Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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After plaintiff was injured on the job as a truck driver while picking up a shipment of corn at Spring Creek's facility in Georgia, he and his wife filed suit against Spring Creek. The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Spring Creek, holding that the district court misapprehended controlling Georgia tort law which the court was Erie-bound to follow. In this case, the equal-or-superior-knowledge rule applied only to premises liability claims; the extent of plaintiff's prior knowledge of the hazard posed by the operation of the forklift, whatever that may have been, did not bar recovery from Spring Creek on the theory that it is liable for its employees' acts of negligence under the doctrine of respondeat superior; and, if that rule did not apply, the assumption-of-risk defense could not defeat plaintiff's negligence claim on summary judgment under Georgia law. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Newcomb v. Spring Creek Cooler Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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Plaintiff appealed from her $330,000 jury verdict against Krispy Creme after an employee of Krispy Kreme rear-ended plaintiff while she was stopped at a red light. The Fourth Circuit affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in not providing a curative instruction regarding defendants' opening statements because the statements did not refer to evidence of any specific offers to settle or compromise. Furthermore, defendants were properly allowed to argue that medical charges were unreasonably high, and the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting testimony of defendants' medical-rate experts. The court declined to resolve the medical records dispute. The court held that the district court's statement that plaintiff's unit-of-time argument was "not allowable under the law" was incorrect because the district court has complete discretion to disallow the argument or to allow it subject to safeguards. The court affirmed the district court's grant of judgment as a matter of law regarding the claim for lost future wages. Finally, the court found no conflict between Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and O.C.G.A. 9-11-68(e), and held that plaintiff was entitled to a bifurcated hearing. View "Showan v. Pressdee" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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The Eleventh Circuit held that substantial evidence supported the ALJ's decision that one of the mining company's former miners was entitled to benefits under the Black Lung Benefits Act. In regard to the Act's automatic entitlement provision in 30 U.S.C. 932(l), the court held that "at the time of his or her death" modifies the adjective "eligible," such that survivors' entitlement to benefits depends on whether the miner was eligible before his or her death, not whether, by that time, the pertinent decisionmaker had formally determined the miner to be so. In this case, two surviving spouses qualified for survivor benefits under 932(l)'s automatic-entitlement provision because their husbands were eligible for benefits under the Act at the times of their respective deaths and despite the fact that the men were only thereafter formally determined to be eligible. View "Oak Grove Resources, LLC v. Director, OWCP" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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After plaintiff slipped and fell as he stepped down from a landing located on the outer deck of a cruise ship operated by NCL, he filed suit alleging that NCL negligently failed to warn passengers of the step down, and negligent failed to maintain and inspect the lighting in the area. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed in part and held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in striking a portion of the expert's First Supplemental Report and the entirety of the Second Supplemental Report. However, the court held that plaintiff raised a genuine issue of material fact regarding NCL's prior notice of the dangerous condition posed by the step down. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded the district court's ruling regarding the failure to warn claim. Finally, the court affirmed as to the negligent maintenance claim and held that the district court did not err in concluding that plaintiff failed to create a triable issue of fact on whether NCL had notice of the allegedly dangerous condition posed by the unilluminated lightbulb. View "Guevara v. NCL (Bahamas) Ltd." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against NCL, the owner and operator of a cruise ship, alleging negligence claims after he fell down an emergency-exit hatch in an area designated for crew members only. The Eleventh Circuit held that plaintiff as a Canadian citizen and NCL as a Bermuda company, with its principal place of business in Florida, did not support the exercise of jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1332(a)(2). However, the district court validly exercised admiralty jurisdiction over the case under section 1333(1). On the merits, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claim that the cruise line was negligent in over-serving him alcohol, holding that the claim was time-barred and the claim did not relate back. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on plaintiff's claim that the cruise line was negligent for letting him fall down the hatch where NCL's uncontroverted record showed that no injuries similar to plaintiff's had been reported on any of NCL's ships in the last five years, and plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence of negligence on the part of NCL's crew. View "Caron v. NCL (Bahamas), Ltd." on Justia Law

