Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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In July 2019, Tyler Blue, an inmate at Spring Creek Correctional Center, assaulted fellow inmate Patrick Torrence, causing abrasions, bruising, a mild concussion, and aggravation of a preexisting hip injury. Blue was criminally charged and pleaded guilty to assault in the fourth degree. In May 2022, Torrence filed a civil complaint against Blue, seeking damages for the injuries he sustained from the assault. Torrence's complaint referenced criminal statutes and sought restitution and compensation under various Alaska Statutes.The Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Third Judicial District, Seward, dismissed Torrence's complaint for failure to state a claim. The court concluded that the criminal statutes cited by Torrence did not support a private cause of action. Blue had argued that he could not be subjected to double jeopardy and that the court had already rendered judgment against him in the criminal case, including restitution. Torrence opposed the motion, asserting that the damages ordered in the criminal case were paid to the government, not to him, and that he had not been compensated for his injuries.The Supreme Court of the State of Alaska reviewed the case and concluded that Torrence's complaint, despite its reliance on criminal statutes, stated a claim for civil battery. The court held that the Superior Court erred in dismissing the complaint because Torrence had alleged facts consistent with a civil tort claim for battery. The court noted that the criminal conviction for assault did not preclude Torrence's civil suit for damages and that double jeopardy did not apply to civil claims. The Supreme Court reversed the Superior Court's dismissal and remanded the case for further proceedings, including providing procedural guidance to the self-represented litigants. View "Torrence v. Blue" on Justia Law

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Laura Henry filed a lawsuit against Olakunle Oluwole and their former employer, Bristol Hospital, alleging that Oluwole had sexually assaulted her. Shortly after the complaint was filed, Oluwole was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident, which he claimed prevented him from receiving timely notice of the action. Oluwole did not initially appear in court, leading the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut to enter a default judgment against him. Five years later, Oluwole appeared and moved to set aside the default judgment, but the district court denied his motion. The case against Bristol proceeded to a jury trial, which resulted in a verdict that Henry had failed to prove that Oluwole sexually assaulted, assaulted, or battered her. Following the jury verdict, the district court vacated the default judgment against Oluwole for the assault and battery claims but left it in place for other claims.The U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut initially entered a default judgment against Oluwole due to his failure to appear. After Oluwole eventually appeared and moved to set aside the default judgment, the district court denied his motion, finding his default willful and that setting it aside would prejudice Henry. The jury trial against Bristol resulted in a verdict in favor of Bristol, finding no proof of sexual assault, assault, or battery by Oluwole. Consequently, the district court vacated the default judgment against Oluwole for the assault and battery claims but maintained it for other claims, including false imprisonment and emotional distress.The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reviewed the case and found that the district court erred in denying Oluwole’s motions to set aside the default judgment. The appellate court held that the district court should have set aside the default judgment based on the factors established in Enron Oil Corp. v. Diakuhara. Additionally, the appellate court determined that the entire default judgment should have been vacated following the jury verdict, as maintaining it was inconsistent with the jury’s findings, pursuant to the principle in Frow v. De La Vega. The Second Circuit reversed the district court’s judgment and remanded with instructions to enter judgment for Oluwole. View "Henry v. Oluwole" on Justia Law

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Teddy and Melanie Scott filed a lawsuit against Dyno Nobel, Inc., alleging that Teddy suffered serious injuries from exposure to a toxic gas cloud negligently emitted from Dyno’s nitric acid plant in Louisiana, Missouri. The incident occurred on March 20, 2015, when an equipment failure during a startup led to the release of nitrogen oxide gas, which enveloped Teddy while he was working at a nearby plant. Teddy experienced immediate physical symptoms and has since suffered from ongoing health issues, including irritable larynx syndrome, headaches, and back pain. Melanie claimed loss of consortium due to Teddy’s injuries.The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri initially granted summary judgment in favor of Dyno, concluding that Dyno owed no duty of care to Teddy. However, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed this decision, finding that the issue of foreseeability, which determines duty, should be decided by a jury. On remand, a jury trial resulted in a verdict for the Scotts, awarding Teddy $13,750,000 in compensatory damages and $30 million in punitive damages, and Melanie $3 million in compensatory damages. Dyno’s post-trial motions for judgment as a matter of law or a new trial were denied.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reviewed the case and affirmed the district court’s judgment in part. The appellate court found that the jury had sufficient evidence to determine that Dyno’s actions created a foreseeable risk of harm and that Dyno breached its duty of care. However, the court reversed the award of punitive damages, concluding that the Scotts did not provide clear and convincing evidence that Dyno acted with a culpable mental state necessary for punitive damages under Missouri law. The case was remanded for entry of an amended judgment omitting the punitive damages award. View "Scott v. Dyno Nobel, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff’s daughter, Alexandrianna Lowe, who had an opioid addiction, was admitted to Hackensack Meridian Jersey Shore University Medical Center (JSUMC) for complications related to Type 1 diabetes. Two days later, Lowe was found unresponsive, and hospital staff administered anti-opioid medication but failed to check her blood sugar levels. An autopsy revealed no illicit drugs in her system. Plaintiff filed a complaint against JSUMC and others, alleging negligence. At the time of filing, plaintiff had not been appointed administratrix ad prosequendum of her daughter’s estate and did not have access to Lowe’s medical records.The trial court dismissed Dr. Michael Carson from the case as he was not involved in the events leading to Lowe’s death. Plaintiff submitted an Affidavit of Merit (AOM) by Dr. Joseph Fallon, which defendants argued was insufficient because it did not name the surviving defendants, did not state that Dr. Fallon was a similarly licensed physician, and did not indicate that Dr. Fallon reviewed Lowe’s medical records. Without holding a Ferreira conference, the trial court dismissed the complaint with prejudice for failure to submit a sufficient AOM. The Appellate Division affirmed the dismissal.The Supreme Court of New Jersey reviewed the case and held that the AOM submitted by plaintiff complied with N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-27. The Court found that the AOM statute does not require the affiant to state that they reviewed medical records or to name a specific defendant by name. The Court emphasized the importance of holding a timely and effective Ferreira conference to resolve issues related to the AOM. The Court reversed the Appellate Division’s decision and remanded the case for further proceedings, including consideration of plaintiff’s motion to amend her complaint to add Dr. Vikas Singh as a defendant. View "Moschella v. Hackensack Meridian Jersey Shore University Medical Center" on Justia Law

