Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries
Gill v. Waltz
In December 2015, Joseph Gill was injured in an on-the-job car accident when he was struck by a truck owned by Swift Transportation Company, LLC (“Swift”), driven by Christopher Waltz. As a result of the injuries he suffered in the accident, Gill obtained workers’ compensation benefits through Pinnacol Assurance (“Pinnacol”) to cover his medical expenses. Gill’s medical providers produced bills totaling $627,809.76 for the services he received. However, because Colorado’s workers’ compensation scheme caps the amount that medical providers can charge, Pinnacol satisfied all of Gill’s past medical expenses for significantly less. Pinnacol then pursued, and ultimately settled, its subrogation claim with Swift. Gill and his wife subsequently sued Swift and Waltz for damages resulting from the accident, and the case was removed from state court to the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. Swift sought partial summary judgment , relying on case law which, in applying Colorado’s workers’ compensation law, concluded that an injured employee lacked standing to pursue damages for services that were covered by workers’ compensation after the insurer had settled its subrogated claims with the third-party tortfeasor. While the federal district court was considering Swift’s motion, the Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Scholle v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., 2019 COA 81M, in which a divided court disagreed with the case law. Instead, it determined that a plaintiff-employee could seek damages for medical services covered by workers’ compensation insurance if the billed amounts were higher than the paid amounts, even after the insurer had settled its subrogation claim. The Colorado Supreme Court reversed, finding that a settlement between a workers’ compensation insurer and a third-party tortfeasor for all past medical expenses paid as a result of an on-the-job injury extinguished the plaintiff-employee’s claim to recover damages for those past medical expenses from the third-party tortfeasor. "As a result, while Joseph Gill may still pursue his claims for noneconomic damages and any economic damages not covered by his workers’ compensation insurer, he no longer has any claim to recover economic damages based on services paid for by workers’ compensation. There is consequently no reason to present evidence of either the amounts billed or the amounts paid for those services, and the collateral source rule is not implicated in this case." View "Gill v. Waltz" on Justia Law
Delta Air Lines, Inc. v. Scholle
William Scholle worked for United Airlines, Inc., driving luggage tugs from the terminal to waiting planes, loading or unloading the bags, and returning to the terminal. In June 2012, Scholle was stopped at a stop sign on a return trip to the terminal when he was rear-ended by Daniel Moody, an employee of Delta Air Lines, Inc. Scholle applied for and received workers’ compensation insurance benefits from United, a self-insured employer. United covered all medical expenses resulting from Scholle’s on-the-job injuries, as well as a portion of his lost wages. Scholle’s medical providers produced bills for the services he received that reflected costs in excess of what is permitted by the workers’ compensation fee schedule, though they never tried to collect amounts beyond those permitted by statute. United exercised its subrogation right and sued Delta and Moody to recover the payments it made to and on behalf of Scholle. Scholle separately sued Delta and Moody for negligence, seeking to recover compensation for damages as a result of the collision. Eventually, Delta settled United’s subrogation claim; Scholle’s claims against Moody were later dismissed, leaving only Scholle and Delta as parties. Delta admitted liability for the accident, and the case went to trial on damages. In pretrial motions in limine, Scholle argued that the collateral source rule should preclude Delta from admitting evidence of the amount paid by Scholle’s workers’ compensation insurance to cover the medical expenses arising from his injuries. Instead, Scholle contended, the higher amounts billed by his medical providers reflected the true reasonable value of the medical services provided to him and should have been admissible at trial. The trial court disagreed, reasoning that when Delta settled with United, it effectively paid Scholle’s medical expenses, such that amounts paid for those expenses were no longer payments by a collateral source. The court further noted that, under the workers’ compensation statute, any amount billed for medical treatment in excess of the statutory fee schedule was “unlawful,” “void,” and “unenforceable.” The Colorado Supreme Court concluded that when, as here, a workers’ compensation insurer settles its subrogation claim for reimbursement of medical expenses with a third-party tortfeasor, the injured employee’s claim for past medical expenses is extinguished completely. "Because the injured employee need not present evidence of either billed or paid medical expenses in the absence of a viable claim for such expenses, the collateral source rule is not implicated under these circumstances. The court of appeals therefore erred in remanding for a new trial on medical expenses based on a perceived misapplication of that rule." View "Delta Air Lines, Inc. v. Scholle" on Justia Law
Kuntz v. Kaiser Foundation Hospital
