Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries
Joshi v. Fitness International, LLC
Joshi was injured while using a sauna at City Sports Club, which is owned by Fitness. Joshi filed a personal injury suit alleging premises liability based upon Fitness’s failure to maintain the sauna in a safe condition. She claimed Fitness failed to guard against or warn against a dangerous condition, specifically an interior light that was burned out; when she entered the sauna and closed the door, she tripped and fell because the area was dark, resulting in her right arm being severely burned after making contact with the sauna heating element.The court of appeal affirmed summary judgment in favor of Fitness. Fitness negated a claim for ordinary negligence because Joshi signed a membership agreement containing a release of claims for injuries arising from accidents at the Club and presented evidence that it had no actual or constructive knowledge at the time of the incident that the sauna light bulb was burned out. View "Joshi v. Fitness International, LLC" on Justia Law
Strickland v. Rankin County School District
In September 2016, Christopher Strickland, Jr., a sophomore at Northwest Rankin High School, was at Choctaw Trails in Clinton, Mississippi, preparing to run a cross- country meet. Before the race, a wasp stung Christopher on the top of his head. According to Christopher, a lump began to form and his head felt tight, like it was swelling. Christopher told one of his coaches. According to affidavits submitted by the Rankin County School District (RCSD), two coaches and a registered nurse, who was there to watch her son race, examined Christopher’s head and found no evidence of a sting or adverse reaction. And Christopher assured them he was fine and wanted to run the race. But Christopher recalled only one coach examining him. And this coach told him to “man up” and run the race. Christopher ran the race. According to one of his coaches, she checked in on him at the mile marker. He responded that he was “okay, just hot.” According to Christopher, after the mile marker he began to feel dizzy. Then he fell, hitting his head. The same nurse attended to him. So did her husband, who was a neurologist. Christopher appeared to recover and rejoined his team after the race. But he later went to a doctor, who discovered injuries to his brain and spine. In January 2017, Christopher’s father, Christopher Strickland, Sr. (Strickland), sued RCSD on Christopher’s behalf. He alleged various breaches of duties in how RCSD employees acted both (1) after the wasp sting but before the race and (2) after Christopher’s fall. Specifically, Strickland alleged that, after the fall, RCSD employees failed to follow the district’s concussion protocol. The Mississippi Supreme Court surmised "much legal analysis has been aimed at whether the actions of two cross-country coaches were discretionary policy decisions entitled to immunity from suit under Mississippi Code Section 11-46-9(1)(d) (Rev. 2019)." But on certiorari review, the Court found this question to be moot: the alleged actions of the coaches do not establish any triable claim for negligence. For that reason, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to the Rankin County School District. View "Strickland v. Rankin County School District" on Justia Law
Martin v. Turnipseed
Plaintiff Jennifer Leonard alleged Tyler Martin rear-ended her when she stopped in traffic. She sued Martin and his insurer, Wadena Insurance Company, in Louisiana state court seeking damages for injuries she allegedly sustained during the accident. Martin removed the lawsuit to federal court based on the existence of diversity jurisdiction. This appeal related to a Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 45 subpoena issued to third party Dr. Joseph Turnipseed requiring him to perform patient record audits and generate data about how frequently he recommends a particular course of treatment. Turnipseed, an anesthesiologist and pain management specialist, treated Leonard for neck and back pain allegedly caused by the accident. Among other treatments, Turnipseed performed a cervical radiofrequency neurotomy on Leonard. According to Turnipseed, Leonard responded favorably to the cervical neurotomy and he recommended that she undergo the procedure annually for the next five to six years. These future treatments make up a large percentage of Leonard’s life care plan and alleged damages. Defendants disputed the medical necessity of those expensive, future treatments. Turnipseed moved to quash the subpoena on undue burden grounds. The district court denied his motion to quash. He appealed. In the alternative, he sought a writ of mandamus ordering the district court to quash the subpoena. "With misgivings about the district court’s substantive ruling," the Fifth Circuit dismissed Turnipseed’s appeal for lack of jurisdiction under the collateral order doctrine, and denied his alternative petition for a writ of mandamus for not having demonstrated a clear and indisputable right to the writ. View "Martin v. Turnipseed" on Justia Law
Donna Brown v. Philip Morris USA, Inc.
