Justia U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Injury Law
Burckhard v. BNSF Railway Co.
Plaintiffs filed suit against BNSF for the deaths of two BNSF employees. Plaintiffs' suit arises under the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA), 45 U.S.C. 51 et seq. The jury found in favor of plaintiffs and the district court subsequently denied BNSF's motion to alter or amend the judgment based on an agreement that plaintiffs had entered with BNSF prior to trial. BNSF moved the district court to enter judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) based on plaintiffs' failure to offer any evidence that BNSF should have or could have foreseen the conduct that caused the harm, and plaintiffs' failure to offer any expert testimony to establish the standard of care applicable to BNSF for crew calls and train movements. The court concluded that it has no basis to review BNSF's foreseeability argument because it challenges the sufficiency of the evidence and was not renewed in a Rule 50(b) motion; BNSF was required to, but did not, renew in a Rule 50(b) motion its contention that lay testimony was insufficient to establish a standard of care and that expert testimony was required; the court rejected BNSF's claims of evidentiary errors; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying BNSF's motion to alter or amend the judgment pursuant to Rule 59(e) where the district court found that the agreement that was the basis for BNSF's claimed setoff was collateral to the merits of plaintiffs' FELA action. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Burckhard v. BNSF Railway Co." on Justia Law
Lockhart v. United States
After a federal employee injured plaintiff in a car accident, plaintiff filed suit against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 1346(b)(1). The district court found the government 100% at fault, but 20% liable for plaintiff's injury. Under Carlson v. K-Mart Corp., the Missouri standard of an award for “directly caused or directly contributed to cause” means that the jury can determine that damages suffered solely due to a pre-existing condition were “neither caused nor contributed to by” a collision. Based on the evidence here, the district court found the collision contributed to only 20% of plaintiff's need for shoulder surgery. Plaintiff's own orthopedic surgeon opined that imaging indicated advanced degeneration that developed over time and did not result from the traumatic injury - even if the collision triggered symptoms in the left shoulder. Therefore, the court concluded that the district court did not err in concluding that, under Missouri law, it could find 80% of the damages attributable to an unrelated pre-existing condition and 20% of the damages attributable to the aggravation caused by the collision. Finally, the court rejected plaintiff's arguments that the district court erred in reducing by 80% both the medical expense and pain and suffering awards. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Lockhart v. United States" on Justia Law
Gillis v. The Principia Corp.
Plaintiff filed suit against Principia, alleging claims arising from events that occurred during plaintiff's time as a student at Principia. The district court granted Principia's motion to dismiss. The court held that plaintiff failed to state a claim for breach of contract because none of the policies and provisions that she identifies in her Third Amended Complaint create obligations that Principia owed to plaintiff; the district court did not err in dismissing plaintiff's intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) claim where the allegations set forth in plaintiff's complaint detail, at most, insults, indignities, threats, annoyances, petty oppressions, or other trivialities to which liability for IIED clearly does not extend; and the district court properly dismissed the negligent infliction of emotional distress claim (NIED) where, under Missouri law, plaintiff failed to allege that her emotional distress or mental injury is medically diagnosable. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Gillis v. The Principia Corp." on Justia Law
Kronberg v. Oasis Petroleum
After Joseph Kronberg was electrocuted and died while working at an oil well as an employee of Nabors, Mr. Kronberg's widow filed wrongful death and survival actions against Oasis Petroleum and others. The district court granted summary judgment for Oasis and RPM Consulting. The court concluded that there is no genuine issue of material fact as to RPM Consulting’s lack of control over an independent contractor's, Michael Bader, safety practices; RPM Consulting owed no duty to Mr. Kronberg under the doctrine of retained control; and thus neither company may be held vicariously liable for Bader’s alleged negligence as a company hand. The court also concluded that Oasis did now owe Mr. Kronberg a duty of care under North Dakota premises liability law where the record does not support a finding that Oasis controlled the property and had an opportunity to observe dangerous conditions at the well. Finally, the court concluded that Oasis did not have a duty to provide an automated external defibrillator at the well where the court could not predict that the North Dakota Supreme Court would adopt the proposed common law duty. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Kronberg v. Oasis Petroleum" on Justia Law
Stewart, Jr. v. Nucor Corp.
Plaintiff filed a negligence action against Nucor after sustaining injuries while working at Nucor's steel mill. The district court granted summary judgment to Nucor, finding that the third-party waiver's (TPW) language and the circumstances of its execution met the standard for enforcement of exculpatory contracts under Arkansas law and that the agreement was not unconscionable. The court agreed with the district court that the TPW was enforceable where the parties stipulated that plaintiff had the opportunity to read the TPW, that he did not ask the trainer any questions concerning the meaning of the TPW, and that he had the ability to read and understand the contract. The court also concluded that the contract provision at issue is not unconscionable where there is no evidence rebutting Nucor's affidavit showing the availability of other work in the region at that time, plaintiff had the opportunity to read and understand the TPW, and there is no evidence of fraud, duress, misrepresentation, or any other inequitable conduct on the part of Vesuvius or Nucor. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Stewart, Jr. v. Nucor Corp." on Justia Law
Parks v. Ariens Co.
