Justia Injury Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
Lemon v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co.
Lemon asked a coworker for an Advil, explaining that he hurt his neck by “turn[ing] his head.” Later, he asked another coworker to cover his shift, stating that he hurt his neck at home. From the hospital, Lemon texted another coworker that he “tweaked” his neck at home. He first told the doctor that he hurt himself at home, then stated that he hurt himself at work. Later, he reported to his supervisor, claiming he slipped walking up the stairs at work and that he did not discuss the injury with any coworkers. In his formal injury report the next day, Lemon said that he stumbled on the stairs at work. Norfolk has a policy of firing workers who make false statements at work. Norfolk held a hearing and fired Lemon. Lemon claimed Norfolk violated the Federal Railroad Safety Act, 49 U.S.C. 20101, by retaliating against him for reporting a workplace injury. OSHA dismissed his complaint. The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Norfolk. To prevail, Lemon was required to show that his injury report was a “contributing factor” in the railroad’s decision to fire him; he could not prevail if the railroad would have fired him anyway. Lemon’s injury report was not a contributing factor in Norfolk’s decision to fire him. Even if Lemon provided admissible evidence of a policy of pretextual retaliation, Lemon did not establish retaliation against him. Lemon admits no one at Norfolk ever discouraged him from reporting his injury or threatened him with retaliation. View "Lemon v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co." on Justia Law
Madej v. Maiden
Since 1997, the Social Security Administration has found Madej completely disabled and entitled to benefits. In addition to her other ailments, her doctors say she has “multiple chemical sensitivity,” which is not a disease recognized by the World Health Organization or the American Medical Association. She goes to great lengths to avoid everyday materials that she believes will trigger harmful reactions like burning eyes and throat, dizziness, or nausea. Madej fears that the use of asphalt on a road near her home will cause more harm. She sued to stop the roadwork, alleging violations of the Fair Housing Amendments Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Applying the “Daubert” standard, the district court excluded the opinions of Madej’s experts that the asphalt would injure her. Without expert causation evidence, the claims could not withstand summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, stating that “as far as we are aware, no district court has ever found a diagnosis of multiple chemical sensitivity to be sufficiently reliable to pass muster under Daubert.” The court also questioned whether Madej had cognizable claims under the cited federal statutes. It is not obvious that the roadwork amounts to a “provision of services” “in connection with” the Madej home under 42 U.S.C. 3604(f)(2) View "Madej v. Maiden" on Justia Law
Island Creek Coal Co. v. Young
Young, diagnosed with emphysema in 2002, had worked in coal mines for 19 years, retiring from Island Creek Coal in 1999. During and after work, Young would often cough up coal dust. For 35 years, Young smoked at least a pack of cigarettes a day. Young sought benefits under the Black Lung Benefits Act, 30 U.S.C. 902(b). Because Young had worked for at least 15 years as a coal miner and was totally disabled by his lung impairment, he enjoyed a statutory presumption that his disability was due to pneumoconiosis. If Young was entitled to benefits, Island Creek, Young’s last coal-mine employer, would be liable. After reviewing medical reports, the ALJ awarded benefits. The Benefits Review Board affirmed, noting that if there was any error in the ALJ’s recitation of the standard, that error was harmless. The Sixth Circuit denied a petition for review, first rejecting an Appointments Clause challenge as waived. The ALJ did not err by applying an “in part” standard in determining whether Island Creek rebutted the presumption that Young has legal pneumoconiosis. To rebut the “in part” standard, an employer must show that coal-mine exposure had no more than a de minimis impact on a miner’s lung impairment. The ALJ reasonably weighed the medical opinions and provided thorough explanations for his credibility determinations. View "Island Creek Coal Co. v. Young" on Justia Law
United Specialty Ins. Co. v. Cole’s Place, Inc.