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In 2021, Brian McLain filed a negligence lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lansing, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore, and Father Richard Lobert, alleging sexual abuse by Lobert in 1999 when McLain was a minor. McLain claimed he only discovered the causal link between the abuse and his psychological injuries in 2020 during therapy. The defendants moved for summary disposition, arguing the claims were time-barred by the three-year statute of limitations. McLain countered that MCL 600.5851b(1)(b) allowed the claim because it was filed within three years of discovering the causal link.The Livingston Circuit Court denied the defendants' motions, agreeing with McLain that MCL 600.5851b(1)(b) changed the accrual date for claims by minor victims of criminal sexual conduct. The Diocese and the Archdiocese appealed, and the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed, holding that MCL 600.5851b(1)(b) did not change the accrual date and did not apply retroactively to revive McLain's claim. McLain then sought leave to appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court.The Michigan Supreme Court held that MCL 600.5851b(1)(b) creates a discovery rule for measuring the accrual date for claims related to criminal sexual conduct occurring after the statute’s effective date. However, it does not apply retroactively to revive expired claims. Therefore, McLain's claim, which accrued in 1999 and was subject to a three-year statute of limitations, was untimely. The Court affirmed the Court of Appeals' decision, remanding the case for entry of summary disposition in favor of the Diocese. View "Mclain v. Roman Catholic Diocese of Lansing" on Justia Law

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Henry Beverly, a financial analyst at Abbott Laboratories, took a personal leave of absence during which he began working for Cook County without informing Abbott. His leave was extended twice, but when he requested a third extension, Abbott had already filled his position and terminated his employment. Beverly sued Abbott, alleging racial discrimination and defamation, among other claims.The United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois granted summary judgment in favor of Abbott on some of Beverly’s claims, including those related to his termination, while allowing others to proceed to trial. The jury found in favor of Abbott on the remaining claims. Beverly appealed, challenging several pretrial, trial, and post-trial rulings.The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reviewed the case and affirmed the district court’s decisions. The appellate court held that the reduction in Beverly’s job duties did not amount to a constructive discharge and that Abbott’s reason for terminating Beverly’s employment was not pretextual. The court also upheld the district court’s mid-trial judgment as a matter of law on Beverly’s defamation claim, finding that the statement in question was a non-actionable opinion. Additionally, the appellate court found no abuse of discretion in the district court’s trial rulings, including those related to impeachment attempts and the exclusion of certain evidence. The court concluded that Beverly’s arguments did not warrant a new trial and affirmed the district court’s judgment in full. View "Beverly v. Abbott Laboratories" on Justia Law

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Lynda Danhoff and her husband, Daniel Danhoff, filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against Daniel K. Fahim, M.D., and others, alleging that Fahim and Kenneth P. D’Andrea, D.O., had committed malpractice by perforating Lynda’s sigmoid colon during a surgical procedure. Following the procedure, Lynda experienced complications, including pain, fever, and elevated body temperature and blood pressure. A CT scan revealed that there was “free air and free material” outside Lynda’s colon, and Lynda had to have another surgical procedure to correct this issue. Lynda had four more surgeries to correct the perforation, which led to permanent medical conditions.The defendants moved for summary disposition, arguing that the plaintiffs had failed to establish the standard of care or causation. The trial court found that the affidavit of merit submitted by plaintiffs’ expert was not sufficiently reliable to admit his testimony because the expert had failed to cite any published medical literature or other authority to support his opinion that defendants had breached the standard of care. The plaintiffs moved for reconsideration and submitted another affidavit from their expert. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that the opinions of plaintiffs’ expert still were not supported by reliable principles and methods or by the relevant community of experts. The plaintiffs appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's decision.The Michigan Supreme Court, however, reversed the lower courts' decisions. The Supreme Court held that the trial court abused its discretion by inadequately assessing the reliability of a standard-of-care expert witness without appropriately analyzing the proposed testimony under MRE 702 or the reliability factors of MCL 600.2955. The court emphasized that neither MRE 702 nor MCL 600.2955 requires a trial court to exclude the testimony of a plaintiff’s expert on the basis of the plaintiff’s failure to support their expert’s claims with published literature. The court concluded that the lower courts erred by focusing so strictly on plaintiffs’ inability to support their expert’s opinions with published literature such that it was inadmissible under MRE 702. The case was reversed and remanded. View "Danhoff v. Fahim" on Justia Law

