Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in South Dakota Supreme Court

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In this personal injury action, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court in favor of Plaintiff, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendants' motion to exclude testimony from Plaintiff's medical providers regarding the extent and permanency of his injuries and that the jury's verdict was not the result of passion or prejudice. Specifically, the Court held (1) the circuit court properly exercised its discretion in allowing Plaintiff's treating providers to testify about the permanency of his injuries, and the court's decision to allow the undisclosed opinions by Plaintiff's regular medical provider about the impact of Plaintiff's injuries did not create prejudice sufficient to warrant reversal; and (2) the evidence presented to the jury supported its verdict and failed to support Appellants' claim that the jury acted with passion or prejudice. View "Weber v. Rains" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's order denying State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Company's motion for a new trial after a jury returned a general verdict in favor of Giyo Miranda and denying State Farm's request for subrogation recovery against Miranda, holding that State Farm was not prejudiced by the court's instructions to the jury on the sudden emergency doctrine. Giyo Miranda was involved in a head-on collision with another vehicle driven by Loyd Nielson after Miranda lost control of his vehicle. State Farm, Nielson's insurer, pursued subrogation recovery against Miranda, but the jury returned a general verdict in favor of Miranda. State Farm filed a motion for a new trial, which the circuit court denied. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that State Farm failed to establish any prejudice from the circuit court's instructions and that the court was unable to exercise meaningful appellate review on the merits of State Farm's claims. View "State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Miranda" on Justia Law

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In response to a certified question from the district court the Supreme Court declined to recognize a cause of action for tortious interference with inheritance or expectancy of inheritance, holding that adopting such a cause of action and expanding tort liability to the already existing remedies available to estate litigants in South Dakota was unnecessary. Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendant, his sister, alleging claims for tortious interference with inheritance or expectancy of inheritance, breach of fiduciary duty, and negligence. The district court dismissed the negligence and breach of fiduciary duty claims then certified to the Supreme Court the question of whether South Dakota recognizes tortious interference with inheritance or expectancy of inheritance. The Supreme Court answered the question in the negative after considering the decisions from other jurisdictions and other policy considerations under existing law in the State, holding that Plaintiff failed to convince the Court that existing remedies were inadequate. View "Briggs v. Briggs" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court dismissing this suit against Marty Indian School (MIS), a legal entity of the Yankton Sioux Tribe, for a lack of subject matter jurisdiction based on federal preemption, holding that the circuit court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear Plaintiff's claims against MIS. Plaintiff, the former high school principal at MIS, sued MIS and other involved parties after he was terminated. Plaintiff alleged claims for breach of contract, breach of settlement agreement, wrongful termination, libel, and slander, and requested punitive damages. The circuit court dismissed the complaint on the grounds of tribal sovereign immunity, immunity of tribal officials and employees, infringement of tribal sovereignty, and federal preemption. The Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal solely on a lack of subject matter jurisdiction based on federal preemption, holding that state court action in this dispute was preempted by federal law. View "Stathis v. Marty Indian School" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court granting the motion to dismiss filed by Waste Connections of South Dakota, Inc. on Kimberlynn Cameron's complaint, holding that Cameron properly initiated suit against Waste Connections prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations, and therefore, the circuit court erred when it dismissed the suit. Cameron brought a personal injury suit against Jason Osler after she was injured in a car accident. Thereafter, Cameron filed an amended complaint adding a claim for vicarious liability and naming Waste Connections, Osler's employer, as a defendant. Cameron, however, failed timely to serve Osler, and he was dismissed from the suit. In its motion to dismiss Waste Connections argued that Cameron's failure to timely serve Osler precluded suit against Waste Connections. The circuit court granted the motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the dismissal of Osler did not preclude suit against the employer for vicarious liability. View "Cameron v. Osler" on Justia Law

