Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court insofar as it denied summary judgment to Beth Thompson on Joseph Whitt's intentional infliction of emotional distress and false imprisonment claims, holding that Thompson was immune from liability on those claims. Whitt was terminated from his employment as IT Director for Cabell County. Whitt sued Thompson, the Cabell County Administrator who informed Whitt of his termination, and the Cabell County Commission, which made the decision to terminate. The circuit court denied Thompson's motion for summary judgment on grounds of immunity and both Defendants' motions for summary judgment on the merits of the substantive claims in the complaint. The Supreme Court (1) reversed the court's order insofar as it denied statutory immunity to Thompson on the claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress and false imprisonment, holding that Thompson was entitled to immunity; and (2) declined to review the court's ruling denying summary judgment on Whitt's whistleblower claims. View "Cabell County Commission v. Whitt" on Justia Law

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Amling began working in the horticulture industry in 1965 and continued in that career for the rest of his working life. At one point, Robert worked for National Greenhouse, whose products allegedly contained asbestos. National’s assets and liabilities were transferred to Harrow. In 1990, Harrow executed an asset‐purchase agreement with Nexus, transferring all of National’s assets and some of its liabilities to Nexus. Amling was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2015. The Amlings sued Harrow, Nexus, and others in state court and, while that case was stayed, sought a declaratory judgment in federal court that under the terms of the 1990 agreement, Harrow, not Nexus or any other entity, is liable for National Greenhouse’s torts alleged in the Amlings’ state complaint. The district court dismissed the suit. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. It is virtually certain that the state suit will answer the question presented by the federal suit: whether under the terms of the asset‐purchase agreement Harrow or Nexus could be liable for their injuries. That fact makes this a live controversy but simultaneously justifies the district court’s sound exercise of its discretion in deciding not to issue a declaratory judgment. View "Amling v. Harrow Industries, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court overruling Appellant's motion to dismiss and compel arbitration, holding that Mo. Rev. Stat. 435.355 obligated the circuit court to order the parties to proceed to arbitration under the circumstances of this case. Prior to his discharge from the hospital, Theron Ingram executed a written Durable Power of Attorney naming Andrea Nicole Hall as his attorney in fact. Ingram was subsequently admitted to Brook Chateau, and Hall executed an arbitration agreement with Brook Chateau on Ingram's behalf. Ingram later filed a petition against Brook Chateau alleging negligence and seeking punitive damages. Brook Chateau responded by filing a motion to dismiss and compel arbitration. The circuit court overruled the motion, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court was required under section 435.355 to compel arbitration because Brook Chateau attached a valid arbitration agreement alongside its motion to dismiss and compel arbitration. View "Ingram v. Chateau" on Justia Law

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In this medical malpractice action against an anesthesiologist, the jury found that defendant breached the duty of care she owed plaintiff, but that the breach did not cause plaintiff's paralysis. On appeal, plaintiff argued that the trial court erred in denying the Batson/Wheeler motion the trial court made sua sponte after defendant's attorney exercised peremptory challenges to six Hispanic prospective jurors out of his seven total challenges. The Court of Appeal agreed with plaintiff that the trial court erred in not requiring defense counsel to offer nondiscriminatory reasons for his first four challenges that formed the basis of the trial court's prima facie finding of racial bias. Therefore, the court reversed for the limited purpose of conducting the second and third steps of the Batson/Wheeler inquiry as to all six challenged Hispanic jurors. The court held that the prohibition against the exercise of peremptory challenges to exclude prospective jurors on the basis of race or other group bias applies to civil as well as criminal cases. The court remanded with instructions. The court affirmed as to plaintiff's claim of error regarding the trial court's exclusion of evidence of defendant's dishonesty; motion to exclude expert testimony; and assertion that defense counsel's closing argument was improper. View "Unzueta v. Akopyan" on Justia Law

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This case addressed whether a foster-care provider and a caseworker for the Department of Human Resources ("DHR") were immune from liability. Arnold Curry filed this wrongful-death action against Becky Van Gilder, a licensed foster-care provider, and Kristi Kelley, a caseworker with the Montgomery County, Alabama DHR office, seeking damages for the death of his nine-year-old son A.C., who died of complications related to sickle-cell anemia after DHR removed him from Curry's home. Curry alleged that Van Gilder had acted negligently and wantonly in caring for A.C. and that Kelley had acted negligently and wantonly in managing A.C.'s case. Van Gilder and Kelley separately asked the Montgomery Circuit Court to enter summary judgments in their favor, denying liability and arguing that they were protected by immunity based on their respective roles as a foster parent and a DHR caseworker. The trial court denied their motions. They separately petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for writs of mandamus to direct the trial court to vacate its previous order denying their summary-judgment motions and to enter a new order granting those motions. The Supreme Court consolidated the petitions for the purpose of issuing one opinion, and granted the petitions in part and denied them in part. To the extent Curry's wrongful-death claims against Van Gilder and Kelley were based on allegations of negligence, those claims were barred by the doctrine of parental immunity. Parental immunity, however, did not bar wantonness-based claims, and Kelley did not establish that she was entitled to State-agent immunity as to the wantonness claim against her. Therefore, Curry's wrongful-death claims against Van Gilder and Kelley were allowed to proceed to the extent those claims were based on allegations of wantonness. View "Ex parte Kristi Kelley." on Justia Law

