Justia Injury Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
DOE V. WEBGROUP CZECH REPUBLIC, A.S.
In this case, the plaintiff, a victim of sex trafficking, brought a putative class action against various entities, including foreign-based defendants who operated websites on which videos of her abuse were uploaded and viewed. The district court dismissed the claims against the foreign-based defendants for lack of personal jurisdiction. On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed and vacated in part, holding that the district court erred in its conclusion.The Ninth Circuit found that the plaintiff had established a prima facie case for the exercise of specific personal jurisdiction over two foreign defendants, WebGroup Czech Republic, a.s. ("WGCZ") and NKL Associates, s.r.o. ("NKL"), which operated the websites. The court concluded that the plaintiff had shown that these defendants had purposefully directed their activities toward the United States, that her claims arose from these forum-related activities, and that the exercise of jurisdiction would be reasonable.The court based its decision on several factors. WGCZ and NKL had contracted with U.S.-based content delivery network services to ensure faster website loading times and a more seamless viewing experience for U.S. users, demonstrating that they had actively targeted the U.S. market. They also profited significantly from U.S. web traffic. Furthermore, the harm the plaintiff suffered—namely, the publication of videos of her abuse on the defendants' websites—had occurred in the U.S., and a substantial volume of the widespread publication of the videos occurred in the U.S.As for the remaining foreign defendants, the court vacated the district court's dismissal of them because it was based solely on the incorrect assumption that there was no personal jurisdiction over WGCZ and NKL. The court remanded the case for further proceedings to determine whether personal jurisdiction could be asserted against these additional defendants. View "DOE V. WEBGROUP CZECH REPUBLIC, A.S." on Justia Law
ELDEN V. NIRVANA L.L.C.
In a case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, plaintiff Spencer Elden, who as a baby was photographed naked in a pool for the cover of Nirvana’s album Nevermind, sued Nirvana L.L.C., Universal Music Group, and others. Elden claimed that he was a victim of child pornography due to the photograph and sought personal injury damages under 18 U.S.C. § 2255 (2018). The district court dismissed Elden's lawsuit, stating that it was barred by the ten-year statute of limitations, 18 U.S.C. § 2255(b)(1) (2018).However, the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's decision and held that because each republication of child pornography may constitute a new personal injury, Elden’s complaint alleging republication of the album cover within the ten years preceding his action was not barred by the statute of limitations. The court drew a parallel between the personal injury caused by defamation and the injury caused by republication of child pornography, noting that victims of child pornography may suffer a new injury upon the republication of the pornographic material. The court remanded the case back to the district court for further proceedings. View "ELDEN V. NIRVANA L.L.C." on Justia Law
JAMIEN JENSEN, ET AL V. EXC INCORPORATED, ET AL
This diversity suit involves personal injury and wrongful death claims arising from a collision between a sedan and a tour bus on a U.S. highway within the boundaries of the Navajo Nation reservation. Before trial, the district court held that Arizona law applies to the accident, and it therefore dismissed all claims based on Navajo law. At trial, the jury rejected all remaining claims asserted by the sedan’s surviving passengers and by the estate of the sedan’s driver, and the district court entered judgment in favor of the tour bus driver, the tour organizer, and other related corporations. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment in favor of Defendants to the extent that it dismissed all claims that had been asserted solely under Navajo law; reversed the district court’s judgment on the claims that were submitted for trial because the district court erroneously allowed the introduction of hearsay opinions of a non-testifying putative expert; and remanded for a new trial. The panel held that the district court abused its discretion in allowing, under the guise of impeachment evidence against Plaintiffs’ expert witnesses, Defendants’ counsel to elicit the opinions expressed in a police report prepared by the Arizona Department of Public Safety as to the cause of the accident. Next, the panel affirmed the district court’s conclusion that Arizona law applied and its resulting dismissal of all claims that were asserted only under Navajo law. View "JAMIEN JENSEN, ET AL V. EXC INCORPORATED, ET AL" on Justia Law
CORBY KUCIEMBA, ET AL V. VICTORY WOODWORKS, INC.
