Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

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Tyler Taylor injured his right index finger while in the line and scope of employment with Imperial Aluminum-Scottsboro, LLC ("Imperial"). The issue this case presented for the Alabama Supreme Court's review centered on whether the defendant-employer engaged in third-party spoliation of evidence that would have been essential to the plaintiff's products-liability claim against the company. After review, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court, finding Imperial culpable for negligent spoliation of evidence, and affirmed the award of compensatory damages to Taylor. The Court reversed, however, judgment relating to the award of punitive damages based on a finding of wanton conduct. View "Imperial Aluminum, LLC v. Taylor" on Justia Law

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In this personal injury case, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the trial court's compensatory damages award, holding that there was insufficient evidence as a matter of law establishing causation to support Plaintiff's claims of negligence and negligent entrustment against Defendant, Giant Eagle, Inc. Plaintiff was at the Giant Eagle grocery store when her shopping cart was hit by a Giant Eagle motorized cart driven by another customer. Plaintiff, who was injured as a result of the collision, brought this action against Defendant. The jury found that Giant Eagle was negligent and that Giant Eagle's negligence was the proximate cause of Plaintiff's injuries. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court's judgment. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that there was insufficient evidence of causation as a matter of law to support the claims of negligence and negligent entrustment against Defendant. View "Rieger v. Giant Eagle, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of defendant's motion for summary judgment in an action brought by plaintiff after she tripped on a step in defendants' garage. The court held that plaintiff failed to raise a triable issue of material fact with respect to breach of duty and the trial court properly granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment. In this case, plaintiff failed to establish a discernible feature of the garage steps that would notify defendants of an unreasonable risk of harm or any prior incidents that would alert defendants to the existence of a dangerous condition. The court also held that the facts of the present case did not give rise to an application of negligence per se. Furthermore, the presence of a building code violation did not automatically render defendants at fault, where the violations were relatively minor. View "Jones v. Awad" on Justia Law

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Damian Richard appealed an order denying in part his special motion to strike Alan Hicks's complaint for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Hicks was a principal of a Catholic elementary and middle school; Richard was the husband of one the school's teachers and a parent of children who attended the school. The complaint arose from Richard's role in prompting the Diocese of San Diego (Diocese) to remove Hicks from his school principal position. According to Richard, Hicks asked Richard to serve on the school's advisory board. At an advisory board meeting in the fall of the 2015-2016 school year, Hicks informed the advisory board he wanted to allow the producers of a television show to film the show on the school's campus. Richard expressed his belief the school should not be affiliated with the show because the show was intended for mature audiences due to its sexual nature and conduct. At a fundraiser in the spring of that same school year, Hicks revisited the topic with Richard. During their discussion, Hicks said he had previously permitted a motorcycle dealership to use the school's campus for a photoshoot and had received complaints because of the pornographic nature of the photographs taken. Later in the summer, Hicks asked Richard to serve as the chair of the advisory board for the 2016-2017 school year and Richard accepted the post. In that role and during that school year, Richard received complaints from parents, teachers, and other board members about Hicks. The complaints included concerns about Hicks's poor leadership, mismanagement of the school, frequent inappropriate comments to and about students and female staff, and advocacy for a curriculum Richard and other parents did not believe was in the best interest of the students or the school. In the winter of the 2016-2017 school year, the advisory board investigated complaints, which were corroborated by employees and parents. Richard and the other parents then sent a letter to the bishop of the Diocese. Richard contended the Court of Appeal had to reverse that part of the trial court's order denying his anti-SLAPP motion because, among other reasons, the court erred in deciding the common interest privilege did not apply to bar Hicks's claims. The Court agreed with this contention, and reversed. The matter was remanded back to the trial court with directions to vacate the order, to enter a new order granting the motion and striking Hicks's complaint, and to determine the amount of attorney fees and costs to award Richard under California Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16(c)(1). View "Hicks v. Richard" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals granting Thomas Beyer's request for a writ of mandamus and ordering the Industrial Commission of Ohio to vacate its decision denying Beyer's request for an award under Ohio Rev. Code 4123.57 for the permanent partial loss of sight in his right eye, holding that a physician, not the commission, must determine the degree of a claimant's impairment. In denying Beyer's request, the Commission found that the record did not contain sufficient medical evidence to substantiate it because Beyer did not present medical evidence of the percentage of vision lost. The court of appeals ordered the commission to vacate its decision and grant Beyer the requested award, finding that Beyer had provided the commission with sufficient evidence for the commission to determine the percentage of vision lost. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) claims involving medical determinations may be established only by submitting appropriate medical evidence; and (2) Beyer's evidence fell short because he did not present evidence of a physician's determination of the degree of his impairment. View "State ex rel. Beyer v. Autoneum North America" on Justia Law

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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