SW Legal Educational Publishing
SOUTH-WESTERN LEGAL STUDIES IN BUSINESS CASE UPDATES—TORTS
SW Legal's Case Updates is a SW Legal Studies service to provide briefs of the latest state and federal court cases. Review the summaries and, for cases of interest, select the case brief. If you cannot find a case of interest, return to Topic Index .
Title
Summary
Company Responsible for Guard Dog that Attacked Employee
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld a jury verdict in favor of an employee who was attacked by a company guard dog when she went to her car. Since the company knew the dog was protective of company property, it had a duty to provide greater protection for employees.
(Updated November 2010)
Pain and Suffering Damages for Drowning Victim Allowed
Briefed Case
Maryland high court held that a jury could impose pain and suffering damages in the case of a drowning that was not witnessed. Expert testimony showed that a couple minutes of suffering likely occurred. The court also upheld the state’s cap on non-economic damages.
(Updated November 2010)
Video with No Audio Not Illegal Interception of Office Communication
Briefed Case
Doctors who worked at a clinic sued the owner of the clinic for installing hidden video cameras in their offices. Appeals court held that while a statute created a cause of action for improper interception of communication, since there was no audio, only video, there was no basis for suit.
(Updated October 2010)
$9 Million in Damages for Death of Construction Worker Not Excessive
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that despite conflicting testimony about how a worker died at a construction site, the jury could hold one party completely responsible. An award of $9 million for the death of the 61 year old worker is not excessive.
(Updated October 2010)
Statute Limits Liability for Horse-Related Activities
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that the Indiana Equine Activity Statute provided immunity for a club sponsoring horse activities against suit brought by a club member for injuries suffered as a result of being kicked by a horse. The statute prohibits suit for risks inherent in horse activity.
(Updated October 2010)
Release of Motor Vehicle Information for Legitimate Purposes Not Actionable
Briefed Case
Court dismissed suit against a publisher of law materials for obtaining and selling motor vehicle records. Such records may be obtained and used for legitimate purposes, such as legal research, so there was no basis for suit against the publisher.
(Updated October 2010)
State Products Liability Law May Not Conflict with Federal Regulations
Briefed Case
South Carolina high court held that a state law products liability suit against an auto maker for its choice of window could not stand because the window used was in compliance with federal auto safety standards that specify the kinds of windows to be used.
(Updated October 2010)
Secret Recording, without More, Insufficient for Invasion of Privacy Claim
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that, under Connecticut law, making a recording of a conversation without knowledge of all present for the conversation, does not give rise to an invasion of privacy unless the recording is used for criminal or tortious reasons.
(Updated October 2010)
Some of What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas
Briefed Case
Nevada high court held that under state law, there may be a suit for emotional distress, by affected family members, stemming from the loss of body parts by a mortuary when a body was embalmed and returned to its home for burial.
(Updated September 2010)
Clear Evidence Needed to Establish Link Between Pollution and Horse Death
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that while improper manure storage had resulted in water contamination in a creek, that fact was insufficient to impose liability for the death of horses downstream that may have consumed contaminated water. Clear evidence of contamination that would cause death would be needed.
(Updated August 2010)
No Defamation in Corrected Report about Prospective Employee
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a consumer reporting agency, which initially reported incorrect information about a drug conviction, but corrected the information, could not be sued for defamation by the subject of a report who had a job offer withdrawn in the meantime.
(Updated August 2010)
Publication of Material in Litigation Privileged, So No Defamation Suit Possible
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a woman who had an injunction issued against her to stop stalking a baseball personality had no basis for a suit for defamation or invasion of privacy when the information related to the court proceedings were later published in different places.
(Updated June 2010)
Expert Testimony Must Be Based on Accepted Science, Not Conjecture
Briefed Case
South Carolina high court reversed a verdict against an automobile company in a sudden acceleration case. The expert testimony about electromagnetic interference that supposedly caused the problem is not based on credible science and should have been excluded at trial.
(Updated April 2010)
Comparative Negligence May Be Argued Even in Presence of Felony Conviction
Briefed Case
Nevada high court held that while state law allowed a felony conviction to be the proof needed to establish tort liability for a related injury, the defendant still had the right to pose the defense of comparative negligence.
(Updated April 2010)
Casino Not Liable to Patron Who Fell on Freshly Mopped Bathroom Floor
Briefed Case
Tribal court held that a tribal-owned casino was not liable for negligence to a patron who slipped and fell on a bathroom floor in the casino that had just been mopped. Since an attendant was visible holding a mop, the patron was on notice of the danger.
(Updated April 2010)
Alcohol Liability Statute Cannot Be Applied Retroactively
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that while a new statute may have created a cause of action for a wrongful death incident, since the death occurred before the statute was passed, it could not be applied retroactively so no cause of action exists.
(Updated April 2010)
Sequential Events May Create Distinct Tort Actions, Not One Cause of Action
Briefed Case
Tennessee high court held that a person who suffered an injury in a fall, and then claimed to have suffered medical malpractice during treatment, would have distinct causes of action against each defendant. There is not one action that ties the parties together by joint and several liability.
(Updated March 2010)
Neither Wholesaler or Retailer of Alcoholic Beverage Violated Duty to Drunk Patron Who Died
Briefed Case
Tennessee appeals court held that the heirs of a restaurant patron, who became drunk and later fell off a bridge and was killed, had no cause of action under the Dram Shop Act or common law against either the restaurant or the company that sold alcoholic beverages to the restaurant.
(Updated March 2010)
Casino Not Responsible for Suicide by Patron
Briefed Case
Tribal court held that the employees of a casino did not act improperly in the way security personnel handled the peculiar behavior of a patron who later committed suicide. The personnel had no way of knowing of his actions and did not contribute to the likelihood of his death.
(Updated March 2010)
Pharmacies Have No Duty of Care to Third Parties Arising from Dispensing Prescribed Controlled Substances
Briefed Case
Nevada high court held that although numerous pharmacies had been notified that a customer was being given large quantities of a controlled substance, since they were filling proper prescriptions, the pharmacies did not have a duty to protect the general public from the consequences that could arise from improper drug use.
(Updated March 2010)
Elevator Worked Properly Despite Injury, So No Negligence
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a freight elevator worked as designed, so the elevator company was not negligent. A worker failed to move out of the doorway despite the ringing of the buzzer for more than a minute, warning that the door would close, as it was designed to do.
(Updated February 2010)
When Tortfeasor Hides Relevant Information, Statute of Limitation Tolls
Briefed Case
Kentucky high court held that because a restaurant hid information in bad faith about a disease outbreak traced to the restaurant, the statute of limitations on tort actions, brought by patrons who became ill, tolled until the information became known.
(Updated January 2010)
Sovereign Immunity Blocks Wrongful Death Suit for Improper Medical Procedure by EMT
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that sovereign immunity protected the city and a city EMT from suit in a case where improper treatment in a call for help resulted in death.
(Updated January 2010)
Loss of Consortium Measure Goes Beyond the Life of the Party Who Died
Briefed Case
Kentucky high court held that when measuring the value of the loss of consortium when a spouse dies from negligence, the consortium does not only include the time of incapacity before death but the value of the loss of consortium after death.
(Updated January 2010)
Bystanders Must Witness Accident to Have Cause of Action for Emotional Distress
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that for bystanders to recover damages for emotional distress in a wrongful death case, they must be closely related to the deceased, they must have been at the scene of the accident, and they must have suffered a shock from observing the accident.
(Updated January 2010)
Expert Testimony Not Required to Establish Emotional Distress
Briefed Case
Illinois high court held that a jury can determine if a plaintiff has established negligent infliction of emotional distress without the need for expert testimony to support the plaintiff’s claim.
(Updated January 2010)
Train Passing Through Passenger Station Not Open and Obvious Danger to Pedestrians
Briefed Case
District court held that suit brought on behalf of a woman killed at a train station when she crossed the tracks and was hit by a passing train would not be dismissed because the train was an open and obvious danger. The woman was on a crosswalk in a crowded station and the passing train was traveling at a high rate of speed.
(Updated January 2010)
Disabled Passenger Injured When Attempting to Board Public Bus May Not Sue
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that sovereign immunity protected a public transit authority from suit in a case where a disabled passenger fell from his wheelchair when attempting to get on a bus and the wheelchair ramp was not properly deployed. Since the bus was not moving, it was not a vehicle subject to sovereign immunity exception.
(Updated January 2010)
Fireman’s Rule Does Not Apply to Defective Product; Huge Damage Award Upheld
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that when the death of a fireman is attributed to defective equipment he was using that contributed to his death, the fireman’s rule that there is no liability for the party who created a dangerous situation that required a response by a fireman does not apply.
(Updated November 2009)

Court Appoints Special Master to Restrict Improper Gun Sales That Are a Public Nuisance
Briefed Case

Federal judge granted a request by the City of New York that a permanent injunction be issued against out-of-state gun dealers who sold guns to people in the city who could not possess them legally. A special master would be appointed to help ensure compliance of the order by the dealers.
(Updated November 2009)

Airport Authority Protected by Sovereign Immunity from Suit Involving Airline Crash
Briefed Case

Kentucky court held that an airport corporation, because it was created by a county, had sovereign immunity like the county itself against a wrongful death suit brought by an airline for a crash that happened, according to the airline, due to negligent operation of the airport.
(Updated November 2009)

Baseball Club Had Duty to Protect Patrons in Outfield Picnic Area
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that the baseball rule would not protect a club against a suit involving a child hit by a batting practice ball that was hit into a picnic area in the outfield. The club could be found to have violated its duty of ordinary care to protect patrons against injury.
(Updated November 2009)

Malpractice Claim Not Allowed When Client Knows of Wrongdoing
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that the client of a lawyer, who lost a suit for defamation for false claims he made about a competitor, could not sue his attorney for malpractice since he knew that the claims he was making were false. Wrongdoers cannot seek compensation from others involved in wrongdoing.
(Updated November 2009)

Organizers of Party Where Alcohol Served to Minors Not Liable for Negligence
Briefed Case

Appeals court upheld dismissal of a suit brought by the mother of a student who died from a criminal assault when he was ejected from a beer party for high school students. While the assailant may be liable, the party organizers violated no duty of care to the student who crashed the party.
(Updated November 2009)

Economic Loss Doctrine Prevents Suit in Tort for Losses Due to Defective Product
Briefed Case

Tennessee high court held that the owner and insurer of a defective bus, which caught fire and was destroyed by the fire, could not sue the maker of the bus in tort for product liability for the loss suffered. Purely economic losses cannot be recovered in tort; the parties must look to contract law for possible remedies.
(Updated November 2009)

Innocent Recipient of Money Obtained by Fraud Liable for Conversion
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that parents given large sums of money by their daughter who engaged in fraud to obtain the money were liable to the financial institutions that were the rightful owners of the money.
(Updated November 2009)

Sleeplessness and Weight Gain Are Not Adequate to Support Claim of Emotional Distress
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that an employee who was fired for threatening to blow up the house of another employee had no grounds for suit against his employer or managers for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Suffering sleeplessness and weight gain do not rise to the level of actionable events.
(Updated September 2009)

In Some States, Contractors Not Liable for Defects Once State Accepts Completed Work
Briefed Case

Georgia high court held that the state, with a minority of other states, retains the acceptance doctrine. Under it, a contractor to the state cannot be held liable for negligence for work properly done on the state’s behalf.
(Updated August 2009)

Oklahoma Recognizes Tort of Interference with a Contract; Punitive Damages Possible
Briefed Case

Oklahoma high court held that under state law a firm can be liable for the tort of interference with a contract if it intentionally and improperly interferes with a valid contract between other parties. Punitive damages may be imposed if the action was intentional.
(Updated August 2009)

Standards for Application of Dram Shop Act Lower for Self-Service Alcohol
Briefed Case

New Jersey high court held that when an organization allows self-service of alcohol, it has an obligation to stop visibly intoxicated guests from drinking, but does not have a duty to monitor the intake of every person.
(Updated August 2009)

Time for Filing Malpractice Suit May Begin from Date of Any Negligent Act
Briefed Case

Georgia high court held that the statute of limitations for filing a medical malpractice suit need not begin to run from the date of the first negligent act. If there were multiple negligent acts over time, the clock could begin to run from the occurrence of any act.
(Updated June 2009)

Airline Passenger Suit for Defective Airline Stairs Not Precluded by Federal Regulation
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that a passenger who suffered injuries when she fell down the stairs while getting off of an airplane, could sue in tort claiming defective design. The common law suit was not preempted by federal regulation of the airlines, as that regulation did not cover this area of airline operations.
(Updated June 2009)

Survey Company May Be Liable for Flood Damage Due to Negligent Report
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that a homebuyer who relied on a survey by a company regarding location of the home in a flood zone could sue the company for negligence when the homebuyer relied on the company’s survey report that the home was not in a flood zone, when in fact it was and the home was later flooded.
(Updated May 2009)

Mine Blasting Causes Property Damage, Not Mental Distress
Briefed Case

Alabama high court held that property owners who lived near a coal mine that engaged in blasting could recover for damage to their houses and reduction in property value, but they could not recover for mental distress as there was no threat of bodily harm.
(Updated May 2009)

Gravel on Road Does Not Create Condition for Which State Can Be Held Liable
Briefed Case

Texas high court held that loose gravel on a highway, which was related to a fatal accident, did not make the state liable under the Tort Claims Act. For there to be liability, the state would have had to create a special defect on the road that would be unexpected by a driver.
(Updated May 2009)

