Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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Sikkelee was killed when a Cessna aircraft he was piloting crashed after taking off from North Carolina's Transylvania County Airport. The aircraft had a Lycoming engine; Sikkelee's widow alleged the aircraft lost power due to a defect in the design of the engine and its carburetor. The FAA had issued Lycoming a type certificate for the engine, certifying that the design performs properly and satisfies federal regulations. Sikkelee’s widow brought strict liability and negligence claims against Lycoming, alleging design defect. The Third Circuit held that Sikkelee’s state-law claims are not barred based on the doctrine of field preemption. On remand, the district court concluded the claims were conflict-preempted and that Lycoming was entitled to summary judgment on Sikkelee’s strict liability and negligence claims based on Pennsylvania law. The court granted Lycoming summary judgment on Sikkelee’s claim that Lycoming violated 14 C.F.R. 21.3 by failing to notify the FAA of the alleged defect. The Third Circuit reversed in part, rejecting an argument that Sikkelee’s claims were conflict-preempted because FAA regulations made it impossible for Lycoming to unilaterally implement design changes Pennsylvania law allegedly would have required. Lycoming has not produced clear evidence that the FAA would not have allowed it to change the design set forth in the type certificate. Summary judgment on Sikkelee’s strict liability and negligence claims was inappropriate because there are genuine disputes of material fact concerning causation. Summary judgment was proper on the failure-to-notify-the-FAA claim. View "Sikkelee v. Precision Airmotive Corp" on Justia Law

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Sauers and his wife were driving southbound on Route 209 in Nesquehoning, Pennsylvania. Officer Homanko was on patrol, traveling in the same direction when he observed a summary traffic offense committed by a Dodge in the northbound lane. Homanko turned around to pursue the Dodge. He radioed police in the neighboring borough to request that officers there pull the Dodge over when it reached their jurisdiction. Homanko then began a chase at speeds of over 100 miles-per-hour. Several people observed him driving recklessly. Homanko lost control while negotiating a curve. His car spun around, crossed the centerline into southbound traffic, and crashed into Sauers’s car. The accident seriously injured Sauers and killed his wife. Homanko subsequently pled guilty to vehicular homicide, which requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt of reckless or grossly negligent driving, and reckless endangerment. Sauers – individually and as administrator of his wife’s estate – filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, citing a “state-created danger” theory of liability. The Third Circuit vacated the denial of Homanko’s motion for dismissal based on qualified immunity; it was not clearly established at the time of the crash that Homanko’s conduct, as alleged in the complaint, could give rise to constitutional liability under the Fourteenth Amendment. The court commented, however, that it hoped to establish clear law with its decision. View "Sauers v. Borough of Nesquehoning" on Justia Law

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Estrada filed a purported class action on behalf of: “All persons who purchased [Johnson & Johnson] Baby Powder in California and states with laws that do not conflict with the laws asserted here.” The district court dismissed for lack of standing. The Third Circuit affirmed, stating that a plaintiff—who has entirely consumed a product that has functioned for her as expected— has not suffered an economic injury solely because she now sincerely wishes that she had not purchased that product. Buyer’s remorse, without more, is not a cognizable injury under Article III. The court noted that Estrada did not allege that a product has caused her physical injury, nor does she allege even an increased risk of developing cancer; she makes no claim of emotional injury, nor did she describe a defective product. She bought the product regularly for decades and completely consumed what she purchased. Her theory of recovery is simply that she suffered an economic injury by purchasing improperly marketed Baby Powder and that, had she been properly informed that using Baby Powder could lead to an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer, she would not have purchased it. View "Estrada v. Johnson & Johnson" on Justia Law

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Viviani left Stone Mansion with Hoey. Their vehicle crashed, killing Viviani and seriously injuring Hoey. Hoey sued Viviani’s estate, which tendered the defense to Encompass, which paid Hoey $600,000. Hoey released her claims. Encompass sued Mansion, alleging: it stands in the shoes of the insured estate; Mansion served Viviani alcohol while he was visibly intoxicated; under Pennsylvania’s Dram Shop law, a business that serves alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person is legally responsible for any damage that person might cause; and under the Uniform Contribution Among Tortfeasors Act (UCATA). In email correspondence, Mansion’s counsel informed Encompass that “I will be authorized to accept service.” Encompass sent counsel a copy of the filed complaint and an acceptance form via email. Counsel replied, “I will hold the acceptance ... [for] the docket n[umber].” That same day, Encompass provided the docket number. Mansion later claimed that, because it had not been properly served, it could remove the case to federal court. Encompass sought remand. The court concluded that the forum defendant rule precludes removal only if any of the parties in interest properly joined and served as defendants is a citizen of the state and that counsel did not accept service. The court then dismissed: The Dram Shop law indicates that a licensee is liable only to third persons (Hoey), for damages inflicted upon the third person (off premises) by the licensee's customer when the licensee furnishes that customer with alcohol when he was visibly intoxicated. … Encompass is acting as if it were Viviani in order to recover under [UCATA]. Because there is no potential cognizable Dram Shop claim between Viviani/Encompass and Mansion, there is no contribution claim. The Third Circuit upheld removal of the case, rejecting an argument that it is “inconceivable” that Congress intended the rule to permit an in-state defendant to remove an action by delaying service of process. Stone Mansion’s conduct did not preclude removal. The court reversed the dismissal. Encompass does not argue that it is entitled to recovery in tort against Stone Mansion but presents a distinct claim for contribution under the UCATA. Pennsylvania’s Dram Shop law does not prohibit this manner of recovery. View "Encompass Insurance Co v. Stone Mansion Restaurant Inc" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs suffer from asbestos disease as a result of exposure to Grace's Montana mining and processing operations and sought to hold Grace’s insurers (CNA), liable for negligence. CNA sought to enforce a third-party claims channeling injunction entered under Grace’s confirmed plan of reorganization to bar the claims. Bankruptcy Code section 524(g) allows an injunction that channels asbestos mass-tort liability to a trust set up to compensate persons injured by the debtor’s asbestos; channeling injunctions can also protect the interests of non-debtors, such as insurers. The Third Circuit rejected the Plaintiffs’ argument that the Plan and Settlement Agreement’s terms preserved all of CNA’s duties as a workers’ compensation insurer in order to avoid preempting the state’s workers’ compensation laws. The court then applied a three-part analysis: Section 524(g)(4)(A)(ii) allows injunctions to “bar any action directed against a third party who is identifiable . . . and is alleged to be directly or indirectly liable for the conduct of, claims against, or demands on the debtor [that] . . . arises by reason of one of four statutory relationships between the third party and the debtor.” CNA is identified in the Injunction, satisfying the first requirement. Analysis of the second factor requires review of the law to determine whether the third-party’s liability is wholly separate from the debtor’s liability or instead depends on it. The Bankruptcy Court must make that determination, and, with respect to the “statutory relationship” factor, should review the law and determine whether CNA’s provision of insurance to Grace is relevant legally to the Montana Claims. View "W.R. Grace & Co. v. Carr" on Justia Law

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On January 6, 2016, in Newark, New Jersey, there was a collision between a car driven by Sconiers and a vehicle owned by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). About two weeks later, Sconiers submitted an administrative tort claim form to USPS seeking damages for injuries that she claimed she suffered in the accident. By letter dated July 14, 2016, addressed to Sconiers’s counsel, USPS denied her claim. The letter, citing the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) 28 U.S.C. 2401(b), informed Sconiers that if she was dissatisfied with the denial, she “may file suit in a United States District Court no later than six (6) months after the date the Postal Service mails the notice of that final action.” Sconiers filed suit eight months later. The district court found that Sconiers’s complaint was filed beyond the FTCA’s six-month statute of limitations and determined that she had not identified any extraordinary circumstance that justified equitable tolling of the deadline. The Third Circuit affirmed. Although the statute of limitations requires filing within two years, 28 U.S.C. §2401(b), the FTCA additionally requires claimants to file their claims within six months of an agency’s written denial. View "Sconiers v. United States" on Justia Law

