Justia Injury Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
Janice Washington v. City of St. Louis, Missouri
Plaintiff’s son spent several months at a medium-security facility in St. Louis called “the Workhouse.” None of the guards saw Plaintiff’s son receive or take fentanyl, the drug that killed him. Inmates tried to help by rubbing ice on him once he lost consciousness. Upon arriving a few minutes later, three Officers radioed for medical assistance. In the meantime, rather than try to resuscitate Plaintiff’s son themselves, they stood by and watched as two inmates tried to help him. When trained medical personnel finally arrived four minutes later, it was too late: they were unable to revive Plaintiff’s son, who died from an overdose. Surveillance footage captured some, but not all, of these events. Plaintiff’s mother sued the City of St. Louis, the three responding officers, and two supervisors for their deliberate indifference. The district court denied summary judgment to the responding officers. The Eighth Circuit vacated and remanded. The court held that the district court misstated the burden and relied on allegations from an unverified complaint to deny summary judgment. The court wrote that the district court erred in how it dealt with the gaps in the video footage. Instead of relying on other evidence to fill in the missing details, the findings mirrored what the plaintiff’s unverified complaint said. The court wrote that unsworn allegations are no substitute for evidence at summary judgment. The court explained that the district court tilted the scales too far in the Plaintiff’s favor by raising the summary-judgment burden on the officers and allowing unsworn allegations to rebut evidence. View "Janice Washington v. City of St. Louis, Missouri" on Justia Law
United States ex rel. Kenneth Kraemer v. United Dairies, L.L.P.
Kenneth Kraemer and Kraemer Farms, LLC (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) commenced this qui tam action under the False Claims Act (“FCA”), against United Dairies, other dairy farms, and their partners and agents (“Defendants”) alleging that they knowingly filed false crop insurance claims. Plaintiffs’ FCA Complaint alleged that Defendants (1) fraudulently obtained crop insurance payments by falsely reporting a silage-use-only variety of corn as grain and using that false statement to obtain the payments, and (2) were unjustly enriched by receiving the payments. The district court held that Defendants submitted materially false claims but denied Plaintiffs FCA relief because they failed to prove that Defendants knowingly defrauded the United States. However, the court found that certain Defendants had been unjustly enriched and awarded damages to the United States. The United States then filed a post-trial motion urging the district court to vacate or amend its judgment because Plaintiffs do not have standing to seek common law unjust enrichment relief on behalf of the United States. The district court granted the motion and vacated its judgment for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the dismissal of Plaintiffs’ FCA claims must be affirmed even if Plaintiffs are correct that the district court erred in ruling that any violations were not knowing. The court wrote that because it concludes that Defendants in submitting Acreage Reporting Forms supporting their crop insurance applications did not submit materially false claims for crop insurance payments, Plaintiffs contention -the district court applied the wrong legal standard in denying FCA relief on other grounds is of no moment. View "United States ex rel. Kenneth Kraemer v. United Dairies, L.L.P." on Justia Law
Select Specialty Hospital v. Brentwood Hutterian, Brethren
After suffering a stroke, Mary, a member of the Brentwood Hutterite Brethren, received care at a Select Specialty Hospital. During her time at Select, she was covered by Brentwood’s insurance. But after Mary applied for and received Medicaid, it retroactively covered her time at Select. Select accepted $300,000 from Medicaid for Mary’s care—far less than it was expecting from Mary’s Brentwood insurance. Select sought payment from Brentwood, the Hutterite Brethren General Fund (the Fund), and South Dakota Medical Holdings Company (Dakotacare) for breach of contract. It also sought damages from Brentwood and the Fund for fraud and deceit. The district court granted summary judgment to Brentwood, the Fund, and Dakotacare. On appeal, Select argues that Brentwood and the Fund breached their contractual obligations by refusing to pay for Mary’s treatment. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that Select has already accepted money from Medicaid “as payment in full” for Mary’s care. Under 42 C.F.R. Section 447.15, “the Medicaid agency must limit participation in the Medicaid program to providers who accept, as payment in full, the amounts paid by the agency.” The court wrote that as a Medicaid program participant, Select must follow this regulation. The central issue here is whether Section 447.15’s “payment in full” provision bars Select from pursuing third parties like Brentwood and the Fund after accepting payment from Medicaid. The court wrote that in its view, Section 447.15’s “payment in full” language is plain and unambiguous: Once Select accepted payment from Medicaid, it was paid in full for Mary’s care. View "Select Specialty Hospital v. Brentwood Hutterian, Brethren" on Justia Law
Zane Cagle v. NHC Healthcare
