In a recent case, a state appellate court considered whether a company could be held liable after an employee caused an accident in a company car while driving drunk. According to the facts as laid out in the court’s opinion, the employee received permission to use a company car on a weekend to move a mattress into a new home, even though this was a violation of company policy. The employee drank several alcoholic drinks on the day he borrowed the car and then collided with the plaintiff’s car.

Passed Out DrunkThe plaintiff brought a lawsuit against the employee and also brought a claim against the company for negligent entrustment. A trial court first heard the case and granted summary judgment to the company on the negligent entrustment claim. It concluded the employer did not know the employee had a pattern of reckless driving, since the employer only knew the employee had one prior DUI conviction and was not aware he had additional DUI convictions.

The plaintiff appealed the decision. He argued summary judgment was improper because the court should have considered whether the company had a duty to investigate the employee’s driving background more thoroughly. The appeals court agreed. It noted that when the company hired the employee, he listed a 1990 conviction for possession of cocaine, but he omitted multiple prior DUI convictions. However, the employee said he told the company about his history of drugs and alcohol, and he also told the company his license was reinstated in 2010 after it was suspended for a DUI conviction. The company did a background investigation of the employee before hiring him. The investigation showed a clean driving history, but it only showed infractions for the previous three years, and his federal criminal history did not show any convictions.

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In a recently decided premises liability case, a woman fell as she was entering a fast food restaurant and later brought a lawsuit against the business. The woman alleged that she tried to open the doors to enter the restaurant but that the doors were difficult to open and that she fell while trying to enter the restaurant. She claimed she was pushing on the door when her feet “just slipped out from under [her].” She said that she did not recall seeing water on the floor before her fall and that there was a mat on the floor in the area of her fall. When asked, she could not explain what caused her to fall. The restaurant filed an affidavit in response to the woman’s claim, stating that it was not aware of any problems with its entry doors.

Wet FloorAfter examining the evidence, a state court granted summary judgment in favor of the restaurant. The court found the woman failed to sufficiently demonstrate that the restaurant caused her injuries. The court explained that in premises liability claims concerning a breach of the general negligence standard, “mere speculation” as to causation is not enough to show causation and prevent summary judgment.

Classes of Entrants in Premises Liability Claims

Often, in premises liability claims, the same legal standards apply as in other negligence claims. However, in Florida, the general negligence standard does not apply when an injury is caused by a defect or a dangerous condition in the premises. In addition, in premises liability claims, the duty a landowner owes to a plaintiff depends on the relationship between the landowner and the plaintiff. There are three classes of entrants on land:  trespassers, licensees, and invitees.

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“Better late than never” is not always true in the legal world. Sometimes, failing to object to an issue in a case may mean being barred from raising the issue at a later date. In a recent case, one state’s supreme court found a defendant’s claim that the plaintiff’s affidavits were filed late could not be raised on appeal and had been waived.

HospitalIn that case, a man had filed a medical malpractice claim against a hospital, alleging he was mishandled by an occupational therapist during a post-operative stay at the hospital and that he became quadriplegic as a result. The case went to trial, and the jury found the hospital was negligent in caring for the man but that it did not cause his quadriplegia. The man later died, and his wife took his place in the lawsuit.

The wife requested a new trial because her husband’s autopsy purportedly contradicted the jury’s decision on causation. The wife filed required affidavits from experts explaining the significance of the autopsy report, but she failed to pay the required filing fee. Two days later, the court canceled the time stamp and did not process the submissions, at which time the filing date had passed. The next day, the wife’s submissions were stamped as received with the required filing fees, and the affidavits were filed four days later. Importantly, the hospital did not object to the memorandum or affidavits as being untimely at the time. The court then granted the motion for a new trial based on the new evidence.

