Justia U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Personal Injury
Copen v. United States
Paul was driving his daughter Kelly’s vehicle when it was struck by a United States Postal Service (USPS) vehicle. Kelly was a passenger. Days later, Kelly filed her SF 95, for a claim under Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 2671–80. Use of the form is not required to present an FTCA claim. Kelly listed herself as the claimant, noted Paul’s involvement, and indicated that the extent of their injuries was unknown. Kelly alone signed the form and provided only her contact information. The form requests a total amount of damages and states: “[f]ailure to specify may cause forfeiture of your rights.” Kelly wrote: “I do not have ... a total on medical.” Kelly sent USPS the final car repair bill, which USPS paid. Later, USPS received a representation letter from counsel for Kelly that did not mention Paul. USPS responded, stating: “A claim must be for a specific dollar amount.” USPS states that it did not receive any further information concerning the amount of personal injury damages.Paul and Kelly filed suit, seeking $25,000 in personal injury damages. The district court dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. The Sixth Circuit remanded. While the sum certain requirement in the FTCA is not jurisdictional, Kelly never provided a sum certain so, her personal injury claim is not cognizable. The agency had adequate notice of Paul’s claim but he also failed to satisfy the statutory “sum certain” requirement. View "Copen v. United States" on Justia Law
Pineda v. Hamilton County
Pineda visited a Cincinnati nightclub that used private bouncers and off-duty Hamilton County deputies for parking lot security. Three deputies worked that night, in uniform. Around 2:30 a.m., a fight broke out. Pineda saw individuals arguing with a bouncer near the door and told them to calm down. The bouncer hit Pineda in the face, chipping two teeth. According to Pineda, a deputy who was behind him knocked him unconscious by striking him on the back of the head with his baton. Pineda never identified the culprit. Three of Pineda’s friends generally corroborated his recollection. The deputies claim that they were in different areas and did not witness what happened to Pineda. Pineda’s injuries were significant. At the hospital, an officer wrote a report indicating that Pineda said that a bouncer assaulted him and did not mention a deputy.Pineda sued the deputies and the Sheriff’s Office under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging excessive force claim and that the Sheriff “ratified” the excessive force by failing to meaningfully investigate. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the rejection of the claims. Pineda was required to produce evidence from which a reasonable jury could find it more likely than not that each defendant was “personally involved” in the excessive force. Pineda did not identify the deputy who struck him; there was no allegation of a causal connection between the unidentified deputy and any other defendant’s actions. The investigation did not contribute to Pineda’s injury. View "Pineda v. Hamilton County" on Justia Law
A. K. v. Durham School Services, L.P.
A.K., age 13, missed his school bus, which arrived at his stop seven minutes before its official scheduled time of arrival. A.K. ran home to retrieve his bicycle. A.K.’s father heard A.K. shout that he was going to ride his bike to school. While riding to school, A.K. was struck by a truck and suffered severe injuries. The parents sued the truck’s driver in state court but settled that claim.Durham (the bus company) argued that it did not owe a duty of care because A.K. never came into Durham’s custody or control on the date of the accident but returned home, to the custody and care of his father. The plaintiffs argued that Durham could have prevented the driver from leaving A.K.’s bus stop before the scheduled time had it followed its own policies and that the early departure breached a duty of care and was the proximate cause of A.K.’s injuries.Pursuant to Durham’s affirmative defense of comparative negligence, a jury allocated fault: 56 percent to the parents, 28 percent to the truck’s driver, and 16 percent to Durham. Because the parents were more than 50 percent at fault, the court entered judgment in Durham’s favor, as required by Tennessee law. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, upholding rulings preventing the parents from introducing Durham’s employee handbook or testimony regarding its internal policies. View "A. K. v. Durham School Services, L.P." on Justia Law
