Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Allergan in an action under state law alleging that plaintiff suffered injuries when her breast implants bled silicone into her body. Through the Medical Device Amendments (MDA) to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA), Congress permitted FDA oversight of medical devices; the MDA expressly preempts state law regulation of medical devices; and for a state law claim regarding a Class III medical device to survive express preemption by the MDA, a plaintiff must establish that the defendant violated an FDA requirement. In this case, the panel held that plaintiff failed to show that Allergan violated a federal requirement for its Style 20 breast implant. The panel held that plaintiff failed to raise a genuine dispute of material fact that Allergan violated the FDA's pre-market approval and Current Good Manufacturing Practices. Therefore, plaintiff has now shown a violation of an FDA requirement, which she must for her state law claims to fit through the narrow exception to MDA preemption. View "Weber v. Allergan, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs filed suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) after two boys were killed when a tree limb fell onto their tent in Yosemite National Park. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the fraudulent concealment claim, and reversed the dismissal of the negligence-based claims. The panel held that, regardless of whether the FTCA's discretionary function exception might apply to some hypothetical decision not to inspect the campground, the panel must decide whether park officials are shielded from liability for their conduct in actually inspecting that area once they undertook to do so; once they undertook to inspect trees in the campground, park officials were required to do so in accordance with their established policies; and while it was unclear whether the families will succeed in showing that officials were actually negligent in evaluating the tree under the park's Seven-Point system, such evaluation was not exempt from the scope of the FTCA. The panel also held that the discretionary function exception did not bar plaintiffs' claim that the government negligently failed to give park visitors any warning about the tree. In regard to the fraudulent concealment claim, the panel held that the district court did not err in dismissing the claim under the FTCA's misrepresentation exception. View "Kim v. United States" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs filed suit against their taekwondo coach, Marc Gitelman, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), USA Taekwondo (USAT), and others arising from Gitelman's sexual abuse of plaintiffs when they were minors. The Court of Appeal held that USAT had a duty to implement and enforce policies and procedures to protect youth athletes from foreseeable sexual abuse by their coaches. Because USAT demurred on the direct negligence cause of action based solely on the lack of a duty of care, the court reversed the trial court's dismissal of this cause of action against USAT. However, USOC did not owe a duty to plaintiffs because it did not have a special relationship with Gitelman or plaintiffs. The court reasoned that, although USOC had the ability to control USAT, including requiring it to adopt policies to protect youth athletes, it did not have direct control over the conduct of coaches. Plaintiffs' remaining claims failed. The court affirmed the judgment dismissing USOC and reversed the judgment of dismissal as to USAT, remanding for further proceedings. View "Brown v. USA Taekwondo" on Justia Law

by
Biomet employed Yeatts in a role that included implementing compliance policies. In 2008, Biomet terminated its Brazilian distributor Prosintese, run by Galindo, after learning that Galindo had bribed healthcare providers, in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 78dd-1. Prosintese still owned Brazilian registrations for Biomet’s products. Biomet could not quickly obtain new registrations, and, in 2009, agreed to cooperate with Prosintese and Galindo “to implement the new Biomet distributors.” A distributor that replaced Prosintese hired Galindo as a consultant. Yeatts communicated with Galindo in that new role. Biomet entered into a 2012 Deferred Prosecution Agreement with the Department of Justice, which required that Biomet engage an independent corporate compliance monitor. In 2013, Biomet received an anonymous whistleblower tip that Biomet continued to work with Galindo. Biomet informed the DOJ and the Monitor, terminated Yeatts, and included Yeatts on a Restricted Parties List. Biomet entered a second DOJ agreement that references Yeatts’s interactions with Galindo and paid a criminal penalty of $17.4 million. In Yeatts's defamation suit, the court granted Biomet summary judgment because Biomet’s statement that Yeatts posed a compliance risk was an opinion that could not be proven false and presented no defamatory imputation. Yeatts could not establish that Biomet made the statement with malice, so Biomet was protected by the qualified privilege of common interest and the public interest privilege. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, agreeing that inclusion of Yeatts on the Restricted Parties List conveyed no defamatory imputation of objectively verifiable or testable fact. View "Yeatts v. Zimmer Biomet Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law