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Sometimes proving the damages in an accident case is just as important as proving the defendant was at fault. In a recent case, one state’s supreme court upheld a jury’s award of zero dollars after a woman claimed she was injured by another driver in an auto accident. According to the court’s written opinion, the driver hit the back of the woman’s car when she was stopped at a traffic light. The driver admitted that he was at fault; however, he argued the woman did not sustain any damages in the accident. As a result, the case went to trial only on the issue of damages.

Car AccidentThe woman testified that at the time her car was hit, she did not suffer any cuts, scrapes, bruises, swelling, or other visible signs of injury. Her body did not come into contact with any part of her car. Photos taken of her car after the accident did not show any obvious damage.

After the accident, the woman was brought to a hospital at her request. She testified at trial that she had pain in her lower back and the right side of her neck. She said the hospital staff did an x-ray of her neck and back, gave her medicine, and recommended that she see an orthopedist. The woman went to an orthopedist and received physical therapy. However, she did not present any medical evidence to support her claim that her back and neck were injured. Finally, she testified that she had previously had back surgery before the accident occurred.

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Earlier this month, a Georgia jury awarded a doctor $7 million in compensation after determining that the hospital where he was injured bore 70% of the responsibility for an accident resulting in the doctor’s career-ending injuries. According to a news article covering the recent case, the jury initially awarded the doctor $10 million, but that amount was reduced because the jury found the doctor to be 30% at fault.

Operating RoomThe Facts of the Case

The doctor had just finished performing a surgery at the defendant hospital when he sat down on a rolling stool to complete some post-operation paperwork. However, as he sat on the stool, it shot out from under him. The doctor fell, hitting his head on the floor. Initially, the doctor told bystanders that he was fine and even left the room to speak with a patient’s family. However, within hours of his fall, he was experiencing double vision and shortly afterward started suffering from seizures.

The doctor filed a lawsuit against the hospital, alleging that the specific type of stool used in the operating room was unsafe. The doctor presented evidence that the casters, which are the wheels on the bottom of the stool, were designed for carpeted surfaces and were unsafe on the hard vinyl flooring in the operating room. The doctor also explained that he had to end his successful practice after the accident, since he was afraid for his patients given his newly developed seizure disorder.

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Earlier this month, a Georgia jury awarded a woman $15 million in financial compensation for the injuries she received in an April 2015 truck accident. According to a news report covering the recent verdict, the case proceeded to trial after the accident victim and the trucking company were unable to reach a mutually acceptable result in pre-trial negotiations.

Semi-TruckThe accident giving rise to the case occurred on a Georgia highway. A car full of six Louisiana nursing students was on their way to their final day of clinical training in a Savannah hospital. Along their way, a traffic jam formed, requiring they come to a complete stop on the highway. After a few seconds of being stopped on the highway, a semi-truck came from behind, ramming into the rear of the students’ vehicle. The truck was traveling at approximately 70 miles per hour. Five of the six students in the car were killed.

A subsequent investigation discovered that the truck driver did not apply the brakes at all in the moments leading up to the accident. The driver later pleaded guilty to five counts of first-degree vehicular manslaughter and received a sentence of five years’ incarceration followed by five years’ probation. The families of the deceased students filed wrongful death cases against the truck driver’s employer. These lawsuits were settled out of court for undisclosed amounts. However, the lone survivor in the car was unable to reach an agreement with the trucking company, which initially only offered to pay her medical expenses.

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The Supreme Court of Georgia recently published an opinion affirming a Georgia court of appeals’ decision to affirm a trial court’s grant of judgment to a defendant teacher, whose alleged negligence in failing to supervise her class resulted in the death of the plaintiff’s son. The defendant had allegedly left the classroom, and the defendant’s son was killed as a result of “horseplay” that occurred in her absence. With the most recent decision of the Georgia Supreme Court, the plaintiff will not be able to collect damages from the teacher for the claim against her in her individual capacity.`

classroomThe Plaintiff’s Son Dies After Another Student Crushes Him During “Horseplay”

The plaintiff in the case is the mother of a boy who died as a result of injuries that he sustained as a student in the defendant’s American Literature class at the defendant high school. According to the appellate court’s discussion of the underlying facts of the case, the teacher left the classroom for 30 minutes or more during and after the period of time when the plaintiff’s son sustained the injuries that ultimately took his life.