Economic Loss Rule May Apply in Tort for Professional Negligence
Briefed Case

Arizona appeals court held, in a case of first impression, that an architect could be sued in tort for negligence for failing to use due care in the design of a building that required renovation to correct errors that were revealed years after completion and when there was no possibility of a breach of contract action.
(Updated May 2009)

Exploding Tire Due to User Carelessness, Not Design Defect
Briefed Case

New York appeals court rejected a design defect claim against a tire maker in a case where the tire exploded when re-inflated and killed the worker. The truck tire had been improperly maintained, making it weak and likely to rupture. Tire maker is not responsible for such problems.
(Updated May 2009)

Punitive Damages Possible for Tort of Interference with a Contract
Briefed Case

Oklahoma high court held that if a party to a contract recklessly or intentionally committed the tort of interference to the contract, thereby preventing the other party to the contract from fulfilling it, punitive damages could be imposed.
(Updated April 2009)

Pharmacy May Be Sued for Selling Prescription Drug Pulled from Market by FDA
Briefed Case

Utah high court held that a claim of negligence by a patient, who had prescriptions filled by a pharmacy after the FDA had ordered the drug off the market, could proceed. Pharmacies are not necessarily protected by the learned intermediary rule in that instance as they are expected to use reasonable care.
(Updated April 2009)

Power Company Did Not Violate Duty of Care in Placement of Power Lines
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that an electric power company had violated no duty of care to two workers killed when a large tent they were installing struck a power line. The power company had no notice of the construction, and the power lines were in a reasonable location.
(Updated February 2009)

False Yellow Page Ad Is Tort by Publisher
Briefed Case

Oregon high court held that the publisher of Yellow Pages, who encouraged a doctor to list himself in an area of specialization in which he was not specialized, was liable for injury suffered by a patient who relied on the representation in the Yellow Pages.
(Updated February 2009)

City Water Company Not Liable for Poor Water Pressure that Allowed Fire to Burn
Briefed Case

Washington high court held that a city is legally a “water company” under state law when it provides water in its jurisdiction. While it is responsible for providing water, it is not liable for damages suffered when water pressure is inadequate to allow a fire hydrant to be useful in putting out a fire.
(Updated February 2009)

Commercial Defamation Requires Negligence, Not Actual Malice
Briefed Case

New Jersey high court held that one business could sue another for commercial defamation based on negative statements made to customers that were negligent. Plaintiff did not need to prove actual malice by the defendant to be able to prevail.
(Updated February 2009)

Florida Rejects Tort of False Light Invasion of Privacy
Briefed Case

Florida high court held that the state does not recognize the tort of false light invasion of privacy. The tort of defamation provides sufficient protection.
(Updated February 2009)

Statute of Limitations Applies to Ordinary Medical Procedures
Briefed Case

West Virginia high court held that a patient, who had a piece of a surgical knife left in his hand during surgery, and suffered pain the next ten years until the piece was discovered, was barred from suit by the statute of limitations. The continuous medical treatment doctrine did not apply because the patient did not continue under the care of the surgeon who left the knife blade in his hand.
(Updated February 2009)

Importer and Retailer of Defective Product Have Right to Recover from Manufacturer
Briefed Case

Texas high court held that both the importer and the retailer of a defective product, who settled a product liability suit based on a defect, had the right to recover from the manufacturer. While parties in the distribution chain may be found liable at trial, they have a statutory right to recover against the manufacturer responsible for the defect.
(Updated February 2009)

Parental Approval of Liability Waiver for Child Held Unenforceable
Briefed Case

Florida high court held that a liability waiver signed by a parent so his child could ride an ATV in an ATV park was unenforceable. Since the child was killed when riding the ATV, and the liability release was ineffective, suit by the child’s estate may proceed against the park operator.
(Updated February 2009)

Supplier of Machine Insulated by Asbestos Had No Duty to Warn of Asbestos Dangers
Briefed Case

Washington high court held that the supplier of a machine to the Navy, which installed the machine with asbestos insulation, as the machine maker knew it would, had no duty to warn those who worked on the machine, and so contacted the asbestos, of the dangers of asbestos.
(Updated February 2009)

Vibrations from Pile Driving Not a Tort
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that the vibrations over a one year period caused by pile driving at a construction site did not impose strict liability on the builder nor did it cause a nuisance. The builder acted in a reasonable manner, so there was no tort.
(Updated December 2008)

City Not Liable for Costs Suffered by Business Owner Due to City Mistake
Briefed Case

Oregon high court held that a city could not be held liable for negligence when it mistakenly issued a permit to open a business that should not have been issued. There was no common law right of action against the city, as it was merely exercising its proper authority.
(Updated December 2008)

Pop-Up Ads on Competitor’s Website Not Illegal
Briefed Case

Utah high court held that when a competitor had pop-up ads come up when a person accessed the website of another competitor there was no unfair competition or the tort of interference with prospective advantage. The ads were legitimate and not deceptive in content.
(Updated October 2008)

Emotional Distress Claim Can Proceed Despite Not Witnessing Accident
Briefed Case

Tennessee high court held that the parent and brother of a boy seriously injured could sue for emotional distress because of the condition of the boy when they arrived at the scene of an accident soon after it happened. Although they did not see the accident, the scene was not changed significantly from the moment it occurred, so the claim may proceed.
(Updated October 2008)

Social Hosts Not Liable for Minor’s Drinking Alcohol Not Provided by Hosts
Briefed Case

Wisconsin high court held that there could be no negligence action against parents who allowed high school students to have a party at their house were alcohol that was brought to the party by one of the students was consumed. Although a drunk student later caused an accident, negligence could not be imputed to the social hosts.
(Updated October 2008)

Federal Approval of Product Design Provides Defense against Tort Defect Claim
Briefed Case

Texas high court held that federal certification of the design of a product was implied to prohibit claims under state law that conflicted with that standard for safety purposes. A consumer could still have a claim if it could be shown there was a defect in manufacturing.
(Updated October 2008)

Dead Defendant Cannot Be Sued for Punitive Damages
Briefed Case

North Carolina high court held that even if a drunk driver was responsible for injuries in a collision that killed him, since he was dead his estate could not be sued for punitive damages. Such damages are intended to punish a person for a wrongful act, which cannot apply to a dead defendant.
(Updated July 2008)

Communication Within Corporation Can Be Defamatory
Briefed Case

Georgia high court held that while intracorporate communication is generally not subject to claims of defamation by employees or former employees, if the plaintiff can show that defamatory information was spread to employees who had no need to know, there may be a valid claim.
(Updated July 2008)

Imposition of Joint Liability Requires Intentional Tort
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that while a tort based on negligence occurred, and the jury had properly apportioned liability, there would be no imposition of joint liability on the tortfeasors, as that requires an intent by the parties to act in concert in the commission of an intentional tort, which did not occur here.
(Updated June 2008)

Health Club Has No Duty to Render Skilled Medical Aid to Patrons
Briefed Case

Appeals court reversed a jury verdict, holding that a health club had no obligation to render skilled medical aid, such as CPR or a defibrillator, to a patron who suffered a heart attack. The club properly attended to the patron while waiting for the ambulance.
(Updated June 2008)

Police Have Qualified Immunity Against Negligence Actions
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that a person injured by an officer who was involved in a high-speed chase had no cause of action against the police as qualified immunity applies unless there was an intent to do harm.
(Updated June 2008)

Patient Failed to Demonstrate Malpractice; No Medical Battery Cause of Action
Briefed Case

South Carolina high court held that a patient who claimed to have been injured during surgery could not sue for medical battery because the state does not recognize that cause of action. A suit for malpractice requires expert testimony that shows the physician deviated from competent practice in a medical matter.
(Updated June 2008)

Fans at Baseball Games Must Watch for Foul Balls
Briefed Case

Nevada high court held that since a baseball stadium took precautions to protect seating in high-danger areas, and warned fans of the dangers of foul balls, it did not breach its duty of care to a spectator who was hit while in the concession area.
(Updated May 2008)

Groups Cannot Sue for Libel or Emotional Distress
Briefed Case

Court dismissed a suit for defamation and emotional distress brought on behalf of 400 persons who claimed to have suffered from a false statement. Such group claims cannot stand; only individuals can bring such actions.
(Updated April 2008)

Professional Rescuer Rule Prevents Officer from Suing Negligent Party for Damages
Briefed Case

Utah high court held that under the professional rescuer rule, an officer injured while providing assistance to a driver whose negligence caused an accident cannot sue the driver for injuries suffered.
(Updated March 2008)

Building Inspector May Be Liable for Failing to Inspect Building
Briefed Case

Georgia high court held that property owners could proceed with a suit against a county building inspector who failed to inspect a new barn they had built that collapsed. The public duty doctrine shields police officers from suit, but may not shield other government workers.
(Updated March 2008)

Weightlifter Assumes Risk of Injury
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that a powerlifter assumed the risk of injury and could not sue the lift meet organizers for not providing more training for spotters. Assumption of the risk bars negligence claims; only a claim of intentional or reckless behavior could proceed.
(Updated March 2008)

Alabama Rule Changed to Allow Right of Action to Begin at Time Disease Recognized
Briefed Case

Alabama high court changed the two-year statute of limitations to begin to run at the time an injury attributed to exposure to toxic chemicals is diagnosed, rather than begin to run at the date of the last exposure to the substances.
(Updated February 2008)

Inflated Estimates of Gas Field Production Can Be Basis for Fraud Action
Briefed Case

Texas high court upheld a jury verdict of fraud under Virginia law for false estimates made by a company about the quantity of gas to be produced from a gas field in Oklahoma. Since there was a history of production from the field, the inflated claims about the amount of gas to be recovered were fraudulent.
(Updated February 2008)

Firefighter’s Rule Restricted in New Mexico for Reckless Acts
Briefed Case

New Mexico high court held that firefighters who witnessed twelve people burned to death by a natural gas pipeline explosion could sue the pipeline company for intentional infliction of emotional distress due to reckless failure to maintain the pipeline safely.
(Updated February 2008)

No Duty to Warn of Possible Allergy to Milk
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that consumers could not sue for damages for not being warned that if they were lactose intolerant drinking milk could produce temporary discomfort. Nor do milk producers have an obligation to warn of lactose intolerance, as it is a commonly known problem.
(Updated January 2008)

Cannot Sue Postal Service for Negligent Placement of Mailboxes
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that the Postal Service, as part of the government, was due sovereign immunity, and could not be sued for negligent placement of mailboxes at an intersection that blocked the view of oncoming traffic and was related to an accident.
(Updated December 2007)

Surgeon Who Helped with Failed Surgery Is Not Protected by Good Samaritan Act
Briefed Case

North Dakota high court held that a surgeon who was called in to assist with an emergency surgery that failed, and the patient died, was not immune from being sued for malpractice by the state’s Good Samaritan Act since he was an employee of the hospital who expected compensation for services.
(Updated November 2007)

SW Legal Virginia Declines to Adopt Learned Intermediary Rule
Briefed Case

The SW Legal Virginia high court refused to adopt the learned intermediary rule, holding that drug makers have a duty to directly warn consumers of the dangers involved in the use of prescription drugs.
(Updated October 2007)

Exposure to Asbestos Not Sufficient Proof of Causation of Lung Disease
Briefed Case

Texas high court held that the fact that plaintiff was exposed to asbestos fibers was not sufficient to show causation with respect to his lung problems. More substantial evidence must be presented for liability to be imposed.
(Updated September 2007)

Police Officer Might Recover for Injuries Suffered Responding to Call
Briefed Case

New Jersey high court held that the state legislature gave police and other emergency personnel the right to sue when they suffer injuries in the line of duty, when the injuries are due to the negligence or willful misconduct of another.
(Updated June 2007)

Defendants Must Cover Cost of Lead Exposure Monitoring for Class Members
Briefed Case

Missouri high court held that class certification of children constantly exposed to lead emissions from a smelter was justified. Further, members of the class have the right to have health monitoring paid by defendant operators of the smelter since lead is known to be toxic.
(Updated June 2007)

No Fear of Future Illness Tort Action in Mississippi
Briefed Case

Mississippi high court held it would not recognize a requirement for an employer to pay for medical monitoring for employees who claim their health may deteriorate in the future due to exposure to a hazardous substance. Some states do recognize this right of action.
(Updated June 2007)

Getting Supplier to Stop Possible Deal with Outside Company Not Tort of Interference
Briefed Case

New York court dismissed a complaint for tort of interference with prospective advantage by a company that was told by another company that it could not do business with them as it may lose an account with another company if it did. Relations were broken to benefit the company that was negotiating, not the outside company.
(Updated June 2007)

Rear Driver in Rear-End Accident Presumed to Be Proximate Cause of Accident
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that it was improper for a trial court to impose some liability on a lead driver hit from behind by a speeding motorcyclist. Unless it can be shown that there was a clear reason why the lead driver was at fault, the presumption is the rear driver is negligent for hitting a vehicle from behind.
(Updated May 2007)

Social Hosts Liable in South Carolina for Serving Alcohol to Persons Age 18-20
Briefed Case

South Carolina high court imposed a new common law duty on social hosts, holding them liable for injuries that result from consumption of alcoholic beverages provided by the host to persons between the ages of 18 and 20.
(Updated May 2007)

