Justia Injury Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Cruz v. National Steel and Shipbuilding Co.
The borrowed employee doctrine applies to employees under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act. A maritime worker who has collected statutory workers' compensation for her injuries may not further recover against a borrowed employer. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for a general contractor in an admiralty action brought by an injured maritime worker. The panel held that the general contractor was immune from suit under the one recovery policy at the heart of the workers' compensation law. In this case, the maritime worker was the general contractor's borrowed employee where her work was subject to its direction and control at all times. Therefore, the maritime worker was barred from bringing tort claims against the general contractor. View "Cruz v. National Steel and Shipbuilding Co." on Justia Law
Mayall v. USA Water Polo, Inc.
Plaintiff alleged that her minor daughter, H.C., was returned to play as a goalie in a youth water polo league tournament after being hit in the face by the ball and while manifesting concussion symptoms, received additional hits to the head, and suffered severely debilitating post-concussion syndrome. She filed a putative class action against USA Water Polo, alleging negligence, breach of voluntary undertaking, and gross negligence. The Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the action. With respect to the negligence claim, the court cited California’s “primary assumption of risk” doctrine, providing that an entity does not owe a duty of care where “conditions or conduct that otherwise might be viewed as dangerous . . . are an integral part of the sport itself” and concluded that secondary head injuries are not “inherent” to water polo, so Polo owed H.C. a duty of care. The court rejected an argument that it fulfilled that duty with the existence of its “Rules Governing Coaches’ Conduct,” applicable to all of its teams. Concerning the voluntary undertaking claim, the court held that Polo increased the risk of secondary concussions to players who improperly returned to pay, a risk that could be eliminated through the implementation of protocols already used by the national team. Concerning a gross negligence claim, the plaintiff adequately alleged that Polo repeatedly ignored the known risk of secondary injuries, and repeatedly ignored requests to implement concussion-management and return-to-play protocols. View "Mayall v. USA Water Polo, Inc." on Justia Law
Doe v. Nestle, S.A.
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' class action against cocoa bean companies, alleging the aiding and abetting of child slave labor that took place in the United States under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). Plaintiffs are former child slaves who were forced to work on cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast. The district court dismissed the complaint based on its conclusion that the complaint sought an impermissible extraterritorial application of the ATS. In light of Jesner v. Arab Bank, 138 S. Ct. 1386 (2018), which changed the legal landscape on which plaintiffs constructed their case, the panel remanded to allow plaintiffs to amend their complaint to specify whether aiding and abetting conduct that took place in the United States is attributable to the domestic corporations. The panel held that the aiding and abetting conduct comes within the focus of the ATS and the ATS’s focus on torts committed in violation of the law of nations. The panel also held that a narrow set of specific domestic conduct was relevant to the ATS's focus. In this case, plaintiffs have alleged that defendants funded child slavery practices in the Ivory Coast. Specifically, plaintiffs alleged that defendants provided personal spending money outside the ordinary business contract and the money was given with the purpose of maintaining ongoing relations with the farms so that defendants could continue receiving cocoa at a price that would not be obtainable without child slave labor. Furthermore, defendants had employees from their United States headquarters regularly inspect operations in the Ivory Coast and report back to the United States offices, where these financing decisions or arrangements originated. View "Doe v. Nestle, S.A." on Justia Law
Dent v. National Football League
State-law claims brought against the NFL by former professional football players were not preempted by section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA). In this case, a putative class of retired NFL players alleged that the NFL distributed controlled substances and prescription drugs to its players in violation of both state and federal laws, and that the manner in which these drugs were administered left the players with permanent injuries and chronic medical conditions. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of the action, holding that the players' claims, as pled, neither arose from their collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) nor required their interpretation. View "Dent v. National Football League" on Justia Law
Adamson v. Port of Bellingham
