Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
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Plaintiffs, employees of civilian and military contractors who used Combat Arms Version 2 earplugs, filed separate suits against 3M in Minnesota state court, asserting failure-to-warn claims under state law. After removal to federal court, the district court granted plaintiffs' motions to remand the cases to state court for lack of federal jurisdiction, concluding that 28 U.S.C. 1442(a)(1) was not a basis for removal.Reviewing de novo, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the remand orders in the Graves and Hall actions, whose members acquired commercial earplugs. The court concluded that 3M failed to establish it was "acting under" a federal officer or agency in developing and disseminating warnings and instructions for its commercial earplugs. However, the court affirmed in part and reversed in part the remand orders in the Copeland cases and remanded for further proceedings. The court concluded that 3M has a colorable federal contractor defense for claims made by Copeland plaintiffs who acquired earplugs through the military, and has satisfied the other elements required for section 1442(a)(1) removal as to these plaintiffs. Therefore, the district court's remand orders are reversed as to this group, whose members will need to be determined on remand. View "Graves v. 3M Company" on Justia Law

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Devin Nunes, a Member of Congress from California, appeals the district court's dismissal of his complaint alleging defamation and conspiracy claims against defendant and Hearst based on an article published in Esquire magazine about his parents' farm and the use of undocumented immigrants.The Eighth Circuit agreed with the district court that the complaint fails to state a claim for express defamation based on the statements at issue in the article regarding Nunes' alleged improper use of his position as Chairman of the House of Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and adopted the district court's conclusions. In regard to a statement regarding Nunes' attempt to undermine the Russia investigation, the court concluded that Nunes failed to identify that statement as allegedly defamatory in his complaint, and the court declined to consider the issue for the first time on appeal.However, in regard to Nunes' claim for defamation by implication, the court concluded that Nunes has plausibly alleged that defendant and Hearst intended or endorsed the implication that Nunes conspired to cover up his parents' farm's use of undocumented labor. The court explained that the manner in which the article presents the discussion of the farm's use of undocumented labor permits a plausible inference that defendant and Hearst intended or endorsed the implication. Finally, in regard to actual malice, the court concluded that the pleaded facts are suggestive enough to render it plausible that defendant engaged in the purposeful avoidance of the truth. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Nunes v. Lizza" on Justia Law

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Following the death of five members of the Pals family in a car accident in a construction zone after defendant drove his semi-truck into the back of the Pals' vehicle, plaintiffs filed a wrongful death and negligence action against defendant, his employer, and two contractors involved in the highway construction project, IHC and Sawyer.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of IHC and Sawyer, concluding that, even if IHC and Sawyer owed a duty to the Pals, and even if they breached that duty (questions the district court did not decide), the negligence claim against the two contractors would necessarily fail because defendant's negligence in causing the accident was an efficient intervening cause under Nebraska law. The court also concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying plaintiffs' motion to stay. View "Pals v. Weekly" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in plaintiffs' case, which is part of the Bair Hugger multidistrict litigation (MDL). The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion by excluding (1) evidence of 3M's knowledge of the risks and utility of the Bair Hugger and (2) evidence of reasonable alternative designs to the Bair Hugger besides the TableGard. Furthermore, even assuming the risk-utility and reasonable-alternative design evidence was erroneously excluded, plaintiffs failed to show that they suffered prejudice from the exclusion of the evidence. The court also concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion by allowing 3M's expert to testify about operating-room airflow. Even if the admission of the testimony was erroneous, there was no basis to reverse the jury's verdict on this ground. Finally, the court concluded that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment to 3M on plaintiffs' failure-to-warn claim asserted under both negligence and strict-liability theories. The court explained that, even if the district court erred, the error was harmless. View "Gareis v. 3M Company" on Justia Law

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In December 2015, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation created and centralized the In re Bair Hugger Forced Air Warming Devices Products Liability Litigation (MDL) in the District of Minnesota for coordinated pretrial proceedings. Plaintiffs in the MDL brought claims against 3M alleging that they contracted periprosthetic joint infections (PJIs) due to the use of 3M's Bair Hugger, a convective (or forced-air ) patient-warming device, during their orthopedic-implant surgeries. The MDL court excluded plaintiffs' general-causation medical experts as well as one of their engineering experts, and it then granted 3M summary judgment as to all of plaintiffs' claims, subsequently entering an MDL-wide final judgment.The Eighth Circuit reversed in full the exclusion of plaintiffs' general-causation medical experts and reversed in part the exclusion of their engineering expert; reversed the grant of summary judgment in favor of 3M; affirmed the discovery order that plaintiffs challenged; affirmed the MDL court's decision to seal the filings plaintiffs seek to have unsealed; and denied plaintiffs' motion to unseal those same filings on the court's own docket. View "Amador v. 3M Company" on Justia Law

