Wednesday, April 17, 2019
While attempting to reconcile with her husband, wife is tested for STDs. The insurer posts the list of diseases for which wife was tested in an online portal that is accessed by her husband as the primary policyholder. Husband ceases reconciliation efforts and proceeds with a divorce. Wife sues insurer for disclosure of private facts, intrusion upon seclusion, and IIED (also called outrage in Indiana). A divided Indiana Court of Appeals dismissed the disclosure claim because Indiana does not recognize disclosure claims, and dismissed the intrusion claim because Indiana does not recognize intrusion claims that only invade a person's emotional solace. Regarding outrage, the court dismissed it, as well, because posting the list of tested diseases in the online portal was not extreme and outrageous:
“This is not conduct which is utterly intolerable in a civilized community but, rather, routine in today’s technologically-driven society,” Judge Cale Bradford wrote for the divided panel, with Judge Elaine Brown concurring. “Health insurance companies maintain web portals to allow policyholders instant access to their personal medical information, insurance claims, etc., and the current matter is no exception.”
The Indiana Lawyer has the story.
Tuesday, April 16, 2019
Heidi Li Feldman has posted to SSRN Why the Latest Ruling in the Sandy Hook Shooting Litigation Matters. The abstract provides:
On March 19, 2019 the Connecticut Supreme Court officially released its opinion in Soto v. Bushmaster Firearms International, LLC. Because the decision greenlights civil discovery and trial for the Sandy Hook plaintiffs seeking compensation from the maker, distributor, and retailer of the gun used by the shooter, the ruling received much attention in the popular press. It is, however, very easy to get the wrong impression about the significance of the Connecticut Supreme Court’s decision and the avenues it creates for both the plaintiffs and the defendants in the litigation. The decision is both more and less significant than it seems at first glance. It opens a serious pathway to liability under the PLCAA and creates a strategic dilemma for the defendant as to whether to appeal or go to trial. Yet the PLCAA remains a bar to most types of civil action to which other product makers and sellers are subject. In the absence of comprehensive congressional regulation, it will remain difficult to require or motivate gun makers to enhance the safety of firearms design and distribution.
Monday, April 8, 2019
A 29-year-old Jewish man has filed a tort claim notice against Ocean County, New Jersey regarding alleged harassment he suffered while incarcerated. According to the notice, the man was placed in a cell with two large swastikas and a large target mark with the words "pop him" and his last name. Moreover:
One officer allegedly made the comment, "You Jews own everything. You buy off Lakewood and Toms River and Jackson. Out there you may make the rules but in here we make the rules," according to the tort claim.
The claim alleges that corrections officers elicited other inmates to join in the mistreatment. The claim alleges that inmates threatened [the claimant's] life several times, with one inmate allegedly threatening to "knife him."
app has the story.
Wednesday, March 27, 2019
...with Erin Murphy and Ken Simons is here. The blurb:
From start to finish, criminal and tort cases differ in many ways, including how a case is initiated, in which court it is heard and decided, standards of proof, and the consequence if the defendant is found liable (punishment if defendant is convicted of a crime; payment of money damages if defendant is liable for a tort). Some cases [or fact patterns] qualify as both crimes and torts. These differences are especially evident in sexual assault claims where a single legal term, such as “consent,” may be defined quite differently, depending on the type of legal claim asserted.
In this episode, NYU Law’s Erin Murphy and UC Irvine Law’s Ken Simons explore the difference between criminal law and tort law in the United States and then focus on how “consent” is, and should be, defined in sexual assault allegations.
Tuesday, March 26, 2019
Johnathan Hindenach was a student at Olivet College in Michigan in 2008; he took a class that included a trip to Florence, Italy. While in Italy, Hindenach killed someone. An Italian court found him criminally responsible and placed him in a psychiatric hospital. Hindenach's family sued Olivet College, alleging it failed to properly monitor Hindenach's mental health before the murder. An appellate court in Michigan sided with Olivet College, stating the school was aware Hindenach suffered from depression and took medication, but it was not foreseeable he would murder someone and be hospitalized for his actions. WRAL.com has details.
