Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
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Plaintiffs challenge the district court's dismissal of three actions seeking damages under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) against Google, Twitter, and Facebook on the basis that defendants' social media platforms allowed ISIS to post videos and other content to communicate the terrorist group's message, to radicalize new recruits, and to generally further its mission. Plaintiffs also claim that Google placed paid advertisements in proximity to ISIS-created content and shared the resulting ad revenue with ISIS. The Gonzalez Plaintiffs' appeal concerns claims for both direct and secondary liability against Google. The Taamneh and Clayborn Plaintiffs' appeals concern claims for secondary liability against Google, Twitter, and Facebook.In Gonzalez, the Ninth Circuit concluded that the presumption against the extraterritorial application of federal statutes did not prevent section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) from applying to plaintiffs' claims because the relevant conduct took place in the United States. Furthermore, the Justice Against Sponsors of International Terrorism Act of 2016 (JASTA) did not impliedly repeal section 230. The panel joined the First and Second Circuits in holding that section 230(e)(1) is limited to criminal prosecutions. Therefore, plaintiffs' claims were not categorically excluded from the reach of section 230 immunity. The panel affirmed the district court's ruling that section 230 immunity bars plaintiffs' non-revenue sharing claims. The panel also affirmed the district court's dismissal of the direct liability revenue-sharing claims for failure to adequately allege proximate cause. Separately, the panel concluded that the TAC's direct liability revenue-sharing claims did not plausibly allege that Google's actions qualified as acts of international terrorism within the meaning of 18 U.S.C. 2331(1), and that the secondary liability revenue-sharing claims failed to plausibly allege either conspiracy or aiding-and-abetting liability under the ATA.In Taamneh, the panel reversed the district court's judgment that the FAC failed to adequately state a claim for secondary liability under the ATA, concluding that the district court erred by ruling that plaintiffs failed to state a claim for aiding-and-abetting liability under the ATA. The district court did not reach section 230 immunity in Taamneh. In Clayburn, the panel affirmed the district court's judgment and concluded that the district court correctly held that plaintiffs failed to plausibly plead their claim for aiding-and-abetting liability. Accordingly, the panel affirmed the judgments in Gonzalez and Clayborn, and reversed and remanded for further proceedings in Taamneh. View "Gonzalez v. Google, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit certified the following questions to the Montana Supreme Court: 1. Under Montana law, for a claim that accrued prior to the effective date of Mont. Code Ann. 27-1-308 (2021), may a plaintiff in a survival action recover the reasonable value of medical care and related services when the costs of such care or services are written-off under the provider's charitable care program? 2. For a claim that accrued prior to the effective date of Mont. Code Ann. 27-1-308 (2021), does a charitable care write-off qualify as a collateral source within the meaning of section 27-1-307? If so, does a charitable care write-off qualify for the "gifts or gratuitous contributions" exception under section 27-1-307(1)(c)? View "Gibson v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of plaintiff in an action alleging that Monsanto's pesticide, Roundup, caused his non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. This appeal arises out of the first bellwether trial for the federal cases consolidated in a multidistrict litigation. After the jury awarded plaintiff $5,267,634.10 in compensatory damages and $75 million in punitive damages, the district court reduced the jury's punitive damages award to $20 million.The panel held that plaintiff's state failure-to-warn claims are not preempted by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA); the district court ultimately applied the correct standard from Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993), and did not abuse its discretion in admitting plaintiff's expert testimony; the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the International Agency for Research on Cancer's classification glyphosate as probably carcinogenic and three regulatory rejections of that classification but excluding evidence from other regulatory bodies; the district court's jury instruction on causation, though erroneous, was harmless; Monsanto was properly denied judgment as a matter of law because evidence shows the carcinogenic risk of glyphosate was knowable at the time of plaintiff's exposure; and evidence supports a punitive damages award, punitive damages were properly reduced, and the reduced award—while close to the outer limits—is constitutional. View "Hardeman v. Monsanto Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and his family filed suit against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), alleging causes of action for assault, negligence and gross negligence, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Plaintiff's claims stemmed from his arrest at the border for drug-related charges that were subsequently dropped.The Ninth Circuit dismissed plaintiff's appeal of the district court's judgment based on lack of jurisdiction under the discretionary function exception of the FTCA. The court concluded that because plaintiff's detention was based on a valid finding of probable cause and no violation of the Constitution has been shown, the district court properly found that the agents' acts were discretionary under the first prong of the discretionary-function exception. Furthermore, the agents' discretionary judgments involved social, economic, or political considerations, and their actions did not violate plaintiff's constitutional rights. Therefore, the panel affirmed the district court's discretionary-function exception determination as it relates to claims arising out of the alleged assault, negligence and gross negligence, and false imprisonment of defendant and his family. Finally, the panel dismissed plaintiff's appeal of the district court's order following the bench trial on the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim because plaintiff did not have a valid constitutional challenge to