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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court affirming the decision of the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) concluding that the Wyoming Workers’ Compensation Division (Division) had properly terminated Appellant’s temporary total disability (TTD) benefits. The Division terminated Appellant’s TTD benefits after determining that Appellant had reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) and suffered an ascertainable loss. After a contested case hearing, the OAH concluded that the Division had properly ceased paying TTD benefits. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the OAH properly applied the relevant legal principals in reviewing the Division’s decision to terminate Appellant’s TTD benefits, and the OAH’s decision was supported by substantial evidence. View "Coggins v. State ex rel., Department of Workforce Services" on Justia Law

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This suit fell within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Court of Claims, rather than the court of common pleas, because Plaintiff sought legal relief rather than equitable relief. This suit challenged the legality of fees that were incurred by some recipients of workers’ compensation benefits when accessing their benefits. In this appeal, however, the Supreme Court was required to determine only whether the suit was properly brought in the court of common pleas or whether it should have been brought in the Court of Claims, which has exclusive jurisdiction over many suits against state entities such as the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. The Supreme Court held that Plaintiff’s claim was equitable because it sought full payment of the benefit lawfully awarded to him by the Bureau, and therefore, the Court of Common Pleas had exclusive jurisdiction in the matter. View "Cirino v. Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation" on Justia Law

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In this medical malpractice action, the Supreme Court held that a stipulated dismissal with prejudice of an agent-surgeon does not preclude a party from asserting a claim against the surgeon’s principal for its own independent negligence, and this is true even when the independent negligence claim requires proof of the surgeon’s negligence. Plaintiffs filed medical malpractice actions against Hospital and Surgeon alleging that Surgeon was negligent in his surgical care and that Hospital was both vicariously liable for Surgeon’s negligence and independently negligent. Plaintiffs subsequently entered into a settlement agreement with Surgeon precluding Plaintiffs from pursuing claims against Hospital based on a theory of vicarious liability, although Plaintiffs could bring independent claims against Hospital. Hospital moved to dismiss the remaining claims on the ground that they were derivative of Surgeon’s negligence. The trial court agreed and dismissed most of Plaintiffs’ remaining claims against Hospital. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Plaintiffs’ claims for negligent credentialing, hiring, and supervision were based on Hospital’s independent negligence and thus were preserved in the settlement agreement with Surgeon; and (2) the holding in DeGraff v. Smith, 62 Ariz. 261 (1945), that a stipulated dismissal with prejudice operates as an adjudication that the dismissed party was not negligent in the treatment of the plaintiff, is disavowed. View "Kopp v. Physician Group of Arizona, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this insurance dispute brought by Espenschied Transport Corp., the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment to Fleetwood Services, Inc. and Wilshire Insurance Company. Espenschied used Fleetwood to procure insurance. In 2003, Fleetwood obtained an insurance policy from Wilshire meant to cover all of Espenschied’s vehicles and trailers, but Fleetwood gave Wilshire an incorrect list not containing all of Espenschied’s insured vehicles. Therefore, Espenschied believed that certain equipment was covered by the insurance policy when, in fact, it was not. One of Espenschied’s trailers that was not on the policy schedule was involved in a deadly accident. In the resulting litigation, Wilshire refused to defend Espenschied, causing Espenschied to incur a consent judgment and attorney fees. Espenschied subsequently sued Fleetwood and Wilshire. In granting summary judgment, the district court concluded (1) Espenschied had suffered no damages; and (2) the trailer was not on Wilshire’s insurance policy and Fleetwood was not Wilshire’s agent, and Wilshire could have no vicarious liability because Fleetwood had no liability. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Espenschied was unable to raise a dispute of material fact as to damages; and (2) Espenschied failed to argue why Wilshire should have vicarious liability when Fleetwood had no liability. View "Espensched Transport Corp. v. Fleetwood Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this case presenting the question of whether a treating therapist owes a duty of reasonable care to a nonpatient parent when treating that parent’s child for potential allegations of sexual abuse, the Supreme Court remanded this case for proceedings consistent with its opinion in Mower v. Baird, __ P.3d __ (Utah 2018), a companion case also decided today. As a result of the actions of Kayelyn Robinson, a therapist who treated Plaintiff’s child, Rocio Smith lost visitation with her children for several years and “endured personal defamation, lost income and employment, and incurred enormous legal expenses.” Smith filed suit against Robinson for malpractice and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The district court granted Robinson’s motion to dismiss the malpractice and negligent infliction of emotional distress claims. Smith appealed the district court’s decision on her malpractice claim. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for the district court to conduct proceedings consistent with its opinion in Mower. View "Smith v. Robinson" on Justia Law

