Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

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Mary Thomas awoke, paralyzed, after surgery. She filed a medical malpractice suit against Dr. Adam Lewis, who performed the surgery, claiming her injuries stemmed from two neurosurgeries performed by Dr. Lewis. Thomas also filed suit against Jackson Neurosurgery Clinic and Central Mississippi Medical Center based on vicarious liability. Thomas’s medical malpractice claims were based on an alleged failure of Dr. Lewis to manage Thomas’s mean arterial blood pressure during the first surgery and Dr. Lewis’s decision to perform the second surgery. However, the issue on appeal involved the reliability of expert testimony under Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993). Thomas’s expert, neurosurgeon Dr. Neil Wright, claimed that Dr. Lewis had failed to provide the proper standard of care and, in turn, caused Thomas’s injuries. However, Dr. Lewis argued that Dr. Wright’s opinions were not reliable because they were inconsistent with medical literature. The trial court agreed, struck Dr. Wright’s opinions, and granted partial summary judgment in favor of Dr. Lewis with regard to the first surgery. The trial court also ruled that Dr. Wright could testify to negligence regarding the second surgery. The trial court allowed Thomas to proceed on claims related to the second surgery. Dr. Wright admitted that the decision to perform the second surgery was a judgment call and that he failed to testify that making the decision to proceed with a second surgery was a breach of the standard of care. The trial court considered the evidence and found that Mary Thomas had failed to offer admissible proof from which a reasonable juror could find that Dr. Lewis deviated from a professional standard of care. The trial court directed a verdict in favor of Dr. Lewis, Jackson Neurosurgery Clinic, and Central Mississippi Medical Center, and Thomas appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Thomas v. Lewis" on Justia Law

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King County, Washington enacted a first-of-its-kind ordinance that required electric, gas, water and sewer utilities to pay for the right to use the county's rights-of-way (franchise). The associated planned charge was called "franchise compensation," and was based on an estimate of a franchise's value. If the county and utility couldn't agree on an amount, the county barred the utility from using its rights-of-way. The issue presented for the Washington Supreme Court's review centered on the County's authority to collect franchise compensation. Secondarily, the issue was whether water-sewer districts or private utilities could use the rights-of-way without a franchise from the County. The superior court ruled King County lacked authority to collect franchise compensation. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that generally, King County could collect franchise compensation. Water-sewer districts and private utilities had no general right to use King County's rights-of-way without a franchise. View "King County v. King County Water Dists." on Justia Law

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After plaintiff was injured when a neck brace allegedly caused or failed to protect him from serious bodily injury, he filed suit against the makers and sellers of the neck brace. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's orders granting defendants' motions to dismiss. The district court correctly noted that, even though entry of default was proper where a party fails to respond in a timely manner, a court must not enter default without first determining whether the unchallenged facts constitute a legitimate cause of action. In this case, all but one of the allegations in the amended complaint constitute mere legal conclusions and recitations of the elements of the causes of action. The court agreed with the district court that where, as here, there are so few facts alleged in the complaint, the court need not address each individual claim to make a sufficiency determination on a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Accordingly, because the amended complaint failed to allege sufficient facts to state a claim for relief that was plausible on its face, the district court did not err in granting defendants' motion to dismiss. View "Glick v. Western Power Sports, Inc." on Justia Law

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Renovate America, Inc. (Renovate) appealed an order denying its petition to compel arbitration of Rosa Fabian's claims related to the financing and installation of a solar energy system in her home. Fabian filed a complaint against Renovate alleging that solar panels she purchased for her home were improperly installed. Fabian alleged that, in early 2017, Renovate made an unsolicited telephone call to her home about financing the solar panels and "signed" her name on a financial agreement. All communications between Fabian and Renovate's representative occurred telephonically and she was never presented with any documents to sign. Fabian claims she did not sign a financial agreement with Renovate; nevertheless, Renovate incorporated the solar panel payments set forth in the financial agreement into her mortgage loan payments. Fabian thus alleged that Renovate violated: (1) the Consumers Legal Remedies Act; (2) the Unfair Competition Law; and (3) the California Contract Translation Act. Renovate petitioned to compel arbitration of Fabian's claims and stay judicial proceedings pending arbitration, supported by an Assessment Contract (Contract) that Renovate claimed Fabian had signed electronically. Renovate contended the trial court erred in ruling that the company failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Fabian electronically signed the subject contract. The Court of Appeal found that by not providing any specific details about the circumstances surrounding the Contract's execution, Renovate offered little more than a bare statement that Fabian "entered into" the Contract without offering any facts to support that assertion. "This left a critical gap in the evidence supporting Renovate's petition." The Court therefore affirmed denial of the petition to compel arbitration. View "Fabian v. Renovate America, Inc." on Justia Law

