by
Mitchell's Contracting Service, LLC ("Mitchell"), appealed a circuit court’s denial of Mitchell's renewed motion for a judgment as a matter of law or for a new trial in a wrongful-death action brought by Robert Guy Gleason, Sr., as the administrator of the estate of Lorena Gleason, deceased. Two of Mitchell’s employees were driving dump trucks when one of the trucks caused Lorena’s vehicle to leave the road, where it collided with a tree, resulting in her death. Gleason asserted claims against Mitchell based on vicarious liability for Pettway's or Turner's negligent and wanton acts and omissions. A jury returned a verdict in favor of Gleason for $2.5 million. Based on all the circumstances, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded the trial court exceeded its discretion in refusing Mitchell's request for a continuance. Accordingly, the trial court's judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for a new trial. View "Mitchell's Contracting Service, LLC v. Gleason" on Justia Law

by
This case arose from a trip-and-fall at a McDonald's in Winona, Mississippi: seventy-six-year-old John Renner, his wife, and two other family members stopped at a McDonald’s in Winona around 9:30 a.m. After he received his order, Renner set his food down at a table and walked to the condiment station. Before returning to his table, he thought one of the McDonald’s employees spoke to him. Renner turned and faced the counter before realizing the employee was speaking to another customer. As Renner turned back around to return to his table, his left foot struck a protruding leg of a highchair, causing him to fall and suffer injury to his face and left shoulder. After the fall, Renner heard one of the McDonald’s employees ask another what the highchair was doing there, and to move it. Two and a half years later, Renner filed suit against McDonald’s; Retzer Resources, Inc., the owner and operator of the Winona McDonald’s; and Velencia Hubbard, the manager of the Winona McDonald’s. During discovery, the defendants claimed that video footage of the fall no longer existed. The defendants, Hubbard and Retzer, moved for summary judgment, arguing that Renner could not demonstrate the existence of any genuine issue of material fact that: (1) the highchair was a dangerous condition; (2) any alleged danger was hidden; or (3) defendants had actual or constructive knowledge of the alleged dangerous condition. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of defendants. Renner appealed, arguing summary judgment was not proper because: (1) he established each element of a premises-liability claim; and (2) the defendants lost or destroyed key video evidence, which he argued foreclosed the grant of summary judgment. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court concluded plaintiff established several triable issues of fact, and as a result, summary judgment was inappropriate. View "Renner v. Retzer Resources, Inc." on Justia Law

by
A court may raise judicial estoppel on its own motion in an appropriate case, and therefore, the doctrine is not waived if not pled by the parties. After Plaintiff initiated Chapter 13 bankruptcy proceedings, he filed a defamation claim against Defendants. Plaintiff subsequently completed the payments required by the Chapter 13 plan, and the bankruptcy court ordered the discharge of his remaining unsecured debts. Defendants moved for summary judgment and then filed a reply brief to Plaintiff’s brief in opposition to the motion, arguing that Plaintiff was judicially estopped from prosecuting his defamation claim because he failed to timely disclose it to the bankruptcy court. The circuit court granted the motion, concluding that the doctrine of judicial estoppel prohibited Plaintiff from prosecuting his defamation claim after taking the position in the bankruptcy court that it did not exist. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the doctrine of judicial estoppel was not waived by Defendants for their failure to raise it in their pleadings; and (2) Plaintiff identified no reversible error in the circuit court’s application of judicial estoppel. View "Eilber v. Floor Care Specialists, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff-appellant State Farm Automobile Insurance Company, as subrogee of its insured, sued for damages arising out of an automobile accident between the insured and Defendant-appellee Nicholas Payne. The insured, Tori Ukpaka, originally brought this action, but voluntarily dismissed it after the statute of limitations had run. Whether State Farm could revive that claim depended on whether it could take advantage of the Oklahoma savings statute at 12 O.S. sec. 100, which gives "the plaintiff" up to one year from the date of a non-merits-based termination in which to refile an otherwise time-barred claim. In light of the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s “historic” interpretation of that statute, it concluded that because State Farm was "substantially the same, suing in the same right" as its insured for purposes of a subrogation claim, it should be entitled to the same treatment as its insured for purposes of the savings statute. Accordingly, the Court held State Farm’s, filed within one year after its insured voluntarily dismissed the same, was timely. View "State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co. v. Payne" on Justia Law

by
The federal government’s sovereign immunity, as exemplified by the discretionary function exception, pretermitted Appellant’s effort to recover damages under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) for the loss of twenty-five of his shade trees. Appellant instituted this FTCA action alleging that twenty-five of his maple trees had been chopped down without his permission. The trees were removed by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) pursuant to a quarantine order entered by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) in an effort to combat a bug infestation. The magistrate judge entered summary judgment in favor of the government, concluding that the discretionary function exception to liability under the FTCA barred Appellant’s lawsuit. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that APHIS’s decision to cut down Appellant’s trees without first securing his permission constituted a policy-driven exercise of discretion and therefore fell under the discretionary function exception. View "Evans v. United States" on Justia Law

