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After plaintiff was injured while working at a surface gravel mine, he filed suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), arguing that his injuries were caused at least in part by a federal mine inspector's inadequate inspection of the mine. Under Missouri's Good Samaritan doctrine, a key requirement for liability is an increase in the risk of harm based upon the defendant's actions. The court noted that the Eighth Circuit has not yet addressed claims against mine inspectors under the FTCA. Several sister circuits have addressed such claims, and in each case, the parties have conceded the existence of discretion or the courts have expressly determined that the inspectors' duties involved an element of judgment or choice for purposes of the discretionary function exception to FTCA liability. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court finding no waiver of sovereign immunity and dismissing the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction in all respects other than the allegations of a failure to inspect training records. The court explained that the question of the inspector's failure to fulfill his mandatory and non-discretionary duty to inspect training records was so bound up with the merits of the case as to require further factual development. Therefore, the court reversed as to this claim, remanding for further proceedings. View "Buckler v. United States" on Justia Law

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Ella Bell, a member of the Alabama State Board of Education ("ASBE"), appealed a circuit court's dismissal of her complaint asserting claims of defamation, invasion of privacy, the tort of outrage, negligence and wantonness, and conspiracy against Cameron Smith, Advance Local Media, LLC ("ALM"), and the R Street Institute ("R Street"). In June 2017, Bell attended a special-called meeting of the ASBE concerning elementary- and secondary-education matters. Among other matters, the ASBE decided during the meeting not to renew the Alabama State Department of Education's contract with ACT Spire Solutions, which provided ACT Spire Assessments for the purpose of tracking academic progress of Alabama's public-school students in kindergarten through 12th grade. In the course of the discussion between ASBE members about that contract, Bell made some comments regarding special-education students and their effect on the aggregate test scores of public-school students throughout the state. In August, AL.com published an article written by Cameron Smith in which he addressed some of Bell's comments in the June 2017, ASBE meeting. At the conclusion of the article, AL.com included the following tagline: "Cameron Smith is a regular columnist for AL.com and vice president for the R Street Institute, a think tank in Washington, D.C." Immediately after the tagline, AL.com included the following statement: "Ella Bell's contact information may be found on the [ASBE] website" and contained an embedded link to the Web site of the ASBE. Following that statement, AL.com embedded a video of the discussion by ASBE members, which included Bell's comments that Smith addressed in the article. Bell alleged Smith made statements that he knew were false about Bell's comments in the June 2017 ASBE meeting. The Alabama Supreme Court found a fair reading of Smith's article revealed it to be an expression of opinion that did not mislead readers about the content of Bell's actual statements, it was not necessary for the circuit court to wait until the summary-judgment stage to dispose of the claims against Smith, ALM, and R Street. Therefore, the circuit court did not err in dismissing Bell's defamation suit. View "Bell v. Smith" on Justia Law

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In this negligence case, the Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court denying the motion to dismiss filed by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources petitioners (DHHR Petitioners), holding that the DHHR Petitioners were entitled to qualified immunity. Respondents filed a complaint against the DHHR alleging that the DHHR negligently failed and refused to pursue subsidized guardianship for the infant in this case and negligently failed to take appropriate action in the best interest of that infant to obtain permanency and a final disposition. Respondents further alleged that, due to the DHHR’s failure, they were forced to hire counsel and file a petition for guardianship and that the infant was unjustly denied a monthly subsidy for ten years due to the actions of the DHHR Petitioners. The circuit court denied the DHHR Petitioners’ motion to dismiss, finding that qualified immunity did not bar Respondents’ claims. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that no basis for piercing the DHHR Petitioners’ qualified immunity existed. View "West Virginia Department of Health & Human Resources v. V.P." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against defendant, alleging that defendant was grossly negligent and that this negligence caused plaintiff substantial harm. Both parties were electrical linesman. Plaintiff was injured at a worksite when a wire defendant's team disconnected from a downed pole snapped free and struck plaintiff in the face. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendant and held that the district court did not err in concluding that Iowa's Workers' Compensation Act provided the exclusive remedy for plaintiff's injury because he could not establish that defendant was grossly negligent. The court held that plaintiff failed to present evidence creating a factual dispute with regard to defendant's awareness that injury was probable. In this case, defendant's crew members agreed with him that the jerry-rigged setup would be the best way to secure the wire. While plaintiff's injuries suggested that the setup may have been negligent, mere negligence did not satisfy Iowa's stringent requirements for allowing co-employee liability. View "Van Dorn v. Hunter" on Justia Law

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L.M. suffered a severe injury during birth and subsequently sued Laura Hamilton, the midwife who delivered him, for negligence. Hamilton prevailed at trial. On appeal, L.M. argued the trial court erred by admitting evidence that natural forces of labor could have caused the injury and testimony from a biomechanical engineer to the same effect. L.M. argued the trial court should have excluded the evidence under Frye v. United States, 293 F. 1013 (1923), and the testimony under ER 702. The Washington Supreme Court found that under Frye, the trial court had to exclude evidence that was not based on generally accepted science. And under ER 702, the trial court had to exclude testimony from unqualified experts and testimony that was unhelpful to the jury. L.M.'s challenge concerned the extent to which the challenged science had to be "generally accepted." And his ER 702 challenge hinged on the amount of discretion an appellate court granted a trial court under the rule. Finding the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the challenged evidence, the Washington Supreme Court affirmed the trial and appellate courts. View "L.M. v. Hamilton" on Justia Law

