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    Alfred C. Shackelford III

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    ADMIRALTY: Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death

    Posted by Alfred C. Shackelford III on Fri, Oct 21, 2022 @ 12:10 PM

    The Lawletter Vol 47 No 3

    Fred Shackelford—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

                In a case of apparent first impression, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has decided when a cause of action in admiralty for wrongful death accrues. In Deem v. William Powell Co., 33 F.4th 554 (9th Cir. 2022), a shipyard machinist contracted mesothelioma while employed in repairing naval vessels. His illness was diagnosed on February 20, 2015, and he died on July 3, 2015. His wife filed suit within three years of his death but more than three years after the illness was diagnosed. The federal district court ruled that the claim was time-barred because the three-year statute of limitations began to run at the time of the diagnosis.

                The issue on appeal was succinctly stated: "When does a wrongful death claim accrue in a maritime case?" Id. at 559. To decide the question, the appellate court recognized that there is a fundamental distinction between survival actions and wrongful death actions under admiralty law.

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    Topics: Alfred C. Shackelford III, wrongful death, statute of limitations, admiralty, accrual of claim

    INSURANCE: Evidence—Admissibility of Tortfeasor’s Insurance Coverage

    Posted by Alfred C. Shackelford III on Fri, Apr 8, 2022 @ 10:04 AM

    The Lawletter Vol 47 No 2

    Fred Shackelford—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

            In Capriati Construction Corp. v. Yahyavi, 137 Nev. Adv. Op. 69, 498 P.3d 226 (2021), a motorist brought an action against a forklift operator's employer to recover for injuries caused by a collision with the forklift. At trial, the forklift operator admitted fault, and the plaintiff told the jury that the defendant had discarded the forklift operator’s employment file. After the plaintiff rested, the defendant employer elicited testimony that it had filed for reorganization under the bankruptcy laws. The plaintiff objected on the ground that the bankruptcy evidence was inadmissible because it suggested that the defendant would be unable to pay a judgment. The defendant argued that the evidence was introduced in order to rebut the plaintiff’s allegation of spoliation of the employment file.

            The trial court agreed with the plaintiff and instructed the jury that the defendant had liability insurance to satisfy any verdict. On appeal, an issue of first impression was whether evidence of the defendant’s liability insurance was admissible.

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    Topics: Alfred C. Shackelford III, Insurance, evidence of ability to pay, admissibility of evidence, defendant's insurance policy

    PERSONAL INJURY: Bystander Recovery for Grandparents

    Posted by Alfred C. Shackelford III on Thu, Nov 11, 2021 @ 11:11 AM

    The Lawletter Vol 46 No 6

    Fred Shackelford—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

         In a case of first impression, New York’s highest court has expanded the scope of “bystander recovery” for the negligent infliction of emotional distress. A cause of action for negligent infliction of emotional distress compensates a witness for experiencing shock and emotional distress as a result of observing harm to another person. In many states, recovery for the negligent infliction of emotional distress is limited to persons who are in the zone of danger and who witness injury to someone who is a member of their family.

         In Greene v. Esplanade Venture Partnership, 36 N.Y.3d 513, 2021 WL 623832 (2021), the plaintiff and her two-year-old granddaughter were in front of a building when they were struck by debris that fell from its façade. The child died the next day, and the grandmother sued various defendants for emotional distress that she experienced as a result of witnessing injury to her granddaughter.

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    Topics: Alfred C. Shackelford III, personal injury, negligent infliction of emotional distress, bystander recovery

    PERSONAL INJURY: Technology Expands Recovery for Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress

    Posted by Alfred C. Shackelford III on Mon, Sep 13, 2021 @ 12:09 PM

    The Lawletter Vol 46 No 5

    Fred Shackelford—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

         The concept of bystander liability was first recognized by American courts in the landmark California case of Dillon v. Legg, 68 Cal. 2d 728, 441 P.2d 912 (1968). Today, most courts allow recovery under this doctrine, also known as negligent infliction of emotional distress ("NIED"). Under this theory of liability, a tortfeasor can sometimes be held liable to a bystander who experiences emotional distress from observing a direct injury to another person. Under Dillon, bystander liability was limited by foreseeability, and courts would take into account such factors as (1) whether the plaintiff was located near the scene of the accident as opposed to a distance away from it; (2) whether the shock resulted from a direct emotional impact upon the plaintiff from the sensory and contemporaneous observance of the accident rather than learning of the accident from others after its occurrence; and (3) whether the plaintiff and the victim were closely related, as contrasted with an absence of any relationship or only a distant relationship.