In June 2020, Plaintiff’s father died from COVID-19. He allegedly contracted the disease at his nursing home, NHC HealthCare-Maryland Heights, LLC. Plaintiff brought suit in Missouri state court against the nursing home, three corporate entities that own the facility, and twelve administrators and medical professionals employed by NHC HealthCare-Maryland Heights, LLC. The nursing home and the three corporate entities removed the case to federal court, but the district court concluded that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction and remanded the case to state court. The NHC entities appealed and argued that removal was proper. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the remand order of the district court. The court explained that the PREP Act immunizes covered individuals from suit for injuries “caused by, arising out of, relating to, or resulting from the administration to or the use by an individual of a covered countermeasure.” The Act provides no immunity where a covered person’s “willful misconduct” is the proximate cause of a person’s injuries. The statute creates an exclusive federal cause of action for claims based on willful misconduct. The court explained that the NHC entities assert that the nursing home “acted under” the direction of a federal officer because the government designated nursing homes as “critical infrastructure” during the COVID-19 pandemic and subjected these facilities to extensive regulation. However compliance with even pervasive federal regulation is not sufficient to show that a private entity acted under the direction of a federal officer. Thus, the court found that removal is not authorized under 28 U.S.C. Section 1442. View "Zane Cagle v. NHC Healthcare" on Justia Law
Christine Turner v. Garry Stewart, M.D.
L.W.’s appendix ruptured during her incarceration, and she subsequently died from sepsis. Plaintiff, as special administrator of L.W.’s estate, filed suit against the county in which L.W. was incarcerated, as well as against the individuals involved in her incarceration and medical care, alleging civil rights claims under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 and tort claims under state law. The medical malpractice claim against the jail physician, Defendant, went to trial. Defendant moved for judgment as a matter of law at the close of Plaintiff’s evidence. The district court granted the motion. The jury returned a verdict for Plaintiff and awarded $1.3 million in damages. The district court granted Defendant a credit against the verdict for the value of the settlement, amending the judgment to $800,000. Defendant appealed the denial of judgment as a matter of law on the medical malpractice claim. Plaintiff appealed the grant of judgment as a matter of law on the punitive damages claim, as well as the grant of credit against the verdict. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that it does not believe that the court’s decision to preclude the use of legal terms like “reckless” would have had any bearing on its decision to grant judgment as a matter of law on punitive damages. The court explained that it does not matter that separate wrongdoings caused L.W.’s injuries. UCATA does not focus on the cause of the injury or the policy reason for imposing liability. It focuses on the injury, which Plaintiff has alleged is the same for the Section 1983 claims as it is for the medical malpractice claim View "Christine Turner v. Garry Stewart, M.D." on Justia Law
May Yang v. Robert Half Int., Inc.
Robert Half International, Inc. (“RHI”) provides legal staffing solutions for its clients. Plaintiff worked for RHI as a contract attorney performing document review. Plaintiff was employed on various projects on an as-needed basis. Defendants Marcia Miller and Theresa Hodnett were Plaintiff’s coworkers and had no supervisory duties related to Plaintiff. Plaintiff alleged that Miller, Hodnett, and other coworkers engaged in a pattern of discrimination and harassment toward her. Plaintiff appealed the district court’s dismissal of her claims against Marcia Miller and Theresa Hodnett. The Eighth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part. The court explained the relevant conduct at issue here is RHI’s continuous employment of Miller following the doorway incident. The court explained that no reasonable jury could find this conduct rises to the requisite level necessary to establish a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Plaintiff asserts that Miller committed a battery against her during the doorway incident. In Minnesota, the battery is an intentional and offensive contact with another person. Further, the court wrote that it reviewed the video footage of the alleged trip and find there is sufficient evidence in the video to create a factual dispute as to whether Miller intended to lift her leg, make contact with Plaintiff, and cause Plaintiff to trip. Because of the factual dispute, summary judgment on this claim is improper the court reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment as to Plaintiff’s battery claim and remand. View "May Yang v. Robert Half Int., Inc." on Justia Law
J.T. Johnson, Jr. v. Jenna Friesen