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After defendant injured plaintiff while defendant was driving a vehicle owned by the US Postal Service, plaintiff filed suit against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) and against defendant for negligence under Missouri law. The district court dismissed plaintiff's federal claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, declining to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff's state-law claim against defendant.The Eighth Circuit affirmed, concluding that plaintiff failed to establish that defendant was acting within the scope of his employment during the time of the accident under Missouri law. In this case, the Postal Service's written policies support a finding that defendant's deviation from his postal route was unauthorized and the district court did not clearly err in finding that defendant violated the Postal Service's policies when he left his route for twenty-five minutes to purchase dog food for a friend, deliver the dog food at a location where he had already delivered mail, and take a break with his friend. Therefore, defendant was not acting within the scope of his employment during the deviation, and the deviation was neither slight nor incidental. Finally, whether defendant's conduct was within the scope of his employment is unrelated to the merits question of whether his conduct was negligent. The court explained that the scope of the employment in FTCA cases is a threshold jurisdictional question for the court, rather than the jury, to decide. View "Magee v. Harris" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff suffered injuries to his right hand while using a RotoZip Model RZ20 hand-held spiral saw, he filed suit against Bosch, the manufacturer, and Lowe's, the retailer, alleging strict liability and negligence products liability theories. Plaintiff alleged that he was injured when the saw’s auxiliary handle spontaneously detached from the saw's body.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of defendants' joint motion to bar the opinions of plaintiff's expert regarding the saw's alleged design defects and the saw's failure to have an interlocking device safety measure. The court concluded that the expert's proposed opinion lacked relevance as it did not fit the facts of this case. The court explained that plaintiff did not meaningfully argue in his brief his claim that the saw was defective for not having an interlocking safety measure and thus waived his claim. Furthermore, even if the issue was not waived, the district court did not err in concluding the expert's testimony on alternative-design options was not reliable and should not be admitted.The court also affirmed the district court's grant of defendants' joint motion for summary judgment on plaintiff's claims of strict products liability, negligent design, negligent failure to warn, and negligent supply of a dangerous instrumentality. In this case, the district court concluded that the claims involved such complex or technical information that they required expert testimony. Therefore, the exclusion of plaintiff's expert was fatal to his claims. View "McMahon v. Robert Bosch Tool Corp." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of Plaintiffs Mullen and King's complaint against the United States based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Plaintiffs' causes of action stemmed from the death of Rosemarie Ismail, a 69-year-old veteran who died from a hematoma after a liver biopsy performed at a VA hospital. The district court concluded that King failed to properly present her Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) claim because Mullen, who filed an administrative wrongful death claim with the VA as the personal representative of Ismail's estate, did not have the authority under Missouri law to act on King's behalf.The court held that the DOJ regulations specifically contemplate that Mullen, as the personal representative of Ismail's estate, may present an administrative wrongful death claim even if she is not authorized to bring an FTCA action in that same capacity. Given the court's plain reading of the FTCA and the corresponding regulations, the court concluded that Mullen had the requisite authority to present a wrongful death claim to the VA and consequently that King's FTCA claim was administratively exhausted. The court explained that an FTCA notice of claim need not be filed by a party with the legal authority or capacity under state law to represent the beneficiaries' interests in state court. Therefore, the district court had subject matter jurisdiction over King's FTCA claim. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "King v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, parents of LD, filed suit against the school district and others after their daughter LD, a 13-year-old, 7th grade student, was sexually abused by her teacher, Brian Robeson.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the school district and the principal. The court concluded that plaintiffs failed to present any evidence that the principal had actual notice of the abuse, and the principal and the school district were entitled to summary judgment on plaintiffs' Title IX and 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims. The court also concluded that the district court did not err by granting summary judgment in favor of the school district and principal on plaintiffs' Nebraska Political Subdivisions Tort Claims Act where plaintiffs' claim arose out of Robeson's sexual assault of LD, an intentional tort to which the Act's intentional tort exception applies. The court further concluded that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of the principal on plaintiffs' aiding and abetting intentional infliction of emotional distress claim where nothing in the record, even when viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiffs, indicates that the principal encouraged or assisted Robeson in inflicting emotional distress on LD.The court joined its sister circuits in finding that there is no right to a jury trial on the issue of damages following entry of default judgment. The court affirmed the district court's order denying plaintiffs' request for a jury trial on the issue of damages against Robeson. Finally, the court affirmed the $1,249,540.41 amount of damages awarded against Robeson. View "KD v. Douglas County School District No. 001" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Integrity in an action brought by plaintiff for negligent performance of an undertaking. Plaintiff filed suit after he was injured in a cab driven by a drunk driver, alleging that Integrity should have done a better background check on the cab driver.The court concluded that Integrity did not owe any duty to plaintiff under Iowa law. The court explained that, even assuming Integrity could have discovered the cab driver's Minnesota DWI, its review of his records did not put plaintiff in a worse situation because the cab company put the driver behind the wheel. Therefore, plaintiff failed to state a duty as a matter of law under the Restatement (Second) of Torts, Sec. 324A. The court also concluded that there was no liability under Sec. 324A(c) of the Restatement because the cab company did not rely on the insurer's background check and conducted its own review of the driver's record. View "Foster v. Integrity Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law