This fall, an appellate court in Mississippi issued a written opinion affirming the dismissal of a case against a truck driver and his employer on the ground that the injuries sustained by the plaintiff were not a foreseeable consequence of the defendants’ allegedly negligent actions. In the case, Ready v. RWI Transportation, the court held the defendant truck driver and his employer could not be held liable because the plaintiff’s injuries were too far removed in time and physical proximity from the defendants’ alleged act of negligence.

Overturned TruckThe Facts of the Case

The defendants were a truck driver and his employer. On the day in question, the defendant truck driver caused an accident on the highway when he made an improper lane change. As a result of the collision, the defendant’s truck as well as another vehicle blocked traffic, causing a traffic jam to form.

Approximately one hour later, while traffic was still slowed from the original accident, the plaintiff approached the traffic jam and crashed into the rear of another vehicle that had come to a complete stop. This accident occurred approximately three-quarters of a mile away from the original accident. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the truck driver and the driver’s employer.

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In a recent case, a boy and his parents brought a lawsuit against school officials after he was hit by a car at his school’s driveway on his way to school. The school was located near a highway, and the school’s entrance was busy around the opening and dismissal times during school days. There was no traffic light or person directing traffic at the intersection of the driveway. The boy alleged the superintendent, principals, assistant principals, and others negligently supervised school staff and students during school hours. The defendants claimed they were shielded from liability through governmental immunity.

School BusThe state’s supreme court found certain defendants were shielded by immunity. However, the court found the assistant principals could be held liable because they may have breached their duty to assign school staff to supervise students during school hours. One of the assistant principals had been responsible for assigning school staff members to supervise student duties throughout the school. However, the school could not produce the names of people who were assigned to “bus duty” on the day of the accident or during the two weeks before the accident.

The court explained that municipal employees are immune from liability for “discretionary” acts but not “ministerial” acts (those performed in a prescribed manner without the exercise of judgment or discretion). Considering this, the court found it was not clear the assistant principals had satisfied their ministerial duties because the assistant principals’ duties included not only preparing the bus duty assignments but also distributing the assignments to staff. Here, it was not clear they created and distributed the bus duty assignments. As a result, there was a “genuine issue of material fact” as to whether they breached their duties.

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In a recent case, a man sued the maker of his utility terrain vehicle (UTV) after the UTV overturned, and the roof failed, causing his injuries. The man designated four expert witnesses to testify in his case at trial. For one of the experts he designated, the man said the expert would testify as to the UTV’s performance, the forces involved in the accident, and factors affecting the UTV’s performance. The man did not explain the expert’s analysis or his conclusions on the issues in the case. Shortly afterward, the man told the defendant and the court that he was no longer going to use the expert as one of his witnesses. However, the defendant then requested to have the expert’s deposition taken, seemingly to find out what his conclusions were.

GavelThe plaintiff objected, arguing that the expert’s opinions and conclusions were protected by the “work product doctrine”—a doctrine that protects materials prepared for or by an attorney in anticipation of litigation. The defendant argued the plaintiff had waived any protection under the work product protection because, as an expert, the conclusions would have been disclosed.

The trial court agreed with the defendant, finding that the plaintiff had waived the protections of the work product doctrine by designating the expert as a witness. However, the state’s supreme court reversed. The court concluded that a party designating an expert witness by itself is not a waiver of the work product doctrine. It also concluded that in this case, the man’s actions did not waive the work product privilege. As a result, the expert’s conclusions were protected under the work product doctrine, and the plaintiff did not have disclose them to the defendants.

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In a recent case, a woman sued a casino after she was injured while boarding the casino’s shuttle bus. The woman was attempting to board a crowded shuttle bus provided by a casino when she claims she was pushed and fell. She suffered a broken bone in her hip that required immediate surgery. The casino operated the free shuttle for certain people and picked them up at different places to take them to the casino. One witness said that there was often a chaotic scene at the shuttle bus pickup at that time. Despite that, no additional precautions were taken by the casino to ensure passengers boarded the bus safely.

Casino ChipsThe woman sued the casino for negligence as a result. She argued that the casino was a “common carrier” and had a duty and a responsibility to ensure the safety of its customers who used its shuttle bus. She argued that the casino knew or should have known of the dangers inherent in boarding the crowded shuttle bus and that it should have made the process safer. The woman alleged the casino was a common carrier, which meant that the casino had a higher duty of care under certain circumstances. The casino argued it was not a common carrier and did not have a heightened duty of care.

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In a recent case, a plaintiff who was receiving treatment at a hospital was injured as he was being moved on a gurney within the hospital by medical personnel. While the plaintiff was being transferred, the gurney tipped over, and he suffered fractures as a result. The plaintiff filed a claim against the hospital. The complaint was filed more than a year but less than two years after the injury.

StretcherIn the plaintiff’s jurisdiction, general negligence cases were subject to a two-year statute of limitations, whereas medical malpractice cases were subject to a one-year statute of limitations. The defendants argued that the claim was filed too late, since there was a one-year statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases. The trial court agreed and dismissed the case.

After the case was decided, the state’s supreme court then decided that in negligence cases involving the use of medical equipment, a specific section of the state’s code applied. The case was reconsidered in light of the supreme court’s holding. The court found that since in this case the negligence was related to the plaintiff’s medical diagnosis and treatment, the negligence occurred “in the rendering of professional services,” and his case was subject to the one-year statute of limitations.