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Elizabeth Imbragulio appealed a Superior Court decision that reversed the decision of the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board (“the Board”) and concluded that she had been terminated for just cause by her employer, Civic Health Services, LLC (“Civic Health”). The Board cross-appealed, arguing that the Superior Court lacked jurisdiction to consider Civic Health’s appeal in the first instance because it was not filed in a timely manner. The issue raised by the cross-appeal was whether Superior Court Civil Rule 6(a)’s method for computing time applied to the requirement in 19 Del. C. section 3323(a) that a party seeking judicial review of a decision by the Board must do so within ten days after the decision becomes final. After careful consideration, the Delaware Supreme Court agreed with the Board that it did not, and therefore concluded that the Superior Court did not have jurisdiction over Civic Health’s appeal. Accordingly, the Supreme Court directed the Superior Court to vacate its judgment. View "Imbragulio v. UIAB" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court denying Defendants' motion to dismiss for improper venue, holding that venue was not proper in Sheridan County. Plaintiffs brought this action in Sheridan County for legal malpractice against two attorneys and their firm. Defendants resided and had their personal place of business in Albany County. Defendants were served with the complaint at their place of business in Albany County. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that venue was improper in Sheridan County. The district court denied the motion, finding that Defendants could reasonably have expected to be summoned in Sheridan County. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court abused its discretion when it denied Defendants' motion to dismiss based on an erroneous interpretation of the venue provision in Wyo. Stat. Ann. 1-5-108. View "Aron v. Willey" on Justia Law

