Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Workers' Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) vacating factual findings made by the workers' compensation judge regarding the reasonableness and necessity of an employee's medical treatment for work-related injuries, holding that the WCCA erred.Respondent received a Gillette-style injury to her neck and upper spine. Respondent was later notified by her former employer, Appellant, that it would no longer approve reimbursement for certain injections. A compensation judge determined that the injections were neither necessary nor reasonable. The WCCA reversed, concluding that the decision of the compensation judge was not supported by substantial evidence in the record. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the WCCA erred in (1) vacating the workers' compensation judge's factual findings; and (2) directing the compensation judge to consider whether Respondent's case presented rare circumstances warranting an exception from the treatment parameters. View "Leuthard v. Independent School District 912" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Court affirming the judgment of the Compensation Review Board finding that the City of Bridgeport was liable for the payment of Plaintiff's workers compensation benefits as his principal employer, holding that the City was in the "trade or business" of maintaining and repairing municipal buildings and facilities.The City hired Contractor do repair work on the roof of the City's transfer facility, and Contractor hired Subcontractor. Plaintiff, an employee of Subcontractor, was injured in the course and scope of his employment and sought workers' compensation benefits from the City, Contractor, and Subcontractor. The Workers' Compensation Commissioner concluded that, because Howie's Roofing was uninsured, the Second Injury Fund was required to pay Plaintiff benefits under Conn. Gen. Stat. 31-355. The Fund contested liability, arguing that the City was required to pay the benefits owed to Plaintiff as his principal employer. The Commissioner determined that the City was Plaintiff's principal employer and ordered the City to pay workers' compensation benefits. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that roof repair was a part or process in the City's trade or business under Conn. Gen. Stat. 31-291. View "Barker v. All Roofs by Dominic" on Justia Law

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This case involved a wrongful-death claim filed by Michael Rondini ("Rondini"), as personal representative of the estate of Megan Rondini ("Megan"), to recover damages for the death of his daughter Megan, who committed suicide almost eight months after she was allegedly sexually assaulted while enrolled as a student at the University of Alabama. Rondini sued Megan's alleged assailant, Terry Bunn, Jr., in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, Southern Division, claiming that Bunn's alleged sexual assault and false imprisonment of Megan proximately caused her death. After Bunn moved for summary judgment, the federal court certified a question to the Alabama Supreme Court on whether Rondini's wrongful-death claim was viable under Alabama law. Both Rondini and Bunn framed their arguments around the Alabama Supreme Court's decision in Gilmore v. Shell Oil Co., 613 So. 2d 1272 (Ala. 1993). The Alabama Supreme Court responded by stating suicide would not, as a matter of law, absolve an alleged assailant of liability. “The statement in Gilmore that suicide is unforeseeable as a matter of law, was made in the context of a negligence case and does not apply in an intentional-tort case involving an allegation of sexual assault. … traditional negligence concepts like foreseeability and proximate cause, which form the backbone of the negligence analysis in Gilmore, have a more limited application in intentional-tort cases.” The Court held that a wrongful-death action could be pursued against a defendant when there is substantial evidence both that defendant sexually assaulted the decedent and that the assault was a cause in fact of the decedent's later suicide. “In such cases, it is unnecessary to analyze whether the decedent's suicide was a foreseeable consequence of the sexual assault; liability may attach without regard to whether the defendant intended or could have reasonably foreseen that result.” View "Rondini v. Bunn" on Justia Law