Contributory Negligence Precludes Award to Coach Injured by Players
Briefed Case

Appeals court affirmed that a coach of a youth football program could not sue for injuries he suffered when hit from behind by players from other teams playing a game immediately behind the field on which his team was playing. His contributory negligence outweighed any negligence by other parties.
(Updated May 2007)

Consumer-Expectation Test Is from Perspective of User for Strict Liability in Illinois
Briefed Case

Illinois high court held that in a strict liability claim for design defect, the consumer-expectation test would apply from the perspective of the purchaser, not a child who may happen to grab the product. The jury may also employ the risk-utility test.
(Updated May 2007)

No Negligence Per Se for Renting Car to Person with Suspended License
Briefed Case

Mississippi high court held that it was not negligence per se for a car rental company to rent a car to a person who appeared to have a valid license, but in fact had a suspended license, who then caused an accident.
(Updated May 2007)

Fraud Includes Knowledge That Other’s Behavior Will Be Influenced
Briefed Case

Alaska high court held it to be fraudulent misrepresentation for a real estate agent to tell a client that a house was available when in fact there was an existing offer on it that had been accepted by the sellers. The new offer would only be a backup offer.
(Updated March 2007)

Negligence Rule Applies to Alcoholic Beverage Sellers to Underage Buyers
Briefed Case

Massachusetts high court held that negligence is the standard in determining liability when a seller of alcoholic beverages sells to buyers under age 21. The dram shop law liability requires wanton, reckless behavior when selling to those over age 21.
(Updated February 2007)

Attack in Nursing Home Falls under Tort Law, Not Medical Malpractice Act
Briefed Case

Virginia high court held that a brutal assault on a disabled nursing home patient is governed by tort law, not by the state’s Medical Malpractice Act, as the provision of medical care had nothing to do with the incident in question.
(Updated January 2007)

Use of Gun in Suicide Not Foreseeable, So No Negligence by Gun Owner
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that the owner of a gun was not negligent by leaving the weapon unattended, which allowed it to be used in a suicide. There was no indication that the person was suicidal, so there was no duty to secure the weapon more than usual.
(Updated December 2006)

Family Members Who Lost Other Family Members in Air Crash Cannot Recover for Mental Distress
Briefed Case

Trial court dismissed a claim for mental distress for members of a family who lost two family members in a house hit by a plane in an accident. Since the survivors did not witness the crash or suffer direct physical injury themselves, there is no mental distress claim.
(Updated October 2006)

Proximate Cause Not Established, So Negligence Claim Cannot Stand
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that for the probation department to fail to arrest a probationer in violation of his parole was not the proximate cause of a murder committed by the probationer while he was free. The state was not the proximate cause of the murder that was committed..
(Updated October 2006)

Damages Not Reduced by Payment Received by Plaintiff for Later Injury
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that an injured plaintiff had been awarded proper damages by a jury and that, under the collateral source rule, the damages would not be reduced because a second accident caused the plaintiff to receive compensation for some of the same injuries.
(Updated August 2006)

State Constitution Requires Jury to Consider Contributory Negligence Matters
Briefed Case

Arizona appeals court held unconstitutional a statute that held persons could not be liable if they injured a person who was committing a crime. The constitution requires that all issues of contributory negligence and assumption of risk go to a jury.
(Updated July 2006)

Private Parties in Georgia May Not Seek Punitive Damages Against Cigarette Makers
Briefed Case

Georgia high court held that the settlement the state entered into with the cigarette makers to cover the cost of health services provided by the state to tobacco users included a prohibition on further claims for punitive damages.
(Updated May 2006)

Wrongful Conduct by Plaintiff Precludes Tort Suit
Briefed Case

Mississippi high court held that a person who claimed a prescription drug caused injury by causing him to become addicted to it could sue no one because of his wrongful conduct in obtaining the drug.
(Updated April 2006)

Skier Assumes Risk of Hitting Snowboard Equipment
Briefed Case

Michigan high court dismissed a suit brought by a skier who was injured when he ran into a snowboard rail. Under a state statute, skiers assume the risk of injury from the sport. That is true whether it be snowboarding or skiing equipment that is provided for use of sports participants.
(Updated April 2006)

Accidental Injury Inflicted by One Patron on Other Patron Not Fault of Opera Company
Briefed Case

New York high court held that the Metropolitan Opera was not negligent when a patron with health problems fell when going to his seat, causing injury to another patron. .
(Updated March 2006)

Punitive Damages Not Allowed Against Dead Tortfeasor
Briefed Case

Indiana high court held that under state law, the estate of a person who committed a tort may not be sued for punitive damages. Punitive damages are to punish the wrongdoer; that cannot occur if the tortfeasor is dead.
(Updated March 2006)

Failure to Follow Regulatory Standard May Result in Negligence per Se
Briefed Case

Idaho high court held that a landfill operator could be liable based on negligence per se for failure to place a fence around a landfill where two children were killed. State law requires a fence to try to prevent such accidents, so negligence per se existed.
(Updated March 2006)

Public Policy Violation Strengthens Claim for Tort of Outrage
Briefed Case

Court held that plaintiff had a possible claim for the tort of outrage for discrimination on the job and dismissal based on her joining the military. Such treatment would violate public policy, which gives strength to the claim.
(Updated February 2006)

Menu Warning About Hazards of Raw Oysters Sufficient
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that the heirs of a restaurant patron who died from eating raw oysters had no cause of action. The restaurant had provided adequate warning of the health problems most related to bacteria that occurs naturally in oysters.
(Updated November 2005)

Arresting Store Customer without Giving Customer a Reason May Be a Tort
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that a suit for false arrest and invasion of privacy may proceed. A customer was arrested and ejected from a store when the manager wanted it cleared of customers other than the movie stars who were shopping in the store.
(Updated August 2005)

Expert Testimony Must Establish Evidence of Improper Medical Information
Briefed Case

Mississippi high court held that a patient who contended that he had not received proper informed consent prior to surgery, and suffered complications, must provide expert testimony at trial to support the claim that the information provided by the surgeon was faulty for the case to proceed.
(Updated August 2005)

