Justia U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Intuitive Surgical, the designer and manufacturer of the da Vinci surgical robot, in a product liability action brought by plaintiff and her husband, holding that the action was time-barred under California's two-year statute of limitations under California Code of Civil Procedure 335.1.The panel concluded that the two-year California—not three-year Connecticut—statute of limitations applies to plaintiff's claim. The panel explained that, although the district court erred by failing to consider whether Connecticut had a legitimate interest in seeing its law applied, the district court correctly held that California's statute of limitations governs the claims. The panel also concluded that the Tolling Agreement does not render plaintiff's claims timely. In this case, because the Tolling Agreement expressly preserved Intuitive's statute-of-limitations defense for "the applicable" jurisdiction, Intuitive is entitled to employ its statute-of-limitations defense under California law. Finally, the panel concluded that equitable estoppel did not apply to plaintiff's claims where she failed to submit evidence identifying a misrepresentation, material omission, or false promise made on behalf of Intuitive. View "Rustico v. Intuitive Surgical, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Lima Corporate in a diversity action brought by plaintiffs, alleging product liability and negligence claims relating to a hip implant. The panel held that in light of the statutory text, context, and stated purpose, Lima Corporate was a biomaterials supplier of its Hip Stem – a "component part" supplied "for use in the manufacture of an implant" pursuant to the Biomaterials Access Assurance Act (BAAA), 21 U.S.C. 1602(1)(A). In this case, Lima Corporate was immune from liability under the BAAA and, under the circumstances, could not be impleaded under section 1606. View "Connell v. Lima Corporate" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs Elliot Broidy and his investment firm filed suit against the State of Qatar and various other defendants after Qatari agents allegedly hacked into plaintiffs' computer servers, stole their confidential information, and leaked it to the media in a retaliatory effort to embarrass plaintiff and thereby to neutralize his ability to continue to effectively criticize the Qatari regime and its alleged support of terrorism.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). The panel concluded that neither the FSIA's exception to immunity for tortious activity nor its exception for commercial activity applied in this case and thus Qatar was immune from jurisdiction. The panel explained that all of plaintiffs' tort claims were barred under the discretionary function exclusion from the tortious activity exception because the challenged conduct was discretionary in nature or involved an element of judgment or choice, and the judgment was of the kind that the exception was designed to shield. Furthermore, plaintiffs' claims were based on the alleged surreptitious intrusion into their servers and email accounts in order to obtain information and the dissemination of such information to others, including persons in the media. The panel explained that such conduct did not qualify as commercial activity under the FSIA. View "Broidy Capital Management v. State of Qatar" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's action under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), alleging that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers negligently failed to cut down a tree at the Lake Mendocino recreation area that crashed into plaintiff's tent and smashed his leg.The panel held that the discretionary function exception applies in this case because plaintiff has not shown any specific mandatory duties, has not defeated the Gaubert presumption, and has not negated the evidence of discretion for policy judgments. After outlining Supreme Court precedent for the Berkovitz/Gaubert test and its Ninth Circuit progeny, the panel applied this precedent to the plain language of the policies that controlled the actions of the forest ranger and the Corps' employees at Lake Mendocino. In doing so, the panel concluded that the policies allow for discretion and that they are susceptible to the policy analysis the discretionary function exception was designed to protect. View "Phong Lam v. United States" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit certified the following question to the Montana Supreme Court: Whether, under Montana law, parasitic emotional distress damages are available for an underlying negligence claim for personal property damages or loss. View "Childress v. Costco Wholesale Corp." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
by
Nanouk uses her 160-acre Alaska Native allotment for traditional subsistence activities. In the 1980s, Nanouk built a small cabin, which she and her family reached by using a trail that runs from the main road through the U.S. Air Force North River Radio Relay Station, which closed in 1978. In 1981, the General Accounting Office criticized the Air Force’s failure to maintain shuttered sites, including North River, which contained hazardous chemicals. The Air Force and the Army Corps of Engineers began remediation, removing 500 gallons of transformer oil containing PCBs and PCB-contaminated soil. Surveys taken in 1987 and 1989 revealed that 6,700 cubic yards of contaminated soil remained. The Air Force and the Corps released a new plan in 2001; clean-up resumed. The trail that Nanouk used ran through a “hot spot” where PCB-contaminated soil was picked up by her vehicles. Nanouk did not learn about the PCBs on her property until 2003 when she reported a strong chemical odor. The Air Force then undertook extensive environmental remediation at the Station and Nanouk’s allotment. Nanouk sued, alleging trespass and nuisance. She and several family members have experienced serious health problems.The Ninth Circuit vacated the dismissal of her suit. The Federal Tort Claims Act's discretionary exception barred claims predicated on two of the acts she challenged as negligent--the government’s alleged failure to supervise contractors during the Station’s operation, and its abandonment of the property between the 1978 closure and 1990. The government did not establish that the exception barred the claims relating to the failure to identify and remediate the hot spot in a timely manner after 1990. View "Nanouk v. United States" on Justia Law

