Earlier this month, an elderly woman recovered just over $1.3 million after a jury found in her favor in a premises liability case involving a large grocery store chain. According to one industry news source reporting on the case, the accident took place back in 2012, when another customer inadvertently struck the woman with an electric grocery cart.

Grocery StoreEvidently, the elderly plaintiff was shopping at a Giant Eagle grocery store when she was hit by another patron in an electric cart, after the patron had lost control of the cart. The collision tossed the woman nearly four feet into a nearby shelf. The force of the collision seriously injured the woman’s back and neck. She filed a premises liability lawsuit against the grocery store chain.

During the trial, the woman’s attorney submitted evidence to the jury of 119 other accidents occurring at Giant Eagle stores across the country. This enabled the attorney to argue not only that the grocery store was negligent in failing to provide adequate instructions to the customers using the carts but also that it had prior knowledge of the potential dangers involved in allowing uninformed customers to use the carts.

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Earlier this month, one state’s supreme court issued a written opinion discussing the availability of damages for a student-plaintiff who was not employed at the time of the accident but expected to obtain employment after graduation. In the case, Fecke v. Board of Supervisors of Louisiana State University, the court ultimately determined that the plaintiff was eligible to receive damages based on a decrease in her future earnings, although she was not employed at the time of the accident.

Rock ClimberThe Facts of the Case

Fecke was a college student at Louisiana State University. As a part of one of her courses, Fecke was required to complete an indoor rock climbing assignment at the school’s gym. Fecke scaled the wall without a problem, but on the way down, she fell, fracturing her ankle. She blamed the fall on an employee of the facility. As a result of the fall, she required several surgeries, eventually requiring her ankle to be fused.

Fecke and her family filed a lawsuit against the school. After a jury trial, Fecke was found to be 25% at fault and the University 75% at fault. Fecke and her family were awarded just under $2 million, part of which was an award for loss of future earnings. On appeal, the University appealed several issues, one of which was whether an unemployed college student is eligible for damages based on loss of future earnings.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Kentucky issued an interesting opinion that is of interest to anyone dealing with a difficult insurance company after a Maryland car accident. In the case, Holloway v. Direct General Insurance Company, the court determined that the plaintiff’s bad-faith claim against the insurance company, based on the company’s failure to settle her claim, must fail because the insurance company had a legitimate reason to doubt its own liability.

Wrecked CarThe Facts of the Case

Holloway, the plaintiff, was involved in an auto accident with Sykes. The accident took place in a parking lot and involved low speeds. However, each party had a different account of how the accident occurred. Holloway claimed that she suffered property damage and injuries as a result of the collision, and she sought compensation from Sykes’ insurance company, the defendant.

Holloway made property damage claims as well as personal injury claims. The parties reached a settlement regarding the property damage claims, but settlement negotiations broke down regarding the personal injury claims. Since the insurance company would not settle her personal injury claims, Holloway filed a personal injury lawsuit against the insurance company. One of the claims she made was that the insurance company acted in bad faith when it refused to settle her personal injury claim. If successful, Holloway could potentially receive compensation above and beyond her actual damages through punitive damages.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Virginia issued a written opinion in a product liability case that ended up reversing a jury’s verdict in favor of the plaintiff. In the case, Holiday Motor Corp. v. Walters, the court set aside the jury’s verdict because the car manufacturer did not have a duty to customers to manufacture a soft-top convertible that could safely withstand a rollover crash.

ConvertibleThe Facts of the Case

Walters was the owner of a 1995 Mazda Miata soft-top convertible. Back in 2006, Walters was driving the Miata on a two-lane road with the soft-top in the closed position when she saw a large object fall off the back of a pick-up truck. To avoid colliding with the large object, she veered to the left across the opposite lane of traffic and up a grassy embankment on the side of the road. As the vehicle left the road, it rolled over and ended up leaning against a tree.

A passerby stopped to offer assistance. He testified at trial that the windshield was flat against the ground, but the rear end of the car was slightly elevated. Walters ended up suffering a serious cervical spine injury and sued Mazda based on a product liability theory. Specifically, Walter argued that Mazda violated the implied warranty of merchantability in that the design of the vehicle’s soft-top was unreasonably dangerous in failing to protect against rollover crashes.

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In a recent case in front of a state appellate court, a jury’s verdict in favor of a manufacturer of an allegedly defective smoke detector was affirmed, leaving the plaintiffs with no means of recourse. In the case, Hosford v. BRK Brands, the plaintiffs’ allegations were all based on various product liability themes, but since the plaintiffs failed to present the necessary evidence at trial and on appeal, the case was lost.

Smoke AlarmThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the surviving family members of a nine-year-old girl who perished when the family’s mobile home caught fire. Several of the family members were in one room when the fire started. The young girl was in a separate room. After a slow, smoldering fire started as a result of an electrical malfunction, two of the alarms that had been installed in the mobile home went off, alerting the family. Since the fire had already started to spread by the time the alarm went off, the family was not able to rescue the nine-year-old girl.

