Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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Plaintiff is an inmate at United States Penitentiary (“USP”) Hazelton who filed a pro se civil action in United States district court alleging violations under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”) for denied and delayed medical care of his chronic illnesses. Plaintiff also filed a Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”). Following the Magistrate Judge’s recommendation, the district court denied Plaintiff’s IFP motion on the grounds that he did not meet the “imminent danger of serious physical injury” exception. Plaintiff now appealed to the Fourth Circuit.   The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court’s judgment and remanded. The court explained that a plain reading of the statute requires that litigants allege sufficient specific facts to demonstrate a nexus between the claims presented and the imminent danger alleged. Here, both parties agree that it is a “commonsense requirement that a prisoner’s allegation of imminent danger must relate to their underlying claims.” Moreover, the Government concedes that “a fairly traceable relationship exists between Plaintiff’s alleged imminent danger and the claims set forth in his FTCA complaint, as they both arise from his allegations of delay and denial of medical treatment.” Plaintiff has passed this threshold because he alleged that the prison’s continued denial and delay in providing medical treatment are directly causing his worsening physical and medical conditions which present an imminent danger of serious physical injury.   Finally, the court remanded writing that the district court did not have access to Defendant’s medical records and, thus, did not have a complete record to determine whether Defendant satisfied the “imminent danger” exception based on the court's clarified standard. View "Marc Hall v. US" on Justia Law

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Gary and Shiela Womble appealed a circuit court’s dismissal of their tort action against Collie Moore, III based on their failure to prosecute the action. In March 2018, the Wombles were injured as the result of a motor-vehicle accident in which Moore's vehicle rear-ended the Wombles' vehicle. The Wombles subsequently filed a complaint in the trial court asserting claims of negligence, wantonness, and loss of consortium against Moore. A little more than two months after that status conference, the Wombles' attorney filed a motion to withdraw as their counsel, in which he stated that he could "no longer effectively represent" them and that he had "informed the [Wombles] that they will have to timely comply with" the trial court's orders. The trial court granted that motion. The Wombles proceeded pro se, and participated in all scheduled proceedings and status conferences conducted between January and April 2021. The case was called for trial September 13, 2021, but the Wombles did not appeal. Moore’s counsel moved to dismiss based on the Wombles’ failure to prosecute. The trial court granted the motion and dismissed the complaint with prejudice. In October 2021, the Wombles moved pursuant to Rule 60(b), Ala. R. Civ. P., asking the trial court to set aside its judgment due to their own “excusable neglect.” The trial court dismissed the complaint. But finding no reversible error in the dismissal, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court. View "Womble v. Moore" on Justia Law

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Byram Café Group, LLC (BCG), moved for summary judgment against Eddie and Teresa Tucker in a premises-liability action arising from Eddie’s slip-and-fall accident. BCG sought judgment as a matter of law based on a lack of evidence supporting any of the elements of a slip-and-fall case. In response, the Tuckers argued that genuine issues of material fact existed as to dangerous conditions that may have caused Eddie’s fall. The circuit court denied BCG’s summary judgment motion. BCG sought interlocutory appeal, which the Mississippi Supreme Court granted. The issue the appeal presented was whether the Tuckers could survive a motion for summary judgment without producing evidence that a dangerous condition existed, that BCG caused the hypothetical dangerous condition, and that BCG knew or should have known about the dangerous condition. As a matter of law, the Supreme Court found the circuit court erred by denying BCG’s motion for summary judgment. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded the circuit court’s order. View "Byram Cafe Group, LLC v. Tucker" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued Defendant in a Texas federal court to recover unpaid legal fees. The federal rules allow service under the law of the state “where service is made,” Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(e)(1), so Plaintiff tried serving Defendant by publication under Florida law. But that publication notice was defective. Noting that defect, Defendant moved to vacate his default. Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(c). But the district court declined and soon entered a default judgment.The Fifth Circuit vacated and remanded the district court’s judgment. The court held that it was an error for the district court to decline to consider Defendant’s objection to improper service. The court explained that because Defendant was never properly served, he showed good cause to set aside his default and the default judgment that followed. View "Espinoza v. Humphries" on Justia Law

