Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

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While driving a car insured by Arizona Automobile Insurance Company, Marlena Whicker rear-ended a taxi and injured its passenger, Georgiana Chavez. Chavez sued Whicker in Colorado state court and won a default judgment when neither Whicker nor Arizona entered a defense. Whicker, unable to satisfy the judgment from the lawsuit, assigned her rights against Arizona to Chavez, who then filed this diversity suit against Arizona in federal court for failure to defend Whicker in the underlying state court action. Her theory was that Arizona had a duty to defend Whicker under Colorado law because Arizona knew that she was a driver covered under its policy. The district court disagreed with Chavez and granted Arizona’s motion to dismiss. The Tenth Circuit determined that under Colorado law, Arizona was only required to defend Whicker if Chavez’s complaint plausibly alleged Whicker was insured under the Arizona policy. It therefore reached the same conclusion as the district court and, affirmed its dismissal of Chavez’s case. View "Chavez v. Arizona Automobile Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Elizabeth Frost died in an accidental house fire. At the time, ADT provided security monitoring services to the premises. During the fire, ADT received several alerts through its monitoring system. Although ADT attempted to call Frost and the back-up number listed on her account, it did not get through. After several such attempts, ADT cleared the alerts without contacting emergency services. The administrator of Frost’s estate and her minor heir, M.F., sued ADT. The central theme of the complaint was that ADT’s failure to notify emergency services contradicted representations on its website that it would do so, and that failure wrongfully caused or contributed to Frost’s death. The district court dismissed the complaint, holding the one-year suit limitation provision in the contract between ADT and Frost barred the claims and that Claimants failed to state a claim with respect to certain counts. Because the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals found the contract between Frost and ADT provided an enforceable suit-limitation provision that barred the claims at issue, it affirmed dismissal. View "Frost v. ADT" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, an employee of 4T Construction, filed suit against McKenzie under both negligence-based and strict liability law principles after he was seriously injured while replacing a high voltage transmission line for a project. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for McKenzie, holding that the parties' contract clearly and unambiguously stated that 4T was retained as an independent contractor. In this case, the parties' contract stated that 4T was an independent contractor that performs its work without supervision by McKenzie. The court held that McKenzie did not retain control over 4T's and plaintiff's actions. Finally, the North Dakota Supreme Court has declined to hold a utility company strictly liable for injuries and damages from contact with high tension power lines, and McKenzie was not liable under a theory of strict liability for abnormally dangerous activities. View "Meyer v. McKenzie Electric Cooperative, Inc." on Justia Law

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GEICO Insurance Company appealed a trial court judgment entered in favor of plaintiffs Johnson Evans, Jimmy Smith, and Bernard Smith on plaintiffs' claims for damages resulting from an automobile accident caused by GEICO's insured, Bernard Grey. GEICO argued that the April 17, 2019, judgment entered against it was void because it did not receive notice of plaintiffs' claims against it or notice of the hearing on plaintiffs' claims. For their part, plaintiffs did not dispute that GEICO never received actual notice of any action pending against it in the present case. Instead, they argued GEICO had "constructive notice of potential litigation" because it had actual notice of Grey's accident involving plaintiffs -- which occurred in 2010 -- and that GEICO was aware that plaintiffs claimed to be injured by Grey's actions. The Alabama Supreme Court agreed with GEIDO that "constructive notice of potential litigation" clearly fell short of "even the most basic requirements of due process." Because it was undisputed GEICO never received notice of any claim pending against it, the April 17 judgment violated due process, and was therefore void. Because a void judgment would not support an appeal, the trial court was instructed to vacate its judgment, and GEICO's appeal was thus dismissed. View "GEICO Insurance Co. v. Evans" on Justia Law