The surviving family members filed a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer of the smoke detector, arguing that the detector’s technology was insufficient to give early warnings of slow, smoldering fires rather than a faster, hotter fire. There were several related claims filed by the plaintiffs, all making various arguments under a product liability theory, such as failure to warn, defective design, negligence, and breach of warranty.

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Earlier this summer, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that a land surveyor was not liable for injuries suffered by a man who tripped and fell on a wooden stake used to mark the property’s boundaries. The stake was tied with a ribbon and stood approximately one foot above the ground. The stake, which was one of four marking the property, was visible to the naked eye.

Surveying ToolsIn ruling for the defendant, the court found that land surveyors are “professionals” and thus subject to professional negligence laws, which require that professionals perform their services with reasonable care. However, the court also found that the surveyor in this case did not owe the plaintiff a duty to act with reasonable care, since the surveyor was hired by a third party, rather than the plaintiff. The plaintiff owned the property in question, but the surveyor was hired by the prospective buyers of the property, who wanted to know the property’s exact boundaries prior to the purchase.

A Professional’s Duties in Maryland

In Maryland, individuals and companies hired to perform professional services also owe their customers a duty of reasonable care. Professionals who are required to meet this standard include architects, engineers, lawyers, dentists, and doctors, to name a few.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Idaho heard a medical malpractice appeal brought by the husband of a woman who had died from a serious infection she developed after being treated by the defendant doctor. In the case of Ballard v. Kerr, the court ultimately dismissed the defendant’s appeal and upheld the jury’s verdict in favor of the plaintiff for approximately $3.75 million.

Hospital RoomThe Facts of the Case

Ms. Ballard went to the defendant’s cosmetic clinic for a procedure that would remove fat from her stomach and deposit it in her buttocks. Prior to her procedure, she consulted with the defendant, who explained that she would be a good candidate for the procedure. However, shortly after the procedure, Ms. Ballard began experiencing “immense pain” in her buttocks. Initially, the defendant doctor did not see any signs of infection, but he provided Ms. Ballard with antibiotics just in case.

A few days later, she awoke in the middle of the night, asked her husband to call 911, and was hospitalized. She was only in the hospital a short time before her respiratory and renal systems began failing. She was placed on life support but died a short time later.

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Different types of personal injury cases have different procedural requirements. For example, medical malpractice cases in most jurisdictions require that the plaintiff provide some affidavit or other expert opinion explaining that the plaintiff’s case has merit in the expert’s opinion. Medical malpractice cases also often have shorter statutes of limitations than other cases brought under a theory of negligence. If a plaintiff fails to comply with these requirements, the case may be thrown out by the court before reaching trial.

ParamedicA recent case in front of a California appellate court shows, however, that not every negligence case involving a medical professional should be subject to the heightened medical malpractice requirements.

Aldana v. Stillwagon:  The Facts

Aldana was involved in a serious accident when she was struck by Stillwagon, who was an on-duty paramedic on his way to the scene of an accident. Aldana then filed a lawsuit against Stillwagon under a theory of negligence, claiming that Stillwater’s negligence in operating his vehicle resulted in her injuries.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Idaho issued an opinion in a medical malpractice case that illustrates how strictly courts construe statutes of limitations in medical malpractice cases. In the case, English v. Taylor, the court determined that the plaintiffs’ amended complaint, rather than the motion for leave to amend the original complaint, was what “commenced” the case. Since this filing of the amended complaint was past the allowable time under the statute of limitations, the case was dismissed as untimely.

CalendarThe Facts of the Case

Mrs. English suffered a stroke while undergoing surgery at the defendant’s facility. A little less than two years after her stroke, the Englishes filed a strict product liability case against the manufacturer of one of the medical devices involved in the surgery. At this time, neither the medical facility nor the doctor was named in the lawsuit.

One day before the two-year statute of limitations was set to expire, the Englishes asked a medical review panel to review the performance of the doctor who conducted the surgery. This effectively paused the time from running under the statute of limitations and added 30 days after the review was complete to the allowable time to file. During those 30 days, the Englishes filed a motion asking the judge to allow them to add the doctor and the medical facility as additional parties. That motion was granted.

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Under a product liability theory, manufacturers can be held liable for dangerous products that they release into the stream of commerce. However, not only can manufacturers be held liable, but also retailers and distributors may be held liable under certain circumstances. When a court considers a product liability case, there are several factors that may come into play, as was evidenced by a recent case in front of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

LawnmowerParks v. Ariens:  The Facts

Parks was fatally injured when the riding lawnmower he was operating rolled while Parks was negotiating a sloped surface. Parks’ wife then filed a product liability case against the dealer who had sold her husband the lawnmower, arguing that the dealer was negligent in failing to supply the mower with a roll cage and seatbelt.

The defendant answered the claim by explaining that it was not his duty to supply the roll cage and seatbelt. Indeed, the defendant presented evidence that it was his normal practice to ask customers if they want to purchase the roll cage and seatbelt as optional equipment at an additional cost. While there was no documentation that Parks turned down this offer, the dealer explained that it was his normal practice to explain this to his customers, and he could not recall anything different occurring in this case.

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