Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

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Claimant John West appealed a Vermont Department of Labor decision concluding that the 2014 amendment to 21 V.S.A. 644(a)(6) did not apply retroactively. In March 2013, West fell fifteen to twenty feet while working in the course of his employment for North Branch Fire District. He was transported to the hospital and treated for extensive injuries. In September 2014, West relocated to Florida, and at some point thereafter, began working at the Freedom Boat Club. Between 2014 and 2016, several different physicians provided conflicting opinions on the level of West’s permanent impairment. In February 2016, Dr. Joseph Kandel conducted an independent medical examination (IME) at North Branch’s request. At a deposition in September 2018, Dr. Kandel testified that it would be accurate to say that “West suffered an injury to the skull resulting in [a] severe traumatic brain injury causing permanent and severe cognitive, physical, or psychiatric disabilities.” West filed a request for a formal hearing, asserting that he was permanently and totally disabled under section 644(a)(6). Between the date of West’s injury and his request for a formal hearing, the Vermont Legislature amended section 644(a)(6). In January 2019, North Branch filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that the pre-amendment version of 644(a)(6), which defined total and permanent disability as “an injury to the skull resulting in incurable imbecility or insanity,” applied to West’s claim because that was the law on the date of his injury in March 2013. Further, North Branch argued that the 2014 amendment did not apply retroactively because despite the Legislature’s stated purpose, the amendment created a substantive change in the law. In any event, because West was employed, North Branch maintained that he was not totally and permanently disabled under either version of 644(a)(6). West argued that, contrary to the Commissioner’s conclusion, the 2014 amendment to 644(a)(6) applied retroactively because it did not create any new substantive rights. The Vermont Supreme Court concluded the 2014 amendment applied retroactively and therefore reversed and remanded. View "West v. North Branch Fire District #1" on Justia Law

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Nicholas Jay appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of United Services Automobile Association ("USAA") on his claim against USAA seeking uninsured-motorist ("UM") benefits. Nicholas was injured in an automobile accident when riding as a passenger in Ryen Gorman's automobile. Gorman did not have automobile insurance. Nicholas received $50,000 in UM benefits through a policy he had with Nationwide Insurance Company. Thereafter, Nicholas commenced an action against USAA, seeking UM benefits pursuant to a USAA policy owned by his father-in-law, George Brewer, and under which Nicholas's wife, Michelle Jay, had automobile-insurance coverage. Because Nicholas was not a "covered person" under the USAA policy, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the judgment. View "Jay v. United Services Automobile Association" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the ordered entered by the circuit court granting the motion to dismiss filed by Defendant, the Harrison County Board of Education, and dismissing Plaintiffs' complaint seeking damages for their student's injuries caused by an Assistant Principal's actions and the Board's response thereto, holding that the circuit court erred in part.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the circuit court properly dismissed Plaintiffs' claims for negligent hiring and negligent supervision; (2) the circuit court did not err by dismissing a portion Plaintiffs' claim for negligence per se, but the allegations of negligence per se that Petitioners set forth in their third iteration of the claim sufficiently stated a caused of action for negligence to defeat the Board's motion to dismiss; and (3) the circuit court erred in dismissing Plaintiffs' claim for negligent retention because Plaintiffs stated a claim for negligent retention sufficient to survive the Board's motion to dismiss this claim. View "C.C. v. Harrison County Board of Education" on Justia Law

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In September 2019, Robert McGowen filed a complaint in circuit court alleging that he had been sexually abused by a priest at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in 1984 and 1985 when McGowen was twelve to thirteen years old. According to McGowen, he repressed the memories until December 2018. Sacred Heart Catholic Church and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Biloxi answered the complaint and moved to dismiss based on the expiration of the statute of limitations in Mississippi Code Section 15-1-49. In April 2020, the circuit court entered an order dismissing the complaint without prejudice. McGowen appealed. Accepting the allegations in the complaint as true, the Mississippi Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred by finding that McGowen failed to state a claim. "Based on the allegations, we cannot agree that there is no set of facts upon which McGowan could recover; the decision of the circuit court is reversed and remanded." View "McGowen v. Roman Catholic Diocese of Biloxi" on Justia Law

