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Several years after a tank car spill accident, appellants Larry Lincoln and Brad Mosbrucker told their employer BNSF Railway Company (“BNSF”) that medical conditions attributable to the accident rendered them partially, permanently disabled and prevented them from working outdoors. BNSF removed appellants from service as Maintenance of Way (“MOW”) workers purportedly due to safety concerns and because MOW work entailed outdoor work. With some assistance from BNSF’s Medical and Environmental Health Department (“MEH”), Appellants each applied for more than twenty jobs within BNSF during the four years following their removal from service. After not being selected for several positions, Appellants filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), accommodation request letters with BNSF, and complaints with the Occupational Safety Health Administration (“OSHA”). Following BNSF’s rejection of their applications for additional positions, Appellants filed a complaint raising claims for: (1) discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”); (2) failure to accommodate under the ADA; (3) retaliation under the ADA; and (4) retaliation under the Federal Railroad Safety Act (“FRSA”). Relying on nearly forty years of Tenth Circuit precedent, the district court concluded that filing an EEOC charge was a jurisdictional prerequisite to suit and it dismissed several parts of Appellants’ ADA claims for lack of jurisdiction. Appellants also challenged the vast majority of the district court’s summary judgment determinations on the merits of their claims that survived the court’s exhaustion rulings. After polling the full court, the Tenth Circuit overturn its precedent that filing an EEOC charge was a jurisdictional prerequisite to suit, thus reversing the district court’s jurisdictional rulings. Appellants’ ADA discrimination and ADA failure to accommodate claims relative to some of the positions over which the district court determined it lacked jurisdiction were remanded for further proceedings. With respect to the district court’s summary judgment determinations on the merits of appellants’ claims that survived the exhaustion rulings, the Tenth Circuit was unable to reach a firm conclusion on the position-based ADA discrimination and failure to accommodate claims. The Court concluded the district court’s dismissal of the FRSA claims were appropriate. Therefore, the Court reversed in part, affirmed in part and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Lincoln v. BNSF Railway Company" on Justia Law

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In April 2009, E.O. visited a pediatrician for his six-month visit and received several vaccinations. That night, Mrs. Oliver found E.O. seizing in his bed and called 9-1-1. At the emergency room, E.O. presented with a fever, red eyes with discharge, and a runny nose. The next day, E.O.’s pediatrician diagnosed E.O. with “complex febrile seizure and conjunctivitis.” E.O. did not have any health issues or seizures for two months but had several seizures over the summer and began to experience prolonged seizures in March 2010. Each seizure resulted in an emergency room visit. A pediatric neurologist diagnosed E.O. with an SCN1A gene defect. E.O. exhibited developmental delay. A pediatric neurologist performed examinations, which demonstrated “intractable, symptomatic childhood absence and complex partial seizures of independent hemisphere origin secondary to SCN1A gene defect (borderline SMEI syndrome) and encephalopathy characterized by speech delay.” E.O.’s family sought compensation under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, 42 U.S.C. 300aa-2–300aa-33, alleging that E.O. developed Dravet syndrome as a result of the vaccinations. The Claims Court and Federal Circuit affirmed the rejection of their claim. The government’s expert provided strong evidence that Dravet syndrome will develop in children with the SCN[1]A mutation, whether or not they receive vaccinations; the Olivers failed to establish that their theory has garnered widespread acceptance, as evidenced by an extensive discussion of articles with contradictory findings. View "Oliver v. Secretary of Health and Human Services" on Justia Law

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The United States was held liable upon the district court's finding that a doctor at a federal health facility caused plaintiffs' son E.R.T. to suffer severe and life-altering injuries at the time of his birth. On appeal, the government challenged the application of section 768.78(2) of the Florida Statutes to the method of payment the district court chose for the government to satisfy the judgment against it. Plaintiffs cross-appealed the district court's application of section 768.78(2)'s bond requirement. The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court did not err in allowing the United States to pay the full damages award into a trust for E.R.T. to be dispensed periodically without requiring the United States to make a security payment for the full amount of damages; the district court did not err in concluding that the United States was not entitled to a reversionary interest in any future economic damages remaining in the trust after E.R.T.'s death; the district court erred in not awarding the government an interest in (1) the difference between the full value of the balance remaining in the trust in the case of E.R.T.'s premature death and its present value, and (2) the amount of interest that the trust earns solely because the United States paid the entire future-economic-damages award into the trust up front in a lump sum, not reduced to present value; the district court erred in setting the United States's deadline for paying the judgment within thirty days of the entry of this decision on appeal; and the district court did not abuse its discretion when it ordered the United States to make a future-lost-earnings payment when E.R.T. turns 17 and 1/2 years old. