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Dennis Woolman, former president of The Clemens Coal Company, challenged a district court’s determination that Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Company didn’t breach a duty to him by failing to procure for Clemens Coal an insurance policy with a black-lung disease endorsement. Clemens Coal operated a surface coal mine until it filed for bankruptcy in 1997. Woolman served as Clemens Coal’s last president before it went bankrupt. Federal law required Clemens Coal to maintain worker’s compensation insurance with a special endorsement covering miners’ black-lung disease benefits. Woolman didn’t personally procure insurance for Clemens Coal but instead delegated that responsibility to an outside consultant. The policy the consultant ultimately purchased for the company did not contain a black-lung-claim endorsement, and it expressly excluded coverage for federal occupational disease claims, such as those arising under the Black Lung Benefits Act (the Act). In 2012, a former Clemens Coal employee, Clayton Spencer, filed a claim with the United States Department of Labor (DOL) against Clemens Coal for benefits under the Act. After some investigation, the DOL advised Woolman that Clemens Coal was uninsured for black-lung-benefits claims as of July 25, 1997 (the last date of Spencer’s employment) and that, without such coverage, Woolman, as Clemens Coal’s president, could be held personally liable. Woolman promptly tendered the claim to Liberty Mutual for a legal defense. Liberty Mutual responded with a reservation-of-rights letter, stating that it hadn’t yet determined coverage for Spencer’s claim but that it would provide a defense during its investigation. Then in a follow-up letter, Liberty Mutual clarified that it would defend Clemens Coal as a company (not Woolman personally) and advised Woolman to retain his own counsel. Liberty Mutual eventually concluded that the insurance policy didn’t cover the black-lung claim, and sued Clemens Coal and Woolman for a declaration to that effect. In his suit, Woolman also challenged the district court’s rejection of his argument that Liberty Mutual should have been estopped from denying black-lung-disease coverage, insisting that he relied on Liberty Mutual to provide such coverage. Having considered the totality of the circumstances, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded the district court didn’t err in declining Woolman’s extraordinary request to expand the coverages in the Liberty Mutual policy. “Liberty Mutual never represented it would procure the coverage that Woolman now seeks, and the policy itself clearly excludes such coverage. No other compelling consideration justifies rewriting the agreement— twenty years later—to Woolman’s liking.” View "Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance v. Woolman" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the determination of the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court that it lacked jurisdiction over Appellant’s petition and dismissing his claim, holding that the compensation court correctly dismissed Appellant’s petition for injuries sustained on the job in Alaska. Appellant was a Nebraska resident when he was hired by Trident Seafoods, a State of Washington corporation without a permanent presence in Nebraska. Appellant sustained a work-related injury while working at Trident Seafoods’ Alaska plant. Appellant filed a petition in the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court claiming benefits under the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act. The compensation court dismissed the petition for lack of jurisdiction, finding that Trident Seafoods was not a statutory employer under Neb. Rev. Stat. 48-106(1). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Trident Seafoods was not a statutory employer, and therefore, the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act did not apply. View "Hassan v. Trident Seafoods" on Justia Law

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Mary Mac Atkinson alleged she was injured after slipping on a liquid substance at Clinton Healthcare. After the parties conducted significant amounts of discovery, Atkinson moved for a spoliation determination, requesting a spoliation jury instruction regarding a missing video, and moved for partial summary judgment as to liability. Clinton Healthcare moved for summary judgment. The trial court granted the motion for spoliation, granted Atkinson’s motion for partial summary judgment, and denied Clinton Healthcare’s motion for summary judgment. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined genuine issues of material fact remained, and the trial court erred by granting Atkinson’s motion for partial summary judgment, but correctly denied Clinton Healthcare’s motion for summary judgment. Additionally, the Supreme Court found the trial court’s order regarding spoliation and the entitlement to a spoliation jury instruction was premature. Therefore, the trial court was affirmed in part, reversed in part, the spoliation order was vacated, and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Clinton Healthcare, LLC v. Atkinson" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against pharmaceutical companies, alleging that they were liable for substantial gambling and other financial losses that resulted from obsessive compulsive behavior, a side effect of taking a dopamine agonist called Mirapex for his Parkinson's disease. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment dismissing all claims as barred by the applicable California statute of limitations. The court rejected plaintiff's contention that the statute should be tolled because he was insane when the cause of action accrued; rejected plaintiff's contention that each ingestion of the drug gave rise to a separate and distinct claim under the continuing violations doctrine; and held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying a motion to stay defendants' motion for summary judgment. View "Mancini v. Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the order of the district court dismissing Plaintiff’s contract and tort claims for lack of personal jurisdiction, holding that the federal court in Puerto Rico lacked personal jurisdiction over Defendants. Plaintiff, a Puerto Rico tour company, brought this diversity suit in the United States District of Puerto Rico, alleging that a California youth soccer organization and related defendants breached duties that the organization owed to Plaintiff under Puerto Rico contract and tort law. The allegations centered around Defendants’ acts of first requesting that Plaintiff make an offer for a potential soccer trip to Puerto Rico for some of the organization’s teams and their families and then declining after further communications to book the tour. The district court dismissed the claims for lack of personal jurisdiction. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the exercise of specific jurisdiction in the forum over the out-of-forum defendants did not conform to the federal constitutional test. View "PREP Tours, Inc. v. American Youth Soccer Organization" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-appellants were an adult daughter (believed to be incompetent) and her mother. After retaining counsel, the mother brought a tort action as the daughter’s next friend for in utero injuries to the daughter, which the mother alleged were caused almost 20 years previously in a boating accident. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, but they also offered to permit plaintiffs to dismiss the case with each side to bear its own costs and fees. The plaintiffs’ attorney believed that accepting this walk-away offer was in the daughter’s best interest, but the mother disagreed. Facing a conflict of interest between his two clients, the attorney moved to withdraw. The superior court permitted the attorney to withdraw and ultimately granted the unopposed motion for summary judgment and awarded costs and fees against both plaintiffs. The mother and daughter appealed. The Alaska Supreme Court held that before granting the attorney’s motion to withdraw the court should have determined the daughter’s competency, and if she was found incompetent the court should have appointed a guardian ad litem or taken further action to protect her interests pursuant to Alaska Civil Rule 17(c). Therefore, the Court reversed the trial court’s orders granting the motion to withdraw and summary judgment, vacated the award of attorney’s fees and costs, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Bravo v. Aker" on Justia Law

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Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Inc. ("MBUSI"), petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for mandamus relief, ordering the circuit court to vacate an order denying change of venue from Jefferson County to Tuscaloosa. Gregory Nix was a resident of Jefferson County; he was employed as an assembly worker at MBUSI's manufacturing facility in Tuscaloosa County until June 23, 2017. Nix alleges that, during his employment with MBUSI, he suffered on-the-job injuries the cumulative effect of which have left him permanently and totally disabled. The Supreme Court determined there was not sufficient evidence before the trial court to support a conclusion that venue in Jefferson County was proper in this case. "The regular purchasing of parts or materials from a supplier located in a certain county, by itself, does not constitute '[doing] business by agent' in that county under section 6-3-7(a)(3), Ala. Code 1975." The Court therefore issued the writ granting mandamus relief. View "Ex parte Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the circuit court’s denial of summary judgment to the City of New Berlin and the New Berlin Parks and Recreation Department (collectively, New Berlin) on this negligence action, holding that the known danger exception to governmental immunity applied in this case. Eight-year-old Lily Engelhardt drowned in a swimming pool at an aquatic center in a field trip organized and run by the New Berlin Parks and Recreation Department. While the “playground coordinator” was informed the Lily could not swim, Lily drowned while staff were changing in the locker rooms. After Lily’s parents filed suit, New Berlin moved for summary judgment, asserting that it was immune from suit pursuant to the governmental immunity statute, Wis. Stat. 893.80(4). The circuit court denied the motion. The court of appeals reversed and granted New Berlin’s motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the danger to which Lily was exposed at the pool was compelling and self-evident, and therefore, the staff had a ministerial duty to give Lily a swim test before allowing her near the pool; and (2) because the staff did not perform this ministerial duty, New Berlin was not entitled to the defense of governmental immunity. View "Engelhardt v. City of New Berlin" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting Defendants’ motions to dismiss Plaintiff’s claim under the State Tort Claims Act (STCA), holding that the district court did not err in dismissing Plaintiff’s action against the State. Plaintiff, an inmate in the custody of the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (DCS), alleged in his complaint that his personal property was seized and improperly disposed of by DCS personnel. The district court concluded (1) Plaintiff’s claims against the individual defendants were barred by qualified immunity, and (2) as to the State, the claim was barred under Neb. Rev. Stat. 81-8,219(2) because the claim was an exception to the STCA’s waiver of sovereign immunity. Defendant appealed from the portion of the order dismissing his action against the State. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because the DCS personnel that detained Defendant’s property were “law enforcement officer[s]” covered by the exception to the waiver of sovereign immunity under section 81-8,219(2), the State did not waive sovereign immunity from Defendant’s claims. View "Rouse v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed a district court order denying Appellant’s special motion to dismiss, holding that the district court properly denied Appellant’s special motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Nevada’s anti-SLAPP statutes. Appellant was sued under Nevada’s Deceptive Trade Practice and RICO statutes. In denying the special motion to dismiss, the district court found that Appellant failed to demonstrate that his conduct was “a good faith communication that was either truthful or made without knowledge of its falsehood,” one of the statutory requirements for anti-SLAPP protection. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the appropriate standard of review for a district court’s denial or grant of an anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss is de novo; and (2) the district court did not err in denying Appellant’s special motion to dismiss because Appellant failed to demonstrate that the challenged claims arose from activity protected by Nev. Rev. Stat. 41.660. View "Coker v. Sassone" on Justia Law