Justia Injury Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals
Island Creek KY Mining v. Ramage
Ramage, born in 1933, worked for Island Creek for 28 years, five years underground and 23 years on the surface. In 2007 he sought black lung benefits. While the claim was pending, Congress revived a statutory rebuttable presumption that a coal miner who worked in an underground coal mine for 15 years and suffers from a total respiratory or pulmonary disability is presumed to be totally disabled due to pneumoconiosis, 30 U.S.C. 921(c)(4), applicable to pending claims filed after January 1, 2005. The ALJ noted that x-rays did not show pneumoconiosis, that Ramage could not complete a pulmonary function test due to a tracheostomy, and that arterial blood-gas studies were qualifying under the federal standards. The ALJ summarized the medical opinions of five doctors, including one who emphasized that it was impossible to distinguish between the damage due to coal dust as opposed to the damage due to smoking. The ALJ awarded benefits and the Benefits Review Board affirmed. The Sixth Circuit denied a petition for review, holding that the ALJ’s determinations were reasoned and reasonable and that the legislative provisions creating the presumption are self-executing.View "Island Creek KY Mining v. Ramage" on Justia Law
Henschel v. Clare Cnty. Rd. Comm’n
CCRC employee Henschel was covered by a collective bargaining agreement that provided for seniority rights. Hel was involved in a motorcycle accident that resulted in amputation of his left leg. CCRC hired a temporary excavator operator for Henschel’s position. Henschel had hauled the excavator to the site 70 percent of the time and other CCRC employees, 30 percent. CCRC specified hauling as a function of Truck/Tractor Driver, but did not include hauling in its Operator-Excavator job description; it included an “Other duties assigned” task. Henschel sought a waiver to maintain his commercial driver’s license. The Michigan Traffic Safety Division requested, from CCRC, an evaluation of Henschel’s ability to perform essential job functions of a truck driver, including driving a manual transmission. CCRC did not limit testing to essential functions of a truck driver, but tested Henschel for every CCRC position. The Division allowed Henschel to retain his CDL, limited to automatic-transmission vehicles. CCRC did not try to return him to the excavator but attempted to find him a truck driver position in an automatic transmission truck. The lowest seniority truck driver declined to give up his truck. Before firing Henschel, CCRC did not ask other qualified drivers if they would be willing to haul the excavator. The district court entered summary judgment or CCRC. The Sixth Circuit reversed in part, finding that genuine issues of material fact exist as to the essential functions of the excavator operator position. View "Henschel v. Clare Cnty. Rd. Comm'n" on Justia Law
In re: Barlow
The bankruptcy court held that a district court judgment entered against the Debtor was nondischargeable under 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(6). The Sixth Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel affirmed, holding that the bankruptcy court properly gave the district court’s findings preclusive effect as to whether the judgment was the result of the Debtor’s willful and malicious injury. View "In re: Barlow" on Justia Law
Young v. Gannett Satellite Info.Network, Inc.
In 1997, the Miami Township police department fired Sergeant Young for allegedly forcing sex on a woman while on the job; the termination was overturned by an arbitrator. The arbitrator concluded that the department had not proven its allegations, noting that DNA samples from the scene did not match Young, that Young and his accuser had been in a relationship, and that the accuser had a history that cast doubt on her credibility. In 2010, the newspaper published the statement “Young had sex with a woman while on the job” in an article about the suspension of another officer. Young sued for defamation and obtained a $100,000 verdict. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. There was sufficient evidence for a jury to decide that the editor knew that the accusation was probably false and published it regardless. View "Young v. Gannett Satellite Info.Network, Inc." on Justia Law
Marathon Ashland Petroleum v. Williams
Williams had worked at Marathon’s Ashland, Kentucky, facility for 25 years, most recently as a senior barge welder. Williams alleged that he sustained a long thoracic nerve injury to his right shoulder while replacing parts of a barge in 2003. His injury was likely the result of the cumulative effect of his heavy lifting. Williams has not returned to work and has been seen by several physicians, but they do not agree on a common diagnosis. Following a remand the Benefits Review Board of the U.S. Department of Labor affirmed an administrative law judge’s award of permanent and total disability benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, 33 U.S.C. 901. On a second appeal, the Sixth Circuit affirmed, finding that Williams is permanently and totally disabled and is unable to perform the alternative employment identified by Marathon’s vocational expert. The court granted Williams leave to seek attorney fees under 33 U.S.C. 928(a). View "Marathon Ashland Petroleum v. Williams" on Justia Law
Amburgey v. United States
On January 21, 2009, Amburgey sought treatment for his persistent pneumonia from Dr. Alam at a Whitesburg, Kentucky clinic run by MCHC. He died that same day from a severe allergic reaction to an intravenous contrast dye that was administered in preparation for a CT scan, despite an allergy notation in his chart. His wife, Delma, sued Dr. Alam, MCHC, and, because MCHC is an agency of the federal government, the United States. On January 20, 2011, Delma mailed the required form for asserting a wrongful-death claim against the government to MCHC. MCHC received the form four days later and in turn forwarded it to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the appropriate federal agency for notification purposes under 28 U.S.C. 2401(b). The district court dismissed the claim as untimely. The Sixth Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that Delma’s claim did not accrue until after she had received the autopsy report in April 2009 View "Amburgey v. United States" on Justia Law
Philadelphia Indem. Ins. Co. v. Youth Alive, Inc.