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Mississippi Baptist Medical Center (MBMC) sought, and the Mississippi Supreme Court granted interlocutory appeal challenging a circuit court's denial of its motion for summary judgment. Mississippi Baptist Health System (MBHS) also appealed the circuit court’s order granting summary judgment in its favor, claiming that the circuit court erred by granting the judgment without prejudice instead of with prejudice. In 2016, Roosevelt Ard arrived at the emergency room at MBMC complaining of chest pain and leg numbness after earlier undergoing an outpatient cardiac stress test. Ard was checked by two nurses and seen by an emergency room physician, Dr. William Dawson, an emergency-medicine physician employed by Mississippi Physicians, LLP. Dr. Dawson ordered one shot of Dilaudid for Ard’s pain. He then ordered a chest X-ray and EKG, which were both normal, ruling out cardiovascular issues. Dr. Dawson diagnosed Ard with acute back strain and discharged him with a prescription for oral pain relief and muscle relaxants. Eight hours after being discharged, Ard became unresponsive at home and was rushed to the emergency room at University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) via ambulance, where he was pronounced dead after cardiac arrest. Ard’s autopsy report showed that the cause of death was aortic dissection. Plaintiffs, Ard's family, filed a complaint against MBMC, MBHS, Dr. Dawson, and Mississippi Physicians, arguing: (1) MBMC was vicariously liable for the medical care rendered by Dr. Dawson at MBMC’s emergency department; and (2) MBMC was vicariously liable for the allegedly negligent care provided by its nursing employees in the emergency department. After the Plaintiffs did not answer MBMC and Dr. Dawson’s propounded discovery for two years, MBMC filed a motion for summary judgment. MBMC claimed it was not vicariously liable and that negligence could not have proximately caused Ard’s injuries. The Mississippi Supreme Court found that the circuit erred by denying MBMC’s motion for summary judgment since the Plaintiffs failed to establish the element of causation in their medical-malpractice claim against MBMC. The Court also found that the circuit court erred by not dismissing the Plaintiffs’ claims against MBHS with prejudice. View "Mississippi Baptist Health Systems Inc. et al. v. Harris" on Justia Law

