Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Texas is the only state in the country that has voluntary workers' compensation; employers can subscribe to it or not as they see fit. An employee of a non-subscribing employer, Kroger, as part of his duties, was mopping up a very slick substance in Kroger's bathroom. He slipped and seriously injured himself.
The Fifth Circuit certified the following question concerning the premises liability claim to the Texas Supreme Court: “Pursuant to Texas law . . . can an employee recover against a non-subscribing employer for an injury caused by a premises defect of which he was fully aware but that his job duties required him to remedy? Put differently, does the employee's awareness of the defect eliminate the employer's duty to maintain a safe workplace?” Importantly, because Texas law forbids an employer who opts out of the workers’ compensation system from asserting an employee’s contributory negligence or assumption of the risk as a defense, if Kroger owed plaintiff a duty of care, and if it breached that duty, it would be liable for the all of the damages, regardless of plaintiff’s negligence or assumption of the risk.
The court provided the following answer to the certified question:
Under Texas law, an employee generally cannot “recover against a nonsubscribing employer for an injury caused by a premises defect of which he was fully aware but that his job duties required him to remedy.” As is the case with landowners and invitees generally, employers have a duty to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition for their employees, but they will ordinarily satisfy their duty as a matter of law by providing an adequate warning of concealed dangers of which they are or should be aware but which are not known to the employee. “The employee's awareness of the defect” does not “eliminate the employer's duty to maintain a safe workplace,” but with respect to premises conditions, that duty is ordinarily satisfied by warning the employee of concealed, unknown dangers; the duty to maintain a reasonably safe workplace generally does not obligate an employer to eliminate or warn of dangerous conditions that are open and obvious or otherwise known to the employee. Exceptions to this general rule may apply in premises liability cases involving third-party criminal activity or a necessary use of the premises. If an exception applies, the employer may owe a duty to protect the employee from the unreasonably dangerous condition despite the employee's awareness of the danger, and the [workers’ compensation act] will prohibit a nonsubscribing employer from raising defenses based on the employee's awareness.
The case is Austin v. Kroger Tex., L.P., __ S.W.3d __, 2015 WL 3641066 (Tex. June 12, 2015). Shannon Ramirez at LeClair Ryan has more in Virtual Strategy.
Friday, August 21, 2015
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
Wednesday, August 12, 2015
An Oklahoma oil field worker, employed by one company and contracted out to another, lost his thumb in an accident with a piece of machinery lacking mandatory guards. He collected workers comp from his employer and sued under the intentional tort exception to workers comp; he also sued the company for whom he was a contractor for premises liability. The Tenth Circuit affirmed dismissal of the claim against the employer, but held the premises liability claim could go forward against the contract employer:
“Oklahoma now recognizes an exception to the open and obvious doctrine where the landowner should have reasonably foreseen the harm,” the appeals court ruled.
Business Insurance has the story.
Thursday, August 6, 2015
Wednesday, August 5, 2015
Joanna Schwartz has posted to SSRN How Governments Pay: Lawsuits, Budgets, and Police Reform. The abstract provides:
For decades, scholars have debated the extent to which financial sanctions cause government officials to improve their conduct. Yet little attention has been paid to a foundational empirical question underlying these debates: When a plaintiff recovers in a damages action against the government, who foots the bill? In prior work, I found that individual police officers virtually never pay anything towards settlements and judgments entered against them. But this finding begs another question — where does the money come from, if not from individual officers? The dominant view among those who have considered this question is that settlements and judgments are usually paid from jurisdictions’ general funds with no financial impact on the involved law enforcement agencies, and many have suggested that agencies would have greater financial incentives to improve behavior were they required to pay settlements and judgments from their budgets. But, beyond anecdotal information about the practices in a few large agencies, there has been no systematic inquiry into the source of funds used by governments to satisfy suits.