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded in part. View "Dixon v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment to defendants in this negligence action brought by plaintiff alleging that her yoga instructor, while adjusting her posture in class, injured her. In this case, defendants filed expert declarations stating that defendants had not breached the standard of care and that the instructor had not caused plaintiff's injuries. Plaintiff offered no experts of her own, but opposed the motion with her own deposition testimony and medical records. The court held that plaintiff failed to show a triable issue of material fact that defendants breached the applicable standard of care, and plaintiff failed to show a triable issue of material fact that defendants caused her injuries. View "Webster v. Claremont Yoga" on Justia Law

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A log truck driven by Royce Sullivan collided with the rear of an automobile being driven by Harry Schroeder, who had just pulled his car onto a highway in Lowndes County, Mississippi. Harry died as a result of the accident, and his wife, Helen (a passenger in her husband’s car) suffered severe injuries, permanent disability, and diminished capacity. Helen, individually, and as one of Harry’s wrongful-death beneficiaries, sued Sullivan in federal court, alleging that Sullivan’s negligence had caused Harry’s death and her permanent disability. Sullivan moved for summary judgment at the close of discovery, arguing that the uncontradicted evidence established Harry’s negligence as the sole cause of the accident. In denying summary judgment, the federal judge stated that the evidence created a jury question as to Sullivan’s fault, and that “plaintiffs do not appear to dispute Harry Schroeder’s potential contributory negligence.” The parties settled and agreed to a release of claims, and the district court dismissed the case. Following the settlement agreement, release, and subsequent dismissal of the action against Sullivan, Helen filed suit against Harry in the Circuit Court of Lowndes County, alleging Harry negligently had failed to yield the right of way and pulled in front of Sullivan’s log truck at an extremely slow rate of speed, causing the accident which resulted in Helen’s permanent disability. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Harry and found that Helen was judicially estopped from bringing a claim against Harry. Helen appealed that order. The Mississippi Supreme Court found the trial court erred in granting summary judgment on the basis of the release agreement between Helen and Sullivan because Harry was not a signatory to it. View "Clark v. Neese" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granting motions to dismiss and motions for summary judgment in an order that resulted in judgment for all defendants on Plaintiff’s complaint, holding that the proceedings below were without error. Plaintiff filed this action against judges and other court employees, the Board of Overseers of the Bar, the Maine Commission in Indigent legal Services, and the Lewiston Sun Journal challenging Defendants’ actions in an attorney disciplinary proceeding before the Board that resulted Defendant’s two-year suspension from the practice of law with conditions imposed on Plaintiff’s practice. Plaintiff’s complaint asserting numerous causes of action and allegations against Defendants. The superior court entered judgment for Defendants. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the superior court did not err in ruling that (1) most defendants were protected by statutory or common law immunities, (2) there were no disputes of fact regarding Plaintiff’s claims against Defendants, and (3) Defendants were entitled to judgment as a matter of law. View "Carey v. Board of Overseers of the Bar" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Josh Willner was injured while climbing a rock wall owned by his employer, Ivy League Day Camp. Willner sued the camp and the manufacturers of the wall and parts contained in the wall, Vertical Reality, Inc. (Vertical Reality), and ASCO Numatics (Numatics), respectively, alleging strict products liability claims and negligence. Throughout trial, evidence was submitted regarding Numatics’ conduct both before and after the incident. Prior to summation, the court dismissed the design defect and failure to warn claims, allowing Willner to proceed only on his strict liability claim of manufacturing defect against Numatics. Vertical Reality’s counsel underscored Numatics’ alleged malfeasance. Numatics objected and moved for a mistrial. The trial court denied the motion, but instructed the jury to disregard counsel’s comments concerning Numatics’ conduct. Numatics thereafter requested an instruction to the jury regarding the applicability of Numatics’ conduct in the context of Willner’s manufacturing defect claim. The judge denied that proposal and instead provided an instruction that substantially mirrored Model