This case is one of many arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Plaintiff was hospitalized with a severe case of COVID-19 in the summer of 2020. She and her husband, Robert Kuciemba, claim he was exposed to the virus while working for Victory Woodworks and that he sickened Mrs. Kuciemba in their home. Plaintiffs sued Victory, alleging that the company’s actions “were a substantial factor in causing” Mrs. Kuciemba’s illness and that Victory is liable for negligently failing to protect its employees from the virus and flouting the public health regulations in place at the time. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of a diversity action. The panel certified two questions to the Supreme Court of California, which accepted certification and held that (1) California’s derivative injury doctrine—under which workers’ compensation benefits generally provide the exclusive remedy for third-party claims if the asserted claims are collateral to or derivative of the employee’s workplace injury—did not bar Mrs. Kuciemba’s tort claims against Victory; but (2) an employer does not owe a duty of care under California law to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to employees’ household members. Because Victory owed no duty of care to Mrs. Kuciemba, the panel affirmed the district court’s order dismissing the complaint. View "CORBY KUCIEMBA, ET AL V. VICTORY WOODWORKS, INC." on Justia Law
BRANDON MOE V. GEICO INDEMNITY COMPANY, ET AL
Plaintiff filed individual and class claims in Montana state court against GEICO after GEICO failed to advance pay Plaintiff’s medical bills and lost wages following a car accident caused by GEICO’s insured. GEICO removed the lawsuit to federal court, asserting jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA). Neither Plaintiff nor the district court questioned whether CAFA jurisdiction was proper. The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court’s judgment and remanded for the district court to conduct the necessary evidentiary inquiry and determine whether GEICO can sufficiently establish that more than $5 million is in dispute. The panel held that it could sua sponte question a defendant’s allegation of CAFA jurisdiction. The panel further concluded that the current record did not sufficiently demonstrate that CAFA’s amount-in-controversy requirement was met because it was not evident from the face of the complaint and the nature of the class claims that this controversy involved more than $5 million, nor did GEICO’s notice of removal and supporting declaration satisfactorily establish that more than $5 million was in dispute. View "BRANDON MOE V. GEICO INDEMNITY COMPANY, ET AL" on Justia Law
DOE I, ET AL V. CISCO SYSTEMS, INC., ET AL
Plaintiffs are practitioners of Falun Gong, a religion originating in China in the 1990s. They allege that they or family members are victims of human rights abuses committed by the Chinese Communist Party and Chinese government officials. The alleged abuses, Plaintiffs contend, were enabled by the technological assistance of Defendants, U.S. corporation Cisco Systems, Inc., and two Cisco executives (collectively, “Cisco”). Plaintiffs initiated this lawsuit more than a decade ago, alleging that Cisco aided and abetted or conspired with Chinese officials in violation of the Alien Tort Statute (“ATS”), the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991 (“TVPA”), and other federal and state laws. The district court dismissed Plaintiffs’ claims under the ATS, ruling that Plaintiffs did not allege conduct sufficient to satisfy the standard for aiding and abetting liability. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiffs’ claims under the Alien Tort Statute against the Cisco executives; reversed the dismissal of Plaintiffs’ Alien Tort Statute claims against corporate defendant Cisco; reversed the dismissal of one Plaintiff’s claims under the Torture Victim Protection Act against the Cisco executives; and remanded for further proceedings. The panel held that under Nestle USA, Inc. v. Doe, 141 S. Ct. 1931 (2021), corporations may be held liable under the ATS. The panel held that Plaintiffs’ allegations against Cisco were sufficient to meet the applicable aiding and abetting standard. Recognizing that the ATS does not apply extraterritorially, the panel held that this case involved a permissible domestic application of the ATS against Cisco because much of the corporation’s alleged conduct constituting aiding and abetting occurred in the United States. View "DOE I, ET AL V. CISCO SYSTEMS, INC., ET AL" on Justia Law
MICHELE LEUTHAUSER V. USA, ET AL
Plaintiff alleged that a Transportation Security Officer (“TSO”) sexually assaulted her during an airport security screening. At issue is whether Plaintiff may bring claims for battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”). The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s summary judgment in favor of the United States. The panel held that TSOs fall under the FTCA’s “law enforcement proviso,” which waives sovereign immunity for torts such as assault and battery committed by “investigative or law enforcement officers of the United States Government.” 28 U.S.C. Section 2680(h). The panel joined the Third, Fourth, and Eighth Circuits in holding that the FTCA’s limited waiver of sovereign immunity applies to certain intentional torts committed by TSOs. The district court, therefore, had subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s FTCA claims. The panel considered whether, as officers of the United States, TSOs are “empowered by law to execute searches, to seize evidence, or to make arrests for violations of Federal law.” 28 U.S.C. Section 2680(h). The government argued that TSOs do not “execute searches” by conducting screenings. The panel held that the screenings fit the ordinary, contemporary, and common meanings of searches. View "MICHELE LEUTHAUSER V. USA, ET AL" on Justia Law
