The Indiana Supreme Court recently published an opinion affirming a lower court’s ruling to allow a plaintiff’s personal injury claim to proceed against her insurance company. The defendant insurance company had argued that the underinsured motorist claim at issue was filed after the policy’s limitations period for such claims had expired and should not be permitted. The courts reasoned that the language of the underinsured motorist policy appeared to exempt such claims from the limitations period and was too ambiguous to be enforced. As a result of the recent appellate ruling, the plaintiff’s claim for damages against the defendant will proceed toward a trial.

Car AccidentThe Plaintiff Is Injured in an Auto Accident With an Underinsured Motorist

The plaintiffs in the case of State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Company v. Jakubowicz are a woman and her two sons, who were injured in a car accident with another driver in August 2007. According to the facts and procedural case history discussed in the appellate opinion, the woman filed a personal injury case against the other driver less than two years after the accident, seeking compensation for her family’s injuries.

As the claim against the other driver proceeded, the plaintiff learned that the other driver’s insurance coverage would be insufficient to fully compensate her for the expenses and losses suffered in the accident. The plaintiff eventually added a claim against her own insurance company, seeking compensation for damages that would not otherwise be covered through her underinsured motorist coverage, although this claim was not filed until after the three-year limitations period had expired.

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The Idaho Supreme Court recently released an opinion affirming the dismissal of a plaintiff’s medical malpractice claim against a doctor who had not been included in the plaintiff’s lawsuit until after the statute of limitations had expired. The plaintiff’s contention that the court should have used a different date to determine if the claim had been timely filed was rejected by the appellate court, and as a result the plaintiff will be unable to collect any damages for the doctor’s alleged malpractice.

DoctorThe Plaintiff Suffered a Stroke as a Result of Complications During a Surgery Performed by the Defendant

The plaintiff in the case of English v. Taylor was a woman who suffered injuries from a stroke after having a surgery performed by the defendant in September 2011. In the lawsuit leading up to this appeal, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant committed medical malpractice in performing the surgery, causing her stroke and resulting injuries. In September 2013, which was within the two-year statute of limitations for such claims, the plaintiff filed a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer of a device that was used in the surgery. The plaintiff later obtained permission from the court to amend her complaint to allege medical malpractice and add the doctor as a defendant in the case, although the amended complaint was not filed or served on the defendant until after the two-year statute of limitations had expired.

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The technological advances in the medical field over the last 20 to 30 years have resulted in patients receiving improved care when treated for a variety of medical conditions and ailments. However, mistakes and errors by medical providers remain more common than many observers would believe. Although the incorporation of precision digital technology and improved medicines have benefited patients significantly, the human element of medical care leaves patients vulnerable to avoidable mistakes by medical professionals.

SurgeryPoorly designed information systems and over-worked, under-trained staff can result in patients receiving inapplicable, inadequate, or dangerous treatments that could have been avoided by the exercise of due care by medical professionals. If appropriate legal action is taken, patients and families who have been affected by such negligence can obtain financial compensation from the responsible parties.

Surgeons Remove Man’s Kidney Unnecessarily, Based on Physician’s Order

One type of preventable surgical mistake that can devastate patients and their families occurs when the wrong procedure is performed on a patient. In a recent article, CNN reported on such a situation that occurred at a Massachusetts hospital earlier this year. According to the news article, a physician’s order instructed surgeons to remove the patient’s kidney, and the surgery was performed successfully. Unfortunately, only after the kidney was removed did doctors discover that the patient did not need the procedure.

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The Nebraska Supreme Court recently released an opinion affirming a district court’s grant of summary judgment for the defendant in a premises liability lawsuit filed by a woman who was injured in a slip-and-fall accident while at a grocery store that was operated by the defendant. The high court agreed with the lower court’s findings that the plaintiff failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact as to each of the elements of a successful premises liability or negligence claim. As a result of the state supreme court’s ruling, the plaintiff will not receive compensation for the injuries she suffered in the accident.

WatermelonThe Plaintiff Slipped on a Piece of Watermelon that Was Left on the Floor

The plaintiff in the case of Edwards v. Hy-Vee was injured as she was leaving the defendant’s store and slipped on what appeared to be a piece of watermelon that was on the floor. According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, an employee of the defendant was handing out samples of watermelon approximately six feet from where the plaintiff fell, and the plaintiff noticed a watermelon seed on her shoe after the fall. The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the defendant in state district court, seeking compensation for her injuries and alleging that the defendant was responsible for the hazardous condition that caused her to fall, and it was liable for damages as a result.

