Justia Injury Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Delaware Supreme Court
Chaverri et al. v. Dole Food Company, et al.
Plaintiffs-Appellants worked on banana plantations in Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Panama. They sued the plantations in Delaware in 2012, claiming that while working on the plantations they suffered personal injuries from a pesticide known as 1, 2, Dibromo 3, Chloropropane (“DBCP”). Defendants-Appellees were numerous companies alleged to have caused the Plaintiffs’ exposure to DBCP and their resulting injuries. In 2013 the Superior Court dismissed the Plaintiffs’ complaint under what was sometimes referred to as Delaware’s McWane doctrine (the “Dismissal Order”). On December 31, 2018 Plaintiffs moved to vacate the Dismissal Order under Superior Court Civil Rule 60(b)(6). The Superior Court denied the Plaintiffs’ motion, finding that the motion was untimely and Plaintiffs failed to show extraordinary circumstances for vacating the judgment. Plaintiffs have appealed that order to the Delaware Supreme Court. Finding no reversible error, however, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court. View "Chaverri et al. v. Dole Food Company, et al." on Justia Law
ACW Corporation v. Maxwell
Appellants ACW Corporation (a.k.a. Arby’s, (Arby’s)) and Eastern Alliance Ins. Co., as Subrogee of Shanara Devon Waters (“Waters”), appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Appellees, Christopher Maxwell (“Maxwell”) and Donegal Mutual Ins. Co. (a.k.a. Donegal Ins. Group). Eastern Alliance was Arby’s’ workers’ compensation carrier. It paid Waters, an Arby’s employee, a $12,500 commuted, lump-sum workers’ compensation benefit to settle her workers’ compensation claims for injuries she received in a work-related motor vehicle accident caused by Maxwell. Arby’s and Eastern Alliance then brought this suit against Maxwell and his auto insurer, Donegal, under 19 Del. C. 2363, claiming that they were entitled to recover the $12,500 lump-sum payment from them. Maxwell and Donegal denied liability, though they acknowledged that under the Workers’ Compensation Act Arby’s and Eastern Alliance could assert a claim against Maxwell for damages that Waters would be entitled to recover against Maxwell in an action in tort. They argued, however, that Maxwell was not liable for the lump-sum payment because it was a settlement of potential or future workers’ compensation claims and did not include any damages that Waters would have been entitled to recover against Maxwell in an action in tort. Arby’s and Eastern Alliance argued that 19 Del. C. 2363(e) allowed them to recover from Maxwell “any amounts paid or payable [to Waters] under the Workers’ Compensation Act” in connection with the Maxwell accident, and that the lump-sum benefit was an amount paid to Waters under the Act. The Superior Court agreed with Maxwell, and after finding that Arby’s and Eastern Alliance failed to offer evidence that any of the $12,500 lump-sum benefit was for damages which Waters would be able to recover in a tort action against Maxwell, granted summary judgment in Maxwell’s and Donegal’s favor. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed. View "ACW Corporation v. Maxwell" on Justia Law
Hart v. Parker
Appellants Nancy and Scott Hart sued Daniel Parker alleging tort damages from an automobile accident caused by Parker. Before the Harts filed their complaint, Parker passed away. The Harts were unsure as to whether Parker was still alive when they filed their complaint and named both Parker and the Estate of Daniel Parker (the “Estate”) as defendants. Appellee, the Estate, moved to dismiss the Harts’ complaint on numerous grounds. The Superior Court granted the Appellee’s motion, holding that the complaint was time-barred by 12 Del. C. 2102(a). On appeal, the Harts challenged the Superior Court’s order dismissing their claims against the Estate and argued that the Superior Court erred as a matter of law when it held that the Harts’ claims were time-barred by Section 2102(a). The Delaware Supreme Court concurred the Harts’ claims were not time-barred by Section 2102(a). The Court therefore reversed the dismissal, and remanded this matter back to the Superior Court for further proceedings. View "Hart v. Parker" on Justia Law
Hart v. Parker
Appellants Nancy and Scott Hart brought suit alleging tort damages from an automobile accident caused by Daniel Parker. Before the Harts filed their complaint, Daniel Parker passed away. The Harts were unsure as to whether Parker was still alive when they filed their complaint and named both Parker and the Estate of Daniel Parker (the “Estate”) as defendants. The Appellee-Estate moved to dismiss the Harts’ complaint on numerous grounds. The Superior Court granted the Appellee’s motion, holding that the complaint was time-barred by 12 Del. C. 2102(a). On appeal, the Harts challenged the Superior Court’s order dismissing their claims against the Estate and argued that the Superior Court erred as a matter of law when it held that the Harts’ claims were time-barred by Section 2102(a). The Delaware Supreme Court agreed that the Harts’ claims were not time-barred by Section 2102(a), reversed the dismissal, and remanded to the Superior Court for further proceedings. View "Hart v. Parker" on Justia Law
