Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s approval of a settlement between Defendant Monsanto and Plaintiffs. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding the notice to the class was sufficient or in concluding that payment to class members of 50% of the average weighted retail price of the items they purchased fully compensated the class members.    Plaintiffs filed suit pleading multiple claims arising out of the allegedly deceptive labeling of Roundup products manufactured by Monsanto. The parties agreed to a total Common Fund. They agreed that Monsanto would not object to Plaintiffs’ counsel seeking 25% of that amount as an attorney’s fee. Class members who filed claims were to receive 10% of the average retail price for the product(s) they bought, and any remaining funds after the costs of administration would be distributed cy pres. The parties executed a Second Corrected Class Action Settlement Agreement that made four changes to the initial agreement.   Appellant, a party injured by Roundup, made three objections to the settlement, all of which she renewed on appeal. First, she argued that the district court should have (1) required the parties to take additional steps to identify additional class members and (2) increased the pro-rata portion of the Common Fund up to 100% of the weighted average retail price. The court held the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that notice to the class was sufficient in light of the comprehensive notice plan and the estimated results from the claims administrator.Further, the court wrote that cy pres distribution of residual funds pursuant to the settlement agreement neither constitutes speech by any individual class member nor infringes on their First Amendment rights. View "Lisa Jones v. Anna St. John" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff alleged that a Sheriff of Harrison County, Missouri, forced her into a sexual relationship that included giving her drugs, directing her to sell them, and protecting her from prosecution. After Doe ended the relationship, the Sheriff pursued criminal charges against her, resulting in felony convictions. Defendant was Doe’s probation officer. According to Doe, Defendant invited the Sheriff to her probation meetings, where the Sheriff threatened  Doe not to disclose the relationship. Doe asserted a state claim against Defendant for intentional infliction of emotional distress (in addition to claims against the Estate of the Sheriff, who died in 2020). Defendant moved to dismiss based on official immunity and a “statutory” immunity under Revised Statutes of Missouri section 105.711.5. For her defense of statutory immunity, Defendant asserted that subsection 105.711.5 bars individual-capacity claims against state employees, such as herself. The district court held that section 105.711 “applies to final judgments”   The Eighth Circuit affirmed and held that by its plain text, section 105.711 does not create a new immunity. The word “immunity” does not appear in section 105.711. Further, the 2005 amendment also amended section 105.726 to add: “Sections 105.711 to 105.726 do not waive the sovereign immunity of the State of Missouri.” Construing the additions to subsection 105.711.5 and subsection 105.726.1 together, the 2005 amendment preserves immunities already in place for the State and its employees, and it does not create a new, statutory immunity. View "Jane Doe v. Lisa Worrell" on Justia Law

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A carrier for the United States Postal Service was involved in an automobile accident that killed another motorist. He had already completed his delivery route and returned undeliverable mail to the post office. Plaintiff, the trustee for the motorist’s heirs, sued under the Federal Tort Claims Act. The district court found that the employee was not acting within the scope of employment at the time of the accident. It dismissed the FTCA claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed the dismissal. The court explained that the FTCA waives federal sovereign immunity for injuries ‘caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any employee of the Government while acting within the scope of his office or employment, under circumstances where the United States, if a private person, would be liable. While Plaintiff cites cases imposing or contemplating vicarious liability where employees cause accidents while driving personal vehicles, those cases did not find that employees were acting within the scope of employment because they were driving their own vehicles. Rather, they observe that an employer is not relieved of liability because the employee was driving his or her own car.   Because the employee was not within the scope of employment at the time of the accident, the FTCA does not waive federal sovereign immunity. Thus, the district court properly dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. View "Jason Blais v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff tripped and fell in the parking lot of a Walgreen Co. d/b/a Walgreens store in Republic, Missouri. The district court granted summary judgment for Walgreens.  The court concluded that Plaintiff did not establish the existence of a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether the “lip” formed at the junction of the parking lot’s pavement and the brick sidewalk was a dangerous condition. Consequently, Plainitff failed to establish an element of premises liability under Missouri law. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that the district court erred by granting summary judgment because the record shows that there was a genuine fact dispute regarding the dangerousness of the sidewalk.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that Plaintiff is correct that he was not required to produce expert testimony and that circumstantial evidence may be sufficient. But the circumstantial evidence presented fails to provide a sufficient basis for a jury to infer the presence of a dangerous condition created by Walgreens. Thus, the court held that Plaintiff did not present any evidence, direct or circumstantial, permitting the reasonable inference that a dangerous condition caused his accident. The district court, therefore, did not err by granting summary judgment to Walgreens. View "Gerry Hodge v. Walgreen Co." on Justia Law

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Kansas City Officer (“Officer”) shot and killed the victim during a foot chase. Family members of the victim filed suit and the district court concluded that the Officer was entitled to both qualified and official immunity. In addition to contesting the grant of summary judgment on appeal, Plaintiffs argued they should receive a trial on their claims against the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners and the other municipal officials named in their complaint.   In evaluating the family’s excessive-force claim against the Officer, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision. The court explained that the key issue requires answering whether the officer’s actions violated a constitutional right and then whether the right was clearly established. The court reasoned that the Supreme Court has explained that “the focus” of the clearly-established-right inquiry “is on whether the officer had fair notice that [his] conduct was unlawful.” Kisela v. Hughes, 138 S. Ct. 1148 (2018). Here, “judged against the backdrop of the law at the time of the conduct,” a reasonable officer would not have had “fair notice” that shooting the victim under these circumstances violated the Fourth Amendment.     Additionally, to prevail in this case under Kisela, the family would need to establish “the right’s contours were sufficiently definite that any reasonable official in the defendant’s shoes would have understood that he was violating it.” Here, the family failed to show that the Officer acted in bad faith or with malice. Finally, there is not enough evidence to find that the municipal defendants liable under a deliberate indifference theory. View "N.S. v. Kansas City Board of Police" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff’s father died when a driver collided with a BNSF Railway Company (“BNSF”) train. Plaintiff filed a wrongful death suit in state court against BNSF, the train operator, and the driver. The driver’s widow filed a wrongful death suit against the City of Hayti (“City”) and the train operator in state court. Plaintiff and his sister filed a wrongful death suit against the City in state court, and a motion to consolidate that action with the driver's. Plaintiff moved to voluntarily dismiss this case without prejudice. BNSF opposed the motion, arguing improper forum shopping and prejudice to the defendants.   The state court granted Plaintiff’s motion to consolidate and the district court granted the motion for voluntary dismissal without prejudice. The district court concluded that a single action in state court “will best allow for efficient use of judicial resources that this Court cannot ignore.” BNSF appealed, arguing (i) the court erred when it “failed to address Plaintiff’s purpose in seeking to voluntarily dismiss, and (ii) abused its discretion in dismissing without prejudice.   The Eighth Circuit found no abuse of discretion and affirmed the district court’s ruling.  The court reasoned that Plaintiff’s memorandum supporting his motion for voluntary dismissal without prejudice set forth the proper standard; explained that two actions arising out of the same crash were pending in state court and were not removable; and argued that judicial economy and the interests of justice would be served by dismissing the case without prejudice so it can be consolidated with the state court cases. View "Ricky Tillman, Jr. v. BNSF Railway Company" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a locomotive engineer, sued Kansas City Southern Railway Company (“KCSR”) for negligence after he sustained injuries in a railcar collision. The district court granted summary judgment to KCSR. Plaintiff argued that section 287.280.1, the civil-action provision, authorizes his civil action because KCSR failed to carry workers’ compensation insurance. KCSR responded that it is not liable because Plaintiff “was insured by his immediate . . . employer,” triggering the exemption from liability for statutory employers in section 287.040.3. According to Plaintiff, however, section 287.040.3 exempts KCSR from workers’ compensation liability only, not liability from civil actions.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of KCSR. The court held that because Plaintiff was insured by his immediate employer, KCSR is not liable and is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The court reasoned that Missouri’s workers’ compensation statute, Mo. Rev. Stat. Section 287.120.1, imposes liability on employers for workplace injuries. However, nowhere in section 287.040 does the text differentiate between workers’ compensation liability and civil liability. Accordingly, the court interpreted “liable as in this section provided” to mean “liable as an employer”; that is, liable as a statutory employer. Thus, KCSR’s potential liability, therefore, is liability “as in [section 287.040] provided,” so it enjoys the immunity from suit. View "Nathan Blanton v. KC Southern Railway Co." on Justia Law