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The Second Circuit Court of Appeals recently released an opinion that will allow several tort claims against General Motors related to a faulty ignition switch to proceed. According to a New York Times article discussing the recent opinion, the ruling stands in the face of a 2009 bankruptcy court ruling, which prevented claims against GM from being asserted against the company that was created in the debt restructuring process. The appellate court ruled that the broad bar on future claims against the successor organization to the “old GM” did not apply to claims based on the defective ignition switches that were concealed by the previous company in anticipation of their bankruptcy restructuring.

Car KeyDefective Ignition Switches in Millions of GM Vehicles Have Endangered the Public

The product liability lawsuits that have been filed against GM over the defective ignition switches allege that the manufacturer knowingly included the defective and dangerous equipment on their vehicles for years after they discovered the problem, and they even attempted to conceal evidence of their knowledge of the faulty equipment. The recall, which has now been expanded to include over 11 million vehicles in several General Motors make and model lines, is related to an issue with the ignition switch on the vehicles.

The ignitions on the affected vehicles may unexpectedly switch into the “off” position, deactivating important safety features on the vehicles, including power steering and airbags. The defective part has been linked to at least 124 deaths and 275 injuries. General Motors has already paid over $2 billion in criminal and civil penalties and settlements related to the issue, and the company expects to pay more in settlements as the plaintiff class expands with additional recalls.

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The Idaho Supreme Court recently published an opinion that affirmed a state district court’s dismissal of a medical malpractice lawsuit based on the plaintiff’s failure to file the complaint within the state’s two-year statute of limitations. The plaintiff in the case of English v. Taylor had initially filed a complaint within the two-year limitations period, but the claim against the defendant at issue was not filed until after the two-year period expired. On appeal, the plaintiff’s request for the court to construe the claim as filed on an earlier date was denied. As a result of the high court’s ruling, the plaintiff will be unable to collect damages for the injuries allegedly caused by the defendant’s negligence.

Clock FaceComplications During a Surgery Result in the Plaintiff Suffering a Stroke

According to a factual summary of the case included in the appellate opinion, the defendant performed a surgery on the plaintiff on September 17, 2011, which resulted in the plaintiff having a stroke. As a result of the alleged negligence of the defendant and others, the plaintiff suffered permanent disabilities and filed a negligence lawsuit against the manufacturer of a medical device that was used in the surgery. The plaintiff did not include the doctor as a defendant in the initial lawsuit. The plaintiff later filed a motion with the district court to amend their complaint and include the doctor as a defendant, although the amended complaint was not filed until after the two-year limitations period for medical malpractice claims in the state.

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The Maryland Supreme Court recently affirmed a lower court’s decision allowing the family of a deceased child to pursue a wrongful death claim against a negligent medical provider who allegedly caused the death of their son. The case is unique because the son, before his death, had already collected a substantial award of damages from the defendant, based on his own personal injury claim. As a result of the most recent ruling, the parents of the child will not be prevented from pursuing their own wrongful death claim for damages, although the boy himself had already received damages based on the defendant’s wrongful conduct.

DoctorAlleged Medical Mistakes Result in the Plaintiffs’ Child Being Born With Severe Disabilities

The plaintiffs in the case of Spangler v. McQuitty are the parents of a boy who was born with severe disabilities in May 1995. A personal injury lawsuit was filed on the boy’s behalf that alleged the doctor who delivered the child failed to gain the informed consent of his mother before delivering the child, which resulted in a complete placental abruption birth injury and the child’s development of severe cerebral palsy. After a jury trial on the child’s claim, he was awarded damages for his injuries, lost future wages, pain and suffering, and future medical expenses.

After the Child Dies, His Parents File a Separate Wrongful Death Action on Their Own Behalf

At some point after the personal injury case was filed, the child passed away as a result of his severe disabilities. Subsequently, his parents filed a separate cause of action against the defendant, alleging that his negligent actions proximately resulted in the premature death of their child and seeking damages to compensate them for their mental anguish and grief related to their loss. In response to the lawsuit, the defendant argued that he had already been held accountable for his act of negligence in the personal injury lawsuit that was previously decided and could not be held accountable again for the same conduct. The trial court agreed with the defendant’s arguments, causing the parents to appeal.

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The Michigan Supreme Court recently released a decision reversing a lower appellate decision in favor of the governmental defendants in a negligence case filed by a woman who was injured while she was crossing a public highway operated by the defendants. The plaintiff’s claim that the defendant had been negligent in failing to maintain the highway in reasonable repair in order to be safe for public travel was rejected by the lower courts, who found as a matter of law that the highway was reasonably safe. The state supreme court reversed, ruling that the plaintiff had raised a genuine issue of fact as to whether the highway was unsafe, and her claim should have been heard by a jury.

