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In this negligence case, the Supreme Court held that the immunity provision of the Government Claims Act (GCA) that bars any statutory liability that might otherwise exist for injuries resulting from the condition of firefighting equipment or facilities, Cal. Gov't Code 850.4, does not deprive a court of fundamental jurisdiction but, rather, operates as an affirmative defense to liability. Plaintiff sued the Chester Fire Protection District and the Garden Valley Fire Protection District alleging that Defendants created a "dangerous condition" of public property for which public entities may be held liable under Cal. Gov't Code 835. Defendants did not allege the immunity conferred by section 850.4. After trial began, defense counsel presented a written motion for nonsuit in which Defendants for the first time invoked section 850.4. Plaintiff objected on the ground that Defendants waived section 850.4 immunity by failing to invoke the immunity in their answer. The trial court overruled the objection, concluding that governmental immunity is jurisdictional and can't be waived. The court of appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that section 850.4 immunity operates as an affirmative defense and not a jurisdictional bar. The Court remanded the case so the court of appeal may address the parties' remaining arguments in the first instance. View "Quigley v. Garden Valley Fire Protection District" on Justia Law

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In this case alleging negligence against a physician, the Supreme Court recognized a third-party cause of action for negligent misreporting of sexually transmitted disease (STD) test results, holding that a physician who mistakenly informs a patient that he does not have an STD may be held liable in ordinary negligence to the patient's exclusive sexual partner for her resulting injuries when the physician knows that the patient sought testing and treatment for the express benefit of that partner. Plaintiff sued Defendant, a physician, alleging that Defendant had been negligent by misreporting the STD test results of her sexual partner. The trial court granted Defendant's motion to strike, concluding that Defendant did not owe a duty of care to Plaintiff. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendant owed a duty of care to Plaintiff, even though she was not his patient. View "Doe v. Cochran" on Justia Law

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In this tort suit arising out of a basketball game the Supreme Court affirmed as modified the district court's determination that Plaintiff's injury arose out of conduct that was not willful or reckless but was inherent in the game of basketball, holding that participants in any sport are not liable for injuries caused by their conduct if their conduct was inherent in the sport. The district court held that Defendant, another player in the basketball game, owed no duty to Plaintiff because Plaintiff's injury arose out of conduct that was inherent in the game of basketball. The district court adopted a "contact sports exception" providing that participants in bodily contact sports are liable for injuries only when the injuries are the result of conduct that demonstrates a willful or reckless disregard for the safety of the other player. The Supreme Court affirmed on a modified basis, holding (1) the exception to liability arising out of sports injuries should not turn on the defendant's state of mind or be limited just to contact sports; (2) instead, voluntary participants in sports have no duty of care to avoid contact that is inherent in the activity; and (3) Defendant's conduct was inherent in the game of basketball. View "Nixon v. Clay" on Justia Law

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In May 2009 Jesse Collens, then 21 years old, was permanently injured in a bicycle accident that left him a C-1 quadriplegic, paralyzed from the neck down, and dependent on a ventilator to breathe. In December 2009 he contracted with Maxim Healthcare Services, a national healthcare corporation with a home healthcare division, to provide his nursing care. In late 2011 issues arose between Collens and Maxim over the company’s management of his care. These issues escalated, and in early March 2012, Alaina Adkins, Maxim’s Alaska office manager, met with Collens to discuss his main concerns with Maxim’s services. The following business day, Adkins emailed various members of Maxim’s legal and administrative staff about one of the issues Collens had raised. Internal concerns surfaced about the legal compliance of the staff working with Collens. In an email responding to the report, Maxim’s area vice president wrote, “We are in dangerous territory right now with the liability of this case and we are going to have to seriously consider discharge.” Collens’s care plan was subject to routine recertification every 60 days; Maxim’s Alaska Director of Clinical Services visited Collens’s house to complete the review necessary for this recertification, noting “discharge is not warranted.” Concurrent to the recertification, Adkins requested Maxim’s legal department provide her a draft discharge letter for Collens. The draft letter stated the discharge had been discussed with Collens’s physician and care coordinator and that they agreed with the discharge decision. But in fact neither approved the discharge. The draft letter also included a space for names of other entities that could provide the care needed by the patient. Adkins noted in an email to the legal department, “We already know that there are no providers in our area that provide this type of service.” The discharge letter she eventually delivered to Collens filled in the blank with four agency names. Adkins delivered and read aloud the discharge letter at Collens’s home on March 30. Collens sued Maxim and Adkins for breach of contract, fraudulent misrepresentation, unfair and deceptive acts and practices under Alaska’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act (UTPA), and intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED). The superior court ruled for Collens on all his claims and entered a $20,379,727.96 judgment against Adkins and Maxim, which included attorney’s fees. Maxim and Adkins appealed, arguing that: (1) they were not liable under the UTPA; (2) the superior court erred in precluding their expert witnesses from testifying at trial; (3) the court’s damages award was excessive; and (4) the court’s attorney’s fee award was unreasonable. The Alaska Supreme Court agreed the superior court’s attorney’s fee award was unreasonable, but on all other issues it affirmed the superior court’s decision. View "Maxim Healthcare Services, Inc. v. Collens" on Justia Law

