Justia U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Injury Law
Coterel v. Dorel Juvenile Group, Inc.
After plaintiffs' 23-month-old son, Jacob, drowned in a pond after climbing out of his crib and leaving their home in the middle of the night, plaintiffs filed a products liability and negligence suit against Dorel. Dorel denied that the doorknob cover it designed and manufactured was defective or unreasonably dangerous when used properly. The jury unanimously found Dorel was not liable for Jacob’s death and rendered a general verdict in Dorel’s favor. The court concluded that the district court did not err in admitting evidence that mother failed to secure the chain lock the night of Jacob’s death and father knew before that night that Jacob could defeat the doorknob cover. Even if the court accepted plaintiffs' alleged evidentiary errors for the purpose of argument, plaintiffs failed to establish how those errors prejudicially influenced the outcome of the trial. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Coterel v. Dorel Juvenile Group, Inc." on Justia Law
Soo Line RR. Co. v. Werner Enter.
After a truck driven by a Werner employee struck a train operated by Canadian Pacific, causing a tanker car to spill the chemical it was carrying, Canadian Pacific filed suit against Werner for the clean-up costs under theories of trespass, nuisance, and negligence. The court concluded that the district court properly granted summary judgment to Werner on the trespass claim where Canadian Pacific did not argue that the employee entered the intersection intentionally, and its theory that the employee intentionally hid a fatigue diagnosis, even if true, was insufficient to make out a trespass claim. Because negligence was the only potential basis of wrongful conduct that was presented to the jury, its finding that the employee was not negligent is fatal to Canadian Pacific’s nuisance claim. The court further concluded that federal regulations do not foreclose state law defenses to negligence claims. In this case, when viewed in the light most favorable to Werner, the evidence was sufficient to enable a reasonable jury to find that the employee was incapacitated due to an acute cardiac event, and therefore not negligent in operating his truck. Finally, the court concluded that the district court’s instructions adequately submitted the issues to the jury and that it did not abuse its discretion in denying the requested instruction. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Soo Line RR. Co. v. Werner Enter." on Justia Law
A. H. v. Midwest Bus Sales, Inc.
A.H. and Renna Yi, both minors, were passengers on a school bus that collided with a pickup truck, causing them serious injuries. A.H. and Yi's parents, on behalf of the minors, filed suit in Missouri state court alleging, among other things, that the brakes were defective. Midwest Bus, the retail seller of the bus, originally was a party to each action, but was omitted from subsequent amended complaints. The jury found in favor of all remaining defendants and the state trial court entered judgment. The minors also each filed suit against Midwest Bus in federal court in diversity actions under Missouri law. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal on the alternative ground that their claims are barred by collateral estoppel, as oppose to res judicata, because the jury unambiguously decided that their injuries were not caused by improper installation of automatic slack adjusters (ASAs) on the bus, and that the ASAs were not the cause or a contributing cause of the crash. View "A. H. v. Midwest Bus Sales, Inc." on Justia Law
Kozlov v. Associated Wholesale Grocers
Plaintiffs Kozlov and Tchikobava, employees of Albatross, were injured in a tractor-trailer driven by an employee of AWG. The employee, Michael Scott, was killed in the crash. Kozlov and Tchikobava both filed personal injury lawsuits against AWG and Scott's estate. Because both Kozlov's and Tchikobava's negligence was equal to or greater than AWG's negligence, plaintiffs were barred from recovery. Because the jury found Kozlov 84% at fault, he was barred from recovery. Kozlov's contributory negligence in the accident, according to the jury's sole discretion, was greater than AWG's negligence (8%). Similarly, Tchikobava's contributory negligence (8%) was equal to AWG's negligence, and thus, he was also barred from recovery. The court concluded that the jury's assessment of each party's negligence and the resulting damages are not clearly against the weight and reasonableness of the evidence; the district court properly instructed the jury on proximate cause and the instructions Tchikobava offered were inapposite; Tchikobava's argument regarding the noneconomic damage calculation was waived; even if the issue were properly preserved, the damages were adequate; Kozlov was not prejudiced by misleading jury instructions; the district court did not abuse its discretion in submitting factual issues regarding Kozlov's negligence regarding lights on the trailer, qualifications as a truck driver, and Tchikobava's negligence in failing to train or supervise; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in permitting defendant's expert to testify, denying Kozlov's motion for leave to amend, and excluding evidence of Scott's prior accident and his questionable health. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Kozlov v. Associated Wholesale Grocers" on Justia Law
Haukereid v. National Railroad Passenger Co.
