Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

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In this action brought the estate of Jonah Marciniak and Marciniak's son pursuing both federal and state claims stemming from Marciniak's arrest and ensuing suicide, the Seventh District held that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of the Village of Shorewood and three of its officers who arrested Marciniak after his roommate fell from a fourth story window, holding that there was no error.After arresting Marciniak and placing him in a booking cell, Marciniak used his t-shirt to hang himself. Marciniak died six days later. Plaintiffs brought this action alleging that the three officers falsely arrested Marciniak without probable cause and failed to provide medical care and attention and to protect from self-harm. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Defendants had an absolute defense of probable cause to Plaintiffs' claims; and (2) even if the officers did not have probable cause to arrest for battery, they were still entitled to qualified immunity. View "Jump v. Village of Shorewood" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit held that district courts may make the decision whether to recruit counsel for an otherwise pro se litigant under 28 U.S. 1915(e)(1) based, in part, on considerations of the strength or weakness of the underlying claims, in keeping with the practical approach of Pruitt and mindful that pro bono lawyers are not a limitless resource.Plaintiff, a federal inmate, sued Defendants after he developed glaucoma. On four occasions, Plaintiff invoked section 1915(e)(1), asking the district to recruit pro bono counsel to represent him. The district court eventually entered summary judgment for Defendants and refused to recruit counsel under the statute. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the district court's conclusion that Plaintiff's likelihood of success on his negligence claims was too remote to warrant marshaling legal and expert resources toward his case was wholly consistent with the Pruitt framework; and (2) none of Plaintiff's other arguments on appeal lacked merit. View "Watts v. Kidman" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-Appellant Cindy Roe suffered serious injuries after her Jeep Grand Cherokee unexpectedly backed over her. After the accident, she filed a lawsuit in federal district court against the manufacturer of her vehicle, FCA US (“FCA”), alleging that the shifter assembly in her vehicle had been defectively designed in that it could be perched into a “false-park” position where the vehicle appears to be in park, but was actually in an unstable position that could slip into reverse. Roe further alleged this defect caused her injuries. FCA moved to exclude Roe’s experts as unreliable on the issue of causation, among other objections. FCA additionally moved for summary judgement because Roe could not create a material issue of fact on the essential element of causation without her experts’ testimony. The district court agreed with FCA, excluded the experts, and granted summary judgment for FCA. Notably, the district court found that the experts’ theory on causation was unreliable because they failed to demonstrate that the shifter could remain in false park for sufficient time for Roe to move behind the vehicle and then slip into reverse without manual assistance. Roe appealed, arguing that the district court abused its discretion in excluding the expert testimony. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court. View "Roe v. FCA US" on Justia Law

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While working his construction job, Plaintiff was severely injured when a crane cable snapped and dropped its payload onto him. Plaintiff sued Viant Crane Service, LLC and Viant Crane, LLC (together “Viant”), arguing that their crane was defective. The district court granted summary judgment to Viant.   On appeal, Plaintiff argues that an A2B doesn’t simply fall off a crane without some sort of defect. Viant, on the other hand, argues that there are alternative explanations for the A2B falling off—chiefly, employees mishandling the crane.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment. The court explained that because Plaintiff doesn’t have any direct evidence that the crane was defective, he relies on the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur, “the thing speaks for itself.” The court wrote that applying that rule, the district court held that res ipsa loquitur doesn’t apply to Plaintiff’s claim because the crane was outside of Viant’s control for several days, creating a possibility of mishandling by employees. Plaintiff argues that the district court’s evidentiary burden was too strict and that the court should follow Daleiden v. Carborundum Co., 438 F.2d 1017 (8th Cir. 1971). The court wrote that, in contrast to Daleiden, Plaintiff’s evidence fails to reasonably eliminate other plausible causes of the A2B malfunctioning, such as mismanagement by those handling the tank. View "Shane Boda v. Viant Crane Service, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff shattered her heel bone participating in the Rugged Maniac Twin Cities 5k obstacle race at the Wild Mountain Recreation Area (“Wild Mountain”). Plaintiff sued Rugged Races LLC (“Rugged Races”), the race promoter and the owner of Wild Mountain, alleging that Defendants were “grossly negligent” in failing to perform their duties to protect race participants from unreasonable risks of harm.   Plaintiff appealed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of both Defendants. On appeal, Plaintiff argues (i) the exculpatory clause is unenforceable; (ii) if enforceable, it does not waive claims based on Defendants’ alleged greater-than-ordinary negligence; and (iii) the summary judgment record includes evidence from which a reasonable jury could find greater-than-ordinary negligence.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that under Minnesota law, as in most States, “ordinary negligence” is the “failure to exercise such care as persons of ordinary prudence usually exercise under such circumstances.” The court wrote that it agrees with the district court that “[t]he fact that thousands of participants -- many of whom undoubtedly outweighed Plaintiff-- jumped into the landing pit without incident is compelling evidence that the water level was not unreasonably low.” Further, the court agreed with the district court that Plaintiff offered “little more than speculation” supporting her contentions that the rock was present before the pit was filled and would have been discovered had the construction crew not acted with greater-than-ordinary negligence. As such, Plaintiff’s negligence claims were waived by the valid and enforceable exculpatory clause in the Race Participant Agreement. View "Jeanne Anderson v. Rugged Races, LLC" on Justia Law