Jury Charges (Civil), 5.40B, “Manufacturing Defect” (2009). The jury found: Vertical Reality’s rock wall was designed defectively; Vertical Reality provided inadequate warnings; and Numatics’ product was manufactured defectively, all proximate causes of Willner’s fall. The jury awarded Willner monetary damages, allocating seventy and thirty percent liability to Vertical Reality and Numatics, respectively. The New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's jury instruction under a different standard of review than was used by the Appellate Division: the judge’s actions were harmless error. The Court reversed the imposition of sanctions, holding it would have been unfair to impose sanctions "in a case where the only means for a party to avoid sanctions would be to pay an amount greater than the jury’s verdict against that party, without advance notice of that consequence." View "Willner v. Vertical Reality, Inc." on Justia Law

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Accutane was a prescription medication developed by defendants and approved by the FDA to treat recalcitrant nodular acne. Accutane’s alleged role as a cause of gastrointestinal disease ultimately resulted in a series of lawsuits against defendants. The case before the New Jersey Supreme Court here involved over two thousand plaintiffs who alleged they developed Crohn’s disease as a result of taking Accutane. In the years since many earlier Accutane cases were decided, epidemiological studies were published, all of which concluded that Accutane was not causally associated with the development of Crohn’s disease. Defendants filed a motion seeking a hearing on the association between Accutane and Crohn’s disease. The issue presented for the New Jersey Supreme Court’s consideration reduced to the admissibility of scientific evidence under the New Jersey Rules of Evidence. Plaintiffs claimed that a causal connection existed between Accutane and Crohn’s disease. The Supreme Court discerned little distinction between “Daubert’s” principles regarding expert testimony and New Jersey’s, and Daubert’s factors for assessing the reliability of expert testimony “will aid New Jersey trial courts in their role as the gatekeeper of scientific expert testimony in civil cases.” The Court reconciled the standard under N.J.R.E. 702, and relatedly N.J.R.E. 703, with the federal Daubert standard to incorporate its factors for civil cases. Here, the trial court properly excluded plaintiffs’ experts’ testimony. Moreover, the Court reaffirmed that the abuse of discretion standard must be applied by an appellate court assessing whether a trial court has properly admitted or excluded expert scientific testimony in a civil case. In this matter, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in its evidential ruling and, therefore, the Appellate Division erred in reversing the trial court’s exclusion of the testimony of plaintiffs’ experts. View "In re: Accutane Litigation" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether Steward Carney Hospital owed Mary Miller, who was fatally stabbed in her home by N, a former patient of the hospital, and her family a duty of care, and if so, whether the hospital breached that duty when one of its physicians released N from involuntary psychiatric commitment. Plaintiffs, a representative of Miller’s estate and the mother of Miller’s granddaughter, brought this tort action against the hospital. A superior court judge allowed Defendants’ motion for summary judgment, concluding that the hospital did not owe Plaintiffs any duty of care. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the hospital did not owe the victim or her family any duty of care at the time of the killing because the order of civil commitment to hold N did not impose an independent duty on the hospital for N’s treatment and did not require the hospital to exercise any medical judgment as to the appropriateness of N’s release. View "Williams v. Steward Health Care System, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this insurance dispute, the Supreme Court reversed in part the entry of summary judgment in Plaintiff’s declaratory action regarding underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) in favor of Farmers Insurance Exchange, holding that the district court erred by holding that Farmers could offset its underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) obligation to Plaintiff dollar-for-dollar with GEICO’s entire UIM payment. Plaintiff was one of five passengers injured in an accident. The tortfeasor was underinsured by $48,686 as to Plaintiff’s damages. The vehicle in which Plaintiff was a passenger was insured by GEICO, and Plaintiff carried personal vehicle coverage with Farmers, including medical payment (MedPay) coverage and UIM coverage. GEICO paid Plaintiff its individual UIM coverage limit and Farmers paid Plaintiff under her MedPay coverage. In total, Plaintiff received payments of $2,500 less than her total stipulated damages. Disputes Plaintiff had with Farmers led Plaintiff to file this declaratory action. The district court held in Farmers’ favor on the two contested issues. The Supreme Court held (1) the policy language did not permit Farmers to offset its UIM obligation dollar-for-dollar with the entire GEICO UIM payment; (2) Farmers was entitled to offset its UIM obligation with its MedPay payments to Plaintiff; and (3) Plaintiff was entitled to recover attorney fees. View "Cramer v. Farmers Insurance Exchange" on Justia Law