Property Owner Had Duty of Care to Warn Workers and Spouses of Asbestos Dangers
Briefed Case
New Jersey appeals court held that a wrongful death suit against a property owner could proceed. The property owner allowed contract workers to be exposed to asbestos that was carried home on their clothing, posing a risk of harm to their spouses. Since the cost of warning of the danger was low, a duty of care existed to the workers and their spouses.
(Updated July 2005)
Dramshop Liability for Torts of Patron Is Strict Standard
Briefed Case
Iowa high court held that under the state's dramshop statute, the seller of alcoholic beverages may be held liable for the torts inflicted by a patron. Proximate cause is not an issue since the law states that the alcohol may be determined to be the cause in fact of the injury inflicted.
(Updated July 2005)
Injured Dog Groomer May Not Sue Dog Owner
Briefed Case
Minnesota appeals court held that under the state's dog-bite statute, a dog groomer is usually considered to be the secondary owner or keeper of a dog and may not sue the primary owner of the dog for injuries inflicted by the dog.
(Updated June 2005)
Unidentified Object Could Cause Injury in Food Consumption
Briefed Case
Minnesota high court held that when a foreign object in food, which is never identified, logically appears to be the cause of an injury suffered by a consumer, there is a prima facie case of negligence against the food seller.
(Updated June 2005)
No Strict Liability for Supplier of Material Linked to Workers' Disease
Briefed Case
Wisconsin high court held that a supplier of silica sand to a foundry was not strictly liable for silicosis suffered by workers exposed to silica dust. The sand posed no danger as delivered to the foundry; the danger was created by the use of the sand in production at the foundry.
(Updated June 2005)
A Plaintiff with No Reputation to Protect Cannot Sue for Libel
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that the doctrine of libel-proof plaintiff applies to a prisoner serving multiple life sentences for murder and kidnapping. Newspaper articles about him, alleged to contain false information, could not be the basis of a libel suit as there was no reputation that could suffer damage.
(Updated May 2005)
Emotional Distress Suit May Be Brought By Witness to Murder-Suicide
Briefed Case
Tennessee high court held that a witness to a murder-suicide that was clearly staged for the witness to observe may bring suit for emotional distress despite her lack of personal relationship with the parties involved.
(Updated April 2005)
Baseball Fans Due Some Protection Against Foul Balls
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that the operator of a ballpark must protect fans against the likelihood of being hit by foul balls in areas where the risk of being hit is particularly high. To fail to do so is to allow patrons to suffer an unreasonable risk of harm.
(Updated April 2005)
Suspect Who Fled Liable for Injury Suffered by Police Chasing Him
Briefed Case
Connecticut high court held that a suspect who was chased by a policeman into the woods was liable to the officer and his employer for the cost incurred when the officer fell and was injured. The firefigher's rule did not protect the defendant against liability.
(Updated March 2005)
Race Track Spectator Warned of Dangers
Briefed Case
Mississippi high court held that a spectator at a race track had to know of the obvious dangers of standing next to the track and, further, had signed a liability waiver that clearly stated the danger of being close to the racing cars.
(Updated March 2005)
Fear of Cancer Not Grounds for Emotional Distress Suit
Briefed Case
Ohio high court rejected a claim of emotional distress based on fear of cancer because tissue samples taken for cancer tests were accidentally destroyed before the testing could be complete. The actual likelihood of cancer was not enhanced.
(Updated December 2004)
Decision about Alleged Product Defect and Link to Injury for Jury to Decide
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a plaintiff had provided sufficient basis for a product defect suit to proceed against the maker of a child car seat. Whether the seat failed to properly protect the child in an accident was a matter that properly should be submitted to the jury to determine.
(Updated December 2004)
Landlord Not Liable for Attack by Tenant's Pit Bull
Briefed Case
Nebraska high court held that a landlord was not liable for injuries inflicted by a pit bull on a meter reader who was told by the tenant who owned the dog that it would not attack. Unless the landlord knew of the dangerous propensities of the dog before the attack, he could not be liable for the injuries inflicted.
(Updated November 2004)
Statutory Immunity Extends Only to Clearly Covered Activities
Briefed Case
New Hampshire high court held that a state law granting immunity to ski area operators from suits arising from injuries incurred while participating in the "sport of skiing" does not give immunity to ski area operators who offer other sports, such as snow tubing. It is subject to common law liability.
(Updated November 2004)
State Contractor May Be Liable for Negligence Despite State Acceptance of Work
Briefed Case
South Carolina high court held that a highway contractor may be held liable for negligence in work that is found to contribute to an accident, even if the work had been accepted by the state as complete. The contractor has a duty of care to highway users.
(Updated November 2004)
Victim of Sexual Harassment Could Bring Tort Action Against Harassing Supervisor
Briefed Case
South Carolina high court held that a sexual harassment victim, who suffered physical abuse and constant pressure, could sue in tort rather than bring a Title VII sex discrimination claim, and that her supervisor was not immune from personal liability.
(Updated November 2004)
No Duty to Warn of Hazards on Property Owned by Others
Briefed Case
New York high court held that a property owner, who was aware that a tree on neighboring property was leaning, had no duty to warn others that the tree could possibly fall, as it did, and kill someone. The property owner did not cause the problem to occur and so violated no duty to warn others of the danger involved.
(Updated October 2004)
Electric Company's Method of Operation of High-Voltage Lines Did Not Breach Duty of Care to Injured Party
Briefed Case
Michigan high court held that a power company did not violate any duty of care it had to a property owner who was injured when he caused a high-voltage line to be severed. The line dropped to the ground and injured the property owner when the electricity flowed through the wet ground and shocked and burned him.
(Updated October 2004)
Appeals Court May Increase Damages to Correct Jury Abuse of Discretion
Briefed Case
Louisiana high court held that when the damages awarded by a jury are inconsistent with the findings of a jury about the facts of a case, the appeals court may review the matter and award appropriate damages to ensure proper compensation for the injured party.
(Updated October 2004)
Indiana Abandons Traditional Acceptance Rule Regarding Contractors' Liability
Briefed Case
The Indiana high court held that the state would abandon the acceptance rule. Under that rule, once the buyer or owner of property has accepted a contractor’s work, the contractor is not liable in negligence to third parties for defects. Henceforth, contractors will be liable if defective work is the proximate cause of injuries suffered.
(Updated April 2004)
Business Owner Not Responsible for Criminal Acts in Public Parking Lots
Briefed Case
Delaware high court held that the owner of a bar could not be held liable in the murder of a patron who parked in a public parking lot behind the bar. The owner had no duty to warn of danger of the parking lot even though the owner was aware that crimes had occurred there.
(Updated March 2004)
Liability Release Does Not Apply to Seller's Negligence in Connecticut
Briefed Case
Connecticut high court held that a liability release signed by a patron of a snow tubing facility did not expressly release the operator from liability for accidents attributed to its negligence in construction and maintenance. The injured patron may proceed to demonstrate that the accident was due to negligence by the facility, not the patron.
(Updated March 2004)
Confidential Media Sources Must Be Revealed to Establish Possible Malice
Briefed Case
Minnesota high court held that in a defamation suit brought by a public figure, the plaintiff had the right to have reporters reveal their confidential sources. Knowledge of the sources was essential to showing that the defamatory statements were made with malice, a necessary condition for the plaintiff to have a chance of recovery.
(Updated March 2004)
Wearing Seatbelt Not Relevant to Danger Posed by "Overly Aggressive" Airbag
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that it was proper for a jury to not be allowed to consider the fact that a child was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of an accident in which he was killed by the force of the airbag deployment. The jury could find that the automaker was negligent for not making a less aggressive airbag.
(Updated February 2004)
Visiting Child Injured When She Went to Horse Barn Was Trespasser
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a child visiting the home of a friend was a social guest owed ordinary duty of care while in the home. When she left the home without permission and was injured by a horse when she went to the barn, she became a trespasser so the property owner was not liable for negligence.
(Updated February 2004)
Landlord Had No Duty to Notify Next-of-Kin of Death of Tenant
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld the dismissal of a suit brought by a next-of-kin who was not notified when her brother died. Her brother was given a pauper's burial. The landlord had no possession of the body and was not responsible for its disposal.
(Updated February 2004)
Injury to Hotel Guest Must Be Foreseeable for Hotel to Be Liable in Negligence
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a hotel was not liable to a guest who was injured when a light switch sparked. The hotel had no reason to suspect that the switch was defective; so there was no foreseeability of the possible danger to the guest.
(Updated February 2004)
Open and Obvious Danger Precludes Liability Suit in Swimming Pool Death Case
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that the heirs to a 17-year-old who died when she dove into a neighbor’s four-foot deep pool had no case. The danger posed by the pool was obvious, and since the decedent had used the pool numerous times, she was aware of the danger.
(Updated January 2004)
Lack of Handrail an Apparent Defect in Rental House
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that the lack of a handrail on stairs leading from one floor in a house to another floor was an apparent defect. When a tenant fell on the stairs and suffered an injury, there was no suit against the landlord for negligence in maintenance of the property.
(Updated January 2004)
Termination that Causes Health Problems for Employee May Involve Emotional Distress
Briefed Case
An employer was aware that an employee suffered from anxiety, yet, before firing the employee, the employer demanded that the employee return to work despite the employee's mental problems. The court held that, under Connecticut law, the employee could sue for negligent infliction of emotional distress.
(Updated November 2003)
Liability Waiver Would Not Excuse Gross Negligence
Briefed Case
In a case where a patron of a health club died from injuries when he fell from a treadmill, an appeals court held that while the liability waiver would protect the club from suit in case of ordinary negligence, it would not relieve the club in the event that gross negligence could be shown.
(Updated November 2003)
State May Allow Sale of Likeness and Not Commit Tort of Invasion of Privacy
Briefed Case
South Carolina high court held that when allowed by the legislature to help reduce fraud, the state could sell drivers' license information and photographs to private firms. Due to the statutory permission, a citizen could not sue for the tort of invasion of privacy.
(Updated October 2003)
Locking Up Union Workers Is False Imprisonment, Not Labor Dispute
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that when an employer locked union workers inside a gated area and called the police, the workers had a cause of action against the employer for false imprisonment. The fact that there was also a dispute with a union did not mean that the matter was only subject to review by the National Labor Relations Board.
(Updated October 2003)
South Carolina Rejects Tort of Enablement of Identity Theft
Briefed Case
Several banks issued credit cards to an unknown imposter who stole the identity of another person to obtain credit cards. The South Carolina high court held that because the banks that issued the credit cards had no duty of care to the person whose name was stolen; there can be no negligence.
(Updated October 2003)
Emotional Distress Requires Extreme and Outrageous Acts
Briefed Case
Minnesota high court held that making false police reports, threatening litigation, and nasty arguments were not “extreme and outrageous” as required for a plaintiff to win a claim of emotional distress.
(Updated July 2003)
Revealing Private Information to One Person May Be Invasion of Privacy
Briefed Case
Appeals court affirmed that for a medical technician to reveal medical information about a patient to one person could be grounds for a suit for invasion of privacy. The information was sensitive and the technician knew that medical information was guarded, so it was reckless use of the information.
(Updated July 2003)
Negligence of Drunk Driver Outweighs Negligence of Vehicle Owner Who Let His Friend Drive Drunk
Briefed Case
South Carolina high court held that when the owner of a car let his drunk friend drive the car, the owner was negligent, but the driver’s negligence was greater than that of the car owner. Consequently, there could be no recovery under modified comparative negligence, and to allow recovery would also violate public policy.
(Updated July 2003)
Car Dealer Negligent Toward Victims of Crash Caused by Car Stolen from Dealership
Briefed Case
New Mexico high court held that it was negligent of a car dealer to leave cars, with keys in the ignition, in an unlocked area over night, such that a thief could steal a car and later be involved in a fatal accident. The car dealer violated its duty of care to the victims of the crash.
(Updated July 2003)
If Licensee Has Knowledge of Dangerous Condition on Premises, Licensor Not Liable for Injury Suffered
Briefed Case
Texas high court held that when a contract worker, a licensee, was injured when he fell on a flight of stairs in a store, the store owner, the licensor, had no special duty to him so long as the dangerous condition that caused the injury was known to the licensee.
(Updated July 2003)
Risk of Injury from Fair Ride Was Open and Obvious
Briefed Case
Alabama high court held that there was no claim of negligence against the operator of a mechanical bull at a fair since the danger of injury was open and obvious, and the rider had signed a waiver that clearly stated the risk of injury.
(Updated July 2003)
Criminal Conviction of Employee in Vicarious Liability Suit Against Employer Not Admissible as Evidence
Briefed Case
Georgia high court held that in a suit where a customer sued an employer for an attack the customer suffered by the employer’s employees, the trial court properly excluded evidence of the criminal trial of the employees as the suit was against the employer, not the employees, and punitive damages could be awarded.
(Updated July 2003)
Conversion of Property May Also Allow Breach of Contract Action
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that when a vehicle customization shop destroyed a vehicle, it was liable for breach of contract for failing to perform the work it was paid to perform and was liable for the tort of conversion for destroying the property.
(Updated July 2003)
Rude and Insensitive Behavior in Business Not Grounds for Mental Distress
Briefed Case
Texas high court held that extraordinarily rude and insensitive behavior in business, so long as it focused on business and not personal threats, did not rise to the level of action that could support an action for emotional distress.
(Updated July 2003)
Expert Testimony May Be Used to Establish Res Ipsa Loquitur
Briefed Case
New York high court held that in complex matters, such as medicine, expert testimony could be used to establish res ipsa loquitur, that is, the action involved could not have occurred except for negligence on the part of the defendant.
(Updated July 2003)
Defamation May Hold If Story Contains True Statements that Create False Impression
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a defamation suit by a business against a television station could proceed. A news report contained true information but left out important information that may change the viewers' perception of the business featured in the story.
(Updated July 2003)
Store Has No Duty of Care to Protect Patrons from Ice in Parking Lot from Ice Storm
Briefed Case
A store patron slipped and fell on the ice in a parking lot. The ice was the result of an ice storm. The appeals court held that while the injured shopper was an invitee of the store, the store did not violate its duty of care to protect the patron, as the ice was a natural result of a storm.
(Updated June 2003)
Property Owner Had No Duty To Patron Who Participated in Fight in Store
Briefed Case
Mississippi high court held that the owner of a store was not liable in negligence to the heirs of a man killed in a fight at the store. The man killed had fought with the others before and came into the store to confront the men, knowing they were armed. The owner of the store had no duty of care in such instance.
(Updated June 2003)
Hospital Owed Duty of Care to Handle Drug Samples Properly
Briefed Case
