Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Arkansas Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court answered a certified question in the negative and held that Ark. Code Ann. 27-34-106(a) does not violate the separation of powers doctrine under article 4, section 2, and Amendment 80, section 3 of the Arkansas Constitution.The underlying wrongful death and survival action arose from an accident in which Defendants negligently caused a vehicle collision. A two-year-old girl, who was in the cab of a pickup at the time of the accident and was not restrained in a child safety seat, was killed. Defendants asserted fault on the part of the driver of the pickup truck. Plaintiff then filed a motion for partial summary judgment with respect to comparative fault and nonparty fault related to child-safety restraint nonuse, arguing that the defense was precluded as a matter of law by section 27-34-106(a). The Supreme Court answered a certified question about the issue, holding that section 27-34-106(a) - a legislative pronouncement that failing to use a child-safety seat is not a negligent act and therefore cannot be used to compare the injured plaintiff's fault to the fault of the defendant - is more substantive than procedure and does not constitute a violation of the separation of powers doctrine. View "Edwards v. Thomas" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Arkansas Workers' Compensation Commission that Appellant was not entitled to a wage-loss award in addition to his impairment rating because Area Agency on Aging of Southeast Arkansas (AAA) extended to him a bona fide offer of employment, holding that substantial evidence did not support the Commission's decision.Appellant was driving an AAA van that overturned, injuring Appellant. An ALJ determined that Appellant was entitled to a sixty percent wage-loss award and that Appellees made no bona fide job offer of employment because the position and wages were not clear. The Commission reversed, concluding that any wage-loss award was precluded because AAA made a bona fide and reasonable obtainable job offer. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that AAA did not meet its burden to prove that Appellant was offered employment at wages equal to or greater than his average weekly wage at the time of the accident. View "Calhoun v. Area Agency on Aging of Southeast Arkansas" on Justia Law

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In this case stemming from a motor vehicle accident the Supreme Court affirmed as modified the circuit court's order dismissing with prejudice Plaintiffs' claims against against Defendant, holding that the circuit court correctly dismissed the claims but directed that the dismissal be without prejudice.In his motion to dismiss, Defendant alleged that he had not been properly or timely served and requested that the complaint be dismissed pursuant to Ark. R. Civ. P. 4(i) and 12(b)(5). The circuit court found that the motion should be granted and dismissed the complaint with prejudice. The Supreme Court affirmed as modified, holding (1) the circuit court did not err by concluding that service of the summons and complaint on Defendant was insufficient; but (2) because Plaintiffs' timely attempted service commenced the suit for purpose of the savings statute, the statute of limitations was tolled and provided Plaintiffs one year to refile their suit. View "White v. Owen" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted a petition for a writ of prohibition filed by Petitioners - Respondent's employer, its corporate parent, and a fellow employee - asking the court to dismiss Respondent's declaratory judgment action because declaratory judgment would be improper on the facts, holding that the circuit court lacked jurisdiction to hear this petition.Respondent was injured in a workplace accident and received workers' compensation benefits because of his injuries. Respondent brought this declaratory judgment action, arguing that the petition was necessary to establish the legal relations between the parties. Petitioners filed this petition for writ of prohibition arguing that the Workers' Compensation Commission held exclusive jurisdiction for any claims Respondent had against his employers. The Supreme Court granted the writ, holding that Respondent's remedies against his employer were those outlined under the Workers' Compensation Act. View "Esterline Technologies Corp. v. Brownlee" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court in favor of Plaintiff on her slip and fall action, holding that the circuit court did not err or abuse its discretion.Specifically, the Supreme Court held that the circuit court (1) did not err by not granting Defendants' motion for a directed verdict because substantial evidence supported the jury's verdict; (2) did not abuse its discretion as a matter of law by allowing a chiropractor to testify as an expert regarding the causal connection between Plaintiff's fall and the treatment provided by other physicians; and (3) did not abuse its discretion by allowing Plaintiff to give causation testimony regarding her treatments that were not rendered in temporal proximity to the occurrence of the accident. View "Dollar