Last month, the Supreme Court of Iowa decided a premises liability case stemming from a 2010 accident. According to the court’s written opinion, a business guest at a hotel slipped and fell on the ice in the parking lot and broke her ankle. She brought a personal injury lawsuit, claiming that the hotel negligently caused her injuries because it did not maintain safe premises, did not properly train its employees, failed to warn its guests of the icy sidewalk, and caused ice to form. During the trial, the court instructed the jury on the negligent training theory but did not follow the proper doctrine. Furthermore, it also instructed the jurors on certain safety codes. The jury determined that the hotel was 98 percent liable and that the plaintiff was two percent at fault. She was subsequently awarded $1.2 million.

Snowy CityThe defendants then appealed the decision, claiming that the jury instructions were erroneous. With regard to the negligent training theory, the defendants argued that the record did not contain evidence that imposed a duty of care on the hotel. The plaintiff contended that expert testimony was not required. However, the Supreme Court held that there must be some evidence or testimony to support the instruction. Moreover, the Supreme Court found that the lower court incorrectly over-emphasized certain evidence. As a result of these missteps, the Supreme Court reversed the decision and award and ordered a new trial.

Special Issues in Negligent Training and Hiring Cases in New Mexico

The above case highlighted the importance of appropriate jury instructions and preparation in personal injury lawsuits. Unfortunately for the plaintiff, the decision was completely reversed, and a new trial was ordered because of these inappropriate jury instructions. This resulted in a dismissal of the jury award.

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Earlier this month, a Maryland appellate court issued a written opinion involving the death of a young boy who had been drinking at a friend’s home. In the case, Kiriakos v. Phillips, the court determined that under a traditional negligence analysis, an adult who knows that minors are consuming alcohol on their property has a duty to those who may be injured in an accident involving the intoxicated minors.

CocktailThe Facts of the Case

The Kiriakos case presented two cases consolidated for the purpose of appeal. The second case, Dankos v. Stapf, presents a clear factual scenario of when liability may arise. In the Dankos case, Dankos was with several friends drinking at one of his friends’ houses. The friend’s mother, Stapf, was present and didn’t do anything to stop the children from drinking. Importantly, she also didn’t do anything to stop them from driving.

On the next morning, one of the other intoxicated teens and Dankos left the Stapf home. The driver of the car was involved in a serious accident, and Dankos died as a result. The Dankos family filed a negligence lawsuit against Stapf, arguing that her negligence in allowing the minors to consume alcohol in her home contributed to their son’s death.

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The New Mexico Court of Appeals recently decided in favor of a plaintiff in a loss of consortium case stemming from a March 2010 accident. Apparently, several Albuquerque police officers responded to a report of a stolen car in a parking lot. The officers parked in various locations around the parking lot in unmarked cars.

Police SirensThe decedent and his children drove into the parking lot and parked next to the stolen car, and one of his children got out of the car and walked up to the stolen vehicle. The officers then parked one car behind the father, and as the father was backing out of the spot, he hit the police car. The officer then shot at the father’s car and hit him in the chest. Tragically, the unarmed father died from the gunshot wounds.

About four years later, the children’s guardian brought a lawsuit against the city for loss of consortium under the Tort Claims Act, arguing that the defendant shot the father in violation of City policy, and the father did not pose a threat. Furthermore, they contended that the city was also responsible for the death in the negligent hiring, training, and retraining of the officer who killed the father.

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The Supreme Court of Mississippi recently released a decision upholding a trial court’s denial of the state transportation commission’s request for sovereign immunity from a wrongful death claim brought on behalf of a motorcyclist who was allegedly killed because of unsafe conditions on a roadway operated by the defendant. The state supreme court ultimately rejected the defendant’s argument that roadway maintenance during construction is a discretionary function, which would protect the state from liability in the event that the negligence of state employees caused unsafe road conditions that resulted in the accident. Based on the high court’s ruling, the family of the deceased motorcyclist may be compensated by the state for their loss.

