Justia U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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Plaintiff filed suit against Westrock in state court after a stack of cardboard boxes fell out of a truck and caused him to fall to the ground, injuring his shoulder. After removal to federal court, plaintiff brought a negligence claim against defendants for damages related to his bodily injury. Magnum moved for summary judgment, alleging that the Carmack Amendment preempted plaintiff's state law claim. The Eighth Circuit held that the Carmack Amendment, which requires a carrier under the jurisdiction of the Transportation Act to issue a bill of lading for property it receives for transport and makes the carrier liable for damages resulting from its transportation or service, did not preempt plaintiff's state law claim for personal injury, because he was not a party to the bill of lading between his employer and the common carrier. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's holding to the contrary. View "Fergin v. Magnum LTL, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's entry of a $356,619.30 judgment in favor of the Estate of Joyce Rosamond Peterson against Defendants Bitters and Henry. Bitters, a financial advisor, advised Petersen to withdraw $150,000 from her annuities and to loan it to another client of his, Henry. The court rejected Bitters' assertion that the Estate's fraud and breach-of-fiduciary-duty claims were time-barred, and that the district court erred by instead instructing the jury to apply the four-year limitations period for claims of negligence and fraud. The court held that any potential error did not affect Bitters' substantial rights. The court also held that the district court had a duty to make the damages award conform to the law, and did not abuse its discretion by preventing the Estate from recovering twice for a single, indivisible injury; the evidence was insufficient to provide the jury with a reasonably certain basis for calculating pain-and-suffering damages; because it was clear at the Rule 50 hearing that the claims for negligence and breach of fiduciary duty under Nebraska law were identical, the district court did not err by dismissing the Estate's negligence claim; and summary judgment to Defendant Boland was not erroneous because there was no genuine dispute of material fact as to whether Bitters and Boland had entered into a partnership. View "Estate of Joyce R. Petersen v. Bitters" on Justia Law

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Green Plains, owner and operator of an ethanol production facility, filed suit against PEI for negligence and products liability, alleging defective design and failure to adequately instruct and warn users. The district court granted summary judgment to PEI. The Eighth Circuit held that reasonable minds could differ about whether the regenerative thermal oxidizer (RTO) was defective, and thus Green Plains submitted sufficient evidence of a defective design to survive summary judgment. Furthermore, reasonable minds could disagree as to whether PEI could foresee that a company would view the "suggested" maintenance as mandatory, or would ignore it due to the effort required. Therefore, under Minnesota law, the court held that PEI was not entitled to summary judgment on proximate cause. Finally, the court held that the district court properly granted summary judgment on the failure-to-warn claim. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Green Plains Otter Tail, LLC v. Pro-Environmental, Inc." on Justia Law

