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Baptist Health System, Inc., d/b/a Walker Baptist Medical Center ("WBMC"), appealed a circuit court's denial of its postjudgment motion seeking relief from the judgment entered on a jury verdict in favor of Armando Cantu ("Armando"), as father and next friend of Daniel Jose Cantu ("Daniel"), a minor, on Armando's medical-malpractice claim. In 2009, Armando and his wife, Eulalia, took then three-month-old Daniel to WBMC's emergency room for treatment following symptoms including decreased appetite, coughing, and a fever that had lingered for several days. At that time, Daniel was diagnosed by the attending emergency-room physician as suffering from a viral illness (specifically, an upper-respiratory infection) and was discharged with instructions to continue fluids and to seek further treatment if the symptoms continued. Thereafter, Daniel's condition allegedly further deteriorated into vomiting, suspected dehydration, decreased activity, and "irritab[ility] whenever his neck was touched." Daniel received a second-opinion from his pediatrician, who performed a "spinal tap," revealing Daniel had bacterial meningitis. Daniel was taken to Children's Hospital in Birmingham, where he was treated with antibiotics, and released with a "discharge diagnosis" of: "meningococcal meningitis, hydrocephalus status post ventriculoperitoneal shunt placement, seizure disorder, blindness, and deafness as a result of bacterial meningitis." In October 2011, Armando sued both WBMC and Dr. James Wilbanks (the attending physician at Daniel's first trip to the Emergency Room), alleging a single count pursuant to Alabama's Medical Liability Act. Ultimately, the jury returned a verdict finding that Dr. Wilbanks's actions did not meet the applicable standard of care, found WBMC liable for the conduct of Dr. Wilbanks, and awarded Armando $10,000,000 in damages. WBMC filed a postjudgment motion seeking a judgment as a matter of law or a new trial. Among the other claims included in that motion, WBMC specifically asserted that it was entitled to a new trial based on the trial court's admission, over WBMC's objections, of evidence of prior medical-malpractice lawsuits filed against WBMC. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the facts related to the jury regarding prior acts and omissions by WBMC were entirely irrelevant for the purpose of curative admissibility, were highly prejudicial to WBMC, and warranted reversal of the judgment against WBMC. The judgment of the trial court was, therefore, reversed, and the case remanded for a new trial. View "Baptist Health System, Inc. v. Cantu" on Justia Law

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In this product liability action, the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding the claimant’s expert’s testimony regarding causation. Plaintiff brought this product liability action against Hoffman-La Roche, Inc. and Roche Laboratories, Inc. (collectively, Roche) alleging that she developed health issues as a result of ingesting Accutane, a pharmaceutical drug manufactured and distributed by Roche. After conducting a Daubert/Schafersman hearing, the district court entered an order precluding Plaintiff’s expert witness from rendering opinions on the general and specific causation of Plaintiff’s Crohn’s disease. Thereafter, the Court entered summary judgment in favor of Roche. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding the expert testimony after finding that the expert’s methodology was unreliable and conclusion-driven; and (2) with the exclusion of this testimony, there remained no issue of material fact, and therefore, summary judgment was properly granted in favor of Roche. View "Freeman v. Hoffman-La Roche, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Mass Litigation Panel through which summary judgment was granted in favor of Defendants, Pfizer, Inc., Roerig, a division of Pfizer, Inc., and Greenstone, LLC (collectively, Pfizer) on Plaintiffs’ claims that Pfizer negligently failed adequately to warn them of the risk of birth defects through the ingestion of Zoloft, a prescription medication, during pregnancy. The Court held (1) this was a case where expert testimony was necessary, and therefore, the Panel did not erroneously based its decision on the absence of expert testimony to support Plaintiffs’ claims that Pfizer failed adequately to warn women of childbearing age of the risks of Zoloft; (2) Petitioners could not sustain their evidentiary burden with Pfizer’s witnesses; and (3) there was no unfairness in requiring Plaintiffs to meet their burden of proof with expert testimony under the circumstances of this case. View "J.C. v. Pfizer, Inc." on Justia Law

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At issue was the rule that the company that purchases the assets of another is not responsible for the latter’s liabilities and the rule’s common-law exception when the parties use the transaction to fraudulently escape responsibility for those liabilities. Plaintiff, whose husband died from mesothelioma, sued Fire Brick Engineers Co. and Powers Holdings, Inc. alleging they were negligent in manufacturing or distributing the asbestos products to which Plaintiff’s husband was exposed. The complaint identified Powers Holdings as the successor to Fire Brick. Powers asserted that Plaintiff brought the action against the wrong entity because Powers was not liable for the torts of its predecessor corporations. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Powers. The court of appeals reversed and remanded for a determination of whether Powers should be held responsible for the liabilities of its predecessor company, concluding that the question of whether a transfer transaction was entered into fraudulent must be answered in the context of Wisconsin’s Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act.. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Powers was entitled to summary judgment because the Act does not govern the “fraudulent transaction” exception to the rule of successor non-liability. View "Springer v. Nohl Electric Products Corp." on Justia Law

