Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
by
FBI agents were searching for Davison when they approached King, who has a similar description. King attempted to flee. Officers used force to apprehend King. Bystanders called the police and began filming. Officers ordered them to delete their videos because they could reveal undercover FBI agents. King spent the weekend in jail. The district court found that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over King’s subsequent Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) claim, and granted the officers summary judgment based on qualified immunity. In 2019, the Sixth Circuit reversed.After the Supreme Court reversed, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court. Because the district court’s order “hinged” on whether King could establish the elements of an FTCA claim, the order was on the merits for purposes of the judgment bar, 28 U.S.C. 2676, which provides that a judgment under the FTCA is a complete bar to any action by the claimant, by reason of the same subject matter, against the employee of the government whose act or omission gave rise to the claim. The analysis did not change based on the fact that the elements of an FTCA claim also establish whether a district court has subject-matter jurisdiction over that claim. The Sixth Circuit held that the FTCA judgment bar applies to other claims brought in the same lawsuit. View "King v. United States" on Justia Law

by
Ethicon manufactures a mesh sling, used to treat stress urinary incontinence, and a posterior mesh “Prolift, “designed to treat pelvic organ prolapse. In 2009, Dr. Guiler surgically implanted both devices to treat Thacker. Before the surgery, Thacker reviewed and signed an informed consent form that listed several risks, including: “infections and/or erosions of the mesh” which could require additional follow-up surgeries, urinary retention, “[p]ainful intercourse and vaginal shortening,” and treatment failure. After the surgery, Thacker’s incontinence worsened, and she suffered from shooting pain in her groin area and severe abdominal swelling and bloating. In 2010, Thacker started experiencing severe and unbearable pain during intercourse.Thacker ultimately sued Ethicon, alleging strict liability and negligence claims under the Kentucky Product Liability Act for design defect and failure to warn. The district court granted Ethicon summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit reversed. Dr. Guiler’s testimony suggested that he likely would have recommended a different course of treatment had Ethicon given adequate information. Thacker’s expert testified that no reasonable physician would have used the Pelvic Mesh Devices to treat Thacker had Ethicon given adequate information in 2009. A jury could accept that expert’s opinion that a feasible alternative design would have prevented Thacker’s injuries. View "Thacker v. Ethicon, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Years ago, Mynatt an IRS employee, “blew the whistle” to a member of Congress about a “wasteful IRS manager conference” and gave an interview to the Washington Post in which he was critical of his union president. Mynatt asserts that federal employees formed a plan to retaliate by framing Mynatt for stealing union funds: two separate employees reported his alleged theft to government agencies, triggering internal investigations. The Department of Justice “determined the alleged crimes did not occur,” and that the investigations “were political in nature,” and declined to prosecute. The co-conspirators then lobbied Tennessee district attorneys, presenting “false testimony and forged documents” to prosecutors, despite admitting that “the charges were political in nature and not based on provable facts.” Special agent Kemp testified before a state grand jury “using false testimony and altered documents,” which resulted in a two-count grand-jury indictment of Mynatt. The District Attorney ultimately dismissed the charges.Mynatt filed several lawsuits against the United States, his union, and their employees. In this suit, Mynatt claims that the United States is liable for malicious prosecution and civil conspiracy under Tennessee law via the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The district court dismissed. The Sixth Circuit reversed. A federal employee’s use of false testimony and forged documents to secure an indictment from a state grand jury does not fall within the FTCA’s discretionary-function exception, 28 U.S.C. 1346(b)(1), 2680(a), so, the government is not entitled to sovereign immunity. View "Mynatt v. United States" on Justia Law

