Earlier this month, an appellate court in North Dakota issued a written opinion affirming the dismissal of a plaintiff’s premises liability case against a city because the case was filed after the applicable statute of limitations. In the case of Frith v. City of Fargo, the court rejected the plaintiff’s argument that a longer statute of limitations should apply because the condition that caused her injury was created by a third party rather than the city named in the lawsuit.

Cracked PavementThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured in July 2012 while rollerblading in a park owned and operated by the City of Fargo. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was injured when she tripped over a soft patch of pavement that had recently been placed to cover up a crack. The paving had been completed not by a city employee but by a third-party independent contractor.

The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the city only. She claimed that the city’s negligence in failing to deal with the hazard caused her injuries. The lawsuit was within three years of the accident, but the plaintiff failed to properly serve the city, so the initial case was dismissed. The plaintiff then refiled the lawsuit and properly served the defendant in October 2015.

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Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a medical malpractice case, reversing the jury’s verdict in favor of the defendant and ordering the lower court to conduct a previously overlooked analysis. In the case, Hall v. Flannery, the court reversed the jury’s verdict based on the fact that the defendant’s expert witness did not possess the proper training and experience to offer expert testimony on the subject on which he testified.

Neck X-RayThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff’s 17-year-old child passed away three days after having a surgery to repair a skull injury she sustained as a child. The exact circumstances of the girl’s death were uncertain. However, the medical examiner determined that a seizure was the likely cause of death. After her daughter’s death, the plaintiff filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the doctor who performed the surgery, claiming that her daughter should have been prescribed anti-seizure medication prior to being discharged from the hospital.

The defendant notified the court that several expert witnesses would testify on his behalf. In response to the designation of the defendant’s witnesses, the plaintiff filed a motion asking the court to limit the experts’ testimony. Specifically, the plaintiff wanted to prevent the experts from testifying as to the cause of death. The plaintiff claimed that the experts did not have sufficient qualifications to make that determination.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Missouri issued a written opinion in a personal injury case brought by a man who was injured when he crashed and rolled his utility terrain vehicle (UTV), and the roof collapsed. In the case, Malashock v. Jamison, the court’s opinion analyzed the application of the “attorney work product” doctrine, which requires that an attorney’s work on a client’s case remain confidential unless the privilege is waived. Specifically, the court held that designating an expert witness and then choosing not to use the expert’s testimony does not waive the attorney work product privilege.

CourtroomThe Facts of the Case

Malashock crashed the UTV that he purchased from the defendant. During the crash, the UTV rolled, and the roof collapsed, injuring Malashock. Malashock then filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant, seeking compensation for his injuries.

In preparation for the case, Malashock designated four expert witnesses to help him prove his case against the defendant. As a part of the designation process, Malashock provided a brief description of the areas each expert would discuss at trial. However, two weeks later, he reconsidered and decided not to use one of the experts. At no time were the specifics of the unused expert’s testimony made known to the defendant.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Kentucky issued a written opinion in a premises liability case involving a man who slipped and fell while trying to get into the shower at the defendant hotel. In the case, Goodwin v. Al J. Schneider, the court held that the lower court erred in dismissing the plaintiff’s claim for his own failure to take reasonable precautions in entering the shower. Specifically, the state’s high court held that the lower courts mistakenly determined that the defendant did not have a duty to protect Goodwin.

BathroomThe Facts of the Case

Goodwin and his wife were staying at the defendant hotel for a conference. On the second day of his stay, Goodwin fell while he was entering the shower. Evidence presented at trial showed that the bathroom did have a hand rail to assist guests in entering the shower, but it did not have a bath mat. However, other rooms in the hotel had both a bath mat and a hand rail. Goodwin filed a premises liability lawsuit against the hotel, seeking compensation for the injuries he sustained in the fall. He claimed that the hotel should have provided additional protection and that the hotel’s failure to do so was negligent.

The trial court hearing the case granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgement, stating that the hotel did not have a duty to provide bath mats in all rooms and that the hotel is not “an insurer of a guest’s safety.” The court reasoned that a wet shower is an “open and obvious” hazard, and the defendant did not have a duty to remedy the hazard. The court of appeals affirmed.

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Earlier this month, one state’s supreme court issued a written opinion summarily affirming a lower court’s decision that the contract the defendant trampoline park required patrons to sign was a contract of adhesion and thus unenforceable. As a result of the court’s decision, the plaintiffs will be permitted to continue with their case in a court of law, rather than proceed through arbitration.

TrampolineAlicea v. Activelaf:  The Facts

The Aliceas arranged to take their two young sons to a trampoline park owned by the defendant. Prior to being admitted into the park, Mrs. Alicea was required to electronically sign a “Participant Agreement, Release and Assumption of Risk” form. The form contained what claimed to be a binding arbitration clause, whereby anyone who signed the form would be prohibited from filing a case in a court of law against the trampoline park. Instead, the dispute would be resolved through an arbitration company. The form also included a clause stating that any person who did file a lawsuit against the trampoline park agreed to pay the park a $5,000 fee plus interest.

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Generally speaking, whenever a worker is injured on the job, he is entitled to benefits though the Workers’ Compensation program. While Workers’ Compensation offers injured employees benefits roughly equivalent to what they were making while they were able to work, there is no possibility to seek damages above and beyond this amount.

