Justia Injury Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
Nicolas Valadez Rey v. General Motors, LLC
Plaintiff sustained a spinal injury during a rollover car accident in Mexico. Plaintiff, along with his wife (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) filed a claim for damages against General Motors, LLC (“GM”) on theories of strict liability, negligence, and loss of consortium. The district court applied the law of Coahuila, Mexico, under Missouri’s choice of law principles and granted GM’s motion for summary judgment. Plaintiffs appealed the district court’s choice of law decision. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that its conclusion in Azarax that the district court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to allow a party to rely on foreign law does not lead to the conclusion the district court abused its discretion here when it decided the opposite under different facts. Further, the court wrote that after considering the Section 6 factors and the parties’ arguments, it concluded Missouri’s relationship to this case does not overcome the presumption that the place of the injury—Coahuila, Mexico—is the place with the most significant relationship to the parties and occurrence. View "Nicolas Valadez Rey v. General Motors, LLC" on Justia Law
Angela Cantrell v. Coloplast Corp.
Coloplast Corporation and Coloplast Manufacturing US, LLC (collectively, Coloplast) manufacture and market Restorelle L, a surgical mesh device. Plaintiff sued Coloplast for injuries allegedly caused by the implantation of Restorelle L mesh. After excluding portions of Plaintiff’s expert opinions and testimony, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of Coloplast. On appeal, Plaintiff argued that the district court erred in excluding her expert’s opinion on specific causation and in granting summary judgment on her negligent design claim. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that the expert’s supplemental declaration was untimely because it was submitted after the deadlines for disclosure of expert reports and completion of all discovery. The court reasoned that Rule 26(e)(2) requires that an expert’s supplement “be disclosed by the time the party’s pretrial disclosures under Rule 26(a)(3) are due.” Rule 26(a)(3)(B), in turn, states that “Unless the court orders otherwise, these disclosures must be made at least 30 days before trial.” Plaintiff maintains that she, therefore, had until thirty days before trial to disclose the expert’s supplemental declaration. However, the court explained that she ignored the caveat that Rule 26’s default timing provision applies only if the court does not order otherwise. Here, the court set deadlines in its scheduling order, those deadlines superseded the default rules, and Plaintiff failed to meet those deadlines. Further, the court wrote that the district court also did not abuse its discretion when it decided to exclude the expert’s report and declaration without considering lesser sanctions. View "Angela Cantrell v. Coloplast Corp." on Justia Law
William Salier v. Walmart, Inc.
A Missouri physician prescribed ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine to Minnesota residents (Plaintiffs) to treat their severe COVID-19 infections. Pharmacists at Walmart and Hy-Vee stores in Albert Lea, Minnesota, refused to fill the prescriptions. the district court granted Defendants’ motions to dismiss all claims with prejudice. Plaintiffs appealed the district court’s dismissal of their claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress for failure to plausibly plead that the pharmacists’ alleged actions amounted to “extreme and outrageous” conduct. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The allegation that the Hy-Vee pharmacist said he was following “corporate policy” is neither extreme nor outrageous in these stressful circumstances. Moreover, Plaintiffs do not allege experiencing physical or specific psychological consequences after the pharmacists refused to fill their prescriptions, nor that they sought medical or mental health treatment for their distress. To the contrary, they allege both fully recovered from COVID-19 two weeks after self-treating with horse paste. View "William Salier v. Walmart, Inc." on Justia Law
Rebecca Lancaster v. BNSF Railway Company
