Articles Posted in Injury Law

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Plaintiffs-Appellants Blake Brown, Dean Biggs, Jacqueline Deherrera, Ruth Ann Head, Marlene Mason, Roxanne McFall, Richard Medlock, and Bernadette Smith appealed a summary judgment order upholding Defendants-Appellees Thomas E. Perez, Secretary of Labor, United States Department of Labor, and the Office of Workers Compensation’s (“OWC”) (collectively, “the agency”) redactions to documents they provided to Plaintiffs pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, (“FOIA”). Plaintiffs were former federal civilian employees eligible to receive federal workers compensation benefits. If there was a disagreement between a worker’s treating physician and the second-opinion physician hired by the OWC, an impartial “referee” physician was selected to resolve the conflict. The referee’s opinion was frequently dispositive of the benefits decision. To ensure impartiality, it is the OWC’s official policy to use a software program to schedule referee appointments on a rotational basis from a list of Board-certified physicians. Plaintiffs suspected that the OWC did not adhere to its official policy, but instead always hired the same “select few” referee physicians, who were financially beholden (and presumably sympathetic) to the agency. To investigate their suspicions, Plaintiffs filed FOIA requests for agency records pertaining to the referee selection process. Because the Tenth Circuit found that the FOIA exemptions invoked by the agency raise genuine disputes of material fact, the Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Brown v. Perez" on Justia Law

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While responding to an early-morning 911 call, Officer Blaine Parnell of the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs, attempted to arrest Jakota Wolfname on two outstanding tribal warrants. Parnell ordered Wolfname to put his hands behind his back; instead, Wolfname ran away. As the result of his flight from Parnell and the ensuing scuffle, a grand jury indicted Wolfname for “knowingly and forcibly assault[ing], resist[ing], and interfer[ing] with” Parnell while Parnell “was engaged in the performance of his official duties, which resulted in bodily injury to . . . Parnell.” The jury found Wolfname guilty of resisting and interfering with Parnell in violation of 18 U.S.C. section 111(a)(1). It also found that Wolfname made physical contact with Parnell. But the jury wrote, “No,” next to the assault option on the verdict form. And despite testimony from Parnell and his orthopedic surgeon indicating that Parnell suffered damage to a ligament in his thumb during the struggle, the jury also declined to find that Wolfname inflicted bodily injury on Parnell. The district court imposed a 24-month prison sentence. Wolfname appealed. In this case, the parties asked the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals to decide whether assault was an element of every conviction under 18 U.S.C. 111(a)(1). The Tenth Circuit found that the district court erred in failing to instruct the jury it had to find Wolfname assaulted Parnell. This error was plain error, and warranted reversal. View "United States v. Wolfname" on Justia Law

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Zachery Edens was killed in when an oncoming car turned in front of his motorcycle. David Edens, Zachery's father and the Chief Executive Officer of Edens Structural Solutions LLC (Edens LLC), and Rhonda Edens, Zachery's mother, sent a demand letter to The Netherlands Insurance Company, claiming that Zachery was an insured under Edens LLC’s Netherlands insurance policy and demanding $1,000,000 in underinsured motorist benefits. After Netherlands denied coverage, David, Rhonda, and Edens LLC sued Netherlands. On summary judgment, the district court concluded that David was an insured under the policy because he was an executive officer of Edens LLC, and that Zachery was an insured as David's family member. Despite this, because David and Rhonda Edens owned Zachery's motorcycle, the district court concluded that the Netherlands policy didn’t cover his accident. David, Rhonda and Edens LLC appealed, arguing, among other things, that the policy’s coverage terms were ambiguous and should be construed in their favor. Finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Edens v. Netherlands Insurance" on Justia Law

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ACE Fire Underwriters Insurance Company appeals the district court’s declaration that a policy ACE issued offered total coverage up to $2 million for an accident involving two insured vehicles: a tractor and trailer. The trailer detached from the tractor. The driver pulled off the roadway to reattach, then hoped to make a quick u-turn and continue down the road. But before he could complete the turn, another vehicle collided with the trailer, killing the vehicle's driver. As the insurer of the tractor and the trailer, ACE reached a settlement with the Estate of the vehicle's driver. But the parties conditioned the settlement upon litigating the available limits of the policy. ACE maintained that the policy provisions limited its liability to $1 million per accident, regardless of the number of covered autos involved. The Estate, on the other hand, insisted that ACE’s liability under the policy was $1 million per covered auto involved in each accident. That interpretation of the policy would cap ACE’s liability in this case at $2 million because, according to the Estate, the tractor and the trailer were both involved in the accident. Under the terms of the settlement, ACE initially paid the Estate $1 million. But it agreed to pay it an additional $550,000 if the court accepted the Estate’s interpretation of the policy. Because the Tenth Circuit agreed with ACE that the policy instead limits its liability to only $1 million, it reversed. View "ACE Fire Underwriters v. Romero" on Justia Law

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A recreational boating accident killed four adults. The boat had been rented from Aramark Sports and Entertainment Services, LLC. Because the accident occurred on navigable waters, the case fell within federal admiralty jurisdiction. Anticipating that it would be sued for damages, Aramark filed in the United States District Court for the District of Utah a petition under the Limitation of Liability Act, which permitted a boat owner to obtain a ruling exonerating it or limiting its liability based on the capacity or value of the boat and freight. The district court denied the petition, leaving for further proceedings the issues of gross negligence, comparative fault, and the amount of damages. Aramark appealed the denial. After review, the Tenth Circuit held the district court erred in its application of admiralty principles of duty and remanded for further proceedings. View "In re: Aramark Sports" on Justia Law

