Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
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Jody arrived at the Indiana University Health emergency room with severe abdominal pain. Doctors determined she needed emergency surgery to remove a dying portion of her intestine. Because they believed (incorrectly) that the problem stemmed from earlier gastric bypass surgery, they transferred her to another facility to be operated on by the bariatric surgeon who had performed the bypass. Jody died two days later. Her husband sued, alleging that IU’s failure to operate on Jody violated its obligation under the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act to “stabilize” Jody when it decided to transfer her without first performing the laparotomy and removing the ischemic portions of her intestine, 42 U.S.C. 1395dd(b)(1)(A).The Seventh Circuit affirmed the summary judgment rejection of the suit. The Act authorizes pre-stabilization transfer where one of two triggering conditions is satisfied and the transfer is “appropriate.” No reasonable jury could conclude that IU did not satisfy both requirements. A physician certified that “[b]ased upon the information available to [him] at the time of transfer, … the medical benefits reasonably expected from the provision of appropriate medical treatment at another facility outweigh the increased risks to [Jody] … from undertaking the transfer.” The court cited the “Treatment Act’s narrow purpose as an anti-dumping law rather than a federal cause of action for medical malpractice.” View "Martindale v. Indiana University Health Bloomington, Inc." on Justia Law

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Lash, a 60-year-old, obese man with a remote history of smoking and high blood pressure, was traveling when he experienced shortness of breath and chest discomfort. He went to Sparta hospital. An EKG, blood work, and a chest x-ray revealed no signs of a previous heart attack, but his white blood cells and blood sugar were slightly elevated, suggesting a cardiac event. Dr. Panico identified mild congestive failure and an enlarged right hilum, a part of the lung. He recommended a CT scan to rule out a mass. Dr. Motwani, the main physician responsible for treating Lash, diagnosed an “anxiety reaction” and prescribed medications. Lash was not informed of his congestive heart failure nor that an enlarged right hilum could mean heart failure or cancer. One nurse mentioned only that Lash was seen for an “anxiety reaction.” The next evening, Lash went into cardiac arrest. He was taken to the emergency room, where he was pronounced dead.In a malpractice suit by Lash’s estate, the district court granted Sparta hospital summary judgment. Motwani settled the case and was dismissed from the lawsuit. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. . The Illinois Tort Immunity Act provides that “a local public entity,” such as Sparta, is not liable for an employee’s negligent “diagnosis.” Lash never received any treatment, so no doctor could have failed to disclose information that might have changed his decisions. View "Lash v. Sparta Community Hospital" on Justia Law

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Donaldson sought treatment for stress urinary incontinence and anterior pelvic organ prolapse. In 2010, to remedy these conditions, Dr. Schultheis surgically implanted in Donaldson two transvaginal polypropylene mesh medical devices. Both were manufactured by a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. In 2014, Donaldson sought treatment for injuries resulting from erosion of the mesh into her bladder, vagina, and adjacent tissues, causing scarring, bladder stones, and abdominal pain, among other problems. Information sheets packaged with the devices warned of the risks of erosion but Donaldson never saw the warnings and contends that Dr. Schultheis did not inform her of these risks. Dr. Schultheis testified that he was aware of the possible complications and that he believed that the benefits of the devices outweighed the risks. He also testified that, in implanting the devices, he followed all of the manufacturer’s instructions.The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the manufacturers. Although there is no doubt that Donaldson suffered severe and painful complications after the devices were implanted, she failed to produce sufficient evidence to avoid summary judgment in her case for non-specific defects under Illinois product liability law. There was no evidence eliminating abnormal use or secondary causes, or that the device failed to perform as expected. View "Donaldson v. Johnson & Johnson" on Justia Law

