by
Plaintiff, by his parent and legal guardian, filed suit against the United States for negligence and negligent supervision, alleging that the Government knew or should have known of the sexual abuse history of a priest that was hired at the Tripler Army Medical Center, and that the Government was negligent in failing to warn families of the priest's sexual propensities. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the action based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction because the United States was entitled to sovereign immunity. The court held that the decision whether to warn of the priest's sexual propensities or to take other action to restrict his contact with children was susceptible to policy analysis. The court explained that balancing safety, reputational interests, and confidentiality was the kind of determination the discretionary function exception was designed to shield and thus the Government's conduct was within the discretionary function exception. View "Croyle v. United States" on Justia Law

by
At issue in this appeal was whether the statutory scheme regulating intrastate motor carriers imputes an employer-employee relationship between a general contractor and a subcontracting motor carrier’s employee for purposes of vicarious liability under respondent superior. The employee of a registered motor carrier caused an accident while returning the motor carrier’s truck after delivering the final load of the day under a contract between the motor carrier and a general contractor, also a registered motor carrier. The representative of the injured party sued the the driver, the driver’s employer, and the general contractor. The trial court granted summary judgment for the general contractor. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the driver was not a common law employee or a statutory employee of the general contractor for purposes of vicarious liability under respondeat superior; and (2) the general contractor was not liable under any of the exceptions to a general contractor’s nonliability for the acts or omissions of an independent contractor. View "Cruz v. Lopez" on Justia Law

by
Sallie Amerson sued Inland Family Clinic LLC and Dr. Ikechukwu Okorie over an allegedly defamatory statement Dr. Okorie made to another physician concerning Amerson’s apparent use of illegal drugs. The Defendants moved for summary judgment, contending the statements were privileged, but the Circuit Court denied the motion. Inland and Dr. Okorie petitioned the Mississippi Supreme Court for interlocutory review, which was granted. After consideration, the Supreme Court reversed the circuit court and rendered judgment in favor of Inland and Dr. Okorie. The Court found there was no genuine issue of material fact as to the substance of Dr. Okorie’s communication to the other physician regarding Amerson’s drug-test results. “By all accounts, the communication concerned Amerson’s continuing medical treatment and satisfied all of the elements of the qualified privilege. Since Amerson failed to produce any evidence of malice, her defamation claims fail as a matter of law.” View "Inland Family Practice Center, LLC v. Amerson" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs Jacob McGehee and Steven Ray Heath appealed a district court’s grant of summary judgment to defendants Forest Oil Corp. and Lantern Drilling Co. Forest and Lantern leased a drilling device from Teledrift, plaintiffs’ employer, and returned the device after using it in drilling operations. Plaintiffs then proceeded to clean and disassemble it. McGehee discovered several small bolts had fallen into the device. While he attempted to remove them, the lithium battery inside the device exploded, injuring himself and Heath. They sued Forest and Lantern for negligently causing the explosion by allowing bolts to fall into the device. Following discovery, Forest and Lantern moved for summary judgment, which the district court granted, holding they did not owe the plaintiffs a duty of care under Oklahoma tort law. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "McGehee v. Southwest Electronic Energy" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff-petitioner Charissa Schultz was injured in a 2015 car accident in which the other driver failed to stop at a stop sign. The other driver’s insurance company settled for its $25,000 policy limit, and Schultz made a demand on her own uninsured/underinsured motorist benefits under her GEICO policy, which also had a $25,000 limit. In April 2017, after months of correspondence and apparent review of an MRI performed on Schultz in April 2015, GEICO offered Schultz its full policy limit, and it did so without requesting that she undergo an independent medical examination (“IME”). Indeed, GEICO’s claim logs reveal that at the time GEICO decided to offer Schultz its policy limits, it “concede[d] peer review wouldn’t be necessary,” indicating an affirmative decision not to request an IME. A few months later, Schultz filed the present lawsuit asserting claims for bad faith breach of an insurance contract and unreasonable delay in the payment of covered benefits. GEICO denied liability, disputing the extent and cause of Schultz’s claimed injuries and asserting that causation surrounding the knee replacement surgeries was “fairly debatable” because Schultz had preexisting arthritis, which GEICO claimed may independently have necessitated her surgeries. To establish its defense, GEICO ordered the IME and the district court granted that request. The Colorado Supreme Court concluded GEICO’s conduct had to be evaluated based on the evidence before it when it made its coverage decision and that, therefore, GEICO was not entitled to create new evidence in order to try to support its earlier coverage decision. The Court also concluded the district court abused its discretion when it ordered Schultz to undergo an IME over three years after the original accident that precipitated this case and a year and a half after GEICO had made the coverage decision at issue. View "Schultz v. GEICO Casualty Company" on Justia Law