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After the district court entered judgment against defendant on plaintiff's claim of torture under the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991 (TVPA), defendant challenged the district court's grant of partial summary judgment in favor of plaintiff on defendant's statute of limitations defense.The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment, concluding that the district court did not err in granting partial summary judgment against defendant on his statute of limitations defense where equitable tolling applied to plaintiff's claims. In this case, the district court did not err in determining that plaintiff's unrebutted evidence demonstrated extraordinary circumstances justifying equitable tolling where plaintiff presented credible evidence that he lacked realistic access to a legal remedy during and after the Barre regime in Somalia given the absence of a functioning government, widespread chaos and violence, and the risk of reprisal. Therefore, plaintiff satisfied his burden of showing the appropriateness of equitably tolling the limitations period until at least 1997. View "Warfaa v. Ali" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was a passenger in a truck driven by Lorenz. The vehicles were traveling on an interstate when it began to hail and rain. A sedan ahead of the truck spun out of control and collided with the front of the truck. The passengers of the sedan required medical assistance; a third vehicle struck the back of the truck, pushing the truck into the sedan. Plaintiff was severely injured. Plaintiff filed a personal injury claim for damages, alleging the drivers of the vehicles, John Turner and Sherri Oliver, had been negligent and that the negligence of each had caused her injuries and damages. She also alleged that Turner and Oliver were underinsured and that, as a result, she was entitled to UIM benefits from her own insurance company, defendant Mutual of Enumclaw Insurance. Eventually, plaintiff settled with Turner and Oliver for a total of $175,000, and the case was dismissed as to them. This case was the second appeal in a dispute between Plaintiff and her insurance company over the limits of her Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage. Plaintiff’s policy included a limit of $500,000 for damages “resulting from any one automobile accident.” In the first trial in this case, the jury found that plaintiff’s injuries resulted in damages of $979,540. In the second trial, the jury found that plaintiff was injured, not in one, but in two, separate “accidents,” and that it could not “separate the cause” of plaintiff’s injuries between those two accidents. Consequently, the trial court awarded plaintiff the full measure of her damages, minus offsets. On appeal, the insurance company argued the trial court had erred in its instructions to the jury and should have required the jury to apportion plaintiff’s damages between the two accidents. The Court of Appeals agreed with the company and reversed. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded the trial correctly instructed the jury it could find, as a matter of fact, the number of accidents that occurred and whether the cause of plaintiff's injuries could be separated between them. View "Wright v. Turner" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court dismissing Shree Ganesh, LLC's contract and tort claims against Weston Logan, Inc., and Matthew Weston, an individual, holding that there remained a genuine dispute as to material facts, precluding summary judgment.Shree Ganesh entered into a contract with Weston Logan to purchase Weston Logan's Best Western Inn. After the sale of the property closed, Shree Ganesh learned about Weston Logan's plans to build a competing hotel across the street. Shree Ganesh subsequently sued Weston Logan for its failure to disclose its plans to develop the competing hotel. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Weston Logan on all claims. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the purchase agreement was ambiguous as to Weston Logan's disclosure obligations; and (2) there remained a genuine dispute as to material facts relevant to Shree Ganesh's tort claims. View "Shree Ganesh, LLC v. Weston Logan, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court answered a certified question in the negative and held that Ark. Code Ann. 27-34-106(a) does not violate the separation of powers doctrine under article 4, section 2, and Amendment 80, section 3 of the Arkansas Constitution.The underlying wrongful death and survival action arose from an accident in which Defendants negligently caused a vehicle collision. A two-year-old girl, who was in the cab of a pickup at the time of the accident and was not restrained in a child safety seat, was killed. Defendants asserted fault on the part of the driver of the pickup truck. Plaintiff then filed a motion for partial summary judgment with respect to comparative fault and nonparty fault related to child-safety restraint nonuse, arguing that the defense was precluded as a matter of law by section 27-34-106(a). The Supreme Court answered a certified question about the issue, holding that section 27-34-106(a) - a legislative pronouncement that failing to use a child-safety seat is not a negligent act and therefore cannot be used to compare the injured plaintiff's fault to the fault of the defendant - is more substantive than procedure and does not constitute a violation of the separation of powers doctrine. View "Edwards v. Thomas" on Justia Law

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Roberts was driving a truck through a construction zone when he saw a flagger holding a sign that said “SLOW.” Roberts slowed down. The flagger suddenly turned the traffic sign to “STOP.” Roberts abruptly slammed on his brakes. Solomakha, driving a tractor-trailer behind Roberts, was not able to stop his tractor-trailer in time and rear-ended Roberts’s truck. Roberts’s injuries resulted in medical bills totaling more than $500,000. In Roberts’s suit for negligence, Alex (Solomakha’s employers) sought contribution against third-parties for their role in failing to maintain the safety of the construction site. E-K, the general contractor, settled with Roberts and was dismissed from the suit. Alex settled with Roberts for $1.85 million. Before trial on the contribution claim, the district court determined that Alex, Safety (E-K's subcontractor), and E-K must appear on the verdict form so that the jury could adequately apportion fault among every tortfeasor.The Illinois Joint Tortfeasor Contribution Act provides that “[t]he pro-rata share of each tortfeasor shall be determined in accordance with his relative culpability” and that “no person shall be required to contribute to one seeking contribution an amount greater than his pro rata share,” with an exception where “the obligation of one or more of the joint tortfeasors is uncollectable. In that event, the remaining tortfeasors shall share the unpaid portions of the uncollectable obligation in accordance with their pro-rata liability.”The district court concluded that any share of liability that the jury assigned to E-K should not be reallocated between Alex and Safety and ordered that Alex would remain liable for E-K’s entire share along with its own. The Seventh Circuit certified the question to the Illinois Supreme Court, which responded that the obligation of a settling party is not “uncollectable” under 740 ILCS 100/3. View "Roberts v. Alexandria Transportation, Inc." on Justia Law