One summer night in 2015, at a Louisville nightclub, someone discharged a firearm, shooting eight people. Six of those people sued the nightclub’s owner, Cole’s Place, in state court, arguing that Cole’s Place failed to protect them from foreseeable harm. United Specialty Insurance (USIC) obtained a federal declaratory judgment that it is not obligated to defend or indemnify Cole’s Place in the state court litigation. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The district court did not abuse its discretion in exercising Declaratory Judgment Act jurisdiction over USIC’s lawsuit and did not err in finding that an assault-and-battery exclusion in Cole’s Place’s insurance policy with USIC applies to the state court litigation. There are no factual issues remaining in the state-court litigation or complex state-law issues that are “important to an informed resolution” of this case. View "United Specialty Ins. Co. v. Cole's Place, Inc." on Justia Law
Osborne v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County
Due to an unsafe condition on the premises, Osborne suffered a broken arm at the Center, which is owned and operated by Metro Nashville. Osborne obtained a state court judgment against Metro under the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act; the damages included specific medical expenses related to the incident and found Osborne’s comparative fault to be 20 percent. Before the state court suit, Osborne incurred medical expenses for which Metro did not pay at the time. Medicare made conditional payments to Osborne totaling at least $9,453.09. Osborne claims he incurred—in addition to the costs of his state court litigation—the cost of his co-pays, deductibles, and co-insurance for treatments not covered through Medicare. Osborne alleged Metro is a primary payer who failed to pay under the Medicare Secondary Payer Act (MSPA), 42 U.S.C. 1395y(b), and was therefore liable for reimbursement of Medicare’s conditional payments and a double damages penalty under section 1395y(b)(3)(A). Metro claimed it paid the judgment in full, including discretionary costs. The Sixth Circuit affirmed that Osborne lacked statutory standing to sue for his individual losses and the conditional payments made by Medicare because the MSPA does not permit a private cause of action against tortfeasors. Because the MSPA is not a qui tam statute and financial injury suffered by Medicare is not attributed to Osborne, he also lacked Article III standing to sue for Medicare’s conditional payments. View "Osborne v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County" on Justia Law
Frye v. CSX Transportation, Inc.
Shyan Frye, age 13, was struck by a train while walking her bicycle over a rail crossing in Huron Township, Michigan. At the time of the accident, the train was traveling below the applicable speed limit and its horn sounded for approximately 20 seconds before it reached the crossing—more than required by federal law. The collision proved fatal. Shyan’s mother sued CSX, the train’s owner, Gallacher, the train’s conductor; and Conrail, the owner of the track. The claims against Gallacher were resolved in his favor at summary judgment. A jury returned a verdict in favor of CSX and Conrail. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, upholding the district court’s entry of summary judgment for Gallacher. The court also upheld the district court’s refusal to strike a potential juror for cause during voir dire; evidentiary rulings admitting evidence of the potential side effects of an anti-depressant Shyan was taking at the time of her death, and excluding photographs of the railroad crossing after it was resurfaced; and the court’s refusal to give a jury instruction regarding the heightened duty of care imposed on tortfeasors when children are present. View "Frye v. CSX Transportation, Inc." on Justia Law
Croce v. New York Times Co.
Croce, the Chair of Human Cancer Genetics at Ohio State University (OSU), has published over 650 papers during his 45-year career; 12 were subject to corrections and two more were withdrawn with Croce’s consent. New York Times reporter Glanz emailed Croce, asking to discuss “promising anti-cancer” research. After a meeting, Glanz emailed Dr. Croce, stating that the scope of the story had broadened and that Glanz had made records requests at OSU and other institutions. Glanz later sent a letter on Times letterhead to OSU and to Croce with pointed questions, many of which followed allegations made by others against Croce. Croce retained counsel and responded, denying the allegations as “false and defamatory.” Glanz sent another email that contained additional allegations. Croce’s counsel again responded, denying each allegation. Ultimately, the Times published an article on its website (and social media) with the title, “Years of Ethics Charges, but Star Cancer Researcher Gets a Pass”; and text, “Dr. Carlo Croce was repeatedly cleared by Ohio State University, which reaped millions from his grants. Now, he faces new whistle-blower accusations.” The article appeared on the front page and above the fold in the printed edition and detailed various allegations against and criticisms of Croce. Croce brought defamation, false light, and intentional-infliction-of-emotional-distress claims. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the claims. The article is a standard piece of investigative journalism that presents newsworthy allegations made by others, with appropriate qualifying language. View "Croce v. New York Times Co." on Justia Law
Fox v. Amazon.com, Inc.