Red MotorcycleThe Plaintiff Dies after Losing Control of His Motorcycle in a Construction Zone on the Interstate

The case of Adams v. The Mississippi Transportation Commission was filed by the surviving family members of a man who died after he lost control of his motorcycle while changing lanes on the highway. According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the accident occurred in a construction zone with an uneven surface between two of the lanes. After the accident, the plaintiff filed a wrongful death complaint and sought damages from the government, alleging that the Transportation Commission was negligent by failing to comply with relevant construction standards, failing to correctly use traffic control devices, failing to place necessary warnings on the roadway, and creating an unreasonably dangerous condition with a reckless disregard for the safety of the public.

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Late last month, the Court of Appeals of the State of California heard and ruled on a case stemming from a man being hit by a car near a church parking lot. The man was attending a function at the church and was crossing a five-lane road to get to the church from an overflow parking lot. The plaintiff and his wife sued the church for several causes of action, including loss of consortium and negligence. They alleged that the church was negligent because it set up an overflow parking lot in a place where individuals needed to cross a busy road.

Busy RoadThe church moved for summary judgment, claiming that it did not owe the man a duty because it was not in control of the public road where the man was injured. However, the man appealed, arguing that the location of the injury is not dispositive and that the church did not meet its burden to show that no material fact existed regarding the duty it owed him. The appellate court reversed this finding. Specifically, the court took into consideration the location of the overflow lot, and it concluded that the church’s invitees who parked there were exposed to an unreasonable risk of injury. The court ultimately held that the church could be held liable for the man’s injuries.

New Mexico Premises Liability for Adjacent Properties

Generally, individuals who own or are in possession of property or land have a duty to keep their property or premises safe for visitors, guests, and occupiers of their land. If a person is injured on the land, the landowner may be held liable for the injuries the victim sustained. When the injury occurs on the land, it may be a bit easier for a plaintiff to pursue the claim, but even in those cases landowners will often try everything to thwart responsibility.

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Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Rhode Island released its opinion in a personal injury lawsuit stemming from a 2011 “melee” at a nightclub in Providence. According to the facts outlined in the opinion, in 2011, the plaintiff claimed that he sustained a series of injuries after a fight broke out in a nightclub. The plaintiff subsequently brought a personal injury lawsuit against the nightclub in 2014, but the plaintiff’s attorney incorrectly stated that the melee occurred on November 4, 2010.

Bar BackAfter the plaintiff filed the lawsuit, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss the case, alleging that the three-year statute of limitations had passed, and therefore the lawsuit could not be brought. The defendant’s attorneys mailed the motion to dismiss to the plaintiff’s attorney and filed it on the online system. A hearing was scheduled for June 16, 2015.

The plaintiff’s attorney did not attend the hearing, at which time the judge granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss. The plaintiff’s attorney claimed that she did not receive the defendant’s motion to dismiss, and she also attempted to amend the date of the incident. The plaintiff’s attorney argued that there was “excusable neglect” because she did not receive the defendant’s motion, but she conceded that she forgot to update the online filing system. The judge did not “buy” the plaintiff’s excusable neglect argument and denied the motion to vacate. However, the judge did not make a ruling on the amendment. The state supreme court held that there were no extenuating circumstances that would lead to a proper “excusable neglect” argument, and therefore they affirmed the lower court’s finding.

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Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia released its opinion in a case stemming from a car accident. According to the opinion, the plaintiff and the defendant were involved in a car accident in the parking lot of the plaintiff’s place of employment. The plaintiff brought a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant and claimed that the accident caused injuries to his neck, right knee, and back.

car accident

Additionally, the plaintiff argued that he accrued over $25,000 in medical expenses, and about half of that came from his neck and back, with the rest from his right knee. The defendant took responsibility for the accident and for the neck and back injuries. However, he stated the right knee problems were not a result of the accident. At trial, the plaintiff presented testimony, and at the close of evidence, the lower court advised the jury that the plaintiff could not recover compensation for injuries that he suffered or any conditions that existed prior to the time of the accident.

