Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiff designated his nephew as his health care agent and attorney-in-fact using an advance health care directive and power of attorney for health care decisions form developed by the California Medical Association (the Advance Directive). After the execution of the Advance Directive, Plaintiff was admitted to a skilled nursing facility. Nineteen days later, his nephew executed an admission agreement and a separate arbitration agreement purportedly on Plaintiff’s behalf as his “Legal Representative/Agent”. The sole issue on appeal is whether the nephew was authorized to sign the arbitration agreement on Plaintiff’s behalf.   In answering the relevant question on appeal, the Second Appellate District held that an agent’s authority to make “health care decisions” on a principal’s behalf does not include the authority to execute optional arbitration agreements. Accordingly, the court affirmed the trial court’s order denying the motion to compel arbitration. The court explained that its conclusion that the execution of an arbitration agreement is not a “health care decision” finds support in the regulatory history of the recently enacted federal regulatory scheme prohibiting nursing facilities participating in Medicare or Medicaid programs from requiring a resident (or his representative) to sign an arbitration agreement as a condition of admission. Specifically, in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (i.e., the agency’s) responses to public comments published in the Federal Register. These comments and responses demonstrate that practically speaking, arbitration agreements are not executed as part of the health care decision-making process, but rather are entered into only after the agent chooses a nursing facility based on the limited options available and other factors unrelated to arbitration. View "Logan v. Country Oaks Partners" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Yesenia Pacheco sought contraception from Neighborcare Health, a federally funded community health center, “to prevent the birth of an unwanted child.” The method Pacheco and her care providers selected was Depo-Provera, “a highly effective” injectable contraceptive medication that “must be administered on a timely basis every eleven to thirteen weeks.” Pacheco received regular Depo-Provera injections from December 2009 until July 2011. On September 30, 2011 for her next scheduled appointment, a medical assistant “mistakenly injected [Pacheco] with a flu vaccine instead.” The medical assistant “failed to confirm why Ms. Pacheco was there, to document consent to the flu vaccine or a change in the orders, or to advise Ms. Pacheco of the side effects of a flu shot and/or the consequences of skipping a Depo-Provera injection.” Neighborcare did not inform Pacheco of its mistake until December 2011, when she sought an appointment for her next Depo-Provera injection. At that time, Neighborcare asked Pacheco to come to the clinic for a pregnancy test, which was positive. Plaintiff S.L.P. was born to Pacheco and plaintiff Luis Lemus, diagnosed with perisylvian polymicrogyria (PMG), a congenital defect resulting in permanent disabilities. In March 2017, Pacheco, Lemus, and S.L.P. filed an amended complaint against the United States pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) at the federal district court for the Western District of Washington, seeking damages relating to Pacheco’s pregnancy and S.L.P.’s PMG. The federal district court certified a question of law to the Washington Supreme Court, asking whether a patient who received negligent reproductive health care could recover all damages proximately caused by the provider’s negligence, regardless of the patient’s reason for seeking care. To this, the Supreme Court answered yes: if any Washington health care provider breaches their duty “to follow the accepted standard of care,” then damages proximately caused by the provider’s negligence may be recovered upon the necessary factual findings. Where negligent contraceptive care results in the birth of a child, and that child has a congenital defect, the provider may be liable for damages relating to the child’s condition. Such liability does not require proof that the child was at a known, heightened risk for developing congenital defects or that the patient sought contraception for the specific purpose of preventing the birth of a child with congenital defects. View "Pacheco v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the circuit court's entry of summary judgment in favor of Officer Ben Martin of the Georgetown Police Department on the grounds that he was entitled to qualified official immunity on Plaintiff's claims, holding that Officer Martin was not entitled to qualified immunity.Plaintiff brought this action against Officer Martin, alleging malicious prosecution, abuse of process, and defamation per se. The circuit court entered summary judgment in favor of Officer Martin, concluding that he was entitled to qualified official immunity. The court of appeals reversed, determining (1) under the circumstances, the trial court erred in granting summary judgment on the malicious prosecution claim; (2) as to the defamation claim, qualified official immunity was inapplicable; and (3) Plaintiff did not state a claim for abuse of process against Officer Martin. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court of appeals properly concluded that remand for further proceedings was required. View "Martin v. Wallace" on Justia Law