Plaintiffs, consisting of the estate of decedent Edward William Kuntz (decedent), his wife, and his three children, sued, among others, the Kaiser Foundation Hospital and the Permanente Medical Group, Inc. (collectively Kaiser), asserting causes of action sounding in elder abuse, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and wrongful death. Kaiser filed a petition to stay the action and compel arbitration. The trial court granted the petition as to the elder abuse cause of action, staying the other causes of action. Ultimately, the trial court entered judgment in favor of Kaiser. Plaintiffs appealed, arguing: (1) Kaiser failed to satisfy its burden of producing a valid agreement to arbitrate; and (2) Kaiser failed to comply with the mandatory requirements of Health and Safety Code section 1363.1 concerning the disclosure of arbitration requirements. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Kuntz v. Kaiser Foundation Hospital" on Justia Law
Hamer v. LivaNova Deutschland GMBH
Hamer underwent open-heart surgery using LivaNova’s 3T Heater-Cooler System. He developed an infection in the incision, which his physicians suspected stemmed from a non-tuberculosis mycobacterium (NTM). The hospital had experienced an outbreak of NTM infections in other patients who had undergone surgery using the 3T System. Hamer’s treatment team never isolated NTM from any of the swabs or cultures. Hamer, alleging that his treatment caused him lasting injuries, filed suit under the Louisiana Products Liability Act (LPLA) for failure to warn and inadequate design.Hamer’s case was transferred to Multidistrict Litigation case 2816, along with other cases alleging damages from the NTM infection caused by the 3T System. Case Management Order 15 (CMO 15) required plaintiffs to show “proof of NTM infection” through “positive bacterial culture results.” Hamer did not comply but opposed dismissal, claiming he had stated a prima facie claim under Louisiana law and sought remand.The Third Circuit reversed the dismissal. The court could have dismissed Hamer’s claims without prejudice, could have suggested remand, or could have dismissed Hamer’s claims with prejudice, if it found that Hamer had not stated a prima facie case under Louisiana law. .Under the LPLA, Hamer’s facts might state a prima facie case for defective design. Hamer’s allegations may diverge from those of other cases in MDL 2816 in which an NTM infection was verified but stating alternative theories of liability cannot justify foreclosing his claims. View "Hamer v. LivaNova Deutschland GMBH" on Justia Law
Ex parte Dalton Teal.
Dalton Teal, a defendant in a pending personal-injury action, petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Jefferson Circuit Court to vacate its partial summary judgment in favor of plaintiff Paul Thomas, pursuant to which it struck Teal's affirmative defenses of self-defense and statutory immunity. Thomas, accompanied by a friend, Brian Pallante, were at a Birmingham bar when an altercation between Pallante and Teal arose on the premises. Bar staff separated the two; Pallante and Thomas left through the front door, and Teal left through the back. Following his exit, Teal waited on a nearby bench for friends who had accompanied him. Within minutes of their exit from the bar, Pallante and Thomas again encountered Teal, and Pallante allegedly initiated another confrontation. Thomas confirmed that Teal was on his back on the ground with Pallante above him, and that Pallante was obviously "getting the better of" Teal in the struggle. Teal testified that, after having been choked for approximately 15 to 20 seconds, he realized that he was not going to be able to get up and became "afraid that they were going to kill [him]." At that point, Teal drew a pistol and fired a single shot in an effort "to get them off of [him]." Teal, who indicated that his ability to aim his weapon was affected by the fact that Pallante had "[Teal's] arm pinned down," missed Pallante, at whom Teal was apparently aiming, but the shot struck Thomas in the abdomen, seriously injuring him. The Jefferson County District Attorney declined to bring criminal charges against Teal based on the conclusion that Pallante's actions had "led to the shooting that injured [Thomas]." Thomas filed a personal-injury action against Teal and other defendants. The Alabama Supreme Court determined Teal presented substantial evidence demonstrating the existence of genuine issues of material fact regarding whether he was entitled to assert the affirmative defense of self-defense to Thomas's tort claims and whether he was entitled to statutory immunity. Therefore, the trial court erred in entering a partial summary judgment striking Teal's affirmative defenses premised on a theory of self-defense. Teal's petition was granted and a writ of mandamus issued to direct the trial court to vacate its order. View "Ex parte Dalton Teal." on Justia Law
State ex rel. U.S. Tubular Products, Inc. v. Industrial Commission of Ohio
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals denying U.S. Tubular Products, Inc.'s complaint in mandamus ordering the Industrial Commission to vacate its decision requesting John Roush's request for an award of additional compensation, holding that the Commission's decision was supported by evidence in the record.Under Ohio Const. art. II, 35, a worker who sustains injuries as a result of her employer's violation of a specific safety requirement (VSSR) may seek an award of additional compensation. Roush sustained injuries while working at U.S. Tubular, and his workers' compensation claim was allowed for numerous conditions. Roush later filed an application for a VSSR award, claiming that U.S. Tubular had violated specific safety requirements set forth in the Ohio Administrative Code. The Commission granted a VSSR award of an additional twenty-five percent in compensation. U.S. Tubular filed a mandamus complaint seeking a writ compelling the Commission to vacate the VSSR award. The court of appeals denied the writ. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Commission's determinations were supported by evidence in the record. View "State ex rel. U.S. Tubular Products, Inc. v. Industrial Commission of Ohio" on Justia Law
Bryant-Shannon v. Hampton Roads Community Action Program, Inc.