Friday, March 22, 2019
Two recent studies concluded the most common problem for which plaintiff file med mal claims involves diagnosis:
Coverys, a malpractice carrier based in Boston, reported that a review of 1,800 closed claims against physicians from 2013 to 2017 showed 46% were related to the diagnosis. Those claims accounted for 68% of paid indemnity costs, according to the report. In 45% of the diagnosis-related cases, the patient died, Covery said.
A separate report released by The Doctors Company, also a malpractice insurer, found that 38% of malpractice claims against physicians involving the treatment of children involved a misdiagnosis. The carrier reviewed 1,215 claims closed from 2008 to 2017.
Missed, failed or wrong diagnoses are largely the result of inadequate medical assessments, according to The Doctors Company study.
Claims Journal has the story.
Wednesday, March 20, 2019
Yesterday the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Air & Liquid Systems Corp. v. DeVries. From the syllabus:
Petitioners produced equipment for three Navy ships. The equipment required asbestos insulation or asbestos parts to function as intended, but the manufacturers did not always incorporate the asbestos into their products. Instead, the manufacturers delivered much of the equipment to the Navy without asbestos, and the Navy later added the asbestos to the equipment. Two Navy veterans, Kenneth McAfee and John DeVries, were exposed to asbestos on the ships and developed cancer. They and their wives sued the manufacturers, alleging that the asbestos exposure caused the cancer and contending that the manufacturers were negligent in failing to warn about the dangers of asbestos in the integrated products. Raising the “bare-metal defense,” the manufacturers argued that they should not be liable for harms caused by later-added third-party parts. The District Court granted summary judgment to the manufacturers, but the Third Circuit, adopting a foreseeability approach, vacated and remanded.
Held: In the maritime tort context, a product manufacturer has a duty to warn when its product requires incorporation of a part, the manufacturer knows or has reason to know that the integrated product is likely to be dangerous for its intended uses, and the manufacturer has no reason to believe that the product’s users will realize that danger.
Tuesday, March 19, 2019
Last Thursday, the Connecticut Supreme Court, in a 4-3 ruling, allowed plaintiff families from the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary shootings to proceed to trial against Remington, the manufacturer of the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle used in the attack. The cause of action was based on the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUPTA) for "personal injuries that result directly from wrongful advertising practices.” Significantly, the court held the suit was not barred by the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) of 2005, which, with limited exceptions, immunizes firearms manufacturers, distributors, and dealers from civil liability for crimes committed by third parties using their weapons. The court held the plaintiffs' CUPTA claim fell within a:
“predicate exception [that] permits civil actions alleging that ‘a manufacturer or seller of a [firearm] knowingly violated a State or Federal statute applicable to the sale or market of the [firearm], and the violation was a proximate cause of the harm for which relief is sought …’ 15 U.S.C. § 7903 (5) (A) (iii) (2012) … [I]f the defendants did indeed seek to expand the market for their assault weapons through advertising campaigns that encouraged consumers to use the weapons not for legal purposes such as self-defense, hunting, collecting, or target practice, but to launch offensive assault against their perceived enemies, then we are aware of nothing in the text or legislative history of PLCAA to indicate that Congress intended to shield the defendants from liability for the tragedy that resulted."
The court's opinion:
puts the victims’ families in a position where they may be able to try to prove a connection between Remington’s marketing for its Bushmaster AR-15 rifle and the horrific act of violence by a disturbed 20-year-old. The state Supreme Court said they can try; making the connection, lawyers and experts say, is a steep challenge.
“It is a Herculean task,” said Victor E. Schwartz, co-chairman of the public policy practice in the Washington, D.C. office of the law firm Shook, Hardy & Bacon — quoting from the Supreme Court’s majority opinion.
