Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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Plaintiff began his military career in 1983, serving in the Indiana National Guard, the Army, and the Army Reserve. He was a Captain and served in combat in Iraq. In 2007-2011 he sustained several injuries and was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. He was placed on reserve status while a Physical Evaluation Board evaluated his fitness for continued military service. When retired from the army on grounds of physical disability in 2014, Futrell became eligible for a monthly government pension. Had paperwork been processed, he would have also received incapacitation payments during the gap between his release from duty and his retirement; he received no government payments between December 2011 and January 2013, causing him severe financial and emotional distress. In 2013, the government paid him an amount that covered the incapacitation payments that he should have received, but did not compensate for his distress. He filed suit against under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. 2674. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal of the suit as barred by a Supreme Court holding that the Act is unavailable to a member of the armed forces who “while on active duty and not on furlough, sustained injury due to negligence of others in the armed forces.” The alleged harms all relate to military benefits and were committed by military base staff. That he was on reserve status is irrelevant. View "Futrell v. United States" on Justia Law

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While working on his employer’s roof, Cripe was exposed to fumes from PUR‐FECT LOK® 834A, a glue made by Henkel. and containing methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI). Cripe claims that exposure to MDI caused him neurological and psychological problems, which could have been avoided by better warnings. The district court granted Henkel summary judgment, ruling that a toxic‐tort claim under Indiana law depends on expert proof of causation and that the Cripe had not produced such evidence. Cripe identified only one expert—Robinson, a specialist in the language of warnings, who disclaimed any opinion on causation. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Cripe had not disclosed treating physicians as experts under FRCP 26(a)(2)(A). The fact that Robinson attached the physicians’ reports to her own did not indicate that they would function as experts. Rule 26(a)(2) requires more than disclosure of a potential expert’s name; documents attached to Robinson’s report did not contain any of the required information. Most of the physicians’ evaluations summarized Cripe’s symptoms and proposed treatment without discussing causation. None suggested a mechanism by which MDI would have caused the symptoms. By contrast, Henkel provided the district court with a comprehensive evaluation of MDI prepared by the World Health Organization. View "Cripe v. Henkel Corp." on Justia Law

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In 1952, the patent for a “Composite Fire Door,” issued to Owens‐Illinois. The patent claims never specifically mention asbestos, but describe a fire door with a “core of inorganic, rigid, fireproof, lightweight material of a substantially uniform apparent density and consistency throughout.” In 1956, Owens‐Illinois licensed the patent to Weyerhauser’s predecessor. Until 1978, its Marshfield, Wisconsin plant produced fire doors that used asbestos as a thermal insulator. The plaintiffs were all employees of that Marshfield plant and developed mesothelioma as a result of asbestos exposure. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of their claims as covered by the exclusive remedy provisions of Wisconsin’s Worker’s Compensation Act, Wis. Stat. 102.03(2). The court rejected an attempt to avoid that bar by recharacterizing their injuries as occurring off the job based on a “public nuisance” theory involving ambient asbestos. The court characterized the claims against Owen‐Illinois claims as frivolous. View "Masephol v. Weyerhaeuser Co." on Justia Law

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At the emergency room of Ingalls Memorial Hospital, Ford was treated by Dr. Parks‐Ballard, a Family Christian Health Center employee. A 2015 federal complaint alleged that Parks-Ballard failed to properly diagnose and treat Ford, who was eventually diagnosed with Wernicke’s encephalopathy and who sustained neurological injuries including permanent disability. Because Family operated with money from the Public Health Services, a government agency, the 2015 suit was filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 2675(a) and the United States was the defendant. In determining that the claim accrued as of August 2010, the district court took judicial notice of a state court medical malpractice claim filed in August 2010 by Ford against Ingalls, Parks‐Ballard, and Family, including virtually the same allegations as the FTCA complaint. Ford voluntarily dismissed that complaint. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal, based on the two-year statute of limitations. Regardless of Ford’s alleged mental disabilities, the 2010 complaint reflected an awareness that Ford’s injuries were caused by the defendant (through its agents). Ford’s claim was not presented to an administrative agency until 2015. View "Watkins v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that defendants jointly employed as a supervisor, Brian Cooper, a man with a known history of sexually harassing, verbally abusing, and physically intimidating his female subordinates. Plaintiff also alleged that the joint employers failed to take reasonable steps in response to female employees' complaints and to misbehavior that more senior managers observed. For five years, Cooper verbally abused and controlled one subordinate, Alisha Bromfield. Cooper used his supervisory authority to require Alisha to come on a personal trip with him by threatening to fire her or cut her hours if she refused. During the trip, Cooper strangled Alisha to death and then raped her corpse. Alisha was seven months pregnant at the time. The court explained that Illinois law permits recovery from employers whose negligent hiring, supervision, or retention of their employees causes injury. The court concluded that the unusually detailed complaint plausibly stated such claims and that the Illinois courts would apply this general principle to the claims arising from Alisha's murder. View "Anicich v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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Baugh fell off a five‐foot, A‐frame aluminum ladder while working on a gutter. Baugh sustained significant bleeding in his brain, which caused seizures, dementia, and quadriplegia. In a suit against Cuprum, which designed and manufactured the ladder, alleging a design defect under strict liability and negligence theories, Baugh argued that the ladder was not designed to accommodate 200-pound individuals and that a feasible alternate design would have prevented the accident. Cuprum argued that the accident occurred because Baugh climbed too high on the ladder, standing on its fourth step and pail shelf, neither of which were intended to be stood on. A jury found in Cuprum’s favor. On remand, Baugh elicited testimony from neighbors and a paramedic, all of whom arrived post‐accident, and from experts relating to the cause of the accident and the severity of his resulting injuries. There was testimony concerning how many pounds per square inch could be exerted on the ladder and how Baugh was standing on the ladder. Cuprum elicited contrary testimony. The Seventh Circuit affirmed an award of $11 million. Baugh’s experts’ methodologies were adequate; Cuprum’s challenges concerned the weight of their testimony rather than its admissibility. A reasonable jury could find in Baugh’s favor. Baugh supplied sufficient evidence that a feasible alternative existed, and that the accident was more likely attributable to the ladder’s original defective design than to its improper use. View "Baugh v. Cuprum S.A. de C.V." on Justia Law

