Justia U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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After his release from death row, Paris Powell sued the prosecutor responsible for his overturned conviction, Robert Miller. Powell alleged: Miller had suborned perjury from a key witness at his trial, Derrick Smith; had hidden from the defense evidence of Miller’s agreement to help Smith with his own criminal charges; and had failed to disclose the efforts Miller made on Smith’s behalf with regard to those charges. Miller filed a motion to dismiss. The district court granted the motion in part, but denied qualified immunity on certain claims. Miller did not appeal the ruling. Years later, Miller filed a motion to reconsider the denial of qualified immunity. The district court denied that motion as well. Miller then appealed the denial of his motion to reconsider. Because the Tenth Circuit lacked appellate jurisdiction over the district court’s order denying Miller’s motion to reconsider, it dismissed Miller’s appeal. View "Powell v. Miller" on Justia Law

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This appeal stems from an officer-involved shooting in the early morning hours of September 19, 2011. At approximately 3:50 a.m., plaintiff Matthew Carabajal was driving a vehicle containing three other individuals, including his infant son V.M.C., when he noticed that he was being followed by a police vehicle with its lights and siren activated. Plaintiff drove for several blocks. Other officers were notified and reported to the scene. Plaintiff pulled over, the officers exited their police cars, and one officer stepped in front of plaintiff’s vehicle. Soon thereafter, plaintiff’s vehicle began to move forward. The officer fired two rounds from his shotgun at plaintiff, severely injuring him. At that time, V.M.C. was still in the vehicle, secured in a car seat behind the front passenger. V.M.C., through Mathew and V.M.C.’s mother, Arianna Martinez, appealed the district court’s judgment in favor of defendants-appellees Officers Joshua Thornton and Michael Sutton, and Defendant-Appellee City of Cheyenne (“the City”). On appeal, plaintiffs challenged: (1) the district court’s grant of a motion to dismiss plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment claim of unlawful seizure of V.M.C. by Officer Thornton when he shot into the vehicle that V.M.C. occupied; (2) the grant of summary judgment in favor of the officers based upon qualified immunity as to Carabajal’s excessive force claims; and (3) the district court’s initial dismissal of, and later grant of summary judgment in favor of the City on, Plaintiffs’ claims of negligent hiring of Officer Thornton. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Carabajal v. City of Cheyenne" on Justia Law

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This case began with plaintiff Clyde Rife, sitting on a motorcycle next to a road, unable to recall the date, the time, or even what he had been doing in a town he had just visited. When approached by a state trooper, Rife said that he was fine. Nonetheless, the trooper questioned Rife and concluded that he was intoxicated on pain medication and had been in a motorcycle accident. These conclusions led the trooper to arrest Rife for public intoxication. After the arrest, the trooper drove Rife to jail. Rife groaned and complained of pain in his heart and chest. Upon arriving at the jail, Rife was put in a holding cell. The scene was observed by a cellmate, who said that Rife had repeatedly complained about pain. Nonetheless, Rife was not provided medical attention. The arrest itself and the later lack of medical care led Rife to sue: (1) the trooper, two jail officials, and the entity operating the jail for deliberate indifference to serious medical needs; and (2) the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety for negligent failure to provide medical care. As a threshold question, the Tenth Circuit concluded probable cause existed to arrest Rife. With regard to his other claims, the Court found that the district court thought no one could reasonably infer either deliberate indifference or negligence. The Tenth Circuit disagreed, concluding that both could have been reasonably inferred from the evidence. The case was affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Rife v. McCurtain County Jail Trust" on Justia Law

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Terrill Graf, bought his fiancee a van for her 50th birthday. Celebrating the birthday and new purchase, Graf drank liquor and then gathered four friends in the van. Plaintiff Wendy Peden was one of those friends. She says that she expected Graf only to show off the van and to photograph the group. But Graf drove away with his friends in the van, crashing it, and causing serious injuries to Peden. She obtained $240,000 in insurance benefits. But Peden claimed more under her insurance policy for underinsured-motorist benefits. The insurer (State Farm) initially denied the claim, but ultimately paid her an additional $350,000, the maximum amount that she could receive under the underinsured-motorist coverage. Peden sued State Farm under Colorado’s common law and statutory law, claiming an unreasonable denial or delay in paying benefits. The issue this case presented for the Tenth Circuit’s review was whether a reasonable fact-finder could conclude that State Farm unreasonably denied or delayed payment of benefits. The district court answered “no.” But the Tenth Circuit disagreed after careful consideration of the facts of this case, and reversed the grant of summary judgment to State Farm. The denial of Peden’s motion for partial summary judgment was vacated, and the entire matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Peden v. State Farm Mutual Auto Ins Co" on Justia Law