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In 1981, defendant-appellee Richard Roberts was a federal prosecutor preparing for a murder trial. Appellant Terry Mitchell, then a teenager, was a key trial witness for the prosecution. Thirty-five years later, Mitchell sued Roberts alleging he sexually assaulted her through the criminal trial proceedings. Roberts moved to dismiss the complaint with prejudice, contending Mitchells’ claims were time barred. Mitchell conceded the claims had expired under the original statute of limitations, but claimed Utah’s Revival Statute made them timely. At Mitchell’s request, the magistrate judge certified questions to the Utah Supreme Court concerning the validity of the Revival Statute. The Utah Supreme Court issued a detailed opinion concluding the Utah legislature was prohibited from retroactively reviving time-barred claims in a manner that deprived defendants like Roberts of a vested statute of limitations defense. Based on the Utah Supreme Court’s conclusion that the Revival Statute was unconstitutional, Roberts again moved to dismiss with prejudice. Mitchell sought voluntary dismissal without prejudice under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(2). According to Mitchell, the Utah Supreme Court had not foreclosed the possibility that the Utah Constitution would be amended to permit legislative revival of time-barred child sexual abuse claims, and on that basis, she proposed a curative condition that would allow her to sue Roberts if such an amendment came to pass. The magistrate judge rejected Mitchell’s argument and dismissed her complaint with prejudice. She appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the magistrate judge’s decision. View "Mitchell v. Roberts" on Justia Law

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Two nursing homes bring interlocutory appeals to this court from orders in two separate cases in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The Plaintiffs' estate in each case claims that a defendant nursing home failed to provide adequate care and should therefore be held liable for the resident’s death from COVID-19. The district courts denied Defendant's motions to dismiss based on PREP Act immunity. Defendants invoked a provision of the PREP Act that they claim gives us jurisdiction over these appeals.The DC Circuit dismissed the appeals, holding that the PREP Act subsection 247d6d(e)(10) does not authorize interlocutory appeals to this court from orders of district courts elsewhere allowing other types of claims to proceed despite assertions of PREP Act immunity. View "Anne Cannon v. Watermark Retirement Communities, Inc." on Justia Law

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Two nursing homes bring interlocutory appeals to this court from orders in two separate cases in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The plaintiff estate in each case claims that a defendant nursing home failed to provide adequate care and should therefore be held liable for the resident’s death from COVID-19. The district courts denied the defendants’ motions to dismiss based on PREP Act immunity. Defendants invoke a provision of the PREP Act that they claim gives us jurisdiction over these appeals.These cases raise the common threshold question of whether 42 U.S.C. Section 247d-6d(e)(10) empowers us to hear interlocutory appeals from decisions of out-of-circuit district courts rejecting assertions of PREP Act immunity.The DC Circuit concluded that the PREP Act confers interlocutory appellate jurisdiction on the court only from orders of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (D.D.C.) denying motions to dismiss or for summary judgment in willful misconduct cases—a distinct, limited cause of action that subsection 247d-6d(d) of the PREP Act excepts from its broad grant of immunity and channels to the federal district court here. Because PREP Act subsection 247d6d(e)(10) does not authorize interlocutory appeals to this court from orders of district courts elsewhere allowing other types of claims to proceed despite assertions of PREP Act immunity, the court dismissed the appeals. View "Christopher Beaty, Jr. v. Fair Acres Geriatric Center" on Justia Law

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Robert Procive appealed when a district court dismissed his appeal of an Administrative Law Judge’s order that denied his claim for Workforce Safety and Insurance (“WSI”) benefits. Procive submitted his first claim in 2020, alleging he suffered carpal tunnel syndrome due to injuries to both wrists, elbows, and shoulders resulting from repetitive digging, hammering and driving stakes, steel posts, and iron rods into the ground. He claimed his original injury occurred in western North Dakota, and he notified his employer of his injury in November 2004 and October 2016. WSI accepted liability for Procive’s right carpal tunnel injury, but denied for the left. Later WSI issued its order reversing its acceptance of liability for the right carpal tunnel, finding Procive willfully made false statements about whether he had prior injuries or received treatment. WSI ordered Procive to repay past benefits he received. After a hearing the ALJ affirmed WSI’s decisions denying coverage. Procive appealed to the district court in Stutsman County. WSI moved to dismiss the appeal, arguing the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because Procive was required to file his appeal in the county where the injury occurred or the county where he resided. To this, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed, finding the district court did not have jurisdiction. View "Procive v. WSI" 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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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