Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries
Barajas v. Satvia L.A. County Water Dist.
The Sativa Water District was created in 1938 under the County Water District Law to provide potable drinking water to the residents living in a neighborhood in the unincorporated community of Willowbrook and parts of the City of Compton within Los Angeles County. On July 9, 2018, four named individuals— (collectively, Plaintiffs)—filed a putative class action lawsuit against the Sativa Water District. The Sativa Water District moved to dismiss Plaintiffs’ entire lawsuit. Following a briefing, a hearing, and supplemental briefing, the trial court granted the motion. Plaintiffs asserted that the trial court erred in (1) granting the Sativa Water District’s motion for judgment on the pleadings, (2) denying Plaintiffs’ motion to vacate the order dismissing the County as a defendant, and (3) decertifying their class as to the nuisance claim. The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court explained that the Reorganization Act grants a LAFCO discretion whether to permit a district to wind up its own affairs or whether instead to appoint a successor agency responsible for doing so. Because the LAFCO, in this case, took the latter route, Plaintiffs’ class action lawsuit against the dissolved district must be dismissed. The court further concluded that the trial court’s dismissal of the successor agency was proper because Legislature expressly granted civil immunity to that agency. View "Barajas v. Satvia L.A. County Water Dist." on Justia Law
Ashley Albert v. Global TelLink Corp.
Plaintiffs appealed the district court’s dismissal, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), of their Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”) claims. The district court held that Plaintiffs failed to allege that Defendants Global Tel*Link Corp. (“GTL”); Securus Technologies, LLC; and 3Cinteractive Corp. (“3Ci”) proximately caused Plaintiffs’ injuries. The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court’s ruling and held that Plaintiffs have pleaded facts that satisfy RICO’s proximate-causation requirement, as explained in Bridge v. Phoenix Bond & Indemnity Co., 553 U.S. 639 (2008). The court explained that RICO proximate causation is lacking when (1) there is a “more direct victim” from whom (or intervening factor from which) the plaintiff’s injuries derive, or (2) the alleged RICO predicate violation is “too distinct” or logically unrelated from the cause of the plaintiff’s injury. Plaintiffs’ complaint suffers from neither deficiency. As Plaintiffs point out, the governments’ injuries could be cured if Defendants paid higher site commissions—even if Plaintiffs paid the same inflated price. So Plaintiffs’ injuries aren’t derivative of those suffered by the governments. Rather, Plaintiffs and the governments are both direct victims. View "Ashley Albert v. Global TelLink Corp." on Justia Law
Victor Valley Union High School Dist. v. Super. Ct.
John MM. Doe, by and through his guardian ad litem, C.M. (Doe’s mother), and B.S. (Doe’s father) (collectively real parties in interest), sued petitioner Victor Valley Union High School District (the district) for negligence and other causes of action arising from an alleged sexual assault on Doe while he was a high school student. During discovery, real parties in interest learned video that captured some of the events surrounding the alleged sexual assault had been erased. Real parties in interest moved the superior court for terminating sanctions or, in the alternative, evidentiary and issue sanctions against the district under Code of Civil Procedure section 2023.030. The trial court concluded the erasure of the video was the result of negligence and not intentional wrongdoing, and it denied the request for terminating sanctions. However, the court granted the request for evidentiary, issue, and monetary sanctions because it concluded that, even before the lawsuit was filed, the district should have reasonably anticipated the alleged sexual assault would result in litigation and, therefore, the district was under a duty to preserve all relevant evidence including the video. On appeal, the district argued the trial court applied the wrong legal standard when it ruled the district was under the duty to preserve the video when it was erased and, therefore, that the district was not shielded from sanctions by the safe-harbor provision of section 2023.030(f). The Court of Appeal concluded the safe-harbor provision of section 2023.030(f) did not shield a party from sanctions for the spoliation of electronic evidence if the evidence was altered or destroyed when the party was under a duty to preserve the evidence. The Court found the record supported the trial court’s ruling that the district was on notice that litigation about Doe’s alleged sexual assault was reasonably foreseeable, and therefore, the safe-harbor provision did not apply. The Court granted the real parties’ petition in part and directed the trial court to reconsider whether the form of sanctions imposed were warranted. View "Victor Valley Union High School Dist. v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law
Nicholas Brunts v. Walmart, Inc.