Courser v. Allard
While in office, Courser, a former Republican member of the Michigan House of Representatives, had an affair with another representative, Gamrat. The defendants were legislative aides assigned to Courser and Gamrat. Worried that he and Gamrat eventually would be caught, Courser concocted a plan to get ahead of the story by sending out an anonymous email to his constituents accusing himself of having an affair with Gamrat, but including outlandish allegations intended to make the story too hard to believe. Courser unsuccessfully attempted to involve one of the defendants in the “controlled burn.” The defendants reported Courser’s affair and misuse of their time for political and personal tasks to higher-ups. In retaliation, Courser directed the House Business Office to them. After they were fired, the defendants unsuccessfully tried to expose the affair to Republican leaders, then went to the Detroit News. Courser resigned and pleaded no contest to willful neglect of duty by a public officer.Courser later sued, alleging that the defendants conspired together and with the Michigan House of Representatives to remove him from office. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of all of Courser’s claims: 42 U.S.C. 1983 and 1985; violation of the Fair and Just Treatment Clause of the Michigan Constitution; computer fraud; libel, slander, and defamation; civil stalking; tortious interference with business relationships; negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress; RICO and RICO conspiracy; intentional interference with or destruction of evidence/spoliation; and conspiracy. View "Courser v. Allard" on Justia Law
In re Flint Water Cases
The City of Flint and city and state officials allegedly caused, sustained, and covered up the poisoning of the people of Flint. Plaintiffs filed a 2017 “Master Complaint,” containing the allegations and claims made by plaintiffs across the coordinated litigation; “short-form” complaints charted certain components of the Master Complaint, including named defendants, alleged injuries, and claims. In this case, the district court declined to dismiss all defendants other than former State Treasurer Andy Dillon.Earlier in 2020, the Sixth Circuit, in "Waid," decided that the same officials who are defendants in this case plausibly violated plaintiffs’ substantive due process right to bodily integrity and are not entitled to qualified immunity and rejected Flint’s and Michigan Governor Whitmer’s arguments that the Eleventh Amendment required their dismissal. Defendant Johnson argued that the allegations against him in this case differently than those levied against him in Waid. The court concluded that there is no reason to treat Johnson differently. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that higher-ups should be treated differently than officials making decisions on the ground. . View "In re Flint Water Cases" on Justia Law
Malone v. Stanley Black & Decker, Inc.
Malone was adjusting the blade on his Craftsman table saw when the guard came off, causing injury to his fingers. Malone was later notified of a safety recall on the saw. Malone filed suit in an Ohio state court, against several Sears and Craftsman entities and Rexon, a Taiwanese company. Rexon removed the case to a federal district court, citing diversity jurisdiction, then moved to dismiss, arguing that the district court lacked personal jurisdiction. Rexon admitted that it manufactured the saw in question and conceded, for the purpose of its motion, that it had purposefully availed itself of the benefits and protections offered by the State of Ohio. The district court dismissed the case.The Sixth Circuit vacated and remanded. The court noted that the injury occurred in Ohio and that Rexon has a “high volume of business activity” in Ohio, so Malone “could plausibly show, with additional discovery, that Rexon derived ‘substantial revenue’ from table saw sales in Ohio.” Jurisdictional discovery is necessary to determine whether Rexon had sufficient contacts with the state to satisfy due process. View "Malone v. Stanley Black & Decker, Inc." on Justia Law
Lemon v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co.
