Justia Injury Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals
Payne v. Novartis Pharm. Corp.
Payne sued Novartis for failing to warn her doctor that two of the drugs it manufactures, Aredia and Zometa, could cause serious damage to a patient’s jaw bones. The drugs are given intravenously, most often to patients with cancerous conditions, and are effective in preventing pathological fractures and other bone pains. Payne took both in 1999-2001 and had to have part of her jaw removed in 2007 because of osteonecrosis, which results in the gums being eaten away until the bone is exposed The connection between the drugs and the condition began to come to light to the medical community in the early 2000’s. The district court entered summary judgment for Novartis. The Sixth Circuit reversed. Under Tennessee law, the question of whether Novartis’s failure to warn was a cause of Payne’s injuries is for a jury to determine. Payne’s testimony, combined with that of her doctor, could establish a sufficient causal link between Novartis’s failure to warn and Payne’s jaw death. A reasonable jury could conclude that Payne would not have taken Aredia or Zometa had her doctor warned her of the risk View "Payne v. Novartis Pharm. Corp." on Justia Law
DiGeronimo Aggregates, LLC v. Zemla
DiGeronimo and other employers contributed to the Teamsters Local Union No. 293 Pension Plan, which is governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. 1001–1461. Defendants are trustees of the Plan and managed the Plan, including negotiating and ratifying contribution rates and overseeing the Plan’s investments and expenses. Defendants terminated the Plan in December 2009 because substantially all of the Plan’s contributing employers withdrew from paying contributions. Defendants assessed $1,755,733 in “withdrawal liability” to DiGeronimo, which represents its share of the $49,000,000 in unfunded, vested benefits that the contributing employers owed the Plan. DiGeronimo sued defendants under 29 U.S.C. 1451(a), alleging that defendants negligently managed the Plan’s assets, causing increased withdrawal liability. The district court dismissed holding, that there was no substantive basis for the negligence claim in any section of ERISA or under the federal common law. The Sixth Circuit affirmed: a contributing employer to a multiemployer pension plan has no cause of action against plan trustees for negligent management under the federal common law of ERISA pension plans. View "DiGeronimo Aggregates, LLC v. Zemla" on Justia Law
Glenn v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec.
Because of a 2007 car accident, Glenn suffers from degenerative disc disease, a closed head injury and cerebral concussion that cause dizziness and memory loss, left shoulder tendonitis, and post-traumatic headaches. She also suffers major depression, with slow thought processes, mood swings, agitation, poor concentration, anxiousness, feelings of anger and hopelessness, paranoia, auditory hallucinations, and suicidal and homicidal ideation. She has a chronic skin condition that has caused cysts around the vulva that occasionally prevent her from walking and require frequent bathroom breaks. In 2008, Glenn sought social security benefits. Following her hearing, at which Glenn appeared without counsel, the ALJ denied the application at the fifth step of the required analysis: whether, taking into account age, education, and work experience, the claimant can perform other work. The Appeals Council declined review. The district court remanded, based on five errors, but denied attorney’s fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act, finding that the government’s position on appeal was “substantially justified” because the magistrate rejected three of Glenn’s claims of error. The Sixth Circuit reversed the denial of fees. Regardless of what happens on remand, Glenn had to retain counsel to ensure that her claim would be properly adjudicated. View "Glenn v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec." on Justia Law
Arch on the Green, Inc. v. Groves
Groves worked as a strip miner for more than 20 years and a smoker who accumulated more than 50 pack-years. His first claim for black lung benefits, in 1998, was denied. Groves filed his current application in 2006. The ALJ awarded benefits in 2009. The Benefits Review Board vacated and remanded so that the ALJ could provide more detailed explanations. On remand, the ALJ again granted benefits after a careful review of the medical opinions of several different doctors who evaluated Groves’ lung disease, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). The Board affirmed. The Sixth Circuit remanded. While substantial evidence supported the determination that Groves’s COPD arose at least in part out of coal mining employment, the ALJ apparently did not apply the correct standard in determining that his total disability was due to pneumoconiosis. View "Arch on the Green, Inc. v. Groves" on Justia Law
Lee v. Smith & Wesson Corp.