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Anjela Greer, an employee for the City of Wichita who worked at the Wichita Art Museum, contended her employer denied her a promotion because of her military service in violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. She applied for a promotion but didn’t get an interview. Greer simultaneously served in the Navy Reserves and worked as a security guard at the Wichita Art Museum. After about five years as a security guard Greer learned of a vacancy for the museum’s “Operations Supervisor.” She and one other person applied. A city employee screened the applications and decided not to advance Greer to the next stage, where she would have been interviewed. The Museum attributed the denial of an interview to Greer’s lack of qualifications: the new job required at least one year of prior supervisory work in particular fields. The application called for Greer to state how many people she supervised. She answered “2,” but identified her job title only as “Security” and didn’t list any supervisory duties. Based on the job title and the absence of any listed supervisory duties, the Museum maintained Greer’s application had shown a lack of supervisory experience. The district court granted summary judgment to the defendants on two grounds: (1) any reasonable factfinder would determine that the defendants had declined to advance Greer to the interview stage because her application showed a lack of supervisory experience; and (2) the defendants had proven that they wouldn’t have advanced Greer to an interview regardless of her military status. The Tenth Circuit rejected both grounds. The first was invalid because a factfinder could reasonably infer that Greer’s military status was a motivating factor in defendants’ denial of an interview. The second ground was also invalid because a factfinder could have reasonably found Greer would have obtained an interview if she had not been serving in the military. The Court thus reversed the grant of summary judgment to the defendants. View "Greer v. City of Wichita, Kansas" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court granting the Attorney General's motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' complaint alleging that the "Au Pair Program" at issue in this case impliedly preempts Massachusetts from requiring host families to comply with its wage and hour laws and ordering Plaintiff's case dismissed, holding that the district court did not err or abuse its discretion. The United States Department of State (DOS) administers the Au Pair Program, through which foreign nationals may obtain a special visa then provide in-home childcare services to host families in the United States while the foreign nationals pursue post-secondary school studies. Plaintiffs, a DOS-approved private placement agency based on Massachusetts, and two individuals, brought this lawsuit seeking declaratory and injunctive relief and alleging that state law measures are preempted insofar as they protect au pair participants by imposing obligations on their host families as their employer that may be enforced against the host families. The district court found that there was no preemption. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs did not meet their burden to establish field or conflict preemption. View "Capron v. Massachusetts Attorney General" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellee Paula Knecht, individually and as executrix of the estate of her late husband, Larry Knecht filed suit against 18 defendants alleging defendants failed to warn Mr. Knecht of the dangers of asbestos. During his lifetime, Mr. Knecht developed mesothelioma from exposure to asbestos. While the case was awaiting trial, Mr. Knecht passed away. When the trial date arrived, there was only one remaining defendant appellant Ford Motor Company. A jury held Ford liable for Mr. Knecht's illness and awarded damages. Negligence was apportioned between the parties, Ford was assigned a 20% share of the total negligence. The trial judge then applied 20% to the $40,625,000 damages award and arrived at a compensatory damages award against Ford of $8,125,000. The jury also awarded plaintiff $1,000,000 in punitive damages. After the jury returned its verdict, Ford filed two motions: (1) a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law under Superior Court Rule 50(b) or, in the alternative, a new trial; and (2) a motion for a new trial, or, in the alternative, remittitur. The trial judge denied both motions. On appeal to the Delaware Supreme Court, Ford argued: (1) the Superior Court erred by not granting Ford judgment as a matter of law on the ground that plaintiff failed to prove that Mr. Knecht’s injury was caused by Ford’s failure to warn of the dangers of asbestos; (2) the Superior Court erred by not granting a new trial on the ground that the jury rendered an irreconcilably inconsistent verdict; and (3) the Superior Court erred by not granting a new trial or remittitur on the ground that the compensatory damages verdict is excessive. The Supreme Court concluded the Superior Court’s rulings against Ford on the first two claims were correct. However, the Court concurred the third contention had merit, reversed judgment and remanded to the Superior Court for further consideration of Ford’s motion for a new trial, or, in the alternative, remittitur. View "Ford Motor Company v. Knecht, et al." on Justia Law

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Appellant Christiana Care Health Services, Inc. (“CCHS”) brought an interlocutory appeal of a Superior Court decision to deny its motion for partial summary judgment. The alleged medical negligence at issue in the underlying case occurred during surgery performed on Margaret Rackerby Flint at Christiana Care Hospital, which is operated by CCHS. The surgery allegedly caused her death two days later. The complaint was filed by Meeghan Carter, Ms. Flint’s daughter, individually and as administratrix of Ms. Flint’s estate. It named as defendants Dr. Michael Principe, who performed the surgery, Dr. Eric Johnson, who assisted him, and CCHS. Later, the medical practices of the two doctors were added as defendants. The sole claim against CCHS was that the two doctors were its agents and it is vicariously liable for their alleged negligence. Mediation resolved claims against Dr. Principe and his medical practice. As part of that settlement, plaintiff signed a release which released all such claims. CCHS was not a party to the settlement or the release. Following that settlement, CCHS filed its motion for partial summary judgment against plaintiff on the theory that the release of Dr. Principe released it from any vicarious liability for Dr. Principe’s alleged negligence. The Superior Court denied the motion. CCHS argued: (1) the release of an agent released a vicarious liability claim against the principal as a matter of law; and (2) the terms of the release which plaintiff signed when she settled with Dr. Principe and his medical practice also released it from liability for Dr. Principe’s conduct. The Delaware Supreme Court agreed with CCHS’s second contention, finding that the written release operated as a complete satisfaction of plaintiff’s vicarious liability claim against CCHS arising from Dr. Principe’s alleged conduct, and the motion for partial summary judgment should have been granted. View "Christiana Care Health Services Inc. v. Carter, et al." on Justia Law