by
Jordan worked for SSA as a longshoreman and operated a small landscaping business. In 2014, the truck Jordan was driving was dropped by a crane. He suffered extensive damage to his lower back. After treatment by medication and physical therapy, Jordan had spinal fusion surgery. Before the 2018 surgery. Jordan sought benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, 33 U.S.C. 901–50. SSA agreed that Jordan was totally disabled immediately following the accident and again as he recovered from surgery. Surveillance videos, recorded in 2015-2016, showed Jordan engaging in physical activities and attending events where he apparently sat and stood for long periods without difficulty. Jordan testified, “There’s nothing I can’t do, but it all either is painful, elevates the pain, or I can’t do it for the amount of time that would be considered a job.” Jordan continued his landscaping but testified that his capacity was limited. Dr. Reynolds corroborated Jordan’s complaints of pain and opined that Jordan was totally disabled from work as a longshoreman.The Ninth Circuit remanded the denial of benefits. Credible complaints of severe, persistent, and prolonged pain, arising out of an injury, can establish a prima facie case of disability, even if the claimant can literally perform his past work. The claimant need not experience excruciating pain to be considered disabled. The ALJ apparently erroneously believed Jordan had to establish that it was literally impossible for him to do his past work. View "Jordan v. SSA Terminals, LLC" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment for plaintiff in an action alleging product-liability claims based on injuries she sustained from a medical device -- the G2 intravascular filter -- designed and manufactured by Bard. The jury found Bard liable for negligent failure to warn, awarding $1.6 million in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages.The panel held that, because Bard's preemption defense presented a purely legal question, it would consider the merits of the district court's denial of its motion for summary judgment. The panel held that the preemption argument fails because Booker's claim rests on an asserted state-law duty to warn of the risks posed by the particular design of Bard's G2 Filter, and the FDA has not imposed any requirements related to the design of that device or how a device of that design should be labeled. In regard to the failure-to-warn claim, the panel held that Georgia courts had not adopted a categorical prohibition on basing a failure-to-warn claim on the absence of a comparative warning, and the district court correctly allowed the jury to decide the adequacy of the warning. Finally, the panel held that the evidence was adequate to support the jury's award of punitive damages. View "Booker v. C.R. Bard, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court's dismissal of a third amended complaint (TAC) brought by plaintiffs, a putative class of former NFL players, alleging that the NFL negligently facilitated the hand-out of controlled substances to dull players' pain and to return them to the game in order to maximize profits. The NFL allegedly conducted studies and promulgated rules regarding how Clubs should handle distribution of the medications at issue, but failed to ensure compliance with them, with medical ethics, or with federal laws such as the Controlled Substances Act and the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.The panel agreed with the district court that two of plaintiffs' theories of negligence, negligence per se and special relationship, were insufficiently pled. However, the panel held that plaintiff's voluntary undertaking theory survives dismissal, given sufficient allegations in the TAC of the NFL's failure to "use its authority to provide routine and important safety measures" regarding distribution of medications and returning athletes to play after injury. Furthermore, if proven, a voluntary undertaking theory could establish a duty owed by the NFL to protect player safety after injury, breach of that duty by incentivizing premature return to play, and liability for resulting damages. View "Dent v. National Football League" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) claims based on lack of RICO standing in a putative class action brought against pharmaceutical companies. Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that the companies refused to change the warning label of their drug Actos or otherwise inform the public after they learned that the drug increased a patient’s risk of developing bladder cancer.The panel held that patients and health insurance companies who reimbursed patients adequately alleged the required element of proximate cause where they alleged that, but for defendant's omitted mention of a drug's known safety risk, they would not have paid for the drug. The panel agreed with the First and Third Circuits that plaintiffs' damages were not too far removed from defendants' alleged omissions and misrepresentations to satisfy RICO's proximate cause requirement. In this case, plaintiffs sufficiently alleged a direct relationship, and the Holmes factors weighed in favor of permitting their RICO claims to proceed. The panel explained that, although prescribing physicians served as intermediaries between defendants' fraudulent omission of Actos's risk of causing bladder cancer and plaintiffs' payments for the drug, prescribing physicians did not constitute an intervening cause to cut off the chain of proximate causation. The panel also held that plaintiffs have adequately alleged the reliance necessary to satisfy RICO's proximate cause requirement. View "Painters and Allied Trades District Council 82 Health Care Fund v. Takeda Pharmaceuticals Co." on Justia Law