Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries
McIntosh v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd.
In this maritime negligence case involving a "cruise to nowhere," plaintiff filed a class action complaint against Royal Caribbean, on behalf of other similarly situated cruise ship passengers, alleging several tort theories, including negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Plaintiff alleged that Royal Caribbean canceled her cruise because of Hurricane Harvey and offered refunds only on the day the cruise ship was set to sail. Because the ticket contracts provided that no refunds would be given for passenger cancelations within 14 days of the voyage, and because Royal Caribbean repeatedly told passengers that they would lose their entire payments for the cruise if they canceled, the plaintiffs claimed that they were forced to travel to Galveston and nearby areas (like Houston) as Hurricane Harvey approached. Therefore, plaintiff alleged that, while in Texas, they were forced to endure hurricane-force conditions, and suffered physical and emotional injuries.The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and remanded for further proceedings. The court concluded that the district court committed two errors in ruling that diversity jurisdiction was lacking in this case, and each one provides an independent basis for reversal. First, the district court failed to give the plaintiffs notice of its intent to sua sponte address the matter of diversity jurisdiction. Second, putting aside the aggregation of damages issue, the district court failed to consider whether any individual plaintiff had satisfied the $75,000 amount-in-controversy requirement. On remand, the district court should also consider whether there is maritime jurisdiction. Because of the uncertainty over jurisdiction, the court did not address the class action waiver or the claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress. View "McIntosh v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd." on Justia Law
Hollingsworth v. Heavy Transport, Inc.
After Kirk Hollingsworth was involved in a fatal accident while working for HT, Hollingsworth's wife and son filed a wrongful death action against HT and Bragg. Plaintiffs alleged that HT lacked the required workers' compensation insurance at the time of the incident, and therefore plaintiffs were entitled to sue Bragg/HT under Labor Code section 3706. Bragg/HT then filed an application for adjudication of claim with the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB). In the Court of Appeal's previous opinion, Hollingsworth v. Superior Court (2019) 37 Cal.App.5th 927 (Hollingsworth I), the court held that the superior court, which had exercised jurisdiction first, should resolve the questions that would determine which tribunal had exclusive jurisdiction over plaintiffs' claims. Following remand, plaintiffs claimed that they were entitled to a jury trial on the factual issues that would determine jurisdiction. The trial court ultimately entered a judgment terminating proceedings in the superior court, and plaintiffs appealed.The Court of Appeal concluded that, although a jury may determine questions relevant to workers' compensation exclusivity when the issue is raised as an affirmative defense to common law claims, jurisdiction under Labor Code section 3706 is an issue of law for the court to decide. In this case, plaintiffs asserted jurisdiction under section 3706, and thus it was appropriate for the court, not a jury, to determine the questions relevant to jurisdiction. Therefore, there was no error in denying plaintiffs' request for a jury trial. The court also found that the trial court's consideration of parol evidence was not erroneous, and that substantial evidence supports its findings. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Hollingsworth v. Heavy Transport, Inc." on Justia Law
Prim v. Deputy Stein
The Prims attended a concert at the Pavilion after consuming wine and consumed more wine during the concert. After the concert, Janet, who suffers from MS, was “stumbling" and unstable. A Pavilion employee called for a wheelchair, escorted the Prims to the security office, and smelled alcohol on Eric’s breath. Deputy Stein, who was working traffic, noticed that Eric had difficulty standing and had slurred speech. Eric admitted that he had been drinking. Eric twice failed a horizontal gaze nystagmus test. A medic evaluated Janet and called Lieutenant Webb. The Prims insisted on walking home but they would have had to cross two busy intersections in the dark. The officers tried, unsuccessfully, to find the Prims a ride home. Stein arrested them for public intoxication. The charges were ultimately dismissed. The Prims brought claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Rehabilitation Act, and tort claims.The district court granted the defendants summary judgment. The Fifth Circuit reversed with respect to Eric’s assault claim but affirmed as to Janet’s assault claim and both false imprisonment claims. The officers are entitled to qualified immunity on the section 1983 claims. Given their apparent intoxication and their route home, the officers reasonably concluded that the Prims posed a danger to themselves or others. With respect to the ADA and Rehabilitation Act, the court affirmed, noting the Pavilion is a private entity and does not receive federal financial assistance. Janet was not discriminated against based on her disability. View "Prim v. Deputy Stein" on Justia Law
