Justia Injury Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
CORBY KUCIEMBA V. VICTORY WOODWORKS, INC.
The Ninth Circuit certified a question to the Supreme Court of California to decide the certified questions:1.) If an employee contracts COVID-19 at his workplace and brings the virus home to his spouse, does California’s derivative injury doctrine bar the spouse’s claim against the employer?2.) Under California law, does an employer owe a duty to the households of its employees to exercise ordinary care to prevent the spread of COVID-19?A married couple alleged that the husband’s employer negligently allowed COVID-19 to spread from its worksite into the couple’s household. The Plaintiffs contend that the employer knowingly disobeyed the San Francisco Health Order (the “Health Order”) by transferring workers from an infected site to the husband’s job site in disregard of the Health Order’s policies. According to Plaintiffs, the husband was forced to work in close contact with employees from the infected job site and developed COVID-19 which he brought back home. His wife contracted COVID-10 and was hospitalized for a month and kept alive on a respirator.The employer claimed that California law does not recognize the couple’s cause of action. Specifically, the employer argued that the wife’s matter is barred by the derivative injury doctrine, and even if the doctrine does not apply, the employer did not owe her a duty of care. The court concluded that the case presents questions for the California Supreme Court to address. View "CORBY KUCIEMBA V. VICTORY WOODWORKS, INC." on Justia Law
COREY HUGHES V. MICHAEL RODRIGUEZ
Plaintiff alleged that law enforcement officers used excessive force in apprehending him after he escaped from a County Jail highway work crew and lived on the lam for three weeks. The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s summary judgment in favor of law enforcement officials. The court held that the bodycam footage and audio did not blatantly contradict all of Plaintiff’s testimony. The court viewed the facts blatantly contradicted by the bodycam footage in the light depicted by the videotape and its audio to conclude that Plaintiff did not attempt to surrender to the officers. However, the court viewed all other facts, including Plaintiff’s allegation of the post-handcuff beating, in the light most favorable to Plaintiff on summary judgment. The court found that there were genuine issues of material fact regarding whether the alleged post-handcuff beating and dog-biting were proportional to the threat the officer reasonably perceived by Plaintiff while handcuffed. The court also found that the officer was not entitled to qualified immunity under Sec. 1983 as to the claimed post-handcuff beating and dog-biting because it was clearly established law that beating a handcuffed convict violates the Eighth Amendment. Finally, the court found that the excessive force claims based on failure to intervene and failure to intercede against the other defendants failed. View "COREY HUGHES V. MICHAEL RODRIGUEZ" on Justia Law
MICHELLE HIMES V. SOMATICS, LLC
Plaintiffs filed failure-to-warn product liability claims against a medical device manufacturer based on the manufacturer’s failure to warn about certain risks of its electroconvulsive therapy (“ECT”) device. The district court granted summary judgment to the manufacturer, finding that Plaintiff’s evidence failed to show that stronger warnings from the manufacturer would have affected their physician’s decision to prescribe the product.Plaintiffs appealed, relying on testimony from their prescribing physicians that, had the manufacturer included stronger warnings, they would have communicated those warnings to Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs claimed that, in light of these warnings, they would not have given consent for the procedures.Finding that California law applies and that there is no binding precedent on the issue, the Ninth Circuit certified the following question to the California Supreme Court: Is a plaintiff required to show that a stronger risk warning would have altered the physician’s decision to prescribe the product? Or can a plaintiff establish causation by showing that the physician would have communicated the stronger risk warnings to the plaintiff and a prudent person in the patient’s position would have declined the treatment? View "MICHELLE HIMES V. SOMATICS, LLC" on Justia Law
LNS Enterprises, LLC v. Continental Motors, Inc.