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Eugene Foster appeals from a district-court order granting summary judgment in favor of Mountain Coal Company, LLC (Mountain Coal) on his retaliation claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Foster injured his neck while working for Mountain Coal. Mountain Coal terminated Foster several months after the injury, citing that Foster “gave false information as to a credible Return To Work Slip.” After Mountain Coal terminated his employment, Foster filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Colorado Civil Rights Division. Ultimately, the EEOC issued Foster a right-to-sue notice; armed with the notice, Foster filed a complaint against Mountain Coal, seeking relief under the ADA and Colorado law. On the briefs, the district court entered summary judgment for Mountain Coal on Foster’s ADA and state-law discrimination claims and on Foster’s ADA retaliation claims. Foster appealed. After review, the Tenth Circuit reversed, finding that the district court erred in granting Mountain Coal’s motion for summary judgment with respect to Foster’s ADA retaliation claims. "We conclude that a reasonable jury could find that Foster established a prima facie case of retaliation with respect to both his April 3 and April 11 purported requests for accommodation." The Court further concluded that a reasonable jury could find that Mountain Coal’s asserted basis for terminating Foster’s employment was pretext. Therefore the Tenth Circuit reversed the district court’s order granting Mountain Coal’s motion for summary judgment with respect to Foster’s ADA retaliation claims and remanded for further proceedings. View "Foster v. Mountain Coal Company" on Justia Law

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Darrell Jent suffered serious injuries while working on an oil rig. The rig’s owner, Precision Drilling Company, L.P., paid him a settlement, then made a claim on its insurance. The insurance company, Lexington Insurance Company, denied the claim. Precision sued, contending that Lexington should have reimbursed the money it paid Jent. Lexington issued two insurance policies covering Precision for accidents exactly like Jent's. However, Lexington argued that under Wyoming state law, the policies were a nullity, so any coverage here was more illusory than real and that Precision was solely responsible. "There can be no doubt that Wyoming law usually prohibits those engaged in the oil and gas industry from contractually shifting to others liability for their own negligence." The district court agreed with Lexington and granted its motion for summary judgment. After review, the Tenth Circuit reversed, finding that the district court misinterpreted the statute that was grounds for Lexington's motion. The case was then remanded for further proceedings. View "Lexington Insurance v. Precision Drilling" on Justia Law

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In December 2007, a driver rear-ended Donald Etherton’s vehicle. He injured his back in the accident. Etherton filed a claim with his insurer, Owners Insurance Company (“Owners”), seeking uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage up to his policy limit. After months of back and forth, Owners offered to pay an amount significantly lower than the policy limit. Etherton sued, alleging claims for (1) breach of contract and (2) unreasonable delay or denial of a claim for benefits. A jury found in Etherton’s favor on both claims. The district court entered judgment for Etherton, awarding $2,250,000 in damages. Owners appealed, arguing the trial court erred: (1) by denying Owners' motion for a new trial based on the allegedly erroneous admission of expert testimony; (2) by denying its motion for judgment as a matter of law based on Owners' purported reasonableness; and (3) in granting Etherton's motion to amend the judgment. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed in all respects. View "Etherton v. Owners Insurance Company" on Justia Law

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Ronald Maiteki appealed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to his former employer, Marten Transport Ltd., on his claim that Marten violated the reinvestigation provision of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Marten had a duty under federal regulations to conduct background checks on drivers. It receives information from and provides information to HireRight, a consumer reporting agency (CRA) that publishes "Drive-A-Check" (DAC) reports on truck drivers’ driving records. When describing Maiteki's work record to HireRight after his employment ended, Marten used code 938, which stands for "Unsatisfactory Safety Record," meaning that the driver did not meet the company’s safety standards. Maiteki alleged that other companies declined to employ him after Marten’s information appeared on his DAC report. He disputed the information, telling HireRight that "Unsatisfactory Safety Record" was incorrect because he “has no accidents/incidents listed on the report.” Marten conducted an internal investigation, and stood by its report to HireRight regarding Maiteki's driving record. Maiteki sued, alleging, among other claims, that Marten’s reinvestigation was inadequate and the response was false. Marten moved for summary judgment on the FCRA claim, which the district court granted. After review, the Tenth Circuit found that Maiteki did not carry his burden to show that a reasonable factfinder could conclude that Marten’s reinvestigation was unreasonable. The Court therefore found that the district court appropriately granted summary judgment to Marten on Maiteki's FCRA claim. View "Maiteki v. Marten Transport" on Justia Law

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James Nelson was seriously injured bike riding when he encountered a sinkhole on a bike path on United States Air Force Academy land. He sued under the Federal Tort Claims Act for damages and was awarded over $7 million. The government appealed, contending that it was immune from liability under the Colorado Recreational Use Act, limited the liability of landowners who allow the use of their property for recreational purposes. The Tenth Circuit agreed that under the Recreational Use Act Nelson was a permissive user of the bike path and the Academy was therefore not liable for its negligent maintenance of the path. View "Nelson v. United States" on Justia Law