Plaintiff filed a class action lawsuit against Walmart in the Circuit Court for St. Louis County, Missouri. Plaintiff alleged Walmart engaged in misleading and deceptive marketing practices by selling cough suppressants with dextromethorphan hydrobromide (“DXM”) and a “non-drowsy” label. Walmart removed the case to the Eastern District of Missouri, and Plaintiff moved to have the case remanded to state court. The district court remanded, finding Walmart had not met the Class Action Fairness Act’s jurisdictional requirement of showing the amount in controversy exceeds $5 million. The Eighth Circuit reversed, finding that Walmart has shown the amount in controversy exceeds $5 million. The court concluded that Walmart’s declaration was sufficient to support a finding that sales exceeded $5 million. The total amount of sales can be a measure of the amount in controversy. The court explained that the declaration was sufficient, particularly when it is very plausible that a company the size of Walmart would have sold more than $5 million in cough suppressants in the state of Missouri over a period of five years. View "Nicholas Brunts v. Walmart, Inc." on Justia Law
Scott v. City of Mandeville, et al
Plaintiff was arrested for driving while intoxicated. She sued under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 and related state laws. The district court granted summary judgment to Defendants, dismissing all of Plaintiff’s claims. On appeal, Plaintiff contests the summary judgment for the Section 1983 claims of false arrest and excessive force along with the state law claims of false arrest, excessive force, negligence, and vicarious liability. The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that the officers had probable cause to arrest Plaintiff for driving while intoxicated. The court explained that the following facts are confirmed: (1) A witness reported to the police that Plaintiff was driving in a dangerous manner;(2) there is video footage of Plaintiff’s car swerving out of the lane and recorded audio of the officers noting the swerve, and (3) The officers could not conclusively determine that she had not taken drugs. Those facts alone are sufficient to give rise to probable cause that Plaintiff was driving while intoxicated. Further, the court found that the officer’s limited use of force (in such a short time frame) to restrain Plaintiff and place her in handcuffs as a response to Plaintiff’s perceived resistance does not amount to excessive force. Moreover, the court found that the officers had probable cause to arrest Plaintiff for driving while intoxicated, and accordingly, there was no false arrest. Finally, because Plaintiff’s underlying state law claims were properly dismissed, there is no basis for her vicarious liability claim against the municipal Defendants. View "Scott v. City of Mandeville, et al" on Justia Law
Borngne ex rel. Hyter v. Chattanooga-Hamilton County Hospital Authority
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals dismissing claims of direct negligence against a defendant physician but allowing Plaintiff to proceed against the physician on a vicarious liability theory as the midwife's supervising physician, holding that the trial court properly declined to compel the defendant physician's testimony.By and through her next friend and mother (Plaintiff), a child born via cesarean section who suffered permanent brain damage and debilitating injuries, sued the doctor who delivered her and the midwife in charge of the birthing process. The trial court dismissed the claims of direct negligence against the physician but allowed Plaintiff to proceed on a vicarious liability theory against the physician as the midwife's supervising physician. A jury found in favor of Defendants. The court of appeals reversed in part, holding that the trial court committed reversible error in refusing to order the physician to opine on the midwife's performance outside of his presence. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that a defendant healthcare provider cannot be compelled to provide expert opinion testimony about a co-defendant healthcare provider's standard of care and/or deviation from that standard. View "Borngne ex rel. Hyter v. Chattanooga-Hamilton County Hospital Authority" on Justia Law
Posted in: Personal Injury, Tennessee Supreme Court
Elkin King v. Forrest King, Jr.