Plaintiffs purchased a 2006 aircraft from an unidentified individual in 2016. In 2017, the plane was forced to make an emergency crash landing. The aircraft suffered significant structural damage and the complete loss of its engine, but no one was killed in the crash. Various actors were involved in the manufacture and maintenance of the aircraft, including Continental, which manufactured and shipped the engine to Columbia in Oregon, where it was installed. Cessna acquired assets from Columbia but did not assume Continental’s liabilities apart from express, written aircraft warranties still in effect at the time of acquisition. In 2014, Cessna became a subsidiary of Textron.Plaintiffs filed suit in Arizona, where the crash occurred. The case was removed to federal court. Four of the 15 original defendants—including Continental and Textron—were dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction, finding that Plaintiffs had failed to show “that any of the moving Defendants are meaningfully connected to Arizona in such a way that renders them subject to this Court’s exercise of personal jurisdiction.” The Ninth Circuit affirmed, noting that the Plaintiffs have conceded that Arizona does not have general jurisdiction over either Defendant. Plaintiffs also failed to establish a prima facie case of specific jurisdiction over either Defendant, failing to establish that Defendants had sufficient minimum contacts with Arizona that are related to Plaintiffs’ claims. Plaintiffs’ reasons for seeking jurisdictional discovery with regard to Defendants’ contacts with Arizona were properly deemed insufficient. View "LNS Enterprises, LLC v. Continental Motors, Inc." on Justia Law
Pacheco v. United States
Pacheco received Depo-Provera injections from NeighborCare, a federally-qualified community health center. Depo-Provera is a highly effective contraceptive that requires injections every 11-13 weeks. Pacheco visited NeigborCare in September 2011, for an “on-time” injection. A NeighborCare employee instead injected Pacheco with a flu vaccine. Pacheco alleges that she did not consent to a flu shot and did not learn that she received a flu shot instead of her scheduled injection until she called NeighborCare for her next injection. Pacheco's child, S.L.P., was born with epilepsy and bilateral perisylvian polymicrogyria, which contributes to neurological delays.The district court found that Rodriguez failed to meet the minimum standard of care and that the unwanted pregnancy, birth, and medical expenses associated with S.L.P.'s condition were foreseeable consequences caused by the negligence and awarded $10,042,294.81.The Ninth Circuit noted that the negligently performed procedure here was not “intended to prevent the birth of a defective child,” but to “prevent the birth of an unwanted child,” so this case lies outside the duty imposed on healthcare providers to assume responsibility when they encumber parents’ rights by failing to adequately complete procedures to prevent the births of defective children. The court certified the question to the Washington Supreme Court: Under claims for wrongful birth or wrongful life, does Washington law allow extraordinary damages for costs associated with raising a child with birth defects when defendants negligently provided contraceptive care even though plaintiffs did not seek contraceptives to prevent conceiving a child later born with birth defects? View "Pacheco v. United States" on Justia Law
Cruz Esquivel v. United States
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction of a Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) case brought by landowners, seeking damages when their property was intentionally burned by a Type 2 Incident Management Team, convened by the U.S. Forest Service, during a controlled burnout performed as part of the fire suppression effort to combat the 2015 North Star Fire in Washington.The panel concluded that the government has met its burden of establishing that plaintiffs' claims fall within the scope of the discretionary function exception. Accepting as true the factual allegations contained in the complaint, the panel concluded as a matter of law that a land management employee's communication with Plaintiff Willard was based upon the exercise or performance of choosing how to organize and conduct fire suppression operations, which undisputedly requires the exercise of judgment grounded in social, economic, or political policy. Furthermore, these claims regarding the employee's communication with Willard are independently barred by the FTCA's misrepresentation exception. The court also held that the district court did not make improper factual findings in resolving the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) motion and did not abuse its discretion by denying additional jurisdictional discovery. View "Cruz Esquivel v. United States" on Justia Law
Miller v. Sawant
Seattle police officers sued, alleging that they were defamed by Sawant, a Seattle City Council member, through comments Sawant made about a deadly police shooting in which the plaintiffs were involved. The district court dismissed the claims, finding that the complaint failed adequately to allege that Sawant’s remarks were “of and concerning” them.The Ninth Circuit reversed. Sawant’s words suggested that her remarks were directed not only at the police generally, but also at the individual officers involved in the shooting. She told the crowd that the shooting constituted “a blatant murder at the hands of the police,” and she called for the Seattle Police Department to be held accountable “for their . . . individual actions.” The complaint plausibly alleged that some of those who read or heard Sawant’s remarks— the plaintiffs’ families, friends, and colleagues, and members of the general public—knew that the plaintiffs were the officers involved in the shooting and that these readers and listeners understood that Sawant’s remarks were directed at the plaintiffs. The district court erred in concluding that no reasonable person could conclude that Sawant’s remarks concerned the individual officers but rather spoke to broader issues of police accountability; at most, the district court identified one reasonable interpretation of Sawant’s words, not the only reasonable interpretation. Where a communication is capable of two meanings, one defamatory and one not, it is for a jury, not a judge, to determine which meaning controls. View "Miller v. Sawant" on Justia Law
Martin v. Sundial Marine Tug and Barge Works, Inc.