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People sign contracts all the time. When someone purchases a ticket to a concert or installs a new software on their computer, they probably signed the contract without giving it much thought. It is only later when an issue arises that the terms of the contract really become important. However, a recent case shows how sometimes even if someone has agreed to the contract’s terms, the terms may not be legally enforceable.

TrampolineIn Alicea v. Activelaf, LLC, a Sky Zone trampoline park required customers to complete a waiver prior to entering the park. A woman signed the agreement before her husband took their children to the park. Later that day, one of the couple’s sons was injured while he was jumping on a trampoline. The family filed a lawsuit against the park. A clause in the agreement stated that customers waived the right to a trial and that the customers’ claims would be decided through arbitration instead. Accordingly, the park argued that the case should be decided through arbitration because of the clause in the agreement.

However, that state’s supreme court decided that despite the fact that the woman signed the contract, the clause was unenforceable. First, the court stated that although its state laws favored the enforcement of arbitration contracts, the arbitration language was camouflaged within the agreement, and as a result, the mother did not truly consent to the arbitration provision. Second, the provision also did not specifically state that both parties were bound to arbitration—instead, it stated only that patrons would be required to engage in arbitration. For these reasons, the court found the clause was unenforceable under the state’s laws and allowed the case to proceed in the courts.

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Earlier this month, a St. Louis jury awarded a woman over $70 million in a personal injury lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson, alleging that the company’s baby powder caused her ovarian cancer. According to one national news source covering the case, the plaintiff relied on several studies that have linked the long-term use of talcum powder, especially in the genital area, to ovarian cancer. Johnson & Johnson denies any claims that its baby powder is unsafe and told reporters that the company plans to appeal the case to a higher court.

Baby PowderThis case is not the first that was filed against Johnson & Johnson alleging that its baby powder caused cancer, and it certainly will not be the last. In fact, there have been over 2,000 women who have filed product liability cases against Johnson & Johnson since evidence linking baby powder to cancer surfaced. Not all cases have made it through the trial process, but of those that have, several have resulted in multi-million-dollar verdicts in favor of the plaintiffs.

The American Cancer Association explains on its website that “studies of personal use of talcum powder have had mixed results, although there is some suggestion of a possible increase in ovarian cancer risk.” It is unclear if there is a link between talcum powder and other forms of cancer. In some cases, judges have dismissed plaintiffs’ cases against the manufacturers and marketers of talcum powder, explaining that the evidence linking the powder to cancer is tenuous. However, as time goes on, it seems the link between the two is becoming more and more substantiated.

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Property owners have more to worry about than just their own safety and the safety of the property. They also have to worry about the safety of other people who come on their land, sometimes even when a third party causes an injury.

Shopping CartsIllinois premises liability claims are governed by the Premises Liability Act. The Act describes the duties owed by owners and occupiers of land. In Illinois, an “invitee” is a class of persons who go on the property of another for a purpose connected with the owner’s business or for an activity permitted by the owner on the premises. However, under Illinois law, owners and occupiers of land are not the insurers of the safety of people who come on the premises. Rather, the property owners owe a duty of “reasonable care” to them.

Generally, in order to hold a property owner liable, a plaintiff must show that a condition presented a risk of harm, the owner knew or should have known about the condition and its risk, the owner should have expected that people on the premises would fail to recognize the danger or protect themselves, the owner was negligent in some way, the plaintiff was injured, and the injury was caused by the property’s condition. As a result, landowners may have a duty to take measures to protect people who come on the property or to warn them of risks. Sometimes a risk is so obvious that an owner does not need to warn people about it, but it depends on the specific situation. A recent case in Ohio is an example of a case in which a grocery store failed to adequately warn or instruct its customers on how to use its grocery carts safely.

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Usually, when an accident occurs, the injured person will seek compensation from the person at fault for causing the injury. However, when an employee was at fault, the employer may be responsible for the injury, even when the employee was not technically “on the job.”

HighwayIn a recent case in a federal court of appeals, an employee working for the federal government borrowed a car from his employer without receiving explicit permission before doing so. The employee drove the car back to his hotel, where he had been staying for work. On his way back, the employee was in a car accident, and another driver was seriously injured. The injured driver brought a claim against the employee as well as against the government.

The government moved to dismiss the case, arguing that the employee was acting outside the scope of his employment when the accident occurred. The employee was working in another city and staying at a hotel there. He was using a government car during work hours, but he was typically using his personal car after work. Yet he was not forbidden from using the government car outside work hours, and he was permitted to take the car back to the hotel overnight if he first obtained approval from his supervisor.

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Earlier this year, a study was released showing that certain heartburn medications – known as proton-pump inhibitors – can cause irreversible damage to those who take the medication. The study was released by a respected medical journal and evaluated a group of about 250,000 patients. The group of medications known as proton-pump inhibitors includes the popular medications Nexium, Prilosec, and Prevacid.

Assorted PillsAccording to a news report released earlier this year, those who have taken these medications have a 20-50% chance of developing chronic kidney disease. However, there are almost 13 million Americans who are prescribed proton-pump inhibitors. It is estimated that up to 70% of these patients are inappropriately prescribed the medication, and many long-term users could cease using the medication. The study found that those users who took the medication twice a day had a 46% chance of developing kidney-related ailments, while users who took the medication only once a day had only a 15% chance of developing side effects.

The harmful effects of taking proton-pump inhibitors most notably include chronic kidney damage, which can result in the body’s inability to effectively filter blood. This can lead to nephritis, the need for regular dialysis, and even the need for a kidney replacement. In addition, patients may suffer from heart problems, obesity, and high blood pressure.

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