Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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Samantha Hall was diagnosed with leukemia; she attributed the disease to a ConocoPhillips refinery’s emissions of a chemical known as benzene. Hall lived near ConocoPhillips’s refinery in Ponca City, Oklahoma. Roughly two decades later, she developed a form of leukemia known as “Acute Myeloid Leukemia with Inversion 16.” Liability turned largely on whether benzene emissions had caused Hall’s leukemia. On the issue of causation, the district court excluded testimony from two of Hall’s experts and granted summary judgment to ConocoPhillips. After review, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed because: (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding the expert testimony; and (2) expert testimony was necessary to create a genuine issue of material fact on causation because of the length of time between the exposure to benzene and the onset of Hall’s disease. View "Hall v. Conoco" on Justia Law

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In 2014, while skiing an untamed and ungroomed run inside the boundaries of Jackson Hole Ski Resort, Plaintiff Michael Roberts skied into a lightly covered pile of boulders, falling between two of them, and severely injuring himself. He sued Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (“JHMR”) to recover for his injuries, and his wife joined his lawsuit alleging loss of consortium. JHMR moved for summary judgment on the basis of the Wyoming Recreation Safety Act (“WRSA”) which limited a recreational activity provider’s liability for so-called “inherent risks” of the activity. The district court granted summary judgment, holding that Roberts’s injuries were the result of an “inherent risk” of alpine skiing. Finding no reversible error in the district court’s judgment, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court in full. View "Roberts v. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort" on Justia Law

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The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendant after plaintiff brought a wrongful death action against it. Plaintiff's husband was killed during a guided horseback ride in a wilderness area of Yellowstone National Park and plaintiff filed suit against the company that provided the ride. The court held that the husband's fatal injuries did not stem from risks that were inherent in the particular sport or recreational activity in which he elected to participate—that is, a guided horseback trail ride in a wilderness area; plaintiff's state law claims for negligent misrepresentation and nondisclosure have no merit; and the court rejected plaintiff's challenge to the district court's award of costs. View "Dullmaier v. Xanterra Parks & Resorts" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendant after plaintiff brought a wrongful death action against it. Plaintiff's husband was killed during a guided horseback ride in a wilderness area of Yellowstone National Park and plaintiff filed suit against the company that provided the ride. The court held that the husband's fatal injuries did not stem from risks that were inherent in the particular sport or recreational activity in which he elected to participate—that is, a guided horseback trail ride in a wilderness area; plaintiff's state law claims for negligent misrepresentation and nondisclosure have no merit; and the court rejected plaintiff's challenge to the district court's award of costs. View "Dullmaier v. Xanterra Parks & Resorts" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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Edmundo and Kimberly Amparan appealed a district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Lake Powell Car Rental Companies (“Lake Powell”) on the Amparans’ claims for negligent entrustment and loss of consortium. The claims arose from a vehicle accident involving a motorcycle operated by Mr. Amparan and a Ford Mustang rented by Lake Powell to Denizcan Karadeniz, operated by Mevlut Berkay Demir. Karadeniz and Demir were both Turkish nationals who were under the age of twenty-five at the time of the accident. Because the Amparans failed to come forward with evidence from which the jury could find an essential element of their claim for negligent entrustment, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Amparan v. Lake Powell Car Rental" on Justia Law

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Edmundo and Kimberly Amparan appealed a district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Lake Powell Car Rental Companies (“Lake Powell”) on the Amparans’ claims for negligent entrustment and loss of consortium. The claims arose from a vehicle accident involving a motorcycle operated by Mr. Amparan and a Ford Mustang rented by Lake Powell to Denizcan Karadeniz, operated by Mevlut Berkay Demir. Karadeniz and Demir were both Turkish nationals who were under the age of twenty-five at the time of the accident. Because the Amparans failed to come forward with evidence from which the jury could find an essential element of their claim for negligent entrustment, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Amparan v. Lake Powell Car Rental" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from prison officials’ attempt to gain control over an agitated prisoner who refused to obey their orders, locked himself in the prison’s outdoor recreation yard, and threatened prison officials. Officials decided to drop tear gas into the recreation yard. An intake vent in the yard drew the gas in and filtered it into the prison. Numerous prisoners in their cells were exposed to the gas. Prison officials evacuated the prisoners housed in two sections of the prison after they secured the prisoner in the recreation yard. The officials did not, however, evacuate the prisoners in two other sections. On behalf of a class of about one-hundred prisoners, Timothy Redmond sued three of the prison officials for constitutional violations under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming the officials violated the Eighth Amendment and Utah’s Constitution by exposing the prisoners to gas, and then failing to provide adequate medical care. The district court granted the defendants’ summary judgment motion. After review of the claims, the Tenth Circuit affirmed: the prison officials’ conduct, at most, only accidently exposed the prisoners to CS gas, and qualified immunity shields government officials from liability for mistakes like this one. And the rest of Redmond’s claims failed either because Redmond forfeited them, failed to prove a constitutional violation occurred, or did not cite case law that clearly established the alleged rights. Furthermore, violating the Utah Constitution required more-than-negligent conduct, and the prison officials’ conduct was “textbook negligence.” View "Redmond v. Crowther" on Justia Law