The Ninth Circuit denied a petition for review of the BRB's decision affirming an IJ's award of benefits to claimant under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA). In this case, claimant sought disability and medical benefits under the LHWCA after injuring both knees while working for Sundial.The panel held that the ALJ did not err in applying section 910(a) of the LHWCA to calculate claimant's average weekly wage at the time of injury. The panel explained that the section 910(a) formula presumptively applies to calculating a five-day workers' average weekly wage, and the statutory presumption is not rebutted as a matter of law simply because section 910(a) would slightly underestimate earning capacity because the claimant worked in excess of 260 days. Rather, the statute plainly contemplates some inaccuracy in calculating the average weekly wage, and it does not provide that section 910(a) is inapplicable if more than 260 days were worked. Nor does the fact that claimant worked 264 days by itself make use of the section 910(a) formula unreasonable or unfair. In this case, claimant is incorrect that the section 910(a) formula entirely fails to account for his increased earnings, as the starting point for the section 910(a) calculation is the total amount of compensation earned in the previous year. Furthermore, the legislative history of the Act suggests that Congress did not envision application of section 910(c) under these circumstances. View "Martin v. Sundial Marine Tug and Barge Works, Inc." on Justia Law
Steinle v. United States
A loaded gun issued by the Bureau of Land Management to a ranger was stolen from the ranger’s parked personal car while the ranger was traveling with his family. Four days later, Steinle was shot and killed while walking on Pier 41 in San Francisco when Lopez found the pistol and fired it. It is not known who stole the pistol, how many people possessed it after it was stolen, or how the pistol came to be near the bench where Lopez found it. Steinle’s family filed suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act, alleging that the ranger’s negligence in failing to store or secure his firearm properly and in leaving it loaded, in an unattended vehicle in an urban location where the firearm could be stolen readily. The district court entered summary judgment on the ground that the ranger’s conduct was not the proximate cause of Steinle’s death.The Ninth Circuit affirmed. Applying California law, the court concluded that the connection between the ranger’s storage of the pistol in his vehicle and Steinle’s death was so remote that, as a matter of law, the ranger’s acts were not the proximate or legal cause of the fatal incident. View "Steinle v. United States" on Justia Law
Herring Networks, Inc. v, Maddow
Herring launched the conservative One American News Network (OAN) in 2013. While employed by OAN, Rouz also wrote articles as a freelancer for Sputnik, a Russian state-financed news organization. Herring alleges that Rouz’s work for Sputnik “had no relation to his work for OAN.” In 2019, The Daily Beast published an article entitled “Trump’s New Favorite Channel Employs KremlinPaid Journalist,” asserting that “Kremlin propaganda sometimes sneaks into” Rouz’s OAN segments. On the day the article was published, Maddow, host of The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC, ran a segment entitled “Staffer on Trump-Favored Network Is on Propaganda Kremlin Payroll.” The segment ran three and a half minutes.Herring sued Maddow and others for defamation. Herring did not sue The Daily Beast or its reporter but focused on Maddow’s comment that OAN “really literally is paid Russian propaganda.” Maddow moved to strike the complaint, citing California’s anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) law. The district court granted the motion. The Ninth Circuit affirmed. Maddow’s “statement is an opinion that cannot serve as the basis for a defamation claim” and Herring failed to show “a probability of succeeding on its defamation claims.” The challenged statement was an obvious exaggeration, cushioned within an undisputed news story; it could not reasonably be understood to imply an assertion of objective fact. View "Herring Networks, Inc. v, Maddow" on Justia Law