Pennsylvania high court held that a hospital that collected drug-test urine samples from employees of a company had a duty of reasonable care to the employees in the proper handling of the samples. Failure to exercise reasonable care could result in liability based on negligence to an employee who lost their job as a result of improper sample handling.
(Updated June 2003)
Finding of Negligence Does Not Support Award of Punitive Damages
Briefed Case
Virginia high court held that to recover punitive damages in a tort case the defendant must have committed gross negligence, which is willful and wanton behavior that shows a conscious disregard of the rights of others.
(Updated June 2003)
Slip-and-Fall Victim in Grocery Store Fails to Show Negligence
Briefed Case
A woman who slipped and fell on a grape that was on the floor of a grocery store, could not recover for her injuries because she failed to establish negligence on the part of the store that was the proximate cause of her injury.
(Updated June 2003)
Burden Shifted to Business Property Owner in Slip-and-Fall Cases in Kentucky
Briefed Case
The Kentucky high court joined some other states in shifting some of the burden of proof in slip-and-fall cases away from being part of the evidence that the plaintiff must establish to instead become an affirmative defense on the part of the property owner to show that there was no negligence in maintenance of safe premises.
(Updated May2003)
$17 Million Damage Award Not Excessive for Injured Physician
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld a $17 million damage award for a physician who fell in a hospital and suffered permanent injury that prevented him from continuing his practice. The hospital had violated its duty of care to provide safe premises and the award was consistent with testimony about lost income.
(Updated April 2003)
Private Investigator Has Duty of Reasonable Care in Disclosing Personal Information
Briefed Case
A private investigator sold personal information to a client that helped him to find a person, who the client then killed. The New Hampshire high court held that investigators have a duty to exercise reasonable care in disclosing personal information to clients.
(Updated April 2003)
Bicyclist May Not Sue Other Race Participant for Causing Crash
Briefed Case
Appeals court affirmed that a bicycle rider injured because of the negligence of another rider, which caused him to crash, had no suit under the assumption of risk doctrine. Only if the other party's behavior is intentional or recklessness outside the range of expected behavior may there be a cause of action.
(Updated April 2003)
Learned Intermediary Rule Applies to Medical Devices in Some Instances
Briefed Case
Appeals court affirmed that a medical device maker was not liable for misuse of a device that resulted in serious injury. The problem resulted from allowing a non-qualified person to use the medical device. The device maker was shielded from liability in such instance.
(Updated March 2003)
No Emotional Distress Recovery For Loss of Companion Animal
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that no recovery for emotional distress would be allowed in a case where a family lost seven "companion" sheep to a neighbor's dogs. Recovery is only allowed in certain cases where a close person is injured or lost, not an animal.
(Updated March 2003)
Good Samaritan Law Protects Emergency Medical Personnel
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that emergency medical personnel who responded to an emergency, and made a mistake in the care they offered that may have contributed to the death suffered by the injured party, were protected by the Good Samaritan law unless their behavior was intentional or wanton negligence.
(Updated March 2003)
Mistake by Store in Providing Police Information Not Basis of False Imprisonment Suit
Briefed Case
Texas high court held that Wal-Mart could not be held liable for false imprisonment when the information it provided to the police about a hot check turned out to be incorrect. Since the information was an innocent mistake, and the decision to arrest is that of the police, not the store, there could be no liability.
(Updated March 2003)
Iowa Adopts Restatement (Third) of Tort Standard for Product Defect Cases
Briefed Case
Iowa high court announced that the state adopted the Restatement (Third) of Tort standard for product liability cases, which means there is no longer a distinction between strict liability and negligence in such cases, which will focus on the nature of the defect or failure to warn.
(Updated March 2003)
Federal Label Requirement Preempts Claim of Failure to Warn
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a chemical company properly complied with product label requirements under FIFRA, a federal law regulating such products, so the producer could not be sued for failure to warn of dangers involved in the product.
(Updated March 2003)
Good Samaritan Immunity Covers Negligent Driving by Samaritan
Briefed Case
A driver stopped to help an injured person who did not have life-threatening injuries. When taking the person to the hospital, the driver caused an accident that killed the injured party. An appeals court ruled that the Minnesota Good Samaritan law provides immunity from tort liability in such cases.
(Updated March 2003)
Social Host Liable for Injury Caused by Underage Drinker's Assault
Briefed Case
Appeals court affirmed a jury verdict on behalf of a guest at a party who was hit with a hammer by an underage guest who had been served alcohol by the host. The host was liable based on proximate cause, which the jury found to exist, as serving alcohol to a minor could result in violent behavior.
(Updated March 2003)
Company Board May Give Negative Opinion About Job Performance of Manager
Briefed Case
Virginia high court reversed a defamation judgment in favor of a company CEO who was criticized in a report about company problems that was circulated by the board of directors as it was looking to restructure the company. The negative statements were either fact or opinion that were reasonable under the circumstances.
(Updated February 2003)
Colorado Refuses to Recognize Tort of False Light Invasion of Privacy
Briefed Case
Colorado high court held that the state does not recognize the tort of false light. That tort overlaps with the tort of defamation, so citizens have adequate protection of their rights without expanding the range of tort actions.
(Updated February 2003)
Show Producer Not Negligent for Not Preventing Murder by Show Participant
Briefed Case
Appeals court reversed a judgment against the maker of a television talk show that had resulted in the murder of one participant by another participant. In general, there is no duty to protect others against unreasonable risks of harm.
(Updated February 2003)
Negative Review of Restaurant Food Not Basis for Defamation Suit
Briefed Case
Nevada high court held that because a restaurant is a public figure for purposes of food service, actual malice would have to be shown on the part of a newspaper that published a negative review of the restaurant's food. Otherwise, the review is a matter of protected opinion.
(Updated February 2003)
Jury Could Hold Producer Liable for Injuries Despite Manufacturer Compliance with Federal Safety Standards
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld a jury verdict against a vehicle manufacturer based on a finding that a door latch on a pickup was defective and a substantial factor in the death of the driver. Compliance with federal standards for door latches does not create a presumption that the vehicle was not defective.
(Updated February 2003)
Being Hit by Stray Golf Ball an Assumed Risk of Playing Golf
Briefed Case
Appeals court affirmed that a golfer who was hit in the head by another golfer's errant shot had no cause of action. Since there was no intent or reckless behavior, being hit was a risk one assumed by playing the game and the other golfer had not violated a duty of care to the golfer he injured.
(Updated January 2003)
Rescue Doctrine Not Appropriate for Helping Get a Car Out of the Ditch
Briefed Case
Alabama high court held that a man who injured his arm while helping to pull a car out of a ditch, could not sue the owner of the car for his injury under the rescue doctrine. The occupants of the car were not in a position of danger and there was no tort of negligence in getting the car into the ditch.
(Updated January 2003)
No Damages Alleged, No Action for Damages Exists
Briefed Case
North Dakota high court upheld the dismissal of a suit against an automobile maker for assorted torts claiming safety problems with the cars. Since no injury or damages were offered in evidence, there was no cause of action against the maker.
(Updated December 2002)
Federal Statute Bars Claims Stemming from Carriage of Goods
Briefed Case
Appeals court affirmed that a federal law specifically preempts common law claims, in tort or contract, made against carriers of goods in interstate commerce.
(Updated December 2002)
Rules of the Road the Same for Snowmobiles as for Automobiles
Briefed Case
The Wyoming high court held that in a head on collision of snowmobiles, the rules of the road apply. It is for the jury to review the evidence to determine if the parties were using the care of a reasonable person under the circumstance and apportion liability accordingly.
(Updated November 2002)
No Duty to Warn Club Patrons of Adjustments to Swimming Pool Diving Board
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a negligence suit against a swimming club was properly dismissed. In accordance with safety standards, the club had adjusted the diving board to make it less springy. A patron who suffered a knee injury because he expected a more springy board did not have a cause of action.
(Updated November 2002)
Injured Party May Sue Physician for Malpractice if Improper Care of Tortfeasor Patient Was Proximate Cause of Injury
Briefed Case
SW Legal Virginia high court held that under an act passed by the legislature, a health care provider may be liable to a party injured by a patient of the health care provider if the negligent care is the proximate cause of the injury suffered by the third party.
(Updated November 2002)
Negligence in Medical Care Properly Left to Jury for Determination
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a claim of negligence in medical care was properly submitted to the jury for determination. The jury found that the physician did not violate the standard of care expected under the circumstances, so the matter was properly resolved.
(Updated July 2002)
Testimony Before Legislature Has Absolute Privilege Against Defamation Action
Briefed Case
Utah high court held that when a witness before a state legislative committee made a defamatory statement about a supporter of a piece of legislation, the witness had the benefit of absolute privilege against a defamation action.
(Updated April 2002)
Manufacturing Defect Different from Design Defect in Products Liability Action
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a suit by a vehicle owner, who was injured when his vehicle's engine caught fire, could proceed. While the owner failed to show a design defect, which requires a showing of a safer design alternative, the owner does have a suit for a manufacturing defect that might be the cause of the injury.
(Updated April 2002)
Vicarious Liability Not Liability of a Joint Tortfeasor
Briefed Case
The Oklahoma high court held that when the victim of a tort released the tortfeasor from liability, parties who could have been vicariously liable were also released from liability. Vicarious liability does not mean one is a joint tortfeasor who remains liable despite the release of another tortfeasor.
(Updated March 2002)
Damage to Road by Trucks May Be Proximate Cause of Accident
Briefed Case
The high court of Mississippi upheld a judgment for a motorist who was injured when the wheel of her car dropped into a deep rut on the shoulder of a highway, and she lost control of her car. The ruts were caused by trucks coming and going from a factory and were the proximate cause of the accident.
(Updated March 2002)
Res Ipsa Loquitur May Be Basis for Jury to Impose Liability
Briefed Case
Washington high court held that in a suit for medical malpractice there are some occurrences that do not need expert testimony to prove negligence. Things that occur that are within the experience of a layperson can be shown by res ipsa loquitur to be the basis for negligence to be proven.
(Updated March 2002)
No Defamation for Claim in Book That Parents of Crime Victim Accepted Private Settlement
Briefed Case
Court dismissed a defamation suit by the parents of a woman who was, long after her death, shown to have been murdered by a physician in a hospital. A book written about the doctor said that the hospital quietly paid money to the woman's parents. That statement, which caused them humiliation, was not defamatory.
(Updated March 2002)
Racial Profiling of Shoplifter by Store Does Not Violate Civil Rights Statute
Briefed Case
Appeals court affirmed dismissal of suit by an African-American store customer who was arrested for shoplifting. Even if the reason store employees watched him with particular care was because of his race, it did not create a cause of action for violation of his civil rights for him.
(Updated February 2002)
Ski Pass Liability Waiver Enforceable
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a skier could not sue the ski resort for negligence when he suffered an injury when he hit a man-made object while skiing. The liability release he signed was enforceable since it did not violate public policy and was conspicuous on the contract.
(Updated February 2002)
FCC Has Exclusive Jurisdiction Over Dispute Between Radio Stations' Frequency
Briefed Case
Minnesota appeals court held that one radio station could not sue another radio station in tort for interference with business expectance that arose from a dispute over radio frequence. Congress gave the Federal Communications Commission comprehensive power to regulate radio frequencies, so actions under state-law are preempted.
(Updated February 2002)
Charitable Immunity Doctrine Does Not Apply to Businesses Dealing with Charity
Briefed Case
Virginia high court held that a catering business that donated refreshments to a religious organization, could not invoke the charitable immunity doctrine when two children suffered burns from hot beverages under the control of the caterer at the site of a religious ceremony.
(Updated January 1, 2002)
Taxi Driver Responsible for Leaving Passengers at a Safe Place
Briefed Case
Maine high court held that a taxi driver had a duty to leave a drunk passenger at a safe location, but did not have an obligation to drive the passenger to his home since the passenger did not want to go there. The fact that the passenger later was killed when driving drunk did not impose liability on the taxi company.
(Updated January 1, 2002)
Producer of Misinformation Had No Duty to Third Parties Injured by Bad Information
Briefed Case
Appeals court affirmed the dismissal of suit brought by landowners whose property fell in value when a consulting firm incorrectly announced that property next door would become a landfill. The consultant may have provided bad information about the property, but its duty was to the party who hired him, not the affected third parties.
(Updated January 1, 2002)
Jury Finds Some Fault in Asbestos Maker, But No Negligence to Impose Liability
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld a jury verdict in favor of an asbestos manufacturer. The jury held that while the company knew there were dangers associated with asbestos, at the time it sold the product it was not negligent for failure to warn of the hazards because it did not believe the product, as used, was dangerous.
(Updated December 1, 2001)
Use of Civil Rights Leader's Name in Obscene Rap Does Not Violate Right of Publicity
Briefed Case
Trial court threw out a suit brought by civil right's leader Rosa Parks for violation of her right of publicity from the use of her name as the title of a rap music song. The use of her name is musical expression protected by the First Amendment and was not done for the purpose of product endorsement.
(Updated December 1, 2001)
Nothing Funny About Drawing The Three Stooges
Briefed Case
California's supreme court held that for an artist to draw The Three Stooges and sell T-shirts with that drawing on them, was a violation of the right of publicity to the Stooges that is owned by a company. There is no First Amendment protection for such likenesses, done without permission, in the case of commercial exploitation.
(Updated December 1, 2001)
Commercial Painting of Tiger Woods Does Not Violate His Right of Publicity
Briefed Case
Trial court dismissed a suit brought by Tiger Woods against a commercial artist who sold prints of Woods golfing. The prints are artistic expressions protected by the First Amendment and so do not violate Woods' right of publicity. There is also no trademark infringement since Woods' name does not appear on the print.
(Updated December 1, 2001)
Government Official Had Absolute Immunity Against Libel Suit
Briefed Case
Alaska supreme court held that state officials have absolute immunity from libel actions for discretionary acts committed within the scope of their authority.
(Updated October 1, 2001)
Government Not Liable for Failure to Warn Swimmers of Rip Tides at Government Beach
Briefed Case
Appeals court affirmed dismissal of a wrongful death suit brought by survivors of a woman who died in rip tides trying to save one of her children. The government was immune from liability because the decision to issue rip tide warnings is a discretionary function.
(Updated October 1, 2001)
County Road Supervisor Could Be Personally Liable for Failure to Maintain Roads Properly
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that the estate of a motorist, who was killed in an accident that was blamed on poor the placement of a stop sign, could proceed with a private cause of action for negligence against the county road supervisor who is charged by state law with such matters as proper sign placement. The supervisor is not protected by sovereign immunity as is his employer, the county.
(Updated September 1, 2001)