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    Topics: Alfred C. Shackelford III, personal injury, negligent infliction of emotional distress, bystander liability, live-stream audio and video

    PERSONAL INJURY: Medical Malpractice—Liability Without a Doctor-Patient Relationship

    Posted by Alfred C. Shackelford III on Wed, Dec 18, 2019 @ 09:12 AM

    The Lawletter Vol 44 No 6

    Fred Shackelford—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

                Can a hospitalist be held liable for advising against admitting a patient to a hospital when he has no doctor-patient relationship and no direct contact with the patient? In Warren v. Dinter, 926 N.W.2d 370 (Minn. 2019), Susan Warren arrived at a health clinic with symptoms of abdominal pain, fever, and chills. A nurse practitioner (Simon) ordered tests and concluded that the patient had an infection that required hospitalization. Simon then called a local hospital to seek admission for the patient, and her call was randomly assigned to Dr. Richard Dinter, a hospitalist on call. Although the facts were disputed as to the nature of the conversation between Simon and Dr. Dinter, the Warren court accepted the nurse's account that Dr. Dinter decided that the patient did not need to be admitted to the hospital.

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    Topics: medical malpractice, personal injury, doctor-patient relationship, hospitalist, foreseeability of harm

    TORTS: Government's Liability for Child Abuse by Foster Parents

    Posted by Alfred C. Shackelford III on Wed, Jun 19, 2019 @ 10:06 AM

    The Lawletter Vol 44 No 4

    Fred Shackelford—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

                Can a government agency be held liable in tort when a child is abused by a foster parent? The Washington Supreme Court addressed this issue of first impression in H.B.H. v. State, 429 P.3d 484 (Wash. 2018). In that case, several children were placed in foster care with a couple who abused the children physically, sexually, and psychologically over a five-year period. For a year during that period, social workers failed to conduct mandatory in-home health and safety checks, and the agency ultimately recommended that the foster parents be allowed to adopt the children. Years later, two of the children brought a tort action against the state Department of Social and Health Services (“DSHS”).

                The DSHS argued that it owed no common-law duty because the children were not in the agency's physical custody at the time the abuse occurred. Rejecting that argument, the court concluded that a detailed statutory scheme created a special relationship between the agency and the children. The custodial relationship between the DSHS and the children gives rise to a common-law duty in accordance with Restatement (Second) of Torts § 315(b). The court found that such a special relationship exists even though the DSHS did not have actual physical custody of the children.

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    Topics: torts, Alfred C. Shackelford III, government liability, foster parent abuse, common-law duty

    TORTS: Therapist's Liability for Eliciting False Memories of Sexual Abuse

    Posted by Alfred C. Shackelford III on Thu, Dec 27, 2018 @ 10:12 AM

    The Lawletter Vol 43 No 8

    Fred Shackelford—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

                When individuals are accused of sexual misconduct on the basis of "recovered memories," courts must sometimes decide whether a therapist can be held liable for eliciting such memories from patients. In Mower v. Baird, 2018 UT 29, 422 P.3d 837 (as corrected July 11, 2018), the plaintiff's ex-wife took the couple's child to a therapist, who suspected child abuse. The therapist contacted authorities and was told to gather more information. Contrary to established guidelines, the therapist continued therapy instead of asking a forensic interviewer to talk to the child. Subsequently, there was a "supported" finding of sexual abuse against the plaintiff.

