Justia U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Injury Law
Antonio v. SSA Security, Inc.
Plaintiffs, homebuyers, filed suit against SSA, a security company, after homes were damaged or destroyed due to arson. On appeal, plaintiffs challenged the district court's grant of summary judgment in SSA's favor. The court affirmed the district court's decision to grant SSA's renewed motion for summary judgment as to plaintiffs' negligence-based claims where, under Maryland law, plaintiffs did not own their homes at the time of the arsons and suffered only emotional injuries. The court certified the following question to the Court of Appeals of Maryland: Does the Maryland Security Guards Act, Md. Code Ann., Bus. Occ. & Prof. § 19-501, impose liability beyond common law principles of respondeat superior such that an employer may be responsible for off-duty criminal acts of an employee if the employee planned any part of the off-duty criminal acts while he or she was on duty? View "Antonio v. SSA Security, Inc." on Justia Law
Ameur v. Gates
Plaintiff filed suit under the Alien Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. 1350, against former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and other federal officials allegedly involved in his detention as a suspected terrorist. Plaintiff was determined to be an "enemy combatant" but was eventually released to his native country of Algeria. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under the Military Commissions Act of 2006, 28 U.S.C. 2241(e)(2). View " Ameur v. Gates" on Justia Law
Al Shimari v. CACI Premier Technology, Inc.
Plaintiffs, foreign nationals, alleged that they were tortured and otherwise mistreated by American civilian and military personnel while detained at Abu Ghraib. CACI, a corporation domiciled in the United States, contracted with the United States to provide private interrogators to interrogate detainees at Abu Ghraib. Plaintiffs alleged that CACI employees instigated, directed, participated in, encouraged, and aided and abetted conduct towards detainees that clearly violated federal and international law. The court concluded that the Supreme Court's decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. does not foreclose plaintiffs' claims under the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. 1350, and that the district court erred in reaching a contrary conclusion. In light of Kiobel, the court held that plaintiffs' claims "touch and concern" the territory of the United States with sufficient force to displace the presumption against extraterritorial application of the Alien Tort Statute. Because the court was unable to determine whether the claims presented nonjusticiable political questions, the court did not reach the additional issue of the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' common law claims. The court vacated the district court's judgment with respect to all plaintiffs' claims and remanded. View "Al Shimari v. CACI Premier Technology, Inc." on Justia Law
Kenney v. Indep. Order of Foresters
Plaintiff filed suit under the West Virginia Unfair Trade Practices Act (WVUTPA), W. Va. Code 33-11-4(9)(f), based on IOF's allegedly unlawful conduct in connection with its handling of her insurance claim. The court held that plaintiff's WVUTPA claim sounds in tort and not in contract; West Virginia governed the underlying lawsuit pursuant to the lex loci delicti approach and the Restatement choice-of-law approach; and, insofar as the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia has previously entertained questions regarding an action brought under the WVUTPA against an insurer subsequent to settlement, where the cause of action was limited to unfair settlement practices, plaintiff's complaint stated a claim upon which relief could be granted. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's dismissal of the complaint. View "Kenney v. Indep. Order of Foresters" on Justia Law
Meyers v. Lamer
Plaintiff sued defendant and defendant's employer for negligence under Maryland state law after a tractor-trailer truck driven by defendant struck plaintiff while he was working in a utility bucket. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of defendant and his employer, concluding that plaintiff assumed a risk that he would be struck by a tractor-trailer truck while working above an open lane of traffic and that plaintiff was contributorily negligent. The court vacated the district court's conclusion that plaintiff assumed the risk because plaintiff's status as a worker in the street precluded availability of the assumption-of-risk defense for defendants. The court also vacated the district court's ruling that plaintiff was contributorily negligent where plaintiff was entitled to rely on his coworker to provide fair warning to him. The court remanded for trial. View "Meyers v. Lamer" on Justia Law
Drager v. PLIVA USA, Inc.