General Corp. v. Elder" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the circuit court dismissing Appellant's action against Baptist Health appellees and John Hearnsberger, M.D., holding that the circuit court abused its discretion in denying Appellant's motions to compel production of two types of disputed discovery.Appellant, a surgeon, was on the medical staff of Baptist Health from 2003 until 2011, when his appointment and clinic privileges at Baptist Health Medical Center-Little Rock were terminated, effective immediately. Baptist Health also reported the suspension of Appellant's clinical privileges to the Arkansas State Medical Board, which, in 2014, revoked Appellant's license. Appellant appealed the revocation, and his license was reinstated. In 2011, Appellant filed a lawsuit against Baptist Health and several individuals, asserting several claims. The circuit court entered a consent order dismissing the Medical Board and Dr. Hearnsberger in his official capacity. The circuit court then granted summary judgment on Appellant's remaining claims. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion in denying Appellant's motions to compel production of two types of discovery, and the discovery error was not harmless as to Appellant's discrimination and tortious-interference claims. View "Williams v. Baptist Health" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the vacated the opinion of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the Arkansas Workers' Compensation Commission affirming and adopting the findings of the administrative law judge (ALJ) awarding an additional-benefits claim to Bruce Menser, holding that Menser's additional-benefits claim was time barred by the statute of limitations.At the time Menser requested a hearing before the Commission, he was receiving workers' compensation benefits. The ALJ found that Menser sustained compensable brain and neuropathy injuries during the course and scope of his employment and that the statute of limitations did not bar Menser's claim for additional medical benefits because it had been tolled. The Commission affirmed and adopted the ALJ's decision. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Commission erred in determining that Menser's claim for additional medical benefits sufficiently tolled the statute of limitations, and to the extent that Arkansas case law does not comport with this holding, those cases are overruled. View "White County Judge v. Menser" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Arkansas Workers' Compensation Commission concluding that parent companies of a direct employer are immune from tort liability under the exclusive remedy statute, Ark. Code Ann. 11-9-105(a), holding that the Commission's decision was supported by substantial evidence.Plaintiff filed a wrongful death suit against the parent companies of her deceased husband's employer. The Commission concluded that the parent companies were statutory employers as principals and stockholders of the direct employer under section 11-9-105(a). The Commissioner further held that the parent companies' statutory entitlement to immunity was consistent with Ark. Const. art. V, 32. On appeal, Plaintiff argued that article 5, section 32 permits workers' compensation laws to extend only to "actual" employers. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Commission's finding that the parent companies were immune under the exclusive remedy provision was supported by substantial evidence in the record; and (2) section 11-9-105(a) is constitutional because the parent companies had an employment relationship with Plaintiff's deceased husband. View "Meyers v. Yamato Kogyo Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court's decision granting summary judgment for Dr. Martin T. Faitak and dismissing J. David John's complaint alleging claims of medical negligence and other torts, holding that Faitak was not entitled to quasi-judicial immunity in this case.John's claims concerned psychological and counseling treatment Faitak provided to John and Megan Bolinder, who were parties in a custody case involving John and Megan's child. The circuit court concluded that Faitak was entitled to quasi-judicial immunity. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that quasi-judicial immunity did not apply to the alleged acts upon which John's claims were based. View "John v. Faitak" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing Appellant's wrongful death complaint as barred by the applicable statute of limitations, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion when it dismissed the complaint as being untimely filed.Appellant, as personal representative of the estate of David Henson, filed a pro se wrongful death complaint against the Benton County Jail, the Benton County Sheriff's Office and Kelly Cradduck, individually and in his official capacity. Appellant later abandoned certain claims and defendants. The circuit court found that Appellant's claims were time-barred by the applicable statutes of limitations and granted all motions to dismiss. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the complaint was properly dismissed as time-barred. View "Henson v. Cradduck" on Justia Law