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

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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Plaintiff and his wife filed claims of negligence and failure to warn against Grainer, a distributor of industrial equipment, and its subsidiary, Dayton, after plaintiff was injured by a web sling at work. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion by excluding plaintiff's expert's opinion that the subject sling was a Grainger-distributed Juli sling. In this case, the district court concluded that the expert's report was inadmissible because his opinion that the subject sling was a Grainger-distributed Juli sling was based on insufficient facts. Without the expert's report, plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence that defendants supplied the sling to the employer in order to defeat summary judgment. View "Hirchak v. W.W. Grainger, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) removed sovereign immunity from suits for “injury or loss of property, or personal injury or death caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission” of a federal employee acting within the scope of his employment, 28 U.S.C. 1346(b)(1)). The FTCA generally exempts intentional torts, which remain barred by sovereign immunity. The “law-enforcement proviso” allows plaintiffs to file claims arising “out of assault, battery, false imprisonment, false arrest, abuse of process, [and] malicious prosecution” that are the result of “acts or omissions of investigative or law enforcement officers of the United States Government” and defines investigative or law enforcement officer as “any officer of the United States who is empowered by law to execute searches, to seize evidence, or to make arrests for violations of Federal law.”Iverson went through security at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, walking with the aid of crutches. Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) performed a pat-down search; Iverson was allowed to place his hands on his crutches but had to stand on his own power. Iverson alleges that a TSO pulled him forward and then abruptly let go, causing Iverson to fall and be injured. The TSA denied an administrative claim. Iverson sued, asserting battery and negligence. The Eighth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the case, finding that TSOs satisfy the FTCA’s definition of an investigative or law enforcement officer. View "Iverson v. United States" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff was injured while serving as an engineer for UP when the train he was operating partially derailed because of a misaligned switch, he filed suit under the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA), alleging claims of FELA negligence per se and negligence.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment and grant of UP's motion for summary judgment. In regard to plaintiff's negligence per se claim, the court held that plaintiff failed to present any evidence that would raise a genuine issue of material fact that UP "played any part, even the slightest" to cause the switch to be moved from its designated position. Rather, the evidence showed the switch was misaligned by a criminal act of a third party. Furthermore, there is no evidence in the record that any act of a UP employee contributed to the misalignment. Therefore, UP committed no act violating the regulation requiring switches to be aligned per the railroad's written policy.In regard to the negligence claim, the court held that UP cannot be liable under a negligence theory for failing to properly align the switch unless it knew or had reason to know it was misaligned. In this case, there was no evidence that UP was aware the switch was not properly aligned. Likewise, plaintiff presented no evidence that UP failed to reasonably protect its keys or had reason to know that the security of its keys or locks were compromised; plaintiff proffered no evidence of an industry standard or other evidence that could lead a jury to find UP negligent for failing to remove the switch or track; and plaintiff failed to point to any evidence that would establish that UP was negligent if it failed to install additional or different devices to prevent someone from tampering with the switch. View "Miller v. Union Pacific Railroad Co." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal, based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction, of plaintiff's suit against the government under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), alleging that the VA provided negligent psychiatric care that resulted in her son's death. In this case, plaintiff concedes she was not the appointed trustee under Minnesota law and was only the next-of-kin at the time she filed a claim with the VA. Therefore, plaintiff failed to present the VA with her authority to act as the trustee as required by the FTCA. Because this was a jurisdictional requirement under the FTCA, the court held that the complaint was properly dismissed. View "Rollo-Carlson v. United States" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff was injured after being thrown from his ATV when its right wheel came off, he filed suit against DTG, the manufacturer of the wheel, seeking redress for his injuries. The complaint alleged causes of action for product liability, negligence, breach of implied warranty, failure to warn, and post-sale failure to warn. The first three claims merge by operation of law under Minnesota's single product-liability theory. Plaintiff has abandoned his post-sale failure-to-warn claim by not including any argument on the issue in his brief.