After trial, the jury then awarded the plaintiff damages for his neck and back injuries only. The plaintiff then went on to file a motion for a new trial, which was granted by the circuit court. The defendant appealed the motion for a new trial and argued that the jury finding was not against the “clear weight of evidence.” Ultimately, the Supreme Court of West Virginia agreed with the defendant and concluded that the lower court abused its discretion in granting the plaintiff a new trial.

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A court in West Virginia recently released its opinion in a negligence case stemming from a 2007 premises liability accident. According to the opinion, the accident occurred when a couple was attending a function at a park resort. While at the event, the husband leaned against a fence that proceeded to split, causing the husband to fall down a hill and hurt his shoulder.

Wood FenceThe plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the park and presented testimonial evidence from the park’s Director of Operations. The couple argued that the fence was installed sometime between the 1970s and 1990s and that the park could not produce documentation that the fence had ever been repaired or inspected. They further argued that the park was in the best position to ensure that the fence was in proper working order. The jury trial ended in a hefty verdict in favor of the plaintiff. However, the plaintiffs were not satisfied in that the jury did not return a verdict for pain and suffering. The plaintiffs then went on to file a motion for a new trial on the issue of pain and suffering.

The park appealed both of these issues and asked the court to dismiss the jury award and motion for a new trial. The Supreme Court ultimately found that the plaintiffs did not meet the evidentiary burden to bring a lawsuit of this nature. The court held that the plaintiffs failed to present a prima facie case of negligence in that they did not present any evidence of what the park should have done differently. Furthermore, they held that no witnesses testified as to how the park was negligent. The court ultimately dismissed the case in favor of the defendants.

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An appellate court released an opinion in a medical malpractice claim brought by the estate of an individual who died while in the care of a hospital. In the case, a man was admitted into the hospital after complaining of severe right side pain. He was given narcotic pain medication but had a bad reaction to it, and it was discontinued. About two days later, another doctor at the hospital prescribed a different pain medication. When the nurses arrived in the morning, the man was found lying across his bed and was unresponsive.

Alarm ClockUnfortunately, attempts to rescue him were unsuccessful, and he passed away. The hospital contacted the family, and the man’s wife claimed that the hospital improperly obtained her consent to perform a private autopsy. The family brought a medical malpractice lawsuit against the hospital and claimed that the hospital failed to notify the medical examiner. However, this claim was brought three years after the death. A jury did not find against the hospital on the medical malpractice claim but did find that the hospital improperly obtained consent.

The lower courts all concluded that the autopsy claims were not health care claims, and thus the statute of limitations did not bar that lawsuit, but the medical malpractice claim was past the statute of limitations.

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Earlier this month, a Pennsylvania appeals court heard and affirmed a $3 million verdict against a subsidiary of Johnson and Johnson arising from a product liability case. The lawsuit stemmed from an incident in which a child suffered severe birth injuries after the mother was prescribed and took a migraine medicine during her pregnancy.

White PillsAccording to the court’s decision, the woman was prescribed the medicine while she was pregnant, and her daughter was subsequently born with a bilateral cleft palate and lip. The mother and father claimed that the drug manufacturer was liable for the injuries because they failed to warn the mother’s doctor of the risks associated with taking the medicine, specifically the risk of birth injuries when the medicine is taken early during pregnancy.

At the trial level, the jury found that the company was liable for the injuries. The jury awarded $1.5 million in non-economic damages and $1.5 million to the parents in potential health care costs. The company then went on to appeal the $3 million dollar verdict, claiming that they were unable to change the pregnancy warning level without the permission of the FDA. However, the three judges on the appeals panel disagreed and found that the drug manufacturer still had the duty to warn doctors of the potential risks. The judges held that the manufacturer’s argument did not adequately differentiate between the potential risk that their label implied and the scientifically known risk. The judges also found that the evidence presented showed that the manufacturer knew of the potential risk of specific birth defects, including those that affected the child. The court also found that the manufacturer should have made the risks known to prescribing doctors.

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