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In this appeal concerning the statutory ownership of a vehicle involved in a crash, the Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals' decision affirming the order of the trial court granting summary judgment in favor of Central Motors, Inc., holding that the circuit court correctly held that Juan Garcia was the statutory owner of the vehicle at the time of the accident.Dolores Zepeda was the passenger in a 2002 BMW being driven by Darley Morales, the son of Juan Garcia, when Morales caused the car to crash in a single vehicle accident. As a result of the accident, Morales died and Zepeda was left paralyzed. Zepeda sued, among other defendants, Garcia for negligent entrustment and Central Motors as the purported statutory owner of the BMW. The trial court granted summary judgment for Central Motors, determining that Garcia, and not Central Motors, was the statutory owner of the vehicle at the time of the accident. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Central Motors substantially complied with Ky. Rev. Stat. 186A.220 and delivered possession of the vehicle pursuant to a bona fide sale, thus making Garcia the BMW's statutory owner. View "Zepeda v. Central Motors, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued Defendants -- individuals and entities affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia ("ROCOR" and, collectively, "Defendants") -- for defamation, contending that they defamed him when they publicly accused him of forging a series of letters relating to his appointment as the Bishop of Miami. Defendants moved to dismiss based on the "church autonomy doctrine," arguing that Plaintiff’s suit would impermissibly involve the courts in matters of faith, doctrine, and internal church government. The district court denied the motion. Defendants then filed a motion for reconsideration and a motion to limit discovery to the issue of whether the church autonomy doctrine applied or otherwise to stay proceedings. The district court denied those motions as well. Defendants appeal the three interlocutory rulings.   The Second Circuit concluded that it lacks jurisdiction to hear the appeal. Accordingly, the court granted Plaintiff’s July 15, 2021, motion to dismiss. The court dismissed the appeal and vacated the temporary stay granted September 2, 2021. Here, Defendants appealed from the district court's denials of motions to dismiss, for reconsideration, and to bifurcate discovery or otherwise stay proceedings. The court explained, first, that none of the district court's three orders is "conclusive," as none constitutes a "final rejection" of Defendants' asserted church autonomy defenses. Next, the district court's orders do not involve a claim of right separable from the merits of the action. Accordingly, the court held that the district court's orders do not fall within the collateral order doctrine. View "Belya v. Kapral, et al." on Justia Law

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Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (“NYK”), incorporated and headquartered in Japan, is a major global logistics company that transports cargo by air and sea. On June 17, 2017, the ACX Crystal, a 730-foot container ship chartered by NYK, collided with the destroyer USS Fitzgerald in Japanese territorial waters. Personal representatives of the seven sailors killed sued NYK in federal court, asserting wrongful death and survival claims under the Death on the High Seas Act.  In both cases, the plaintiffs alleged that NYK, a foreign corporation, is amenable to federal court jurisdiction under Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(k)(2) based on its “substantial, systematic and continuous contacts with the United States as a whole. The district court granted NYK’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(2).   The Fifth Circuit affirmed, rejecting Plaintiffs’ invitation to craft an atextual, novel, and unprecedented Fifth Amendment personal jurisdiction standard. The court explained that under the Supreme Court’s reigning test for personal jurisdiction, the district court did not err in absolving NYK from appearing in federal court. The court wrote that general jurisdiction over NYK does not comport with its Fifth Amendment due process rights. NYK is incorporated and headquartered in Japan. As a result, exercising general jurisdiction over NYK would require that its contacts with the United States “be so substantial and of such a nature to render [it] at home” in the United States. Here, NYK’s contacts with the United States comprise only a minor portion of its worldwide contacts. View "Douglass v. Nippon Yusen Kabushiki" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court answered a certified question that law enforcement officers do not, as a matter of Montana law, act outside the scope of their employment when they use their authority as on-duty officers to sexually assault a person they are investigating for a crime.L.B. brought this action under the Federal Tort Claims Act alleging that she was sexually assaulted by Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Officer Dana Bullcoming after she called the police and reported that her mother was driving while intoxicated. The district court granted summary judgment for the Government, concluding that Officer Bullcoming was not acting outside the scope of his employment when he sexually assaulted L.B. because he was not acting in furtherance of his employer's interest. The The Ninth Circuit certified a question of law to the Supreme Court, which answered that, under Montana law, Officer Bullcoming's sexual assault of L.B. was within the scope of his employment as a law enforcement officer. View "L.B. v. United States" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Delaware Supreme Court's review centered on whether the First Amendment barred claims for defamation and tortious interference with contract against a defendant who, in an email to a law firm, described as “shockingly racist” a lawsuit filed by one of the firm’s partners in his personal capacity. The suit aimed to preserve a nearby high school’s “Indian” mascot. The partner, who claimed to have lost his position with the law firm because of the email, sued his detractor, contending that the characterization of his lawsuit was demonstrably false and pled four causes of action, including defamation and tortious interference with contract. The partner’s detractor, in response, contended her statements about the partner were opinions protected by the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause. The Superior Court agreed with the detractor and dismissed the partner’s tort action. The Supreme Court agreed with the trial court: the statements at issue did not on their face contain demonstrably false statements of fact, nor did they imply defamatory and provably false facts. "As statements concerning an issue of public concern, moreover, they are entitled to heightened First Amendment protection and cannot form the predicate of the plaintiff’s tort claims." View "Cousins v. Goodier" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff initiated action against Experian Information Solutions (“Experian”), alleging a violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. Section 1681 (“FCRA”). The district court found that Plaintiff failed to produce sufficient evidence to create a jury question on damages.   Plaintiff contends that a genuine dispute of material fact exists on damages because she provided evidence of financial and emotional harm. The court explained that to maintain a claim for negligent violation of the FCRA, a plaintiff must offer proof of “actual damages sustained by the consumer as a result of the failure. Further, Plaintiff argues that she sustained financial injury based on the denial of her application for a Chase Bank credit card after a hard inquiry on her Experian report. However, her deposition testimony refutes this claim. The record bolsters the conclusion that the bankruptcy drove Chase’s decision to deny Plaintiff’s credit card application. Thus, Plaintiff’s assertion of financial harm is insufficient to create a jury question on damages. Finally, the court wrote that like in other decisions where the court has denied damages for emotional distress, the record reveals that Plaintiff “suffered no physical injury, she was not medically treated for any psychological or emotional injury, and no other witness corroborated any outward manifestation of emotional distress. View "Christa Peterson v. Experian Information Solutions" on Justia Law

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Defendants, federal prison officials, appealed a district court’s judgment awarding former prisoner $20,000 for mental and emotional injury requesting damages pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), for his imprisonment in overcrowded conditions that posed a substantial risk of serious damage to his health or safety, to which Defendants were deliberately indifferent, in violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution.The Second Circuit reversed the judgment and remanded for dismissal of Plaintiff’s complaint. The court held first that the PLRA provision in 42 U.S.C. Section 1997e(e) precludes a prisoner's recovery of compensatory damages for mental or emotional injury resulting from his conditions of confinement absent a showing of physical injury. Next, Section 1997e(e) makes physical injury an element of such a claim for mental or emotional injury and is not an affirmative defense that would be subject to waiver if not presented in Defendant's answer. In light of Section 1997e(e), the jury's finding that Plaintiff failed to prove that the prison conditions of which he complained caused him physical injury precluded an award to him of compensatory damages for such mental or emotional injury as the jury found he suffered based on the conditions it found existed.Moreover, even if the jury's findings of fact warranted a conclusion that Plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment rights were violated by deliberate indifference to cruel and unusual psychological punishment caused by overcrowding, Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity from such an award. View "Walker v. Schult" on Justia Law