In early November, the Supreme Court of Connecticut heard oral arguments stemming from a governmental immunity matter. According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was hit by a vehicle near his school’s driveway. Through his parents, he brought a lawsuit against several defendants, including the superintendent and assistant principals of the school. The plaintiff argued that the named defendants negligently supervised the school’s staff and students, and as a result the plaintiff suffered injuries.

SchoolyardThe defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that they enjoyed governmental immunity and could not be held liable. The trial court agreed and found that the defendants’ duty to supervise the students and staff was considered discretionary, and as a result governmental immunity applied. The trial court also found that although the superintendent and principals had a ministerial duty to assign staff to guard the lot, these administrators were also entitled to summary judgment because they fulfilled their duty by creating a schedule of assigned staff to monitor the lot. However, on the day in question, there was no staff member monitoring the lot because the scheduled staff member was out sick.

Continue reading

The Supreme Court of Kentucky recently published an opinion in a slip-and-fall case that was appealed to the court by the plaintiff. According to the opinion, the accident occurred in 2011 when a guest and his wife were attending a convention at the defendant hotel. Evidently, the plaintiff slipped and injured himself when he was getting into a bathtub in his hotel room. According to the facts as determined by the appellate court, the bathtub did have a safety bar, but it did not have a bathmat. After his injury, the plaintiff notified the hotel of his injury, and employees subsequently provided him with a bathmat.

Bath FaucetThe guest filed a lawsuit against the hotel. The plaintiff’s premises liability claim asserted that he was an invitee of the hotel, the bathtub was slick and should be considered a dangerous condition, the hotel failed to exercise reasonable care in maintaining the bathtub, and his injuries were a result of the hotel’s negligence.

The hotel filed a motion to dismiss the case, and the lower court granted summary judgement, holding that the hotel did not assume the duty to provide bathmats to all of the rooms just because some of the rooms had them. The court also held that a hotel is not “an insurer of a guest’s safety.” The plaintiff appealed this decision all the way to the state supreme court. That court reversed the lower court’s decision and found that the hotel did have a duty to take reasonable steps to address and mitigate any dangerous conditions at their hotel. The question remains whether the hotel took adequate measures to protect the plaintiff, so the case was remanded back to the lower court for further analysis.

Continue reading

Recently, the Supreme Court of Mississippi remanded a negligence case back to the trial court for a new trial after the court determined that the trial court allowed improper expert witness testimony and an improper closing argument. The case stemmed from a 2008 incident in which a woman who was in a nursing home fell and broke her hip following a surgical procedure to repair her fractured hip. Sadly, the woman ended up passing away several days after the fall.

Hospital BedsHer family brought a lawsuit against the nursing home, making several claims, including:

  • Failing to provide the appropriate number of staff for the residents;
  • Failing to provide a sufficient nursing plan;
  • Failing to take reasonable steps to prevent or eliminate dangers in the nursing home; and
  • Failing to seek a doctor’s guidance with regard to the specific needs of the woman.

Continue reading

Recently, a California appellate court released its opinion regarding a medical malpractice lawsuit stemming from a 2012 accident. According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the plaintiff was a patient at the defendant hospital, and he was being transferred by an ambulance agency, another named defendant. During the transfer, the gurney tipped over, and the plaintiff fell to the ground, suffering several injuries, including fractures to his patella and clavicle.

AmbulanceAbout two years later, the man filed a lawsuit against the hospital and ambulance agency, alleging several causes of action, including premises liability, negligence, and personal injury. The statute of limitations for general negligence cases in the jurisdiction is two years, but it is only one year for medical malpractice cases. Both defendants filed summary judgment motions, claiming the case was one of medical malpractice and asking the court to dismiss the case. Several months later, the trial court granted the summary judgment motions.

After the court granted the defendants’ motions, the plaintiff then filed an appeal, asking a higher court to review the lower court’s decision to classify his case as a medical malpractice claim. However, the appellate court found that the transfer of the plaintiff on the gurney was “related to” his medical treatment, and therefore the claim should be considered one of medical malpractice. Thus, the one-year statute of limitations applies to both the case against the hospital as well as the case against the ambulance company.