ERICA DAVIS, ET AL V. CRANFIELD AEROSPACE SOLUTIONS
In November 2018, a Cessna Model 525 corporate jet tried to fly from Sellersburg, Indiana, to Chicago, Illinois. It never made it to Chicago. It crashed a few minutes after takeoff in Clark County, Indiana. The pilot of the plane and the two passengers were killed instantly. Representatives for the three decedents brought this wrongful death and product liability suit against Cranfield Aerospace Solutions, LLC, in the District of Idaho. Cranfield is incorporated in and has its principal place of business in England. Appellants alleged that a load alleviation system, the Tamarack Active Winglet Load System—trademarked as the ATLAS system—caused the plane crash. Cranfield helped Tamarack obtain the Federal Aviation Administration supplemental type certification for the ATLAS system. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the Idaho federal district court’s judgment dismissing for lack of personal jurisdiction over. The panel held when considering specific jurisdiction under the first prong, courts should comprehensively evaluate the extent of the defendant’s contacts with the forum state and those contacts’ relationship to the plaintiffs’ claims—which may mean looking at both purposeful availment and purposeful direction. The panel held that under either approach, jurisdiction over Cranfield in Idaho was lacking. The purposeful direction test cannot support jurisdiction here because Appellants failed to allege that Cranfield injured them in Idaho. The panel agreed with the district court that Appellants failed to establish that Cranfield purposefully availed itself of the benefits and protections of Idaho. The panel declined to proceed to the remaining two prongs of the specific jurisdiction test and held that the district court properly declined to exercise jurisdiction over Cranfield. View "ERICA DAVIS, ET AL V. CRANFIELD AEROSPACE SOLUTIONS" on Justia Law
DEJUAN HOPSON V. JACOB ALEXANDER, ET AL
Believing that two men were about to engage in the armed robbery of a gas station, defendant police officers ("Defendants") approached the Plaintiff's’ vehicle with guns pointed and forcibly removed him. The district court denied the Defendants' claim to qualified immunity, and the Defendants appealed.On appeal, the Ninth Circuit reversed. First, it was not clearly established that the officers lacked an objectively reasonable belief that criminal activity was about to occur. Second, clearly established law did not prevent the officers from suspecting Plaintiff might be armed. Here, Defendants believed Plaintiff was about to commit and armed robbery, which is a crime typically involving the use of a weapon. Nothing gave the panel any reason to second guess the officer's "on the ground" determination.The court also rejected Plainitff's claim that it was a violation of a clearly established right to point a firearm at the Plaintiff and demand he exits his vehicle without first identifying themselves as law enforcement. View "DEJUAN HOPSON V. JACOB ALEXANDER, ET AL" on Justia Law
SAM FRIEDENBERG, ET AL V. LANE COUNTY, ET AL
The Federally Supported Health Centers Assistance Act (“FSHCAA”) provides that health centers receiving funding under Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act (“PHSA”) may be deemed Public Health Service (“PHS”) employees. Plaintiffs alleged that Defendants violated their duty to report a court-ordered Lane County Mental Health patient’s refusal to comply with the terms of his probation. Plaintiffs alleged they were injured as a result of Defendants’ failure to report a patient’s repeated failures to comply with his mental health treatment plan. Defendants contended that they were entitled to Section 233 immunity. The district court held that Section 233 immunity did not apply to Defendants and remanded to state court. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s order remanding to state court Plaintiffs’ action alleging negligence and wrongful death claims against federally funded community health centers and their employees (“Defendants”), and remanded to the district court to enter an order substituting the United States as the defendant and deeming the action as one brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act. The panel first addressed whether there was jurisdiction to review the district court’s remand order. Ordinarily, a remand order is not reviewable on appeal, except for cases removed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 1442. The panel agreed with Defendants that Section 233 immunity did not turn on who brings the claim, but rather on whether the conduct giving rose to the claim arose out of the Defendants’ performance of “medical, surgical, dental or related functions.” View "SAM FRIEDENBERG, ET AL V. LANE COUNTY, ET AL" on Justia Law