by
Leone’s employer used a degasser, a large vat lined with brick, to extract gas impurities from molten steel. The degasser’s components include an alloy chute near the top of the vat. The employer hired BMI to “tearout” the degasser’s deteriorated face brick. Although the contract did not include any work on the alloy chute, a BMI employee testified that his team would dislodge loose material from the chute to ensure that nothing could fall. He did not notice any loose slag on the chute. After BMI finished, his employer assigned Leone to reline the degasser. Leone and his crew frequently climbed ladders near the alloy chute. They never spotted any loose slag on the chute but, 21 days after BMI completed its one-day job, a 40-pound piece of slag fell and struck Leone. Leone sued, claiming that the slag detached from the alloy chute. Because no molten metal could have created new slag, the court concluded that the slag must have existed when BMI finished but that BMI owed Leone no duty of care under Michigan law. The Sixth Circuit reversed. The district court interpreted Michigan law too narrowly. Although a contractor’s creation of a new hazard can trigger a duty to third parties, that is not the only way that such a duty might arise. A contractor can be liable to a third party if “any legal duty independent of the contract existed,” including by voluntary assumption of a duty. View "Leone v. BMI Refractory Services., Inc." on Justia Law

by
On October 8, 2016, Rita Kay filed a complaint against "Brookwood Baptist Health LLC" and fictitiously named defendants pursuant to the Alabama Medical Liability Act, based on injuries she allegedly suffered at the hands of another patient while she was being treated in the Psychiatric and Behavioral Health Inpatient Services Unit at Brookwood Baptist Medical Center from October 8, 2014, until October 12, 2014. She asserted claims of medical negligence, false imprisonment, negligence and wantonness, breach of contract, and negligent and/or wanton hiring, training, and/or supervision. Brookwood Health Services, Inc., filed a petition for a writ of mandamus directing the Circuit Court to dismiss Kay's action against it. Assuming, without deciding, that service on Brookwood Baptist Health LLC, the original defendant, was proper, the materials before the Alabama Supreme Court established that Brookwood Baptist Health LLC did not receive the complaint until February 13, 2017 -- 128 days after the lawsuit was commenced. Therefore, the Court concluded Brookwood established it was added as a defendant after the expiration of the applicable limitations period and that relation-back principles do not apply. Therefore, it has demonstrated that it had a clear legal right to the relief sought. Accordingly, the Supreme Court granted the petition for a writ of mandamus and directed the trial court to vacate its September 7, 2017, order denying the motion to dismiss filed by Brookwood Health Services, Inc., and to dismiss Kay's complaint. View "Ex parte Brookwood Health Services, Inc." on Justia Law

by
B&B Management Company, LLC (“B&B”) and Terence McGee (“McGee”) appealed the circuit court’s denial of their Motion to Dismiss and Transfer Venue. Y.X. first filed a premises-liability case in Madison County, Mississippi against B&B and five John Does, alleging she was injured on a treadmill in the fitness room of an apartment complex located in Madison County. Prior to B&B making an appearance, Y.X. voluntarily dismissed that case and refiled essentially an identical case in Hinds County, adding McGee, a former employee of B&B and resident of Hinds County, as a defendant. Accepting Y.X.’s testimony that she saw McGee leaving the complex, despite McGee’s denial of being there that on the day Y.X. was injured, does not change the fact that no evidence was presented which established that McGee owed an individual, legal duty to Y.X., or that he personally breached any legal duty that day. No actions imposing legal liability on McGee individually were developed during discovery. Applying principles set forth in the controlling Mississippi case law, the Mississippi Supreme Court found that McGee was joined fraudulently and/or frivolously with the intention of depriving B&B of its right to be sued in Madison County and that no reasonable claim of liability was established against McGee. Thus, the Court concluded, venue was improper in Hinds County. View "B&B Management Company, LLC v. Y.X." on Justia Law

by
Jose Reyes died after a course of treatment for tuberculosis. Judith Reyes alleged that her husband did not have tuberculosis and that the treatment prescribed to him for that disease caused him fatal liver damage due to an undiagnosed, underlying, liver disease. Judith alleged that the Yakima Health District and Christopher Spitters, M.D., were negligent in treating Jose. A year after filing suit, her expert witness submitted an affidavit alleging as much. But because allegations of misdiagnosis without deviation from the proper standard of care was not the basis for liability, the Washington Supreme Court held that the expert witness' affidavit was insufficient to create a genuine issue of material face, and affirmed the Court of Appeals. "In so holding, we do not require talismanic words, but the words... the want of the right word makes lightning from lightening bugs." View "Reyes v. Yakima Health Dist." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granting summary judgment for Defendant, Chase Bank USA, N.A., on Plaintiff’s claims alleging that Chase agreed to issue him two new loans to pay promissory notes secured by mortgages on his two properties, but that Pasquale Scavitti III, whom Chase engaged as its closing agent, converted the loan proceeds for his own use and failed to disburse them. The hearing justice determined that summary judgment was appropriate because, even if Scavitti were Chase’s agent, there was no genuine issue of material fact as to whether Scavitti’s conduct was within the scope of the purported agency relationship with Chase. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the hearing justice’s grant of summary judgment in Chase’s favor was proper. View "Pineda v. Chase Bank USA, N.A." on Justia Law