by
After plaintiff filed suit against Mentor and Mentor Corporation for compensatory and punitive damages for injuries she suffered as a result of the surgical implantation of a polypropylene mesh sling manufactured by Mentor to treat her stress urinary incontinence, a jury found Mentor liable and awarded $400,000 in compensatory and $4 million in punitive damages. The district court upheld the jury's verdict with respect to liability and compensatory damages, but concluded that the punitive damages award exceeded Florida's statutory cap, reducing the punitive damages award to $2 million. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, holding that the trial court acted well within the bounds of its discretion in allowing the jury to consider an expert's testimony relating to specific causation and Mentor was not entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The court also held that, in this case, which was focused on the physiological response to a design defect in a medical device, the dose-response relation was not implicated and there was no abuse of discretion in admitting the testimony. The court considered Mentor's remaining evidentiary challenges and held that the district court at no point exceeded the bounds of its discretion. Therefore, Mentor was not entitled to a new trial. Finally, the court affirmed the district court's reduction of the punitive damages award where evidence that Mentor knew of a high incidence of injury was not sufficient for finding a specific intent to harm. View "Taylor v. Mentor Worldwide, LLC" on Justia Law

by
At issue before the Idaho Supreme Court in this matter centered on whether a person bringing a tort claim against a governmental entity for alleged child abuse had to comply with the notice requirement of the Idaho Tort Claims Act. Seven individuals (collectively, the Juveniles) filed suit alleging they had been abused while they were minors in the custody of the Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections. In its ruling on summary judgment, the district court found the Juveniles’ claims based on Idaho Code section 6-1701 were not barred by the notice requirements of the Idaho Tort Claims Act. The Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections and its employees moved for permission to appeal, which was granted, and they argued the district court erred by allowing the Juveniles’ claims to proceed. The Idaho Supreme Court held that because of the plain language of the ITCA, the notice requirement applied to claims based on tort actions in child abuse cases. Accordingly, the Court reversed the district court’s decision and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "D.A.F. v. Lieteau and Juvenile Corrections Nampa" on Justia Law

by
On the evening of June 17, 2018, Appellants Shane Dodge and his wife Christine (“the Dodges”) were returning home with their son after having dinner together, when they turned onto District Two Road and saw a police car partially blocking their lane of travel. At that time, two Bonners Ferry police officers, Sergeant William Cowell and Officer Brandon Blackmore, were conducting a traffic stop of another vehicle. To avoid hitting them, Shane drove slowly by the two cars, and then pulled over about four car-lengths away. He exited his car and approached the police officers. He informed them that the location “was a pretty stupid place to pull people over.” Sergeant Cowell instructed Shane that he could be arrested for obstruction or interfering with the traffic stop, whereupon Shane said, “go to hell.” Shane was then arrested and placed in the back of the patrol car. When she saw her husband being arrested, Christine exited her car and attempted to approach and question the officers. When she asked the officers why they were arresting her husband, Sergeant Cowell told Officer Blackmore to arrest her too, but Officer Blackmore ordered her to leave the scene. Shane was taken to the county jail and booked. Thereafter, he posted bond and was released. The Dodges appealed after a district court dismissed their tort claim against the Bonners Ferry Police Department, Sergeant Cowell and Officer Blackmore. The grounds for dismissal was failing to file a notice of tort claim pursuant to Idaho Code sections 6-610 et seq., and for failing to post a bond prior to commencing their cause of action. Finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Dodge v. Bonners Ferry Police Department" on Justia Law

by
Katherine Grace Short appeals the circuit court’s change of venue in her defamation case from the Circuit Court of the First Judicial District of Harrison County, Mississippi, to the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Mississippi. On the evening of August 1, 1975, Short’s husband, Tye Breland, died from a gunshot wound to the chest at their home in Pascagoula, in Jackson County, Mississippi. Short was not charged with Breland’s death. Forty-two years later, "Cold Justice: Beyond the Grave," a true-crime documentary (the episode), premiered on the Oxygen Network. The episode aired nationally, focused on Breland’s death, and considered whether Short murdered her late husband. During the episode, crime experts Kelly Siegler (identified as a prosecutor) and John Bonds (identified as a homicide investigator) investigated Breland’s death. Darren Versiga, a law-enforcement officer with the Pascagoula Police Department, assisted the investigation. The investigation team exhumed Breland’s body, prepared a mockup of the crime scene, conducted ballistics testing, and interviewed numerous witnesses to determine whether Breland’s death was a suicide, an accident, or a homicide. The team concluded that Breland did not commit suicide. They identified Short as a suspect in Breland’s death and turned over their investigation to the Jackson County District Attorney’s Office. According to the team, they put together enough information for a circumstantial case of murder. Short sued Siegler, Bonds and Versiga and various media entities, alleging defamation and tortious invasion of privacy. Versiga then filed a motion to transfer venue to the Circuit Court of Jackson County. In his motion, Versiga argued that the Circuit Court of Jackson County was the proper venue under Mississippi law because it was where a substantial alleged act or omission occurred or where a substantial event that caused the injury occurred. Versiga further argued that the Circuit Court of Jackson County was the proper venue “as it is the county in which [he] resides.” The Mississippi Supreme Court disagreed, determining the injury at issue occurred in Harrison county, and venue was proper there. Accordingly, the circuit court's judgment was reversed and remanded. View "Short v. Versiga" on Justia Law