Plaintiff, a lifelong smoker, sued Philip Morris USA, Inc., seeking damages for the injuries she sustained as a result of smoking Philip Morris’s cigarettes, specifically her development of peripheral vascular disease (“PVD”), a debilitating disease that eventually required the amputation of both of her legs, among other injuries. A jury returned verdicts against Philip Morris for Brown’s claims for strict liability, negligence, fraudulent concealment, and conspiracy to fraudulently conceal, and awarded Brown $8,287,448 in compensatory damages and $9 million in punitive damages.Philip Morris appealed the District Court’s denial of its renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law on the fraud claims, arguing that Plaintiff presented insufficient evidence to show that she relied to her detriment on statements made by Philip Morris that concealed material information about the health effects or addictive nature of smoking, or that such reliance was a legal cause of her smoking-related disease.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed Plaintiff’s jury verdicts for her negligence and strict liability claims, but reversed and remanded on Plaintiff's fraud claims based on the reasoning in Prentice v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. SC20-291, 2022 WL 805951 (Fla. 2022). Engle-progeny plaintiffs bringing a fraudulent concealment or conspiracy to fraudulently conceal claim must prove reliance on one or more specific statements by an Engle defendant. Plaintiff relied on evidence of Philip Morris’s disinformation campaign, which is no longer sufficient under Prentice. View "Donna Brown v. Philip Morris USA, Inc." on Justia Law
Sanchez v. Bezos
Plaintiff filed this defamation case against Defendants based on allegations that Defendants falsely told several reporters that plaintiff had provided explicit nude photographs of one of the Defendants to the National Enquirer. In response, Defendants filed a special motion to strike the complaint under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16 (the anti-SLAPP statute). To prove his case, Plaintiff provided his own declaration stating that numerous reporters had informed him of Defendants’ accusations against him. The trial court precluded admission of the reporters' statements under hearsay rules. The court then granted judgment in favor of Defendants. Plaintiff appealed.On appeal, the court affirmed the trial court's judgment in favor of Defendants. The reporters' statements involved statements that were not witnessed by Plaintiff. Thus, they were presented by Plaintiff to prove the truth of the matter asserted. Thus, the trial court properly applied the rules against hearsay to exclude the reporters' statements. View "Sanchez v. Bezos" on Justia Law
Ex parte Alabama Power Company, et al.
Alabama Power Company ("Alabama Power"), B&N Clearing and Environmental, LLC ("B&N"), and Jettison Environmental, LLC ("Jettison") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the Montgomery Circuit Court to vacate its order denying their motions to transfer this action to the Autauga Circuit Court and to enter an order granting the motions. In 2019, Zane Yates Curtis, a North Carolina resident who was employed by B&N, was killed when a portion of his tractor-trailer made contact with an energized overhead power line in Autauga County. At the time, Zane was dumping mulch at a landfill in Prattville that was operated by JB Waste Connection, LLC. Rachel Curtis, as the administrator of Zane's estate, filed a complaint for worker's compensation benefits against B&N in the Montgomery Circuit Court. B&N was a Delaware limited-liability company whose principal address was in Houston, Texas. It did not have a physical office in the State of Alabama, it did not have a principal office in Montgomery County or any other Alabama county, and none of its members were residents of Montgomery County or any other Alabama county. Rachel amended her complaint to include a workers’ compensation claim against B&N, and negligence and wantonness claims against Alabama Power, Jettison, and JB Waste. Alabama Power was an Alabama corporation that had its principal place of business in Birmingham. Jettison was an Alabama limited-liability company that had its principal place of business in Autauga County. JB Waste was an Alabama limited-liability company with an office in Montgomery County and did business in Montgomery County and Autauga County. B&N filed answers to both complaints, specifically including the defense of improper venue. Because venue in Montgomery County was not proper as to B&N when the action was commenced, the Alabama Supreme Court found the trial court exceeded its discretion in denying the motions to transfer the case to Autauga County, where venue would have been proper. The writ petition was granted and the Montgomery Court ordered to transfer the case to Autauga. View "Ex parte Alabama Power Company, et al." on Justia Law
Smith v. Volkswagen Southtowne, Inc.
The Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part the judgment of the district court granting Volkswagen SouthTowne's motion for judgment as a matter of law and a new trial after Plaintiff was awarded $2,700,000 on her negligence and strict liability claims, holding that SouthTowne was not entitled to judgment as a matter of law or a new trial.SouthTowne sold Plaintiff a vehicle that was subject to a safety recall because of defective fuel injection lines. After buying the car, Plaintiff was diagnosed with carbon monoxide poisoning. A mechanic discovered that the safety recall had not been performed on Plaintiff's vehicle. A jury returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiff, but the district court entered post-trial orders concluding that Plaintiff had failed sufficiently to establish the applicable standard of care. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the cumulative evidence adduced at trial was legally sufficient to satisfy the element of causation; and (2) the trial court erred in basing its ruling conditionally granting a new trial to SouthTowne because the ruling was based on issues that Plaintiff was not given notice and an opportunity to be heard on. View "Smith v. Volkswagen Southtowne, Inc." on Justia Law
Fowler v. Akzo Nobel Chemicals, Inc.