Shirley Gross filed suit against PLIVA after her long-term use of the generic drug metoclopramide, produced by PLIVA, caused her permanent injuries. On appeal, plaintiff, as the personal representative of the estate of Gross, challenged the district court's denial of Gross's request to amend her complaint and her state common law tort claims against PLIVA for injuries sustained as a result of her use of a drug it manufactured. Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act, 21 U.S.C. 301 et seq. The court affirmed the district court's denial of leave to amend and held that none of plaintiff's claims regarding PLIVA's alleged failure to update its warnings were before the court on appeal; the court found that the complaint did not allege any violation of the federal misbranding laws or parallel state duties, and to the extent these claims were made on appeal, they were waived; and all of Gross's causes of action were preempted by the FDCA. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Drager v. PLIVA USA, Inc." on Justia Law
Hoschar v. Appalachian Power Co.
Plaintiffs, Mr. and Mrs. Hoschar, filed suit in West Virginia state court against APCO and ICI, seeking damages for an infectious lung disease called histoplasmosis that Mr. Hoschar allegedly contracted while working as a boilermaker at one of APCO's coal-fired power plants. On appeal, plaintiffs challenged the district court's denial of their motion to remand the case to state court and the district court's grant of APCO's motion for summary judgment in favor of APCO. The court concluded that APCO has carried its burden of establishing federal subject matter jurisdiction because the record amply demonstrated that the location where APCO's officers direct, control, and coordinate APCO's activities was Columbus, Ohio. The court held that APCO did not have actual or constructive knowledge of a potential histoplasmosis risk, and therefore, APCO did not owe Mr. Hoschar a duty to guard against it. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of APCO. View "Hoschar v. Appalachian Power Co." on Justia Law
Fox v. Elk Run Coal Co., Inc.
Plaintiff filed suit against Elk Run, alleging that the company committed fraud on the court and therefore deprived her coal miner husband of nearly a decade of benefits under the Black Lung Benefits Act (BLBA), 30 U.S.C. 901-945. Plaintiff contended that Elk Run had committed fraud on the court because it had not disclosed certain expert reports to its expert pulmonologists. The court affirmed the Board's finding that Elk Run's conduct was not sufficiently egregious to meet the high bar for a claim of fraud on the court because it did not amount to an intentional design aimed at undermining the integrity of the adjudicative process. The court found that Elk Run's conduct did not, under Supreme Court and circuit precedent, demonstrate the commission of a fraud upon the court. View "Fox v. Elk Run Coal Co., Inc." on Justia Law
Fontenot v. Taser Int’l, Inc.
Plaintiff filed a products liability action against TI after her son died from cardiac arrest when he was struck by a taser. A jury found in favor of plaintiff, awarding her $10 million in compensatory damages, which the district court remitted to about $6.15 million before deducting certain offset amounts received by plaintiff, resulting in a final award of about $5.5 million. TI appealed. The court held that the district court did not err in entering judgment in favor of plaintiff on the liability aspect of the negligence claim in accordance with the jury's verdict. However, the damages award was not supported by the evidence and the court remanded on that issue. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's judgment in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Fontenot v. Taser Int'l, Inc." on Justia Law
Turner v. United States
Plaintiff filed personal injury and wrongful death claims against the United States and Coast Guard under the Suits in Admiralty Act (SIAA), 46 U.S.C. 30901-30918. Plaintiff and her husband fell overboard their boat and her husband subsequently died of drowning. The court concluded that the Coast Guard neither increased the danger facing plaintiff and her husband nor induced reliance on the part of either plaintiff, her husband, or a third party. Accordingly, plaintiff could not prove that the Coast Guard breached its duty to her or her deceased husband, and the district court properly entered summary judgment on plaintiff's tort claims. The court also found that the rulings on the issues of spoliation and the timeliness of the motion reflected proper exercises of the district court's discretion and the court affirmed as to these issues. The court also affirmed the district court's ruling that the Coast Guard's response to plaintiff's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552, request satisfied its duty under that Act. View "Turner v. United States" on Justia Law