Continue reading

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit recently released an opinion affirming a lower court’s decision that summary judgment should be granted in favor of a defendant in a product liability lawsuit. The case stems from a tragic traffic accident that occurred when a passenger died when he was traveling as a passenger in the back of a vehicle.

Road SignAccording to the court’s written opinion, the vehicle crashed into another vehicle and began spinning, colliding with many nearby objects. Unfortunately, a yield sign was one of the objects that was hit, and the stationary base of the sign was forced underneath the vehicle and cut through the fuel tank. At that point, the fuel tank began to leak. The driver and front passenger were able to safely exit the vehicle; however, the three passengers in the back were not able to escape because the doors would not open. As the passengers were trying to escape, the car became engulfed in flames.

The family of the three passengers killed brought a product liability lawsuit against the car’s manufacturer. They claimed that the design of the car’s fuel tank was faulty and that the company should have taken reasonable steps to design and manufacture a gas tank that would not be prone to explosions after this type of accident. The plaintiffs attempted to produce expert testimony, but the defendants successfully moved to exclude the testimony. As a result, it was determined that the plaintiffs did not have sufficient evidence to raise a genuine issue of material fact.

Continue reading

Earlier this month, a federal court of appeals issued a written opinion in a workplace injury case involving claims made by an employee that the allegedly negligent party intentionally destroyed or lost evidence necessary to his case. In the case, Schaefer v. Universal Scaffolding, the court held that a party claiming an opposing party intentionally lost or destroyed evidence must show that they would have had a “reasonable probability” of success if the evidence had been preserved.

ScaffoldingIf a party can make this showing, the spoliating party (the party that lost or destroyed the evidence) may face a variety of sanctions, including an adverse inference instruction to the jury that the evidence, had it been presented, should be assumed to disfavor the spoliating party. Sanctions may also include judgment being entered against the spoliating party.

The Facts of the Case

Schaefer worked in the construction industry. As a part of his job, he would assemble scaffolding. One day, a piece of scaffolding manufactured by the defendant came loose and struck him on the head. He sustained serious injuries and filed a product liability lawsuit in addition to a claim for Workers’ Compensation.

Continue reading

An Ohio woman was recently awarded a $1.2 million verdict after a jury trial in a personal injury claim against a grocery store, based on injuries that she sustained when another customer lost control of a motorized shopping cart and crashed into her. As a result of the collision, the woman hit her head and suffered serious head and neck injuries. According to a news report covering the case, the woman’s claim alleged that the grocery store did not adequately show its customers how to use the motorized carts safely and negligently caused her injuries. After the parties were unable to agree on settlement terms, the case was submitted to a jury, which awarded the woman over $1.2 million.

Shopping AisleBusinesses Can Be Held Accountable to Customers for the Negligent or Intentional Actions of Other Customers

The recent $1.2 million jury award demonstrates that businesses and other responsible entities may be legally accountable for the actions of their customers in the event of an injury or death. Businesses have a legal duty to provide a reasonably safe environment for customers while they are open to the public. Businesses that provide potentially dangerous machinery or activities have a responsibility to ensure that people participating are able to do so safely. Businesses may have a duty to train or educate customers about the use of potentially dangerous equipment, and if they fail to do so, they may be held accountable for creating a hazard to other customers in the event an injury occurs. In certain circumstances, businesses or property owners can even be held accountable for the intentional conduct of a customer if the property owner should have reasonably anticipated the risk of the customer’s conduct occurring.

Continue reading

An Illinois court recently published an opinion reversing a lower appellate court’s ruling in favor of the defendant in a medical malpractice and wrongful death claim. The plaintiff’s claim had been dismissed by the district court because it was filed after the statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims appeared to have run. The state high court disagreed with the lower court’s ruling that the claim was time-barred and applied what is known as the “discovery rule” to the plaintiff’s claim, ultimately extending the statute of limitations to permit the plaintiff’s claims to be heard. Since the dismissal of the plaintiff’s case was reversed, he may receive compensation through a settlement or trial on his claim that the defendant’s negligence resulted in his mother’s death.