by
While working at Dura-Bond’s Duquesne, Pennsylvania plant, Marshall stepped out of his truck, while others were loading metal pipes onto it. A worker accidentally ran a forklift into the pipes, causing one to roll off the truck and crash into Marshall. Doctors had to amputate both of Marshall’s legs, leaving him totally disabled.Russell Trucking had contracted with Express to use its license. Express would ensure that drivers met federal requirements, but Russell could otherwise retain the drivers they wanted. Marshall had completed an Express application, passed a background check, and completed training with Russell. Marshall leased a truck from Russell and drove it under Express’s license. Although he signed a contract stating that he was an independent contractor, Marshall believed that he was an employee of both Express and Russell.Marshall filed a workers’ compensation claim. Russell, Express, and Dura-Bond all disclaimed an employment relationship with Marshall. Marshall conceded that he had agreed to obtain his own workers’ compensation insurance and had failed to do so. An ALJ found that Russell was Marshall’s “immediate employer” and that Express and Dura-Bond were Marshall’s “statutory employers” under Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation statute. Neither Express nor Russell had insurance for Marshall. The judge ordered Dura-Bond (which had insurance) to pay Marshall’s benefits and allowed it to seek indemnity. Express reimbursed Dura-Bond for the benefits.Marshall subsequently brought tort claims against Express and Russell. RLI, which had issued Express a commercial general liability policy, refused to reimburse for a $2.4 million settlement, citing policy exclusions for “[a]ny obligation” “under a workers’ compensation” “law” and for injuries to an “employee.” The Sixth Circuit affirmed a jury finding that Marshall was a “temporary worker,” leaving the tort-suit settlement covered by the policy. View "P.I. & I. Motor Express, Inc. v. RLI Insurance Co." on Justia Law

by
Tymoc died in a single-car accident. At the time of the accident, Tymoc was traveling between 80-100 miles per hour; the speed limit was 60 miles per hour speed. As Tymoc attempted to pass multiple cars, the gap between a car in the right lane and a box truck in the left lane closed. Tymoc veered to the right, causing his vehicle to drive off the road, roll down an embankment, striking multiple trees, and flip over several times.Through his employer, Tymoc was covered by Unum life insurance; the policy provided both basic life insurance coverage and an additional accidental death benefit. Unum approved a $100,000 payment of group life insurance benefits but withheld $100,000 in accidental death benefits, explaining that Tymoc’s conduct—speeding and reckless driving—caused his death, thereby triggering the policy’s crime exclusion. In a suit under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. 1001– 1191d, the district court entered in Fulkerson’s favor as to the accidental death benefits. The Sixth Circuit reversed. Reckless driving falls within the unambiguous plain meaning of crime. View "Fulkerson v. Unum Life Insurance Co. of America" on Justia Law

by
Fisher is the personal representative of his mother’s estate and a co-trustee of her trusts with his siblings, Perron and Peter. Perron recorded telephone discussions of estate matters without informing her siblings that she was recording. Perron sued Fisher and attached transcripts of one call to pleadings; the probate court struck the transcript from the record, prohibited its further use, and held Perron liable for attorney’s fees and costs.Fisher sued, alleging that Perron violated the Federal Wiretap Act, 18 U.S.C. 2510– 23, which prohibits a call participant from recording the call “for the purpose of committing any criminal or tortious act” or disclosing or using any such illegally intercepted oral communication; violated Michigan’s eavesdropping law, which makes the use of an electronic “device to eavesdrop upon [a] conversation without the consent of all parties thereto” a felony; and committed the tort of public disclosure of private facts.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. A participant does not violate Michigan’s eavesdropping statute by recording a conversation without the consent of other participants. The complaint contains no facts to support an inference that a reasonable person would find the facts disclosed in the call “highly offensive” to support a claim of public disclosure of private facts. Because Fisher did not establish either the tort or the state law violation, he did not establish “the purpose of committing any criminal or tortious act” under federal law. View "Fisher v. Perron" on Justia Law

by
On April 4, Debra went to Kentucky’s Manchester Memorial Hospital emergency room where she presented with numbness from the waist down, pain in both legs, with the right leg being worse and cold. On April 19, Debra’s right leg was amputated below the knee at the University of Kentucky Medical Center due to serious clots that restricted blood flow. Debra sued healthcare providers for failing to consider that Debra’s symptoms were caused by vascular issues rather than musculoskeletal abnormalities. The only remaining defendant is the government which was substituted under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. 1346, 2671–80, for its employee, Dr. Madden, who examined Debra at the federally-supported health center on April 12.The district court entered judgment in favor of the United States. The Sixth Circuit reversed. The proper framing of the causation inquiry was not whether it would have made a difference as to the ultimate outcome if Dr. Madden had properly diagnosed the condition on April 12 but whether it would have made a difference to Debra’s outcome if Madden had considered the possibility of vascular causes as the source of her symptoms on April 12. The district court declined to resolve a dispute as to whether Debra suffered from ischemia from April 4 to April 13, or whether she suffered sudden ischemia on April 13, after she being seen by Madden. View "Chesnut v. United States" on Justia Law

