Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

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In a case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, the plaintiff, identified as Jane Doe, filed an appeal against two orders from the district court. The first order denied her request to compel the defendant, Cenk Sidar, to provide a DNA sample for a sexual assault case. The second order demanded that Doe disclose her real name in the proceedings following a default judgment against Sidar.The Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal regarding the DNA sample for lack of jurisdiction, ruling that orders denying requests for physical or mental examinations are not immediately appealable under the collateral order doctrine.However, the court did rule on the anonymity issue. The court found that the district court committed legal error in its order demanding Doe to disclose her real name. The district court had understated Doe's interest in anonymity, announced a general rule that fairness considerations invariably cut against allowing a plaintiff to be anonymous at trial unless the defendant is also anonymous, and failed to recognize the significance of its default judgment on liability. The Court of Appeals thus vacated the non-anonymity order and remanded for further proceedings, instructing the district court to reconsider its order in light of the appeals court's opinion. The court emphasized the importance of Doe's privacy interests, particularly given that the case involved allegations of sexual assault. View "Doe v. Sidar" on Justia Law

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This case was a negligence action brought by Dennis Vancos against the State of Montana, Department of Transportation, for injuries he sustained when struck by a car at an intersection. Vancos alleged that the traffic control device at the intersection was inadequately designed, installed, and maintained, leading to the accident. The Supreme Court of the State of Montana addressed three issues on appeal. The first was whether the District Court made an error in handling evidence of Vancos’s consumption of alcohol. The court found that the District Court did err by allowing evidence of Vancos's alcohol consumption but refusing to take judicial notice of his blood alcohol content (BAC), which was not deemed to be in evidence. The court held that a party need not introduce evidence of a fact judicially noticed, and therefore, the District Court's interpretation of the rule was incorrect, and it abused its discretion by refusing to take judicial notice of Vancos's BAC.The second issue was whether the District Court erred by not accepting Vancos’s proposed jury instruction on pedestrian rights-of-way. The court found that the District Court did not abuse its discretion when it rejected Vancos’s proposed instruction and instead chose to instruct the jury on the entirety of the law.The third issue, which was not addressed due to the requirement for a new trial determined by the first issue, was whether the District Court erred by not striking a prospective juror for cause. Due to the error in handling evidence of Vancos's alcohol consumption, the court reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded the case to the District Court for a new trial. View "Vancos v. Montana Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

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In this case, the Supreme Court of the State of Colorado was called upon to decide a matter related to the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act (CGIA). The case involved a wrongful death action brought by the family and estate representatives of two brothers, Walter and Samuel Giron, who died when Officer Justin Hice accidentally collided with their van while pursuing a suspected speeder. Officer Hice and his employer, the Town of Olathe, claimed immunity under the CGIA. The Plaintiffs countered that the Defendants were not entitled to immunity because Officer Hice failed to use his emergency lights or siren continuously while speeding before the accident.The court had to interpret the CGIA and related traffic code provisions to determine the relevant time period for an officer’s failure to use emergency alerts. The court concluded that the CGIA requires a minimal causal connection between a plaintiff’s injuries and the fact that an officer did not use emergency signals while speeding. This means that an officer has access to immunity while speeding only during those times when the officer is using alerts.The court disagreed with the lower court's interpretation that an officer who fails to use his alerts at any point during the pursuit waives immunity for the entire pursuit. Instead, the court held that under section 24-10-106(1)(a) an emergency driver waives immunity only if the plaintiff’s injuries could have resulted from the emergency driver’s failure to use alerts.The court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and remanded the case for the court of appeals to determine if Officer Hice’s failure to use his lights or siren until the final five to ten seconds of his pursuit could have contributed to the accident. View "Hice v. Giron" on Justia Law