Employer May Be Sued for Intentional Tort to Employee if Certain Facts Are Established
Briefed Case

Ohio appeals court allowed a suit for intentional tort, by an employee injured on the job by another employee, to go forward against the employer. The employee pleaded sufficient allegations to indicate that the employer knew that the attack by the other employee was likely to occur but took no steps to prevent it from occurring.
(Updated September 1, 2001)

Hedonic Damages Do Not Duplicate Damages for Pain and Suffering
Briefed Case

Appeals court ordered a new trial in a negligence case in which the jury improperly apportioned all fault to the owner of a vehicle and none to the driver of the vehicle that caused the accident, but held that the jury could award hedonic damages for the loss of enjoyment of life to a person injured in the accident. Such damages are distinct from damages for pain and suffering.
(Updated August 1, 2001)

List of Tour Operators Who Frequented Resort Not a Trade Secret
Briefed Case
Vermont high court upheld the decision that there was no misappropriation of trade secrets when the managers of a resort left to start a resort in competition and contacted many of the same tour operators that used the other resort. The information was valuable, but was not protected as a secret.
(Updated August 1, 2001)
Media Privilege Bars False-Light Invasion of Privacy Claim
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that when the media truthfully reports information given by public officials that places a person in a false light, even if the information is false, the media is not at fault so long as the reporting was accurate.
(Updated August 1, 2001)
Trial Court Should Have Given Jury "Eggshell Skull" Instruction on Injury
Briefed Case
Appeals court ordered a new trial for a plaintiff who was injured in a car accident. The plaintiff's medical condition made her subject to more severe injury due to the accident. The heightened likelihood of more severe injury should have been made clear to the jury in the instructions for determining damages.
(Updated August 1, 2001)
Guest Did Not Provoke Dog to Bite Her; Homeowners Liable
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that under the Michigan dog-bite statute, dog owners have near absolute liability for injuries inflicted by their dogs. Since the child who was bitten did not provoke the dog and had not been warned of the dog's behavior, the homeowners were liable for injuries inflicted by their dog.
(Updated June 1, 2001)
Restaurant Has Duty to Provide Reasonable Assistance to Choking Patron
Briefed Case
Nevada high court affirmed the dismissal of suit brought by the heirs of a man who died when he passed out with food caught in his airway. The restaurant personnel had an obligation to provide reasonable assistance, such as calling for an ambulance, but had no obligation to attempt the Heimlich maneuver or take other steps that may have saved his life.
(Updated June 1, 2001)
Handgun Makers Not Liable for Negligent Marketing of Dangerous Products
Briefed Case
The high court of New York held that the makers of handguns were not liable for deaths caused by handguns in the commission of crimes due to negligent marketing of their products. The court also held that the application of market share liability to gun makers would not be appropriate, even if they were held liable.
(Updated June 1, 2001)
No Action Against the State for Negligence in Issuing Drivers License
Briefed Case
Iowa high court held that the state could not be sued for negligence for issuing a driver's license to a person with very poor vision who then struck a person riding a bicycle. Even if the state should not have issued the license, there is still no statutory basis for such suit.
(Updated June 1, 2001)
Recklessness Standard Applies to Behavior in Play of All Sports
Briefed Case
The New Jersey high court held that a standard of heightened, recklessness or intentional conduct standard of care applies generally to conduct in all recreational sports, contact or non-contact. This requires participants to make conscious choices in their actions, which may go beyond the negligence standard.
(Updated May 1, 2001)
Newspaper's Gathering of Proprietary Information Not a Tort
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld dismissal of a suit brought by a tribe against a newspaper for its solicitation of proprietary information from tribe employees about tribal gambling operations. This constitutionally protected news activity did not support a suit for the tort of interference with business relationships.
(Updated May 1, 2001)
Defendant Who Settles Case Usually Has No Right of Contribution from Other Defendants
Briefed Case
Missouri high court held that a physician who settled a malpractice case out of court could not then sue the maker of a vaccine for contribution in order to cover his settlement. The settlement affected only the liability of the physician, not the maker of the vaccine, to the plaintiff. The physician had no claim against the vaccine maker for loss of reputation since there was no evidence of damage.
(Updated May 1, 2001)
Article Attacking a Business Plan as Unethical and Greedy Is Not Defamatory
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld the dismissal of a defamation suit brought by debtor who won a controversial bankruptcy case and was the subject of a magazine article that attacked the law and the business practice in question. Those were the subjective views of the publication, not an allegation of illegal actions.
(Updated March 1, 2001)
Argumentative and Snide Comments About Sex Life Do Not Meet Actual Malice Standard
Briefed Case
A public figure brought various tort claims, including loss of consortium, against defendants. Defendants made comments to the media about that claim, which generally means loss of sex. Plaintiff then sued for slander for those comments. Appeals court upheld dismissal of that claim since the comments could not be shown to be made with actual malice.
(Updated March 1, 2001)
Loss of Enjoyment of Life and Pain and Suffering May Both Be Compensated
Briefed Case
South Carolina high court overturned an earlier decision and held that damages may be granted both for pain and suffering and for loss of enjoyment of life; they are different forms of losses that may be compensated individually.
(Updated March 1, 2001)
Bits of Shell in Shellfish Is Natural, Not a Product Defect: Consumer Beware
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld the dismissal of a suit against a restaurant by a patron who suffered tooth damage from biting a piece of clam shell in fried clams. Such bits of shell are natural and consumers should be on their guard; the restaurant was not negligent for allowing a bit of shell to remain on the clam.
(Updated February 1, 2001)
Making Comic Book Characters Out of Public Figures Not Defamation
Briefed Case
Appeals court affirmed the dismissal of defamation suit brought by musicians Johnny and Edgar Winter who sued DC Comics for basing evil characters on them. Since no reasonable person would believe the comics to represent reality, there can be no suit.
(Updated January 1, 2001)
Equine Immunity Statute Defeats Tort Claim for Person Injured by Horse
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld the dismissal of a suit brought by a person who was injured by the sudden movement of a horse while visiting a friend. The state's equine immunity statute eliminates liability for negligence for injuries that are the result of risks inherent in equine activities.
(Updated January 1, 2001)
Fen-Phen Case Cannot Proceed in Absence of Actual Injury
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld dismissal of a proposed class action suit against the makers of the diet drug Fen-Phen, which has been linked to heart problems. The plaintiff had suffered no actual harm, she based her claim on prospective injury. That does not provide a cause of action.
(Updated December 1, 2000)
Store Manager Asking Police to Cite Employee for Theft Not Malicious Prosecution
Briefed Case
Trial court dismissed a suit brought by an employee who was fired for giving away merchandise in violation of store policy. She admitted to doing so and was issued a citation for theft by a police officer at the request of the store manager. Simply because the citation was not prosecuted does not provide grounds for malicious prosecution suit against store.
(Updated December 1, 2000)
Evidence Not Sufficient to Prove Illness Caused by Food Poisoning
Briefed Case
An Appeals court affirmed judgment for a restaurant that was sued by two patrons for food poisoning. While the husband and wife both became ill at the same time, since both had records of chronic abdominal problems, the doctor could not be sure of the source of their illness. Hence, they could not establish causation sufficient to provide preponderance of the evidence.
(Updated December 1, 2000)
Liability for Injury in Athletic Events Based on Willfulness or Recklessness
Briefed Case
A Rhode Island high court held that in a case where two players collided playing baseball and one was injured, liability could be imposed on the player who caused the collision if he acted intentionally or with reckless disregard for the other player, but not if his action was merely negligent.
(Updated December 1, 2000)
Assumption of Risk Occurred When Opportunity to Leave Car Not Taken
Briefed Case
A SW Legal Virginia high court upheld a jury verdict finding the passenger in a car 49 percent responsible for the injuries she incurred when she stayed in her friend's car as the friend attempted to drive up an icy road to her home. The plaintiff was aware of the danger and did not take the opportunity to avoid it.
(Updated December 1, 2000)
Employer Not Negligent for Dangers It Could Not Foresee that Injured Employee
Briefed Case
Appeals court reversed a judgment against a railroad company found negligent for unsafe working conditions. An employee, whose job was to inspect dangers along the railroad, was injured when he fell in a hole he was inspecting. The railroad had no knowledge of the dangers involved, so it was not negligent.
(Updated November 1, 2000)
Federal Regulation of Seat Belts Preempted Defect Design and Failure to Warn Claims
Briefed Case
Appeals court affirmed dismissal of wrongful death suit brought by survivors of motorist killed in an accident. Their claim that the seat belt was improperly designed and that the car maker had failed to warn of the need to wear a lap belt was preempted by the maker's compliance with federal regulations concerning seat belts.
(Updated October 1, 2000)
Free Speech Protection Applies to Publication of Unsworn Statement Given to Police
Briefed Case
Idaho appeals court affirmed dismissal of a suit brought by a person against a newspaper for its publication of a 40-year-old unsworn statement given to the police that asserted that the person engaged in homosexual activities with boys. Freedom of speech is absolute with respect to the publication of such court-related documents.
(Updated October 1, 2000)
High Standard of Care Is Ordinary Care for Ultrahazardous Activity
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld judgment against natural gas company for injuries suffered by housing residents due to a gas explosion. The trial judge did not commit a reversible error for instructing the jury that the standard of ordinary care meant that when an activity is ultrahazardous the defendant must use a high degree of care.
(Updated September 1, 2000)
Statute of Repose a Bar to Action Against Equipment Maker for Alleged Defect
Briefed Case
Trial court dismissed a suit brought by a worker injured while working around a manufacturing facility designed and installed 29 years before the accident. Pennsylvania's statute of repose sets a 12 year limit for such actions.
(Updated September 1, 2000)
Minor Who Asserted She Was A Prostitute Not Defamed by Show Reporting Her Story
Briefed Case
Trial court dismissed a suit filed by a minor who volunteered to be on a talk show where she presented herself as a prostitute. While the story was false, she presented the falsehood, so the show, which had attempted to verify her story, is not liable for defamation.
(Updated September 1, 2000)
Oral and Written Criticism of Employee Who Was Fired Is Not Defamation
Briefed Case
Trial court dismissed a defamation suit by a former employee who was subject to written and oral criticism, that was shared among various office personnel. In New York, such speech has strong protection as opinion and has a qualified privilege unless abused.
(Updated September 1, 2000)
State Liquor Liability Act Does Not Govern All Instances of Injury Related to Alcohol
Briefed Case
The high court of Maine reversed a lower court ruling that set aside a jury verdict awarding damages to a person who fell off the roof of a friend's house while helping him work on the house, while drinking the friend's alcoholic beverages. The negligence of the working conditions, not the service of alcohol, was central, so the state liquor liability law is not the only remedy.
(Updated August 1, 2000)
Malicious Prosecution Suit Against City Officials Met Necessary Elements to Proceed
Briefed Case
A Tennessee appeals court reversed a lower court and held that two citizens who had previously been sued by city officials for defamation, a suit that was dismissed, would be allowed to proceed with their suit for malicious prosecution since the necessary elements to go to trial had been met.
(Updated August 1, 2000)
Willful Misconduct Not a Bar to Assumption of the Risk Defense
Briefed Case
The high court of Georgia held that assumption of the risk is a valid defense that can be raised even in cases of intentional willful misconduct. The fact of intoxication does not change the legal standards applied to the parties involved.
(Updated June 1, 2000)
Third Party Who Assists Drunken Driver May Be Liable for Accident Caused by Driver
Briefed Case
Trial court held that a third party who helped a drunk person drink more, and then delivered him to his car to drive home, and encouraged him to drive drunk, could be found to have a legal duty to a passenger in the car of the drunk driver who was killed in an accident caused by the driver.
(Updated June 1, 2000)
Witnessing Workplace Shooting Did Not Create Action for Emotional Distress
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld a verdict for a security firm that failed to retrieve an electronic access card from an employee who, after being fired, returned to shoot former coworkers. The security firm could not reasonably foresee that this could happen and cause emotional distress to a worker who witnessed the shooting.
(Updated June 1, 2000)
Employer Could Be Liable for Defaming Employee for Inaccurate Report to Police
Briefed Case
An employee was fired for an alleged theft that was reported to the police, which issued felony charges against the former employee. The charges were dropped when company records proved otherwise. Suit for defamation against employer may proceed to determine if employer acted in good faith in reporting the matter to the police.
(Updated June 1, 2000)
Strict Liability Under Dramshop Act Allows Comparative Fault
Briefed Case
A bar patron caused an accident when driving intoxicated. The Utah high court held that although the bar is subject to strict liability under the Dramshop Act, comparative fault would be applied to the patron who caused the accident in apportioning damages.
(Updated May 1, 2000)
Fraud in Settlement Proceedings of a Tort May Result in Another Tort Claim
Briefed Case
Delaware high court held that when a party conceals important information during discovery in proceedings that result in a settlement and release of a tort claim, a new tort cause of action exists due to the fraud. The original settlement may either be thrown out and the entire matter relitigated, or the settlement may be kept and a new tort suit litigated.
(Updated May 1, 2000)
Tort of Spoilation of Evidence Elements Established
Briefed Case
The Alabama high court held that a suit claiming negligence for allowing evidence to be lost before it was possible to litigate could proceed. An injured motorist sued an insurance adjuster who allowed a wrecked car, that might be critical evidence in a product defect suit against the maker, to be destroyed before it could be used as evidence.
(Updated May 1, 2000)
Injured Consumer Must Provide Evidence of Safer Alternative Design
Briefed Case
Appeals court affirmed dismissal of product liability suit filed by woman whose shirt caught fire when it touched a hot stove burner. Under the risk-utility test, the plaintiff needed to give evidence of a reasonable, alternative product design that could have eliminated the risk in question.
(Updated April 1, 2000)
Intent to Batter Another Person Eliminates Claim of Accident for Shooting That Resulted
Briefed Case
When two men got in a fight, one drew a gun and struck the other one. The gun then fired, causing injury. When sued for battery, the defense of accident was claimed since there was no intent to shoot. The high court of Maryland held that this defense was not available since there was intent to batter the victim with the gun.
(Updated April 1, 2000)
Parental Immunity Extends to Contribution and Indemnity for Child Injured in Store
Briefed Case
A child who fell out of a shopping basket and suffered serious injuries when left unattended in a shopping basket by his father, could not sue his father under the doctrine of parental immunity, nor could the store demand contribution or indemnification by the father.
(Updated March 1, 2000)
Direct Link to Physical Injury Not Needed to Prove Emotional Distress
Briefed Case