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Laura Register appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of Outdoor Aluminum, Inc., as to her claim alleging retaliatory discharge. Register worked as a laborer for Outdoor Aluminum. As part of her employment, Register laid out metal material, drilled or punched holes in the material, and deburred and cut the material. Register punched holes in the metal material with a hydraulic-press machine. The hydraulic press became misaligned and was not punching through the metal. When Register attempted to fix the press, the press exploded, causing a two-inch long and half-inch thick piece of metal to strike Register on the head above her right eye and temple. Register reported the incident to her supervisor, Roger Wise. As a result of the incident, Register's neck and head were injured and she had headaches, blurred vision, dizziness, balance problems, and pain. Register sought workers' compensation benefits and medical treatment from Outdoor Aluminum. Approximately a year after Register’s accident and subsequent medical treatments, Outdoor Aluminum management expressed concern with the length of Register’s rehabilitation. In June 2017, a nurse case manager reported to Outdoor Aluminum that Register had been released to full duty with zero impairment by one doctor; by July, Register had not returned to work under advice of another doctor. Because she had not returned to work, and based on the nurse case manager’s report, Outdoor Aluminum terminated Register. In 2018, Register sued Outdoor Aluminum seeking workers' compensation benefits and damages for retaliatory discharge. The parties engaged in discovery. In May 2020, Outdoor Aluminum moved for summary judgment, arguing Register could not show that her workers' compensation claim was the sole motivating factor behind the termination of her employment. The Alabama Supreme Court reversed, finding Register presented substantial evidence that there were genuine issues of material fact that should have been resolved by a jury. View "Register v. Outdoor Aluminum, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals holding that a fact issue existed as to whether a general contractor on a construction project owed a duty of care to its independent contractor's employee who was injured on the job, holding that no genuine issue of material fact existed regarding the existence of a duty.The trial court entered judgment in favor of the general contractor, concluding that there was no evidence to support the negligence elements of duty, breach, and causation. The court of appeals reversed as to the negligence claim, concluding that a fact issue existed regarding whether the contractor exercised actual control and thus owed the employee a duty, whether the contractor breached that duty, and whether the contractor's breach proximately caused the employee's injuries. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the contractor owed the employee no duty as a matter of law. View "JLB Builders, LLC v. Hernandez" on Justia Law

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In this insurance dispute, the Supreme Court denied a writ of mandamus compelling the trial court to render judgment in favor of Insurer on the jury's verdict, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in declining to render judgment on the verdict.Insured sought underinsured motorist (UIM) benefits from Insurer. Insurer in this case declined to participate in a jury trial to establish the at-fault motorist's liability and demanded a separate trial on its liability under the UIM policy. Before trial on the UIM claim, the court commenced a jury trial on Insured's negligence claim against the at-fault motorist. The parties settled and the claim was dismissed without rendition of judgment on the jury's verdict. Insurer then argued that a separate trial on the UIM claim was no longer necessary because of the jury's findings and the settlement payment. The trial court denied Insurer's motion for judgment based on the jury verdict from the negligence trial. Insurer sought mandamus relief. The Supreme Court denied relief, holding (1) collateral estoppel did not bind Insured to a verdict that was not reduced to judgment; and (2) Insurer's post-dismissal consent to be bound by the negligence suit's outcome did not make the negligence verdict enforceable against Insured in the contract suit. View "In re USAA General Indemnity Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court conditionally granted a petition for a writ of mandamus directing the trial court to vacate its order granting a motion to strike a counteraffidavit served under Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 18.001 and precluding the offering party from contesting the reasonableness of the subject medical expenses at trial, holding that the trial court abused its discretion.In granting the motion to strike, the trial court concluded that the counteraffidavit failed to comply with the requirements of section 18.001. The court then prohibited the offering party from testifying regarding the reasonableness and necessity of the medical bills. Petitioner petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus. The Supreme Court conditionally granted relief, holding that the trial court erred by striking the counteraffidavit and by granting relief that found no legal basis in section 18.001 for the purported failure to comply with the statute. View "In re Allstate Indemnity Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals in this premises liability case, holding that volunteers working in a third-party vendor's booth at a festival were licensees and not invitees of the landowner.Plaintiffs were the parents of four teenage volunteers at the San Lorenzo Church's annual festival. The teenagers were injured when a fire broke out in the interior of the booth they were working in. The trial court rendered a take-nothing judgment on the jury's verdict failing to find that the Church negligently caused the volunteers' injury or that the Church controlled the injury-causing activity. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the volunteers were the Church's invitees as a matter of law and that the verdict for the Church was against the preponderance of the evidence. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the volunteers were licensees of the Church rather than invitees; and (2) Plaintiffs did not show either that the evidence conclusively established that the Church breached its duty to the volunteers as licensees or that the trial court otherwise committed reversible error. View "Catholic Diocese of El Paso v. Porter" on Justia Law