Thursday, March 14, 2019
Marijuana laws are undergoing a rapid transformation. Although still criminal at the federal level, 33 states and D.C. have authorized medical marijuana and 10 states and D.C. have authorized it for recreational use. The business incentives are certainly there. Expected revenue from marijuana businesses in 2019 is projected at $13.7B, and will grow to $22.1B in 2022. One problem involves insurance. Commercial general liability, property liability, and products liability policies often provide only $1M per occurrence and $2M in the aggregate. According to a report released yesterday by A.M. Best, that may be insufficient for marijuana businesses. Moreover, because this is an emerging market, insurers are inclined to stick with the limits. Business Insurance has details.
Tuesday, March 12, 2019
The parents of a 7-year-old Colorado Springs elementary student are suing for injuries she sustained in an after-school science experiment. The plaintiff's attorney expects the school district and parent-teacher organization to be relieved of financial obligations early in the procedure; he believes an organization that provides hands-on, after-school science, technology, engineering and math programs on school grounds will bear responsibility:
The complaint alleges that on Feb. 28, 2017, the couple’s then 7-year-old daughter suffered first- and second-degree burns from “scalding hot liquid from a glass container that was dangerously placed on a counter on an unsupervised hot plate and knocked off.”
The girl was burned on her face, left ear, left arm, left shoulder, both legs and right foot, according to court documents. The injuries required surgical removal of the damaged tissue and skin grafts, leaving her with scars, the lawsuit states.
The Gazette has the story.
Monday, March 11, 2019
On Thursday, a jury in Los Angeles reached a $2M verdict against a school district for failing to properly supervise a teacher who had a sexual relationship with a student in 2013, when she was 15 years old. The overall award was $5M, but the jury split responsibility 60% for the teacher, who was not a party to the suit, and 40% for the school district. The teacher had been arrested in 2004 for an alleged act against a minor at another high school. NBC4 has the story.
Thursday, February 28, 2019
Earlier this month, I reported that tort reform bills had been filed again in Missouri to alter liberal joinder rules in that state. In the meantime, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that allowing a non-resident to participate in joined cases was a violation of state law prohibiting the use of joinder to allow courts to hear cases they otherwise would not be able to. The ruling may eliminate or reduce the pressure to pass legislation. One company that may be particularly affected is J&J, a New Jersey-based company defending cases that talc included in its baby powder causes cancer. In a December report, Reuters stated that J&J knew that talc in its baby powder tested positive for asbestos from the 1970s to the early 2000s. J&J is facing about 13,000 cases over the issue, most of which have been consolidated in federal court in New Jersey. The Missouri Supreme Court's ruling is potentially good news for J&J:
The St. Louis court has been a venue for more talc trials and has seen larger verdicts than any other jurisdiction. Outside of St. Louis, the only other significant talc verdicts against J&J to date have come in lawsuits filed by individual plaintiffs in New Jersey and California, where the company is currently facing jury verdicts totalling $142 million.
Tina Bellon at the Insurance Journal has the story.
Wednesday, February 27, 2019
In 2015, Robert Dear--armed with multiple semiautomatic rifles, a shotgun, and explosives--shot several people in the parking lot of an abortion clinic and then shot through the clinic's windows, wounding several more. A gun battle with police ensued in which one officer was killed and five were injured. In all, 3 people were killed and 9 wounded. Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains (PPRM) was sued for negligence; the trial court granted summary judgment to PPRM. Last week, the Colorado Court of Appeals reversed the trial court. The appeals court found the plaintiffs raised genuine issues of material fact that PPRM knew of reasonable security measures that could have prevented the damages, and that PPRM was aware of threats against its premises. The case will go to a jury. The case is Wagner v. Planned Parenthood , Colo. Ct. App., No. 17CA2304. Thanks to Susan Raeker-Jordan for the tip.
Wednesday, February 20, 2019
Two weeks ago, I reported that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was considering an alteration of venue rules for medical malpractice cases. In the early 2000's, the court restricted venue to the place of the wrong to prevent plaintiffs from venue-shopping. The court is considering a removal of this restriction, which is not in place for other types of cases. The court has now agreed to delay action until the issue can be studied by the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee; the report is due by January 1, 2020. Pennlive has details.