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After plaintiff's fingers were severely injured by a machine that uses a hydraulic clamp to crimp metal tubes, he filed suit against Addition, the machine designer's successor. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Addition, holding that plaintiff failed to provide facts showing that the machine was inherently dangerous or improperly guarded at the time it entered the stream of commerce. Therefore, the court concluded that plaintiff failed to establish a material issue of fact as to his strict liability claims. In regard to his products liability claims, the court held that plaintiff failed to offer evidence that the danger of a tube forming machine to the user's hand was anything but "open, obvious, and apparent." Therefore, the defect was not latent under Missouri case law, and thus not a material issue of fact regarding his negligence claim. View "Farkas v. Addition Manufacturing Technologies, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that she suffered permanent injuries from a fall caused by the negligent removal of ice and maintenance of an asphalt parking lot operated by U-Park. Plaintiff's husband sought damages for loss of consortium. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of U-Park's motion in limine to exclude an expert's opinions on causation. The court explained that, in the absence of any record evidence that the expert used reliable principles and methods or applied them reasonably to the facts of this case to form his opinion that plaintiff's fall was caused by black ice forming in a birdbath, his opinion did not satisfy Federal Rule of Evidence 702 standards for admissibility. The court also affirmed the district court's grant of U-Park's motion for summary judgment. Under Nebraska premises liability law, there was no evidence in the record from which the court could draw a reasonable inference that if the ice was visible and apparent that plaintiff would not discover or realize the danger of the ice or fail to protect herself against it. View "Ackerman v. U-Park, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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Plaintiff filed suit against Vermeer in Missouri state court, alleging that he was injured while operating a Vermeer wood chipper. After Vermeer successfully removed to federal court, the district court denied plaintiff's motions to remand and for leave to amend, granting summary judgment to Vermeer. The Eighth Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not improperly remove the case where plaintiff voluntarily dismissed the only nondiverse party that was in the case at the time. Furthermore, even if the district court did not err, plaintiff could not get the relief he sought in light of Caterpillar Inc. v. Lewis, 519 U.S. 61, 64 (1996). The court also held that plaintiff failed to sufficiently establish good cause and the district court was well within its discretion to deny the motion for leave to amend his complaint to add a claim of agency liability against Vermeer. Finally, the court held that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment on the products liability and failure to warn claims. In this case, the record clearly established that Vermeer did not manufacture the winch attachment that injured plaintiff. View "Ellingsworth v. Vermeer Manufacturing Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, an employee of 4T Construction, filed suit against McKenzie under both negligence-based and strict liability law principles after he was seriously injured while replacing a high voltage transmission line for a project. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for McKenzie, holding that the parties' contract clearly and unambiguously stated that 4T was retained as an independent contractor. In this case, the parties' contract stated that 4T was an independent contractor that performs its work without supervision by McKenzie. The court held that McKenzie did not retain control over 4T's and plaintiff's actions. Finally, the North Dakota Supreme Court has declined to hold a utility company strictly liable for injuries and damages from contact with high tension power lines, and McKenzie was not liable under a theory of strict liability for abnormally dangerous activities. View "Meyer v. McKenzie Electric Cooperative, Inc." on Justia Law

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After plaintiff was injured when a neck brace allegedly caused or failed to protect him from serious bodily injury, he filed suit against the makers and sellers of the neck brace. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's orders granting defendants' motions to dismiss. The district court correctly noted that, even though entry of default was proper where a party fails to respond in a timely manner, a court must not enter default without first determining whether the unchallenged facts constitute a legitimate cause of action. In this case, all but one of the allegations in the amended complaint constitute mere legal conclusions and recitations of the elements of the causes of action. The court agreed with the district court that where, as here, there are so few facts alleged in the complaint, the court need not address each individual claim to make a sufficiency determination on a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Accordingly, because the amended complaint failed to allege sufficient facts to state a claim for relief that was plausible on its face, the district court did not err in granting defendants' motion to dismiss. View "Glick v. Western Power Sports, Inc." on Justia Law

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A driver who causes an accident on a highway is not liable for a second one occurring in the traffic backup that follows. The Eighth Circuit applied Missouri law and held that the backup along the interstate did not lead the driver in the second accident to drive too fast or limit his ability to see the traffic ahead. Nor was it foreseeable that another accident would occur under these circumstances—eight-or-more minutes later in a spot nearly half a mile back—when every driver before the driver in the second accident had managed to stop. In this case, the court held that the causal chain stops with the driver in the second accident, not the driver in the first accident. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the driver in the first accident. View "Simler v. Dubuque Paint Equipment Services, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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After plaintiff suffered serious injuries from falling off a Vulcan ladder, he and his wife filed suit against Vulcan and GP. The jury rejected plaintiffs' design defect claim, but found that defendants breached an express warranty. The jury awarded plaintiff damages and the district court denied defendants' post-trial motions for judgment as a matter of law and, in the alternative, a new trial. The Eighth Circuit affirmed and held that plaintiff's expert was qualified and his testimony was properly admitted under Federal Rule of Evidence 702; the expert provided a sufficient case-specific basis to support his opinion and he did not simply speculate on causation after a great deal of prodding; GP waived its statute of limitations defense; and the evidence was sufficient to support the jury verdict on the breach of contract claim; defendants waived their remaining arguments; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying defendants' motion for a new trial. View "Klingenberg v. Vulcan Ladder USA, LLC" on Justia Law