Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

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Appellant Marivel Santos was employed by respondent Crenshaw Manufacturing, Inc. (Crenshaw) in January 2017 as a machine operator on the production floor. Santos alleged that sometime in the second week of January 2017, she was instructed by her supervisor, Jose Flores, to operate a material-forming machine utilizing a die without any protective guards or cages. Ordinarily, Santos would have had to use both hands to operate the machine. This time, however, Flores instructed her to operate it “from the side using a bypass button.” Using the machine in this manner allowed Santos to operate the machine with her right hand, leaving her left hand free to reach into the machine to “press down the part” being cut. On January 12, 2017, Santos was operating the machine in this fashion when her left hand was crushed underneath the die, mutilating and severely injuring it. She filed a workers’ compensation claim against Crenshaw, and the Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) investigated. In the 1980s, the California Legislature passed Labor Code section 4558's “power press exception” to the principle of workers’ compensation exclusivity, giving a right of action to employees injured by their employer’s knowing removal of or failure to install a point of operation guard on a power press when required by the manufacturer. In this case, the issue presented for the Court of Appeal's review centered on whether the power press exception applied when the manufacturer, 45 years prior to passage of the law, conveyed a more general requirement for guards which went completely unheeded by the present user. Under these unique circumstances, the Court concluded there were triable issues of material fact as to whether the employer violated the statute and reversed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in the employer’s favor. View "Santos v. Crenshaw Manufacturing, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgments of the district court dismissing Appellants' automobile negligence actions after the court determined that they were barred by the parental immunity doctrine, holding that the automobile negligence claims alleged in these cases fell outside the scope of Nebraska's parental immunity doctrine.Mother was driving a car with her minor children when the vehicle left the roadway and rolled several times. Mother and her daughter died from injuries sustained in the accident, and her son was seriously injured. The daughter's estate filed a wrongful death and survival action against Mother's estate, and the son filed a separate negligence action against Mother's estate. Both actions alleged that Mother's negligent operation of the vehicle caused the accident. The district court granted summary judgment for Mother's estate, concluding that the doctrine of parental immunity applied to bar the negligence claims. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the negligence actions were not barred by the doctrine of parental immunity. View "Nolasco v. Malcom" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court granting Goshen County Fairgrounds summary judgment on its assertion of governmental immunity and dismissing Plaintiff's negligence action, holding that Plaintiff did not establish a genuine issue of material fact that would preclude summary judgment on the basis of the Fairgrounds' immunity.Plaintiff fell at an event held in one of the Goshen County Fairgrounds' buildings. Plaintiff filed a complaint against Goshen county, the State, and the Fairgrounds, alleging negligence. The district court granted summary judgment for the Fairgrounds. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that disputed issues of material fact did not exist so as to preclude summary judgment on the question of whether the Fairgrounds and its employees were negligent in the operation or maintenance of the building. View "Varela v. Goshen County Fairgrounds" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court answered a certified question by holding that a mass shooting committed by Patrick Dell was a single "incident or occurrence" for purposes of Fla. Stat. 768.28(5) and that the cumulative liability for all claims of injury resulting from the incident may not exceed the aggregate cap of $200,000 set forth in section 768.28(5).Dell fatally shot his former wife and four of her children and severely wounded a fifth child. Plaintiffs, the two fathers of the deceased and injured children, sued the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) alleging wrongful death and negligence. The trial court granted partial summary judgment for Plaintiffs and determined that each wrongful death or personal injury claim was eligible for the $100,000 per person and $200,000 per claim limitation found in section 768.28(5). The court of appeal reversed, concluding that the claims arose from the same incident of negligence, and therefore, the $200,000 cap per incident or occurrence applied to limit recovery for all claims. The Supreme Court approved of the court of appeal's result, holding that the claims stemming from the mass shooting of Dell's victims were subject to the $200,000 aggregate cap for damages paid by the State, its agencies, or subdivisions. View "Barnett v. State, Department of Financial Services" on Justia Law

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Named plaintiffs filed a two-count class-action complaint on behalf of “all residents of the City of Chicago who have resided in an area where the City has replaced water mains or meters between January 1, 2008, and the present.” The complaint raises claims of negligence and inverse condemnation in relation to the replacement of water meters and water main pipes, as well as the partial replacement of lead service lines that run between the water mains and residences throughout Chicago. The complaint claimed the city’s actions created an increased risk that lead will be dislodged or leach from the residents’ individual service lines. The appellate court reversed the dismissal of the complaint.The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the dismissal. The complaint did not allege that anyone is suffering from any physical impairment, dysfunction, or physically disabling consequence caused by the city's actions. An increased risk of harm is not, itself, an injury consistent with the traditional understanding of tort law. The plaintiffs have alleged only that the replacement of water mains and meters has made the proposed class members’ property “more dangerous.” The concept of “dangerousness” is not susceptible to objective measurement and, thus, cannot by itself constitute damage under the Illinois takings clause. View "Berry v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Sharla Whipple's twenty-three year old, unmarried son lost his life in a work related accident. Under the Workers Compensation Act, only a spouse, child, or legal guardian could file a Workers Compensation death benefit claim when a work related death occurs. Whipple's son had no spouse, child or legal guardian. Consequently, Whipple's only remedy was to file a wrongful death action. However, the trial court granted partial summary judgment against Whipple, determining that her only remedy was limited to the Workers Compensation system, rather than the district court. Whipple appealed. The Oklahoma Supreme Court held that the right of a parent as the next of kin to bring a wrongful death action when the decedent was an adult, unmarried, and childless, was established in the law pursuant to 12 O.S. 2011 section1053 and by art. 23 section 7 of the Oklahoma Constitution. Therefore, the Legislative attempt to limit recovery for wrongful death pursuant to 85A O.S. Supp. 2014 section 47 to a spouse, child or legal guardian dependent on the decedent was a nullity. "The Okla. Const ... prohibits the abrogation of the right to recover for injuries resulting in death. The Legislature may limit the recovery, but may not eliminate the right to recover." View "Whipple v. Phillips & Sons Trucking" on Justia Law