Iowa high court held that in a case in which a driver suffered physical injury and later emotional trauma from a traffic accident, expert testimony was needed to show emotional distress, but for there to be recovery there does not need to be a direct link between the physical injury suffered and the emotional distress.
(Updated March 1, 2000)
Liability Under Dram Shop Act Required Actual Knowledge of Intoxication
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld the dismissal of a suit brought against a social host under the Indiana Dram Shop Act for injuries suffered in an accident caused by a guest who became intoxicated while on the host's premises. For the host to be liable, there must be actual knowledge that the guest was intoxicated. Plaintiff failed to provide such evidence.
(Updated March 1, 2000)
Seller of Defective Product May Be Liable for Injuries Consumer Suffered When Using Alternative Product
Briefed Case
Trial court refused to grant summary judgment for seller of a mobile home that contained a defective hot water tank that the seller failed to fix. The buyer injured herself when boiling water for bathing because of the defective water heater. Possible liability of the seller would be determined at trial.
(Updated March 1, 2000)
Hospital Is Not a Seller of Goods; It Is a Service Provider
Briefed Case
New Hampshire high court upheld dismissal of a strict liability suit filed by a patient against a hospital for the damage he suffered from a defective prosthetic knee that was implanted in him during surgery at the hospital. Provision of the knee was incidental to the main purpose of the hospital, which is provision of health service.
(Updated February 1, 2000)
Not Telling of Guard Dog's Vicious Nature Was Negligent Misrepresentation
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld verdict for two persons seriously injured by former prison guard dog they had been given. Prison authorities told the gift recipients that the dog had not bitten anyone, except for one minor incident, when they knew of five unprovoked attacks. Such misinformation was negligent misrepresentation that created liability for plaintiffs' injuries.
(Updated January 1, 2000)
Liability of Component Maker Explained in New Standard
Briefed Case
The Rhode Island high court adopted the Restatement (Third) of Torts with respect to liability of a component supplier. Such manufacturers may be liable for harm when they substantially participate in the design of the final product.
(Updated January 1, 2000)
Weightlifter Assumed the Risk When Attempting to Lift Heavy Weight
Briefed Case
Court dismissed a suit filed by a weightlifter who was injured in a competition when he slipped and 565 pounds fell on his chest, injuring him. The fact that the spotters were unable to prevent the weight from falling did not mean that the competition organizers were negligent; the injury was a part of the risk assumed in such competition.
(Updated January 1, 2000)
Statements Quoting Judicial Proceedings Are Absolutely Privileged
Briefed Case
Nevada high court upheld dismissal of a suit for defamation in which the defendant sent a letter to a business contact of the plaintiff, quoting damaging statements about the plaintiff from a court filing in another state. Quoting court proceedings is absolutely privileged, so even if the defendant knew the statements to be false and intended to inflict harm, the action was privileged.
(Updated December 1, 1999)
University Had Duty to Protect Spectator from Fan Rush for Football
Briefed Case
A spectator at a Notre Dame football game was injured when other fans rushing to get a football kicked through the goal post knocked her down. The appeals court held that the trial court was wrong to dismiss the suit; since the university knew such scrambles for balls occurred, it had a duty to protect fans from such injury.
(Updated December 1, 1999)
Modification of Product Did Not Create Unreasonable Danger to User
Briefed Case
A user that was injured by a product that had been modified from its original design sued the company that modified the product. Appeals court threw out jury verdict in consumer's favor, holding that any possible danger from the modification was obvious to the user.
(Updated October 1, 1999)
Texas Does Not Recognize Fear of Disease as Tort Except in Rare Cases
Briefed Case
Worker exposed to asbestos at work, but not suffering from asbestos-related disease, cannot maintain tort action for mental distress based on fear of disease. Absent actual disease, Texas allows recovery for mental anguish only in limited circumstances.
(Updated October 1, 1999)
City Had No Special Duty to Send Fire Trucks Promptly When 911 Called
Briefed Case
Appeals court ordered dismissal of suit against city in a case where a child died in a house fire. The neighbors called 911 to report the fire, but the 911 operator waited six minutes to call the fire department. The public duty doctrine was not violated because there was no special duty owed to the home owner.
(Updated September 1, 1999)
Doctor Due Immunity from Suit By Other Doctor He Investigated for State Medical Board
Briefed Case
An appeals court held that the physician who wrote a report about another physician, at the request of the state medical board investigating his practice, was due absolute quasi-judicial immunity from suit by the doctor who was investigated and then sued the investigating physician in tort.
(Updated September 1, 1999)
Owner of Non-Vicious Animal Held to Negligence Standard for Injury to Child
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that when a person is injured by an animal that has not shown "vicious propensities," then negligence is the standard if the animal's owner had a duty to warn or protect those who may come in contact with the non-vicious animal. In instances where the animals have shown vicious propensities, strict liability would apply.
(Updated September 1, 1999)
Accepted-Work Doctrine Rejected in Arkansas
Briefed Case
Arkansas high court threw out the accepted-work doctrine which held that once a contractor finished a job and turned it over to the purchaser, the contractor could not be held liable for defective work that caused injury to third parties. Arkansas joins the large majority of other states by rejecting the rule.
(Updated September 1, 1999)
Defamatory Statements Made to Bank Examiners Not Protected by Immunity
Briefed Case
Court upheld jury verdict of defamation for a former bank employee who contended that the negative statements made about him by the bank president to bank examiners that appeared in the examiners' reports injured his ability to get work. Bank was not protected by qualified immunity that would have applied because the jury found there to be malice.
(Updated June 1, 1999)
Crime of Stalking Does Not Create Tort of Stalking
Briefed Case
Georgia appeals court held that the fact that stalking is a crime does not create stalking as a tort. Given the facts of the case, there were torts of invasion of privacy and infliction of emotional distress, but public policy reflected in statutes does not translate into private action.
(Updated June 1, 1999)
$5.7 Million Verdict for Loss of Leg by Teenager Not Excessive
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld a verdict of $5.7 million damages against an ammunition maker for a defective bullet that caused an injury that required a sixteen-year-old to have a leg amputated. Given the pain suffered, and that will be suffered for many years, the verdict was not excessive.
(Updated June 1, 1999)
Shopper Was Trespasser for Parking in Wrong Parking Spot
Briefed Case
Idaho high court affirmed trial court decision that a shopper who parked in parking space reserved for patrons of a store that she did not patronize was a trespasser. As such, store owner was not liable to her when she fell in a hole in the parking lot and was injured.
(Updated May 1, 1999)
Snowboarder May Not Recover for Injury Sustained at Ski Resort
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld district court summary judgment in favor of ski resort sued by snowboarder seriously injured when making a jump on an expert run. The Michigan Ski Area Safety Act makes clear that skiers assume the risks inherent in the sport.
(Updated May 1, 1999)
$20 Million Punitive Damages for Drug Side Effect Not Excessive
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld $20 million damages against maker of heart drug that failed to reveal that the drug could cause blindness, which it did. Drug maker's actions were "responsible" given its knowledge and duty under FDA regulations, so the damages were not unconstitutionally excessive.
(Updated May 1, 1999)
Window Screen Maker Not Liable for Not Producing Child Restraint Device
Briefed Case
Small child pushed on screen of open window and fell out the window. Parents sued screen maker for product defect. Delaware high court upheld verdict for producer, finding no duty on the part of the maker to produce a screen any stronger than needed for ordinary purposes.
(Updated April 1, 1999)
Desecration of Body by Mortuary Is Grounds for Mental Distress of Surviving Spouse
Briefed Case
Problems at a mortuary's crypt were the cause of leakage in a casket. Mortuary secretly removed the casket, threw it and part of the body away, and resealed crypt. Surviving spouse's award of $2 million for mental distress over treatment of body upheld by Alabama high court.
(Updated April 1, 1999)
Aircraft Operators Not Liable for Emotional Distress Suffered by Witnesses of Plane Crash
Briefed Case
California appeals court upheld the dismissal of suit brought by people who were in fear for their own lives as they saw a jet crashing. Although unhurt, the witnesses suffered emotion distress from viewing the crash and from being the first to the scene. No duty to them was violated by the plane operator or owner.
(Updated April 1, 1999)
Liability Waiver in Motorcycle Safety Class Stricken as Unenforceable
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that public policy interests prevents the enforcement of a waiver of liability for acts of negligence by instructors that all students in a motorcycle safety class were required to sign.
(Updated April 1, 1999)
Fraternity Hazing "Victim" Assumed the Risk
Briefed Case
Alabama high court held there was no negligence by a fraternity or its members for engaging in the physical hazing of a member, who stayed in the fraternity for more than a year, and did not take the opportunity to quit. By staying, the fraternity member assumed the risk of being hazed.
(Updated April 1, 1999)
No Premise Liability for Attack on Store Patron in Parking Lot By Irrational Assailant
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld dismissal of suit against a convenience store, where patron was shot in parking lot by assailant described as either drunk or high on drugs. Ordinary security precautions would not deter an irrational assailant, so the store was not at fault for not having more security.
(Updated April 1, 1999)
No Liability for Employer Who Allowed Sexual Harassment to Be Reported
Briefed Case
Appeals court dismissed defamation claim against employer, based on respondeat superior, for accepting a report of sexual harassment filed against a supervisor who was fired for harassing a subordinate.
(Updated April 1, 1999)
Headline Suggesting "Kato" Kaelin Was Murder Suspect Could Be Defamation
Briefed Case
Appeals court reinstated case by O.J. Simpson case witness Kaelin against tabloid that published headline indicating that Kaelin was murder suspect. Reasonable jury could find false statement was made with reckless disregard for the truth.
(Updated April 1, 1999)
Members May Sue Unincorporated Associations in Tort, in Indiana
Briefed Case
Indiana high court reversed old rule in Indiana that members of an unincorporated association may not sue their association in tort. Such suits may be brought under rules of comparative fault, but there is no vicarious liability for association members and trustees.
(Updated April 1, 1999)
Louisiana Law Provides a Remedy Like That for Conversion
Briefed Case
Scrap dealer ignored instructions not to scrap certain parts of an oil rig. Rig owner sued for the value of the destroyed property. Louisiana high court held that civil law did not provide for common law conversion, but allowed civil remedy for destruction of movable property that is much the same as conversion.
(Updated April 1, 1999)
Rescuer Saving Property from Damage Does Not Assume Risk
Briefed Case
Worker was injured when responding to yells for help to put out a kitchen fire. His rescue efforts did not invoke the doctrine of assumption of the risk, so the property owner was liable in negligence for the injury suffered by the worker.
(Updated April 1, 1999)
Loss of Alleged Defective Product Does Not Defeat Product Liability Claim
Briefed Case
Injured consumer's key evidence, the product part that failed, was lost when shipped to attorney. Appeals court held that case could proceed as there was no claim that product in question was any different from the rest made by defendant, since photos existed, and there were witnesses to the condition of the part in question.
(Updated April 1, 1999)
Property Owner Could Be Liable for Flying Sledder's Injury
Briefed Case
Sledder was injured when he was thrown into air due to hitting a terrace at the bottom of a dam operated by the Army Corps. Appeals court held that, under Missouri law, the U.S. could be liable for the injuries because it was aware of sledders crashing into the terrace, which could be an unreasonably dangerous condition.
(Updated March 1, 1999)
Suit Based on Fraud Against FDA in Medical Device Application May Proceed
Briefed Case
Class action suit against company based on fraudulent misrepresentation for intended market of medical devices, bone screws, that allegedly caused problems when used in spinal surgery, may proceed. Congress did not preempt common law actions for fraud against FDA.
(Updated March 1, 1999)
Difference in Safety Features from Store to Store Not Evidence of Negligence
Briefed Case
In a case where child was killed by driver in store parking lot , the judge properly excluded evidence that a grocery store chain did not install the same traffic safety features at every store,. General discussion of traffic safety was relevant, but custom and usage evidence is disfavored.
(Updated March 1, 1999)
No Actual Malice When Reporter Doubted Truth of Story Reported
Briefed Case
Michael Jackson's suit for slander against reporters and tabloid television program was properly dismissed. Jackson could not establish actual malice by the reporters even though one of them had doubts about the truth of the matter being reported.
(Updated March 1, 1999)
Recovery for Slippery Aerobics Injury Barred by Injury Release Clause
Briefed Case
Health club member could not sue club for negligence for injury she sustained when she fell on a slippery mat used for slide aerobics. Injury release clause in club membership contract was valid even if it was not highlighted and did not specify negligence or types of injuries covered.
(Updated March 1, 1999)
Mental Health Professionals in Pennsylvania Have Limited Duty to Warn Third Parties of Dangers
Briefed Case
Pennsylvania high court adopted the rule that mental health professionals have a duty to warn third parities of specific dangers posed by patients under their care. The court found that in this case, where a counselor warned a woman to stay away from her former boyfriend, the duty to warn had been satisfied.
(Updated March 1, 1999)
Harm to Reputation Must Be Proven in Libel Per Quod Suit
Briefed Case
Iowa high court dismissed suit against newspaper by attorney who claimed reputation harm due to accidental listing of him as having filed bankruptcy. Absent showing of reputational harm for, at most, negligent action by paper, there can be no damages.
(Updated January 1, 1999)
FIFRA Does Not Preempt Defective Design Claim
Briefed Case
Farmer who suffered crop losses caused by damage from properly applied herbicide cannot sue based on mislabeling of product, as it complied with FIFRA. But claim based on negligence in design and manufacture of product can proceed.
(Updated January 1, 1999)
Statute Limits Mental Therapists Liability to Third Parties Injured by Clients
Briefed Case
Utah high court upheld dismissal of case brought by survivors of woman murdered by schizophrenic ex-husband who had just been released by mental health care provider. Utah statute limits therapists' liability to cases of directly communicated threats.
(Updated January 1, 1999)
Lead Driver Has No Duty To Warn Following Drivers of Hazards
Briefed Case
Driver who swerved in time to avoid stalled vehicle in road, without warning following cars of hazard, did not violate a duty to warn following motorists of obstruction in road, and is not the proximate cause of the accident when trailing car hit stalled vehicle.
(Updated January 1, 1999)
Suit by Fan Trampled by Other Fans in Fight for Football May Proceed
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that, unlike risk of being struck by ball at sporting event, which is borne by the spectators, the no duty rule does not apply to violence visited upon fan who was attacked by other fans to take ball away from him, when violence problem had been persistent problems.
(Updated January 1, 1999)
Article Asserting That Specified Person Was Murderer of Robert Kennedy Was Libel
Briefed Case
Tabloid Globe published front page article with photo identifying purported assassin of Robert Kennedy. Jury award of compensatory and punitive damages upheld as person identified as killer was private person who did not have to show actual malice, although that did occur.
(Updated January 1, 1999)
New York Adopts Duty of Reasonable Care Standard for Common Carriers
Briefed Case
New York's high court dropped the century-old rule of a duty of extraordinary care for common carriers and adopted the more prevalent rule of ordinary duty of care under the circumstances.
