Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in South Dakota Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court in favor of Appellee in this workers' compensation case, holding that an error led to the exclusion of relevant evidence and incorrect jury instructions that impacted the jury's verdict, which prejudiced Appellants. Fern Johnson sued her former employer and its workers' compensation carrier (collectively, Appellants) alleging bad faith and conversion based on their denial of previously ordered workers' compensation medical benefits. A jury returned a verdict for Johnson. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for a new trial, holding (1) the circuit court did not err when it concluded that Appellants' legal obligation to pay Johnson's benefits was not fairly debatable; but (2) the circuit court erred when it determined that the lack of a reasonable basis to deny benefits necessarily impacted the jury's consideration of the separate bad faith element concerning Appellants' knowledge. View "Johnson v. United Parcel Service, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court granting summary judgment for Hospital on Nurse's claims for wrongful discharge, breach of contract, and defamation, holding that summary judgment was proper. Hospital terminated Nurse after it discovered errors in Nurse's documentation of controlled substances and Nurse's inability to account for controlled substances revamped from the dispensing system. Nurse brought suit against Hospital alleging several claims. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Hospital on all claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that summary judgment was properly granted in favor of Hospital. View "Henning v. Avera McKennan Hospital" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court concluding that coverage did not exist under an automobile insurance policy issued to Shelby Olsons' parents or an automobile policy issued to the shooter for injuries sustained by Shelby when she was struck by a bullet while riding in the backseat of her parents' vehicle, holding that the circuit court did not err. Shelby was struck by a bullet when the driver of another vehicle fired a handgun at the Olsons' vehicle. At issue was whether coverage for Shelby's injuries existed under the automobile policy issued to her parents or under the automobile policy issued to the shooter. The circuit court concluded that coverage did not exist under either policy because the injuries did not arise out of the use of a vehicle and, alternatively, were not caused by an accident. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of the insurance companies. View "Olson v. Slattery" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court in favor of Prussman Contracting, Inc., holding that the court did not abuse its discretion. Dennis Sedlacek commenced this suit against Prussman, alleging general negligence and failure to train and supervise its employees. Sedlacek sought damages for injuries he allegedly sustained while repairing a crane owned by Prussman. The jury returned a general verdict in favor of Prussman. On appeal, Sedlacek argued that he was prejudiced by the court's rulings restricting his ability to argue that Prussman violated Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) standards. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that even if this restriction was outside of the circuit court's range of permissible choices, Sedlacek could not establish that the error produced the adverse verdict. View "Sedlacek v. Prussman Contracting, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court affirming the decision of the South Dakota Department of Labor dismissing Plaintiff's petition seeking workers' compensation benefits for lack of prosecution, holding that Plaintiff engaged in activity within a year before the motion to dismiss was filed. Plaintiff filed a petition with the Department seeking disability benefits and medical expenses arising from her workplace injury. Eventually, Employer/Insurer filed a motion to dismiss for lack of prosecution under ARSD 47:03:01:09, asserting that there had been no activity for at least one year and that Plaintiff had failed to show good cause for the delay. The Department granted the motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Department abused its discretion in dismissing the appeal because its decision was based upon its erroneous conclusion that Plaintiff's participation in a vocational rehabilitation program was not "activity" under ARSD 47:03:01:09. View "Laplante v. GGNSC Madison, S.D." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court affirming the decision of the Department of Labor to award benefits to James Bonebright's widow, Stephanie, after Bonebright died from injuries he sustained in a work-related accident, holding that the workers' compensation claim was not precluded by willful misconduct. Bonebright's employer, the City of Miller, and the City's workers' compensation provider denied workers' compensation liability on the ground that Bonebright had engaged in willful misconduct. Stephanie petitioned the Department for medical and funeral expenses along with indemnity benefits as a surviving spouse. The Department awarded Stephanie benefits, concluding that although Bonebright had engaged in willful misconduct, the City had not established that Bonebright's failure to follow safety precautions was a proximate cause of his injury and death. The circuit court reversed the Department's willful misconduct finding. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Stephanie's claim was not precluded by willful misconduct because the City did not demonstrate bona fide enforcement of its safety rules. View "Bonebright v. City Of Miller" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court affirming the decision of the Department of Labor determining that Appellant's knee surgery and related treatment were not compensable, holding that the Department did not err when it concluded that Appellant's work-related injury, in combination with his preexisting condition, did not remain a major contributing cause of his disability, impairment, or need for treatment. Appellant injured his left knee while working for Appellee. Appellee denied liability for Appellant's total knee replacement surgery and post-operative treatment. The Department found the work-related injury neither contributed independently nor was a major contributing cause of Appellant's need for surgery. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellant failed to prove causation under either S.D. Codified Laws 62-1-1(7)(b) or S.D. Codified Laws 62-1-1(7)(c). View "Armstrong v. Longview Farms, LLP" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants and dismissing Plaintiff's suit claiming that he was financially damaged by Defendants' fraud and conspiracy and deprived of control over the family ranch, holding that the circuit court properly concluded that Plaintiff's suit was time barred. This case arose out of a family dispute over ownership and control of a family ranch. Plaintiff sued his mother, brothers, former attorney, and two business entities charging Defendants with, among other things, conversion, fraud, and conspiracy to commit fraud and requesting punitive and compensatory damages. The circuit court granted Defendants' motions for summary judgment on all claims, concluding that Plaintiff's claims were time barred. The circuit court then granted Defendants' motions for attorney fees, concluding that Plaintiff's lawsuit was frivolous and malicious. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court (1) properly concluded that Plaintiff's suit was time barred; and (2) did not abuse its discretion by awarding attorney fees to Defendants. View "Healy v. Osborne" on Justia Law

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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