ScaffoldingIn addition, in many cases, an injured worker’s sole remedy is through Workers’ Compensation, meaning that an injured worker cannot both obtain benefits through Workers’ Compensation and also file a personal injury lawsuit against his employer. However, in some cases, an injured worker will not be prohibited from filing a personal injury lawsuit against his employer or an allegedly negligent third party. A recent case in front of a federal court of appeals illustrates this concept.

Schaefer v. Universal Scaffolding:  A Third Party’s Actions Result in a Plaintiff’s Workplace Injury

Schaefer was an employee of Brand Energy, a construction company. One day, Schaefer was injured when a piece of scaffolding came loose, striking him on the head. Schaefer filed a claim for Workers’ Compensation as well as a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer of the scaffolding, alleging that the scaffolding was defective.

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A former executive of a peanut company was recently sentenced to 28 years in prison for his role in distributing tainted peanut butter back in 2008 and 2009 that made dozens of people seriously ill and killed several others. According to one industry news source reporting on the criminal case, this marked the first time that an executive was prosecuted criminally in a food poisoning case.

Peanut Butter ToastEvidently, the prosecution submitted evidence that the executive signed off on shipments of peanut butter that he knew to be tainted. He also submitted fraudulent lab tests, claiming that the product had been tested for salmonella. When investigators conducted an inspection of the facility, they discovered leaking roofs, cockroaches, and evidence of a rodent infestation.

Establishing Civil Liability After a Criminal Prosecution

While the case discussed above was a criminal prosecution, it may have laid the groundwork for the families who were affected by the tainted peanut butter to seek financial compensation through a civil lawsuit. Manufacturers of all products, including food, assume a duty to ensure that the products they sell are reasonably safe. When a product causes an injury to a customer, or tainted food is consumed and results in an illness, the manufacturer may be held liable.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Idaho issued a written opinion affirming a jury’s verdict in favor of the plaintiffs, finding that there was sufficient evidence to support the verdict. In the case, Hoffer v. Shappard, the court affirmed the jury’s determination that the defendant doctor was liable for the injuries sustained by the plaintiffs’ daughter after she was misdiagnosed by the defendant doctor.

Doctor's InstrumentsThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs’ daughter was born five weeks before she was due. For the first six weeks after her birth, various doctors treated the girl and did not notice anything wrong with her. However, her mother took her to one of the defendant doctors when the girl was two months old for a regular check-up. That doctor saw the girl for five visits in total.

During the visits, the plaintiffs expressed concern that their daughter had an asymmetrical skin fold, had one leg that was significantly longer than the other, and walked on her “tippy toes.” The defendant doctor dismissed the plaintiffs’ concerns, telling them that it was normal for a child under two years old.

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Earlier last month, one state’s supreme court issued a written opinion in a medical malpractice case that was dismissed by the lower court because that court determined it had been filed after the applicable statute of limitations. The court also held that the “discovery rule” did not apply in wrongful death cases caused by medical malpractice. However, the court hearing the appeal in the case of Moon v. Rhode held that the the discovery rule does apply and that the lower court failed to make a factual finding as to when the statute of limitations began to run. Therefore, it was an error to dismiss the case.

ClockThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the surviving family members of a 90-year-old woman who died while under the care of the defendant doctors. After the woman’s death on May 29, 2009, the plaintiffs submitted a request for medical records, had them reviewed by an expert, and was told that there was more that the doctors could have done to treat their mother. During the course of the plaintiffs’ investigation, an MRI was conducted, after which it became apparent that there may have been another doctor who was also partially responsible for their mother’s death. However, this discovery was made after the two-year statute of limitations had expired. The plaintiffs filed the lawsuit nonetheless.

The defendants argued that the two-year statute of limitations should start from the date of the plaintiffs’ mother’s death. They argued that there was enough evidence present at that time to put the plaintiffs on notice that there could be a potential medical malpractice or wrongful death lawsuit. The plaintiffs, on the other hand, claimed that the only way they could possibly know about the facts giving rise to the case was after reviewing the MRI. The plaintiffs argued that since they could not have discovered the potential lawsuit until their review of the MRI, the statute of limitations should not have started until they were made aware of the MRI results.

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After someone is injured in any kind of accident, they may seek financial compensation from the at-fault party through a personal injury lawsuit. However, before a party’s case is heard by a court, several facts must first be established. One very important fact that must be determined before a case is heard is whether the court where the case is filed has “jurisdiction” over the defendant and the case.

Ford MustangJurisdiction is a legal term that refers to a court’s ability to issue a binding order on a party. If a court does not have jurisdiction over the parties, it will not be able to legally hear the case, and any ruling or verdict in the case will be invalid. Therefore, before a case proceeds to trial, jurisdiction must first be established.

Jurisdiction is actually a complex legal subject that is often argued and contains many nuances. There are two types of jurisdiction, each of which must be established. They are personal jurisdiction and subject matter jurisdiction. Personal jurisdiction refers to a court’s power to implement an order binding the parties. Subject matter jurisdiction refers to a court’s power to hear the specific topic of the case being filed.

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