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Parker and her sister, Schiavon, checked into adjoining rooms at the Four Seasons. In each, a sliding glass door separated the shower area from the vanity area. As Parker exited the shower area by opening that door, it exploded, raining shards of glass onto her naked body and causing her injuries. Schiavon summoned help. Gartin, a hotel engineer, arrived, immediately looked at the overhead track and said: “Looks like the stopper moved again!” He explained that a “bunch” of newly installed glass doors had exploded because the track stoppers were not working properly, allowing the door-handles to crash into walls and cause the glass to explode. Gartin said the room was on a “do not sell” list; “You might want to check yours.” Schiavon checked and determined that the door in her room had the same defect. Parker uncovered evidence suggesting that the door in her room had previously shattered and had been replaced. An email between third party contractors revealed that several rooms had similar issues. The hotel conceded negligence. The court blocked Parker from raising the issue of punitive damages before the jury, finding her evidence insufficient as a matter of law. Parker recovered $20,000 in compensatory damages, reduced to $12,000 after set-off. The Seventh Circuit reversed. Four Seasons may have thought it repaired the problem. Parker’s room could have been pulled from service for another reason. These are issues for a fact-finder. Parker has the right to present her punitive damages claim to the jury. View "Parker v. Four Seasons Hotels, Ltd." on Justia Law

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Piotrowski, walking in the parking lot at a Menard's store, stepped on one or two small rocks that she had not seen. She fell, very hard, outside the store entrance. About 50-125 feet away, there is a large concrete planter, containing decorative “river rock.” The store’s front end manager had seen children in the planter on occasion. Menard also sold decorative river rock. The store’s general manager walked the store’s premises, including the parking lot, daily. Other employees also walked through the parking lot throughout the day and were responsible for reporting hazards. Piotrowski went by ambulance to the hospital after her fall and was treated for fracture, torn ligaments, and dislocation of her right elbow. Her injuries required four additional hospitalizations and three more surgeries within one year. The district court rejected Piotrowski’s negligence claims on summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Piotrowski’s belief that she fell as a result of the store’s negligence is speculation. That Piotrowski fell in the parking lot after slipping on two rocks is not enough to support an inference that Menard’s negligence caused the fall. There was no evidence of a pattern of conduct or recurring incident; the store’s manager and employees regularly monitored the parking lot for unsafe conditions. View "Piotrowski v. Menard, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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Juan purchased Professional Strength Goof Off to remove paint from a concrete basement floor; its primary active ingredient is acetone, which is extremely flammable and evaporates quickly at room temperature. The can contained warnings in English and Spanish and instructed users who wanted to remove concrete stains to “[a]pply directly. Agitate with brush.” Juan claims that he read most of the warnings and opened a window and two doors to the outside. It is unclear whether he turned off pilot lights for two water heaters and a furnace in a separate portion of the basement. While Juan was using a broom to spread the product, a fire erupted and severely burned his face, head, neck, and hands. Juan sued. The district judge rejected his claims on summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed rejection of a failure‐to‐warn claim. The warning label adequately identified the principal hazards and precautionary measures to be taken while using the product. The court reversed rejection of the design defect claims under both strict liability and negligence. Juan adequately established that the fire may have been caused by static sparks created when Juan agitated Goof Off with a brush as the label instructed. A genuine factual issue exists as to whether an ordinary consumer would expect a fire to erupt under these circumstances, whether this risk outweighs the product's benefits, and whether the manufacturer should have known that agitation could create static sparks sufficient for ignition. View "Suarez v. W.M. Barr & Co., Inc," on Justia Law

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In 2008, Huon was charged with criminal sexual assault of Jane Doe. He claimed that the encounter was consensual and was acquitted. The website Above the Law (ATL) published an article entitled, “Rape Potpourri” which discussed two “rape stories,” one of which concerned Jane Doe’s allegations and Huon’s opening statement at his trial; the post was later updated to note that Huon was acquitted. Huon sued ATL, alleging defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and false light invasion of privacy. Days later, a Gawker website published an article entitled, “Acquitted Rapist Sues Blog for Calling Him Serial Rapist” with Huon’s 2008 mugshot and the ATL article. The title was later changed to, “Man Acquitted of Sexual Assault Sues Blog for Calling Him Serial Rapist.” The Gawker article generated 80 comments from anonymous third-party users. Huon added Gawker as a defendant. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal of the defamation claim. The title can be construed innocently when viewed with the rest of the article, which fairly reported on Huon’s trial and his initial complaint. The court reversed dismissal of the defamation claim concerning the third-party user comments. Huon adequately alleged that the publisher helped create at least some of the comments; one of the comments constitutes defamation under Illinois law. Because that claim was reinstated, the court also reinstated the false-light and intentional-infliction claims, which were dismissed against Gawker based solely on the rejection of his defamation claims. View "Huon v. Denton" on Justia Law