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The 1994 “Engle” Florida class action against major cigarette manufacturers, was decertified, but “Phase I findings” concerning the defendants’ conduct may be used in individual suits. Berger sued Philip Morris for smoking-related injuries. A jury awarded Berger compensatory and punitive damages. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the denial of Philip Morris’s motions for a new trial based on improper closing argument, and for judgment as a matter of law on all claims based on due process and preemption principles. Eleventh Circuit precedent holds, categorically, that use of Phase I findings to establish Engle-progeny tort claims is constitutionally permissible. The court reversed judgment as a matter of law, in favor of Philip Morris, on intentional tort claims and remanded for the entry of judgment in Plaintiff’s favor on fraudulent concealment and conspiracy to fraudulently conceal claims and for reinstatement of the punitive damages award. Engle-progeny concealment claims arise from a sustained effort to hide the truth about the health hazards of smoking. Florida courts hold that Engle-progeny plaintiffs are not required to show reliance on a specific statement. Berger’s testimony that peer pressure influenced her decision to start smoking and that she chose her cigarette brand based on personal preferences did little to rebut the reasonable inference that Philip Morris’s disinformation campaign confused her about the health hazards of smoking; a reasonable juror could have concluded that if she had known the whole truth about smoking, she would have quit. View "Cote v. Philip Morris USA, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against defendants for unintentional and intentional torts arising from the death of her mother. Plaintiff alleged that her mother's illnesses were caused by her addiction to cigarettes manufactured by defendants. The jury found for plaintiff and defendants appealed. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment and rejected defendants' due process arguments because, consistent with precedent, the use of the Engle findings to establish the conduct elements of the progeny plaintiffs' tort claims was a constitutionally permissible application of res judicata. The court rejected defendants' contention that their Seventh Amendment rights were violated because the court concluded that the jury was not asked or required to reexamine the Engle findings. The court also rejected defendants' contention that the damages award should have been apportioned based on the mother's comparative fault, because the district court neither misinterpreted nor misapplied Florida law and plaintiff did not waive her statutory right to full, unapportioned damages. View "Searcy v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit in Florida state court alleging that defendants, including Union Carbide, negligently failed to warn users of the health hazards of asbestos and defectively designed their products. Union Carbide removed the case to federal court where the district court dismissed Union Carbide based on lack of personal jurisdiction. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, holding that Union Carbide was not subject to specific jurisdiction because plaintiffs could not show that their claims arose out of Union Carbide's contacts with Florida. Furthermore, Union Carbide was not subject to general jurisdiction because there was no evidence that Union Carbide was at home in Florida. View "Waite v. AII Acquisition Corp." on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying the motion for a new trial filed by American Home Mortgage Servicing, now known as Homeward, the defendant in this action brought by Jane McGinnis alleging, among other claims, wrongful foreclosure, holding that Homeward was not entitled to relief on its claims of error related to the jury’s punitive damages award. McGinnis, the owner of several rental properties, brought this action against Homeward, the servicer of seven of her properties’ mortgages, alleging wrongful foreclosure, conversion, interference with property, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The jury found in favor of McGinnis on all claims and awarded $3,506,000 in damages, including $3,000,000 in punitive damages. In this appeal, Homeward argued that the punitive damages award was unconstitutionally excessive under the Due Process Clause and that the punitive damages award exceeded Georgia’s $250,000 cap on punitive damages. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the punitive damages award was not unconstitutionally excessive; and (2) the punitive damages award did not unlawfully exceed the $250,000 statutory cap in O.C.G.A. 51-12-5.1(g) because there was no evidence from which a jury could conclude that it acted with the specific intent to harm McGinnis. View "McGinnis v. American Home Mortgage Servicing, Inc." on Justia Law

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The United States was held liable upon the district court's finding that a doctor at a federal health facility caused plaintiffs' son E.R.T. to suffer severe and life-altering injuries at the time of his birth. On appeal, the government challenged the application of section 768.78(2) of the Florida Statutes to the method of payment the district court chose for the government to satisfy the judgment against it. Plaintiffs cross-appealed the district court's application of section 768.78(2)'s bond requirement. The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court did not err in allowing the United States to pay the full damages award into a trust for E.R.T. to be dispensed periodically without requiring the United States to make a security payment for the full amount of damages; the district court did not err in concluding that the United States was not entitled to a reversionary interest in any future economic damages remaining in the trust after E.R.T.'s death; the district court erred in not awarding the government an interest in (1) the difference between the full value of the balance remaining in the trust in the case of E.R.T.'s premature death and its present value, and (2) the amount of interest that the trust earns solely because the United States paid the entire future-economic-damages award into the trust up front in a lump sum, not reduced to present value; the district court erred in setting the United States's deadline for paying the judgment within thirty days of the entry of this decision on appeal; and the district court did not abuse its discretion when it ordered the United States to make a future-lost-earnings payment when E.R.T. turns 17 and 1/2 years old. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded in part. View "Dixon v. United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury