Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court granting Defendants' motions for summary judgment and dismissing Plaintiff's claim that Defendants' negligent disposal of cigarettes inside an abandoned, privately owned mill in the town ignited a fire that destroyed both the mill and a sewage line in the basement of the mill, holding that Plaintiff was entitled to the benefit of the alternative liability doctrine for the purpose of proving its case at trial. In granting summary judgment, the trial court found that Plaintiff, Connecticut Interlocal Risk Management Agency, as subrogee of its insured, the town of Somers, could not establish which of the defendants' cigarettes had sparked the blaze and therefore could not establish causation. In so holding, the trial court refused Plaintiff's request that it adopt the alternative liability doctrine, as set forth in section 433 B(3) of the Restatement (Second). The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case, holding (1) when three threshold requirements have been met, the alternative liability doctrine should be recognized as a limited exception to the general rule that the plaintiff in a negligence action must prove that each of the defendants caused the plaintiff's harm; and (2) the three requirements for application of the doctrine were met in this case. View "Connecticut Interlocal Risk Management Agency v. Jackson" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-respondent Carra Crouch was 13 years old when she was drugged and raped by a 30-year-old employee of the Trinity Christian Center of Santa Ana, Inc. (TCC). The assault took place while plaintiff was in Atlanta participating in a TCC-sponsored telethon. When Carra returned to California, she and her mother, Tawny Crouch, went to see Carra’s grandmother, Jan Crouch, who was a TCC officer and director and was responsible for overseeing the telethon. When Tawny explained to Jan what had happened to Carra in Atlanta, Jan flew into a tirade and yelled at Carra that she was stupid, it was really her fault, and she was the one who allowed it to happen. Based on Jan’s conduct, the jury awarded Carra $2 million in damages (later remitted to $900,000) against TCC on her cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED). The jury found that Jan was acting within her authority as an officer or director of TCC when she yelled at Carra. TCC appealed, challenging the judgment and the trial court’s orders overruling its demurrer to Carra’s first amended complaint and denying its motions for summary adjudication, nonsuit, a judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV), and a new trial. At each stage of the trial court proceedings, and again on appeal, TCC argued that Jan’s conduct was not extreme or outrageous but was just a grandmotherly scolding or irascible behavior. According to TCC, Carra endured nothing more than insults, petty indignities, and annoyances. The Court of Appeal concluded Jan’s behavior toward Carra was sufficiently extreme and outrageous to impose liability for IIED. “Yelling at 13-year-old girl who had been drugged and raped that she was stupid and she was at fault exceeds all possible bounds of decency.” The Court concluded the evidence was sufficient to support the jury’s finding Jan acted within the scope of her authority as an officer of TCC, and therefore, supported respondeat superior liability against TCC. View "Crouch v. Trinity Christian Center of Santa Ana, Inc." on Justia Law

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Ronny Sanders and his employer KKE, LLC, sought to transfer a wrongful-death case filed against them in Bibb County, Alabama to Chilton County, where the automobile accident giving rise to the case occurred. KKE was a trucking company with its principal place of business in Bibb County. In 2016, Sanders, a Bibb County resident, was driving a logging truck owned by KKE eastbound on U.S. Highway 82 in Chilton County when the truck collided with a westbound vehicle being driven by Destini Davis. Davis and her three passengers, Londyn Rivers, Tarlanda Davenport, and Makiyah Davenport, were killed in the collision. After the trial court denied Sanders and KKE's motion to transfer the action from Bibb County to Chilton County, they petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus, arguing that the transfer was required by section 6-3-21.1, Ala. Code 1975, the forum non conveniens statute. The Supreme Court concluded Sanders and KKE did not establish that Chilton County was a significantly more convenient forum than Bibb County or that Bibb County's connection to the action was weak. Because they did not establish a clear legal right to the transfer they seek, Sanders and KKE were not entitled to mandamus relief. View "Ex parte KKE, LLC" on Justia Law