The Ninth Circuit certified the following question of state law to the Supreme Court of Washington: Is party A (here the Port of Bellingham) liable as a premises owner for an injury that occurs on part of a leased property used exclusively by party B (here the Alaska Marine Highway System – the "Ferry") at the time of the injury, where the lease has transferred only priority usage, defined as a superior but not exclusive right to use that part of the property, to party B, but reserves the rights of party A to allow third-party use that does not interfere with party B's priority use of that part of the property, and where party A had responsibility for maintenance and repair of that part of the property? View "Adamson v. Port of Bellingham" on Justia Law
Holzhauer v. Rhoades
In an action under maritime law, a boat owner filed suit against his friend, who was driving the boat when it crashed into a passenger ferry. After the friend died from his injuries, his wife filed suit against the owner and GGB, which owns the ferry. The owner filed a cross-claim against GGB and a counterclaim against the wife. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of judgment as a matter of law to the owner. The panel applied maritime law and held that a boat owner who is a passenger on his boat has no duty to keep a lookout unless the owner-passenger knows that the person operating his boat is likely to be inattentive or careless or the owner-passenger was jointly operating the boat at the time of the accident. The panel also held that joint operation is not viewed over the course of the entire trip, but instead at the time immediately preceding and concurrent with the accident. View "Holzhauer v. Rhoades" on Justia Law
Arce v. United States
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal based on lack of jurisdiction of plaintiff's complaint under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). Plaintiff sought damages suffered as a result of his removal from the United States in violation of this court's temporary stay of removal. The panel held that 8 U.S.C. 1252(g) did not deprive it of jurisdiction to hear the FTCA claims of a noncitizen who was wrongfully removed in violation of a court order. Therefore, the district court erred in holding otherwise. The panel held that a decision or action to violate a court order staying removal fell outside of the statute's jurisdiction-stripping reach. Even if the panel agreed that plaintiff's claims tangentially arose from the execution of his removal order, the panel would still retain jurisdiction because the Attorney General lacked the authority, and thus the discretion, to remove him. Finally, the panel rejected the government's alternative argument that plaintiff's claims were barred by the FTCA's foreign country exception. View "Arce v. United States" on Justia Law
Tunac v. United States
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of an action under the Federal Tort Claims Act brought by a surviving spouse, alleging wrongful death and malpractice when a medical center operated by the VA caused Randy Tunac's death. The panel held that, to the extent the complaint alleged negligence by VA healthcare employees, it had jurisdiction under the FTCA. However, the negligence claims regarding VA operations must proceed under the congressionally-mandated pathway set forth in the Veterans' Judicial Review Act (VJRA), and any appeal can be heard only by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The panel held that, to the extent the court had jurisdiction, the claims were barred by the FTCA's statute of limitations and those claims were not equitably tolled. In this case, the two year statute of limitations had long run when plaintiff filed her administrative claim and any alleged concealment by the VA of a widespread problem regarding delayed treatment did not result in concealment of the operative facts that would merit equitable tolling. View "Tunac v. United States" on Justia Law
Segalman v. Southwest Airlines Co.
The anti-discrimination prohibition in the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 (ACAA) is not enforceable through an implied private cause of action. The ACCA prohibits air carriers from discriminating against individuals on the basis of a physical or mental impairment. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claim against Southwest that alleged a violation of the ACCA. The panel joined the Second, Fifth, Tenth, and Eleventh Circuits in concluding that, in light of the ACAA's statutory structure, Congress did not intend to create a private cause of action under the ACAA. Therefore, plaintiff's claim was properly dismissed. View "Segalman v. Southwest Airlines Co." on Justia Law
Morales v. United States
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction of an action alleging claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The panel held that the USGS's decision not to mark a cable, which allegedly resulted in the crash of a helicopter, was driven by policy considerations and fell within the discretionary function exception to the FTCA. Applying Berkowitz v. United States, 486 U.S. 531 (1988), the panel held that nothing in the USGS's policy created a mandatory and specific directive to mark the Verde River cableway, and the policy left employees with a discretionary choice about which cableways were hazardous and which should be marked. Furthermore, the USGS's decision was susceptible to policy analysis grounded in social, economic and political concerns. View "Morales v. United States" on Justia Law