Timothy Parks died from asphyxiation after the Gravely Promaster 152Z riding mower he was operating on his property fell off the edge of an embankment and rolled over on top of him. Plaintiff, Timothy's wife, filed suit alleging that the manufacturer of the 152Z, Ariens, was negligent for failing to equip the machine with a rollover protection system (ROPS). The district court granted summary judgment against plaintiff. The optional equipment doctrine holds that a manufacturer is, under certain circumstances, not negligent if a purchaser fails to buy optional safety equipment that would have prevented the accident. Although the Iowa Supreme Court has not yet considered the optional equipment doctrine, policy reasons and the popularity of the optional equipment doctrine lead the court to conclude that the Iowa court would adopt it. Therefore, in this case, the court concluded that Ariens fulfilled any duty it had to Timothy when it provided the ROPS as an optional feature for the 152Z mower and ensured that he had the information necessary to make an informed choice. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Parks v. Ariens Co." on Justia Law
Blake Marine Grp. v. CarVal Investors LLC
Blake filed suit against CarVal and Lux, alleging tortious interference with Blake's contract to lease a barge and crane to a third party. The district court dismissed the complaint as time-barred. To determine the applicable limitations period the court looked to the choice of law rules of the forum state, which in this case is Minnesota. The court concluded that Alabama's interest in compensating Blake, a resident of that state, outweighs Minnesota's interest and favors the application of Alabama law. Therefore, the court concluded that the fourth choice of law factor favors the application of Alabama law. Since this is the only factor which favors either state's law, the district court did not err by applying Alabama law and dismissing Blake's claim as time barred. The court also concluded that Blake waived its argument that the district court should apply the "fairness exception" to Minnesota's borrowing statute; Blake has not satisfied the first requirement for invoking federal admiralty jurisdiction - the alleged tort occurred on navigable waters - and that laches does not apply; and there was no fraudulent concealment of facts and thus no basis to toll the two year limitations period. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Blake Marine Grp. v. CarVal Investors LLC" on Justia Law
Compart’s Boar Store, Inc. v. United States
Compart, a producer of breeding swine, filed a negligence suit against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 2671 et seq. Compart intended to export over three hundred pigs to China but China suspended all imports from Compart after it was notified by the United States government that the test results from a small set of the blood samples were "inconclusive" for Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome virus (PRRSv). The district court dismissed the suit for lack of jurisdiction. The court affirmed, concluding that the discretionary function exemption precludes jurisdiction over Compart's negligence claims because the testing and reporting of Compart's swine was governed by discretionary governmental procedures and susceptible to policy analysis. View "Compart's Boar Store, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law
Others First, Inc. v. Better Business Bureau
Others First filed suit against the BBB, alleging tort claims for injurious falsehood based on alleged falsehoods contained in a news release, and for interference with business expectancy. The district court granted summary judgment for BBB. The court concluded that the district court properly granted summary judgment on the tortious interference claim where Others First failed to submit sufficient evidence to show that the BBB employed improper means to further its own interests; Others First failed to plead alleged defamatory statements with the particularity required by Missouri law; and the district court properly granted summary judgment dismissing Others First’s claim of injurious falsehood because all of the challenged statements were either true statements of fact or protected opinion, and properly granted summary judgment dismissing the tortious interference claim given the absence of wrongful defamation. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Others First, Inc. v. Better Business Bureau" on Justia Law
Moore v. Kansas City Public Sch.
Plaintiff, on behalf of D.S., a minor student with intellectual disabilities, filed suit against the school district and others, in state court, seeking damages for premises liability and negligent supervision because D.S. was raped by another student in an unsupervised area of Southwest during the school day, and because D.S. was repeatedly bullied and sexually harassed by her classmates and peers. Defendants removed to federal court, claiming that plaintiff's causes of action arose under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq., and then moved to dismiss under FRCP 12(b)(1) and (6). The district court denied plaintiff's motion to remand and dismissed the suit for failure to exhaust IDEA administrative remedies. The court concluded that plaintiff’s theories of liability arise out of Missouri statutory and common law, and the disposition of claims for premises liability and negligent supervision is not dependent on resolution of a substantial question of federal law. Even if the relief plaintiff requested were available under both state law and the IDEA, the well-pled complaint rule protects plaintiff's right to choose a state law cause of action. The court agreed with the Ninth Circuit that non-IDEA claims that do not seek relief available under the IDEA are not subject to the exhaustion requirement, even if they allege injuries that could conceivably have been redressed by the IDEA. Finally, the court denied plaintiff's request for attorney fees because defendants had a reasonable basis for their removal request. The court reversed and remanded to state court. View "Moore v. Kansas City Public Sch." on Justia Law