Lee was injured while shooting a revolver made by Smith & Wesson. In his product liability suit alleging a defect in the firearm, the only expert evidence regarding how a defect in the firearm could have caused the injury was excluded because the expert’s theory was not consistent with aspects of plaintiff’s own memory of what happened. Lee reserved the right to challenge that evidentiary decision and stipulated to dismissal. The Sixth Circuit reversed and remanded. Smith & Wesson identified no judicial admission on the part of Lee in his represented status as plaintiff. Lee as a witness testified as to what he remembered. A tort plaintiff should be able to testify honestly to his memory of what happened and still have his lawyer argue that on the evidence as a whole it is more probable than not that the memory was faulty. If no jury could reasonably conclude that the plaintiff’s memory was faulty, dismissal would be warranted. View "Lee v. Smith & Wesson Corp." on Justia Law
MI Spine & Brain Surgeons, PLLC v. State Farm Mut. Auto Ins Co
Warner, insured by State Farm, was involved in an automobile accident. Following the accident, Michigan Spine provided Warner with about $26,000 of neurological treatment. State Farm denied coverage, stating that Warner’s condition was the result of a preexisting condition. Michigan Spine submitted the claim to Medicare, which approved a conditional payment of $5,000 under the Medicare Secondary Payer Act, 42 U.S.C. 1395y. Michigan Spine sued State Farm under Michigan’s No-Fault Act and the Medicare Secondary Payer Act, which permits private causes of action against primary plans that fail to pay medical expenses for which they are responsible. The district court dismissed, holding that a private party can recover under the Secondary Payer Act only if a “primary plan” has failed to provide appropriate reimbursement only because the planholder is entitled to Medicare benefits, and State Farm did not deny coverage on that basis. The Sixth Circuit reversed and remanded. Although the text of the Secondary Payer Act is unclear as to whether a private cause of action is available against a non-group health plan that denies coverage on a basis other than Medicare eligibility, accompanying regulations and congressional intent indicate that the requirement applies only to group health plans and not to non-group health plans. Michigan Spine may pursue its claim under the Secondary Payer Act. View "MI Spine & Brain Surgeons, PLLC v. State Farm Mut. Auto Ins Co" on Justia Law
Thomas M. Cooley Law Sch. v. Kurzon Strauss, LLP
America’s largest law school, Thomas M. Cooley, has four Michigan campuses and one in Florida and about 3,500 students. . Anziska was “of counsel” at a New York law firm. On June 8, 2011, under the title “Investigating the Thomas Cooley School of Law,” Anziska posted on the website “JD Underground,” that the firm was investigating law schools for preying on the ignorance of “naive, clueless 22-year-olds. Perhaps one of the worst offenders is the Thomas Cooley School of Law, which grossly inflates its post-graduate employment data and salary information…. students are defaulting on loans at an astounding 41 percent… most likely … will continue to defraud unwitting students unless held civilly accountable. If you have any relevant information or know of anyone who has attended Thomas Cooley … correspondences will be kept strictly confidential.” On June 13, the firm received a cease-and-desist letter from Cooley, claiming that the post was defamatory. On June 15, under the title “Retraction re: Investigating the Thomas Cooley School of Law,” a partner posted on JD Underground that the earlier post “contained certain allegations which may have been couched as fact regarding employment and default data. These statements are hereby retracted.” Meanwhile, Anziska disseminated a draft proposed class action complaint involving 18 former or current Cooley students, containing the same allegations. The complaint became publicly available on the internet. Cooley sued, alleging defamation, tortious interference with business relations, breach of contract, and false light. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of defendants. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Cooley was a limited-purpose public figure and the record would not allow a reasonable jury to conclude that the defendants published the challenged statements with actual malice. View "Thomas M. Cooley Law Sch. v. Kurzon Strauss, LLP" on Justia Law
Cent St, SE & SW Areas Health & Welfare Fund v. First Agency, Inc.
