Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in South Dakota Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed the summary judgment entered by the circuit court in favor of Defendant, Rapid City, and dismissing Plaintiff's complaint for negligence, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below.Plaintiff was riding her bicycle near the curb on a street in Rapid City when when her front tire fell through a storm drain grate she was riding over (grate four), causing her to crash and suffer a spinal cord injury. Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging that the City was negligent for failing to repair a modified and subsequently damaged grate four. The circuit court granted the City's motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff failed to present any evidence to show that grate four was in a damaged condition on the day of her accident; and (2) S.D. Codified Laws 31-32-10 does not provide a remedy against a governmental entity for known dangerous design defects on a highway or street. View "Godbe v. City Of Rapid City" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court granting summary judgment to Bonnie London, the mother of person who shot plaintiff Sergeant John Koening of the South Dakota Highway Patrol, based on the events leading up to the shooting, holding that the circuit court did not err in granting summary judgment.In underlying criminal case, Donald was convicted of aggravated assault against a law enforcement officer for shooting and injuring Koening. Plaintiffs - Sergeant Koening and his wife - brought negligence and loss of consortium claims against Donald and Bonnie. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Bonnie, concluding that she did not owe a legal duty to control or supervise Donald, an adult, and should not be subject to liability for his criminal conduct. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Bonnie owed no duty to Sergeant Koening under a general negligence theory because she was not in a special relationship with Donald; and (2) Bonnie was not subject to a legal duty based upon her own conduct because it did not create a foreseeable high risk of harm. View "Koenig v. London" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing Plaintiff's complaint against her father-in-law (Defendant) alleging child sex abuse, holding that the circuit court erred in granting summary judgment.Because Plaintiff filed her amended complaint more than three years after she discovered or reasonably should have discovered her injury and its cause, the circuit court granted Defendant's motion for summary judgment and dismissed the child sex abuse claim as untimely under S.D. Codified Laws 26-10-25. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendant did not presumptively establish that Plaintiff instituted her child sex abuse action beyond the limitation period in section 26-10-25. View "Syrstad v. Syrstad" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the order of the circuit court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants in this wrongful death suit, holding that the circuit court properly dismissed Plaintiffs' negligence claims but erred in dismissing Plaintiffs' strict liability claim.Chalan Hedman and Troy Hattum died after and explosion and fire at the Hattum Family Farms. Chalan's estate brought a wrongful death suit against Hattum Family Farms and individual members of the Hattum family, alleging claims for strict liability and negligence and seeking compensatory and punitive damages. The circuit court granted summary judgment for the Hattums on the Estate's claims. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the circuit court erred by granting summary judgment on the strict liability claim because genuine issues of material fact existed precluding dismissal. View "Sheard v. Hattum" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court granting summary judgment to Defendants, the City of Pierre and the Pierre Volunteer Fire Department (PVFD), in this personal injury action, holding that the trial court correctly determined that the City and the PVFD were not vicariously liable under the circumstances of this case.Gerrit Tronvold, an on-call volunteer member of the PVFD, collided with Plaintiffs' motorcycle while his was traveling to a routine PVFD meeting. The trial court determined that the City and the PVFD were not vicariously liable for Tronvold's actions under the doctrine of respondeat superior and that the defendants were shielded from liability by governmental immunity. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court correctly determined that Tronvold was not acting within the scope of his employment or agency, precluding liability under the doctrine of respondeat superior. View "Jurgens v. Tronvold" 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 and Regulation (Department) concluding that it lacked jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claim seeking workers' compensation benefits, holding that the Department had the authority to adjudicate Plaintiff's claim.Plaintiff was injured in Wyoming while working at a job for Defendant, a corporation formed and headquartered in South Dakota. Plaintiff applied for and received workers' compensation benefits in Wyoming. Later, Plaintiff sought benefits in South Dakota, which has more favorable workers' compensation statutes. The South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation dismissed the petition, concluding that it lacked jurisdiction. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that South Dakota had a substantial connection to the parties' employment relationship sufficient to provide the Department with authority to adjudicate Plaintiff's claim. View "Anderson v. Tri State Construction, LLC" 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 and Regulation determining that a copy of a letter to Appellant's insurer seeking a review of his workers' compensation benefits did not constitute a petition for a hearing, holding that the Department and the circuit court did not err.Appellant injured his left and right shoulder at work. Western National Insurance (Insurer), the workers' compensation for Appellant's employers, paid workers' compensation benefits. Five years later, Appellant sent a letter to Insurer seeking a review of his workers' compensation benefits and sent a copy of this letter to the Department requesting that the Department determine that the letter constituted a petition for hearing. The Department concluded that the letter was not a petition for hearing because it lacked the information required by ARSD 47:03:01:02. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in concluding that Appellant's letter did not satisfy ARSD 47:03:01:02. View "May v. Spearfish Pellett Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court reversing the decision of the Department of Labor denying Taylor Hughes's workers' compensation claim for an alleged work-related back injury, holding that the circuit court correctly held that Hughes was entitled to recover for his injury.After a hearing, the Department determined that Hughes had not proven by a preponderance of the evidence that his disability was caused by a workplace injury and that his work activities were a major contributing cause of his disability. The circuit court reversed, determining (1) the Department erred by applying the incorrect standard to the causation of the injury, and (2) the Department's finding that Hughes failed to establish causation was clearly erroneous. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court properly overturned the Department's decision because Hughes proved by a preponderance of the evidence that his injury was work-related and that his employment was a major contributing cause of his current condition. View "Hughes v. Dakota Mill & Grain" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court affirming the decision of the Department of Labor and Regulation denying Steven Billman's application for permanent total disability benefits, holding that the Department's determination that Billman was not obviously unemployable was clearly erroneous.During his employment, Billman suffered a work-related injury that required the amputation of his left leg just below the knee. The Department denied Billman's application for benefits, finding that Billman was not obviously unemployable and that he failed to conduct a reasonable job search. The circuit court affirmed the Department's findings. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Billman established that he was obviously unemployable, and therefore, he was entitled to odd-lot disability benefits. View "Billman v. Clarke Machine, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this insurance dispute arising from an employee's death, the Supreme Court remanded the determination that the employer's insurer providing underinsured motorist coverage and workers' compensation insurance was entitled to a lien on a portion of settlement proceeds received by the estate, holding that, given a lack of factual findings, there was no way to evaluate whether the court clearly erred in its assessment of the various factors impacting an equitable allocation.Charles Luze died in a work-related accident. His employer paid his wife, Jeanette Luze, workers' compensation benefits. Jeanette, as the representative of Charles's estate, then brought suit against the negligent driver and settled the claim. The estate also settled a claim against the New FB's insurer providing underinsured motorist coverage, Zurich American Insurance Company, which was also New FB's workers' compensation carrier. The circuit court determined that Zurich was entitled to a statutory workers' compensation lien on fifty percent of the settlement proceeds received by the estate and was able to subrogate against its own settlement payment of underinsured benefits. The Supreme Court remanded in part, holding (1) this Court was unable meaningfully to review the circuit court's allocation determination; and (2) the circuit court properly allowed Zurich to subrogate against the amount it paid in underinsured motorist benefits. View "Luze v. New FB Co." on Justia Law