by
Paul was driving his daughter Kelly’s vehicle when it was struck by a United States Postal Service (USPS) vehicle. Kelly was a passenger. Days later, Kelly filed her SF 95, for a claim under Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 2671–80. Use of the form is not required to present an FTCA claim. Kelly listed herself as the claimant, noted Paul’s involvement, and indicated that the extent of their injuries was unknown. Kelly alone signed the form and provided only her contact information. The form requests a total amount of damages and states: “[f]ailure to specify may cause forfeiture of your rights.” Kelly wrote: “I do not have ... a total on medical.” Kelly sent USPS the final car repair bill, which USPS paid. Later, USPS received a representation letter from counsel for Kelly that did not mention Paul. USPS responded, stating: “A claim must be for a specific dollar amount.” USPS states that it did not receive any further information concerning the amount of personal injury damages.Paul and Kelly filed suit, seeking $25,000 in personal injury damages. The district court dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. The Sixth Circuit remanded. While the sum certain requirement in the FTCA is not jurisdictional, Kelly never provided a sum certain so, her personal injury claim is not cognizable. The agency had adequate notice of Paul’s claim but he also failed to satisfy the statutory “sum certain” requirement. View "Copen v. United States" on Justia Law

by
Pineda visited a Cincinnati nightclub that used private bouncers and off-duty Hamilton County deputies for parking lot security. Three deputies worked that night, in uniform. Around 2:30 a.m., a fight broke out. Pineda saw individuals arguing with a bouncer near the door and told them to calm down. The bouncer hit Pineda in the face, chipping two teeth. According to Pineda, a deputy who was behind him knocked him unconscious by striking him on the back of the head with his baton. Pineda never identified the culprit. Three of Pineda’s friends generally corroborated his recollection. The deputies claim that they were in different areas and did not witness what happened to Pineda. Pineda’s injuries were significant. At the hospital, an officer wrote a report indicating that Pineda said that a bouncer assaulted him and did not mention a deputy.Pineda sued the deputies and the Sheriff’s Office under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging excessive force claim and that the Sheriff “ratified” the excessive force by failing to meaningfully investigate. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the rejection of the claims. Pineda was required to produce evidence from which a reasonable jury could find it more likely than not that each defendant was “personally involved” in the excessive force. Pineda did not identify the deputy who struck him; there was no allegation of a causal connection between the unidentified deputy and any other defendant’s actions. The investigation did not contribute to Pineda’s injury. View "Pineda v. Hamilton County" on Justia Law

by
A.K., age 13, missed his school bus, which arrived at his stop seven minutes before its official scheduled time of arrival. A.K. ran home to retrieve his bicycle. A.K.’s father heard A.K. shout that he was going to ride his bike to school. While riding to school, A.K. was struck by a truck and suffered severe injuries. The parents sued the truck’s driver in state court but settled that claim.Durham (the bus company) argued that it did not owe a duty of care because A.K. never came into Durham’s custody or control on the date of the accident but returned home, to the custody and care of his father. The plaintiffs argued that Durham could have prevented the driver from leaving A.K.’s bus stop before the scheduled time had it followed its own policies and that the early departure breached a duty of care and was the proximate cause of A.K.’s injuries.Pursuant to Durham’s affirmative defense of comparative negligence, a jury allocated fault: 56 percent to the parents, 28 percent to the truck’s driver, and 16 percent to Durham. Because the parents were more than 50 percent at fault, the court entered judgment in Durham’s favor, as required by Tennessee law. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, upholding rulings preventing the parents from introducing Durham’s employee handbook or testimony regarding its internal policies. View "A. K. v. Durham School Services, L.P." on Justia Law