DoctorThe Plaintiff’s Mother Died Nine Days after Having a Procedure Performed by the Defendants

The plaintiff in the case of Moon v. Theis is the son of a woman who died of apparent respiratory depression while under the care of the defendants on May 29, 2009. The plaintiff’s mother was a patient of the defendant whose condition worsened after having a perineal proctectomy performed by the defendant earlier in the month. The plaintiff filed the first medical malpractice complaint against the defendant on May 10, 2011, which alleged the defendant failed to properly treat his mother’s respiratory distress. In February 2013, during proceedings related to that lawsuit, the plaintiff obtained a CT scan of his mother from before her death and discovered other acts of alleged negligence by the defendant that appeared to contribute to her death. In March 2013, the plaintiff filed a separate wrongful death lawsuit against the defendants, alleging that the defendant’s previously undiscovered negligence was a cause of his mother’s death and seeking compensation on her behalf.

Continue reading

All fatal traffic accidents are tragic. However, those that involve a drunk driver and a young victim feel particularly devastating. Lawmakers and police do everything they can to enact and enforce laws that deter drunk driving, but there is no substitute for good judgment. In fact, drunk driving is such a problem in New Mexico that between the years of 2002 and 2013, over 1,200 people lost their lives due to alcohol-related accidents. Furthermore, New Mexico’s per capita rate of death in drunk driving accidents is 30% higher than the national average.

CocktailSadly, nothing can be done to bring back someone who lost their life in a drunk driving accident. However, the family of the victim may be able to hold the responsible party accountable through a civil wrongful death lawsuit. Wrongful death cases in New Mexico are technically brought by the administrator of the deceased’s estate. However, they are brought for the benefit of the surviving family members, usually a spouse, children, or grandchildren. In order to prove a New Mexico wrongful death case, the person bringing the lawsuit must show that the defendant’s negligent act caused the death of their loved one. In the case of a drunk driving accident, this is often proven through evidence of the driver’s intoxication.

23-Year-Old Man Killed in Wrong-Way Drunk-Driving Accident

Earlier this month, a young man was killed in a drunk driving accident on Interstate 25. According to one local news report covering the tragic accident, the collision occurred at around 11:30 in the evening in Santa Fe.

Continue reading

The Alaska Supreme Court recently rejected a plaintiff’s challenge to a jury’s verdict in a personal injury case that had denied the plaintiff relief and found the defendant was not operating his vehicle negligently when the accident occurred. The state high court ruled that the jury could have reasonably concluded that the accident was not the defendant’s fault and that he should not be held accountable for the injuries allegedly suffered by the plaintiff in the accident. Based on the latest appellate ruling, the plaintiff will most likely not be compensated for the injuries that she suffered in the crash.

Snowy RoadThe Defendant Slides on Ice and Crashes into the Plaintiff’s Vehicle at an Intersection

The plaintiff in the case of Marshall v. Peter was a woman who was struck from behind by the defendant’s vehicle while she was waiting to make a left-hand turn at an intersection. According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the parties agreed that the road conditions were icy at the time of the accident, and the police officers who responded to the crash cited the defendant for causing the accident by making an improper start. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant after the accident, alleging that he negligently failed to account for the road conditions and maintain a safe following distance from the plaintiff, causing the accident and her subsequent injuries.

The Jury Finds that the Defendant Was Not Negligent

After trial on the plaintiff’s claim, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant, finding that the defendant had operated his vehicle with due care considering the conditions at the time, and the accident was an unavoidable and minor result of uncontrollable conditions, rather than the defendant’s fault. In response to the verdict, the plaintiff asked the court to enter judgment in her favor notwithstanding the jury’s findings, but the trial court rejected her request. The plaintiff then appealed that ruling to the state supreme court, arguing that the defendant should be liable for the accident as a matter of law and that the jury’s verdict was unreasonable.

Continue reading