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Glick, without a written agreement, provided home daycare for Clayton’s infant daughter, Kenzi, for $25 per day, paid in cash at the end of the week. On January 29, 2018, Kenzi died while in Glick’s care. The coroner’s office indicated that her death resulted from bedding asphyxia after being placed prone on a couch cushion covered with a blanket to nap. The Glicks’ Liberty Mutual insurance policy, covered personal liability for “bodily injury” except for liability “[a]rising out of or in connection with a ‘business’ engaged in by an insured.” A separate endorsement stated: If an “insured” regularly provides home daycare services to a person or persons other than “insureds” and receives monetary or other compensation for such services, that enterprise is a “business.” Mutual exchange of home daycare services, however, is not considered compensation. The rendering of home daycare services by an “insured” to a relative of an “insured” is not considered a “business.”Liberty Mutual denied coverage. In Clayton’s wrongful death lawsuit, the district court granted Liberty Mutual summary judgment and expressly declared Liberty Mutual has no duty to defend or indemnify Glick in the underlying lawsuit. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, stating that Clayton’s claim “did not even potentially fall within the scope of coverage.” View "Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Co. v. Clayton" on Justia Law

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Bensenberg, age 85, was driving her 2008 Chrysler SUV when she lost consciousness during a medical episode. Her car entered a ditch beside the highway at 45-65 mph, hit a raised earthen driveway, became airborne, and struck a concrete post. The side-curtain airbag deployed when the vehicle’s sensors detected a potential roll-over, but the front airbag did not deploy. Bensenberg's seat belt deployed properly. Bensenberg suffered an undisplaced fracture of the second cervical vertebra in her neck. She wore a cervical collar for three months but did not require surgery. She died of unrelated causes three years later, after filing suit against the car manufacturer, alleging strict liability based on a manufacturing defect and a design defect in the airbag system.The district court granted a motion in limine to exclude the opinion of Bensenberg’s expert that the vehicle’s airbag was defective because the expert did not identify any purported defect in the airbag system but simply assumed from the airbag’s failure to deploy that it must have had a defect. The Seventh Circuit reversed. The opinion of the plaintiff’s expert is admissible to show that the vehicle was traveling at a rate of speed sufficient to command deployment of the front airbag when it collided with the post; this is sufficient to make a prima facie case of a non-specific defect in the airbag system within the parameters that Illinois courts have established. View "Bensenberg v. FCA US LLC" on Justia Law

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At a Speedway convenience store, Weaver tripped on the curb in front of the doorway, fell to the ground, and sustained injuries. Weaver sued for negligence, alleging that Speedway failed to maintain its premises in a reasonably safe condition. After discovery on liability, a magistrate granted Speedway summary judgment, reasoning that any danger posed by the curb was obvious and that Speedway had no reason to anticipate that Weaver would not protect herself from such a situation. The court cited evidence that, in the last five years, only one other person had reported falling over that curb; Weaver herself had visited the same store multiple times without tripping. Although the company policy to paint the curbs outside store entrances was relevant, a violation of that policy would not by itself establish a breach of Speedway’s duty.The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Although a policy manual may be admissible, it cannot, alone, set the standard for a landowner’s duty of ordinary care. Here, there is no evidence that the area surrounding the curb renders the curb particularly dangerous. Weaver has no evidence from which a jury could conclude that the curb posed any unusual danger to those entering the store in the normal course of doing business. View "Weaver v. Speedway, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs alleged that Hyles committed sexual abuse and assault at Hammond, Indiana's First Baptist Church, and its affiliated school, Hyles-Anderson College, in the late 1970s and that the institutions conspired to conceal the abuse. One plaintiff alleged that she paid fees and tithes to the institutions while being abused as a teenager. In 2020, they filed a civil claim under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.The district court dismissed the complaint because the plaintiffs had not alleged the injury to “business or property” required for RICO’s civil cause of action, 18 U.S.C. 1962, 1964(c). The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The complaint alleges that the plaintiffs suffered personal injuries during the exercise of a property right (while expending money to participate in Church-related activities) that had an “indirect, or secondary effect” on the value of the property right. That is insufficient to satisfy the business or property element of a civil RICO claim. They contend that the institutions misappropriated their funds by using them to fund a sham investigation in the 2010s but did not describe how money paid in the 1970s could plausibly have been used to fund a phony investigation decades later. The allegations are too “speculative and amorphous” to permit their RICO claim to proceed. View "Ryder v. Hyles" on Justia Law