by
The Oregon Supreme Court previously denied employer Shearer's Foods' petition for review in this workers’ compensation case, but addressed claimant William Hoffnagle's petition for an award of attorney fees for time that his counsel spent in response to employer’s unsuccessful petition for review. Employer objected that the Supreme Court lacked authority to award fees and also objects to the amount of requested fee. Although the Supreme Court often resolved attorney fee petitions by order rather than written opinion, employer’s objection to the Supreme Court's authority to award fees presented a legal issue that was appropriately resolved by opinion. Employer insisted the Oregon legislature had not authorized an award of fees for work that a claimant’s attorney performs in response to an unsuccessful petition for review; employer did not dispute that, after a series of amendments, ORS 656.386 specified a claimant who prevails against a denial was entitled to an award of attorney fees for work performed at every other stage of the case, including in the Supreme Court, if the Supreme Court addressed the merits of the case. "Employer offers no reason why the legislature would have intentionally created that one carve-out to what is otherwise a comprehensive authorization of fees when a claimant relies on counsel to finally prevail against the denial of a claim. Indeed, such a carve- out would be incompatible with what we have described as 'a broad statement of a legislative policy' reflected in ORS 656.386, 'that prevailing claimants’ attorneys shall receive reasonable compensation for their representation.'" The petition for attorney fees was allowed. Claimant was awarded $2,200 as attorney fees on review. View "Shearer's Foods v. Hoffnagle" on Justia Law

by
Firefighters alleged that they suffered hearing losses caused by the loud noise emitted by a manufacturer’s fire sirens. A perfunctory investigation conducted by the manufacturer during discovery revealed the firefighters’ lawsuit to be clearly time-barred, and also revealed that one firefighter had not even suffered hearing loss attributable to noise exposure. Eventually, Plaintiffs requested the district court to dismiss the case with prejudice (Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(2)). In doing so, the court awarded attorneys’ fees and costs in favor of the manufacturer, making an explicit reference to plaintiffs’ counsel’s practice of repeatedly suing the fire siren manufacturer in jurisdictions throughout the country in a virtually identical fashion. The Third Circuit affirmed. Although attorneys’ fees and costs are typically not awarded when a matter is voluntarily dismissed with prejudice, such an award is appropriate when exceptional circumstances exist. Exceptional circumstances include a litigant’s failure to perform a meaningful pre-suit investigation, as well as a repeated practice of bringing meritless claims and then dismissing them with prejudice after both the opposing party and the judicial system have incurred substantial costs. Such exceptional circumstances are present in this case. View "Carroll v. E One Inc." on Justia Law

by
The estate of a driver killed in a vehicle/train collision sued a railroad company in a wrongful death action. The District Court entered judgment on the jury verdict finding the driver and railroad negligent and apportioned fault. The railroad, Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railroad Company (BNSF) appealed, and also appealed the post-trial order overruling its motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or, in the alternative, motion for a new trial. In substance, BNSF contended that federal law preempted the driver's claims, challenged the fairness of the trial proceedings and challenged the amount of damages awarded. Finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the Oklahoma Supreme Court affirmed judgment in favor of the driver's estate. View "Nye v. BNSF Railway Co." on Justia Law

by
Perry Odom suffered serious injuries when a semi-trailer collapsed on him at work. His employer, Penske Logistics, did not own the trailer, but his employer’s sole stockholder, Penske Truck Leasing, did. Odom and his wife sought to recover from Penske Truck Leasing through a personal injury action in federal court. The district court dismissed their complaint, reasoning Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation scheme as applied here shielded an employer’s stockholders from employee claims arising out of a workplace injury. The Odoms appealed, challenging the district court’s interpretation of the Oklahoma statute. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals certified the interpretive question to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, and received an answer making it clear the district court applied an incorrect legal standard in dismissing this case. The Tenth Circuit therefore reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Odom v. Penske Truck Leasing Co." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the district court’s grant of partial summary judgment in favor of Avis Rent A Car System, LLC on Avis’s claim for breach of contract but vacated the court’s award of damages. Defendant, a Maine resident, rented a car from an Avis location in Las Vegas, Nevada. The vehicle was damaged when it was involved in an accident in Las Vegas. When Defendant refused to pay for the damages, Avis filed a complaint against Defendant, alleging breach of connect and negligence. The district court concluded that Avis was entitled to partial summary judgment on the breach of contract claim as a matter of law. After an evidentiary hearing, the court granted Avis its requested amount of $15,342 and also awarded attorney fees and costs. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed in part, holding that partial summary judgment as to liability was correctly granted but because Avis presented no admissible evidence as to the amount of damages, it failed to prove it was entitled to the damages awarded to it. The Court then remanded the case for an award of nominal damages in accordance with Nevada law. View "Avis Rent A Car System, LLC v. Burrill" on Justia Law