(Updated January 1, 1999)
Crematorium's Negligence Does Not Extend to Mortuaries
Briefed Case
Crematorium mixed ashes of cremated bodies, for which it was negligent in tort. Appeals court held that the mortuaries that used the services of the crematorium were not vicariously liable for the negligent acts of the crematorium.
(Updated November 17, 1998)
TV Station and Reporter May Be Liable for Fraud in "Investigative Reporting" Case
Briefed Case
TV station and reporter lied to get reporter accepted as volunteer at facility for mentally disabled persons. Secret filming of purportedly improper care was basis of television story that followed. Appeals court affirmed that suit for fraud and other torts could proceed.
(Updated November 17, 1998)
Skater Assumes Risk of Falling But Rink May Have Duty to Control Kind of Skates Rented
Briefed Case
Novice skater who fell and broke ankle assumed the risk of falling by skating at a rink, but there is a question of fact to be determined at trial if the rink violated its duty of care to patrons by not discriminating among patrons the kind of skates it rented them.
(Updated November 17, 1998)
Fired Employee Cannot Sue Other Employees for On-the-Job Statements
Briefed Case
Dismissal of fired employee's suit against other employees for saying false things about him to employer upheld. Unless public policy is violated, on-the-job actions remain there. Any action must be against the employer.
(Updated November 17, 1998)
Continuation Theory Does Not Apply to Buyer of Company's Inventory for Resale
Briefed Case
Georgia high court held that when a firm bought another firm in the same line of commerce, it was not responsible in strict liability for product defects related to inventory acquired that it put into commerce. Since it did not continue to manufacture the product, the continuation theory could not be used to impose liability.
(Updated October 19, 1998)
Negligence Per Se Not Applied When Jury Must Consider Drivers' Behavior Under Circumstances
Briefed Case
Jury verdict, finding no negligence on driver who ran into rear of other vehicle, upheld on appeal. Trial court did not have to find negligence per se under the state law that requires drivers to maintain safe distance when driving. Jury can consider what is reasonable under circumstances.
(Updated October 19, 1998)
Negligent Entrustment Theory of Liability Does Not Extend Beyond Vehicle Owners
Briefed Case
Drunk man called his father to bring him spare keys to his car, which the father did. The son and his passenger were soon in a fatal accident. Father could not be held liable for the death of his son's passenger under the theory of negligent entrustment.
(Updated October 19, 1998)
Opinion About Value of Company Stock Not Grounds for Defamation
Briefed Case
Magazine article questioned value of company stock and predicted it would drop. After stock price dropped, company sued magazine and writer for defamation. Court held that subjective statements about company are protected speech.
(Updated October 19, 1998)
Rescuer of Victims Killed Due to Defendant's Negligence May Not Recover for Psychic Injuries
Briefed Case
Underwater diver who suffered psychic injuries from witnessing mutilation of bodies trapped underwater may not recover in tort. Rescue doctrine only extends to physical injuries suffered by rescuer, unless negligence directed at rescuer.
(Updated October 19, 1998)
Substantial Factor Need Not Mean Considerable or Large
Briefed Case
Appeals court reversed decision of trial court to use dictionary definition of "substantial" to mean considerable or large. Under the Restatement, it is defined as significant or recognizable, which can mean it is not the determining factor.
(Updated October 19, 1998)
Coffee Maker Not Liable for Burns Caused by Hot Coffee
Briefed Case
Consumer injured when she spilled cup of hot coffee in her lap may not recover from the company that made the coffee maker. The maker worked as intended, producing coffee in the temperature range that is industry standard. Since everyone knows that coffee is hot, no special warning is required.
(Updated October 5, 1998)
Howard Stern Engage in Outrageous Behavior?
Briefed Case
Stern and guest, over plaintiffs' objections, played with cremated remains of former guest on Stern's show. The incident was played on Stern's radio and television shows. Appeals court allowed suit for intentional infliction of emotional distress to go forward against Howard Stern and other parties.
(Updated October 5, 1998)
Lack of Air Bag Warning Makes Auto Maker Liable for Injury
Briefed Case
Driver of car equipped with air bag was injured by the bag when it inflated during an accident. Failure of auto maker not to warn consumers to sit too close to steering wheel was product defect that would allow jury to find for plaintiff.
(Updated October 5, 1998)
Murderer Not Defamed by Media Reports of Board of Pardons Hearings
Briefed Case
Upon release, murderer sued media for accurately reporting harsh things said about him at previous Board of Pardons hearing. Materials at such hearings are absolutely privileged, but the media has the wire service defense, which allows it to rely upon news stories presumed to be true.
(Updated October 5, 1998)
Reasonable Detention of Suspected Customer Defeats Claim of False Imprisonment
Briefed Case
Security guard watched customer eat food and hide wrapper in store before leaving. Customer denied charges but returned to store to await arrival of police. Jury verdict in her favor of $100,000 for false imprisonment reversed. Shopkeeper has privilege to detain for reasonable time when there is reasonable suspicion.
(Updated October 5, 1998)
Slip-and-Fall Finding Requires Notice by Owner of Dangerous Condition
Briefed Case
Verdict for store patron who slipped and fell on macaroni salad reversed by Texas high court. Court held that patron was only person who saw macaroni, which may not be sufficient evidence that store had constructive evidence of the danger.
(Updated October 5, 1998)
Property Owner Not Liable for Independent Contractor's Death
Briefed Case
Amoco employed Union Tank Car to clean and maintain its tank cars at an Amoco facility. Union employee died in tank car that was not properly marked as to content, but Amoco was not liable because Union was independent contractor that required its employees to follow its, not Amoco's, safety procedures.
(Updated May 29, 1998)
Trespasser Has No Cause of Action for Injuries Suffered When Stealing Property
Briefed Case
Plaintiff was severely burned when attempting to steal copper from an electric panel. His suit against property owners for not taking more precautions to protect trespassers dismissed by Connecticut high court, which found that the property owners were not on notice about trespassers for this purpose.
(Updated May 29, 1998)
Property Owner May Be Liable For Independent Contractor's Negligence
Briefed Case
Retailer may be liable for negligence of independent contractors who designed entryway and maintained entryway in a slip and fall case. Owner of business premises is subject to liability for the independent contractor's negligence.
(Updated May 29, 1998)
Spouse of Dismissed Employee Could Not Bring Tort Action Against Employer
Briefed Case
Spouse of fired law firm associate sued law firm for numerous tort claims for injuries she suffered from the dismissal of her spouse. Court held that employer had no duty to her that had been breached, so she had no cause of action.
(Updated May 29, 1998)
$50,000 Damages Allowed for Spectator Pulled from Seat by Miami Heat Mascot
Briefed Case
Fan pulled from seat at Miami Heat basketball game by team mascot fell and was humiliated. Jury award of $50,000 was upheld on appeal despite offer by Heat of $100,000 to settle, which fan had rejected.
(Updated May 29, 1998)
Hot Coffee at Burger King Sold to Motorist May be Defective for Being Too Hot Briefed Case
Motorist's son was burned by cup of coffee sold at Burger King window. Appeals court held that design defect (too hot) and failure to warn (of the heat) claims could not be dismissed on summary judgment and were for the jury.
(Updated May 29, 1998)
Adequacy of Warning Label for Jury to Decide
Briefed Case
A twenty-year old died from intentionally sniffing butane despite a warning against inhalation written on the container. Appeals court held it was for jury to decide if the warning label was adequate in terms of content and prominent placement of the warning to determine liability of the manufacturer.
(Updated 4-6-98)
Rescuer Suffering Emotional Distress From Witnessing Death of Stranger May Not Recover
Briefed Case
A person who witnesses the death of an unrelated person does not have a claim for emotional distress in Massachusetts. The distress may be real, but the law must limit liability with some certainty.
(Updated 4-6-98)
Failure to Inspect for Workplace Dangers Does Not Impose Liability on State
Briefed Case
Workers injured or killed in fire at chicken-processing plant in North Carolina that had never been inspected by state Occupational Safety agency could not sue under Tort Claims Act because the public duty doctrine holds that the agency operated for the benefit of the general public, not individual workers.
(Updated 4-6-98)
Auto Repair Shop Not Liable for Returing Repaired Car to Drunk Driver
Briefed Case
Drunk driver stopped at a repair shop and had some simple repairs performed. After paying and leaving, the drunk driver killed another driver in an accident. Negligence suit by decedent's heirs dismissed. Repair shop had a duty to return bailed auto to bailor once work was finished.
(Updated 3-11-98)
Bullet Maker Not Liable Due to Obvious Danger of Products if Misused
Briefed Case
Heirs of murder victims suit against hollow-point bullet maker dismissed. Under New Jersey law, the obvious danger of a product provides a complete defense for the producer.
(Updated 2-3-98)
Liability Imposed on Bondsman for Obtaining the Arrest of the Wrong Man
Briefed Case
Bail bondsman knew he was having the police in another state arrest a man he claimed jumped bail. Jury's award to the man falsely arrested upheld on appeal for meeting the elements of malicious prosecution.
(Updated 2-3-98)
Repetitive Stress Injury Clock Runs From Time Injury Apparent
Briefed Case
New York's high court determined that in RSI cases stemming from keyboard use, cause of action accrues upon the onset of symptoms or last use of the injury-producing device.
(Updated 2-3-98)
Ski Injury Due To Other Skier's Negligence Not Actionable
Briefed Case
Skier injured due to negligent action of other skier is barred from suit by the doctrine of primary assumption of risk.
(Updated 2-3-98)
City Parking Lot Held Part of Recreation Facility for Purposes of Tort Immunity
Briefed Case
Patron of City of Chicago football stadium suffered injuries from tripping over concrete block placed on dimly lit walkway in parking lot. Illinois supreme court held that Tort Immunity Act extends to the parking lot, so there is no liability for negligent maintenance of parking lot.
(Updated 1-16-98)
Distinction Between Latent Defect and Patent Defect Limited in Indiana
Briefed Case
Changing a long-standing rule, the Indiana supreme court held that the difference between a latent defect and a patent defect is irrelevant in determining whether a duty of care exists. The relevant test is whether there was a reasonable inspection regardless of the kind of defect.
(Updated 1-16-98)
Joint and Several Liability Applied to Property Owners in Parking Lot Assault
Briefed Case
Florida supreme court held that negligence by retail store owners, by providing inadequate security to protect patrons, resulted in a criminal attack. Property owners are subject to joint and several liability in the negligence action by the crime victim.
(Updated 1-16-98)
Liability for Shopper's Slip-and-Fall Depends on All Circumstances
Briefed Case
Shopper in grocery store slipped, fell, and suffered injury. Her suit against the store was dismissed because she admitted she did not look at the site on which she placed her foot. Modifying Georgia law, the supreme court held that the courts must review all circumstances to determine responsibility.
(Updated 1-16-98)
Res Ipsa Loquitur Does Not Apply If Defendant Did Not Have Exclusive Control
Briefed Case
Claim that farm equipment was damaged by mud over a gas pipeline rejected by court of appeals which held that res ipse loquitur could not apply because defendant pipeline owner did not have exclusive control over the pipeline.
(Updated 1-16-98)
Tort Claims Arising from Oklahoma City Bombing To Be Tried in State Court
Briefed Case
Tort claims were filed in Kansas state court against the distributors of fertilizer used in the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. Defendants request to move to federal court rejected because all claims are under state law and state court is competent to evaluate federal laws regarding fertilizer handling that may have been violated.
(Updated 1-16-98)
Product Misuse by Child Does Not Bar Design Defect Claim
Briefed Case
Jury can find design defect in strict liability claim against lighter manufacturer who warned of dangers to children on product package but did not incorporate safety feature into lighter design in case where three-year-old started fire that injured another child.
(Updated 12-29-97)
Train Crossing on Private Road Not Subject to Warning or Obstruction Safeguards
Briefed Case
Couple was killed when they drove in front of a train on a private road. They did not yield for the train, which did not blow a whistle at the crossing. Court held the jury could find it was not negligent for the railroad not to use the safety procedures required of it at public road crossings.
(Updated 12-29-97)
Hearing Protection Warning Held Inadequate to Shield Gun Maker from Liability
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld verdict against gun maker when shooter suffered hearing loss when gun misfired and explosion caused hearing damage. Fact that warning of need to wear hearing protection was on gun and ammunition did not preclude jury from imposing liability.
(Updated 11-14-97)
Nightclub Not Liable to Patron Assaulted Outside
Briefed Case
Nightclub patron was assaulted outside of the club while waiting for friends. Since club did not know of the assault or have reason to believe that it would occur, there is no premises liability.
(Updated 11-14-97)
No Invite To Appear on Oprah for Former "Friend"
Briefed Case
Plaintiff claimed to have been a friend of Oprah Winfrey. He wished to sell his story about her alleged regular cocaine use to the media. She called him a liar and no publications would buy his story. His suit for defamation and interference with prospective economic advantage dismissed.
(Updated 11-14-97)
Pardon Me Boy, Is That a Federally Approved Railroad Crossing?
Briefed Case
Arkansas high court held that once a railroad crossing has complied with the Federal Railroad Safety Act standards, a railroad cannot be found negligent with respect to the warning devices it has in place to deter accidents at that crossing.
(Updated 11-14-97)
Shoplifter Statute Not License to Beat Suspected Shoplifters
Briefed Case
Suspected shoplifter alleged she was beaten while held in the back of a store for an hour before turned over to police. Virginia supreme court held that state statute protecting merchants from tort action for detaining shoplifters does not extend to willful torts.
(Updated 11-14-97)
Athlete Assumed the Risk in Accident Rendering Him Paralyzed
Briefed Case
High school student, during unsupervised volleyball team warmups, suffered paralysis from the chest down when he tried to dive over the net and landed on his head. Jury award against school district of $14.9 million reversed. Student assumed the risk of horsing around in violation of school rules.
(Updated 10-15-97)
Clint's Day Is Made; Enquiring Judges Uphold Verdict
Briefed Case
Judgment for Clint Eastwood against National Enquirer upheld. Tabloid injured Eastwood's reputation by creating impression that he granted it an interview. Since the editors had to know there was no interview, there was actual malice against a public figure.
(Updated 10-3-97)
Cigarette Warning Labels Do Not Apply to Second-Hand Smoke
Briefed Case
Shaw asserts that his lung cancer is due to years of exposure from riding in a truck with a smoker. He sued the cigarette maker claiming, among other things, failure to warn and misrepresentation due to lack of notice of risk of second-hand smoke. District court refused to dismiss the claims since the federal warning notice on cigarettes does not mention second-hand smoke dangers.
(Updated 10-3-97)
Home Builder All Wet About Wet Basement Report
Briefed Case
Professional engineer's negative report about a home a couple was considering buying caused them to drop negotiations. The builder then sold the house for $15,000 less. Another engineer stated that the problem was not serious. Builder's suit for tortious interference with a prospective business relationship must fail because there was nothing improper about the engineer's methods.
(Updated 10-3-97)
Bar Owner Not Liable for Injuries from Barroom Brawl
Briefed Case
Sudden, vicious attack of bar patron by another patron does not constitute the element of causation under negligence claim against bar owners; therefore Minnesota Supreme Court reversed negligence finding against bar owners.
(Updated September 12, 1997)
Hackers Beware of Golf Shots Which Could
Give Rise to Negligence Claims

Briefed Case
Landowner adjacent to golf course sues country club on nuisance, assault and battery and negligence claims when hit by errant golf ball; Supreme Court of Rhode Island reverses summary judgement for defendant in part and affirms only negligence claim.
(Updated September 12, 1997)

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