by
The Liability Reform Act (LRA), Utah Code 78B-5-817 through 823, does not immunize retailers - whether “passive” or not - from products liability claims in cases where the manufacturer is a named party. In so holding, the Supreme Court overruled the court of appeals’ conclusion to the contrary in Sanns v. Butterfield Ford, 94 P.3d 301 (Utah Ct. App. 2004). The court further held that the LRA does not upend longstanding precedent that retailers are strictly liable for breaching their duty not to sell a dangerously defective product. Plaintiffs asserted claims for strict products liability, breach of warranty, and contract rescission against R.C. Willey. The district court dismissed the tort and warranty claims under the “passive retailer” doctrine articulated in Sanns. R.C. Willey stipulated to liability on the rescission claim. The Supreme Court rejected the passive retailer doctrine and thus reversed the dismissal of Plaintiffs’ claims against R.C. Willey for strict products liability and breach of warranty. The court also vacated the district court’s decision declining to award attorney fees to Plaintiffs. View "Bylsma v. R.C. Willey" on Justia Law

by
Petitioners-defendants Angela McClintock, Stephanie Streeter, and Christa Devaughn, all of whom were employees of the Jefferson County Department of Human Resources ("JCDHR"), petitioned for a writ of mandamus requesting that the Alabama Supreme Court direct the Jefferson Circuit Court to enter a summary judgment in their favor based on State-agent immunity. Charges arose from the death of K.W., a newborn who was removed from her home following domestic abuse allegations at the home of T.H., K.W.’s mother. At the time of K.W.'s death, McClintock was the director of JCDHR; Streeter was an assistant director of child welfare for JCDHR; and Devaughn was a child-abuse and neglect investigative worker for JCDHR. In June 2011, T.H. was charged with third-degree domestic violence when S.W., T.H.'s mother, filed charges against her for striking a sibling in the face. K.W. was born in December 2011. While T.H. was still in the hospital, T.H.'s grandmother reported to JCDHR that she had concerns that T.H. would not be able to care for her new baby, that T.H. had left her father's home, and that T.H. had a history of running away. After conducting an investigation, JCDHR allowed T.H. to be discharged from the hospital to the home of K.M., T.H.'s second cousin. K.H., T.H.'s father, filed a dependency complaint, seeking custody of K.W. In January 2012, Devaughn filed a dependency complaint as to T.H. and a request for a pickup order for K.W. K.W. was picked up and placed in the foster home of Dennis Gilmer on that same date. K.W. died on February 24, 2012, while in foster care. K.H. and T.H. filed a complaint against the petitioners, Brandon Hardin, Dennis Gilmer, and JCDHR, stating claims of wrongful death of a minor, negligence, wantonness, and negligent/wanton training and supervision. The Alabama Supreme Court found petitioners established they had a clear legal right to summary judgment in their favor based on State-agent immunity. Accordingly, the Supreme Court granted their petition for mandamus relief. View "Ex parte Angela McClintock et al." on Justia Law

by
In this personal injury case, the district court erred when it dismissed Plaintiff’s intentional tort claim and denied her request to seek punitive damages. Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant after Defendant drove his parents’ truck over Plaintiff’s feet in the high school parking lot. The district court dismissed most of Plaintiff’s claims, Defendant conceded he was negligent, and the case was submitted to a jury on the appropriate measure of Plaintiff’s actual damages. Plaintiff accepted the jury’s award of actual damages but appealed the adverse rulings on her other claims. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part, holding (1) the court of appeals properly affirmed the district court’s rulings with respect to Plaintiff’s negligent entrustment and uninsured motorist claims; but (2) the district court did not properly evaluate the evidence concerning Defendant’s state of mind and its impact on the legal theories and damages available to Plaintiff pursuant to Kansas law. View "McElhaney v. Thomas" on Justia Law

by
U.S.-flagged ships on the high seas do not fall within the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act's (FSIA), 26 U.S.C. 1605, non-commercial torts exception. Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that Israeli Defense Forces attacked the vessel they were on and detained them in violation of international law. The DC Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint based on Israel's immunity from suit, finding that neither the "non-commercial torts" nor "terrorism" exceptions of the FSIA allowed jurisdiction. The court rejected plaintiffs' contention that Congress' amendment of the FSIA exception eliminated the requirement that a state be designated a sponsor of terrorism for the exception to apply. View "Schermerhorn v. State of Israel" on Justia Law

by
The plaintiff filed a complaint against Lake County and Highland Park for personal injuries arising out of a bicycling accident on the Skokie Valley Bike Path. The circuit court granted the defendants summary judgment, citing the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (745 ILCS 10/3-107(b), which provides immunity with respect to “an injury caused by a condition of: (a) Any road which provides access to fishing, hunting, or primitive camping, recreational, or scenic areas and which is not a (1) city, town or village street, (2) county, state or federal highway or (3) a township or other road district highway. (b) Any hiking, riding, fishing or hunting trail.” Plaintiff appealed against the city only. The appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. The Bike Path is not a “trail” as that word is ordinarily and popularly used; the words “hiking,” “fishing,” and “hunting” dictate a narrow construction of the term “trail.” If section 3-107(b) stated that immunity applied to “any jogging, riding, in-line skating, or stroller trail,” a shared-use path such as the Skokie Valley Bike Path would be a “riding trail.” However, the inclusion of the words “hiking,” “fishing,” and “hunting” in the same sentence as “riding” indicates that the legislature intended to apply blanket immunity only to primitive, rustic, or unimproved trails. View "Corbett v. The County of Lake" on Justia Law