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Firefighters alleged that they suffered hearing losses caused by the loud noise emitted by a manufacturer’s fire sirens. A perfunctory investigation conducted by the manufacturer during discovery revealed the firefighters’ lawsuit to be clearly time-barred, and also revealed that one firefighter had not even suffered hearing loss attributable to noise exposure. Eventually, Plaintiffs requested the district court to dismiss the case with prejudice (Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(2)). In doing so, the court awarded attorneys’ fees and costs in favor of the manufacturer, making an explicit reference to plaintiffs’ counsel’s practice of repeatedly suing the fire siren manufacturer in jurisdictions throughout the country in a virtually identical fashion. The Third Circuit affirmed. Although attorneys’ fees and costs are typically not awarded when a matter is voluntarily dismissed with prejudice, such an award is appropriate when exceptional circumstances exist. Exceptional circumstances include a litigant’s failure to perform a meaningful pre-suit investigation, as well as a repeated practice of bringing meritless claims and then dismissing them with prejudice after both the opposing party and the judicial system have incurred substantial costs. Such exceptional circumstances are present in this case. View "Carroll v. E One Inc." on Justia Law

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Shuker underwent a hip replacement surgery that resulted in unexpected complications and brought tort claims against Smith & Nephew, the manufacturer of his hip replacement system. The Medical Device Amendments of 1976, added comprehensive medical device approval processes to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, prescribing tiers of federal requirements for certain devices corresponding to the device’s inherent risk level. In exchange for compliance with the strictest federal mandates, Congress afforded manufacturers express preemption from state laws imposing different or additional “safety or effectiveness” requirements for those devices, 21 U.S.C. 360k(a)(2). Shuker’s medical device was comprised of multiple components, some of which are from “Class III” medical devices subject to federal requirements and some of which are from medical devices that carry a different class designation and are not subject to those requirements. The Third Circuit affirmed a determination that Shuker’s negligence, strict liability, and breach of implied warranty claims are expressly preempted. The court reversed the dismissal of other claims. Shuker adequately pleaded non-preempted claims based on Smith & Nephew’s alleged off-label promotion in violation of federal law and loss of consortium, and jurisdictional discovery is warranted with respect to personal jurisdiction over one of the defendants. View "Shuker v. Smith & Nephew PLC" on Justia Law

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Shuker underwent a hip replacement surgery that resulted in unexpected complications and brought tort claims against Smith & Nephew, the manufacturer of his hip replacement system. The Medical Device Amendments of 1976, added comprehensive medical device approval processes to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, prescribing tiers of federal requirements for certain devices corresponding to the device’s inherent risk level. In exchange for compliance with the strictest federal mandates, Congress afforded manufacturers express preemption from state laws imposing different or additional “safety or effectiveness” requirements for those devices, 21 U.S.C. 360k(a)(2). Shuker’s medical device was comprised of multiple components, some of which are from “Class III” medical devices subject to federal requirements and some of which are from medical devices that carry a different class designation and are not subject to those requirements. The Third Circuit affirmed a determination that Shuker’s negligence, strict liability, and breach of implied warranty claims are expressly preempted. The court reversed the dismissal of other claims. Shuker adequately pleaded non-preempted claims based on Smith & Nephew’s alleged off-label promotion in violation of federal law and loss of consortium, and jurisdictional discovery is warranted with respect to personal jurisdiction over one of the defendants. View "Shuker v. Smith & Nephew PLC" on Justia Law

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Rubi, a U.S. citizen, is the Director of 7R Holdings LLC, which has its principal place of business in Puerto Rico. Holdings holds 7R Charters, which owned M/Y Olga, a yacht registered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). Calot captains Olga. Using email and the telephone, Calot, while in Puerto Rico, hired Trotter, while in Florida, to work as a chef on Olga. Trotter boarded Olga in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Days later, Olga traveled to Scrub Island, BVI, and let down its anchor. Trotter allegedly sustained an injury while descending stairs to the dock, was treated for her alleged injuries at a BVI hospital, and returned to Florida. Trotter sued Rubi, Holdings, and Olga in the District Court of the Virgin Islands under the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. 30104, and general maritime laws. The court dismissed, citing forum non conveniens. The Third Circuit affirmed, applying the general presumption that the possibility of a change in substantive law should ordinarily not be given substantial weight in the forum non-conveniens inquiry, because the remedy provided by the alternative forum is not clearly inadequate and because the Jones Act does not contain a special venue provision. The court did not abuse its discretion in exercising its forum non-conveniens power after reasonably balancing the relevant private and public interest factors. View "Trotter v. 7R Holdings LLC" on Justia Law