by
The Georgia Supreme Court granted a petition for a writ of certiorari in this case to reconsider Hines v. Georgia Ports Authority, 604 SE2d 189 (2004), and more specifically, its holding that the Georgia Ports Authority was not an “arm of the state” and therefore, had no sovereign immunity from a lawsuit in a state court to recover damages under federal maritime law for the tort of a Ports Authority employee. The Court overruled Hines and concluded the Ports Authority was indeed an “arm of the state” and had sovereign immunity from lawsuits to recover damages under federal maritime law for the torts of its employees. View "Georgia Ports Authority v. Lawyer" on Justia Law

by
The Washington Supreme Court was presented an issue of first impression: whether Washington should adopt the "apparent manufacturer" doctrine for common law product liability claims predating the 1981 product liability and tort reform act (WPLA). By this opinion, the Court joined the clear majority of states that formally adopted the apparent manufacturer doctrine. Applying that doctrine to the particular facts of this case, the Court held genuine issues of material fact existed as to whether a reasonable consumer could have believed Pfizer was a manufacturer of asbestos products that caused Vernon Rublee's illness and death. The Court reversed the court of appeals and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Rublee v. Carrier Corp." on Justia Law

by
Heidi Hendrickson filed suit against the Moses Lake School District to recover for injuries she suffered while operating a table saw in a woodshop class at Moses Lake High School. The jury found the District was negligent, but that its negligence was not a proximate cause of Hendrickson's injuries. Hendrickson appealed, arguing the trial court erred in instructing the jury that the District owed a her a duty of ordinary care instead of a heightened duty. The Court of Appeals agreed with Hendrickson and reversed, remanding for a new trial. The Washington Supreme Court disagreed with the appellate court, however, finding school districts were subject to an ordinary duty of care. As a result, the Supreme Court reinstated the jury's verdict. View "Hendrickson v. Moses Lake Sch. Dist." on Justia Law

by
Former foster children brought a case against the Department of Social and Health Service (DSHS) alleging negligence in failing to protect them from the tortious or criminal acts of their foster (and later, adoptive) parents. At the close of evidence, the trial court granted the Department's CR 50 motion and dismissed the children's claims of negligence concerning the preadoption-foster care period. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding DSHS owed them a common law duty to protect dependent foster children from foreseeable harm based on the special relationship between DSHS and such children. The Washington Supreme Court agreed with this reasoning, and remanded for trial on the children's preadoption claims. View "H.B.H. v. Washington" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendant on Plaintiff’s defective design claim, holding that, under the facts and circumstances of this case, Plaintiff’s misuse of a tool was the cause of his injuries and could not have been reasonably expected by Defendant, the tool’s manufacturer. In his complaint, Plaintiff alleged that the tool was defective in its design. Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the evidence established that Plaintiff misused the tool by failing to follow its directions. The trial court found that Plaintiff misused the tool and that he was at least fifty-one percent responsible for his injuries. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment for Defendant, holding (1) the misuse defense serves as a complete defense; and (2) Plaintiff’s injuries could have been avoided had he followed the instructions, and Defendant could not reasonably expect that a consumer would misuse the tool in the manner that Plaintiff did. View "Campbell Hausfeld/Scott Fetzer Co. v. Johnson" on Justia Law