When asked by school administrators about what happened after the student’s death, the defendant first lied, stating that she was in her classroom the whole time. After the death of her son, the plaintiff filed a wrongful death claim against several defendants, including the teacher both in her official capacity as a teacher and in her individual capacity.

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Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Ohio published an opinion upholding the reversal of a lower circuit court’s decision to dismiss a plaintiff’s claim against the city when he was involved in a car accident with another driver, who had run through a stop sign that was later determined not to be sufficiently visible. The lower court determined that the city was immune from liability for the plaintiff’s injuries because it was a municipal body that was immune under state law. The state supreme court found that an exception to municipal immunity should apply to the case, further ruling that the plaintiff’s claim against the city for allegedly failing to maintain the roadway in a safe condition should be remanded to the circuit court to proceed toward trial if a settlement was not reached.

Stop SignPlaintiff Is Struck While Driving Through an Intersection

The plaintiff in the case is an Ohio man who alleged that in May 2011, he was involved in an accident when another driver failed to yield the right of way at an intersection and crashed into the plaintiff. An investigation after the accident determined the stop sign that signaled the other driver to stop and yield at the intersection was obstructed by tree branches and was not sufficiently visible to alert approaching drivers. After the crash, the plaintiff pursued a personal injury claim against the other driver and the city where the crash occurred, alleging that the negligent failure to trim the trees around the stop sign created liability for the plaintiff’s injuries.

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The Supreme Court of Mississippi recently published a decision in which the court found a circuit court appropriately dismissed three wrongful death lawsuits that had been filed by a family member of a man who died while under the care of the defendant doctors and hospital. The three lawsuits were dismissed because they were filed after a separate lawsuit was filed against another doctor based on the same death, and state law only permits one wrongful death lawsuit to be pursued at a time for each death. As a result of the recent ruling, the woman’s claims against all of the defendants not included in her first lawsuit will be difficult or impossible to pursue.

Doc's White CoatThe Plaintiff’s Loved One Allegedly Dies as a Result of Medical Negligence

The plaintiff in this case is a woman who lost a loved one in September 2013. The plaintiff alleged that her loved one’s death was a result of medical negligence and sought relief from the doctors who were caring for the man before his death, as well as the hospital where the man was being treated. Since the doctors were private parties employed by the state-run hospital, the woman followed different procedures and filed different lawsuits against each doctor, as well as two separate lawsuits against the state-run hospital.

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The Supreme Court of Ohio recently published a decision affirming a circuit court’s ruling to dismiss the plaintiff’s case against municipal law enforcement officers after she was seriously injured when a fleeing suspect crashed into her vehicle head-on as the officers pursued him in a high-speed chase. The woman claimed that the officers’ conduct was reckless and wanton and that they should not be entitled to immunity from her claim because of the unacceptable nature of their actions. The final ruling, while affirming the rejection of the plaintiff’s claim, serves to reduce the immunity granted to police officers from that given to them by the circuit court and the Ohio Court of Appeals by rejecting any immunity for officer conduct that is deemed reckless.

Police SirensFleeing Suspect Slams Head-On into Plaintiff’s Vehicle

The plaintiff in this case is a woman who alleged that she was innocently driving her car, following all of the traffic laws, when a speeding car driving on the wrong side of the road crashed into the front of her vehicle head-on. The speeding car was being driven by a man who was fleeing from the police, who had been pursuing him in a high-speed chase through the city on roads containing significant pedestrian traffic.

The plaintiff alleged that the act of pursuing the suspect through crowded city streets was done maliciously, in bad faith, or in a wanton or reckless manner, since it resulted in the suspect driving as fast as possible with disregard for civilian safety.

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