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Spring Creek Coal Company (Spring Creek) petitioned the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals for review of a decision by the Department of Labor (DOL) awarding survivors’ benefits to Susan McLean under the Black Lung Benefits Act (BLBA), 30 U.S.C. sections 901-944. The DOL concluded that Bradford McLean became disabled and died from his exposure to coal dust during the course of his employment at Spring Creek’s surface coal mine. The BLBA adopts several presumptions that apply for purposes of determining whether a miner is totally disabled due to pneumoconiosis and whether the death of a miner was due to pneumoconiosis. See 30 U.S.C. § 921(c)(1)-(5). One of those presumptions, the fifteen-year presumption, is central to the outcome in this case. The ALJ, after concluding that Mr. McLean was entitled to the statutory/regulatory presumption of pneumoconiosis, in turn analyzed the medical evidence to determine whether Spring Creek had rebutted that presumption. The Tenth Circuit determined the ALJ’s findings and decision in this case were case-specific and confined to the specific flaws in the testimony of Spring Creek’s medical experts, thus concluding Spring Creek did not rebut the presumption. Thus, the Tenth Circuit concluded the ALJ did not err in his analysis of the proffered medical opinions, and that there was no need to remand this case for further proceedings. Spring Creek’s petition for review was denied. View "Spring Creek Coal Company v. McLean" on Justia Law

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During a ski lesson at Keystone Mountain Resort (“Keystone”), Doctor Teresa Brigance’s ski boot became wedged between the ground and the chairlift. She was unable to unload but the chairlift kept moving, which caused her femur to fracture. Brigance filed suit against Vail Summit Resorts, Inc. (“VSRI”), raising claims of: (1) negligence, (2) negligence per se, (3) negligent supervision and training, (4) negligence (respondeat superior), (5) negligent hiring, and (6) violation of the Colorado Premises Liability Act (the “PLA”). The district court dismissed Brigance’s negligence and negligence per se claims at the motion-to-dismiss stage. After discovery, the district court granted VSRI’s motion for summary judgment on the remaining claims, concluding the waiver Brigance signed before participating in her ski lesson, as well as the waiver contained on the back of her lift ticket, were enforceable and barred her claims against VSRI. Finding no reversible error in the district court’s decision, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Brigance v. Vail Summit Resorts" on Justia Law

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Life Insurance Company of North America’s terminated plaintiff-appellant Carl Van Steen’s long-term disability benefits under Lockheed Martin’s ERISA Plan. Life Insurance Company of North America (LINA) appealed the district court’s finding that its decision to terminate Van Steen’s benefits was arbitrary and capricious. Van Steen, in turn, appealed the district court’s denial of his attorney’s fees request. Van Steen was physically assaulted during an altercation while walking his dog. The assault resulted in a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) that impacted Van Steen’s cognitive abilities that prevented him from returning to full time work; Van Steen was eventually allowed to return to part-time work on a daily basis roughly six weeks later. Even on a part-time schedule, Van Steen experienced cognitive fatigue and headaches that required him to frequently rest. Due to his inability to stay organized and keep track of deadlines after the assault, Van Steen received poor feedback on his job performance. Van Steen’s claim for partial long-term disability benefits was approved on March 30, 2012. Roughly a year later, LINA reviewed Van Steen’s file, contacted his doctors, and confirmed that Van Steen’s condition and restrictions were permanent as he was “not likely to improve.” Despite this prognosis, LINA sent Van Steen a letter one week later terminating his long-term disability benefits, explaining that “the medical documentation on file does not continue to support the current restrictions and limitations to preclude you from resuming a full-time work schedule.” Having exhausted his administrative appeals under the Plan, Van Steen next sought relief before the district court. The district court reversed LINA’s decision to terminate Van Steen’s partial long-term disability benefits on the grounds that it was arbitrary and capricious, but denied Van Steen’s request for attorney’s fees. The Tenth Circuit agreed with the district court’s reversal of LINA’s decision to terminate Van Steen’s coverage. The Court also found that Van Steen was not eligible for attorney fees: “Van Steen’s arguments fail to convince us that the district court’s decision was based on a clear error of judgment or exceeded the bounds of permissible choice.” View "Van Steen v. Life Insurance Company N.A." on Justia Law