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Mario Ayala was injured while driving a company truck in 2009, and was injured again in 2013 after falling from a ladder. After the hearing, but before the referee issued “recommended findings and determination” in accordance with Idaho Code section 72-717, the Industrial Commission reassigned the case to itself over Ayala’s objection. Citing the referee’s backlog of cases and a need for efficiency, the Industrial Commission issued an order finding that Ayala’s low-back condition was not causally related to his 2009 truck wreck, that he was not totally and permanently disabled under the odd-lot worker doctrine, and that he suffered disability of 40% of the whole person inclusive of impairment of his 2009 and 2013 industrial accidents. The Idaho Supreme Court set aside the Commission’s findings of fact, conclusions of law and order because Ayala was denied due process when the Industrial Commission reviewed Ayala’s claims and issued a decision without the referee’s recommended findings and determination. The Court also set aside the Industrial Commission’s post-hearing order on motion for reconsideration and order on motion for reconsideration, modification and consolidation, and remanded this matter for a new hearing. View "Ayala v. Meyers Farms" on Justia Law

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Matthew Dye brought an action against Esurance Property and Casualty Insurance Company and GEICO Indemnity Company, seeking personal protection insurance (PIP) benefits under the no-fault act, MCL 500.3101 et seq., for injuries he sustained in a motor vehicle accident while driving a vehicle he had recently purchased. At plaintiff’s request, plaintiff’s father had registered the vehicle in plaintiff’s name and obtained a no-fault insurance policy from Esurance. The declarations page of the policy identified only plaintiff’s father as the named insured. At the time of the accident, plaintiff was living with his wife, who owned a vehicle that was insured by GEICO. After Esurance and GEICO refused to cover plaintiff’s claim, plaintiff filed a breach-of-contract claim against both insurers along with a declaratory action, alleging that either Esurance or GEICO was obligated to pay his no-fault PIP benefits and requesting that the trial court determine the parties’ respective rights and duties. The issue this case presented for the Michigan Supreme Court’s review centered on whether an owner or registrant of a motor vehicle involved in an accident was excluded from receiving statutory no-fault insurance benefits under the no-fault act when someone other than an owner or registrant purchased no-fault insurance for that vehicle. The Court of Appeals concluded that “[a]t least one owner or registrant must have the insurance required by MCL 500.3101(1), and ‘when none of the owners maintains the requisite coverage, no owner may recover [personal injury protection (PIP)] benefits.’ ” The Supreme Court concluded an owner or registrant of a motor vehicle was not required to personally purchase no-fault insurance for his or her vehicle in order to avoid the statutory bar to PIP benefits. Rather, MCL 500.3101(1) only requires that the owner or registrant “maintain” no-fault insurance. The Court reversed in part the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remanded this case to the circuit court for further proceedings. View "Dye v. Esurance Property & Casualty Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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In this family dispute concerning an inheritance from the mother of two sets of sisters the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court ruling that May Harris and Jody Mattena committed a variety of torts in relation to the inheritance and finding them liable for compensatory and punitive damages, holding that the trial court did not err in its rulings during the course of the proceeding. Specifically, the Court held (1) the Liability Reform Act's provision for apportionment of damages, Utah Code 78B-5-818(4)(a), is mandatory only upon a request by a party, and therefore, in absence of a request for apportionment, a trial court acts within its discretion in falling back on the default of joint and several liability; and (2) the provision in Utah Code 78B-8-201(2) providing that evidence of a party's wealth or financial condition shall be admissible only after a finding of liability for punitive damages has been made does not mandate bifurcation of a punitive damages trial in a case in which no party sought to introduce evidence of wealth or financial condition, and the introduction of such evidence is not required as a prerequisite to the availability of a punitive damages award. View "Biesele v. Mattena" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that her baby's brain damage was caused by a doctor's medical malpractice. The district court agreed and awarded defendant over $7 million dollars in damages. The Fourth Circuit reversed and held that the district court clearly erred by finding that plaintiff presented sufficient evidence to establish that the doctor violated the applicable standard of care. In this case, the district court's finding on breach was not supported by plaintiff's own expert testimony. Therefore, the district court erred in finding that the doctor was liable for malpractice. View "Butts v. United States" on Justia Law