Central States, an employee benefit plan governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, provides health insurance for Teamsters and their families. Guarantee Trust provides sports injury insurance for student athletes. Each of 13 high school and college athletes, all children of Teamsters, holds general health insurance from Central and sports injury insurance from Guarantee. Each suffered an injury while playing sports (most often football) between 2006 and 2009, and sought coverage from both companies. Each time Guarantee refused to pay the athlete’s medical expenses, and each time Central paid the bill under protest. The district court entered a declaratory judgment under ERISA, 29 U.S.C. 1132(a)(3)(B), that, when coverage of student athletes overlap, Guarantee must pay, and ordered Guarantee to reimburse Central for the payouts to the 13 students. The Sixth Circuit, affirmed in part characterizing the case as a “you first” paradox, or ‘gastonette.” An ERISA plan may coordinate benefits with another policy, but may not redefine the coverage of another policy. Absent the Central plan, the Guarantee policy would cover the sports injuries at issue without question. An ERISA plan must keep doing what it would do in another plan’s absence. That amounts to coordinating benefits, not redefining coverage. View "Cent St, SE & SW Areas Health & Welfare Fund v. First Agency, Inc." on Justia Law
Germain v. Teva Pharm, USA, Inc
In 1957, the FDA approved propoxyphene for the treatment of mild to moderate pain, under the trade name Darvon. In 1972, the manufacturer obtained FDA approval to market another product combining propoxyphene with acetaminophen, under the name Darvocet. Because the new drug application (NDA) process is onerous, Congress passed the Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act of 1984, (Hatch-Waxman Act) to make available more low cost generic drugs. Generic drugs require an abbreviated new drug application (ANDA) showing that the drug is equivalent to and that labeling proposed is the same approved for the brand-name drug. Several companies obtained approval to market generic versions of Darvon and Darvocet. Complaints about perceived risks associated with propoxyphene began in 1978; eventually the United Kingdom withdrew it from the market. Two FDA advisory committees recommended withdrawal from the market, but the FDA ordered the NDA holder to change the label to include “Black Box” warnings and to undertake a clinical trial to assess the risks of a particular cardiac complication. In 2010, the FDA determined that the risks of propoxyphene outweighed its benefits and ordered its removal from the market. Plaintiffs in 68 consolidated cases alleged that they ingested propoxyphene products prior to its withdrawal and that manufacturers continued marketing propoxyphene after they knew or should have known that risks exceeded benefits. The district court dismissed. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, except with respect to one plaintiff. View "Germain v. Teva Pharm, USA, Inc" on Justia Law
Jones v. Dirty World Entm’t
The Dirty World website enables users to anonymously upload comments, photographs, and video, which Richie selects and publishes along with his own editorial comments. Jones is a Kentucky high school teacher and a member of the cheerleading squad for the Cincinnati Bengals football team. She was the subject of several submissions posted by anonymous users and of editorial remarks posted by Richie, including photographs of Jones and a statement that she “slept with every other Bengal Football player.” Jones requested that the post be removed. Richie declined. A subsequent post alleged that her former boyfriend “tested positive for Chlamydia Infection and Gonorrhea ... sure Sarah also has both ... he brags about doing sarah in … her class room at the school she teaches at DIXIE Heights." Richie's responded to the post: “Why are all high school teachers freaks in the sack?” Jones brought claims of defamation, libel per se, false light, and intentional inflection of emotional distress. The district court rejected arguments that the claims were barred by the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA), 47 U.S.C. 230. A second trial resulted in a verdict for $38,000 in compensatory damages and $300,000 in punitive damages. The Sixth Circuit reversed. Under the CDA, Richie and Dirty World were neither creators nor developers of the challenged content. Jones’s tort claims are grounded on the statements of another content provider, but sought to impose liability on Dirty World and Richie as if they were the publishers or speakers of those statements. Section 230(c)(1) bars those claims. View "Jones v. Dirty World Entm't" on Justia Law