Justia Civil Procedure Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Personal Injury
Bird v. Pruett’s Food, Inc.
Plaintiff Steven Bird, an independent contractor hired to install a new checkout lane at Defendant Pruett's Food store, was injured after falling off a ladder Defendant had supplied to aid Plaintiff in completing the work. Plaintiff initiated a negligence action, seeking damages from his injuries and lost wages. Plaintiff presented his case at trial, after which Defendant demurred to Plaintiff's evidence. The trial court sustained the demurrer. Plaintiff appealed. The Oklahoma Supreme Court held that Plaintiff failed to establish that Defendant owed him a duty of care. View "Bird v. Pruett's Food, Inc." on Justia Law
In re Edwards v. New Century Hospice
At issue before the Colorado Supreme Court in this matter was a trial court’s order denying immunity to Defendant New Century Hospice, Inc. and its subsidiaries, Defendants Legacy Hospice, LLC, d/b/a New Century Hospice of Denver, LLC, and Legacy Hospice of Colorado Springs, LLC (collectively, “New Century”). New Century argued it was entitled to immunity under four different statutes. Tana Edwards filed suit against New Century (her former employer) and Kathleen Johnson, the Director of Operations for New Century Castle Rock (collectively, “Defendants”). As part of her employment with New Century, Edwards provided in-home care to an elderly patient. In December 2019, Johnson began to suspect that Edwards was diverting pain medications from the patient. Defendants reported the suspected drug diversion to the Castle Rock Police Department and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (“CDPHE”). Defendants also lodged a complaint against Edwards’s nursing license with the Colorado Board of Nursing (“the Board”). After investigations, no criminal charges were filed and no formal disciplinary actions were taken against Edwards. Edwards subsequently brought this action against Defendants, alleging claims for negligent supervision and negligent hiring against New Century, as well as claims for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress against New Century and Johnson. Defendants moved for summary judgment. The trial court granted the motion as to Edwards’s claims for negligent hiring, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, finding that the claims were either time-barred or could not be proven. Three of the statutes New Century cited for its immunity claim, 12-20-402(1), C.R.S. (2022) (“the Professions Act”), 12-255-123(2), C.R.S. (2022) (“the Nurse Practice Act”), and 18-6.5-108(3), C.R.S. (2022) (“the Mandatory Reporter statute”), only authorized immunity for a “person.” Relying on the plain meaning of “person,” the Supreme Court held that New Century was not entitled to immunity under these three statutes because it was a corporation, not a person. The fourth statute, 18-8-115, C.R.S. (2022) (“the Duty to Report statute”), explicitly entitled corporations to immunity, but only if certain conditions were met. Applying the plain language of the statute, the Supreme Court held that New Century was not entitled to summary judgment on the issue of immunity under this statute because it did not carry its burden of demonstrating that all such conditions were met. View "In re Edwards v. New Century Hospice" on Justia Law
United States ex rel. Kenneth Kraemer v. United Dairies, L.L.P.
Kenneth Kraemer and Kraemer Farms, LLC (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) commenced this qui tam action under the False Claims Act (“FCA”), against United Dairies, other dairy farms, and their partners and agents (“Defendants”) alleging that they knowingly filed false crop insurance claims. Plaintiffs’ FCA Complaint alleged that Defendants (1) fraudulently obtained crop insurance payments by falsely reporting a silage-use-only variety of corn as grain and using that false statement to obtain the payments, and (2) were unjustly enriched by receiving the payments. The district court held that Defendants submitted materially false claims but denied Plaintiffs FCA relief because they failed to prove that Defendants knowingly defrauded the United States. However, the court found that certain Defendants had been unjustly enriched and awarded damages to the United States. The United States then filed a post-trial motion urging the district court to vacate or amend its judgment because Plaintiffs do not have standing to seek common law unjust enrichment relief on behalf of the United States. The district court granted the motion and vacated its judgment for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the dismissal of Plaintiffs’ FCA claims must be affirmed even if Plaintiffs are correct that the district court erred in ruling that any violations were not knowing. The court wrote that because it concludes that Defendants in submitting Acreage Reporting Forms supporting their crop insurance applications did not submit materially false claims for crop insurance payments, Plaintiffs contention -the district court applied the wrong legal standard in denying FCA relief on other grounds is of no moment. View "United States ex rel. Kenneth Kraemer v. United Dairies, L.L.P." on Justia Law
Jimenez v. Mrs. Gooch’s Natural Food Markets, Inc.