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A jury awarded four Plaintiffs a total of more than $165 million in damages to compensate them for a tragic accident that claimed half of a young family in a single instant, and left surviving family members physically and emotionally injured. Defendants appealed the verdict as excessive, contending it was not supported by substantial evidence and was tainted by passion or prejudice. The Court of Appeals affirmed the verdict. The New Mexico Supreme Court granted certiorari to consider whether the Court of Appeals erred by: (1) applying an abuse of discretion standard to review the district court’s denial of Defendants’ motion for a new trial because the ruling was made by a successor judge who did not oversee the trial; and (2) affirming the district court’s denial of Defendants’ motion for a new trial on grounds that the verdict was excessive. The Supreme Court held: (1) because it reviews claims of excessive verdicts de novo, it did not need to adopt a new standard of review for decisions of successor judges assigned under the circumstances of this case, as requested by Defendants, and the Court declined to do so; and (2) under current law, substantial evidence supported the verdict and the record did not reflect that the verdict was tainted by passion or prejudice. The Court therefore affirmed the Court of Appeals. View "Morga v. FedEx Ground Package Sys., Inc." on Justia Law

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Appellee brought a retaliatory arrest claim against the Mayor and Chief of Police of Castle Hills, claiming that she was arrested for engaging in protected speech. However, Appellee acknowledges that there was probable cause for her arrest. Appellants asserted a qualified immunity defense. The district court denied Appellants' motion to dismiss.On appeal, the Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's order denying Appellant's motion to dismiss, finding Appellee failed to establish a violation of her constitutional rights in her retaliatory arrest claim because the arresting officer had probable cause to arrest. While probable cause to arrest does not necessarily preclude a retaliatory arrest claim, Appellee failed to establish any of these exceptions. View "Gonzalez v. Trevino" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting summary judgment to Keating, O'Gara, Nebved & Peter, LLC (collectively, KONP) after finding that Plaintiff's defamation claim was not supported by evidence of actual malice or special damages and that certain statements attribution to KONP were absolutely privileged, holding that there was no error.In a vote, Bellevue Police Officers Association (BPOA) members expressed no confidence in Plaintiff, former chief of police for Bellevue. KNOP, a law firm representing BPOA and BPOA members, drafted a press release issued by BPOA addressing allegations of misconduct against Plaintiff. Plaintiff filed suit against KNOP alleging, among other claims, that he was defamed and placed in a false light by the press release. The district court granted summary judgment for KNOP. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err or abuse its discretion in (1) admitting certain testimony; (2) finding that Plaintiff's false light claim was subsumed; (3) concluding that Plaintiff's civil conspiracy claim failed; and (4) finding that certain statements were absolutely privileged. View "Elbert v. Young" on Justia Law

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Helen Jordan, a nurse who was formerly employed by the predecessor to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, challenged in the Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission (MCAC) the decision of a magistrate that she was not entitled to disability benefits under the Worker’s Disability Compensation Act (WDCA). In 1995, plaintiff was working for defendant’s predecessor when she was injured during an altercation with a patient. Plaintiff was prescribed opioid medication to treat leg and back pain that she said resulted from the 1995 injury, and she used the opioid medication continuously after the incident and became dependent upon it. Plaintiff began receiving disability benefits under the WDCA in 1996. In 2015, plaintiff underwent an independent medical examination at defendant’s request pursuant to MCL 418.385. The doctor who conducted the examination concluded that any disability experienced by plaintiff was not the result of the 1995 incident, and defendant subsequently discontinued plaintiff’s benefits. Plaintiff applied for reinstatement of her benefits under the WDCA. The Michigan Supreme Court determined the agency record was too incomplete to facilitate “meaningful” appellate review: “Despite the MCAC’s conclusion, whether the experts agreed that plaintiff had a limitation of her wage-earning capacity in work suitable to her qualifications and training was not clear from the record.” Therefore, the Court concluded the Court of Appeals erred by deciding this case as a matter of law because further administrative proceedings were needed. View "Jordan v. Dep’t. of Health & Human Servs." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court denying Defendants' motion to dismiss this suit alleging sexual abuse by leadership of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Springfield that Plaintiff allegedly endured as a child in the 1960s, holding that common-law charitable immunity did not insulate Defendants from certain counts in the complaint.Defendants moved to dismiss this complaint on the grounds of common-law charitable immunity and the doctrine of church autonomy. The trial judge denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendants' arguments pertaining to common-law charitable immunity fell within the doctrine of present execution and were properly before the Court; and (2) common-law charitable immunity insulated Defendant from the count alleging negligent hiring and supervision but did not protect Defendant from the counts alleging sexual assault against Plaintiff. View "Doe v. Roman Catholic Bishop of Springfield" on Justia Law