Plaintiff brought a diversity suit against his former stepfather, Defendant, alleging that Defendant owed him a fiduciary duty to disclose the existence of certain Settlement Funds arising from the wrongful death of Plaintiff’s biological father. The Eleventh Circuit previously certified three questions to the Supreme Court of Georgia regarding breach of fiduciary duty for failure to disclose a claim. The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Defendant on the failure to disclose claim and remanded the matter for further proceedings. The court explained that the district court should only have granted Defendant summary judgment if there was no genuine dispute as to any material fact regarding the tort claim and Defendant was entitled to judgment as a matter of law, viewing all evidence and making all inferences in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. Here, a reasonable jury could find the following facts at trial:4 (1) Plaintiff and Defendant were in a confidential or fiduciary relationship such that, under Georgia law, the statute of limitations could be tolled, and a claim for breach of fiduciary duty could be supported; (2) at the time Plaintiff turned 18, at least $50,000 of the Settlement Funds remained in the Charles Schwab account; (3) Plaintiff had a right to take control of the Settlement Funds when he turned 18; (4) Defendant had a duty to disclose the existence of the Settlement Funds and turn over control of those funds to Plaintiff when he turned 18; (5) Defendant failed to do so, and (6) Plaintiff would have taken control of the funds when he turned 18. View "Elkin King v. Forrest King, Jr." on Justia Law
Mitchell v. Rust
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiff's claims against Defendant, the mayor of Green River, as time-barred, barred under 42 U.S.C. 1983, and barred by the doctrine of collateral estoppel, holding that the district court did not err.In his complaint, Plaintiff alleged that Defendant violated his oath of office during Plaintiff's underlying criminal matter by declining to order an investigation into a witness who recanted prior statements she made to law enforcement. The district court dismissed the complaint. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err when it determined that Plaintiff's claims were barred by the Wyoming Governmental Claims Act and 42 U.S.C. 1983; (2) Plaintiff failed to present cogent argument on his collateral estoppel argument; and (3) therefore, the district court properly granted Defendant's motion to dismiss. View "Mitchell v. Rust" on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Rights, Criminal Law, Personal Injury, Wyoming Supreme Court
Scurry v. New York City Housing Authority
The Court of Appeals held that the negligence claims brought in this case involving two separate murders on property owned by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) should advance to a jury trial.Bridget Crushshon and Tayshana Murphy were killed by intruders on the premises of two different public house complexes, owned and operated by the NYCHA, where the victims lived. In two separate cases, Plaintiffs filed negligence lawsuits against NYCHA, asserting that NYCHA had a duty to provide a locking exterior doors to their buildings. While admitting that it had a duty to provide a locking exterior door, NYCHA moved for summary judgment, arguing that it was not a proximate cause of the deaths because the murderers had "targeted" their victims rather than commit crimes of opportunity. The Second Department denied summary judgment in one case, and the First Department granted summary judgment in the other case. The Court of Appeals affirmed the Second Department's denial of summary judgment and reversed the First Department's grant of summary judgment to NYCHA in the two cases, holding that the fact that an attack was "targeted" does not sever the causal chain between a landlord's negligence and a plaintiff's injuries as a matter of law. View "Scurry v. New York City Housing Authority" on Justia Law
Posted in: New York Court of Appeals, Personal Injury
Adriana Mendez v. Wal-Mart Stores East, LP
Plaintiff appealed (“Walmart”) in her “slip and fall” negligence suit under Georgia law. On appeal, Plaintiff argued that the district court erred in (1) analyzing her slip and fall claim under a premises liability theory instead of an active negligence theory and (2) denying her spoliation of evidence claim and related sanctions request. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court wrote that Plaintiff failed to cite any binding authority under Georgia law supporting an active negligence theory in a slip and fall case. And the persuasive value of the non-binding cases she cites is limited because they have either been rejected by the Georgia courts as a basis for active negligence in the slip and fall context or are fully distinguishable. More importantly, the allegations in her complaint clearly involve a condition of the premises. Plaintiff alleged that she was shopping at Walmart when “she slipped and fell from liquid that was on the floor” and that Walmart “had a duty to inspect the Premises to discover dangerous and hazardous conditions . . . and to either eliminate such . . . conditions or to warn its invitees.” Thus, the district court did not err in analyzing her claim under the framework of traditional premises liability. View "Adriana Mendez v. Wal-Mart Stores East, LP" on Justia Law