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At issue was which statute of limitations applies to a suit brought by a child allegedly harmed by in utero exposure to hazardous chemicals: that for toxic exposure claims - Cal. Code Civ. Proc. 340.8(a) - or that for prenatal injuries - Cal. Code Civ. Proc. 340.4. Plaintiff brought suit when she was twelve years old alleging that she and her mother were exposed to toxic chemicals at a Sony Electronics, Inc. manufacturing plant, resulting in her birth defects. Sony moved for summary judgment, arguing that the action was barred by the six-year statute of limitations under section 340.4. In response, Plaintiff argued that her action fell under section 340.8. Section 340.8’s limitations period is only two years but, unlike section 340.4, permits tolling during minority and periods of mental incapacity. The trial court granted summary judgment after applying section 340.4. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) because the toxic exposure statute was more recently enacted, and its language plainly encompasses prenatal injuries, it applies in this case; and (2) therefore, Plaintiff’s claims are not time-barred. View "Lopez v. Sony Electronics, Inc." on Justia Law

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Under federal law, the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) may only reach the past medical expenses portion - and not the future medical expenses portion - of a Medicaid recipient’s tort recovery to satisfy its Medicaid lien. Florida’s Medicaid program, administered by AHCA, paid $322,222 for Juan Villa’s medical care after Villa was injured in an accident. Villa settled with an alleged tortfeasor for $1 million. AHCA calculated the presumptively appropriate amount of its lien at $321,720 and asserted a lien in that amount against Villa’s settlement. An administrative law judge affirmed AHCA’s lien amount. The First District Court of Appeal affirmed, concluding that both Florida law and the federal Medicaid Act allow AHCA to secure reimbursement for its Medicaid expenses from the portions of Villa’s third-party settlement recovery allocated to both past and future expenses. The Supreme Court quashed the decision below, holding that the federal Medicaid Act prohibits AHCA from placing a lien on the future medical expenses portions of a Medicaid beneficiary’s third-party tort recovery to satisfy its Medicaid lien. View "Giraldo v. Agency for Health Care Administration" on Justia Law

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The United States District Court for the District of South Carolina certified a question of law to the South Carolina Supreme Court. Jack Poole and his wife, Jennifer, were riding in a vehicle owned by Doris Knight, Jennifer's mother, when a drunk driver crossed the center line and struck them. The Pooles were both seriously injured in the collision; although Jack survived, Jennifer's catastrophic injuries resulted in her death several days later. In contrast with the substantial bodily injuries, the Pooles sustained minimal property damage because they did not own the vehicle. The at-fault driver's liability carrier tendered its policy limits. Farm Bureau, the insurer on Knight's vehicle, then tendered its underinsured motorist (UIM) policy limits for bodily injury to Jack individually and to Jack as the representative of Jennifer's estate. The Pooles then sought recovery from their own insurer, Government Employees Insurance Company (GEICO), which provided them a split limits UIM policy with bodily injury coverage of up to $100,000 per person and $50,000 for property damage. GEICO tendered the UIM bodily injury limits of $100,000 each for Jack and Jennifer's estate. The Pooles requested another $50,000 from the UIM policy's property damage coverage in anticipation of a large punitive damages award, but GEICO refused. GEICO then initiated a declaratory judgment action with the federal district court to establish that it was not liable to pay any amounts for punitive damages under the property damage provision of the UIM policy because the source of the Pooles' UIM damages was traceable only to bodily injury. The federal court asked the South Carolina Supreme Court whether, under South Carolina law, when an insured seeks coverage under an automobile insurance policy, must punitive damages be apportioned pro rata between those sustained for bodily injury and those sustained for property damage where the insurance policy is a split limits policy? The Supreme Court answered the question, "No." View "Government Employees Insurance Company v. Poole" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court affirming the decision of the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation awarding Tammy Lagler, who suffered a workplace injury, permanent-total-disability (PTD) compensation but reversing the decision to award it as a lump sum. The Department determined that Lagler was entitled to PTD compensation and issued a decision granting Lagler’s request for a lump-sum but denying her request for attorney fees. The circuit court affirmed the Department’s decision regarding Lagler’s entitlement to compensation but reversed the Department’s decision to award compensation as a lump sum. The court also reversed the Department’s denial of attorney’s fees. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err by affirming the Department’s decision to award PTD compensation or by reversing the Department’s decision to deny attorney’s fees. The court also correctly determined that Lagler was not entitled to a lump-sum award. View "Lagler v. Menard, Inc." on Justia Law

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The circuit court erroneously declared the law when it concluded that an employee’s violation of employer’s rules regarding vehicle operation were sufficient to preclude coverage under the omnibus clause of the employer’s insurance policy. James Campbell, an employee of BNSF Railway Company, rear-ended Ricky Lee Griffitts while driving a BNSF company vehicle. Campbell was intoxicated at the time of the collision. Numerous lawsuits ensued. This appeal was from an equitable garnishment action that Griffitts filed against BNSF and its insurer, Old Republic (collectively, Respondents), to collect on an unsatisfied judgment entered against Campbell in an earlier action. In this action, Griffitts claimed that Campbell was a permissive user under the omnibus clause of the insurance policy Old Republic issued to BNSF. The circuit court concluded that Campbell did not have permission to use the company vehicle at the time of the accident due to his violation of BNSF’s policy on the use of alcohol and drugs, and therefore, Campbell was not a permissive user under the omnibus clause. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Campbell had permission to use the company vehicle at the time of the accident and that it did not matter, for purposes of insurance coverage, that Campbell was drunk. View "Griffitts v. Old Republic Insurance Co." on Justia Law