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In 2015, Talignani, a U.S. military veteran, consulted a VA neurosurgeon, who recommended that he undergo neck surgery. Because the VA could not perform a timely surgery, the surgeon suggested Talignani obtain evaluation and treatment at Saint Louis University Hospital. Talignani agreed and expressed a preference for the Hospital because he had previously undergone surgery there. A nurse obtained the VA’s approval to secure treatment for Talignani at a non-VA provider. The VA agreed to pay for “evaluation and treatment rendered pursuant to the non-VA provider’s plan of care.” The VA then sent a request for outpatient services to the Hospital. The Hospital agreed to treat Talignani and asked the VA to conduct several pre-operative tests. In January 2016, Dr. Mercier performed neck surgery on Talignani using the Hospital’s facility and staff. Talignani died shortly after being released.Talignani’s estate alleged he was prescribed excessive pain medication prior to his discharge, which proximately caused his death. An administrative complaint with the VA was denied. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the summary judgment rejection of a suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. 1346(b). The Act waives sovereign immunity for certain torts committed by “employee[s] of the Government.” The estate’s claim does not involve a government employee. View "Talignani v. United States" on Justia Law

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DiDonato fell and seriously injured her head in the bathroom of Panatera’s home Panatera, a Chicago paramedic, found DiDonato disoriented and badly bleeding but allegedly only rinsed the blood from DiDonato’s head, wrapped it in a towel, moved her to his bed, and sexually assaulted her. When DiDonato regained consciousness the next afternoon, Panatera drove her home. DiDonato went to an emergency room. She had sustained head trauma and a concussion.DiDonato filed suit, 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that Panatera violated her due process rights by failing to provide medical care, with state law claims for assault, battery, and negligence. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of DiDonato’s section 1983 claim. DiDonato had to allege that a state actor failed to adhere to a duty to protect and care for a person with whom the state had a “special relationship.” States and municipalities are not in a “special relationship” with all residents and do not shoulder a constitutional duty to provide medical care to anyone needing help. There was no allegation that DiDonato was ever in the city’s care or custody. DiDonato also failed to plausibly allege that Panatera acted “under color of state law.” Section 1983 does not cover disputes between private citizens; an individual’s employment by the state does not render any and all action by that person state action. DiDonato’s need for help and medical care arose during entirely private interaction. View "Didonato v. Panatera" on Justia Law

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Bourke was exposed to fumes during his employment with the Veterans Administration. He received treatment at a VA hospital and contends that medical malpractice there caused him serious injuries. He sought compensation from the Department of Labor under the Federal Employees Compensation Act for on-the-job injuries and from the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act for medical malpractice. The Department of Labor processed Bourke’s claim but found that he had not shown that his asserted injuries had been caused by exposure to fumes. The VA (handling the FTCA claim) concluded that, once Bourke applied to the Department of Labor, all other sources of relief were precluded. Bourke sued under the Tort Claims Act, conceding the Department of Labor’s conclusion that conditions at work did not cause the medical issues for which he was treated by the VA, and alleging medical malpractice.The district court rejected his complaint on the ground that the Federal Employees Compensation Act offers his sole avenue of relief.; once the Department of Labor adjudicates a claim, the applicant must accept the result because 5 U.S.C. 8116(c) forecloses other sources of relief and 5 U.S.C. 8128(b)(2) blocks judicial review of the Department’s decisions.The Seventh Circuit vacated. Bourke is not seeking judicial review of the Department of Labor’s decision. Someone who loses before the Department cannot contest that outcome in court but may pursue other remedies that are compatible with the Department’s views. View "Bourke v. United States" on Justia Law