YA, a nonprofit corporation serving at-risk youth, transported young people to an event using vans that it owned. After the event four people were unable to board because a van was full. A YA employee requested that 16-year-old Lee, a YA participant who had driven to the event in a separate vehicle, drive them home. Lee agreed. Lee did not possess a valid driver’s license and the car that he was driving had been stolen during a carjacking. Police saw Lee driving erratically, ran a license plate check, and gave chase. Lee lost control and hit a tree. Lee survived, but all four passengers were killed. Their estates filed suit. YA requested defense and indemnification under policies issued by Indemnity: a commercial general liability policy with a $1 million limit and a commercial excess liability policy with a $2 million limit. Indemnity provided a defense, but disputed coverage and sought a federal declaratory judgment. YA counterclaimed that Indemnity breached its duty of good faith and violated the Kentucky Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Act, by misrepresenting coverage and failing to affirm liability within a reasonable time. The district court held that Indemnity was obligated under the CGL policy but not under the excess policy. The state court action settled with Indemnity’s payment of the $1 million limit of the CGL policy, plus $800,000 of the excess policy. The federal court dismissed the bad-faith counterclaims, reasoning that, as a matter of law, Indemnity’s coverage position had not been taken in bad faith. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. View "Philadelphia Indem. Ins. Co. v. Youth Alive, Inc." on Justia Law
Szekeres v. CSX Transp., Inc.
Plaintiff, working for Defendant since 1967, was a brakeman on a crew taking a freight train from Defendant’s Cleveland yard to Medina County, Ohio, in 2006. At a Valley City stop, Plaintiff operated a ground switch to move the alignment of the track. Plaintiff stood behind the switch and operated it for 30 minutes to an hour. Witnesses testified and pictures indicated that the ground where Plaintiff worked was muddy and was not covered with ballast. Plaintiff had to urinate while operating the switch and planned to urinate outside, rather than in the toilet compartment of the locomotive, because he found that compartment to be “dirty” and “unusable.” Once Plaintiff completed his tasks, he began to walk from the switch to a field behind the tracks. Within steps of the switch, Plaintiff slipped and twisted his knee. Plaintiff was diagnosed with a torn right meniscus and underwent surgery to repair the cartilage. The district court rejected jury verdicts in favor of Plaintiff on his claims under the Federal Employers Liability Act and the Locomotive Inspection Act. The Sixth Circuit reversed, finding sufficient proof of causation between the jury-determined violations under FELA and LIA and Plaintiff’s injuries. View "Szekeres v. CSX Transp., Inc." on Justia Law
Jackson. Segwick Claims Mgmt. Servs.
Plaintiffs, employees of Coca-Cola, suffered work-related injuries and applied for workers’ compensation benefits through Sedgwick, Coca-Cola’s third-party benefit claims administrator. Sedgwick disputed the claims. Plaintiffs claim that Coca-Cola and Sedgwick “engaged in a fraudulent scheme involving the mail . . . to avoid paying benefits to injured employees,” and filed suit under the civil remedies provision of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. 1962(c). The district court dismissed. On rehearing, en banc, the Sixth Circuit affirmed, holding that the plaintiffs did not plead an injury to their “business or property” that is compensable under RICO. The RICO theory advanced in this case would throw the viability of workers’ compensation schemes into doubt; RICO “does not purport to afford remedies for all torts committed by or against persons engaged in interstate commerce.” The Michigan workers’ compensation scheme provides ample mechanisms by which the employee can contest denials. View "Jackson. Segwick Claims Mgmt. Servs." on Justia Law
Jasinski v. Tyler
After her child was murdered by his father, the mother sued employees of county and state Child Protective Services (CPS) and others,, alleging negligence; violations of constitutional rights (42 U.S.C. 1983); and violation of the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act--Adoption and Safe Families Act, 42 U.S.C. 670, and of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, 42 U.S.C. 5106. The complaint alleged that from 1998-2007, CPS received numerous complaints about the father’s abuse and neglect of the child and his siblings. The district court rejected a defense of qualified immunity. The Sixth Circuit reversed. The contours of the substantive due process right to be free from government action increasing the risk of harm was not sufficiently clear that a reasonable official would understand that pursuing the father for use of a cattle prod, while failing to immediately remove the child, would violate the child’s substantive due process rights. Given previous cases, it is not clear that a reasonable CPS official would understand that failure to seek termination of parental rights would constitute denial of procedural due process. Without ignoring the father’s role in causing the child’s death, CPS employees’ conduct cannot be said to be the “most immediate, efficient, and direct cause” of the injury. View "Jasinski v. Tyler" on Justia Law