Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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Salvador Garcia, a garbage truck driver, filed a negligence lawsuit against the City of Omaha under the Political Subdivisions Tort Claims Act (PSTCA) after his truck fell into a sinkhole on a city street, causing him injuries. The City of Omaha claimed sovereign immunity under a provision of the PSTCA that generally immunizes political subdivisions from liability claims relating to localized defects in public thoroughfares unless they have actual or constructive notice of the defect and a reasonable time to repair it. The City argued that it did not have such notice.The City of Omaha filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting its sovereign immunity. The District Court for Douglas County denied the City's motion, finding that while the City had made a prima facie case that it lacked actual or constructive notice of the defect, Garcia had met his burden to demonstrate a genuine issue of material fact that precluded summary judgment. The City appealed this decision.The Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed the lower court's decision. The court found that the City had met its initial burden by showing that it did not have actual or constructive notice of the defect. However, the court also found that Garcia had met his burden to demonstrate a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the City had actual or constructive notice of the defect. The court concluded that the evidence created a genuine issue of material fact whether the City received actual or constructive notice of the defect in a public thoroughfare. If the City had received notice within a reasonable time to allow it to make repairs prior to the incident, it would not be immunized under the relevant provision of the PSTCA. View "Garcia v. City of Omaha" on Justia Law

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Michelle Oksman sued the City of Idaho Falls after slipping and falling on a wet surface in the lobby of the West Deist Aquatic Center, a facility owned and operated by the City. Oksman alleged negligence on the part of the City. The district court initially granted the City's motion for summary judgment, concluding that the City had no actual notice of a dangerous condition and did not fail to take reasonable action to remedy potential hazards. However, the court later withdrew its grant of summary judgment after Oksman identified the person who had allegedly stated that people frequently fell in the area where she had fallen. The case proceeded to a jury trial, during which the district court limited Oksman's testimony and declined to give a jury instruction Oksman requested regarding the reasonable value of necessary services. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the City, and the district court dismissed Oksman's complaint with prejudice. Oksman appealed.The Supreme Court of the State of Idaho vacated the district court's judgment and remanded the case for a new trial. The Supreme Court found that the district court had erred in limiting Oksman's testimony about a statement made by the manager of the aquatic center, which was crucial to Oksman's case. The Supreme Court also provided guidance on issues likely to arise again on remand, including the use of depositions for impeachment and the use of leading questions. The Supreme Court further vacated the district court's award of costs to the City as the prevailing party. Neither party was awarded attorney fees on appeal. View "Oksman v. City of Idaho Falls" on Justia Law

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A fire broke out at Victor Young's property in Yazoo City, Mississippi, and spread to Kenneth Hampton's property. The Yazoo City Fire Department struggled to extinguish the fire due to a lack of tank water and difficulty connecting to a nearby fire hydrant. As a result, Young's property was completely destroyed, and Hampton's property was significantly damaged. Hampton, who was not physically injured during the fire, suffered a cardiac event and subsequent stroke three days later. Hampton and Young sued Yazoo City, alleging negligence and reckless disregard in failing to provide the necessary knowledge and equipment to fight fires, failing to properly train and supervise its firefighters, and failing to adequately maintain its fire hydrant system.The Yazoo County Circuit Court denied Yazoo City's motion for summary judgment, ruling that the questions of the city's immunity under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act (MTCA) for property damage and personal injury liability could not be answered without additional discovery. The city appealed this decision, arguing that it was immune from both property damage and personal injury liability under the MTCA.The Supreme Court of Mississippi reversed the lower court's decision. The court found that Yazoo City was immune from property damage liability because the plaintiffs did not allege that the city acted with reckless disregard for the safety and well-being of any person, as required by the MTCA. The court also found that the city was immune from personal injury liability because Hampton's claim linked the property damage to his personal injury, but did not argue that the fire department acted in reckless disregard of his safety and well-being. The court concluded that Yazoo City was immune from both property damage and personal injury liability under the MTCA, and therefore, the lower court improperly denied the city's motion for summary judgment. View "Yazoo City v. Hampton" on Justia Law

