Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries
Leigh v. Alaska Children’s Services
Allison Leigh broke her ankle when she slipped and fell in her employer’s icy parking lot. Following surgery she had a complicated recovery. Her employer began to controvert benefits related to the ankle about nine months after the injury. Three years after the injury, her employer requested that she sign a release allowing it to access all of her mental health records for the preceding 19 years because of her pain complaints. Leigh asked for a protective order from the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Board. The Board’s designee granted the protective order, and the employer appealed that decision to the Board. A Board panel reversed the designee’s decision. Leigh petitioned the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Appeals Commission for review, but the Commission declined. The Alaska granted Leigh's petition for review and found that the statute permitted an employer to access the mental health records of employees when it was relevant to the claim, even if the employee did not make a claim related to a mental health condition. This matter was remanded back to the Board for further proceedings to consider reasonable limits on the release at issue here. View "Leigh v. Alaska Children's Services" on Justia Law
Butts v. Alaska Department of Labor & Workforce Development
Office worker Sallyanne Butts (f/k/a Decastro) fell from her chair onto her hands and left knee. She initially suffered left knee symptoms and later developed right knee problems and lower back pain that she alleged arose from the fall. She argued the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Board erred when it performed its presumption analysis and when it awarded compensation for her left knee and back for only a limited period of time following the accident. The Alaska Supreme Court concluded: the Board appropriately considered the knee injuries and the back injury as distinct injuries and applied the presumption analysis accordingly; that the Board properly relied on the conflicting medical evidence to make its own legal decision about which of Butts’s conditions were compensable; and that the Board was not required to award compensation for knee replacement surgeries performed five years after the accident. The Court therefore affirmed the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Appeals Commission’s decision affirming the Board. View "Butts v. Alaska Department of Labor & Workforce Development" on Justia Law
Hart v. Parker
Appellants Nancy and Scott Hart brought suit alleging tort damages from an automobile accident caused by Daniel Parker. Before the Harts filed their complaint, Daniel Parker passed away. The Harts were unsure as to whether Parker was still alive when they filed their complaint and named both Parker and the Estate of Daniel Parker (the “Estate”) as defendants. The Appellee-Estate moved to dismiss the Harts’ complaint on numerous grounds. The Superior Court granted the Appellee’s motion, holding that the complaint was time-barred by 12 Del. C. 2102(a). On appeal, the Harts challenged the Superior Court’s order dismissing their claims against the Estate and argued that the Superior Court erred as a matter of law when it held that the Harts’ claims were time-barred by Section 2102(a). The Delaware Supreme Court agreed that the Harts’ claims were not time-barred by Section 2102(a), reversed the dismissal, and remanded to the Superior Court for further proceedings. View "Hart v. Parker" on Justia Law
Spencer v. Klementi
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the orders of the district court granting summary judgment to Respondents on Appellant's defamation claims and malicious-prosecution claim, holding that the district court erred in relying on the judicial-proceedings privilege in granting summary judgment for Respondents on Appellant's defamation claim based on certain statements. Appellant sued Respondents for defamation based on statements Respondents made during the public comment period of planning commission an improvement district meetings. Appellant also sued for malicious prosecution after he was acquitted on battery and elder abuse charges. The district court granted summary judgment for Respondents. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the judicial-proceedings privilege extends to statements made during quasi-judicial proceedings, but the public comment portions of the meetings in this case were not quasi-judicial, and therefore, the district court erred in relying exclusively on this privilege in granting summary judgment; (2) the district court correctly granted summary judgment on Appellant's defamation claims that relied on statements that were undisputedly true; and (3) the district court did not err in applying the law in resolving the malicious prosecution claim. View "Spencer v. Klementi" on Justia Law
Clark v. Mattar
In this negligence action, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court in favor of Defendant, holding that a juror should have been struck for cause based on bias and that there was prejudice because Plaintiff, the party objecting to the juror, was forced to exhaust her last peremptory challenge and accept and objectionable juror. The estate of Kandace Pyles brought a negligence claim against various medical providers, including Defendant. The juror in this case stated that he did not want to serve as a juror, that he had a favorable impression of doctors, and that he would not be able to assess noneconomic damages. Plaintiff moved to strike the juror for cause, and the trial court denied the motion. Plaintiff used her final peremptory challenge on the juror. After a trial, the jury found that Defendant was not negligent. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for a new trial, holding that the trial court's decision to deny Plaintiff's for-cause challenge was illogical and that a new trial was appropriate. View "Clark v. Mattar" on Justia Law
Busch v. McInnis Waste Systems, Inc.
