Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

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Kaiser had surgery to implant the Prolift Anterior Pelvic Floor Repair System, a transvaginal mesh medical device that supports the pelvic muscles. A few years later, Kaiser began experiencing severe pelvic pain, bladder spasms, and pain during intercourse. Her physician attributed these conditions to contractions in the mesh. Kaiser had surgery to remove the device, but her surgeon could not completely extract it and informed her that the complications she was experiencing were likely permanent. Kaiser sued Ethicon, Prolift’s manufacturer, under the Indiana Products Liability Act. A jury found Ethicon liable for defectively designing the Prolift device and failing to adequately warn about its complications and awarded $10 million in compensatory damages; the judge reduced a punitive award to $10 million. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Ethicon’s claim of federal preemption. The requirements of the FDA’s premarket-notification process do not directly conflict with Indiana law. A reasonable jury could conclude that Prolift was unreasonably dangerous and could credit the physician’s assertion that additional warnings about complications would have led him to choose a different treatment plan. The court rejected challenges to the damages and to jury instructions. Seventh Circuit precedent interprets the Indiana Product Liability Act to require a plaintiff in a design-defect case to produce evidence of a reasonable alternative design for the product but the Indiana Supreme Court disagreed in 2010. The state supreme court’s decision controls on a matter of state law. View "Kaiser v. Johnson & Johnson and Ethicon, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal, based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction, of plaintiff's action under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) and the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA). Plaintiff, a security guard, was shot in the leg while on duty by a pair of Islamic terrorists. The court held that plaintiff failed to satisfy the first prong of the discretionary function analysis, because he failed to point to a specific, nondiscretionary function or duty that prescribes a specific course of action for an agency or employee. The court also held that plaintiff waived his argument that a certain gun sale contravened the FBI's express policy prohibiting the sale of firearms to suspected terrorists, because plaintiff failed to adequately brief the issue. Likewise, plaintiff's argument regarding the law enforcement proviso was waived. The court declined to adopt the state created danger doctrine to overcome the FTCA's discretionary function exception; held that the district court properly dismissed the ATA claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction; and held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by barring additional discovery. View "Joiner v. United States" on Justia Law

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James Cochran, the plaintiff in an unsuccessful personal-injury action, challenged a circuit court order setting aside a $2,000,000 default judgment entered against Pilar Engelland ("Pilar") after she initially failed to respond to his complaint. In 2012, Cochran was riding his motorcycle westbound on U.S. Highway 278 in Calhoun County, Alabama when he struck a horse that had entered the road. Cochran suffered significant injuries in the accident. Cochran retained attorney James Shelnutt to pursue legal remedies against any parties responsible for the presence of the horse in the road. Cochran and Shelnutt concluded that the horse struck by Cochran had escaped from a nearby farm. The owner of the farm was ultimately identified as Pilar. Shelnutt had telephone conversations with Pilar, her son, and Jerry Coley, who was leasing the farm from Pilar at the time of Cochran's accident. It appeared that the primary purpose of those conversations was to determine whether any insurance policies existed that might provide coverage for Cochran's accident. No such policies were identified, and there was no evidence that there was any more communication between Cochran and Pilar or her son after May 2013. Cochran sued Pilar and Coley alleging their negligence had caused the 2012 accident. Cochran attempted to serve Pilar by certified mail sent to the mailing address for the farm, but the notice was returned that same month marked "return to sender, not deliverable as addressed, unable to forward." The trial court record reflected that Coley was served and that he filed an answer denying liability for Cochran's injuries. Cochran proceeded to litigate his claim against Coley for approximately the next two years until May 31, 2016, when the claim against Coley was dismissed with prejudice. The trial court entered a $2,000,000 default judgment against Pilar after Cochran served her by publication with notice of his complaint and she failed to appear and file a response. When Pilar learned of the default judgment, she successfully moved to have the judgment set aside, arguing that service by publication was not proper because she had taken no steps to avoid service of process. Concurring with the trial court judgment setting aside the $2 million judgment, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed, finding service by publication was improper. View "Cochran v. Engelland" on Justia Law

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Tania Burgess petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Jefferson Circuit Court to vacate its order transferring the underlying action to the Shelby Circuit Court. On April 22, 2019, a vehicle driven by Burgess collided with a vehicle driven by Jonathan Aaron Stephens; the accident occurred in Shelby County. Burgess sued Stephens and Patti Mollica in the Jefferson Circuit Court, alleging as to Stephens negligence and wantonness and as to Mollica negligent entrustment of her vehicle to Stephens, and seeking damages for her accident-related injuries. Burgess, Stephens, and Mollica were all Jefferson County residents. The Supreme Court concluded, after review of the trial court record, that the Jefferson Circuit Court exceeded its discretion in transferring this case to the Shelby Circuit Court. It, therefore, granted the petition for a writ of mandamus and directed the Jefferson Circuit Court to vacate its July 29, 2019, order transferring this action to the Shelby Circuit Court. View "Ex parte Tania Burgess" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing as time barred this action brought under the State Tort Claims Act (STCA), Neb. Rev. Stat. 81-8,209 to 81-8,235, holding that the savings clause of Neb. Rev. Stat. 25-201.01 does not apply to an action under the STCA. It was undisputed that Plaintiff's lawsuit was filed outside the statute of limitations set forth in Neb. Rev. Stat. 81-8,227(1). At issue was whether Plaintiff could satisfy the requirements of the savings clause in section 25-201.01. The district court dismissed the action as time barred, finding that section 25-201.01 did not apply. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff's STCA action was not timely commenced under the STCA and that the district court did not err in not applying the savings clause under section 25-201.01. View "Saylor v. State" on Justia Law