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The case involves a defamation claim brought by Bill Charles, a real estate professional and president of the homeowners' association of the Durham Farms community in Hendersonville, Tennessee, against Donna McQueen, a resident of the same community. McQueen had posted a critical review of Charles on Google, accusing him of using misleading tactics to deceive home buyers. Charles filed a defamation and false light claim against McQueen, who sought dismissal of the claims under the Tennessee Public Participation Act, arguing that Charles could not establish a prima facie case for his claims because he could not prove actual malice.The trial court agreed with McQueen and dismissed the claims. The Court of Appeals reversed in part, agreeing that Charles had to prove actual malice for his false light claim but holding that Charles was not a public figure and therefore did not need to prove actual malice for his defamation claim.The Supreme Court of Tennessee disagreed with the Court of Appeals, holding that Charles is a limited-purpose public figure given his voluntary and prominent role in a controversy concerning changes to the Durham Farms development plan. The court further held that Charles failed to establish a prima facie case of actual malice. The court also rejected Charles’s argument that McQueen waived her request for appellate attorney’s fees by failing to list it as an issue in her Court of Appeals brief. The court reversed the Court of Appeals in part and affirmed in part, remanding the case for further proceedings. View "Charles v. McQueen" on Justia Law

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The plaintiff, Gail M. McCormick, filed a personal injury lawsuit against Narragansett Improvement Company, Inc. (NICO) for injuries she sustained in a motorcycle accident on May 29, 2010. McCormick alleged that she lost control of her motorcycle due to unguarded manhole covers on a road in Cranston, Rhode Island, which NICO was contracted to repair. NICO failed to respond to the lawsuit, and a default judgment was entered against them on November 18, 2011. However, NICO later sought to vacate the default judgment, arguing that they had not begun repairs on the road until after the accident occurred.The Superior Court granted NICO's motion to vacate the default judgment. The case proceeded to a seven-day jury trial in March 2022, which resulted in a verdict in favor of NICO. McCormick subsequently filed a motion for a new trial, which was denied by the trial justice.McCormick appealed to the Supreme Court of Rhode Island, arguing that the Superior Court erred in vacating the default judgment and in denying her motion for a new trial. The Supreme Court found that the Superior Court had abused its discretion in vacating the default judgment without requiring NICO to provide evidence explaining their failure to respond to the lawsuit. The Supreme Court therefore vacated the judgment of the Superior Court and remanded the case for a hearing on the assessment of damages. View "McCormick v. Narragansett Improvement Company, Inc." on Justia Law

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This case involves a medical negligence claim brought by John Armour, individually and as personal representative of the Estate of Judith Armour, against David Bader, M.D., Neil Brandon, M.D., and South County Hospital Healthcare System d.b.a. South County Cardiology. The plaintiff alleges that the defendants negligently failed to provide adequate follow-up and treatment to Judith Armour following a stress test, which ultimately led to her death from a heart attack the next day. The stress test results were "markedly abnormal" and indicated potential significant coronary artery disease, but Mrs. Armour was sent home after the staff determined she was medically stable.The case was tried in the Washington County Superior Court. The jury heard testimony from various witnesses, including the nurses, the defendant-doctors, Mrs. Armour’s family, and expert testimony from both sides regarding the applicable standard of care and causation. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendants on all counts. The plaintiff filed a motion for a new trial, arguing that the jury’s verdict was against the fair preponderance of the evidence and that the trial justice erred in several respects. The trial justice denied the motion, concluding that the overwhelming weight of the evidence supported the jury’s verdict.On appeal to the Supreme Court of Rhode Island, the plaintiff argued that the trial justice erred in refusing to issue a jury instruction based on a previous court decision, erred in permitting defendants’ standard-of-care expert to utilize the referring doctor’s records, and erred in limiting cross-examination of that expert regarding a particular study. The Supreme Court found that the trial justice's refusal to issue the requested jury instruction was prejudicial and constituted reversible error. The court also found that it was an error to allow the expert to use the referring physician’s records to support his opinions as defendants did not have access to this information when determining if Mrs. Armour was stable. Lastly, the court concluded it was an abuse of discretion to limit cross-examination on a point that went to the heart of the most important standard-of-care issue in the case. The judgment of the Superior Court was vacated and the case was remanded for a new trial. View "Armour v. Bader" on Justia Law