Plaintiff had the right-of-way and was walking across a crosswalk in downtown Portland when defendant’s garbage truck struck him. By the time the truck stopped, plaintiff’s leg was under the truck and attached to his body by a one-inch piece of skin. Plaintiff was fully conscious and alert, and he experienced tremendous pain. Plaintiff had surgery to amputate his leg just above the knee. In this personal injury action, the issue presented for the Oregon Supreme Court's review centered on the constitutionality of a statutory cap on the damages that a plaintiff may recover for injuries resulting from a breach of a common-law duty. Here, plaintiff brought a personal injury claim for damages against defendant, a private entity, and, pursuant to ORS 31.710(1), the trial court reduced the noneconomic damages that the jury awarded — $10,500,000 — to the maximum amount permitted by statute — $500,000. The Court of Appeals held that, as applied to plaintiff, the cap violated the remedy clause of Article I, section 10, of the Oregon Constitution and reversed. After review, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals and reversed the decision of the circuit court. View "Busch v. McInnis Waste Systems, Inc." on Justia Law
City of Asbury Park v. Star Insurance Company
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals certified a question of law to the New Jersey Supreme Court. The matter before the federal court involved a dispute between a workers' compensation insurance carrier and its insured, a public employer. Both plaintiff, the City of Asbury Park (the City), and its insurance carrier, defendant Star Insurance Company (Star), sought reimbursement of monies paid toward an injured firefighter’s workers’ compensation claim from funds he recouped through settlement with a third-party tortfeasor. The funds available for reimbursement will not cover the full amount paid collectively by the City and Star. The question was whether, under the equitable “made-whole” or “make-whole” doctrine, the City had priority to recover what it paid before Star could recover any of its losses. The Supreme Court answered the certified question in the negative. Under equitable principles of New Jersey law, the made-whole doctrine did not apply to first-dollar risk, such as a self-insured retention or deductible, that is allocated to an insured under an insurance policy. View "City of Asbury Park v. Star Insurance Company" on Justia Law
Palmer v. Walker Jamar Co.
In this wrongful death case, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the district court's grant of summary judgment for Honeywell International, holding that a claim accrues in an asbestos-related wrongful death action when the fatal disease is causally linked to asbestos. Deborah Palmer brought this action against Honeywell after her husband, Gary Palmer, died from mesothelioma. The district court dismissed the case, concluding that the statute of limitations barred Deborah's claim because she filed her action more than six years after Gary learned that exposure to asbestos had caused his mesothelioma. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) under DeCosse v. Armstrong Cork Co., 319 N.W.2d (Minn. 1982), wrongful death actions brought in connection with asbestos-related deaths accrue either upon the manifestation of the fatal disease in a way that it causally linked to asbestos or upon the date of death, whichever is earlier; and (2) because Deborah did not file this wrongful death action until more than six years after the claim accrued, Minn. Stat. 573.02, subd. 1 barred her claim. View "Palmer v. Walker Jamar Co." on Justia Law
Pinney v. Carrera
In this automobile accident case, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the district court's general-damages award granted to Plaintiff, holding that Plaintiff satisfied the requirements of Utah Code 31A-22-309 and that the district court correctly denied Defendant's new trial motion. On appeal, Defendant argued (1) Plaintiff failed to satisfy the requirements set forth in section 31A-22-309, a prerequisite to receiving general damages in most automobile accident cases, because Plaintiff did not show that she sustained a "permanent disability or permanent impairment based upon objective findings"; and (2) under Utah R. Civ. P. 59, a new trial on the amount of damages should be granted because the award of general damages Plaintiff was awarded was excessively disproportionate to the economic damages awarded. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the court of appeals did not err in interpreting the phrase "objective findings"; and (2) the court of appeals did not err in affirming Plaintiff's damage award because the award was supported by sufficient evidence and was not so excessive as to appear to have been given under the influence of passion or prejudice. View "Pinney v. Carrera" on Justia Law
Smith v. Toyota Motor Corp.
Plaintiff filed suit against Toyota in strict products liability, negligence, and breach of warranty for injuries she sustained in a single-vehicle roll over accident. Plaintiff alleged that her 1997 Toyota 4Runner was unreasonably prone to roll over and that its seatbelt system failed to restrain her during the accident. Given plaintiff's concession that there was no evidence relating to the design of the seatbelt and that her claims instead centered on FMVSS 209, the Eighth Circuit held that the district court did not err in determining that she had abandoned her claim for strict liability. The court declined to reach plaintiff's evidentiary arguments because she failed to preserve them. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Smith v. Toyota Motor Corp." on Justia Law