Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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Krik has lung cancer Krik smoked a pack and a half of cigarettes every day for 30 years. From 1954-1960 Krik also worked aboard navy vessels removing insulation produced by Owens‐Illinois, which he claimed exposed him to asbestos fibers. For two weeks, he worked as an independent contractor at Mobil’s Joliet refinery replacing heaters that Krik claimed were insulated with asbestos. In his suit against Owens and Mobil, a jury found that cigarettes were the sole cause of Krik’s cancer. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, upholding the district court's exclusion of testimony from Krik's expert concerning theories that any exposure to asbestos fibers whatsoever, regardless of the amount of fibers or length of exposure constitutes an underlying cause of injury to the exposed individual. The court also rejected a claim that he was denied a fair trial when Mobil, with the knowledge of Owens, hired a private investigator to secretly conduct an interview of a sitting juror’s acquaintance, to verify and investigate information revealed by the juror. Neither issue was prejudicial and denied Krik a fair trial. View "Krik v. Exxon Mobil Corp." on Justia Law

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Smith was transported from the Rock Island County Jail to the federal courthouse for arraignment. U.S. marshals took Smith to an interview room to meet his lawyer. The Marshals Service inspects the interview rooms weekly. On the detainee’s side of the room, there is a metal stool attached to the wall by a swing-arm. According to Smith, when he sat on the stool it “broke,” causing him to fall and strike his head; he saw that bolts were missing. A nurse examined Smith and noted that his speech was slurred. She had him taken to the emergency room. He was treated for a stroke and continues to suffer adverse effects. Smith filed an administrative tort claim, which was denied. Smith then brought suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. 2671, relying on the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur to impute negligence to the government. The district court rejected the theory, noting that Smith’s fall occurred at 11 a.m., so it was possible that others could have already damaged the seat or that Smith fell without the stool having malfunctioned. The Seventh Circuit reversed. The fact that a detainee is left alone to confer with his lawyer does not defeat the notion that the room and its contents remain within the control of the government. The sort of malfunction that Smith has described is the kind of hazard that the government may be expected to guard against. View "Smith v. United States" on Justia Law

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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