In June 2011, Thomasenia Fowler, as administrator of her husband Willis Edenfield’s estate, initiated a wrongful death/product liability action against Union Carbide, a manufacturer and supplier of asbestos that Edenfield handled as a daily part of his 40-year job at an adhesive manufacturing plant (the Bloomfield Plant). In 1968, Union Carbide began placing a warning on its asbestos bags. In compliance with an emergency standard imposed by OSHA, the company changed the warning in 1972. The change notwithstanding, an in-house staff-member of Union Carbide notified the company that its warning inadequately addressed the lethal dangers of asbestos exposure, but Union Carbide declined to upgrade its label. Union Carbide presented evidence that it periodically provided information and various safety warnings about its asbestos products to Edenfield’s employers and requested that the information and warnings be made available to the employees. The issue this case presented for the New Jersey Supreme Court’s review centered on whether a manufacturer or supplier that puts inadequate warnings on its asbestos products used in the workplace can fulfill its duty to warn by disseminating adequate information to the employer with the intention that such information will reach the workers using those products. The Court also considered whether, in charging on medical causation in this mesothelioma case, the trial court was required to give the frequency, regularity, and proximity language in Sholtis v. American Cyanamid Co., 238 N.J. Super. 8, 28-29 (App. Div. 1989), rather than the substantial factor test in the Model Civil Charge, as modified by the court. As to the duty to warn, the Court held that an asbestos manufacturer or supplier that places inadequate warnings on asbestos bags used in the workplace has breached its duty to the worker, regardless of whether it provides the employer with the correct information, which is reasonably intended to reach its employees. As to medical causation, the trial court’s modified Model Jury Charge on proximate cause sufficiently guided the jury. View "Fowler v. Akzo Nobel Chemicals, Inc." on Justia Law
Achay v. Huntington Beach Union High School Dist.
Plaintiff C. Achay was a student on a high school track team, which usually practiced after school until 5:30 p.m. One day practice ended early, so Achay and her friend walked to Starbucks and returned about 45 minutes later. On the way back to the open campus, they encountered a stranger who Achay thought was “suspicious.” Someone identified him as A. Meer, a former student who was “kind of weird.” Achay retrieved her schoolbooks from the girls’ locker room, which was to be locked at 6:00 p.m. While Achay was walking from the girls’ locker room to the school parking lot she was stabbed by Meer, suffering serious injuries. Achay sued defendant Huntington Beach Union High School District (the District) for negligence. The District moved for summary judgment on the grounds of duty and causation. The trial court granted the motion, finding the District owed Achay no duty of care because at the time of the stabbing, she “was no longer on campus during school hours during a school-related activity.” To this the Court of Appeal disagreed: at the time of the stabbing, Achay was on campus to retrieve her books from an open locker room after her track practice and another sports team was still practicing nearby. “Achay’s brief departure from school is a red herring.” Alternatively, the trial court stated it “cannot assume that more security would have prevented the incident from occurring.” But the Court found that was “plainly a triable issue of material fact: whether the District used reasonable security measures to protect Achay from an arguably preventable injury at the hands of Meer.” Thus, the Court reversed the trial court’s order, which granted the District’s motion for summary judgment. View "Achay v. Huntington Beach Union High School Dist." on Justia Law
Ilczyszyn v. Southwest Airlines Co.
Southwest Airlines passenger Ilczyszyn suffered a massive pulmonary embolism while locked inside an airplane lavatory during the final stages of a flight from Oakland to Orange County. Rather than treating Ilczyszyn’s circumstances as a medical emergency, the flight crew perceived him to be a security threat; he did not receive medical care until after the flight had landed and the other passengers had disembarked. By then, he had gone into cardiac arrest. Although he was resuscitated, he later died in a hospital.A jury found that Southwest was negligent but found against the plaintiffs on the issue of causation. The court of appeal affirmed. The trial court properly found that Southwest was immune from liability under both 49 U.S.C. 44941 (Aviation and Transportation Security Act), and Civil Code section 47(b) for any act or omission occurring after the flight crew decided to treat Ilczyszyn’s medical emergency as a security threat. The court rejected arguments that these statutory immunities apply only to the actual disclosure of a security threat, not to conduct associated with such disclosures, and that the immunity is inapplicable here because the gravamen of their case was based solely on the flight crew’s negligent failure to identify the medical emergency. View "Ilczyszyn v. Southwest Airlines Co." on Justia Law