Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries
Ex parte McCoy, Scott, and Henderson.
James Olvey was killed when his vehicle was struck head on by a vehicle driven by Donald Wright II, who was driving the wrong way on Interstate 65 ("I-65") while attempting to flee the police. James Griffin, the personal representative of Olvey's estate, sued Wright, the City of Trafford ("Trafford"), the City of Warrior ("Warrior"), and other named and fictitiously named parties, alleging that they shared responsibility for Olvey's death. Over a year later, Griffin amended his complaint to substitute Trafford police officer Dylan McCoy and Warrior police officers Stephen Scott and James Henderson ("the defendant officers") for fictitiously named defendants. The defendant officers moved to enter a judgment in their favor, arguing that the amended complaint was untimely and thus barred by the applicable statute of limitations. The trial court denied their motion, and the defendant officers petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for mandamus relief. After review of the trial court record, the Supreme Court determined Griffin had ample opportunity to discover the identities of the defendant officers before filing suit - and did not follow through. Therefore, he was not able to avoid the bar of the statute of limitations, and the defendant officers were entitled to the writ of mandamus. View "Ex parte McCoy, Scott, and Henderson." on Justia Law
Nix v. Myers
Anthony Nix, a police officer for the City of Haleyville ("the City"), and the City appealed a judgment entered on a jury verdict in favor of John Myers. Myers filed suit asserting claims of negligence, wantonness, and negligence per se against Officer Nix and, based on the doctrine of respondeat superior, the City. Myers also asserted that the City had negligently and/or wantonly hired, trained, and supervised Officer Nix. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the trial court reversibly erred by providing the trial court to provide to the jury a copy of the statutes upon which the jury had been charged. Accordingly, Officer Nix and the City were entitled to a reversal of the judgment and a new trial. View "Nix v. Myers" on Justia Law
Ex parte Harbor Freight Tools USA, Inc.
Harbor Freight Tools USA, Inc. ("Harbor Freight"), petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Lowndes Circuit Court to vacate its order granting a motion to compel discovery in an action Thomas and Juanita Webster ("the Websters") brought against Harbor Freight and others and to enter a protective order involving the requested discovery. The Websters previously hired Randall "Bubba" Wills and Jason Little to construct and install an elevator system in their house. In November 2016, Wills repaired the elevator system. To complete the repairs, Wills purchased from Harbor Freight a "Haul Master" 4,000-pound lifting block. According to Harbor Freight, its instruction manual for the lifting block expressly stated that the lifting block should not be used to transport people in an elevator system. Despite a posted warning, Wills tested the elevator system and rode in the elevator basket with Thomas Webster after Wills had installed the lifting block and completed the repairs. In December 2016, the Websters, along with their son Robbie, were riding in the elevator basket when it fell. To the extent that Harbor Freight sought mandamus relief on the grounds that the trial court's July 16, 2020, order granting the Websters' motion to compel failed to limit discovery, the Supreme Court determined the petition for mandamus relief was premature because Harbor Freight failed to seek a protective order raising the need for those limitations on discovery after the trial court entered the order granting the Websters' motion to compel. To the extent that Harbor Freight sought mandamus relief based on the trial court's implicit denial of its motion to adopt its proposed protective order, the Court determined Harbor Freight failed to demonstrate that any information that might be disclosed by providing the requested documents warrants the protections outlined in the proposed protective order. Accordingly, Harbor Freight's petition was denied. View "Ex parte Harbor Freight Tools USA, Inc." on Justia Law
Ex parte Michael Brown.
Michael Brown petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Lee Circuit Court to dismiss, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), Ala. R. Civ. P., the complaint filed against him by Christopher Beamon. Brown claimed the complaint should have been dismissed on the basis that the claims asserted in the complaint were barred by the applicable statute of limitations and that the doctrine of equitable tolling was inapplicable to suspend the running of the limitations period. IN 2017, pedestrian Beamon was injured when he was struck by a vehicle driven by Brown; the accident occurred in Auburn. In 2019, Beamon filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, naming as defendants Brown and Geico Casualty Company. In that complaint, Beamon asserted state-law claims and purported to invoke the federal court's diversity jurisdiction. Despite alleging diversity jurisdiction, the complaint stated that both Beamon and Brown were citizens of Alabama. Brown answered the complaint, asserting as a defense lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. In his motion to dismiss, Brown asserted the federal court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over the complaint because complete diversity of citizenship was lacking between him an Beamon. Beamon moved to amend his complaint, asserting Brown was a citizen of Georgia, or alternatively, if the evidence was insufficient to support diversity jurisdiction, the court allow equitable tolling of the statute of limitations, which would allow him to refile his claims in a state court. On November 22, 2019, while the federal case was pending, but after the two-year limitations period had run, Beamon filed a second complaint, this time in the Lee Circuit Court, asserting the same claims against Brown as he had asserted in the federal court. The federal court dismissed the complaint without prejudice. The Alabama Supreme Court determined Brown did not establish a clear legal right to dismissal of the complaint filed at circuit court. "This case does not come within the exception to the general rule that a petition for the writ of mandamus is not the appropriate means by which to seek review of the merits of an order denying a motion to dismiss." View "Ex parte Michael Brown." on Justia Law
Steed v. Rezin Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, S.C.