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In September 2016, defendant Trend Motors, Ltd. (Trend), provided defendant Mary Aquilar with a loaner vehicle for her personal use while her vehicle was being serviced. Aquilar’s negligent operation of the loaner vehicle caused it to strike plaintiff Tyrone Huggins’s car. Huggins sustained serious injuries as a result. GEICO insured Aquilar through an automobile policy. Trend held a garage policy with Federal Insurance Company (Federal) that insured Trend’s vehicles for up to $1,000,000 in liability coverage. The definition of an “insured” in the Federal policy purported to extend liability coverage to Trend’s customers using Trend’s vehicles only if the customer lacked the minimum insurance required by law. Huggins filed a complaint seeking compensation for the injuries and loss of income he suffered as a result of the accident. Federal disclaimed liability, arguing that Aquilar did not fit the policy’s definition of an insured because she held $15,000 in bodily injury coverage through GEICO. The trial court held that the Federal policy’s definition of an insured constituted an illegal escape clause and held Federal to the full policy limit of $1,000,000 in liability coverage. The Appellate Division declined to review the trial court’s ruling. The New Jersey Supreme Court concurred with the trial court’s ruling that the provision in the garage policy at issue constituted an illegal escape clause which could not be used to evade the minimum liability requirements for dealership vehicles set by the Chief Administrator of the Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC). The Court ordered the reformation of Federal’s policy to the $100,000/$250,000 dealer-licensure minimum liability coverage required by N.J.A.C. 13:21-15.2(l). View "Huggins v. Aquilar" on Justia Law

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Two cases consolidated for review by the Georgia Supreme Court arose from a car accident that happened after Byron Perry stole a sport utility vehicle (SUV) from a rental lot where he worked and later crashed into Brianna Johnson and Adrienne Smith while Perry was trying to evade police. Plaintiffs Johnson and Smith each filed a lawsuit alleging claims of negligence and vicarious liability against the rental car company, Avis Rent A Car System, LLC and Avis Budget Group (collectively “Avis”), along with Avis’s regional security manager, Peter Duca, Jr.; the rental location’s operator, CSYG, Inc.; and CSYG’s owner, Yonas Gebremichael. Johnson and Smith also sued Perry, the CSYG employee who stole the SUV involved in the accident, although Johnson dismissed Perry before trial. Separate juries found that Johnson and Smith were entitled to recover damages, but both jury verdicts were reversed on appeal. The Court of Appeals concluded Avis, the only entity found liable for compensatory damages in Johnson’s case, was entitled to judgment notwithstanding the jury’s verdict (JNOV) on Johnson’s direct negligence claims because Perry’s intervening criminal conduct was the proximate cause of Johnson’s injuries. In Smith’s case, the Court of Appeal concluded any breach of duty to secure the car rental lot and the stolen SUV was not the proximate cause of Smith’s injuries (due to Perry’s intervening criminal conduct), and CSYG and Gebremichael were entitled to a directed verdict on Smith’s claims that they negligently hired and retained Perry, because Perry was not acting “under color of employment” at the time that he collided with Smith. The Supreme Court determined the Court of Appeals correctly concluded that the defendants could not be held liable to Johnson and Smith as a matter of law under the facts of these cases. Accordingly, the Court affirmed in both cases. View "Johnson v. Avis Rent-A-Car System, LLC" on Justia Law