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Road Gear Truck Equipment, LLC ("Road Gear"), a corporation based in Franklin County, petitions this Court for a writ of mandamus directing the Marshall Circuit Court to vacate its order denying Road Gear's motion to transfer the underlying action to the Franklin Circuit Court and to enter an order transferring the action. Road Gear manufactures trucking equipment, including "cab guards" designed to prevent passengers in tractor-trailer trucks from being injured by shifting loads. Vernon Dement was operating a tractor trailer pulling a load of logs in Madison County, Alabama. While traveling, Dement's truck over turned on a curve in the road. The cargo crashed into the passenger compartment, crushing Dement to death inside the vehicle, and injuring his wife Deborah Dement, who was a passenger in the truck. Deborah filed suit in Marshall County on behalf of herself and in her capacity as the personal representative and administrator of the estate of her husband against Road Gear and fictitiously named defendants. Dement alleged that her injuries and the death of her husband were caused by Road Gear's negligence and wantonness and that Road Gear was liable under the Alabama Extended Manufacturer's Liability Doctrine ("the AEMLD"). Dement alleged in her complaint that venue was proper in Marshall County because she resided in Marshall County and Road Gear "does business in Marshall County." The Alabama Supreme Court determined FleetPride was Road Gear's "agent" in Marshall County for purposes of determining venue, and that Road Gear failed to show that it did not regularly do business in Marshall County at the time the suit was filed. Therefore, the trial court did not err in denying Road Gear's motion to transfer the action to Franklin County. View "Ex parte Road Gear Truck Equipment, LLC." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals remanding this case with instructions to enter judgment as a matter of law in favor of the Trust Company of Kansas (TCK) and reverse the jury's verdict finding TCK liable for negligent training, holding that the trial court's jury instructions were erroneous and that, therefore, the case must be remanded for a new trial on proper instructions. Marilyn Parsons sued TCK and its employee, Jon King, asserting various theories of liability. After a trial, the jury found JCK liable for negligent training and King liable for breach of fiduciary duty. The court of appeals reversed as to TCK, finding the evidence insufficient. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the district court's instructions failed to present the jury with an accurate statement of negligence law and improperly separated Parsons' negligence claim against TCK into two causes of action; and (2) the legal errors affected the verdict. View "Reardon v. King" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted in part and denied in part a writ of prohibition sought by Defendants challenging the circuit court's denial of Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint, holding that the circuit court erred when it refused to dismiss Plaintiff's claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress but did not err when it refused to dismiss Plaintiff's claim for general negligence. Plaintiff brought his complaint alleging that he suffered emotional injuries after witnessing a co-worker sustain fatal injuries due to Defendants' negligence. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss under W. Va. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) because the Plaintiff and his co-worker did not meet the "closely related" requirement. The circuit court denied the motion. Defendants then filed this petition requesting a writ of prohibition challenging the denial of the motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court granted the writ in part and denied it in part, holding (1) an employee cannot recover damages for emotional distress after witnessing an injury to an unrelated co-worker under a claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress; and (2) the circuit court did not err in denying Defendants' motion to dismiss as to Plaintiff's claim for general negligence because the claim was not duplicative of Plaintiff's claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress. View "State ex rel. Maxxim Shared Services, LLC v. Honorable Warren R. McGraw" on Justia Law

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In 2012, Timothy Hinton was deer hunting when he fell from his tree stand. He was using a fall-arrest system (FAS), but the tree strap snapped, and Timothy plunged eighteen feet, eventually dying from his injuries. In 2013, Timothy’s parents, Marsha and Thomas Hinton, filed a wrongful-death suit based on Mississippi products-liability law. The defendant manufacturer, C&S Global Imports, Inc., defaulted and was not a source of recovery. So the litigation turned its focus to the manufacturer’s insurer, Pekin Insurance Company. After the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled Mississippi had personal jurisdiction over the Illinois-based insurer, Pekin successfully moved for summary judgment based on the clear tree-stand exclusion in C&S Global’s policy. Retailer Sportsman’s Guide, which sold Timothy the tree stand and FAS in 2009, also moved for and was granted summary judgment, giving rise to this appeal. As grounds for its decision, the trial court relied on the innocent-seller provision in the Mississippi Products Liability Act (MPLA), and found no evidence of active negligence by Sportsman's Guide. The Hintons argued in response: (1) Sportsman’s Guide waived its innocent-seller immunity affirmative defense; (2) a dispute of material fact existed over whether Sportsman's Guide was an innocent seller; or (3) alternatively, Mississippi’s innocent-seller provision should not control: instead the trial court should have followed Minnesota’s approach - the state where Sportsman’s Guide is located (under Minnesota’s law, innocent sellers may be liable when manufacturers are judgment proof, like C&S Global was here). Finding no reversible error in the trial court's judgment, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Hinton v. Sportsman's Guide, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this case stemming from an incident that allegedly took place while Plaintiff was held in pretrial detention at the Adult Correctional Institutions (ACI) the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in favor of Defendants following entry of an order that denied Plaintiff's motion to file a second amended complaint, holding that Plaintiff was not entitled to relief on his allegations of error. In his complaint, Plaintiff, who was serving consecutive sentences of life imprisonment, alleged that he was attacked by a fellow inmate and that the attack was made possible by a correctional officer. Plaintiff sued ACI, the state, and various John Does, alleging negligence for failing properly to protect him. The trial justice granted Defendants' motion to dismiss based on Rhode Island's civil death statute, R.I. Gen. Laws 13-6-1. Thereafter, the trial justice denied Plaintiff's motion to file a second amended complaint. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial justice properly denied Plaintiff's motion to amend; and (2) Plaintiff's arguments that the civil death statute is unconstitutional on various grounds were barred by the "raise-or-waive" rule and procedural law. View "Gallop v. Adult Correctional Institutions" on Justia Law