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of DTG on the product-liability claim where plaintiff's expert specifically disclaims an opinion as to whether the subject wheel had a design defect that made it unreasonably dangerous. The court also affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of DTG on the failure-to-warn claim where the summary judgment record is completely devoid of evidence that an inadequate warning caused plaintiff's injuries. View "Markel v. Douglas Technologies Group, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and his wife filed suit against Assist American for defamation after the organization published a case study in a travel and insurance magazine concerning an injury plaintiff suffered. The district court granted Assist America's motion to dismiss the complaint, finding that the case study at issue did not refer to plaintiff and his wife either explicitly or by implication and thus defamation was improperly pled under Minnesota law.The Eighth Circuit reversed and held that there is a plausible inference, sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss, that persons who read the case study about a middle-aged doctor from the Midwest who injured his leg while zip lining in Mexico resulting in amputation would understand the article to be referencing plaintiff. Because the description in the case study is so specific and unique that it could be viewed by a jury as fitting one individual, this was sufficient to satisfy the pleading requirements. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Tholen v. Assist America, Inc." on Justia Law

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After a nitric acid manufacturing plant operated by Dyno emitted a cloud of nitric oxides engulfing workers, including plaintiff, plaintiff and his wife filed a negligence action against Dyno. The district court applied Missouri law and granted summary judgment to Dyno, concluding that Dyno did not owe plaintiff a legal duty of care because his injury was not foreseeable.The Eighth Circuit reversed and held that the record on summary judgment establishes that the question of foreseeability, as incorporated into the analysis of the legal duty of care under Missouri law, was not appropriate for summary judgment. Rather, the court held that the question of foreseeability is subject to varying inferences and is therefore an issue for a jury. In this case, although there was no evidence that emissions of NOx gas from the Dyno smokestack previously had caused injury to workers at the nearby Calumet site, a reasonable jury could find that the circumstances of the emissions in this case created some probability or likelihood of harm sufficiently serious that ordinary persons would take precautions to avoid it. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Scott v. Dyno Nobel, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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Plaintiff filed suit against defendant for negligently crossing the highway's center line and sideswiping plaintiff's motorcycle. After the jury awarded plaintiff $7,000, the district court denied plaintiff's motion for a new trial on damages.The Eighth Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not plainly err by giving three comments to the jury; the verdict was not against the weight of the evidence and bears a reasonable relationship to the damages proved; the district court's erroneous grant of judgment on the loss-of-earning capacity claim was harmless; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by excluding cross-examination of the sheriff where the questioning would have been misleading, could have led to jury confusion, and was cumulative. View "Russell v. Anderson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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Plaintiff filed suit against Toyota in strict products liability, negligence, and breach of warranty for injuries she sustained in a single-vehicle roll over accident. Plaintiff alleged that her 1997 Toyota 4Runner was unreasonably prone to roll over and that its seatbelt system failed to restrain her during the accident.Given plaintiff's concession that there was no evidence relating to the design of the seatbelt and that her claims instead centered on FMVSS 209, the Eighth Circuit held that the district court did not err in determining that she had abandoned her claim for strict liability. The court declined to reach plaintiff's evidentiary arguments because she failed to preserve them. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Smith v. Toyota Motor Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, the widow and executrix of her late husband's estate, filed suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), alleging a claim of medical malpractice on behalf of the estate and alleging individually a claim of wrongful death. The claims stemmed from injuries her husband suffered during a fall, shortly before his death, while hospitalized in a Veterans Affairs hospital.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims, holding that the district court did not err in dismissing the medical malpractice claim in the absence of a breach of the applicable standard of medical care. In this case, substantial evidence supported the district court's factual findings with respect to the husband's condition on the morning of the fall and the care the nurses provided him to and after his fall. The court also held that the district court did not err in dismissing the wrongful death claim in the absence of an underlying tort claim. View "Howard v. United States" on Justia Law