Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' class action against cocoa bean companies, alleging the aiding and abetting of child slave labor that took place in the United States under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). Plaintiffs are former child slaves who were forced to work on cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast. The district court dismissed the complaint based on its conclusion that the complaint sought an impermissible extraterritorial application of the ATS. In light of Jesner v. Arab Bank, 138 S. Ct. 1386 (2018), which changed the legal landscape on which plaintiffs constructed their case, the panel remanded to allow plaintiffs to amend their complaint to specify whether aiding and abetting conduct that took place in the United States is attributable to the domestic corporations. The panel held that the aiding and abetting conduct comes within the focus of the ATS and the ATS’s focus on torts committed in violation of the law of nations. The panel also held that a narrow set of specific domestic conduct was relevant to the ATS's focus. In this case, plaintiffs have alleged that defendants funded child slavery practices in the Ivory Coast. Specifically, plaintiffs alleged that defendants provided personal spending money outside the ordinary business contract and the money was given with the purpose of maintaining ongoing relations with the farms so that defendants could continue receiving cocoa at a price that would not be obtainable without child slave labor. Furthermore, defendants had employees from their United States headquarters regularly inspect operations in the Ivory Coast and report back to the United States offices, where these financing decisions or arrangements originated. View "Doe v. Nestle, S.A." on Justia Law

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State-law claims brought against the NFL by former professional football players were not preempted by section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA). In this case, a putative class of retired NFL players alleged that the NFL distributed controlled substances and prescription drugs to its players in violation of both state and federal laws, and that the manner in which these drugs were administered left the players with permanent injuries and chronic medical conditions. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of the action, holding that the players' claims, as pled, neither arose from their collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) nor required their interpretation. View "Dent v. National Football League" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit certified the following question of state law to the Supreme Court of Washington: Is party A (here the Port of Bellingham) liable as a premises owner for an injury that occurs on part of a leased property used exclusively by party B (here the Alaska Marine Highway System – the "Ferry") at the time of the injury, where the lease has transferred only priority usage, defined as a superior but not exclusive right to use that part of the property, to party B, but reserves the rights of party A to allow third-party use that does not interfere with party B's priority use of that part of the property, and where party A had responsibility for maintenance and repair of that part of the property? View "Adamson v. Port of Bellingham" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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In an action under maritime law, a boat owner filed suit against his friend, who was driving the boat when it crashed into a passenger ferry. After the friend died from his injuries, his wife filed suit against the owner and GGB, which owns the ferry. The owner filed a cross-claim against GGB and a counterclaim against the wife. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of judgment as a matter of law to the owner. The panel applied maritime law and held that a boat owner who is a passenger on his boat has no duty to keep a lookout unless the owner-passenger knows that the person operating his boat is likely to be inattentive or careless or the owner-passenger was jointly operating the boat at the time of the accident. The panel also held that joint operation is not viewed over the course of the entire trip, but instead at the time immediately preceding and concurrent with the accident. View "Holzhauer v. Rhoades" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal based on lack of jurisdiction of plaintiff's complaint under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). Plaintiff sought damages suffered as a result of his removal from the United States in violation of this court's temporary stay of removal. The panel held that 8 U.S.C. 1252(g) did not deprive it of jurisdiction to hear the FTCA claims of a noncitizen who was wrongfully removed in violation of a court order. Therefore, the district court erred in holding otherwise. The panel held that a decision or action to violate a court order staying removal fell outside of the statute's jurisdiction-stripping reach. Even if the panel agreed that plaintiff's claims tangentially arose from the execution of his removal order, the panel would still retain jurisdiction because the Attorney General lacked the authority, and thus the discretion, to remove him. Finally, the panel rejected the government's alternative argument that plaintiff's claims were barred by the FTCA's foreign country exception. View "Arce v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of an action under the Federal Tort Claims Act brought by a surviving spouse, alleging wrongful death and malpractice when a medical center operated by the VA caused Randy Tunac's death. The panel held that, to the extent the complaint alleged negligence by VA healthcare employees, it had jurisdiction under the FTCA. However, the negligence claims regarding VA operations must proceed under the congressionally-mandated pathway set forth in the Veterans' Judicial Review Act (VJRA), and any appeal can be heard only by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The panel held that, to the extent the court had jurisdiction, the claims were barred by the FTCA's statute of limitations and those claims were not equitably tolled. In this case, the two year statute of limitations had long run when plaintiff filed her administrative claim and any alleged concealment by the VA of a widespread problem regarding delayed treatment did not result in concealment of the operative facts that would merit equitable tolling. View "Tunac v. United States" on Justia Law

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The anti-discrimination prohibition in the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 (ACAA) is not enforceable through an implied private cause of action. The ACCA prohibits air carriers from discriminating against individuals on the basis of a physical or mental impairment. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claim against Southwest that alleged a violation of the ACCA. The panel joined the Second, Fifth, Tenth, and Eleventh Circuits in concluding that, in light of the ACAA's statutory structure, Congress did not intend to create a private cause of action under the ACAA. Therefore, plaintiff's claim was properly dismissed. View "Segalman v. Southwest Airlines Co." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction of an action alleging claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The panel held that the USGS's decision not to mark a cable, which allegedly resulted in the crash of a helicopter, was driven by policy considerations and fell within the discretionary function exception to the FTCA. Applying Berkowitz v. United States, 486 U.S. 531 (1988), the panel held that nothing in the USGS's policy created a mandatory and specific directive to mark the Verde River cableway, and the policy left employees with a discretionary choice about which cableways were hazardous and which should be marked. Furthermore, the USGS's decision was susceptible to policy analysis grounded in social, economic and political concerns. View "Morales v. United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's tort action against the United States for the tragic death of his wife. Plaintiff's wife was a lieutenant in the Navy and she died due to a complication following childbirth. The panel held that plaintiff's medical malpractice claims were barred under the Feres doctrine, which provided governmental immunity from tort claims involving injuries to service members that were incident to military service. View "Daniel v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal of a seaman's claims in admiralty against a vessel in rem. The panel held that the district court erred by denying the seaman's maintenance requests in full, staying the action, and dismissing the vessel; the district court obtained jurisdiction over the vessel when the seaman filed a verified complaint and defendants appeared generally and litigated without contesting in rem jurisdiction; the district court did not lose in rem jurisdiction while the vessel remained in its constructive custody; the district court's control over the vessel, once obtained, was exclusive; and the automatic bankruptcy stay did not affect the seaman's lien against the vessel and the bankruptcy court had no authority to dispose of the lien through the application of bankruptcy law. The court explained that when, as in this case, a seaman establishes his entitlement to maintenance and provides some evidence of his actual living expenses, the burden shifts to the vessel's owner to produce evidence that the seaman's actual costs were unreasonable. The panel issued a writ of mandamus to the district court to award the seaman maintenance for his undisputed actual and reasonable expenses subject to a potential increase after trial. View "Barnes v. Sea Hawaii Rafting, LLC" on Justia Law