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Dara Myelia Reed petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the Jefferson Circuit Court to vacate its order denying Reed's motion for a change of venue and to enter an order transferring the underlying action to the Marshall Circuit Court. In 2017, a vehicle driven by Reed collided with a vehicle driven by Judy Watwood, at or near the intersection of Gilliam Springs Road Northwest and U.S. Highway 231 in Marshall County. Reed was a resident of Jefferson County; Watwood was a resident of Cullman County. In 2018, Watwood sued Reed in the Jefferson Circuit Court, alleging negligence and wantonness and seeking damages for her accident-related injuries. Reed filed a motion for a change of venue under Alabama's forum non conveniens statute, requesting that the action be transferred to Marshall County in the interest of justice. Watwood filed a response in opposition to the motion for a change of venue. Following a hearing on the matter, the circuit court denied the motion. Reed then filed this petition. The Supreme Court determined the trial court should have granted Reed’s motion, and granted her petition. View "Ex parte Reed." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs appealed the district court's dismissal of their state tort claims against defendants, alleging intentional infliction of emotional distress, tortious interference with contract, and negligent supervision or retention. Plaintiffs' claims stemmed from the actions of Fox News employees after their son, Seth Rich, was murdered during a botched robbery. A Fox News Reporter, Malia Zimmerman, and a Fox News commentator, Ed Butowsky, recruited a contributor to infiltrate the Rich family in order to find information to give credence to a conspiracy theory that Seth had leaked DNC emails to WikiLeaks and was assassinated for doing so. Applying de novo review, the Second Circuit held that the allegations in the complaint sufficiently stated a claim for intentional or reckless "extreme and outrageous" conduct against the Riches on the part of defendants; the complaint plausibly alleged that defendants tortiously interfered with the contract between the Riches and the contributor, who the Riches hired as a private investigator to look into the circumstances of Seth's death; and an amended complaint could likely cure any defect in plaintiffs' claim of negligent supervision or retention regarding the employment relationship between Fox News and Zimmerman and Wheeler. The court vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "Rich v. Fox News Network, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the denial of petitioner's motion for modification of his Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act benefits. Petitioner's appeal stemmed from the injury he sustained from a contracted IMIA employee when petitioner was employed at Avondale. In this appeal, petitioner objected to the Board's findings on the IMIA employee's employment status. The court considered the nine Ruiz factors to determine that the IMIA employee was not Avondale's borrowed servant. Therefore, the court affirmed the Board's conclusion that the ALJ's order was supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole and was in accordance with the law. The court rejected petitioner's remaining claims in support of the borrowed servant status. Finally, the court rejected Avondale's claim on cross appeal and held that Section 33(f) relief awarded by the ALJ remains in effect, and the unmodified compensation award stands following this appeal. View "Mays v. Director, Office of Workers' Compensation Programs" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the district court granting judgment as a matter of law to Lycoming Engines on Mark Kedrowski's claim that a defective fuel pump manufactured by Lycoming caused the airplane he was piloting to lose power and crash, holding that the district court abused its discretion by excluding that opinion of Kedrowski's sole expert on causation. The jury returned a $27.7 million verdict for Kedrowski. Thereafter, the district court granted Lycoming's motion for judgment as a matter of law, concluding that the opinion of Kedrowski's sole causation expert lacked foundational reliability and that, without this opinion, Kedrowski's claims failed. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court's evidentiary exclusion was overbroad and an abuse of discretion. The Supreme Court remanded the case for a new trial on liability. View "Kedrowskib v. Lycoming Engines" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to UTA in an appeal arising out of a Title IX suit for damages alleging that UTA discriminated on the basis of sex in disciplining Thomas Klocke. Klocke was placed on disciplinary probation by UTA and was not allowed to attend class because he had harassed another student for being gay. Klocke committed suicide shortly afterwards. His estate filed suit against UTA, seeking damages for Klocke's suffering and anguish prior to his death. The court held that UTA's disciplinary decisions were reasonable and justifiable on non-discriminatory grounds, and an inference of gender bias in these circumstances would necessarily be speculative. The court also held that the selective enforcement claim failed because none of the cases that the estate has identified permit the inference that similarly situated female students were treated more favorably than Klocke. Finally, the estate cited no additional evidence to support a retaliation claim. View "Klocke v. University of Texas at Arlington" on Justia Law

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Tracking a fugitive, Deputy Marshal Linder interrogated the fugitive’s father. Another deputy saw Linder punch the father. Linder was indicted for witness tampering and using excessive force and was put on leave. McPherson, the U.S. Marshal for the Northern District of Illinois, instructed other deputies not to communicate with Linder or his lawyers without approval. The indictment was dismissed as a sanction. Linder returned to work. Linder filed a “Bivens action,” against McPherson and a suit against the government under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. 1346(b). The district court dismissed all of Linder’s claims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed against the government alone. Section 2680(a) provides that the Act does not apply to “[a]ny claim ... based upon the exercise or performance or the failure to exercise or perform a discretionary function or duty on the part of a federal agency or an employee of the Government, whether or not the discretion involved be abused.” In deciding when federal employees needed permission to talk with Linder or his lawyer, McPherson exercised a discretionary function. The court rejected arguments that the discretionary function exemption does not apply to malicious prosecution suits. “Congress might have chosen to provide financial relief to all persons who are charged with crimes but never convicted. The Federal Tort Claims Act does not do this.” View "Linder v. McPherson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court affirming the decision of the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) upholding the denial of Appellant's application to the Department of Workforce Services, Workers' Compensation Division for permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits, holding that the OAH's decision was not contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence. After Appellant injured his back the Division awarded him temporary benefits. When several years had passed without relief from his pain, Appellant appleid for PPD benefits. The Division denied Appellant's application. The OAH upheld the Division's denial of PPD benefits, concluding that Appellant failed to prove his work injury was the cause of his inability to return to employment and failed to prove that he timely filed his PPD application. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the OAH correctly calculated the limitations period under Wyo. Stat. Ann. 27-14-405(h)(ii); and (2) there was substantial evidence to support the OAH's conclusion that Appellant failed to prove that his injury was the cause of his inability to return to work. View "Camacho v. State, ex rel. Department of Workforce Services, Workers' Compensation Division" on Justia Law