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing with prejudice an amended complaint filed by Lisha Bryant-Shannon (Shannon) against the Hampton Roads Community Action Program, Inc. (HRCAP) alleging its liability for defamatory statements made by Tina Vick, the HRCAP interim executive director, holding that the circuit court properly granted HRCAP's special plea of absolute privilege.After Shannon was terminated from her position she applied for unemployment benefits, but the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) denied the application following a hearing. Shannon subsequently filed this action stating claims for defamation based in part on allegedly defamatory statements made during employment-related disciplinary proceedings and in part on Vick's allegations during the VEC proceedings. The circuit court dismissed the complaint with prejudice. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the statements in the disciplinary form (1) Va. Code 60.2-623(B) grants absolute privilege to statements made during VEC proceedings; and (2) the circuit court did not err in granting HRCAP's special plea of absolute privilege. View "Bryant-Shannon v. Hampton Roads Community Action Program, Inc." on Justia Law
Branscomb v. Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P.
The Supreme Court answered in the negative a certified question as to whether a store manager can be held liable for negligence when he is not directly involved in the accident at issue.In the underlying personal injury case Plaintiff sued Wal-Mart and Wal-Mart's store manager, Jim Clark, seeking damages. Plaintiff sued in state court, but Defendants sought to remove the case to federal court and the grounds that Clark, an Indiana citizen, was added solely to defeat federal diversity jurisdiction. Plaintiffs sought to remand the matter back to state court, alleging that there were issues of fact precluding a conclusion that Clark, who played on personal or direct role in the alleged injury, was fraudulently joined. The United States District Court sua sponte entered an order seeking guidance in resolving the issue of whether Clark could be liable as a defendant. The Supreme Court answered by holding that when there are no allegations that a store manager controlled the premises where the harm occurred, he cannot be held liable under Indiana law. View "Branscomb v. Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P." on Justia Law
Weiss v. National Westminster Bank PLC
The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the operative amended complaints in two actions seeking to hold defendant bank liable under the Antiterrorism Act of 1990 (ATA), for providing banking services to a charitable organization with alleged ties to Hamas, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) alleged to have committed a series of terrorist attacks in Israel in 2001-2004. The actions also seek to deny leave to amend the complaints to allege aiding-and-abetting claims under the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA).The court concluded that 18 U.S.C. 2333(a) principles announced in Linde v. Arab Bank, PLC, 882 F.3d 314 (2d Cir. 2018), were properly applied here. The court explained that, in order to establish NatWest's liability under the ATA as a principal, plaintiffs were required to present evidence sufficient to support all of section 2331(1)'s definitional requirements for an act of international terrorism. The court saw no error in the district court's conclusion that plaintiffs failed to proffer such evidence and thus NatWest was entitled to summary judgment dismissing those claims. The court also concluded that the district court appropriately assessed plaintiffs' request to add JASTA claims, given the undisputed evidence adduced, in connection with the summary judgment motions, as to the state of NatWest's knowledge. Therefore, based on the record, the district court did not err in denying leave to amend the complaints as futile on the ground that plaintiffs could not show that NatWest was knowingly providing substantial assistance to Hamas, or that NatWest was generally aware that it was playing a role in Hamas's acts of terrorism. The court dismissed the cross-appeal as moot. View "Weiss v. National Westminster Bank PLC" on Justia Law
Kristensen v. United States
In 2015, a solder stationed at Fort Hood fatally shot his neighbors, his wife, and himself. The victims' families filed suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) and the district court entered final judgment in favor of the United States, dismissing the case with prejudice.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal, concluding that the district court did not commit clear error in finding that the harm to the victims was not foreseeable to the Army. The court explained that, under Texas law, a plaintiff must show both forseeability and cause in fact to establish proximate causation. In this case, there were no red flags regarding the soldier's behavior preceding the shootings; the evidence at trial showed that the Army was getting mixed messages about who was the victim of the altercation between the solider and his wife twelve days earlier; and the murders and shootings committed by the solider could not have been reasonably anticipated by the Army. The district court also found that the soldier's killings were "a superseding, unforeseeable event that could not have been anticipated by the Army based on the information they had during that 12-day period" between the February 9 altercation and the February 22 killings. The court also concluded that substantial evidence supported the district court's forseeability finding, and the district court did not commit clear error in making its finding. View "Kristensen v. United States" on Justia Law