the interrogation and plaintiff failed to include key trial testimony. View "Nieves Martinez v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Intuitive Surgical, the designer and manufacturer of the da Vinci surgical robot, in a product liability action brought by plaintiff and her husband, holding that the action was time-barred under California's two-year statute of limitations under California Code of Civil Procedure 335.1.The panel concluded that the two-year California—not three-year Connecticut—statute of limitations applies to plaintiff's claim. The panel explained that, although the district court erred by failing to consider whether Connecticut had a legitimate interest in seeing its law applied, the district court correctly held that California's statute of limitations governs the claims. The panel also concluded that the Tolling Agreement does not render plaintiff's claims timely. In this case, because the Tolling Agreement expressly preserved Intuitive's statute-of-limitations defense for "the applicable" jurisdiction, Intuitive is entitled to employ its statute-of-limitations defense under California law. Finally, the panel concluded that equitable estoppel did not apply to plaintiff's claims where she failed to submit evidence identifying a misrepresentation, material omission, or false promise made on behalf of Intuitive. View "Rustico v. Intuitive Surgical, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Lima Corporate in a diversity action brought by plaintiffs, alleging product liability and negligence claims relating to a hip implant. The panel held that in light of the statutory text, context, and stated purpose, Lima Corporate was a biomaterials supplier of its Hip Stem – a "component part" supplied "for use in the manufacture of an implant" pursuant to the Biomaterials Access Assurance Act (BAAA), 21 U.S.C. 1602(1)(A). In this case, Lima Corporate was immune from liability under the BAAA and, under the circumstances, could not be impleaded under section 1606. View "Connell v. Lima Corporate" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Elliot Broidy and his investment firm filed suit against the State of Qatar and various other defendants after Qatari agents allegedly hacked into plaintiffs' computer servers, stole their confidential information, and leaked it to the media in a retaliatory effort to embarrass plaintiff and thereby to neutralize his ability to continue to effectively criticize the Qatari regime and its alleged support of terrorism.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). The panel concluded that neither the FSIA's exception to immunity for tortious activity nor its exception for commercial activity applied in this case and thus Qatar was immune from jurisdiction. The panel explained that all of plaintiffs' tort claims were barred under the discretionary function exclusion from the tortious activity exception because the challenged conduct was discretionary in nature or involved an element of judgment or choice, and the judgment was of the kind that the exception was designed to shield. Furthermore, plaintiffs' claims were based on the alleged surreptitious intrusion into their servers and email accounts in order to obtain information and the dissemination of such information to others, including persons in the media. The panel explained that such conduct did not qualify as commercial activity under the FSIA. View "Broidy Capital Management v. State of Qatar" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's action under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), alleging that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers negligently failed to cut down a tree at the Lake Mendocino recreation area that crashed into plaintiff's tent and smashed his leg.The panel held that the discretionary function exception applies in this case because plaintiff has not shown any specific mandatory duties, has not defeated the Gaubert presumption, and has not negated the evidence of discretion for policy judgments. After outlining Supreme Court precedent for the Berkovitz/Gaubert test and its Ninth Circuit progeny, the panel applied this precedent to the plain language of the policies that controlled the actions of the forest ranger and the Corps' employees at Lake Mendocino. In doing so, the panel concluded that the policies allow for discretion and that they are susceptible to the policy analysis the discretionary function exception was designed to protect. View "Phong Lam v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit certified the following question to the Montana Supreme Court: Whether, under Montana law, parasitic emotional distress damages are available for an underlying negligence claim for personal property damages or loss. View "Childress v. Costco Wholesale Corp." on Justia Law

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Nanouk uses her 160-acre Alaska Native allotment for traditional subsistence activities. In the 1980s, Nanouk built a small cabin, which she and her family reached by using a trail that runs from the main road through the U.S. Air Force North River Radio Relay Station, which closed in 1978. In 1981, the General Accounting Office criticized the Air Force’s failure to maintain shuttered sites, including North River, which contained hazardous chemicals. The Air Force and the Army Corps of Engineers began remediation, removing 500 gallons of transformer oil containing PCBs and PCB-contaminated soil. Surveys taken in 1987 and 1989 revealed that 6,700 cubic yards of contaminated soil remained. The Air Force and the Corps released a new plan in 2001; clean-up resumed. The trail that Nanouk used ran through a “hot spot” where PCB-contaminated soil was picked up by her vehicles. Nanouk did not learn about the PCBs on her property until 2003 when she reported a strong chemical odor. The Air Force then undertook extensive environmental remediation at the Station and Nanouk’s allotment. Nanouk sued, alleging trespass and nuisance. She and several family members have experienced serious health problems.The Ninth Circuit vacated the dismissal of her suit. The Federal Tort Claims Act's discretionary exception barred claims predicated on two of the acts she challenged as negligent--the government’s alleged failure to supervise contractors during the Station’s operation, and its abandonment of the property between the 1978 closure and 1990. The government did not establish that the exception barred the claims relating to the failure to identify and remediate the hot spot in a timely manner after 1990. View "Nanouk v. United States" on Justia Law