Usoyan v. Republic of Turkey
On May 16, 2017, Turkish security forces clashed with protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s Washington, D.C. residence. Injured protesters sued the Republic of Turkey, claiming that President Erdogan ordered the attack. They asserted various tort claims, violation of D.C. Code 22-3704, which creates a civil action for injuries that demonstrate an accused’s prejudice based on the victim’s race or national origin, and civil claims under the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act and under the Alien Tort Statute.After reviewing the videotape of the incident, the district court stated: [T]he protesters remained standing on the designated sidewalk. Turkish security forces ... crossed a police line to attack the protesters. The protesters ... either fell to the ground, where Turkish security forces continued to kick and hit them or ran away."The D.C. Circuit affirmed the denial of Turkey's motion to dismiss. Under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. 1602, a foreign state is “presumptively immune" from the jurisdiction of U.S. courts but a “tortious acts exception,” strips immunity if money damages are sought for personal injury or death, or damage to property, occurring in the U.S. and caused by the tortious act of a foreign state. The court rejected Turkey's argument that the “discretionary function” exception preserved its sovereign immunity. Although the Turkish security detail had a right to protect President Erdogan, Turkey did not have the discretion to commit criminal assaults. The decisions giving rise to the lawsuit were not “‘fraught with’ economic, political, or social judgments.” View "Usoyan v. Republic of Turkey" on Justia Law
Esurance Prop. & Casualty Ins. Co. v. Michigan Assigned Claims Plan
Plaintiff Esurance Property & Casualty Insurance Company (Esurance) paid personal injury protection (PIP) benefits to claimant, Roshaun Edwards (Edwards), pursuant to a no-fault automobile insurance policy, issued to another person, that was later declared void ab initio. Thereafter, Esurance filed this suit against defendants, the Michigan Assigned Claims Plan (MACP) and the Michigan Automobile Insurance Placement Facility (MAIPF), seeking reimbursement under a theory of equitable subrogation for the PIP benefits that Esurance had paid to Edwards under Michigan’s no-fault act before the policy was rescinded. The Michigan Supreme Court held that an insurer who erroneously pays PIP benefits could be reimbursed under a theory of equitable subrogation when the insurer was not in the order of priority and the payments were made pursuant to its arguable duty to pay to protect its own interests. On the facts alleged in this case, Esurance could stand in Edwards’s shoes and pursue a claim for equitable subrogation because it was not in the order of priority and also was not a “mere volunteer” under Michigan law when it paid Edwards’s PIP benefits. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals and remanded this case to that court for further proceedings. View "Esurance Prop. & Casualty Ins. Co. v. Michigan Assigned Claims Plan" on Justia Law
Hamric v. Wilderness Expeditions, Inc.
Texas resident Gerald Hamric joined a church group on an outdoor recreation trip to Colorado. The church group hired Wilderness Expeditions, Inc. (“WEI”) to arrange outdoor activities. Before the outdoor adventure commenced, WEI required each participant to complete a “Registration Form” and a “Medical Form.” On the first day, WEI led the church group on a rappelling course. In attempting to complete a section of the course that required participants to rappel down an overhang, Hamric became inverted. Attempts to rescue Hamric proved unsuccessful, and he fell and died. Alicia Hamric sued WEI for negligence. WEI moved for summary judgment, asserting the Registration Form and the Medical Form contained a release of its liability for negligence. A magistrate judge first declined to grant leave to amend the complaint due to Ms. Hamric’s failure to (1) sustain her burden under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16(b) because the deadline for amendments had passed; and (2) make out a prima facie case of willful and wanton conduct as required by Colorado law to plead a claim seeking exemplary damages. Next, the magistrate judge concluded WEI was entitled to summary judgment, holding the liability release was valid under both Colorado law and Texas law. Finally, the magistrate judge denied as moot Ms. Hamric’s motions for additional discovery and to disclose an expert out of time. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the magistrate judge's order. View "Hamric v. Wilderness Expeditions, Inc." on Justia Law
Gilbert v. Stewart