Lemon asked a coworker for an Advil, explaining that he hurt his neck by “turn[ing] his head.” Later, he asked another coworker to cover his shift, stating that he hurt his neck at home. From the hospital, Lemon texted another coworker that he “tweaked” his neck at home. He first told the doctor that he hurt himself at home, then stated that he hurt himself at work. Later, he reported to his supervisor, claiming he slipped walking up the stairs at work and that he did not discuss the injury with any coworkers. In his formal injury report the next day, Lemon said that he stumbled on the stairs at work. Norfolk has a policy of firing workers who make false statements at work. Norfolk held a hearing and fired Lemon. Lemon claimed Norfolk violated the Federal Railroad Safety Act, 49 U.S.C. 20101, by retaliating against him for reporting a workplace injury. OSHA dismissed his complaint.The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Norfolk. To prevail, Lemon was required to show that his injury report was a “contributing factor” in the railroad’s decision to fire him; he could not prevail if the railroad would have fired him anyway. Lemon’s injury report was not a contributing factor in Norfolk’s decision to fire him. Even if Lemon provided admissible evidence of a policy of pretextual retaliation, Lemon did not establish retaliation against him. Lemon admits no one at Norfolk ever discouraged him from reporting his injury or threatened him with retaliation. View "Lemon v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co." on Justia Law
Madej v. Maiden
Since 1997, the Social Security Administration has found Madej completely disabled and entitled to benefits. In addition to her other ailments, her doctors say she has “multiple chemical sensitivity,” which is not a disease recognized by the World Health Organization or the American Medical Association. She goes to great lengths to avoid everyday materials that she believes will trigger harmful reactions like burning eyes and throat, dizziness, or nausea. Madej fears that the use of asphalt on a road near her home will cause more harm. She sued to stop the roadwork, alleging violations of the Fair Housing Amendments Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Applying the “Daubert” standard, the district court excluded the opinions of Madej’s experts that the asphalt would injure her. Without expert causation evidence, the claims could not withstand summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, stating that “as far as we are aware, no district court has ever found a diagnosis of multiple chemical sensitivity to be sufficiently reliable to pass muster under Daubert.” The court also questioned whether Madej had cognizable claims under the cited federal statutes. It is not obvious that the roadwork amounts to a “provision of services” “in connection with” the Madej home under 42 U.S.C. 3604(f)(2) View "Madej v. Maiden" on Justia Law
Island Creek Coal Co. v. Young
Young, diagnosed with emphysema in 2002, had worked in coal mines for 19 years, retiring from Island Creek Coal in 1999. During and after work, Young would often cough up coal dust. For 35 years, Young smoked at least a pack of cigarettes a day. Young sought benefits under the Black Lung Benefits Act, 30 U.S.C. 902(b). Because Young had worked for at least 15 years as a coal miner and was totally disabled by his lung impairment, he enjoyed a statutory presumption that his disability was due to pneumoconiosis. If Young was entitled to benefits, Island Creek, Young’s last coal-mine employer, would be liable. After reviewing medical reports, the ALJ awarded benefits. The Benefits Review Board affirmed, noting that if there was any error in the ALJ’s recitation of the standard, that error was harmless. The Sixth Circuit denied a petition for review, first rejecting an Appointments Clause challenge as waived. The ALJ did not err by applying an “in part” standard in determining whether Island Creek rebutted the presumption that Young has legal pneumoconiosis. To rebut the “in part” standard, an employer must show that coal-mine exposure had no more than a de minimis impact on a miner’s lung impairment. The ALJ reasonably weighed the medical opinions and provided thorough explanations for his credibility determinations. View "Island Creek Coal Co. v. Young" on Justia Law
United Specialty Ins. Co. v. Cole’s Place, Inc.
One summer night in 2015, at a Louisville nightclub, someone discharged a firearm, shooting eight people. Six of those people sued the nightclub’s owner, Cole’s Place, in state court, arguing that Cole’s Place failed to protect them from foreseeable harm. United Specialty Insurance (USIC) obtained a federal declaratory judgment that it is not obligated to defend or indemnify Cole’s Place in the state court litigation. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The district court did not abuse its discretion in exercising Declaratory Judgment Act jurisdiction over USIC’s lawsuit and did not err in finding that an assault-and-battery exclusion in Cole’s Place’s insurance policy with USIC applies to the state court litigation. There are no factual issues remaining in the state-court litigation or complex state-law issues that are “important to an informed resolution” of this case. View "United Specialty Ins. Co. v. Cole's Place, Inc." on Justia Law