Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court in favor of Defendant on Plaintiff's claims for defamation and retaliation, holding that the district court did not err in instructing the jury and in applying Neb. Rev. Stat. 25-840.01 and directing a verdict in favor of Defendant on Plaintiff's defamation claim. After Plaintiff's employment with Defendant was terminated Plaintiff filed a claim of retaliation under the Nebraska Fair Employment Practice Act, Neb. Rev. Stat. 48-1101 to -1126, and defamation. The district court granted a directed verdict for Defendant on the defamation claim, and a jury found Plaintiff failed to prove his retaliation claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not commit prejudicial error in (1) giving a jury instruction for retaliation that required Plaintiff to have opposed or refused to carry out a practice of Defendant that was unlawful; (2) giving a jury instruction on the business judgment rule; and (3) granting Defendant a directed verdict on the defamation claim. View "Haffke v. Signal 88, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that a federal regulation does not impose a duty on insurers to issue policies that satisfy a motor carrier's minimum level of financial responsibility because compliance with the financial responsibility requirements under Neb. Rev. Stat. 75-363 and the pertinent federal regulations is the duty of the motor carrier and not its insurer. Through Neb. Rev. Stat. 75-363 the Nebraska Legislature adopted several parts of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations and made those regulations applicable to certain intrastate motor carriers otherwise not subject to the federal regulations. One of the federal regulations adopted by section 75-363(3)(d) sets out minimum levels of financial responsibility for motor carriers. At issue before the Supreme Court was whether 49 C.F.R. 387 imposes a duty on an insurer to issue a policy with liability limits that satisfy the motor carrier's financial responsibility. The Supreme Court held that compliance with section 75-363 and section 387 is the responsibility of the motor carrier, not on the insurer. View "Shelter Insurance Co. v. Gomez" on Justia Law

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Denver Police Sergeant Justin Dodge fatally shot Joseph Valverde after he saw Valverde pull out a gun as a SWAT team arrived to arrest him after an undercover drug transaction. Plaintiff Isabel Padilla, as personal representative of Valverde’s estate, sued Dodge under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming Dodge used excessive force in violation of Valverde's Fourth Amendment rights. Dodge moved for summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds, but the district court denied the motion. The district court held: (1) a reasonable jury could find that Valverde had discarded the gun and was in the process of surrendering before Dodge shot him; and (2) the use of deadly force in that situation would violate clearly established law. Dodge appealed. After review, the Tenth Circuit reversed the district court. "Dodge is entitled to qualified immunity because he had only a split second to react when Valverde suddenly drew a gun. He did not violate the Fourth Amendment by deciding to shoot without waiting to see whether Valverde was merely taking the gun from his pocket to toss away rather than to shoot an officer. And to the extent that Plaintiff is arguing that Dodge should be liable because he recklessly created the situation that led to the apparent peril, Dodge is entitled to qualified immunity because he did not violate clearly established law." View "Estate of Joseph Valverde v. Dodge" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court denying Appellants' anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss, holding that Nevada's anti-SLAPP statutes do not violate the constitutional right to a jury trial and that the communication at issue in this case was made in good faith. At issue was a presentation that James Taylor, as Deputy Chief of the Enforcement Division of Nevada Gaming Control Board (GCB), gave at the Global Gaming Expo organized by American Gaming Association (AGA). During a section of the presentation on the use of cheating devices, Taylor presented a video clip depicting an individual playing blackjack. Nicholas Colon, the individual depicted in the video clip, sued Taylor, GCB, and AGA for defamation, claiming that the video clip was presented untruthfully as an alleged example of cheating. Defendants filed an anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss, arguing that Taylor's presentation was a good faith statement made in direct connection with a matter of public concern in a public forum. The district court denied the anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Nevada's anti-SLAPP statutes do not violate Colon's constitutional right to a jury trial; and (2) Defendants demonstrated that Taylor's presentation was made in good faith. View "Taylor v. Colon" on Justia Law

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In this appeal regarding the scope of the law-enforcement exception to the "going and coming rule" in workers' compensation matters the Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court reversing the decision of the appeals officer, holding that the appeals officer's decision was arbitrary and capricious in light of the totality of the circumstances surrounding the officer's accident. Plaintiff, a police officer, was struck by another vehicle during his drive home from work. Plaintiff filed a workers' compensation claim for the injuries he sustained in the accident. His claim was denied. On appeal, the appeals officer also denied the claim, concluding that Plaintiff's injury did not arise out of and in the course and scope of his employment. The district court granted Plaintiff's petition for judicial review and concluded that Plaintiff's accident indeed arose out of and in the course of his employment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) a court must look to the totality of the circumstances on a case-by-case basis in determining whether the law-enforcement exception to the going and coming rule applies; and (2) Plaintiff qualified for the law-enforcement exception under the totality of the circumstances test. View "Cannon Cochran Management Services, Inc. v. Figueroa" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court concluding that a large MGM Grand sign located on top of a 150-foot tall steel pylon was not a product within the contemplation of the doctrine of strict products liability, holding that the MGM sign was a product for purposes of strict liability. Plaintiff was seriously injured while servicing the MGM sign. Plaintiff brought this suit alleging that Defendant designed, manufactured, and sold the allegedly defective sign to MGM, and therefore, Defendant should be strictly liable for his injuries. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant, concluding that the sign was not a product that was subject to the doctrine of strict liability. The Supreme Court reversed after applying the principles set forth in section 402A of the Second Restatement of Torts and relevant jurisprudence, holding that the MGM pylon sign was a product within the meaning of strict products liability. View "Schueler v. Ad Art, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court granting the motion to dismiss filed by the City of Sioux Falls and denying Plaintiffs' motion to amend their complaint alleging negligence against the City, holding that the court did not err by granting the City's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Plaintiff was injured when her apartment collapsed after a contractor demolished certain portions of a load-bearing wall. Plaintiff and her parents sued the City, alleging negligence for issuing a building permit for the project. The City filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the public duty rule barred the suit and that Plaintiffs failed to plead sufficient facts to establish that the City owed them a special duty to bring them within the exception to the public duty rule. The circuit court granted the motion to dismiss, concluding that the complaint failed to allege sufficient facts to establish that the City owed Plaintiffs a special duty of care. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) a special duty was not created by the City's issuance of the permit, and therefore, the circuit court properly dismissed the complaint; and (2) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in denying Plaintiffs' motion for leave to amend. View "Fodness v. City Of Sioux Falls" on Justia Law