In 2006, plaintiff Brenda Gilbert divorced her husband, Monroe Gilbert, who acquired sole possession of the family’s vehicle, which was still registered in plaintiff’s name. In April 2014, Monroe informed plaintiff that he had to report to the Woodland Park Municipal Court (WPMC) regarding many outstanding traffic tickets; the court summonses were issued in plaintiff’s name. On April 15, 2014, plaintiff met Monroe and his attorney, defendant Kenyatta Stewart, at WPMC. The matter was adjourned, and plaintiff, defendant, and Monroe discussed the best way to resolve the outstanding summonses. Plaintiff did not retain defendant as her attorney or request that he represent her; nor did defendant bill plaintiff or enter into a fee agreement with her. Nevertheless, he indicated to plaintiff that the optimal resolution would be for her to plead guilty to the charges because Monroe was at greater risk of license suspension due to his poor driving record. Plaintiff worked in the Passaic probation department since 1994. The parties disputed the extent to which defendant advised plaintiff of certain risks associated with the plea agreement. It was undisputed that defendant failed to advise plaintiff of the impact that a guilty plea might have on her public employment. In July 2014, plaintiff, through different counsel, challenged her conviction; ultimately the disposition against her was vacated, her fines were repaid to her, and the charges against plaintiff were dismissed. Plaintiff ultimately filed a complaint against defendant, alleging he breached a duty of care by “engaging in a clear conflict of interest” and urging her to enter into “unwarranted guilty pleas.” Defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that he was not the proximate cause of plaintiff’s harm because any discipline from her employer resulted from her failure to notify, not her conviction. Judgment was entered in defendant's favor. The New Jersey Supreme Court reversed, finding a jury should have decided whether defendant’s legal advice was a substantial factor in plaintiff's demotion and suspension. View "Gilbert v. Stewart" on Justia Law
Cole v. City of New Haven
In this personal injury action, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants - the City of New Haven and one of its police officers, Nikki Curry - holding that the trial court incorrectly determined that Defendants were entitled to governmental immunity for discretionary acts pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 52-557n(a)(2)(B).On appeal, Plaintiff argued that the trial court erred in determining that Curry's decision to drive her vehicle into oncoming traffic was a discretionary act, rather than a ministerial act, because Curry's actions violated policies imposing ministerial duties regarding the operation of police vehicles, pursuits, and roadblocks. The Supreme Court agreed and reversed, holding that the trial court improperly granted Defendants' motion for summary judgment on discretionary immunity grounds. View "Cole v. City of New Haven" on Justia Law
Alaska Department of Corrections v. Wozniak
After initially disputing that a corrections officer was permanently and totally disabled from injuries suffered at work, the State conceded his disability status. The parties did not enter into a written settlement or stipulation because they disagreed about the amount of attorney’s fees the State should pay the officer’s attorney. After a hearing the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Board awarded attorney’s fees under AS 23.30.145(a) in two parts: it awarded a specific amount of fees for work up to the time of the hearing and statutory minimum fees of 10% of ongoing benefits as long as the officer received permanent total disability benefits. The State appealed to the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Appeals Commission, which affirmed the Board’s decision because in the Commission’s view the award was not manifestly unreasonable. The State then appealed the Commission’s decision to us. Finding no reversible error, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the Commission. View "Alaska Department of Corrections v. Wozniak" on Justia Law
Allstate Insurance Company v. Harbour
The primary issue in consolidated appeals was the scope of an automobile insurance policy’s arbitration provision. Two insureds with identical Allstate Insurance Company medical payments and uninsured/underinsured motorist (UIM) insurance coverage settled with their respective at-fault drivers for applicable liability insurance policy limits and then made medical payments and UIM benefits claims to Allstate. Allstate and the insureds were unable to resolve the UIM claims and went to arbitration as the policy required. The arbitration panels initially answered specific questions submitted about the insureds’ accident-related damages. At the insureds’ requests but over Allstate’s objections, the panels later calculated what the panels believed Allstate ultimately owed the insureds under their medical payments and UIM coverages and issued final awards. Allstate filed superior court suits to confirm the initial damages calculations, reject the final awards as outside the arbitration panels’ authority, and have the court determine the total amounts payable to the insureds under their policies. The judge assigned to both suits affirmed the final arbitration awards; Allstate appealed both decisions. The Alaska Supreme Court determined the arbitration panels had no authority to determine anything beyond the insureds’ damages arising from their accidents and because Allstate withheld its consent for the panels to determine anything else, the Court reversed the superior court’s decisions and judgments. The Supreme Court also reversed some aspects of the superior court’s separate analysis and rulings on legal issues that the panels improperly decided. Given (1) the arbitration panels’ damages calculations and (2) the Supreme Court's clarification of legal issues presented, the cases were remanded for the superior court to determine the amount, if any, Allstate had to pay each insured under their medical payments and UIM coverages. View "Allstate Insurance Company v. Harbour" on Justia Law