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In this declaratory relief proceeding, the Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's denial of State Farm's motion for summary judgment and entered a judgment in favor of LeRoy James on his complaint alleging that State Farm had no right to reimbursement or subrogation for paying James's medical expenses under his policy, holding that State Farm had no contractual right to reimbursement for the $5,000 paid to James for medical expenses under the policy. State Farm insured both James and Melissa Rivers, who rear-ended James and caused him personal injury. State Farm paid a portion of James's medical expenses under his policy and then, acting on behalf of Rivers, settled with James. Once James released Rivers from liability, State Farm demanded that James use his settlement proceeds to reimburse State Farm for paying his medical expenses. James then brought this action. The circuit court entered a judgment in favor of James. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the text of the reimbursement provision of the policy was ambiguous, and therefore, State Farm had no contractual right to reimbursement from James. View "James v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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In this negligence case, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court finding that Defendant was not negligent, holding that Plaintiff's claims of error, many of which related to the jury instructions, were unavailing. Plaintiff sought Defendant, a restaurant, for negligence, alleging that Defendant failed to take reasonable measures to keep its parking lot safe by removing snow and ice. After the close of the evidence, the trial court struck Defendant's defense of assumption of risk but determined that Defendant had presented sufficient evidence to submit the issue of contributory negligence to the jury. The jury entered a verdict finding Defendant not negligent. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there was no error in the jury instructions, and the court provided the jury a full and accurate statement of the applicable law and legal principles; and (2) because the jury found Defendant not negligent, this Court need not address Plaintiff's remaining issues related to the defense of contributory negligence and her request for an instruction on dormant pre-existing health conditions. View "Tammen v. K & K Management Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendant insurer in this breach of contract action, holding that Defendant did not have a duty to defend Plaintiff in a case brought against him by his neighbors. Plaintiff was insured under a farm liability policy issued by Defendant. Plaintiff sold a portion of his property, and the purchaser operated a hog confinement facility on that property. Plaintiff's neighbors sued Plaintiff and the owner of the hog facility, alleging nuisance, trespass, and negligence. Defendant refused to defend Plaintiff against the lawsuit. After successfully defending the suit Plaintiff filed this action against Defendant, alleging that Defendant had a duty to defend. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Defendant. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant did not have a duty to defend where Defendant established that none of the claims against Plaintiff, if true, arguably fell within Defendant's policy coverage. View "Geidel v. De Smet Farm Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court finding in favor of Plaintiff in this declaratory judgment action seeking underinsured motorist benefits under two insurance policies with Defendant, holding that the policy language was ambiguous and that underinsured motorist coverage applied. Plaintiff, special administrator of the Estate of Nehemiah Larimer, brought this action following Nehemiah's death in an accident. Defendant denied coverage pursuant to an "owned but not insured" exclusion in the underinsured motorist benefits endorsement. The circuit court, finding the language of the policy ambiguous, granted Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the language of the underinsured motorist endorsement was ambiguous, and therefore, the interpretation most favorable to the insured must be adopted. View "Larimer v. American Family Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court granting Defendant's counsel's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's personal injury action after Defendant died during the pendency of the action and Plaintiff failed to move to substitute Defendant's estate or personal representative, holding that the circuit court did not err when it dismissed Plaintiff's case. After Defendant's counsel moved to dismiss the case, Plaintiff moved for substitution, arguing that the period for seeking substitution had not commenced because Defendant's counsel had not served notice of Defendant's death on Defendant's estate or personal representative. The circuit court granted the motion to dismiss, concluding that Plaintiff's motion for substitution was untimely. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) S.D. Codified Laws 15-6-25(a)(1) does not require service of the notice of death on the decedent's estate or personal representative; (2) the circuit court did not err when it denied Plaintiff's motion for substitution as untimely and when it denied Plaintiff's motion for enlargement due to an insufficient factual showing to support a finding of excusable neglect; and (3) under the circumstances, the circuit court did not err when it dismissed Plaintiff's case. View "Leighton v. Bennett" on Justia Law