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Appellants Keith and Debra Bjerk's son Christian died from an overdose after consuming drugs at a house owned by Kenton Anderson. The district court granted summary judgment dismissing the Bjerks' premises liability and negligent entrustment claims, and the Bjerks appealed. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the facts viewed in a light most favorable to the Bjerks did not support a conclusion that Anderson owed Christian a duty of care under a premises liability theory. The Supreme Court also concluded the Bjerks' negligent entrustment failed as a matter of law because only personal property, and not the real property at issue here, was a potential basis for a negligent entrustment claim. View "Bjerk v. Anderson" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Mosaic in this toxic tort action. Plaintiff alleged that toxic substances emitted from a factory operated by Mosaic caused or exacerbated various medical conditions from which she suffers. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding the opinions of plaintiff's expert because the expert's methodology was undermined by multiple defects. The court found no error in the district court's analysis and agreed with the district court that, among other things, the expert failed to properly assess dose-response with regard to plaintiff, to meaningfully rule out other potential causes of plaintiff's medical conditions, and to account for the background risk of her conditions. View "Williams v. Mosaic Fertilizer, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this libel-by-implication case, a column written by Steve Blow and published by The Dallas Morning News (collectively, Petitioners) was reasonably capable of meaning that John and Mary Ann Tatum acted deceptively and that the accusation of deception was reasonably capable of defaming the Tatums. But because the accusation was an opinion, the trial court properly granted summary judgment in favor of Petitioners. The Tatum filed suit alleging libel and libel per se against Petitioners alleging that the column at issue defamed them. The trial court granted summary judgment for Petitioners. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the column was “reasonably capable” of defamatory meaning and that the column was not a non-actionable opinion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the column’s accusation of deception was “reasonably capable” of injuring the Tatums’ standing in the community but that Blow’s implicit statement that the Tatum acted deceptively was an opinion and thus not actionable. View "Dallas Morning News, Inc. v. Tatum" on Justia Law

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This case raised issues concerning the legal obligations imposed on health care providers when a patient's health care directives conflict with the providers' opinions that the requested care would be medically ineffective and may cause harm. Elizabeth Alexander, a 70-year-old woman suffering from end-stage terminal pancreatic cancer, died four days after she was transferred from a skilled nursing facility to Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla (Scripps). Elizabeth had an advance health care directive stating she wanted all measures taken to prolong her life. Defendants declined to provide Elizabeth with certain advanced life support measures on the basis that such measures would have been ineffective and caused her to suffer further harm. After Elizabeth's death, her estate (Estate) and children, Clenton Alexander, Christopher Alexander, and Jacquelyn McDermet (together, Plaintiffs), sued Scripps and numerous medical professionals, alleging Elizabeth died after defendants failed to provide the life-sustaining treatment and comfort care requested in her advance health care directive. The trial court resolved Plaintiffs' claims in favor of Defendants either by sustaining demurrers or granting summary judgment. The Court of Appeal concluded the trial court properly sustained Defendants' demurrers to Plaintiffs' causes of action for elder abuse because Plaintiffs did not allege Defendants' conduct was sufficiently egregious to constitute elder abuse within meaning of the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act, and Plaintiffs did not meet the pleading requirements for their elder abuse claims. Plaintiffs' allegations, at best, stated a claim for professional negligence; the Court concluded the trial court properly granted Defendants summary judgment. On Plaintiffs' professional negligence and wrongful death claims, they could not defeat summary judgment because their expert did not set forth sufficient reasoning or explanation for his opinion that Defendants' breaches of the standard of care and violations of the Probate Code caused Elizabeth injury or death. Plaintiffs' negligent misrepresentation claims failed because the statements they relied upon were not positive assertions by Defendants, and Plaintiffs did not justifiably rely on Defendants' statements. The Court found Defendants were immune from liability under section 4740 for alleged violations of sections 4730 concerning communication of health care decisions; 4732 concerning recordation of information about a patient's capacity; 4736 concerning a health care provider's or institution's duties upon declining to comply with a patient's health care instructions; and 4742, subdivision (b) concerning liability for concealing or coercing or fraudulently inducing an individual to change an advance health care directive. View "Alexander v. Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla" on Justia Law

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There is no cause of action in West Virginia for failure to warn and negligent misrepresentation against a branded drug manufacturer when the drug ingested was produced by a generic manufacturer. Petitioners, Kimmy and Larry McNair, filed an action against Respondent, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, alleging that Kimmy developed acute respiratory distress after ingestion the generic drug levofloxacin that was manufactured by Dr. Reddy’s Laboraties Limited. Janssen originally trademarked and sold levofloxacin under the brand Levaquin and produced the warnings on the label that accompanied the distribution of the drug, which were subsequently used by generic manufacturers of levofloxacin. The McNairs alleged that Janssen had exclusive control of the content of the warning for both the brand-name and generic forms of the drug and was therefore liable for their alleged injuries. The federal district court granted summary judgment to Janssen, finding that because Janssen did not manufacture the product ingested by Kimmy, there was no basis on which to hold Janssen liable. On appeal, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals certified to the Supreme Court a question of law. In answering as set forth above, the Supreme Court declined to expand its products liability law. View "McNair v. Johnson & Johnson" on Justia Law

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An employer who used asbestos materials in its workplace before 1970 has no duty to protect the public from so-called secondary asbestos exposure, which is off-site contact with employees who may have been carrying asbestos fibers on their work clothes. Plaintiff sued Reynolds Metal Company and others, alleging that the defendants negligently caused Ernest Quiroz’s death. Specifically, Plaintiffs alleged that when Quiroz’s father was working at Reynolds’ plant, his clothes were contaminated with asbestos fibers and that Quiroz was exposed to the asbestos fibers, eventually causing Quiroz’s mesothelioma. The superior court granted summary judgment for Reynolds. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Reynolds did not owe a duty to protect the decedent from exposure to take-home asbestos where no special relationship existed between Reynolds and the decedent, and no duty existed based on public policy; and (2) this Court rejects the duty framework contained in the Restatement (Third) of Torts: Liability for Physical and Emotional Harm, and therefore, no duty existed on that basis. View "Quiroz v. Alcoa Inc." on Justia Law