Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries
Rainey v. Taylor
Rapper Jayceon Taylor, also called “The Game,” starred in a VH1 television show called She’s Got Game. While filming in Chicago in 2015, Taylor took contestant Rainey on an off-camera date at a bar. Taylor sexually assaulted her by repeatedly lifting her skirt, grabbing her bare buttocks and vagina, and “juggling” her breasts in front of a large crowd as Rainey tried to break away. Rainey sued Taylor for sexual battery. Taylor evaded process, trolled Rainey on social media, dodged a settlement conference, and did not appear at trial. The judge denied his attorney's request for a continuance, dismissing Taylor’s proffered “dental emergency” excuse as an elaborate ruse. The judge instructed the jurors that they could infer from Taylor’s absence that his testimony would have been unfavorable to him. The jury awarded Rainey $1.13 million in compensatory damages and $6 million in punitive damages. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. District judges have wide discretion to manage their proceedings and resolve evidentiary issues. The rulings at issue lie well within that discretion. “Taylor has only himself to blame for the missing-witness instruction, which was plainly justified.” The verdict is well supported by the evidence; the compensatory award is not excessive under Illinois law, and the punitive award survives constitutional scrutiny. View "Rainey v. Taylor" on Justia Law
Getz v. Peace
In this personal injury action, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the district court deducting from a damages award to Respondent the amount of discounts negotiated by Respondent's managed-care organizations, holding that the discounts were payments made pursuant to the United States Social Security Act under Minn. Stat. 548.251, subd. 1(2). After her car struck a school bus that failed to yield at an intersection, Respondent brought this action against the driver and the owner of the bus (collectively, Appellants). The medical expenses of Respondent, a medical-assistance enrollee, were covered by two managed-care organizations that contracted with Minnesota's Prepaid Medical Assistance Plan under the state's Medicaid program. The jury awarded damages, but the district court deducted from the award the discounts negotiated by the managed-care organizations. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the negotiated discounts were "payments made pursuant to the United States Social Security Act" under section 548.251, subd. 1(2), and therefore, Appellants could not offset the damages award for those payments. View "Getz v. Peace" on Justia Law
Weaver v. City of Everett
Michael Weaver, a former City of Everett firefighter, contracted melanoma. He filed a temporary disability claim, which the Washington Department of Labor & Industries (Department) denied, finding the melanoma was not work related. The melanoma spread to Weaver's brain, for which he filed a permanent disability claim. The Department denied it as precluded by the denial of the temporary disability claim. The issue his case presented for the Washington Supreme Court's review centered on whether the doctrines of collateral estoppel and res judicata properly precluded Weaver's permanent disability claim. The Court found collateral estoppel did not apply because the doctrine would work an injustice in this situation, given that Weaver did not have sufficient incentive to fully and vigorously litigate the temporary disability claim in light of the disparity of relief between the two claims. Likewise, the Court held that res judicata did not apply because the two claims did not share identical subject matter, given that the permanent disability claim did not exist at the time of the temporary disability claim. View "Weaver v. City of Everett" on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Government & Administrative Law, Labor & Employment Law, Personal Injury, Washington Supreme Court
Dobbs v. City of Los Angeles
After plaintiff walked into a round concrete pillar called a bollard, she filed suit against the City, alleging that it created a dangerous condition that caused her to trip and fall. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment against plaintiff, holding that the City successfully invoked the design immunity defense. The court held that there was discretionary approval of the design before construction, and there was substantial evidence of the reasonableness of the public entity's approval of the design. In this case, the bollard was big, designed to stop cars, and was obvious to pedestrians who looked where they were going. View "Dobbs v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law
Abernathy v. Eastern Illinois Railroad Co.
The Railroad sent Abernathy and Probus to repair a railroad crossing, which required them to transport ties several miles. The Railroad had a “tie crane,” which runs on the railroad tracks but it had been inoperable for years. The employees had two options: a backhoe or a pickup truck, traveling on public roads. Abernathy drove the backhoe. Probus drove the pickup, with the tools. Two ties fell out of the backhoe’s bucket. Abernathy stopped to lift the ties back into the bucket, injuring his back and smashing a finger. Despite the accident, the men finished the job. The following morning, Abernathy reported the injury. Abernathy worked through the pain on lighter duty for a year but was unable to return to his regular work. The Railroad terminated his employment. He had physical therapy, epidural injections, and surgery but continued to experience pain. At the time of trial, his surgeon had not cleared him for any type of work. Abernathy sued under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act, 45 U.S.C 51. A jury found that Abernathy was 30 percent at fault and awarded a net amount, $525,000. The court awarded Abernathy prevailing party costs but declined to award witness fees above the statutory amount. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The jury could reasonably find that the Railroad did not provide Abernathy with appropriate equipment and that his working environment was not reasonably safe; a reasonable person in the Railroad’s position could have foreseen that transporting ties in a backhoe or pickup could lead to injury. There was sufficient evidence that the Railroad’s negligence played a part in causing Abernathy’s injury. View "Abernathy v. Eastern Illinois Railroad Co." on Justia Law
Posted in: Labor & Employment Law, Personal Injury, Transportation Law, US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
Tennessee Farmers Mutual Insurance Co. v. Debruce
In this declaratory judgment action, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the trial court denying a claimant's motion to set aside a default judgment in favor of an insurance company and allow the claimant to intervene as a necessary party, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, the claimant was not a necessary party and the trial court could decide the coverage dispute between the insurance company and its insured without the claimant's participation in the action. The claimant sued the insured for damages arising from an automobile accident. The insurance company sought a declaratory judgment that the company was not required to provide liability coverage to the insured. The trial court awarded the insurance company a default judgment. The claimant moved to set aside the default judgment and allow her to intervene on the basis that she was a necessary party. The trial court denied the motion. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the claimant had no interest affected by the dispute between the insurance company and its insured; and (2) therefore, the trial court had authority to grant declaratory relief because all necessary parties were before the court. View "Tennessee Farmers Mutual Insurance Co. v. Debruce" on Justia Law
Bloom v. Casella Construction, Inc.