Decedent was hit by a pickup truck in a crosswalk at a major intersection. After the accident, the decedent, who was on a 15-minute work break, walked back to the Whole Foods Market (the store) where he worked. There, store employees gave him an ice pack, a form to fill out relating to his injury, and a ride home. He died several hours later. The decedent is survived by his wife and three children (Plaintiffs), who filed this wrongful death action against several parties, including Mrs. Gooch’s Natural Food Markets, Inc. (Mrs. Gooch’s), the parent company of the store and the decedent’s employer. Mrs. Gooch’s demurred to the operative first amended complaint because an administrative law judge and the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board had found the decedent’s injury and death to be employment-related and, therefore within the scope of workers’ compensation. The trial court sustained the demurrer. The Second Appellate District affirmed. Plaintiffs first argued that Mrs. Gooch’s, through its employees, acted in a dual capacity following the accident. The court explained that Plaintiffs cite no case holding that a negligent undertaking theory is viable in the circumstances of the case. Plaintiffs also argued that the fraudulent concealment exception to the exclusive remedy rule applies. The court explained that the complaint does not allege that the decedent was unaware of his injury. Moreover, according to the operative complaint, Mrs. Gooch’s was unaware of the decedent’s injury until he advised his supervisors that he had been in an accident. View "Jimenez v. Mrs. Gooch's Natural Food Markets, Inc." on Justia Law
Murrow v. Penney
Defendant-appellee Malcolm Penney left a wedding which was held at The Springs Event Venue and proceeded to drive the wrong way down a highway. He crashed head-on into a vehicle driven by Marissa Murrow, killing her. Murrows' parents sued The Springs. They did not allege that The Springs over-served Penney. Rather, they alleged The Springs had a duty to prevent Penney from leaving, and to enforce their policies which prohibited outside alcohol from being brought onto the premises. The trial court determined that the event venue had no duty to prevent harm to third-parties such as the deceased, and it granted summary judgment to The Springs. The Oklahoma Supreme Court held that Oklahoma law did not recognize a duty on the part of a private event venue extending to third parties killed by a voluntarily intoxicated adult who attended, but was not "over-served" by the event venue. The trial court therefore did not err in denying the parents' Motion to Vacate/Modify. View "Murrow v. Penney" on Justia Law
Ford Motor Co. v. Cosper
The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia certified two questions to the Georgia Supreme Court regarding OCGA § 51-1-11(c). Although product-liability claims were generally subject to a ten-year statute of repose in Georgia, the statute of repose did not apply to negligence claims “arising out of conduct which manifests a willful, reckless, or wanton disregard for life or property.” The federal district court asked: (1) whether, under OCGA § 51-1-11(c), “reckless” conduct was a standalone exception to OCGA § 51-1-11(b)(2)’s ten-year statute of repose; and (2) if so, how “reckless” conduct was defined. The Supreme Court answered the first question in the affirmative: under OCGA § 51-1-11(c), reckless disregard for life or property was a standalone exception to OCGA § 51-1-11(b)(2)’s ten-year statute of repose. Thus, OCGA § 51-1-11(b)(2)’s statute of repose does not apply to a product-liability claim sounding in negligence that “aris[es] out of conduct which manifests . . . reckless . . . disregard for life or property.” The Court answered the second question that “reckless . . . disregard for life or property,” under OCGA § 51-1-11(c), carries a meaning that closely resembles the Restatement (First) of Torts’ definition of “Reckless Disregard of Safety.” Specifically, an actor’s “conduct . . . manifests a . . . reckless . . . disregard for life or property,” under OCGA § 51-1-11(c), if the actor “intentionally does an act or fails to do an act which it is his duty to the other to do, knowing or having reason to know of facts which would lead a reasonable [person] to realize that the actor’s conduct not only creates an unreasonable risk of [harm to another’s life or property] but also involves a high degree of probability that substantial harm will result to [the other’s life or property].” View "Ford Motor Co. v. Cosper" on Justia Law
Smith v. Excel Fabrication, LLC
Mitchell Smith was employed by Amalgamated Sugar Company (“Amalgamated”) in Nampa, Idaho, when he was injured falling from a flight of stairs after the handrail gave out. Amalgamated had contracted with Excel Fabrication, LLC (“Excel”), to construct and install the flight of stairs and the handrail. Smith received worker’s compensation benefits from Amalgamated. Smith then sued Excel as a third-party tortfeasor, alleging that Excel had been negligent in its construction and installation of the staircase. Excel moved for summary judgment, arguing that it was a “statutory co-employee” with Smith and, therefore, it was immune from liability as a result of the exclusive remedy rule. The district court agreed and granted Excel’s motion for summary judgment. The district court then dismissed the case, with prejudice. Smith appealed. Based on the district court’s failure to recognize the differences between an independent contractor from either a contractor or a subcontractor, the Idaho Supreme Court held that the district court erred in granting Excel’s motion for summary judgment: the text of the Worker’s Compensation Law indicated that “independent contractors” were fundamentally different from “contractors and subcontractors” as those terms were used throughout the Idaho Worker’s Compensation Act. Because of this fundamental difference, an independent contractor was not immune from third-party tort liability as a statutory employer. The judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Smith v. Excel Fabrication, LLC" on Justia Law
Christmann v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.