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The plaintiff, Srecko Bazdaric, was injured while painting an escalator during a renovation project. The escalator was covered with a plastic sheet, which Bazdaric slipped on, sustaining injuries that left him unable to work. He and his wife sued the owners of the premises and the general contractor, alleging violations of Labor Law § 241 (6), which requires employers to provide safe working conditions. The Court of Appeals of New York held that the plaintiffs were entitled to summary judgment as to liability on their Labor Law § 241 (6) claim. The court found that the plastic covering was a slipping hazard that the defendants failed to remove, in violation of Industrial Code 12 NYCRR 23-1.7 (d), making the defendants liable under Labor Law § 241 (6). The court also found that the plastic covering was not integral to the paint job but was a nonessential and inherently slippery plastic that caused Bazdaric's injuries. The court reversed the lower court's conclusion to the contrary. View "Bazdaric v Almah Partners LLC" on Justia Law

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In a wrongful death action against an assisted-living facility, the Supreme Court of Tennessee held that the claims were subject to arbitration as per an agreement signed by the deceased's attorney-in-fact. The court clarified two key points. First, signing an optional arbitration agreement is not a "health care decision" under the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Act. Second, the attorney-in-fact had the authority to sign the arbitration agreement on the deceased's behalf, considering the durable power of attorney gave her the power to act for him in "all claims and litigation matters". The court further ruled that the deceased's son, who brought the wrongful death action, was bound by the arbitration agreement because his claims were derivative of his father's. Consequently, the court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals and remanded the case to the trial court.In the case, Granville Williams, Jr. died while residing at an assisted-living facility run by Smyrna Residential, LLC. His son James Williams filed a wrongful death action against the facility. The decedent's daughter, acting as his attorney-in-fact under a power of attorney, had signed an arbitration agreement with the facility at the time of his admission. The arbitration agreement was not a condition of admission to the facility. The key issues were whether the attorney-in-fact had the authority to sign the arbitration agreement and whether the son, who was not a party to the agreement, was nevertheless bound by it. View "Williams v. Smyrna Residential, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this case from the Supreme Court of Alabama, the court held that the Majestic Mississippi, LLC ("Majestic") and Linda Parks did not owe any duty of care to the passengers on a charter bus that crashed en route to Majestic's casino. The bus was chartered by Linda Parks, a resident of Huntsville, to transport herself, family members, friends, and acquaintances from Huntsville and Decatur to the casino. The bus was owned by Teague VIP Express, LLC, a separate entity. As a result of the accident, Betty Russell, an occupant of the bus, was killed, and other occupants, including Joseph J. Sullivan and Rachel W. Mastin, were injured. Felecia Sykes, as administrator of the estate of Russell, and Sullivan and Mastin, sued Majestic and Parks on various theories of negligence and wantonness.The court found that Majestic did not have a duty to provide accurate weather information to the passengers. The court also found that Majestic did not have a duty to conduct due diligence on the bus company before allowing it to transport patrons to its casino. Moreover, Parks did not have a duty to ensure the safety of the bus passengers. The court further held that no joint venture existed between Majestic, Parks, and Teague VIP Express.Thus, the court affirmed the lower court's decision granting summary judgments in favor of Majestic and Parks. View "Sykes v. Majestic Mississippi, LLC" on Justia Law

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In June 2020, a local newspaper in Polk County published an article criticizing a local assistant district attorney, Tommy Coleman. The article claimed that Coleman had "assisted with the prosecution of Michael Morton" while he was a prosecutor in Williamson County. Michael Morton was wrongfully convicted in 1987 due to prosecutorial misconduct, a conviction that occurred before Coleman began practicing law. Morton was exonerated in 2011 after spending nearly 25 years in prison. The article specifically highlighted an instance during a post-conviction hearing where Coleman mocked requests for DNA testing of evidence that would eventually exonerate Morton. Coleman sued the newspaper and its author for defamation, arguing that the claim that he assisted in Morton's prosecution was false and defamatory.The Supreme Court of Texas held that the article's statement that Coleman "assisted with the prosecution of Michael Morton" was substantially true given Coleman’s public involvement in his office’s efforts to resist DNA testing of the evidence that exonerated Morton. The Court ruled that even if the article was not precise in its characterization of Coleman's role, the "gist" of the article - that Coleman supported the efforts to keep Morton behind bars by resisting DNA testing - was substantially true and therefore not actionably defamatory. As such, Coleman's claims were dismissed. View "POLK COUNTY PUBLISHING COMPANY v. COLEMAN" on Justia Law