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Alita, her son, and her stepfather died in a fire that engulfed their Philadelphia apartment. With the building already burning, Alita had called 911. A fire department operator instructed her to remain inside, promising help was on the way. Firefighters initially drove to the wrong location and, at the scene, never learned that the family was waiting. The firefighters extinguished the blaze without a search, leaving all three trapped in their home where they perished from smoke inhalation. Days passed before firefighters returned and discovered their bodies. Their estates sued the city and two fire department employees.The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The state-created danger theory does not apply. The dispatcher did not act affirmatively to create the danger, but only failed to communicate the family’s location, and the operator’s behavior did not shock the conscience. The employees neglected to relay the information through error, omission, or oversight. There is no plausible allegation that the city was deliberately indifferent to anyone’s substantive due process rights. Rejecting a negligence argument based on the history of problems at the residence, and failure to fix the building’s fire hazards, the court reasoned that the city was immune from these claims because it had insufficient control over the building. View "Johnson v. City of Philadelphia" on Justia Law

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Nineteen-year-old Mark Zwierzynski permitted underage adult friends to consume alcoholic beverages in his home. Nineteen-year-old Brandon Narleski and twenty-year-old Nicholas Gomes left the home severely intoxicated. Shortly afterwards, Gomes lost control of his vehicle and crashed. Narleski died at the scene. Gomes’s blood alcohol concentration was twice the legal limit. The issue this case presented for the New Jersey Supreme Court's review was whether the common law imposed a duty on underage adults -- over the age of eighteen but under twenty-one -- to refrain from making their homes a safe haven for underage guests to consume alcoholic beverages and, if so, what the standard for liability would be if an underage guest, who becomes intoxicated, afterwards drives a motor vehicle and injures or kills a third party. The Court held an underage adult defendant may be held civilly liable to a third-party drunk driving victim if the defendant facilitated the use of alcohol by making his home available as a venue for underage drinking, regardless of whether he was a leaseholder or titleholder of the property; if the guest causing the crash became visibly intoxicated in the defendant’s home; and if it was reasonably foreseeable that the visibly intoxicated guest would leave the residence to operate a motor vehicle and cause injury to another. The Appellate Division was reversed, the trial court's grant of summary judgment to Zwierzynski was vacated, and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Estate of Brandon Narleski v. Gomes" on Justia Law

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Stephanie Koussaya was taken hostage, along with two other women, by three armed bank robbers, Alex Martinez, Jaime Ramos, and Gilbert Renteria, Jr., used as a human shield in order to facilitate the robbers’ escape from the bank. The hostages were forced into a Ford Explorer belonging to one of the hostages, Kelly Huber. A high-speed chase with law enforcement followed. Huber was pushed out of the moving vehicle after Ramos shot her in the leg. For Koussaya and the other hostage, Misty Holt-Singh, the pursuit lasted for more than an hour, reaching speeds of over 100 miles per hour, and included exchanges of gunfire between Martinez, who was firing an AK-47 assault rifle out of the back of the Explorer, and two Stockton Police Department (SPD) officers. Koussaya ultimately decided her best chance at surviving the ordeal was to open one of the rear side doors and throw herself from the moving vehicle: she believed that if she did not jump from the vehicle she would be killed by the special weapons and tactics (SWAT) team when the chase inevitably came to an end. Minutes after Koussaya’s escape, the chase did come to an end, at which point police officers fired several hundred rounds into the Explorer, killing two of the robbers and the remaining hostage. Having sustained serious injuries during her escape from the Explorer, Koussaya sued the City of Stockton and its police department (collectively, the City), as well as two officers, asserting causes of action for assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED), and general negligence. The City and officer defendants filed separate motions for summary judgment. The trial court granted the motions and entered judgment in favor of defendants. Koussaya appealed. The Court of Appeal, after review, affirmed the trial court. Though the Court found the trial court abused its discretion in ruling on an evidentiary matter and also misapplied the Government Claims Act to improperly limit the scope of Koussaya’s claims, taking into account the improperly excluded evidence and properly viewing the factual basis of her claims against the officer defendants and the City, the Court determined each defendant was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. View "Koussaya v. City of Stockton" on Justia Law

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Deitrick Bryant ("Deitrick") committed suicide in his cell while he was an inmate at the Greene County, Alabama jail. Deitrick's mother, as the administrator of his estate, sued two jail employees, alleging that their negligence allowed Deitrick's suicide to happen. The trial court entered a summary judgment in favor of the jail employees, and Deitrick's mother appealed. "The controlling factor in determining whether there may be a recovery for a failure to prevent a suicide is whether the defendants reasonably should have anticipated that the deceased would attempt to harm himself." The Alabama Supreme Court determined Bryant failed to put forth evidence that would allow a factfinder to conclude that jail staff could have anticipated Deitrick's suicide. Accordingly, the summary judgment entered by the trial court was affirmed. View "Bryant v. Carpenter" on Justia Law