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

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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After plaintiff suffered injuries to his right hand while using a RotoZip Model RZ20 hand-held spiral saw, he filed suit against Bosch, the manufacturer, and Lowe's, the retailer, alleging strict liability and negligence products liability theories. Plaintiff alleged that he was injured when the saw’s auxiliary handle spontaneously detached from the saw's body.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of defendants' joint motion to bar the opinions of plaintiff's expert regarding the saw's alleged design defects and the saw's failure to have an interlocking device safety measure. The court concluded that the expert's proposed opinion lacked relevance as it did not fit the facts of this case. The court explained that plaintiff did not meaningfully argue in his brief his claim that the saw was defective for not having an interlocking safety measure and thus waived his claim. Furthermore, even if the issue was not waived, the district court did not err in concluding the expert's testimony on alternative-design options was not reliable and should not be admitted.The court also affirmed the district court's grant of defendants' joint motion for summary judgment on plaintiff's claims of strict products liability, negligent design, negligent failure to warn, and negligent supply of a dangerous instrumentality. In this case, the district court concluded that the claims involved such complex or technical information that they required expert testimony. Therefore, the exclusion of plaintiff's expert was fatal to his claims. View "McMahon v. Robert Bosch Tool Corp." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of Plaintiffs Mullen and King's complaint against the United States based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Plaintiffs' causes of action stemmed from the death of Rosemarie Ismail, a 69-year-old veteran who died from a hematoma after a liver biopsy performed at a VA hospital. The district court concluded that King failed to properly present her Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) claim because Mullen, who filed an administrative wrongful death claim with the VA as the personal representative of Ismail's estate, did not have the authority under Missouri law to act on King's behalf.The court held that the DOJ regulations specifically contemplate that Mullen, as the personal representative of Ismail's estate, may present an administrative wrongful death claim even if she is not authorized to bring an FTCA action in that same capacity. Given the court's plain reading of the FTCA and the corresponding regulations, the court concluded that Mullen had the requisite authority to present a wrongful death claim to the VA and consequently that King's FTCA claim was administratively exhausted. The court explained that an FTCA notice of claim need not be filed by a party with the legal authority or capacity under state law to represent the beneficiaries' interests in state court. Therefore, the district court had subject matter jurisdiction over King's FTCA claim. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "King v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, parents of LD, filed suit against the school district and others after their daughter LD, a 13-year-old, 7th grade student, was sexually abused by her teacher, Brian Robeson.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the school district and the principal. The court concluded that plaintiffs failed to present any evidence that the principal had actual notice of the abuse, and the principal and the school district were entitled to summary judgment on plaintiffs' Title IX and 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims. The court also concluded that the district court did not err by granting summary judgment in favor of the school district and principal on plaintiffs' Nebraska Political Subdivisions Tort Claims Act where plaintiffs' claim arose out of Robeson's sexual assault of LD, an intentional tort to which the Act's intentional tort exception applies. The court further concluded that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of the principal on plaintiffs' aiding and abetting intentional infliction of emotional distress claim where nothing in the record, even when viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiffs, indicates that the principal encouraged or assisted Robeson in inflicting emotional distress on LD.The court joined its sister circuits in finding that there is no right to a jury trial on the issue of damages following entry of default judgment. The court affirmed the district court's order denying plaintiffs' request for a jury trial on the issue of damages against Robeson. Finally, the court affirmed the $1,249,540.41 amount of damages awarded against Robeson. View "KD v. Douglas County School District No. 001" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Integrity in an action brought by plaintiff for negligent performance of an undertaking. Plaintiff filed suit after he was injured in a cab driven by a drunk driver, alleging that Integrity should have done a better background check on the cab driver.The court concluded that Integrity did not owe any duty to plaintiff under Iowa law. The court explained that, even assuming Integrity could have discovered the cab driver's Minnesota DWI, its review of his records did not put plaintiff in a worse situation because the cab company put the driver behind the wheel. Therefore, plaintiff failed to state a duty as a matter of law under the Restatement (Second) of Torts, Sec. 324A. The court also concluded that there was no liability under Sec. 324A(c) of the Restatement because the cab company did not rely on the insurer's background check and conducted its own review of the driver's record. View "Foster v. Integrity Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against HealthEast and others, alleging multiple causes of action related to peer review determinations stemming from his practice of neurosurgery. After the district court granted defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings, three claims remained against appellees: defamation, tortious interference with prospective economic relationship, and tortious interference with contract. Appellees moved for summary judgment on the remaining claims and the district court granted their motion.As to the defamation claims, the Eighth Circuit concluded that only three statements are before the court on appeal because plaintiff did not amend his complaint to incorporate the additional allegedly defamatory statements identified during discovery and, given the requirement that defamation claims