Fox used Amazon.com to order a hoverboard equipped with a battery pack. Although Fox claims she thought she was buying from Amazon, the hoverboard was owned and sold by a third-party that used Amazon marketplace, which handles communications with the buyer and processes payments. The board arrived in an Amazon-labeled box. The parties dispute whether Amazon provided storage and shipment. In November 2015, following news reports of hoverboard fires and explosions, Amazon began an investigation. On December 11, Amazon ceased all hoverboard sales worldwide. Approximately 250,000 hoverboards had been sold on its marketplace in the previous 30 days. Amazon anticipated more fires and explosions, scheduling employees to work on December 26, to monitor news reports and customer complaints. On December 12, Amazon sent a "non-alarmist" email to hoverboard purchasers. Fox does not recall receiving the email but testified that she would not have let the hoverboard remain in her home had she known all the facts. On January 9, Matthew Fox played with the hoverboard and left it on the first floor of the family’s two-story home. When a fire later broke out, caused by the hoverboard’s battery pack, two children were trapped on the second floor. Everyone escaped with various injuries; their home was destroyed. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the summary judgment rejection of allegations that Amazon sold the defective or unreasonably dangerous product (Tennessee Products Liability Act) and caused confusion about the source of that product (Tennessee Consumer Protection Act of 1977) but reversed a claim that Amazon breached a duty to warn about the defective or unreasonably dangerous nature of that product under Tennessee tort law. View "Fox v. Amazon.com, Inc." on Justia Law
Booth v. Nissan North America, Inc.
After Booth started working at a Tennessee Nissan factory, he injured his neck and sought medical treatment. Booth’s physician recommended several work restrictions, including that he not reach above his head or flex his neck too much. Booth. continued to work on the assembly line for about a decade without incident. In 2015, Booth requested a transfer to another position in the factory, which Nissan denied because that position’s duties conflicted with Booth’s work restrictions. Booth claimed that Nissan’s denial was disability discrimination that violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12101. Nissan then announced plans to restructure the assembly line. Booth alleged that two additional jobs Nissan assigned to him as part of the restructuring would have violated his work restrictions, When he informed Nissan about this conflict, Nissan told him to see a physician. Booth’s physician modified the restrictions, clearing him to work the new jobs. Although Booth remains a Nissan employee, he claimed that Nissan failed to accommodate him—a separate ADA violation—by pressuring him to remove his work restrictions. The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Nissan. To sue under the ADA, the plaintiff must be disabled; just because a plaintiff has work restrictions does not mean that he is disabled. Booth has not advanced evidence that he is disabled. View "Booth v. Nissan North America, Inc." on Justia Law
Green v. Southfield
In an intersection, Patterson’s SUV rammed the door of Green’s sedan. According to Green, she was briefly unconscious and, after coming to, was dazed and in intense pain. Southfield Officer Maya arrived and spoke with Patterson, who did not look injured. Maya then went to Green, still on her back on the median. Because Green “didn’t respond too many times,” Maya refrained from asking many questions. Traffic Specialist Birberick arrived while paramedics were looking after Green. Patterson told him that he had entered the intersection with a green light when his car “was struck” by Green’s car. Birberick did not think that the accident was not severe enough to warrant significant investigation. Birberick determined that the physical evidence corroborated Patterson’s account. Birberick did not complete a police incident report but only completed the crash report that Michigan requires for highway-safety planning purposes. In the “Hazardous Action” box, Birberick wrote “none” for Patterson and “disregarded traffic [signal]” for Green. Crash reports cannot be used in court. Green was hospitalized for several days. When she saw the report, she insisted that Patterson ran the light and that she had a witness. Officers followed up but decided against amending the report. Green sued Patterson, then filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983; 1985 action against officers and the city, alleging that the investigation violated her equal protection rights (Green is a black woman, Patterson a white man) and her right of access to the courts. The Sixth Circuit affirmed that the officers were protected by qualified immunity, characterizing the officers’ actions as “mere laxity.” View "Green v. Southfield" on Justia Law