Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
by
Petitioner Nicholas Casson was a firefighter for the City of Santa Ana for 27 years. In 2012, he retired and began collecting a pension from California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS). He immediately started a second career with the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA), where he was eligible for a pension under respondent Orange County Employees Retirement System (OCERS). He did not elect reciprocity between the two pensions, which would have allowed him to import his years of service under CalPERS to the OCERS pension. He started as a first-year firefighter for purposes of the OCERS pension and immediately began collecting pension payments from CalPERS. Five years into the job, he suffered an on-the-job injury that permanently disabled him. He applied for and received a disability pension from OCERS, which, normally, would have paid out 50 percent of his salary for the remainder of his life. However, because he was receiving a CalPERS retirement, OCERS imposed a “disability offset” pursuant to Government Code section 31838.5, the statute central to this appeal. This resulted in a monthly benefit reduction from $4,222.81 to $1,123.87. After exhausting his administrative remedies, Casson filed a petition for a writ of mandate; court denied the petition, finding that the plain language of section 31838.5 required a disability offset. The Court of Appeal reversed: Casson’s service retirement from CalPERS was not a disability allowance and thus should not have been included in the calculation of Casson’s total disability allowance. OCERS should not have imposed an offset, and the trial court should have issued a writ of mandate. View "Casson v. Orange County Employees Retirement System" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs-appellants Jennifer Bitner and Evelina Herrera were employed as licensed vocational nurses by defendant-respondent California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). They filed a class action suit against CDCR alleging that: (1) while assigned to duties that included one-on-one suicide monitoring, they were subjected to acts of sexual harassment by prison inmates; and (2) CDCR failed to prevent or remedy the situation in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Government Code section 12940 et seq. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of CDCR on the ground that it was entitled to statutory immunity under section 844.6, which generally provided that “a public entity is not liable for . . . [a]n injury proximately caused by any prisoner.” Plaintiffs appealed, arguing that, as a matter of first impression, the Court of Appeal should interpret section 844.6 to include an exception for claims brought pursuant to FEHA. Plaintiffs also argued that, even if claims under FEHA were not exempt from the immunity granted in section 844.6, the evidence presented on summary judgment did not establish that their injuries were “ ‘proximately caused’ ” by prisoners. The Court of Appeal disagreed on both points and affirmed the judgment. View "Bitner v. Dept. of Corrections & Rehabilitation" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff was electrocuted by a powerline owned and operated by the City of Sibley, Iowa. Plaintiff sued the City, in relevant part, for negligence and negligence per se. Plaintiff’s wife also brought a loss of consortium claim. The district court granted summary judgment.   The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment as to negligence and affirmed as to negligence per se. The court reinstated the loss of consortium claim. Plaintiff alleged that the City violated the Iowa Administrative Code, specifically (1) its adopted NESC standards and (2) Iowa Administrative Code 199- 25.4(1). The City argued that the NESC, as adopted by Iowa regulations, establishes the standard of care. But it hasn’t pointed to any authority stating that compliance with Iowa regulations is conclusive of the standard of care in ordinary negligence actions. The court reasoned that compliance with Iowa regulations is not dispositive of the standard of care for negligence. Because a jury could find that the City breached its duty, Plaintiff’s negligence claim has genuine issues of fact for trial. Further, the court held that the public-duty doctrine does not bar Plaintiff’s negligence claim because it involves City misfeasance. View "Victor Maldonado v. City of Sibley" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff sued the government pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), asserting multiple negligent and intentional tort causes of action after being sexually assaulted by an employee of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The government moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The district court granted the government’s motion. Plaintiff appealed the district court’s determination that the assault occurred outside the scope of the employee’s employment.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the FTCA makes clear that the scope-of-employment test is defined by state law, not the employer. Plaintiff argued that the district court erred in concluding that the provider’s duties were restricted to providing battlefield acupuncture therapy (BFA). The court explained that initially, the provider denied sexually assaulting or massaging Plaintiff. He later admitted to the sexual assault and admitted that it was inappropriate for him to massage a patient. He also failed to document anything that occurred after the BFA therapy, including the massage. This is consistent with the finding that the massage and subsequent sexual assault exceeded the scope of his treatment authority. The court explained that in light of the pleadings and undisputed evidence, the district court did not err, determining that the provider acted outside the scope of his employment. View "Jane Doe v. United States" on Justia Law

by
In May 2020, Koballa died of COVID-19. Hudak, the executrix of Koballa’s estate, sued, asserting negligence and related state-law claims against Elmcroft, an assisted-living facility. Elmcroft removed the case to federal court under the general removal statute, 28 U.S.C. 1441(a), and the federal-officer removal statute, 28 U.S.C. 1442(a)(1), based on arguments it made under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP), 42 U.S.C. 247d-6d.The district court found that the PREP Act did not provide grounds for removal under either removal statute and remanded the case to state court for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Hudak does not allege that Elmcroft engaged in willful misconduct in the administration or use of a covered COVID-19 countermeasure, so the PREP Act does not “provide[] the exclusive cause of action for the claims” and does not completely preempt Hudak’s state-law claims. Hudak’s state-law claims do not arise under federal law and could not be removed. Elmcroft is not a "federal officer"; it operated a facility that came under significant federal regulation as part of the federal government’s COVID-19 response but did not have an agreement with the federal government, did not produce a good or perform a service on behalf of the government, and has not shown that the federal government exercised control over its operations to such a degree that the government acted as Elmcroft’s superior. View "Hudak v. Elmcroft of Sagamore Hills" on Justia Law

by
Delaura Norg called 911 seeking emergency medical assistance for her husband, Fred. She gave the 911 dispatcher her correct address, which the dispatcher relayed to emergency responders from the Seattle Fire Department (SFD). The Norgs’ apartment building was three blocks away from the nearest SFD station, but it took emergency responders over 15 minutes to arrive. This delay occurred because the SFD units failed to verify the Norgs’ address and, instead, went to a nearby nursing home based on the mistaken assumption that the Norgs lived there. The Norgs sued the City for negligence, alleging that SFD’s delayed response aggravated their injuries. The City pleaded the public duty doctrine as an affirmative defense and both parties moved for summary judgment on the question of duty. The trial court granted partial summary judgment in the Norgs’ favor and struck the City’s affirmative defense. The Court of Appeals affirmed on interlocutory review. The Washington Supreme Court held that the trial court properly granted partial summary judgment to the Norgs on the question of duty. In doing so, the Court expressed no opinion on the remaining elements of the Norgs’ claim (breach, causation, and damages). The Supreme Court thus affirmed the Court of Appeals and remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Norg v. City of Seattle" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission affirming and adopting the ALJ's final award denying Appellant's claim for benefits from the Second Injury Fund, holding that the Commission did not abuse its discretion in affirming the ALJ's denial of Appellant's post-hearing motions to reopen the record and submit additional evidence.Before the ALJ issued her final award, the Supreme Court decided Cosby v. Treasurer of Missouri, 579 S.W.3d 202 (Mo. banc 2019), which reached a different interpretation of Mo. Rev. Stat. 287.220.3 than that reached by the court of appeals in Gattenby v. Treasurer of Missouri, 516 S.W.3d 859 (Mo. App. 2017). Before the ALJ's final award, Appellant filed a motion to reopen the record for a supplemental hearing based on Cosby. The ALJ overruled the motion and issued her award. The Commission affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Commission did not abuse its discretion in overruling Appellant's motions to reopen the record and submit additional evidence. View "Weibrecht v. Treasurer of Mo. as Custodian of Second Injury Fund" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission overruling James Swafford's claim for permanent total disability (PTD) benefits from the Second Injury Fund, holding that Swafford was not entitled to reversal as to his claims on appeal.In denying benefits, the Commission determined that Swafford failed to show that his preexisting disabilities" directly and significantly aggravated or accelerated" his primary injury pursuant to Mo. Rev. Stat. 287.220.3(2)(a)a(iii). On appeal, Swafford argued that the Commission improperly disregarded the expert testimony he proffered to establish a causal relationship between his primary injury and his preexisting disabilities. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Commission's findings were supported by substantial and competent evidence and that Swafford failed to establish that his primary injury and preexisting disabilities entitled him to PTD benefits from the Fund. View "Swafford v. Treasurer of Missouri as Custodian of Second Injury Fund" on Justia Law

by
The Port of Corpus Christi Authority of Nueces County, Texas (a governmental entity), sued The Port of Corpus Christi, L.P.(a private entity) and Kenneth Berry in state court. The claims were for trespass and encroachment on its submerged land that resulted from dredge operations occurring in a ship channel. Defendants removed the case, but the district court remanded, holding there was no basis for removal either under the federal officer removal statute or due to a federal question.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in denying removal on the basis of the federal officer removal statute. Further, the court explained that it agreed with the district court that the Port Authority’s complaint “disclaims any issue regarding permit compliance, stating its claim exclusively in terms of Texas state law: common law trespass.” The Port Authority did not allege a violation of either the Clean Water Act or the Rivers and Harbors Act. View "Port of Corpus v. Port of Corpus" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs are U.S. service members wounded in terrorist attacks in Iraq and the families and estates of service members killed in such attacks. They appealed from the dismissal of their claims under the Antiterrorism Act (the “ATA”) as amended by the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (the “JASTA”), against various financial institutions in the United States and abroad (the “Banks”). As relevant to this appeal, Plaintiffs alleged that the Banks conspired with and aided and abetted Iranian entities to circumvent sanctions imposed by the United States and channel funds to terrorist groups that killed or injured U.S. service members. The district court dismissed Plaintiffs’ JASTA conspiracy claims primarily because Plaintiffs failed to plausibly plead a direct connection between the Banks and the terrorist groups. The district court also declined to consider Plaintiffs’ JASTA aiding-and-abetting claims because they were raised for the first time in Plaintiffs’ motion for reconsideration.   The Second Circuit explained that while it disagreed with the district court’s primary reason for dismissing Plaintiffs’ JASTA conspiracy claims, it affirmed the district court’s judgment because Plaintiffs failed to adequately allege that the Banks conspired – either directly or indirectly – with the terrorist groups, or that the terrorist attacks that killed or injured the service members were in furtherance of the alleged conspiracy to circumvent U.S. sanctions. The court agreed with the district court that Plaintiffs forfeited their JASTA aiding-and-abetting claims by raising them for the first time in a motion for reconsideration. View "Freeman v. HSBC Holdings PLC" on Justia Law