by
Huey Brock appealed judgments dismissing his negligence action against Richard Price and KS Industries, LLC (“LLC”) and awarding Price and LLC costs and disbursements in the amount of $181,467. Price and LLC cross-appealed the judgment awarding costs and disbursements. In 2011, Brock was severely injured in a traffic accident while traveling in a company-owned vehicle with Price and another LLC employee, resulting in Brock becoming quadriplegic. Days later WSI accepted his claim for benefits. In June 2012, Brock, WSI, and LLC entered into a stipulation that Brock would continue to receive WSI benefits while seeking workers’ compensation benefits in California from KS Industries, LP (“LP”). The stipulation further provided that WSI would cease paying benefits if his claim against LP’s insurance carrier were accepted and his attorney would act in trust for WSI in pursuing reimbursement of funds paid in connection with Brock’s claim. Brock then filed an application for California workers’ compensation benefits claiming he was employed by LP at the time of the accident. Based on a California administrative decision, LP’s workers’ compensation carrier commenced paying benefits to Brock and reimbursed WSI all funds expended on Brock. In 2014, WSI issued a notice of decision reversing its prior decision accepting Brock’s claim. In February 2015, Brock brought this negligence action against Price and LLC. Brock moved for summary judgment arguing collateral estoppel based on the California administrative proceedings precluded Price and LLC from arguing LLC was Brock’s employer rather than LP, and therefore his action was not barred by the exclusive remedy provisions of North Dakota law. In November 2018, Price and LLC filed a motion for summary judgment arguing collateral estoppel did not apply and the exclusive remedy provisions applied to bar Brock’s action against LLC and his co-worker, Price. The district court agreed and dismissed the action. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed dismissal of the negligence action because it was indeed barred by the Workforce Safety and Insurance Act’s exclusive remedy provisions. The Court reversed the award of costs and disbursements and remanded for the court to hold a hearing on Brock’s objections required by N.D.R.Civ.P. 54(e)(2). View "Brock v. Price, et al." on Justia Law

by
The South Carolina Supreme Court granted Scott Ledford’s petition for review of the Court of Appeals’ decision to affirm the outcome of a Workers’ Compensation Commission hearing. Ledford was a former lance corporal with the South Carolina Highway Patrol. While employed as a highway patrolman, Ledford was injured in two separate work-related accidents: in July 2010, Ledford sustained injuries to his spine after being tasered during a training exercise; and in March 2012, Ledford was involved in a motorcycle accident while attempting to pursue a motorist. Ledford settled the 2010 claim with Respondents. Following the second accident, Ledford filed two separate claims for workers' compensation benefits. The Workers' Compensation Commission Appellate Panel declined to find Ledford suffered a change of condition; however, she found Ledford was entitled to medical benefits for injuries to his right leg and aggravated pre-existing conditions in his neck and lower back due to the motorcycle accident. Neither party appealed the Commission’s order. Months later, Ledford reached maximum medical improvement ("MMI"). Commissioner Susan Barden held a hearing on Ledford’s Form 21 in August 2014. Following the hearing, but prior to the issuance of a final order, Ledford filed a motion to recuse Commissioner Barden. According to Ledford's motion, Commissioner Barden requested a phone conference with the parties a month after the hearing during which she allegedly threatened criminal proceedings against Ledford if the case was not settled; indicated that she engaged in her own investigation and made findings based on undisclosed materials outside the record; suggested Ledford used "creative accounting" in his tax returns; and questioned Ledford's credibility regarding his claims of neck pain. Ledford contended any one of these grounds was sufficient to warrant recusal. The Court of Appeals affirmed the Commission, finding: (1) Commissioner Barden was not required to recuse herself; (2) substantial evidence supported the Appellate Panel's decision to reverse Commissioner Barden's permanency determination; and (3) substantial evidence supported the Appellate Panel's findings that Ledford was not credible and his landscaping business remained lucrative following the injury. The Supreme Court held the Court of Appeals erred in finding Commissioner Barden was not required to recuse herself. The Court was “deeply concerned” by the Commissioner’s conduct in this matter. “Ledford's counsel provided an opportunity for Commissioner Barden to right her wrong by moving for recusal. Instead of stepping aside, Commissioner Barden became more abusive and strident in both her ruling on the recusal motion and her final order.” The Commission’s orders were vacated and the matter remanded for a new hearing before a different commissioner. View "Ledford v. DPS" on Justia Law