In this Article, I report the results of the first nationwide study to examine how cities, counties, and states budget for and pay settlements and judgments in cases against law enforcement. Through public records requests, interviews, and other sources, I have collected information about litigation budgeting practices in 100 law enforcement agencies across the country. Based on the practices in these 100 jurisdictions, I make two key findings. First, settlements and judgments are not always — or even usually — paid from jurisdictions’ general funds; instead, cities, counties, and states use a wide range of budgetary arrangements to satisfy their legal liabilities. All told, half of the law enforcement agencies in my study financially contribute in some manner to the satisfaction of lawsuits brought against them. Second, having a department pay money out of its budget towards settlements and judgments is neither necessary nor sufficient to impose a financial burden on that department. Some law enforcement agencies pay millions from their budgets each year towards settlements and judgments, but the particularities of their jurisdictions’ budgeting arrangements lessen or eliminate altogether the financial impact of these payments on these agencies. On the other hand, smaller agencies that pay nothing from their budgets toward lawsuits may nevertheless have their very existence threatened if liability insurers raise premiums or terminate coverage as a result of large payouts. These findings should expand courts’ and scholars’ understandings of the impact of lawsuits on police reform efforts, inspire experimentation with budgeting arrangements that encourage more caretaking and accountability by law enforcement, and draw attention to the positive role local government finance officials and insurers can and do play in efforts to promote risk management and accountability in policing.
Friday, July 24, 2015
At JD Supra, Vonnetta Benjamin & Michael Sullivan of Womble Carlyle address a recent Georgia Supreme Court case:
The Georgia law regarding apportionment of liability in tort cases became more clear this month with the Georgia Supreme Court’s decision in Zaldivar v. Prickett, et al. Before the Court was the question of whether a non-party which is not “liable” to the plaintiff as a matter of law could be considered by the trier of fact as a non-party responsible, in whole or in part, for the “fault” which caused the underlying injury thus reducing the liability of the defendant by the percentage of that fault under O.C.G.A. § 51-12-33, commonly known as the Georgia Apportionment Statute. The Court’s answer was “Yes”.
The rest of the column is here.
Thursday, July 23, 2015
Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Thursday, June 25, 2015
Political subdivisions involved in the clean up of a corn mash spill onto a highway were denied sovereign immunity in a recent Nebraska case because they were on notice of the incident, had a reasonable amount of time to correct the problem, but failed to do so. Iowa State's CALT has details.
Monday, June 8, 2015
Monday, June 1, 2015
The largest premises verdict in Texas in the last decade, for the deaths of two teenagers, was handed down against McDonald's last month. One of the victims was beaten in a McDonald's parking lot in College Station, Texas, and the other was killed in an auto accident while a friend attempted to get her and the first victim to the hospital. The theory of the case was lax security; the argument was based, in part, on the fact police had been called to the restaurant at least 20 times in the last year and McDonald's never hired security or installed cameras. PR Newswire has details.
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Friday, May 22, 2015
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
Monday, May 18, 2015
A Louisiana appellate court has held a 1983 chemical spill does not constitute a continuing tort that tolls the statute of limitations. The court also held CERCLA does not preempt the state statute of limitations. Ned v. Union Pac. Corp. is discussed at JD Supra.
Friday, May 15, 2015
William Sage is lead author on a study of nondisclosure agreements in med mal settlements. Using the Texas closed-claim database, the authors determined nondisclosure clauses were included in 88.7% of settlements. This is not surprising to me, but the authors also concluded the clauses were broader than necessary to protect the doctors and hospital, and even broader than needed to avoid attracting other claimants. Monthly Prescribing Reference has a story, with links to the study.
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
Pennsylvania med mal cases filed in 2014 have hit an all-time low since tracking began in 2000, and are down 46.5% from the base years of 2000-2002. Only 1463 cases were filed across the Commonwealth last year. In a separate category, of the 2014 verdicts in med mal cases, 81% were for the defense.
Central Penn Business Journal has the story.