Plaintiff, on behalf of himself and his father's estate, filed a wrongful death action alleging that Amtrak negligently caused his father's death. Plaintiff claimed that the moving train from which his father fell had inadequate safety features and instructions for the crew. The district court granted summary judgment to Amtrak. The court concluded that the district court did not err by granting Amtrak summary judgment on plaintiff’s negligence claim where circumstantial evidence in the record supports the inference that plaintiff's father accidentally fell out of a right side exit door on the train which he or someone else had opened. In this case, the record does not support plaintiff's contention that Amtrak proximately caused the death of plaintiff's father. The court concluded that Amtrak's failure to install door status indicators was not the cause of death. Plaintiff has also failed to present a genuine issue of fact showing that Amtrak proximately caused the death by failing to instruct its crew adequately on hazards for confused passengers. Finally, the court rejected plaintiff's challenge to two of the district court's discovery rulings. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Haukereid v. National Railroad Passenger Co." on Justia Law
Brown v. Davis
Plaintiff, Kyle Brown's widow, filed a wrongful death action against Kenneth Davis, Jr., William Davis, and WDL. Ken was driving the truck, that fatally hit Kyle, for his uncle William and WDL. The complaint asserted negligence based on Ken's driving and William's failure to block oncoming traffic. A jury returned a $3 million verdict for plaintiff and her two children. The court concluded that the district court correctly instructed on general negligence principles, and there was sufficient evidence for the jury to find that William had a legal duty to take appropriate precautions; the evidence of William's failure to stop traffic and of his misleading signal to Ken was sufficient for the jury to find that William failed to exercise ordinary care; there was sufficient evidence to support the jury's verdict that William acted negligently and caused the death of Kyle Brown; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying defendants' motion for a new trial where defendants' counsel opened the door for the allegedly prejudicial statement by counsel for plaintiff, and the statement at issue was not unwarranted given the context, nor was it clearly injurious. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Brown v. Davis" on Justia Law
O’Neal v. Remington Arms Co., LLC
Remington manufactured O’Neal’s Model 700 .243 caliber bolt-action rifle in 1971, using the “Walker trigger.” As early as 1979, Remington knew that the Walker trigger can cause the rifles to fire a round when the safety lever is released to the fire position, without the trigger being pulled, because of the manner in which components of the trigger mechanism interact. Remington estimated that at least 20,000 rifles would inadvertently fire merely by releasing the safety, but decided against a recall. O'Neal, deer hunting with friends, loaned his Remington Model 700 to Ritter. The hunters were traveling in a pickup truck when they spotted a deer. After the pickup stopped, Ritter began to exit the truck and moved the safety lever on the rifle to the fire position without pulling the trigger. The rifle discharged. The cartridge traveled through the pickup seat and hit O’Neal, who eventually died from the gunshot. The gun had had three owners; it had been loaned out several times. In a suit by O’Neal’s widow, the court granted Remington summary judgment on grounds that O'Neal could not show whether the alleged defect existed at the time of manufacture or resulted from subsequent modification. The Eighth Circuit reversed: South Dakota law permits a plaintiff to prove a product defect through circumstantial evidence. O'Neal presented sufficient circumstantial evidence to show the alleged defect was present at the time of manufacture and did not result from an alteration. View "O'Neal v. Remington Arms Co., LLC" on Justia Law
Perez v. Loren Cook Co.