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The case involves a developmentally disabled woman, referred to as A.L., who was sexually assaulted by an employee of a transportation service. The transportation service was contracted by Harbor Developmental Disabilities Foundation, a regional center under the Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Services Act. The regional center's role is to assess the needs of developmentally disabled individuals and contract with service providers to meet those needs. A.L. sued the employee, the transportation service, and the regional center, arguing that the regional center had a duty to protect her from sexual assault by the transportation service's employees.The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the regional center, concluding that the regional center did not have a duty to protect A.L. from sexual assault by the transportation service's employees unless the regional center had actual knowledge of the employee's propensity to engage in such conduct. The trial court's decision was based on the fact that the regional center had no such knowledge in this case.On appeal, the Court of Appeal of the State of California Second Appellate District affirmed the trial court's decision. The appellate court agreed that the regional center had a duty to protect A.L. from sexual assault by the transportation service's employees only if the regional center had actual knowledge of the employee's propensity to engage in such conduct. The court concluded that imposing a broader duty on the regional center would effectively convert regional centers into insurers of all harm to consumers, which could potentially shut down these centers and deny essential services to the entire population of developmentally disabled persons. View "A.L. v. Harbor Developmental Disabilities Foundation" on Justia Law

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Arasely Soto, a public school teacher, was injured during a routine medical procedure and had to retire. She sued her medical providers for malpractice and also sought disability retirement benefits from the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS). She and her husband, Raul Soto, settled with several of the medical malpractice defendants. CalSTRS brought an action against the Sotos, seeking to enforce its right to subrogation or reimbursement from the Sotos' settlement with the malpractice defendants.The trial court granted CalSTRS’s motion for summary adjudication on its declaratory relief cause of action and denied the Sotos’ motion for summary judgment. The court concluded that CalSTRS was entitled to seek reimbursement from the Sotos and rejected the Sotos’ defense that Civil Code section 3333.1 bars any subrogation claim that CalSTRS would have asserted against the malpractice defendants. The Sotos filed a petition for writ of mandate asking the Court of Appeal of the State of California Fourth Appellate District Division Two to vacate the trial court’s orders.The appellate court agreed with CalSTRS’s argument that it has a statutory reimbursement claim against the Sotos, and the evidence in this case does not support application of section 3333.1 to bar CalSTRS’s claim. The court denied the Sotos' petition for writ of mandate. View "Soto v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a plaintiff, Carol Allen, who slipped and fell on the steps of Newport City Hall while exiting the building after paying her property taxes. At the time of the incident, there was light to moderate snowfall, and the steps were covered with a slushy film. Allen suffered a severe head injury as a result of the fall, which led to multiple seizures and the loss of her ability to taste and smell. She filed a negligence lawsuit against the city and its employees, alleging they failed to properly treat the stairs for adverse weather conditions.The Superior Court ruled in favor of Allen, finding that the city and its employees had a duty to clear the steps of snow and ice, even during an ongoing storm, due to the unusual circumstances of the case. The court found that the city's failure to apply ice melt and take other protective measures exacerbated the risks inherent in using the stairs during a storm. The court also found that Allen was 35 percent comparatively negligent for her fall.The city and its employees appealed the decision to the Supreme Court of Rhode Island. The Supreme Court vacated the judgments of the Superior Court, ruling that the city and its employees did not have a duty to clear the steps until a reasonable time after the storm had ended. The court found that the city's failure to take precautionary measures did not exacerbate the risks already inherent in traveling during a storm. Therefore, the court concluded that there were no unusual circumstances that triggered the city's duty prior to the end of the storm. The case was remanded for entry of judgment in favor of the city and its employees. View "Allen v. Sitrin" on Justia Law