After suffering personal injuries and property damage in a multi-car collision with an underinsured motorist, Kelly Lynn Christmann filed suit against her insurer, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (“State Farm”). Christmann was seeking to obtain the underinsured motorist benefits provided under her contract of insurance, which she claimed State Farm failed to pay in an amount justly due under her policy. She also alleged that certain terms of her insurance agreement violate public policy. State Farm argued that Christmann waived her rights to additional benefits by failing to comply with the contractual obligations of her insurance policy, thereby prejudicing State Farm’s right to subrogation against the underinsured motorist. The district court awarded summary judgment to State Farm in determining it had been prejudiced by Christmann’s conduct and that the terms of the insurance policy were valid. The court also denied Christmann’s motion for reconsideration and her Rule 60(b) motion for relief. Christmann appealed. Because the record showed State Farm fully settled its claims against the underinsured motorist and waived its subrogation rights, the Idaho Supreme Court concluded it suffered no actual prejudice from Christmann’s actions. Accordingly, the judgment was reversed. View "Christmann v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Walton v. City of Verona
The Verona Police Department twice arrested L.B. for his connection to violent shootings. Both times, however, he was released while his charges were pending. Just five months after his second arrest, L.B. drove to Annie Walton’s house and opened fire—killing Annie Walton and injuring her grandson, Aliven Walton. Annie Walton’s wrongful death beneficiaries (collectively, Plaintiffs ) believe the City of Verona and the Verona Chief of Police, J.B. Long, are responsible for the shooting at Annie Walton’s home, so they sued under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 and the Mississippi Tort Claims Act. At summary judgment, the district court initially dismissed all claims. But Plaintiffs filed a motion for reconsideration, and the district court reversed course—finding the City of Verona was not entitled to sovereign immunity under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act. Plaintiffs and the City of Verona subsequently filed interlocutory appeals. The Fifth Circuit dismissed Plaintiffs appeal for lack of jurisdiction and reversed the district court’s finding against the City regarding sovereign immunity. The court explained that Long had no special duty to protect Plaintiffs besides his general duty to keep the public safe as the City’s Chief of Police. The court explained that the only evidence that demonstrates Long had knowledge of any connection between L.B. and Plaintiffs comes from Long’s investigative file, where there is a copy of a trespassing complaint that Annie filed against L.B. in 2016. Accordingly, the court held Long did not owe a duty to protect Plaintiffs from L.B.’s drive-by shooting. Thus, Plaintiffs cannot sustain their negligence claims or their MTCA claims against the City. View "Walton v. City of Verona" on Justia Law
C.V. v. Waterford Township Board of Education
For five months when C.V. was a pre-kindergarten student in the Waterford Township School District, she was repeatedly sexually assaulted by Alfred Dean, the seventy-six-year-old bus aide who was supposed to be ensuring her safety. C.V.’s parents only discovered the abuse when C.V. came home without her underwear one day. C.V. and her parents sued the Waterford Township Board of Education and Waterford Township School District (collectively, Waterford) alleging, among other things, discrimination in a “place of public accommodation” “on account of . . . sex” in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD). The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Waterford and dismissed plaintiffs’ LAD claims. The court found plaintiffs could not, as a matter of law, prove to a jury that Dean’s conduct occurred because of C.V.’s sex, or that it would not have occurred but for C.V.’s sex. According to the trial court, “the but for element can’t be satisfied . . . where you have a compulsive sexual predator, a pedophile,” especially one who testified at his deposition “that he is a compulsive sexual abuser of children, boys and girls.” The Appellate Division affirmed, concluding that the LAD did not apply “to a sexual predator’s assault of a student on a school bus where there is no evidence his actions were based solely on the victim’s status as a member of a protected group.” The New Jersey Supreme Court reversed the Appellate Division’s judgment because it conflicted with Lehmann v. Toys ‘R’ Us, Inc., 132 N.J. 587 (1993) and L.W. v. Toms River Regional Schools Board of Education, 189 N.J. 381 (2007). The Court reiterated that under Lehman, sexual touching of areas of the body linked to sexuality happens, by definition, because of sex. The Court affirmed the denial of plaintiffs’ motion to amend their complaint and to obtain certain records, and we remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. View "C.V. v. Waterford Township Board of Education" on Justia Law