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Water users and property owners in Flint, Michigan (plaintiffs) brought a class action at the Court of Claims against defendants Governor Rick Snyder, the state of Michigan, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (the MDEQ), and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (collectively, the state defendants) and against defendants Darnell Earley and Jerry Ambrose (the city defendants). Plaintiffs alleged the Governor and these officials had knowledge of a 2011 study commissioned by Flint officials that cautioned against the use of Flint River water as a source of drinking water. In 2014, under the direction of Earley and the MDEQ, Flint switched its water source from the Detroit Water and Sewage Department (DWSD) to the Flint River. Less than a month after the switch, state officials began to receive complaints from Flint water users about the quality of the water coming out of their taps. Plaintiffs alleged state officials failed to take any significant remedial measures to address the growing health threat and instead continued to downplay the health risk, advising Flint water users that it was safe to drink the tap water while simultaneously arranging for state employees in Flint to drink water from water coolers installed in state buildings. The state and city defendants separately moved for summary disposition on all four counts, arguing that plaintiffs had failed to satisfy the statutory notice requirements in MCL 600.6431 of the Court of Claims Act, failed to allege facts to establish a constitutional violation for which a judicially inferred damages remedy was appropriate, and failed to allege facts to establish the elements of any of their claims. The Court of Claims granted defendants’ motions for summary disposition on plaintiffs’ causes of action under the state-created-danger doctrine and the Fair and Just Treatment Clause of the 1963 Michigan Constitution, art 1, section 17, after concluding that neither cause of action was cognizable under Michigan law. However, the Court of Claims denied summary disposition on all of defendants’ remaining grounds, concluding that plaintiffs satisfied the statutory notice requirements and adequately pleaded claims of inverse condemnation and a violation of their right to bodily integrity. The Court of Appeals affirmed the Court of Claims. After hearing oral argument on defendants’ applications, a majority of the Michigan Supreme Court expressly affirmed the Court of Appeals’ conclusion regarding plaintiffs’ inverse-condemnation claim. The Court of Appeals opinion was otherwise affirmed by equal division. View "Mays v. Snyder" on Justia Law

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An employee of a federally supported health center failed to properly administer a drug to Alexis Stokes while she gave birth to Baby Stokes. As a result, Baby Stokes suffered from “cerebral palsy and spastic quadriplegia,” along with other disabilities, and his life expectancy was 22 years. The district court awarded damages to Baby Boy D.S. (Baby Stokes) and his parents, Alexis Stokes and Taylor Stokes, (collectively, the Stokes) in this Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) action. The government appealed, arguing that the district court erred in structuring damage payments. The Stokes cross appealed, arguing that the district court erred both by miscalculating the present value of a portion of the award and by awarding too little in noneconomic damages. After review, the Tenth Circuit: (1) vacated and remanded the portion of the district court’s order structuring a trust with respect to Baby Stokes’s future-care award, with instructions to fully approximate section 9.3 of the FTCA; (2) vacated and remanded the portion of the district court’s order calculating the present value of Baby Stokes’s future-care award, with instructions to apply Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp. v. Pfeifer, 462 U.S. 523 (1983); and (3) affirmed the portion of the district court’s order regarding noneconomic damages. The matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "Stokes v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the order of the superior court granting summary judgment to Northeastern University on Plaintiff's negligence-related claims stemming from a nonconsensual encounter with a fellow student, holding that, under the circumstances, Northeastern had no duty to protect Plaintiff. In her complaint, Plaintiff alleged that Northeastern negligently failed to prevent and contributed to the occurrence of the sexual assault. Plaintiff further asserted tort, contract, and statutory claims alleging that Northeastern failed adequately to respond to the incident. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) a special student-university relationship between Plaintiff and Northeastern existed, but Northeastern owed no duty to protect Plaintiff because Northeastern could not reasonably have foreseen that, absent some intervention on its part, Plaintiff would be subjected to a criminal act or other harm; and (2) there was no error in the motion judge's conclusions regarding Plaintiff's statutory or contract claims. View "Helfman v. Northeastern University" on Justia Law