Loren Cook manufactures air circulating equipment, using lathes to form and mold metal discs. Lathes operate by holding heavily lubricated pieces of metal that rotate rapidly, allowing the lathe operator to apply tools to shape the metal into individual workpieces. In 2009, a Loren Cook lathe operator was killed when a 12-pound rotating metal workpiece broke free from the lathe, flew out of his machine at 50-70 mph, and struck him in the head, then traveled along the floor at least another 20 feet before crashing into metal shelving. The Department of Labor issued two citations, finding seven violations of 29 C.F.R. 1910.212(a)(1) for failure to employ barrier guards to protect workers from ejected workpieces, resulting in a total fine of $490,000. The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission adopted an ALJ’s decision vacated the fine. The Eighth Circuit initially reversed, but on rehearing en banc, affirmed the Commission’s order, agreeing that section 1910.212(a)(1) focuses on point-of-contact risks and risks associated with routine operation of lathes, such as flakes and sparks, but does not contemplate the catastrophic failure of a lathe that would result in a workpiece being thrown out of the lathe. View "Perez v. Loren Cook Co." on Justia Law
Baumann v. Zhukov
Around 4:20 a.m. Zhukov, driving a tractor-trailer on I-80, struck an object in the road. His vehicle lost air-brake pressure. Zhukov stopped with the trailer in the right-hand lane. Experts opined that he could have pulled completely onto the shoulder. Zhukov turned on his hazard lights and placed warning reflectors closer to the trailer than federal regulations require, in a formation that guided traffic to the right shoulder rather than the left lane. At 4:34 a.m., Johnson’s semi-tractor-trailer crashed into Zhukov’s trailer without slowing down, killing Johnson, causing a fire, and completely blocking both lanes. The Schmidts, traveling in two cars, safely stopped at the end of the traffic jam. Vehicles in the lineup -- including both Schmidt cars and the truck in front of them -- activated hazard lights; emergency vehicles had overhead lights flashing. At 5:14 a.m., Slezak’s semitractor-trailer smashed into Schmidt’s car at 75 miles per hour, propelling Christopher’s car into his wife’s car, which was pushed under a semi-trailer. The entire Schmidt family perished. A Nebraska State Trooper determined that Slezak did not brake or attempt to avoid the cars; he had been driving for at least 14 hours -- three more than permitted by 49 C.F.R. 395.3(a)(3)(i). The Eighth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Zhukov and Zhukov’s and Johnson’s employers. Schmidts’ injuries were not proximately caused by their negligence because the unanticipated negligence of Slezak was an “efficient intervening cause.” View "Baumann v. Zhukov" on Justia Law
Am. River Transp. v. United States, Corp of Eng’rs
Barges separated from an Artco towboat, damaging a lock and dam. Artco sought limitation of its liability to the government or exoneration under FRCP F. The court enjoined prosecution of separate suits against Artco or the vessel and directed potential claimants to file claims by June 15, 2011. The government argued that its claim, alleging violation of the Rivers and Harbors Act (RHA), 33 U.S.C. 408, was not subject to the Limitation of Shipowners’ Liability Act, 46 U.S.C. 30501, and need not be litigated in the Rule F proceeding. The government never filed a timely claim in the limitation proceeding. On remand, the district court denied Artco’s motion for a decree of exoneration, reiterating that the government’s claims were not subject to the Limitation Act and that the government could pursue a remedy for its RHA claim. The court concluded that its prior injunction was overbroad and denied Artco’s motion to hold the government in contempt, to impose sanctions, and to direct dismissal of the government’s separate suit. As there were no claims filed in the limitation action, the court denied the government leave to file a late claim and directed dismissal of the limitation action. The Eighth Circuit reversed dismissal of Artco’s limitation action, affirmed denial of Artco’s motion to hold the government in contempt and for sanctions, vacated the order as to the remaining motions, and remanded. View "Am. River Transp. v. United States, Corp of Eng'rs" on Justia Law