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In this case heard by the Supreme Court of Mississippi, the plaintiff, Samuel Lasseter, sustained injuries when he tripped and fell at the Jackson Hilton Hotel. He claimed that a dangerous defect in the flooring caused his fall. The hotel moved for summary judgment, which the trial court granted. Lasseter then filed a motion to amend the order granting summary judgment, which the trial court denied. Lasseter appealed these decisions.In this case, the court found Lasseter to be an invitee, someone who enters the premises at the invitation of the owner for mutual benefit. Business owners owe a duty to invitees to keep their premises in a reasonably safe condition and to warn of dangerous conditions not readily apparent to the invitee. However, the court noted that undamaged common architectural conditions such as thresholds are not considered dangerous conditions.To prevail, Lasseter needed to show that either a negligent act of the defendant caused his injury, that the defendant had actual knowledge of a dangerous condition and failed to warn him, or that the dangerous condition existed for a sufficient amount of time to impute constructive knowledge to the defendant. Lasseter failed to provide sufficient evidence for any of these elements. His claim that the strip was buckled before his fall was unsupported by admissible evidence, and he was unable to show that the hotel had actual or constructive knowledge of a dangerous condition.Therefore, the Supreme Court of Mississippi affirmed the trial court's decisions, both granting the hotel's motion for summary judgment and denying Lasseter's motion to alter or amend the order granting summary judgment. View "Lasseter v. AWH-BP Jackson Hotel, LLC" on Justia Law

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In the case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, Thanquarius R. Calhoun was appealing the denial of his federal habeas petition following his conviction for felony murder and other crimes in the state of Georgia. Calhoun had led police on a high-speed chase that resulted in a passenger's death after law enforcement used a Precision Immobilization Technique (PIT) maneuver to stop his vehicle.Calhoun's appeal argued that he received ineffective assistance of counsel because his defense counsel did not present a defense or request a jury instruction on the theory that the PIT maneuver, and not his own actions, was the proximate or intervening cause of the passenger's death.Under Georgia law, as interpreted by the Supreme Court of Georgia, a defendant's act is not the "legal cause" of an injury or damage if some other act "intervenes." However, if the intervening act "could reasonably have been anticipated, apprehended, or foreseen by the original wrong-doer, the causal connection is not broken, and the original wrong-doer is responsible for all of the consequences resulting from the intervening act." In other words, proximate cause is not affected by a reasonably foreseeable intervening cause.The Eleventh Circuit, giving deference to the Supreme Court of Georgia's interpretation of Georgia law, found that the PIT maneuver was reasonably foreseeable given Calhoun's reckless behavior during the police chase. As a result, the use of the maneuver did not break the causal chain linking Calhoun's actions to the passenger's death. Thus, Calhoun had not carried his burden to show a reasonable probability that the outcome of his trial would have been different if his counsel had argued that the PIT maneuver was an intervening cause. Therefore, the court affirmed the denial of Calhoun's habeas petition. View "Calhoun v. Warden, Baldwin State Prison" on Justia Law

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A plaintiff, Robert Trebelhorn, suffered a serious knee injury at his apartment complex when a section of an elevated walkway collapsed due to deterioration. The defendants, Prime Wimbledon SPE, LLC, and Prime Administration, LLC, who owned and managed the apartment complex, were aware of the deteriorated condition of the walkway but chose not to repair it. Trebelhorn sued the defendants for negligence and violation of Oregon's Residential Landlord-Tenant Act and won. The jury awarded him just under $300,000 in damages and also imposed punitive damages of $10 million against each defendant. On post-verdict review, the trial court concluded that although the evidence supported some amount of punitive damages, the amount of $10 million would violate the defendants' due process rights. The trial court reduced the punitive damages to just under $2.7 million against each defendant. On cross-appeals, the Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court and affirmed. The Supreme Court of the State of Oregon also agreed with the trial court that $10 million in punitive damages would violate the defendants' due process rights and affirmed the judgment of the trial court and the decision of the Court of Appeals. View "Trebelhorn v. Prime Wimbledon SPE, LLC" on Justia Law