In RE: Asbestos Litigation
In this appeal, the issue presented for the Delaware Supreme Court's review was whether the Superior Court abused its discretion when it accepted the Special Master’s report denying the plaintiffs a second extension to move the trial date. To warrant the extension, the plaintiffs had to show good cause. According to the court, the plaintiffs failed to show good cause because they were not diligent in meeting Texas law requirements for asbestos exposure claims, the time pressures faced by counsel were foreseeable, counsel should not have missed deadlines, and, under the circumstances, refusing to grant another trial date extension was not unfair. On appeal, the plaintiffs tried to switch to a new standard to evaluate the Superior Court’s decision. The Delaware Supreme Court, however, declined to do so. "The Superior Court applied the law correctly and based its findings on the record and reason. There was no abuse of discretion, and we affirm." View "In RE: Asbestos Litigation" on Justia Law
Washington v. Delaware Transit Corp
Claimant LeShawn Washington suffered an injury to his left shoulder in a work-related incident in 2016 and was placed on disability. Upon returning to work, he claimed that his shoulder symptoms had worsened. Claimant filed a petition seeking compensation for a recurrence of temporary total disability (the “TTD Petition”), which the Accident Board (the “IAB”) denied (the “TTD Opinion”). Claimant then filed a permanent impairment ("PI") Petition. Claimant's employer, Delaware Transit Corporation, successfully moved to dismiss, arguing the IAB had previously ruled on the matter during Claimant’s TTD Petition hearing when it stated that Claimant had “fully recovered” from his work injury. In preparing for the hearing on the PI Petition, both parties obtained medical expert opinions regarding the degree of Claimant’s permanent impairment. Both parties’ experts agreed that there was some degree of permanent impairment. Nevertheless, DTC moved to dismiss the PI Petition at the commencement of the hearing. The IAB agreed with the employer, and dismissed the PI petition on those grounds, before considering the permanent impairment testimony. Claimant appealed the IAB’s decision to the Superior Court, arguing that the IAB never concluded that he had “fully recovered.” Furthermore, Claimant argued: (1) the Superior Court erred in concluding that the Board had reasonably interpreted the TTD Opinion; and (2) the Superior Court erred as a matter of law in holding that the Board’s dismissal of his PI Petition was supported by substantial evidence. The Delaware Supreme Court held the Superior Court erred in affirming the Board’s decision to deny Claimant’s PI Petition. "Although the Board is permitted to interpret its own orders and rulings, the Board erred when it dismissed Claimant’s PI Petition based solely on the expert testimony presented in connection with his TTD Petition." The decision was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Washington v. Delaware Transit Corp" on Justia Law
USAA Casualty Ins. Co. v. Carr
USAA Casualty Insurance Company (“USAA”) sought a declaratory judgment that it was not obligated to defend, indemnify, or provide insurance coverage for claims made in two lawsuits against Trinity Carr, the daughter of a USAA homeowner’s-insurance policyholder. The plaintiffs in the underlying lawsuits sought money damages from Carr and others for personal injuries and wrongful death suffered by Amy Joyner-Francis in a physical altercation - described in both complaints as a “brutal, senseless, forseeable [sic] and preventable attack” - between Joyner-Francis and Carr and her friends. USAA argued at trial, as it did before the Delaware Supreme Court, that the incident - whether it be labeled an altercation, an attack, or otherwise - was not an “accident” and therefore not a covered occurrence under the policy and that, even if it were, the purported liability was excluded from coverage. The Superior Court disagreed and entered summary judgment in favor of Carr. The Delaware Supreme Court agreed with USAA’s interpretation of the relevant policy provisions and therefore reversed the Superior Court’s judgment. "To label an intentional assault, as the parties agree occurred here, an accident is to disregard the ordinary, everyday meaning of 'accident.' We thus hold that whether an assault is an 'accident' is determined by the intent of the insured, and not by the viewpoint of the victim. ... even though Carr may not have intended to cause [the victim's] death, she certainly intended to cause injury to her." View "USAA Casualty Ins. Co. v. Carr" on Justia Law
Powell v. OTAC, Inc.
