Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

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After plaintiff was injured while working at a surface gravel mine, he filed suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), arguing that his injuries were caused at least in part by a federal mine inspector's inadequate inspection of the mine. Under Missouri's Good Samaritan doctrine, a key requirement for liability is an increase in the risk of harm based upon the defendant's actions. The court noted that the Eighth Circuit has not yet addressed claims against mine inspectors under the FTCA. Several sister circuits have addressed such claims, and in each case, the parties have conceded the existence of discretion or the courts have expressly determined that the inspectors' duties involved an element of judgment or choice for purposes of the discretionary function exception to FTCA liability. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court finding no waiver of sovereign immunity and dismissing the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction in all respects other than the allegations of a failure to inspect training records. The court explained that the question of the inspector's failure to fulfill his mandatory and non-discretionary duty to inspect training records was so bound up with the merits of the case as to require further factual development. Therefore, the court reversed as to this claim, remanding for further proceedings. View "Buckler v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against defendant, alleging that defendant was grossly negligent and that this negligence caused plaintiff substantial harm. Both parties were electrical linesman. Plaintiff was injured at a worksite when a wire defendant's team disconnected from a downed pole snapped free and struck plaintiff in the face. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendant and held that the district court did not err in concluding that Iowa's Workers' Compensation Act provided the exclusive remedy for plaintiff's injury because he could not establish that defendant was grossly negligent. The court held that plaintiff failed to present evidence creating a factual dispute with regard to defendant's awareness that injury was probable. In this case, defendant's crew members agreed with him that the jerry-rigged setup would be the best way to secure the wire. While plaintiff's injuries suggested that the setup may have been negligent, mere negligence did not satisfy Iowa's stringent requirements for allowing co-employee liability. View "Van Dorn v. Hunter" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Continental in a personal injury action. In this case, plaintiff was an employee of Great Western, and Continental had hired Great Western as an independent contractor to gauge wastewater levels in holding tanks at its well sites in North Dakota. The court held that the master service contract between Continental and Great Western did not provide that Continental would supervise, inspect, or direct Great Western's work, and plaintiff failed to demonstrate that Continental directly supervised his work or instructed him on the use of the well site equipment. Therefore, because Continental did not control plaintiff's work nor instruct him on the use of the equipment, it was not liable for negligence because it did not owe plaintiff a duty. The court also held that the district court did not err in finding that Continental's failure to answer plaintiff's amended complaint, which was filed after the parties briefed summary judgment, did not constitute an admission. Finally, to the extent plaintiff made a premises liability argument on appeal, the court would not consider the claim because it was not raised before the district court. View "Vandewarker v. Continental Resources, Inc." on Justia Law

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After James Wurster suffered fatal burns when a gas can manufactured by TPG exploded as he was burning garbage on this farm, his wife filed suit against TPG. The jury rendered a take-nothing verdict under Iowa's comparative fault scheme and found TPG forty-five percent at fault for Mr. Wurster's death due to its failure to provide adequate warnings on the gas can and apportioning the balance of the fault to Mr. Wurster. The Eighth Circuit affirmed and held that plaintiff's design defect claim was sufficiently presented to the jury; the district court did not err by instructing the jury on reasonable alternative design; and there was no prejudicial error in giving the assumption of risk instruction. The court also held that the district court did not err by granting judgment as a matter of law to TPG on the post-sale failure to warn claim because plaintiff presented insufficient evidence to show TPG had a post-sale duty to warn consumers of the danger posed by its W520 gas cans. View "Wurster v. The Plastics Group" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a personal injury action against Merck after she suffered cardiovascular injuries allegedly from taking a medication called Vioxx. The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims. The district court held that plaintiff's claims accrued prior to September 2001 and thus her September 29, 2006 suit was time-barred. In Missouri, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is five years after the cause of action accrues. The court held that there was a genuine issue of fact as to whether the evidence was such that a reasonably prudent person was on notice of a potentially actionable injury before September 29, 2001. The court predicted that the state supreme court would conclude that mere knowledge in the medical community of a possible link between Vioxx and heart problems did not, as a matter of law, place a reasonably prudent person in plaintiff's position on notice of a potentially actionable injury. View "Levitt v. Merck & Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against pharmaceutical companies, alleging that they were liable for substantial gambling and other financial losses that resulted from obsessive compulsive behavior, a side effect of taking a dopamine agonist called Mirapex for his Parkinson's disease. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment dismissing all claims as barred by the applicable California statute of limitations. The court rejected plaintiff's contention that the statute should be tolled because he was insane when the cause of action accrued; rejected plaintiff's contention that each ingestion of the drug gave rise to a separate and distinct claim under the continuing violations doctrine; and held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying a motion to stay defendants' motion for summary judgment. View "Mancini v. Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, by his parent and legal guardian, filed suit against the United States for negligence and negligent supervision, alleging that the Government knew or should have known of the sexual abuse history of a priest that was hired at the Tripler Army Medical Center, and that the Government was negligent in failing to warn families of the priest's sexual propensities. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the action based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction because the United States was entitled to sovereign immunity. The court held that the decision whether to warn of the priest's sexual propensities or to take other action to restrict his contact with children was susceptible to policy analysis. The court explained that balancing safety, reputational interests, and confidentiality was the kind of determination the discretionary function exception was designed to shield and thus the Government's conduct was within the discretionary function exception. View "Croyle v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment for Petco in a negligence and premises liability action filed by plaintiff against the company. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by excluding plaintiff's expert evidence notwithstanding that Petco did not attempt to meet and confer with him before seeking sanctions. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding the statements of plaintiff's treating physician to show causation. In this case, plaintiff failed to make any timely expert witness disclosures to Petco and never provided a summary of his treating physicians' expected testimony. View "Vanderberg v. Petco Animal Supplies Stores" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's order finding that the trustee's claim under the Carmack Amendment against Canadian Pacific was untimely. This appeal stemmed from a train accident killing 47 people and destroying an entire town in Quebec. The court held that WFE's claim based on a claim letter and denial in April 2014 made the trustee's April 2016 lawsuit timely. In regard to Irving Oil, the court held that there was a genuine dispute over the very existence of contractual terms in the bill of lading providing for a nine-month notice period and a two-year suit limitation, precluding both dismissal on the pleadings or summary judgment as a matter of law. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Whatley v. Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Jeffery Oppedahl and his family filed suit against Mobile Drill after Jeffery was injured in an accident involving a truck-mounted drill auger that left him a quadriplegic. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Mobile Drill on plaintiffs' negligent entrustment claim involving the auger and the related consortium claims. The court held that the refurbishment exception did not apply here and that the district court did not err in dismissing plaintiffs' negligence and strict liability claims based on the running of the Iowa statute of repose. Even if the exception applied, plaintiffs' claim would still be barred where the existing case law in which courts have adopted a refurbishment exception to statutes of repose requires that the refurbishment be completed by the party being held accountable for the harm. In this case, it was IDOT, not Mobile Drill, that conducted the auger refurbishment. The court also held that the Iowa Supreme Court likely would not apply negligent entrustment against a product manufacturer when the claim relates to the sale of the product. Assuming that negligent entrustment applied, plaintiffs' claim failed where there was insufficient evidence to support a claim that Mobile Drill had knowledge that IDOT would use the auger in a manner involving unreasonable risk of physical harm or that it was foreseeable to Mobile Drill that IDOT would use the auger in an unsafe way. View "Oppedahl v. Mobile Drill International Inc." on Justia Law