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The case involves Dennis G. Crosen, a former employee of Blouin Motors, Inc., who suffered two work-related injuries in 1984 and 2002, respectively. The 1984 injury occurred while Crosen was working for Rockingham Electric, Inc., and the 2002 injury occurred while he was working for Blouin Motors, Inc. The two injuries combined to render Crosen totally incapacitated. A hearing officer apportioned 40% of the responsibility for Crosen's incapacity to Rockingham and 60% to Blouin. In 2014, Crosen began collecting old-age insurance benefits under the United States Social Security Act. By statute, Blouin's obligation to pay weekly incapacity benefits based on the 2002 injury was to be reduced by half of the amount of Social Security benefits that Crosen receives. No Social Security offset applies to the compensation that Rockingham owes for the 1984 injury.The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and the Workers’ Compensation Board Appellate Division denied Blouin's petition to apply the entire Social Security offset to its compensation payments to Crosen. The ALJ and the Appellate Division interpreted the relevant statute to mean that Blouin could only apply the offset to the portion of the benefits for which it was responsible (60%), not the entire amount.The Maine Supreme Judicial Court disagreed with the lower courts' interpretation of the statute. The court held that Blouin was entitled to take the full offset provided by the statute, not just the portion corresponding to its share of responsibility for Crosen's incapacity. The court vacated the decision of the Appellate Division and remanded the case for further proceedings. The court also noted that Blouin may be entitled to a credit for the portion of the offset that it did not take prior to this case, but left this issue to be resolved on remand. View "Crosen v. Blouin Motors., Inc." on Justia Law

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The plaintiff, Brady Helm, tripped and fell on a wire cable while walking to a recreational area at Diaz Lake. The wire cable was suspended between two wooden poles and was intended to prevent vehicles from accessing a pedestrian pathway. Helm sued the County of Inyo and the City of Los Angeles, alleging causes of action for dangerous condition on public property, premises liability, and negligence.The defendants prevailed on summary judgment in the Superior Court of Inyo County, arguing that Helm tripped while walking along a trail, and thus, they were immune under Government Code section 831.4 (trail immunity). Helm appealed the final judgment, contending that trail immunity does not apply in this case and that disputed questions of material facts exist regarding the alleged dangerous condition of the subject public property.The Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District Division One State of California, disagreed with Helm’s first contention and concluded that the trial court did not err in granting the defendants' motion for summary judgment because trail immunity barred Helm’s claims. The court found that the area where Helm fell was a trail for purposes of section 831.4 and the wooden poles and wire cable were incorporated into the design of the trail. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Helm v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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The case involves the City of Houston, which appealed a wrongful-death suit filed by the family of Dwayne Foreman, who was killed in a collision with a police cruiser. The police officers were responding to a suicide call at the time of the accident. The City argued that it was immune from the lawsuit because the officer was performing a discretionary duty in good faith and within the scope of his authority.The trial court denied the City's motion for summary judgment, and the City appealed. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court's decision, holding that a fact issue existed on the officer’s good faith, which precluded summary judgment.The Supreme Court of Texas disagreed with the lower courts. It held that, as a matter of law, the officer was performing a discretionary duty while acting within the scope of his authority in responding to the emergency call and was acting in good faith. The court reasoned that a reasonably prudent officer in the same or similar circumstances could have believed the actions were justified. Therefore, the court reversed the lower courts' decisions and dismissed the case. View "CITY OF HOUSTON v. SAULS" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around Lori Randolph, who was injured after falling down stairs in a rental property owned by Aidan, LLC. Randolph sued Aidan, alleging negligence in failing to provide safe stairs. Aidan, in turn, filed a third-party claim against Sioux City, asserting that a city employee had inspected the property and declared it compliant with the municipal code. Aidan claimed that the city was negligent in hiring, retaining, or supervising the unqualified inspector, and thus, should indemnify Aidan for any damages owed to Randolph. Sioux City moved to dismiss Aidan’s claim, arguing it was immune under Iowa Code section 670.4(1)(j).The district court denied Sioux City's motion to dismiss Aidan's claim. Sioux City and Randolph requested interlocutory review, which was granted. The Supreme Court of Iowa was tasked with reviewing the denial of Sioux City's motion for the correction of errors at law.The Supreme Court of Iowa reversed the district court's decision. The court held that Sioux City was immune from Aidan's claim under Iowa Code section 670.4(1)(j). The court reasoned that Aidan's claim for negligent hiring was "based upon" the negligence of Sioux City's employee in inspecting the stairs. Therefore, the claim fell within the scope of the immunity provided by section 670.4(1)(j). The court remanded the case for further proceedings, including the dismissal of Aidan's claim against Sioux City. View "Randolph v. Aidan, LLC" on Justia Law