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NBA player David West negotiated a contract with the New Orleans Hornets before the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. West received the full $45 million amount specified in his contract, but still submitted an "Individual Economic Loss Claim" under the Deepwater Horizon Economic and Property Damages Settlement Agreement. The Claims Administrator for the Agreement awarded West almost $1.5 million in "lost" earnings. The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of discretionary review of the Settlement Appeal Panel's decision affirming the award and held that the district court abused its discretion in this case when the decision not reviewed actually contradicted or misapplied the Agreement. Under the circumstances, West expected to earn in the absence of the spill precisely what he did earn after it. Therefore, he did not suffer unexpected damages, and Exhibit 8A did not apply to him. The court also held that West did not suffer actual or unexpected "losses" or damages, because he earned exactly what he was entitled to receive under his contract. The court explained the fact that he received less money in 2010 than in 2009 did not mean he "lost" anything or was "damaged" in any way. Rather, it meant only that he agreed to a front-loaded contract, and he agreed to do so many years before the spill. View "BP Exploration & Production, Inc. v. Claimant ID 100281817" on Justia Law

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In 2013, Philadelphia police found drugs and a gun in an apartment that they thought was Randall’s. They arrested Randall. The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office charged him but dropped all the charges in August 2015. When he was arrested in Philadelphia, he was already on probation in New Jersey and Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Hearing about his arrest, both jurisdictions issued detainers for him. After dropping the charges, Pennsylvania released Randall into New Jersey’s custody. He remained in custody, first in New Jersey and then in Delaware County, until December 24, 2015. On December 26, 2017, Randall sued the Philadelphia Law Department and the police officers who had arrested him under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court dismissed Randall’s claims as time-barred. The Third Circuit affirmed, rejecting Randall’s “continuing-violation” argument. Section 1983 borrows the underlying state’s statute of limitations for personal-injury torts. In Pennsylvania, that period is two years. When a Section 1983 claim accrues is a matter of federal law, under which a malicious-prosecution claim accrues when criminal proceedings end in the plaintiff’s favor. For Randall, that happened in August 2015, so he had until August 2017 to file his suit unless something tolled the statute of limitations. The continuing-violation doctrine focuses on continuing acts, not continuing injury. No Philadelphia defendant detained Randall beyond August 2015. View "Randall v. Philadelphia Law Department" on Justia Law

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The United States District Court for the District of South Carolina certified a question of state law to the South Carolina Supreme Court. Plaintiff was a former employee of BMW at its manufacturing facility in Spartanburg. During his employment, Plaintiff was subject to random drug tests. BMW contracted with Defendant to test hair samples of BMW employees for the presence of drugs. Plaintiff was selected for a random drug test, which was administered on-site by a contract nurse from a local hospital. According to Defendant's analysis, his hair sample tested positive for cocaine and benzoylecgonine (the primary metabolite of cocaine). Though Plaintiff asserted that he had not used any illegal substances, BMW suspended Plaintiff pending an investigation. On April 22, 2014, Plaintiff submitted a hair sample to an independent drug testing laboratory whose report determined that Plaintiff's hair tested negative for any illegal substances. BMW refused to accept the independent laboratory's results but permitted Plaintiff to submit a second hair sample for analysis by Defendant. The second hair sample also tested positive for cocaine and benzoylecgonine. BMW subsequently terminated Plaintiff due to the positive drug test results. Plaintiff maintained he was not and had never been a drug user. Plaintiff filed an action against Defendant, alleging negligence and negligent supervision. In response, Defendant filed a pre-answer motion to dismiss on the basis that Defendant did not owe a duty to Plaintiff. The certified question posed to the South Carolina Supreme Court asked whether a drug testing laboratory contracted with an employer to conduct and evaluate drug tests, owed a duty of care to employees subject to such testing that gives rise to a cause of action for negligence for failure to properly and accurately perform the test and report the results. The Supreme Court responded in the affirmative: “without the recognition of a duty, a terminated employee is often left without a means for redress, while the drug testing laboratory is effectively immunized from liability. … Therefore, absent a duty of care, drug testing laboratories are able to avoid liability for their negligence.” View "Shaw v. Psychemedics Corporation" on Justia Law

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Denise Wright was abducted and robbed at gunpoint by two unknown assailants in a common area of an apartment complex (Wellspring) in which she resided. Wellspring was owned by Respondent Franklin Pineridge Associates and operated by Respondent PRG Real Estate Management, Inc. Respondent Karen Campbell was Wellspring's property manager and an employee of PRG at the time of the incident. Wright sued Respondents for negligence, alleging Respondents voluntarily undertook a duty to provide security to residents of Wellspring and breached this duty, thereby causing her damages. She also alleged Respondents were negligent in failing to properly maintain shrubbery and lighting on the premises. The circuit court granted summary judgment to Respondents on Wright's negligence claim. A divided court of appeals affirmed. The South Carolina Supreme Court granted Wright's petition for a writ of certiorari to review: (1) whether Respondents voluntarily undertook a duty to provide security services to residents; (2) if such a duty existed under the facts of this case, whether there was a genuine issue of material fact that Respondents breached the duty; and (3) whether there was a genuine issue of material fact that any such breach proximately caused Wright's damages. The Supreme Court concluded the court of appeals erred in affirming the circuit court’ grant of summary judgment in favor or Respondents. The matter was remanded back to the circuit court for trial. View "Wright v. PRG Real Estate Management" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff was injured at a frat party, she filed suit against Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity for negligence. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment for the fraternity, holding that the fraternity owed no duty to protect plaintiff from the actions of the local chapter because there was no special relationship between the fraternity and the local chapter and there was no special relationship between the fraternity and plaintiff. The court also held that the negligent undertaking doctrine was inapplicable in this case. Finally, the court held that the fraternity was not vicariously liable for the local chapter's conduct View "Barenborg v. Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity" on Justia Law