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An employee of the city struck and killed a pedestrian while the employee, driving his own car, was driving to work. On the day of the accident, the employee was driving to his workplace at the Hyperion Treatment Plant, a job that did not require him to be in the field or use his personal automobile for his employment. The city moved for summary judgment, arguing that the coming and going rule insulated it from liability. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment to the city, holding that plaintiffs failed to adduce sufficient facts upon which they could establish a triable issue of fact on their claim that the employee's accident was a foreseeable event arising from or relating to his employment for the city at its water plant laboratory. In this case, nothing about the enterprise for which the city employed the employee made his hitting a pedestrian while commuting a foreseeable risk of this enterprise. Therefore, the going and coming rule was created for this type of situation and was applicable in this case, precluding plaintiffs' claim of vicarious liability against the city. View "Bingener v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed a $35 million jury verdict in favor of Alexis Nunez on her claim that the Jehovah's Witnesses were negligent as a matter of law when they failed to notify authorities of a 2004 child abuse report her uncle Peter McGowan made to a church elder alleging that Peter's stepfather had sexually abused him as a child, holding that the Jehovah's Witnesses were excused from reporting by Montana's mandatory child abuse reporting statute, Mont. Code Ann. 41-3-201. Alexis, a victim of abuse by Reyes, sued the church in 2016 alleging that the Jehovah's Witnesses violated the state statute by failing to report Reyes's abuse of Peter. A jury awarded Alexis $4 million in actual damages and $31 million in punitive damages. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Jehovah's Witnesses' established doctrine and practice required elders to keep Peter's disclosure confidential, and therefore, the Jehovah's Witnesses were excepted from the mandatory reporting statute. View "Nunez v. Watchtower" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-Appellant Luzetta Murphy-Sims appealed after a jury ruled in favor of Defendant-Appellee Owners Insurance Company (Owners) on her complaint against Owners' insured stemming from a car accident. The insured was at fault; Murphy-Sims maintained that she suffered extensive injuries, and consequently incurred significant medical costs, as a result of the accident. In February 2014, she sent Owners a letter demanding settlement claiming $41,000 in medical expenses. Owners timely replied with a request for more information. When Murphy-Sims failed to reply, Owners sent two additional follow-up requests. Finally, in June 2014, Murphy-Sims provided Owners with some of the requested information. It did not offer a settlement payment in response. In July 2014, Murphy-Sims sued the insured. The parties agreed roughly three weeks later to enter into a Nunn agreement, which bound the matter over to binding arbitration. The arbitrator awarded Murphy-Sims approximately $1.3 million and judgment was entered against the insured. Pursuant to the agreement, Murphy-Sims did not execute on the judgment. In March 2016, Murphy-Sims, standing in the insured's shoes as permitted under the Nunn agreement, filed the underlying lawsuit against Owners in state district court, claiming Owners breached its contract with Switzer and had done so in bad faith. Owners removed the suit to federal court and the case proceeded to trial. The jury ultimately found that Owners did not breach its contract with the insured, thereby declining to award $1.3 million in damages to Murphy-Sims. The jury did not reach the bad faith claim having been instructed that it need not be reached in the absence of a breach of contract. After review of Murphy-Sims arguments on appeal, the Tenth Circuit determined the district curt committed no reversible error, and affirmed its judgment. View "Murphy-Sims v. Owners Insurance Company" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit denied the petition for review of the Board's decision affirming the ALJ's conclusion that plaintiff did not suffer more severe shoulder and back injuries for the purpose of receiving benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA). The court held that the ALJ did not err in concluding that defendants' medical expert was more credible than plaintiff's treating physician, thus rebutting the presumption of a causal nexus. The court also held that the Board did not err in refusing to consider plaintiff's new argument, presented for the first time in his motion for reconsideration, that the 2017 shoulder surgery was intended to address an AC joint sprain. Finally, the court held that the ALJ's finding that plaintiff did not suffer from lumbar facet arthrosis was supported by substantial evidence. View "Bourgeois v. Director, Office of Workers' Compensation Programs" on Justia Law

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Following the death of Patricia Lewis (Worker), her widower Michael Lewis (Petitioner) was awarded death benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Act. The Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ) based the award on the finding that Worker, while employed with Albuquerque Public Schools (Employer), contracted allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA) which proximately resulted in Worker’s death. Employer appealed the award to the Court of Appeals. Pertinent here, the appellate court concluded: (1) the WCJ correctly rejected Employer’s argument that Petitioner’s claim for death benefits was time-barred; and (2) he WCJ erred in excluding from evidence certain medical testimony and records which Employer contended related to Worker’s cause of death. The Court of Appeals therefore remanded the case for retrial on whether Worker’s ABPA “‘proximately result[ed]’” in her death. On the first issue, the New Mexico Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeals that Petitioner’s claim for death benefits was not time-barred, and affirmed. On the second issue concerning the WCJ’s exclusion of medical testimony and evidence on Worker’s cause of death, the Supreme Court held the Court of Appeals erred in its interpretation of Section 52-1-51(C), but agreed based on the Supreme Court's own interpretation of Section 52-1-51(C) that the case had to be remanded for further proceedings. In all other respects, the opinion of the Court of Appeals was affirmed. View "Lewis v. Albuquerque Public Schools" on Justia Law