Monday, February 4, 2019
Yesterday's The Patriot-News (Harrisburg) featured a front-page article by David Wenner entitled "Is the deck stacked against patients?". In 2002, during the middle of an alleged crisis in malpractice, the legislature passed a law that, among other things, added a certificate of merit requirement and restricted venue to the place of the alleged malpractice. The latter was largely aimed at keeping cases out of Philadelphia, where juries tend to be more liberal on both liability and damages. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court adopted the venue restriction into the rules of civil procedure, fixing a constitutional problem with the legislation. Since the reforms, the number of cases filed in Pennsylvania has been cut nearly in half. A committee of the Supreme Court is now considering eliminating the rule against venue shopping. The article contains prominent voices on both sides of the issue debating the merits.
Wednesday, January 30, 2019
Plaintiff alleged an Indiana hardware store was negligent in renting to him and two co-workers an aerial lift without warnings in Spanish, given that the three spoke limited English. Plaintiff was severely shocked when he either touched an electric line or was the victim of electrical arcing. The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that the hardware store did not have to provide warnings in Spanish. Instead the court stated that, absent special circumstances, if the manufacturer provides adequate warnings and the seller passes them along, the seller has no obligation to provide additional warnings. Unlike several other cases, the court did not focus on whether the product had been marketed to non-English speakers. The case is here. Thanks to Susan Raeker-Jordan for the tip.
Thursday, January 24, 2019
In 2016, a 13-year-old and 14-year-old were left with a babysitter and three younger children in Mt. Pleasant, PA. The 14-year-old found a gun and it discharged, killing the 13-year-old. The deceased's parents sued:
The Gustafsons’ lawsuit alleged Springfield Armory and Saloom made and sold a 9mm semiautomatic handgun without warnings and safety features, including one that would prevent a gun from firing when the magazine is removed.
The judge dismissed the case, citing the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. Trib Live has the story.
Monday, January 21, 2019
A 12-year-old boy took the wheel when his grandfather suffered a stroke driving on Interstate 495 near Boston. The boy successfully steered off the road and called 911. Emergency responders arrived and administered a "stroke-busting drug." Grandfather and grandson are both doing well. There are a number of interesting torts angles here: sudden physical illness, the applicability of the child standard and adult activities exception, and the emergency doctrine. This could easily be incorporated into an exam. The Boston Globe has the story.
Monday, January 14, 2019
A Troy non-profit supportive living center has been sued by the parents of a former resident. The plaintiff's decedent completed rehabilitation for drug addiction and then moved into the facility in November 2017. His parents last spoke to him on December 3 of that year. Around 6 days later, when no one had heard from him, the parents asked the facility where their son was. A staff member allegedly informed the parents their son had left several days earlier. On Jan. 11, 2018, they learned the truth: Raolik had never left the facility. A pest control worker entered his room and found his body on the bed. Allegedly staff members were checking the wrong room. The condition of the body made it difficult to determine a cause of death, but it appears the man died of a heart attack on December 4, 2017. Toxicologists found no traces of illicit drugs in his system. The Times Union has the story, including a copy of the suit.
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Johann Neethling & J.M. Potgieter have posted to SSRN Delictual Liability of a Municipality for the Rape of a Mentally Disabled Woman --Bridgman v. Witzenberg Municipality. The abstract provides:
An 18-year-old woman (L) with a mental disability (she functioned cognitively at the level of a 6 to 8 year old child) was abducted and raped by three youths at the Pine Forest Holiday Resort in Ceres, Western Cape (South Africa), where she was staying with her adoptive parents. The resort was owned, managed and controlled by the defendant, the Witzenberg Municipality (the Municipality). The plaintiff, in his capacity as the curator ad litem of L, instituted an action against the Municipality, claiming damages arising from injuries suffered by L as a consequence of the rape. He submitted that the rape was caused by the negligent omissions and conduct of the Municipality. The Municipality denied that it had been negligent. In the alternative it argued that, if it had been negligent, the rape had been caused partly through its own negligence, and partly through the negligence of L’s parents.