about the felony charges he could face for the two April 2013 marijuana deliveries, and told him he could either take the charges or sign up to work as a confidential informant. Weber stated “a lot of this could go away” in exchange for his work as a confidential informant. Andrew agreed to work as a confidential informant, signing a Cooperating Individual Agreement. Weber told Andrew it was important for him not to tell anyone, including other law enforcement, that he was working as an informant. By January 2014, Andrew did three controlled buys of marijuana from two people, but subsequently lost contact with Weber. In April 2014, Weber told Andrew he would pursue the felony charges unless Andrew was able to line up additional controlled buys. Weber gave Andrew a deadline of May 1, 2014, to get the next deal done. On that day, Andrew was reported missing. His remains were found over a month later in the Red River; his backpack was tied to him and was full of rocks. The coroner determined Sadek died of a gunshot wound to the head, but the range of fire was not determined. No determination was made whether the cause of death was homicide, suicide or accidental. Andrew's parents sued Weber and Richland County, asserting claims of deceit and negligence. They alleged his death was directly related to his role as a confidential informant. The North Dakota Supreme Court determined that due to the lack of available evidence to suggest how, when, or even where Andrew died, a conclusion that his death was proximately caused by Defendants’ acts or omissions would be based on speculation. Therefore, summary judgment was appropriate and the district court did not err. View "Sadek, et al. v. Weber, et al." on Justia Law

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After Charles Sowers died of lung cancer caused by smoking cigarettes, plaintiff filed suit against the manufacturer of the cigarettes, R.J. Reynolds, under Florida's wrongful death statute. A jury found the company liable for his death and awarded compensatory damages.The Eleventh Circuit found no merit in R.J. Reynolds' contentions that it was entitled to a new trial based on an evidentiary ruling and based on statements plaintiff's attorney made in closing. The court also held that plaintiff is entitled to a trial on the issue of whether she should receive punitive damages on the negligence and strict liability claims and, if so, how much. Furthermore, the new trial on punitive damages that plaintiff is entitled to will not open up the liability and compensatory damages judgment that she has already obtained in the first trial. In this case, the findings underlying the first jury's comparative fault verdict are concerned solely with determining the amount of compensatory damages that will be awarded, and those findings do not overlap with the punitive damages findings that the remand jury will be called on to make in the course of deciding whether to punish R.J. Reynolds and attempt to deter others from similar conduct.Finally, unless it is successful in getting the court's judgment vacated or reversed, R.J. Reynolds will have to pay plaintiff the compensatory damages award, plus any applicable interest, promptly after the court's mandate issues instead of delaying payment until after the trial on punitive damages and any resulting appeal from the judgment in that trial is completed. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded with instructions. View "Sowers v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals dismissing Plaintiffs' appeal from the trial court's dismissal of Plaintiffs' complaint on the basis that a dismissal without prejudice based on forum non conveniens is not a final, appealable order, holding a trial court's order dismissing a case without prejudice based on the doctrine of forum non conveniens is not a final, appealable order pursuant to Ohio Rev. Code 2505.02.Plaintiffs were obligated under Kentucky law to pay workers' compensation benefits to a worker who was injured at Defendant's facility. They subsequently filed a lawsuit against against Defendant in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas in Ohio, seeking to recover the amount that they had been required to pay. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the complaint based on the doctrine of forum non conveniens, arguing that the action should be filed in the Circuit Court in Grant County, Kentucky. The trial court dismissed the case, without prejudice, based on forum non conveniens. The court of appeals dismissed Plaintiffs' appeal on the basis that a dismissal without prejudice based on forum non conveniens is not a final, appealable order. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the dismissal in this case was not a final, appealable order. View "Crown Services, Inc. v. Miami Valley Paper Tube Co." on Justia Law

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Wagon Wheel Canyon Loop Trail (the Trail) is located in Thomas F. Riley Wilderness Park (the Park), a public park owned and operated by Orange County, California. Before the incident at issue in this case, a wooden lodgepole fence ran perpendicularly across the mid-point of the eastern half of the Trail loop, serving as an entrance and exit for the Trail, and created a physical barrier cyclists had to maneuver around when riding either north or south on the Trail. Plaintiff Sean Nealy “had ridden his bicycle on and along [the Trail] several times in the past, [and] knew of the existence of the [perpendicular] wooden lodgepole fence." At some point unknown to plaintiff, the lodgepole fence was replaced with new fencing, which consisted of wooden fenceposts or “pylons” between which were strung horizontally, gray colored wire cables. Like the original lodgepole fence, the new perpendicular fence “divided” the southern and northern portions of the Trail loop, “separating each direction of travel.” However, the new fence actually ended before it reached the boundary of the Trail, and there was an opening between the fence’s western-most post and the parallel fencing at the western edge of the Trail. Plaintiff, an experienced cyclist, was riding his bicycle on the Trail. He noticed the lodgepole fence had been removed, but did not see the wire cables strung between the new fenceposts. He mistakenly believed he could ride between the fenceposts, but instead, rode directly into the wire cables, where he was thrown over the handlebars and onto the ground, resulting in serious injuries. He sued the County, alleging (1) Negligence (Premises Liability)”; and “(2) Dangerous Condition of Public Property.” County demurred, asserting plaintiff’s claims were barred both by Government Code section 831.4’s “trail immunity” and section 831.7’s “hazardous activity immunity.” The trial court sustained the demurrer based on trail immunity, finding the new fencing was a “condition” of the Trail for which County was statutorily immune. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court. View "Nealy v. County of Orange" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's order denying plaintiffs' request for entry of a default judgment and dismissing their wrongful death action against the terrorist organization Al Shabaab. This action stemmed from Al Shabaab's murder of 148 students in their dormitories at Garissa University in Kenya, including 21-year-old Angela Nyokabi Githakwa.The court held that the trial court did not violate the Githakwa Parties' due process rights by determining that it lacked jurisdiction over Al Shabaab. In this case, the trial court provided the Githakwa parties adequate notice and an opportunity to address personal jurisdiction. Furthermore, the trial court correctly concluded that it lacked personal jurisdiction over Al Shabaab where Al Shabaab is not subject to the trial court's general jurisdiction and the trial court lacked specific jurisdiction over Al Shabaab for the Garissa University attack. View "Brue v. Al Shabaab" on Justia Law