A former BNSF Railway Company employee died from lung cancer in 2018. Plaintiff, on behalf of her late husband’s estate, brought this wrongful death action against BNSF under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), alleging that her husband’s cancer was caused by his exposure to toxins at work. The district court excluded Plaintiff’s expert witness testimony and granted summary judgment to BNSF. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court wrote that there is no direct evidence that Plaintiff’s husband was exposed to asbestos or diesel combustion fumes. Even if a jury could infer that Plaintiff’s husband had been exposed, there is no evidence of the level of exposure. The court explained that while a quantifiable amount of exposure is not required to find causation between toxic exposure and injury, there must be, at a minimum, “evidence from which the factfinder can conclude that the plaintiff was exposed to levels of that agent that are known to cause the kind of harm that the plaintiff claims to have suffered,” There is no such evidence here. Moreover, the court explained that the district court did not abuse its considerable discretion by determining that the expert’s opinion lacked a sufficient foundation and that, in turn, his methodology for proving causation was unreliable. View "Rebecca Lancaster v. BNSF Railway Company" on Justia Law
Steven Scaglione v. Acceptance Indemnity Ins Co
Following a shooting at a bar in downtown St. Louis, Missouri, Plaintiff, who was injured as a bystander, obtained a $2.5 million judgment against the bar’s owner and operator, Steven Scaglione. Plaintiff thereafter filed this equitable-garnishment claim against Scaglione and his insurer, Acceptance Indemnity Insurance Company (Acceptance). Scaglione filed cross-claims against Acceptance, alleging that it had, in bad faith, failed to defend or indemnify him and breached its fiduciary duty. Acceptance filed motions to dismiss both Plaintiff’s and Scaglione’s claims, which the district court granted based on the applicability of an assault-and-battery exclusion in Scaglione’s policy. In this consolidated appeal, both Plaintiff and Scaglione assert that the district court erred in dismissing their claims. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the district court did not suggest that the assault-and-battery exclusion did not apply solely because the purported victim was not the target. Accordingly, the court rejected this argument and concluded that the unambiguous policy language covers claims of injuries sustained by innocent bystanders arising out of an assault and battery. The court thus concluded that the policy exclusion applies. Further, the court concluded that Scaglione’s negligence was not independent and distinct from the excluded assault and battery. The court explained that the concurrent-proximate-cause rule thus does not apply, and, therefore, the exclusion bars coverage under the policy. Without coverage, Plaintiff and Scaglione cannot state a claim. The district court thus did not err in granting the motions to dismiss. View "Steven Scaglione v. Acceptance Indemnity Ins Co" on Justia Law
Kendall Hunt Publishing Company v. The Learning Tree Publishing Corporation
Kendall Hunt Publishing Company (Kendall Hunt) filed suit against The Learning Tree Publishing Corporation (Learning Tree) in district court in Iowa, where Kendall Hunt is located. The complaint alleged, as relevant here, claims of copyright infringement, tortious interference with contract, and unfair competition. The district court1 granted Learning Tree’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, concluding that the California corporation lacked minimum contacts with Iowa. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court wrote that Learning Tree’s contacts with Iowa were as follows: it maintains a nationally available website through which an Iowa resident purchased the allegedly infringing work. This conduct was not “uniquely or expressly aimed at” Iowa, however, particularly in light of the fact that Learning Tree did not advertise in Iowa and its litigation-anticipated sale to a Kendall Hunt employee occurred in Iowa. Although Kendall Hunt argued in its brief that this online sale was sufficient to create jurisdiction in Iowa, our court subsequently decided on similar facts that a single online sale did not establish personal jurisdiction over Defendant. The remaining specific-jurisdiction analysis factors do not tip the balance in Kendall Hunt’s favor. The court concluded that because Learning Tree’s connections with Iowa were not such that it would reasonably have anticipated being haled into court there, the district court lacked personal jurisdiction over the corporation. View "Kendall Hunt Publishing Company v. The Learning Tree Publishing Corporation" on Justia Law
City of Burnsville v. Koppers, Inc.