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Kelly McCarthy appealed after a district court dismissed her complaint against Dr. Ariane Getz with prejudice. On September 23, 2015, McCarthy’s daughter died by suicide. Prior to her death, McCarthy’s daughter received psychological counseling from Dr. Getz for several months for symptoms relating to anxiety and depression. McCarthy’s daughter had ten total visits with Dr. Getz, occurring roughly once to twice a month. McCarthy’s daughter was a minor when she was first seen by Dr. Getz, but turned 18 prior to her death. During the course of her visits with Dr. Getz, McCarthy’s daughter expressed self-injurious behavior, anxiety, depression, passive thoughts about suicide, discord with her mother, and inconsistency in taking her medications. McCarthy’s daughter’s last visit with Dr. Getz occurred on September 10, 2015. On September 23, 2015, prior to discovering her daughter’s death, McCarthy contacted Dr. Getz to report her daughter missing. McCarthy requested Dr. Getz put her daughter on a 72-hour hold once located. On September 22, 2017, one day shy of the two-year anniversary of her daughter’s death, McCarthy filed a complaint with the district court. On November 9, 2017, McCarthy filed a summons and complaint alleging malpractice against Dr. Getz. McCarthy’s issue on appeal was whether the district court erred as a matter of law in granting the motion for summary judgment based on the statute of limitations. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed, concluding the district court did not err in determining McCarthy’s claim was barred by the statute of limitations. View "McCarthy v. Getz" on Justia Law

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Branden Wilkens appealed a district court judgment and order dismissing his complaint against Tarin Westby without prejudice, concluding service under N.D.C.C. 39-01-11 was improper. Wilkens and Westby were involved in a car accident in North Dakota, resulting in Westby’s death. In February 2018, Wilkens served a summons and complaint asserting a claim of negligence against Westby upon the director of the Department of Transportation (“the Department”) under N.D.C.C. 39-01-11, which allowed residents to serve legal process upon the director of the Department when the party being served was: (1) a resident absent from the state continuously for at least six months following an accident, or (2) a nonresident. In March 2018, an attorney answered on Westby’s behalf, moving to dismiss the complaint, arguing personal jurisdiction was lacking and service under the statute was improper, because Westby, a deceased person, did not fit into the definition of “nonresident,” under the statute and was not “absent from the state” by virtue of his death. The district court concluded Westby was neither a “nonresident,” nor “absent from the state” by virtue of his death for purposes of service. The court granted Westby’s motion to dismiss without prejudice, basing its decision on lack of jurisdiction, but recognized the practical effect, based on the statute of limitations, would be a dismissal with prejudice. Wilkens appealed from the court’s order dismissing his claim. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Wilkens v. Westby" on Justia Law