On January 29, 2009, Glenn suffered a partial tear of his Achilles tendon. On February 17, Glenn sought treatment from Dr. Treacy at Rezin Orthopedics. Glenn was 42 years old and borderline obese. Dr. Treacy’s treatment plan included placing Glenn’s lower right leg in a plantar flexion position, set in a plaster cast for six weeks. Dr. Treacy memorialized his recommendation for Glenn to return for a follow-up appointment in two weeks in an invoice. Glenn required an appointment within a day or two for cast placement because he had driven himself to the appointment. Dr. Treacy directed the receptionist (Decker) to schedule a two-week follow-up appointment. Decker scheduled Glenn’s casting appointment for February 19 at another office. After Glenn’s leg was casted, the receptionist, Hare, scheduled Glenn’s follow-up appointment for March 13, more than three weeks after his initial appointment. On February 25, Glenn telephoned Rezin. The receptionist, Popplewell, rescheduled Glenn’s follow-up visit for March 12. On March 8, Glenn died of a pulmonary embolism.In a wrongful death and survival action, a jury returned a defense verdict. Glenn’s administrator appealed only the verdict in favor of Rezin. The appellate court reversed with directions to enter judgment n.o.v. in favor of the estate. The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the verdict. The evidence supported a conclusion that Rezin’s failures did not proximately cause Glenn’s death. Glenn’s death was not a reasonably foreseeable result of Rezin's failure to schedule his follow-up appointment within two weeks of his initial appointment. View "Steed v. Rezin Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, S.C." on Justia Law
Smith v. Crisp Regional Hospital, Inc.
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint brought by plaintiff, alleging that the Hospital's delay in transferring his son constitutes a violation of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act. The court concluded that there is no provision of the Act suggesting that Congress intended to impose time restrictions with respect to a hospital’s decision to transfer a patient to another hospital. The court explained that the only time restriction in the statute relates not to the transfer decision, but rather to the screening and stabilization requirements. Therefore, plaintiff's claim that the Hospital unreasonably delayed the transfer of his son does not state a claim of violation of the Act. The court noted that plaintiff's claim is the kind of claim contemplated by state medical malpractice laws. Finally, the court rejected plaintiff's contention that the Hospital's delay in transferring the child violated the Act's requirement of an "appropriate transfer." View "Smith v. Crisp Regional Hospital, Inc." on Justia Law
Burns v. Sam
The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendants in this wrongful death action, holding that Defendants did not owe a common law duty to Tyler Burns, who was killed by a gun stolen from Defendants' home.Tyler Burns was fatally shot by Phillip Sam. Plaintiffs, as personal representatives of Tyler's estate, brought this wrongful death action alleged that Phillip's mother, Dora Sam, and her boyfriend, Roger Davis, (collectively, Defendants) negligently stored the handgun used to kill Tyler. The district court granted summary judgment to Defendants, finding no common law duty. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no duty upon which a negligence claim may be based. View "Burns v. Sam" on Justia Law
Plascencia v. Deese
In this highway fatality case, the Court of Appeal held that there has been a miscarriage of justice and thus the court must vacate the $30 million dollar non-economic damage award. The court explained that, in this case, the jury was not permitted to consider the comparative fault of defendants who settled before trial. Therefore, reversal is required for this reason alone. The court also concluded that no substantial evidence appears to support the amount of the damages award, an amount that shocks the conscience and appears to have been influenced by the misconduct and improper argument of respondents' counsel. The court remanded with directions to conduct a new trial limited to determining the amount of the damages award and its apportionment among all defendants, including those who settled before trial. View "Plascencia v. Deese" on Justia Law
Ortega Garcia v. United States
Patricia Guadalupe Garcia Cervantes, a Mexican citizen who was attempting to enter the United States illegally by swimming across the Brownsville Ship Channel, was struck and killed by a Coast Guard vessel patrolling the area. Plaintiff, individually and on behalf of his and Cervantes' daughter, filed suit alleging negligence and wrongful death claims against the United States, as well as products liability, gross negligence, and wrongful death claims against the manufacturers of the vessel and its engines, Safe Boats and Mercury Marine.After determining that the district court had subject matter jurisdiction based on admiralty, the Fifth Circuit concluded that, notwithstanding plaintiff's own lack of standing, he may still maintain claims as next-of-friend for his daughter. Reviewing the district court's grant of summary judgment and its duty determination de novo, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims. The court held that the negligence claim failed because the United States owed no duty to Cervantes; the district court did not err in dismissing plaintiff's defective design claims against Safe Boats and Mercury Marine where Cervantes lacked standing to bring those claims under Section 402A of the Second Restatement in regard to maritime products liability claims; even assuming plaintiff could bring these products liability claims, plaintiff failed to show that the asserted defective products proximately caused Cervantes' death; plaintiff's failure-to-warn claims were also properly dismissed; and the district court correctly dismissed the wrongful death claims after dismissing all the underlying tort claims. The court rejected plaintiff's remaining claims and affirmed the dismissal. View "Ortega Garcia v. United States" on Justia Law
Justiniano v. Walker
The First Circuit affirmed the judgments of the lower courts dismissing Plaintiff's wrongful death and civil rights claims against the Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police Colonel Timothy Alben for failure to state a claim and granting summary judgment for Massachusetts State Trooper Stephen Walker based on the qualified immunity doctrine, holding that there was no error.Walker shot and killed Wilfredo Justiniano, Jr. on the side of a highway. Plaintiff, Justiniano's sister and the personal representative of his estate, brought this suit alleging that Walker used excessive force against Justiniano in violation of his constitutional rights and that Alben was liable for, among other things, failure to train. The magistrate judge dismissed the claims against Alben and granted summary judgment for Walker. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) there was insufficient evidence to support a conclusion that Alben acted with deliberate indifference when he allegedly neglected to train Walker on how to interact with the mentally ill; and (2) Walker is qualifiedly immune. View "Justiniano v. Walker" on Justia Law