Plaintiff brought a diversity action in the District of Nebraska against Defendant, seeking damages for losses allegedly caused by an auto accident in 2015. Defendant’s Answer admitted that her negligence was the proximate cause of the accident. After protracted discovery disputes over expert witness disclosures, the district court excluded all of Plaintiff’s numerous treating physician witnesses for failure to comply with Rule 26(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the summary judgment record supports the district court’s conclusion that the treating physician’s letter “demonstrates that his causation opinion was not formed during his treatment of Plaintiff.” Therefore, the district court did not abuse its wide discretion in determining that the physician was a prospective expert witness subject to the disclosure requirements of Rule 26(a)(2)(B) and excluding his testimony for Plaintiff’s failure to comply with that Rule. View "J.T. Johnson, Jr. v. Jenna Friesen" on Justia Law
Marco Gonzalez v. Salem Shahin
Plaintiff was prescribed an antibiotic and suffered serious adverse effects. He sued the healthcare providers and hospitals that were involved in his treatment for medical negligence, and a jury found in favor of Defendants. Plaintiff filed a motion for a new trial, challenging the district court’s comments to the jury and its evidentiary rulings. The district court denied the motion, and then awarded costs to the defendants as the prevailing parties. Plaintiff appealed the judgment entered pursuant to the jury’s verdict, the denial of his new-trial motion, and the award of costs. Plaintiff contends that the district court improperly denied his motion for a new trial. He maintains that the district court (1) made improper comments about the Bactrim label and about his lawyer; and (2) erroneously limited his cross-examination of Dr. Leingang. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court held that it acknowledges Plaintiff’s concerns—the district court’s supplemental comments were ill-advised. Nevertheless, the district court emphasized that it was the jury’s choice to determine the “measure of weight” and the importance of the label. And the court instructed the jury that manufacturer information was “competent evidence” to consider “in determining whether each medical professional met the standard of care in this case.” On the whole, it was made clear to the jury that all factual questions—including the import of the Bactrim label to Plaintiff’s case—were to be resolved by them. The court concluded, after considering “the complete charge to the jury,” that the district court did not abuse its discretion. View "Marco Gonzalez v. Salem Shahin" on Justia Law
Carlos Hall, Sr. v. Eric Higgins
Plaintiff was held in pretrial custody at the Pulaski County Regional Detention Facility (the Jail) in Little Rock, Arkansas, for five weeks. After he was released, Plaintiff filed a suit for damages against a Pulaski County official, alleging deliberate indifference to his medical needs, unconstitutional conditions of confinement, and disability discrimination. The district court granted summary judgment to the defendant on all of Plaintiff’s claims. The Eighth Circuit affirmed summary judgment on Plaintiff’s Section 1983 deliberate indifference and conditions-of-confinement claims. But because triable issues remain on Plaintiff’s disability discrimination claim under the ADA and ACRA, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. The court explained that the record shows that Plaintiff indeed submitted “grievances” to the Jail complaining, for example, that he could not “stand up,” that he lacked help “changing or cleaning” himself, and that he could not “transfer to a toilet [and] back to the chair.” Moreover, at least one of Plaintiff’s disabilities—his paraplegia and the concomitant need for accommodations—was “obvious.” Thus, a genuine issue of fact exists regarding whether the Jail was on notice that Hall needed accommodations. Further, the court wrote that A viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, a reasonable factfinder could conclude that the Jail failed to provide him with meaningful access to beds, toilets, and the identified medical care services. View "Carlos Hall, Sr. v. Eric Higgins" on Justia Law
Jane Doe v. Board of Trustees of the Nebraska State Colleges
The Board of Trustees of the Nebraska State Colleges (“NSCS”) appealed from a jury verdict finding it acted with deliberate indifference after Jane Doe (“Doe”) was sexually assaulted while attending Chadron State College (“Chadron”). On appeal, NSCS raised three claims: (1) the Title IX claim fails as a matter of law; (2) the district court erred when it admitted the expert testimony of Dr. Charol Shakeshaft; and (3) the district court erred in awarding attorney’s fees. We begin with NSCS’s paramount claim that, as a matter of law, it was not deliberately indifferent after Doe reported being sexually assaulted. The Eighth Circuit reversed and remanded with directions that the district court enter judgment in favor of NSCS and vacated the award of Doe’s attorney fees. The court explained that viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the jury’s verdict, the uncontradicted evidence demonstrates that Chadron acted promptly—nearly immediately—upon learning of the assault. Chadron issued a mutually binding no-contact order between Doe and the accused, which was served on the accused at the end of his police interview. Chadron verified that the two students did not share the same classes and promptly initiated an investigation to determine what happened. Chadron interviewed Doe, explained the investigatory process to her, banned the accused from Andrews Hall, and accommodated Doe academically. Further, the court held that Doe cannot show a causal nexus between Chadron’s actions and the sexual assaults or harassment. View "Jane Doe v. Board of Trustees of the Nebraska State Colleges" on Justia Law