be pleaded with specificity, only the statements included in the amended complaint can form the basis of plaintiff's claim. As to the first remaining statement, the court concluded that it was waived. In regard to the two remaining statements, the court concluded that Minnesota peer review immunity applies.As to the tortious interference claims, the court concluded that to the extent these alleged interferences occurred solely through the peer review process itself, appellees are entitled to peer review immunity. In the event peer review immunity does not fully shield appellees, these claims failed on the merits. Accordingly, the district court properly concluded that appellees were entitled to summary judgment on all of plaintiff's claims, and the court affirmed its judgment. View "Sherr v. HealthEast Care System" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff tripped on an uneven sidewalk outside a veterans' hospital and was seriously injured, he and his wife filed suit against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), alleging negligence and loss of consortium.The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the Government, concluding that evidence from the record demonstrates that a reasonable person in plaintiff's position would not have noticed the uneven sidewalk. The court explained that after-the-fact recognition of the uneven sidewalk is not dispositive of what would have been apparent to a reasonable person "exercising ordinary perception, intelligence, and judgment," and plaintiff and his wife produced evidence that the uneven sidewalk would not have been apparent to such a person. The court also concluded that the record is underdeveloped as to whether the hospital would have discovered the uneven sidewalk "by the exercise of reasonable care." View "Shanner v. United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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Plaintiff and his wife filed suit against defendants alleging claims related to the kidnapping and murder of Jacob E. Wetterling. Jacob was abducted at the end of plaintiff's wife's driveway. Plaintiff asserted First Amendment retaliation, a derivative claim for municipal liability, and state law claims for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.The Eighth Circuit concluded that the district court did not err in determining that plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. 1983 was time-barred by the six year statute of limitations under Minnesota law. The court also concluded that the district court did not err in determining that the defamation claim and intentional infliction of emotional distress claim were time-barred by the two-year statute of limitations under Minnesota law. In this case, plaintiff's claims accrued in 2010, when the alleged tortious acts of naming plaintiff as a person of interest and searching plaintiff and his wife's property occurred, regardless of when they believed they had enough evidence to convince a judge or jury and obtain relief. Finally, the court concluded that the district court did not err by denying plaintiff's request to equitably toll the statutes of limitations where plaintiffs lacked diligence in filing, which was not prevented by invincible necessity. Furthermore, no factor outside plaintiff's control prevented the filing. View "Rassier v. Sanner" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against Hardee's after their six-year-old son was electrocuted by an exposed, electrified wire at one of defendant's restaurants and died. Hardee's moved for dismissal based on the doctrine of forum non conveniens, which the district court granted.The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal, concluding that, although its sister circuits take varying approaches to timeliness, under either approach, Hardee's filed a motion that was sufficiently untimely to warrant reversal. In this case, for 18 months, Hardee's knew the essential facts supporting its motion to dismiss. The court explained that the assertion that Missouri is an inconvenient forum for Hardee's rings hollow because of its long delay in filing its motion to dismiss based on forum non conveniens. The court concluded that, under these facts, the motion should have been filed earlier than 18 months after plaintiffs filed their complaint and earlier than the end of the discovery period prior to trial. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Hersh v. CKE Restaurants Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law

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After plaintiff sustained injuries in an on-the-job accident, he filed suit against his former employer, Key Energy, and the company that manufactured the equipment that caused his injuries, Hydra-Walk, alleging products liability and negligence claims. Plaintiff suffered injuries when the Hydra-Walk system he was operating became unstable and overturned, crushing him.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants, concluding that Hydra-Walk is not a third-party tortfeasor for purposes of determining whether plaintiff may pursue a remedy. The court explained that plaintiff's arguments to the contrary ignored that a merger occurred between Key Energy and Hydra-Walk, with Key Energy emerging as the only surviving entity and Hydra-Walk, ceasing to exist. Furthermore, the North Dakota Supreme Court has never allowed an employee to successfully recover against an employer where the employee was injured by equipment manufactured by another company prior to the company's merger with the employer and the injury occurred post-merger. Without further indication that the North Dakota Supreme Court would be receptive to the application of the exception, the court was unwilling to apply it, for the first time, to plaintiff's claims. Finally, the court concluded that the North Dakota Supreme Court would not apply the dual capacity doctrine to the exclusive remedy rule to plaintiff's claims. View "Scott v. Key Energy Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff file a products liability action against Teva, the manufacturer of intrauterine devices, after she suffered complications from the implantation of an intrauterine device that broke and embedded inside her uterus.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the manufacturer, holding that all Teva was required to do under Nebraska law was warn medical professionals like plaintiff's physician about the device's potential risks. The court explained that the Nebraska Supreme Court has indicated that it would follow the "overwhelming majority rule" and join other states in rejecting the prescription-contraceptives exception to the learned-intermediary doctrine. View "Ideus v. Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc." on Justia Law