Stephen Powell appealed a Delaware Industrial Accident Board ("IAB") decision to deny his petition for workers' compensation benefits. Powell alleged he sufered a work injury in 2016 while employed by OTAC, Inc. d/b/a Hardee’s (“Hardees”). The IAB held a hearing regarding Powell’s petition in 2018. The IAB heard testimony by deposition from a doctor on Powell’s behalf and from a doctor on Hardees’ behalf. It also heard live testimony from a Hardees General Manager and from Powell himself. After the hearing, the IAB denied Powell’s petition, ruling that he had failed to establish that he injured his rotator cuff while working at Hardees. The IAB concluded that the testimony and evidence was “insufficient to support a finding that Claimant’s injuries were causally related to his work for [Hardees].” Specifically, the IAB noted that both Powell’s “inability to report a specific day of injury” as well as his “failure to seek medical treatment immediately” after the alleged incident detracted from his credibility. Further, it found that although “both medical experts agreed that [Powell’s] treatment was reasonable for his rotator cuff tear, there was insufficient evidence that the rotator cuff tear occurred as the result of the alleged work accident." Powell argued on appeal to the Delaware Supreme Court: (1) the Board erred as a matter of law in denying his petition, and he claims that he did present sufficient evidence to demonstrate that his injuries occurred while working at Hardees; and (2) the Superior Court erred in affirming the IAB’s decision and that it exceeded the scope of review by making findings of fact unsupported by the record. After review of the IAB and Superior Court record, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed. View "Powell v. OTAC, Inc." on Justia Law
Ford Motor Company v. Knecht, et al.
Plaintiff-appellee Paula Knecht, individually and as executrix of the estate of her late husband, Larry Knecht filed suit against 18 defendants alleging defendants failed to warn Mr. Knecht of the dangers of asbestos. During his lifetime, Mr. Knecht developed mesothelioma from exposure to asbestos. While the case was awaiting trial, Mr. Knecht passed away. When the trial date arrived, there was only one remaining defendant appellant Ford Motor Company. A jury held Ford liable for Mr. Knecht's illness and awarded damages. Negligence was apportioned between the parties, Ford was assigned a 20% share of the total negligence. The trial judge then applied 20% to the $40,625,000 damages award and arrived at a compensatory damages award against Ford of $8,125,000. The jury also awarded plaintiff $1,000,000 in punitive damages. After the jury returned its verdict, Ford filed two motions: (1) a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law under Superior Court Rule 50(b) or, in the alternative, a new trial; and (2) a motion for a new trial, or, in the alternative, remittitur. The trial judge denied both motions. On appeal to the Delaware Supreme Court, Ford argued: (1) the Superior Court erred by not granting Ford judgment as a matter of law on the ground that plaintiff failed to prove that Mr. Knecht’s injury was caused by Ford’s failure to warn of the dangers of asbestos; (2) the Superior Court erred by not granting a new trial on the ground that the jury rendered an irreconcilably inconsistent verdict; and (3) the Superior Court erred by not granting a new trial or remittitur on the ground that the compensatory damages verdict is excessive. The Supreme Court concluded the Superior Court’s rulings against Ford on the first two claims were correct. However, the Court concurred the third contention had merit, reversed judgment and remanded to the Superior Court for further consideration of Ford’s motion for a new trial, or, in the alternative, remittitur. View "Ford Motor Company v. Knecht, et al." on Justia Law
Christiana Care Health Services Inc. v. Carter, et al.
Appellant Christiana Care Health Services, Inc. (“CCHS”) brought an interlocutory appeal of a Superior Court decision to deny its motion for partial summary judgment. The alleged medical negligence at issue in the underlying case occurred during surgery performed on Margaret Rackerby Flint at Christiana Care Hospital, which is operated by CCHS. The surgery allegedly caused her death two days later. The complaint was filed by Meeghan Carter, Ms. Flint’s daughter, individually and as administratrix of Ms. Flint’s estate. It named as defendants Dr. Michael Principe, who performed the surgery, Dr. Eric Johnson, who assisted him, and CCHS. Later, the medical practices of the two doctors were added as defendants. The sole claim against CCHS was that the two doctors were its agents and it is vicariously liable for their alleged negligence. Mediation resolved claims against Dr. Principe and his medical practice. As part of that settlement, plaintiff signed a release which released all such claims. CCHS was not a party to the settlement or the release. Following that settlement, CCHS filed its motion for partial summary judgment against plaintiff on the theory that the release of Dr. Principe released it from any vicarious liability for Dr. Principe’s alleged negligence. The Superior Court denied the motion. CCHS argued: (1) the release of an agent released a vicarious liability claim against the principal as a matter of law; and (2) the terms of the release which plaintiff signed when she settled with Dr. Principe and his medical practice also released it from liability for Dr. Principe’s conduct. The Delaware Supreme Court agreed with CCHS’s second contention, finding that the written release operated as a complete satisfaction of plaintiff’s vicarious liability claim against CCHS arising from Dr. Principe’s alleged conduct, and the motion for partial summary judgment should have been granted. View "Christiana Care Health Services Inc. v. Carter, et al." on Justia Law