Several cities in Minnesota alleged that a chemical in refined coal tar that was used in pavement sealants contaminated their stormwater ponds. They filed an action seeking damages from refiners and manufacturers of the tar. The “refiner” defendants take raw coal tar and refine it into a product used by the “manufacturer” defendants to create pavement sealants. The district court dismissed all of the claims against the refiners and dismissed all but three of the claims against the manufacturers. The Cities moved under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) for entry of final judgment against the refiners. The district court, however, denied the motion because the Cities had not “demonstrated a danger of hardship or injustice through delay which would be alleviated by immediate appeal.” The Cities then entered into an agreement with the manufacturers, which provided that the Cities would conditionally dismiss their claims against the manufacturers. The Cities then appealed the district court’s decision dismissing claims against the refiners, and some of the refiners cross-appealed. The Eighth Circuit dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The court concluded that this conditional dismissal of the Cities’ claims against the manufacturers does not create a final decision under 28 U.S.C. Section 1291. The whole purpose of pairing the voluntary dismissal with the tolling agreement was to provide for reinstatement of the claims in the event of reversal—that is, to make the dismissal conditional. The court wrote that its only power to prevent the manipulation of appellate jurisdiction is a rigorous application of the final judgment requirement. View "City of Burnsville v. Koppers, Inc." on Justia Law
Venture Comm. Co-Op, Inc. v. James Valley Co-Op Telephone Co.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) provides subsidies to encourage telecommunication companies to expand high-speed broadband internet services in rural areas where customer revenues would otherwise be insufficient to justify the cost of doing business. Venture Communications Cooperative (“Venture”) provides broadband services to rural South Dakota customers. James Valley Cooperative Telephone Company and its wholly owned subsidiary, Northern Valley Communications (collectively, “Northern Valley”), is a competing provider. Venture filed this lawsuit against Northern Valley. The primary claim is that Northern Valley violated 47 U.S.C. Section 220(e) by filing a Form 477 that “intentionally, deliberately, fraudulently, and maliciously misrepresented” information “for the sole unlawful purpose of harming [Venture]” by depriving Venture of FCC subsidies in census blocks where Northern Valley was deemed to be an unsubsidized competitor. The district court granted Northern Valley summary judgment, concluding “there is no evidence that Northern Valley willfully overreported its broadband capabilities.” The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that Venture’s claim of intent to injure is belied by Northern Valley helping Venture by filing a letter with the FCC clarifying that Northern Valley did not offer voice service in the Overlap Area. The court likewise affirmed the dismissal of Venture’s tortious interference and civil conspiracy claims under South Dakota law. The court agreed with the district court that Venture proffered no evidence of an “intentional and unjustified act of interference” because Northern Valley complied with all FCC reporting requirements. As Northern Valley complied with the Telecommunications Act in filing Form 477 at issue, there is no plausible underlying tort alleged. Summary judgment is warranted on this claim. View "Venture Comm. Co-Op, Inc. v. James Valley Co-Op Telephone Co." on Justia Law
Andrew Hutchinson v. United States
Plaintiffs’ son suffered serious injuries when a soccer goal tipped over at the Little Rock Air Force Base where Plaintiffs were stationed. Although he sued the Air Force for negligently failing to secure the goal to the ground and warn of the potential danger, the district court concluded that the Federal Tort Claims Act stood in the way. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that nothing about the soccer-goal-safety statute alters the “plain and unambiguous” language of the recreational-use statute. And the only way to conclude otherwise is to recognize a tort-based enforcement scheme for a statute without one—something the court cannot do. Further, the court explained that Plaintiffs lived in on-base “military housing” when the accident occurred. Even assuming that living there made them tenants of the Air Force, Warfit Field is not part of “the base housing area.” Rather, it is a facility that they were “invited or permitted” to use because they are a military family. The court held that Plaintiffs cannot show that a private party in the Air Force’s shoes would have been liable for the injuries suffered by their son. As tragic as the circumstances of this case are, there has been no waiver of sovereign immunity. View "Andrew Hutchinson v. United States" on Justia Law
Larry Muff v. Wells Fargo Bank NA
The estate of Joseph A. Muff brings three conversion claims against Wells Fargo Bank for allegedly failing to detect that Joseph’s stepson, Josh Paige, was stealing money from Joseph by way of fraudulently endorsed checks. After denying the estate’s motion to amend its complaint, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of Wells Fargo on all three claims. The estate appealed. The Eighth Circuit affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded to the district court. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the estate’s motion to amend its complaint. Further, the court explained that because the Muff Corporate and Muff Farm accounts were not controlled by Wells Fargo, any injury to those accounts under a theory of conversion is not fairly traceable to Wells Fargo. In other words, the estate has not demonstrated a “causal connection” between the “injury”—Josh’s inappropriately removing funds from said accounts—and the “conduct complained of”—Wells Fargo’s allegedly allowing this to take place. Moreover, even assuming the existence of a confidential relationship under Iowa law could give the estate standing to sue, the factual record fails to support the existence of a confidential relationship in the first place. Because the estate has not demonstrated standing, the court wrote that it lacks jurisdiction over Count 3. As with Count 2, the district court should have dismissed the claim instead of entering summary judgment for Wells Fargo. However, unlike Counts 2 and 3, the estate has standing to pursue Count 1 in federal court. View "Larry Muff v. Wells Fargo Bank NA" on Justia Law