                The plaintiff sued the therapist for medical malpractice and negligence, but the trial court found that the therapist owed no duty to him. The Mower court examined five factors in deciding whether a duty exists:

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    Topics: torts, Alfred C. Shackelford III, inappropriate treatment techniques, therapist, eliciting recovered memories, improper application of treament

    TORTS: Is Your Computer Tracking You?

    Posted by Alfred C. Shackelford III on Fri, Sep 28, 2018 @ 10:09 AM

    The Lawletter Vol 43 No 4

    Fred Shackelford, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

                In a case of first impression, the Wyoming Supreme Court has adopted the intrusion upon seclusion branch of the common-law tort of invasion of privacy. In Howard v. Aspen Way Enterprises, Inc., 2017 WY 152, 406 P.3d 1271 (Wyo. 2017), the plaintiffs leased computers from a rent-to-own store. They alleged that the store installed software on the computers that allowed the store to track the computers' locations, remotely activate the computers' webcams, and capture screen shots and key strokes. The customers sued the store, alleging claims for the invasion of privacy and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The lower courts ruled that Wyoming does not recognize a claim for the intrusion upon seclusion.

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    Topics: torts, invasion of privacy, tracking by computer, intrusion upon seclusion

    PERSONAL INJURY: Comparative Fault in Crashworthiness Cases

    Posted by Alfred C. Shackelford III on Mon, Jan 8, 2018 @ 11:01 AM

    The Lawletter Vol 42 No 10

    Fred Shackelford, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

                Can a plaintiff motorist's comparative fault be considered in crashworthiness cases based on strict liability or breach of warranty? That was the issue of first impression for the South Carolina Supreme Court in Donze v. General Motors, LLC, 420 S.C. 8, 800 S.E.2d 479 (2017). In Donze, the plaintiff passenger had been smoking synthetic marijuana earlier in the day. He sustained severe burn injuries when the truck in which he was riding burst into flames after colliding with another vehicle at a controlled intersection. The accident occurred because the truck driver failed to stop and pulled directly in front of the other vehicle.

                The plaintiff brought a crashworthiness case against the truck's manufacturer, alleging that the truck's design was defective because the gas tank was placed outside of the truck's frame. Two issues were certified to the Donze court:

    1. Does comparative negligence in causing an accident apply in a crashworthiness case when the plaintiff alleges claims of strict liability and breach of warranty and is seeking damages related only to the plaintiff's enhanced injuries?
    2. Does South Carolina's public policy bar impaired drivers from recovering damages in a crashworthiness case when the plaintiff alleges claims of strict liability and breach of warranty?
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    Topics: personal injury, comparative fault, strict liability, crashworthiness cases, breach of warranty

    PERSONAL INJURY: Effect of Injured Party's Immigration Status

    Posted by Alfred C. Shackelford III on Thu, Jul 20, 2017 @ 12:07 PM

    The Lawletter Vol 42 No 6

    Fred Shackelford, Senior Attorney,National Legal Research Group

                In a case of first impression, the Indiana Supreme Court has addressed two issues that affect actions arising from injuries to plaintiffs who are in the United States unlawfully. In Escamilla v. Shiel Sexton Co., Inc., 73 N.E.3d 663 (Ind. 2017), an unauthorized immigrant (a Mexican citizen) was injured while working as a masonry laborer at an Indiana job site. He sued the general contractor, which argued that his immigration status should bar him from recovering damages for decreased earning capacity. The Escamilla court addressed both that issue and the admissibility of the plaintiff's status.

                As to the first issue, the court ruled that the plaintiff could recover damages for decreased earning capacity. The court relied upon the Open Courts Clause in the state's constitution, which mandates that courts shall be open and that "every person . . . shall have remedy by due course of law." Id. at 665. The court reasoned that "[w]e cannot read the Open Courts Clause's 'every person' guarantee to exclude unauthorized immigrants." Id. at 667.

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    Topics: personal injury, admissibility, damages for decreased earning capacity, unauthorized immigration status, Indiana Open Courts Clause

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