Plaintiff Eileen Bloom appealed a superior court order granting summary judgment to defendant Casella Construction, Inc. (Casella), ruling that the defendant did not owe the plaintiff a duty of care and was not otherwise liable to her pursuant to Section 324A of the Restatement (Second) of Torts. Plaintiff worked as a nurse at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC). On December 30, 2013, she parked her car in an employee parking lot. She exited the vehicle, took two steps, and fell on a patch of ice. As a result of her fall, the plaintiff suffered injuries that required surgery. At the time of the plaintiff’s accident, DHMC had a “Snow Plowing Agreement” with Casella (the contract). “Snow Plowing Guidelines” (guidelines) were attached to the contract, calling for salting and sanding of DHMC grounds, and stating that “[e]mployee lots shall be kept plowed as clear as possible and accessible at the start of each shift change”; and “[g]enerally salt is applied to parking lots prior to or at the start of a storm and after storm cleanup or as directed by DHMC Grounds Supervisor or his designee.” Plaintiff alleged the contract obligated Casella to keep the employee parking lot in which she fell clear, and Casella breached that obligation. To the extent the trial court reasoned that there was no duty under the contract because Casella did not assume DHMC’s entire responsibility to keep its property free from unreasonable risks of harm, the New Hampshire Supreme Court disagreed. Whether DHMC directed Casella to apply sand and salt to the parking lot where plaintiff was injured raised a genuine issue of material fact which precluded the entry of summary judgment. For this reason, the Supreme Court reversed the grant of summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Bloom v. Casella Construction, Inc." on Justia Law
Weber v. Allergan, Inc.
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Allergan in an action under state law alleging that plaintiff suffered injuries when her breast implants bled silicone into her body. Through the Medical Device Amendments (MDA) to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA), Congress permitted FDA oversight of medical devices; the MDA expressly preempts state law regulation of medical devices; and for a state law claim regarding a Class III medical device to survive express preemption by the MDA, a plaintiff must establish that the defendant violated an FDA requirement. In this case, the panel held that plaintiff failed to show that Allergan violated a federal requirement for its Style 20 breast implant. The panel held that plaintiff failed to raise a genuine dispute of material fact that Allergan violated the FDA's pre-market approval and Current Good Manufacturing Practices. Therefore, plaintiff has now shown a violation of an FDA requirement, which she must for her state law claims to fit through the narrow exception to MDA preemption. View "Weber v. Allergan, Inc." on Justia Law
Posted in: Drugs & Biotech, Personal Injury, Products Liability, US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Williams v. C-U-Out Bail Bonds, LLC
The Supreme Court reversed the opinion of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the district court granting the motion to dismiss filed by the City of Overland Park, holding that dismissal was improper on that ground that Plaintiffs would not be able to show that the City and its police officers owed them an individual duty and based on discretionary function immunity under the Kansas Tort Claims Act (KTCA). In their petition Plaintiffs alleged that several armed representatives of defendant C-U-Out Bail Bonds, LLC forcibly entered the private residence occupied by Plaintiffs and that police officers withdrew from the scene, leaving Plaintiffs alone and at the mercy of the armed representatives. Plaintiffs sued C-U-Out and the City, alleging as against the City "negligent failure to protect." The district court dismissed the City as a defendant, ruling that Plaintiffs failed to state a valid cause of action. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiffs alleged sufficient facts to support (1) potential intentional illegal conduct on the part of the bail bondsmen, (2) a police undertaking of a duty to investigate owed to Plaintiffs individually, and (3) no discretionary function immunity for the City under the KTCA. View "Williams v. C-U-Out Bail Bonds, LLC" on Justia Law
Reif v. Aries Consultants, Inc.
The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court dismissing Appellant's complaint because he filed it, though he did not serve it, without an affidavit and expert report, holding that an initial pleading filed under Nev. Rev. Stat. 11.258(1) is void ab initio only when it is served without a concurrent filing of the required attorney affidavit and expert report. In dismissing Appellant's complaint the district court relief on a statement in Otak Nevada, LLC v. Eighth Judicial District Court, 260 P.3d 408 (2011), that "a pleading filed under [section] 11.258 without the required affidavit and expert report is void ab initio." The Supreme Court reversed the district court's order granting the motion to dismiss and remanded the matter to the district court for further consideration, holding that a pleading is void ab initio under section 11.258(1) only where the pleading is served without a concurrent filing of the required attorney affidavit and expert report, not where the pleading is merely filed. View "Reif v. Aries Consultants, Inc." on Justia Law