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A patron of RAJJ Entertainment successfully sued RAJJ and its owner, for negligence after being injured in the bar’s parking lot. Defendants’ insurance company, Great Lakes Insurance, sued for a declaration stating that it was not required to indemnify RAJJ and the owner for the damages award because the insurance policy excluded from coverage injuries that arose from physical altercations. The district court granted summary judgment to Great Lakes.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s summary judgment ruling in favor of Plaintiff. The court held that the clear language of the policy controls. The court reasoned that insurance companies are not required to indemnify the insured for injuries that are excluded by a policy. Generally, where a plaintiff’s negligence claim arises out of an assault or battery, the assault or battery exclusion bars coverage of the insured’s negligence claim.   Defendants claim that the exclusion does not apply because the underlying lawsuit “arose out of” their negligence—not any assault, battery, or physical altercation. The court reasoned that the policy language concerns how the bodily injury arose, not how the lawsuit arose. The concurrent-proximate-cause rule does not apply because RAJJ and the owner’s negligence is not a “covered cause.” Furthermore, even if RAJJ and the owner’s negligence were covered, that would not require Great Lakes to indemnify them because their negligence was not “truly independent and distinct” from the assault, battery, or physical altercation. View "Great Lakes Insurance SE v. Ray A. Perrin" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs did not purchase flood insurance for their house after the sellers told them that the property was not in a FEMA flood zone. Within weeks the area flooded, the home was destroyed and Plaintiffs sued the property sellers, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and private contractors.   Plaintiffs alleged that either FEMA or the Strategic Alliance for Risk Reduction (“STARR”) made the 2010 Change to the 100-year flood-line estimate and SFHA designation. They alleged that STARR is a joint venture by Defendants Stantec Consulting Services, Inc., Dewberry Engineers, Inc., and Atkins North America, Inc., but do not name STARR itself as a defendant. Atkins and Stantec filed a Motion to Dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), extending the federal-contractor defense. The district court granted the motion.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision granting Defendant’s motion to dismiss. The court held that Plaintiffs fail to state a claim because their complaint does not contain sufficient factual matter to show they are entitled to relief from Defendants. The court reasoned that Plaintiff’s complaint does not state how Atkins, Stantec and Dewberry work within STARR or which entity was responsible for any acts through STARR. Further, the complaint fails to state a claim for negligent misrepresentation against Atkins, Dewberry, and Stantec because the Plaintiffs provide “only naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement” for three elements. Finally, the complaint similarly failed to state a claim for fraudulent misrepresentation because it does not plead which defendant made what representation. View "Derek Christopherson v. Robert Bushner" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff alleges he was unlawfully assaulted, pepper-sprayed, detained in an unlawful mass arrest, and ultimately incarcerated. He sued the City of St. Louis and multiple police officers for First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment violations, conspiracy to deprive him of civil rights, and supplemental state law claims. One officer moved to dismiss the 1983 claims, arguing plaintiff’s amended complaint failed to state a claim and he is entitled to qualified immunity. The only allegations relating to the defendant’s involvement are that he was working on September 17 and took custody of the plaintiff’s bicycle lying in the street at the time of his arrest. These allegations do not establish a causal link between the plaintiff and the specific wrongs the defendants as a whole allegedly committed. Further, the defendant is entitled to qualified immunity because the amended complaint did not contain specific and plausible allegations linking the defendant to overt acts alleged as part of the conspiracy of all the defendants. The assertion that he agreed to participate in those acts does not state a plausible claim.Finally, the circuit court held that the district court erred in denying the other defendants' motion to dismiss. The defendants are entitled to qualified immunity because the intracorporate conspiracy doctrine was not clearly established. View "Michael Faulk v. Gerald Leyshock" on Justia Law