Sidewalk CrackThe Plaintiff Is Injured After She Trips Over Uneven Concrete While Crossing a Public Highway

The plaintiff in the case of Kozak v. Lincoln Park is a woman who was injured while crossing a public highway that was operated by the defendant. According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the woman tripped over a three-inch height differential between two slabs of concrete in the middle of the road and sustained injuries as a result. The woman filed a personal injury lawsuit against the city, alleging that the city had a duty to maintain the public roads in reasonably safe condition, and the violation of that duty directly resulted in her injuries.

The Trial Court Rules in Favor of the Defendants

Before a trial was held on the plaintiff’s claim, the defendant filed a motion alleging the roadway was safe. In response to the motion, the plaintiff submitted documentary evidence to show that the road was not safe, including evidence that it had been in poor condition for over six years when the accident occurred. The defendant’s motion included the opinion testimony of the city’s Director of Public Services that the roadway was “reasonably safe.” Without considering the plaintiff’s response to the motion, the trial court decided that the roadway was reasonably safe and that the plaintiff did not sufficiently respond to the defendant’s motion, ultimately dismissing the plaintiff’s case.

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The Eighth Circuit United States Court of Appeals recently released an opinion affirming a jury verdict in favor of a defendant after a trial was held on the plaintiffs’ allegations surrounding the death of their 23-month-old son. The boy drowned in a pond after he climbed from his crib in the middle of the night and left his home, getting past a doorknob cover that was intended to keep the child from using the door. On appeal, the plaintiffs argued that the district court was mistaken in permitting testimony that the boy’s mother failed to secure a secondary chain lock on the door on the night of the boy’s death.

DoorknobThe Tragic Drowning of the Plaintiffs’ Child

The plaintiffs in the case of Coterel v. Dorel Juvenile Group were the parents of a boy who died after he wandered from the family home in the middle of the night and drowned in a nearby pond. The boy’s parents awoke in the morning to find the front door to their home ajar and the boy missing from his crib. Minutes later, the boy’s father found him floating unresponsive in the pond, approximately 50 yards from the home. The defendant in the case was the manufacturer of a doorknob cover that the couple had received as a gift and had been using to keep the child from operating the front door. After the boy’s death, the plaintiffs filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the manufacturer, alleging that the doorbell cover was a dangerous product that failed to work as intended and that it was negligently manufactured and marketed by the defendant.

The Jury Found the Defendant Was Not at Fault at Trial

The plaintiffs’ product liability and negligence claims went to trial, and the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant. During trial, evidence was introduced over the plaintiffs’ objection that the parents had previously witnessed their son defeating the doorknob cover, and they installed a chain lock on the front door after noticing this. The defendant argued at trial that the plaintiffs knew the doorknob cover wouldn’t keep the child from leaving the home, and they were negligent by failing to use the additional lock. The jury was not required to explain their decision on the verdict form and indicated only that the defendant should not be liable for the boy’s death.

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The Iowa Supreme Court recently released a decision in which they affirmed a lower court’s decision in a wrongful death case filed by the family of a boy who was killed in a boating accident on a lake. The claim, which had been made against the state Department of Natural Resources, alleged that the state agency was liable for damages by allowing a submerged dredge pipe to be kept in the lake, creating an unreasonably dangerous condition that resulted in the deadly accident. Based on the most recent ruling, the plaintiffs will be unable to recover damages from the Department of Natural Resources for the death of their son.

BoatBoat Operator Ignores Warning Buoys and Crashes Into Submerged Pipe

The plaintiffs in the case of McFarlin v. State were the surviving family members of a boy who was killed while riding in a speedboat on an Iowa lake. According to the facts noted in the appellate opinion, the operator of the boat and the boy’s mother’s boyfriend failed to notice or avoid a submerged dredge pipe that had been placed in the lake by the defendant. The boat operator drove the boat between two warning buoys, colliding with the submerged pipe and flipping the engine up into the passenger compartment of the boat. The propeller, which was still moving at this time, struck the boy and killed him.

The Plaintiffs’ Allegations Against the Defendant

After the boy’s death, the plaintiff filed a negligence lawsuit against the state agency that was responsible for the placement of the dredge pipe. According to the plaintiff’s complaint, the defendant should be held accountable for the damages because the dredge pipe was placed in the lake in alleged violation of a state regulation that stated such equipment should not be placed in a manner that creates a danger to other users of the lake. The trial court ruled in favor of the defendants early in the case proceedings, finding that the plaintiff could not sue the government for its alleged negligence, based on sovereign immunity grounds.

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