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In March 2018, Renaulta Mayze, Markhail Mayze, and Tydarius Sago (“Mayze”) were involved in a vehicle collision with Casey Weir. Mayze filed suit alleging that the collision had occurred in Hinds County. Weir filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, to transfer venue, alleging that the collision had occurred in Madison County. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found that the trial judge abused her discretion in denying the motion to transfer venue. The Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s decision and remanded the case to the Hinds County County Court to be transferred to the Madison County County Court. View "Weir v. Mayze" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court affirming the decision of the Department of Labor determining that Appellant's knee surgery and related treatment were not compensable, holding that the Department did not err when it concluded that Appellant's work-related injury, in combination with his preexisting condition, did not remain a major contributing cause of his disability, impairment, or need for treatment. Appellant injured his left knee while working for Appellee. Appellee denied liability for Appellant's total knee replacement surgery and post-operative treatment. The Department found the work-related injury neither contributed independently nor was a major contributing cause of Appellant's need for surgery. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellant failed to prove causation under either S.D. Codified Laws 62-1-1(7)(b) or S.D. Codified Laws 62-1-1(7)(c). View "Armstrong v. Longview Farms, LLP" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals in this action determining whether an insurer who settles a personal injury claim with an accident victim has a duty to distribute a portion of the settlement proceeds to the victim's former lawyers pursuant to a charging lien, holding that an action based upon a charging lien is an in rem proceeding against a particular fund and that when a matter is resolved through a settlement, the fund comes into being at the time the settlement is paid and the release is received. A discharged law firm sought to enforce a charging lien against a tortfeasor's insurer for the law firm's representation of the victim injured by the tortfeasor. However, no lawsuit was filed on behalf of the victim against the tortfeasor, and the victim settled with the tortfeasor's insurer after he discharged the law firm. The Supreme Court held that, under the facts of this case, the discharged law firm could not enforce its charging lien against the tortfeasor's insurer, and therefore, the discharged law firm did not have a viable charging-lien claim against the tortfeasor's insurer. View "Kisling, Nestico & Redick, LLC v. Progressive Max Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granting Defendant's motion for summary judgment in this action to recover damages for, among other things, violations of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA), Conn. Gen. Stat. 42-110a et seq., and for other relief, holding that Defendant's statements regarding Plaintiff were nonactionable expressions of opinion. Defendant, which publishes research reports in which it rates certain vendors, issued a research report in which it ranked Plaintiff lower than some of its competitors and made critical comments about Plaintiff. Plaintiff brought this action claiming that Defendant had engaged in a "pay to play" scheme that constituted a false and deceptive business practice under CUTPA. Plaintiff also alleged that the report contained false and defamatory statements about Plaintiff. The trial court rendered judgment for Defendant. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that all of the statements Defendant made about Plaintiff were expressions of nonactionable opinion, and such speech cannot support either Plaintiff's defamation claim or its CUTPA claim. View "Netscout Systems, Inc. v. Gartner, Inc." on Justia Law

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Katherine Morgan, as wrongful death representative of her husband, David Morgan, brought direct negligence liability claims against Baker Hughes Incorporated (“Baker Hughes”) for the acts of its subsidiary, Baker Petrolite Incorporated (“Baker Petrolite”). In 2012, David Morgan was crushed to death by a heavy chemical tote while operating a forklift at his place of employment, a warehouse in Casper, Wyoming. There have been two trials in this case. At the close of Morgan’s evidence in the first trial, Baker Hughes moved for judgment as a matter of law. The district court granted Baker Hughes’ motion. We reversed on appeal, holding that Morgan had presented sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to conclude that Baker Hughes was liable for David Morgan’s death In so doing, we interpreted Wyoming law on the liability of parent corporations for the acts of their subsidiaries. After the second trial, Morgan moved for judgment as a matter of law. The district court denied the motion, and the jury returned a verdict in favor of Baker Hughes. However, before submitting the case to the jury, the court rejected Morgan’s proposed jury instructions and overruled her objections to the court’s instructions. Morgan timely appealed these decisions and moved to certify the controlling question to the Wyoming Supreme Court. The Tenth Circuit concluded that Wyoming law on this issue was consistent with the Restatement (Second) of Torts section 414 and its commentary. Accordingly, the Court held that the district court correctly instructed the jury with respect to the relevant legal standard and did not err in making various decisions Morgan challenges on appeal. View "Morgan v. Baker Hughes" on Justia Law

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In this personal injury action, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court awarding Plaintiff damages and finding Ryan Gertsch to be seventy-five percent liable for Plaintiff's permanent injuries to her cervical and lumbar spine, holding that there was no prejudicial error in the proceedings below. Plaintiff was rear-ended first by Gertsch and then, fifteen months later, by James Frew. Plaintiff sued both Gertsch and Frew. Both defendants admitted negligence, and the jury awarded Plaintiff $10,000 in damages, finding Gertsch and Frew to be seventy-five percent and twenty-five percent responsible, respectively. The district court entered judgment in accordance with the jury's verdict. Plaintiff settled with Frew after the jury's verdict. Plaintiff appealed, raising arguments as to the judgment against Gertsch. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court erred in allowing Gretsch's Rule 35 examiner to testify despite Gertsch's failure to comply with Wyo. R. Civ. P. 26(a)(2)(B), but the admission of the examiner's testimony was harmless; (2) Gertsch's closing argument was not plainly erroneous; and (3) the district court did not err in requiring Plaintiff to disclose her substance abuse treatment records and in allowing them to be admitted at trial. View "Vahai v. Gertsch" on Justia Law