In a subrogation action, one party is substituted to the rights and remedies of another with respect to a lawful claim. The substituted party (the subrogee) is legally able to pursue any right or seek any remedy that would be available to the subrogor regarding that claim. But can a defendant in a subrogation action assert any claim against the subrogee that it would have against the subrogor? In Federated Mut. Inc. Co. v. Kosciusko County, No. 3:20-CV-960, 2021 U.S. Dist. Lexis 88735, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana considered whether a defendant could assert counterclaims against the insureds/subrogors in an action filed in the name of their subrogee. The court held that since the insurerds/subrogors were not a party to the action and the defendant could assert the substance of its counterclaim as a defense, the defendant could not file counterclaims against the insureds/subrogors in the insurer’s subrogation action. Continue reading
Pennsylvania recognizes the malfunction theory in product liability cases. This theory allows a plaintiff to circumstantially prove that a product is defective by showing evidence of a malfunction and eliminating abnormal use or reasonable, secondary causes for the malfunction. The malfunction theory is available to plaintiffs as an alternative to proving a traditional strict product liability case in those circumstances where direct evidence of a product defect is not found. In Pa. Nat’l Mut. Cas. Ins. Co. v. Sam’s East, Inc., 727 MDA 2020, 2021 Pa. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 752, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania (Superior Court) considered whether the plaintiffs could avail themselves to the malfunction theory if the plaintiffs’ expert was able to examine the product. Continue reading
In Lennar Northeast Props. v. Barton Partners Architects Planners, Inc, C.A. No. 16-cv-12330-ADB, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11800, the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts considered whether a property owner’s construction defect claims against a contractor were barred by the six-year statute of repose for improvements to real property. Massachusetts’ statute of repose, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 260, § 2B, bars tort actions against those involved in the design, planning, construction or general administration of an improvement to real property more than six years after the earlier of the dates of (1) the opening of the improvement to use; or (2) substantial completion of the improvement and the taking of possession or occupancy by the owner. Finding that, despite the fact that the plaintiff’s actions were labeled as contract, breach of warranty and consumer protection act claims, the complaint alleged actions sounding in tort. Thus, the court applied the statute of repose to these claims. Continue reading
In Kenney v. Watts Regulator Co, No. 20-2995, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4539 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 11, 2021), the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania considered whether to exclude the plaintiff’s liability expert’s testimony regarding the sufficiency of the defendant’s product maintenance instructions. The plaintiff offered the testimony in support of his failure-to-warn product defect claim. The District Court excluded the testimony because the facts of the case did not support the plaintiff’s failure-to-warn claim, which rendered the testimony irrelevant. This case establishes that expert testimony can be excluded if there is an improper fit between the testimony and the underlying claim. Continue reading
In Kornbleuth v. Westover, 2020 N.J. LEXIS 298, the Supreme Court of New Jersey considered whether the trail court properly dismissed the plaintiffs’ trespass claim against their neighbors for failing to offer evidence of diminution of the market value of their property. The Supreme Court upheld the dismissal, finding that the plaintiffs’ damages could not be determined, as a matter of law, because they did not offer evidence of the diminution of market value of their property as a result of the trespass. Although the plaintiffs presented evidence of the cost to restore the property, the court held that determining the applicable measure of damages for a trespass claim is dependent on the diminution of market value and whether or not the restoration costs are proportionate to that value. Continue reading
In Rodriguez v. City of New York, 2018 N.Y. LEXIS 793, 2018 NY Slip Op. 02287 (Apr. 3, 2018), New York’s Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court, addressed the question of whether a plaintiff, in moving for summary judgment on the issue of the defendant’s liability, also needs to establish the absence of his or her own comparative negligence. In a 4-3 decision, a majority of the court held that, because the plaintiff’s comparative negligence is a matter of damages, not liability, the plaintiff does not bear that burden. Continue reading
In Genuine Parts Company v. Cepec, — A.3d –, 2016 WL 1569077 (Del. Apr. 18, 2016), the plaintiffs, Ralph and Sandra Cepec, who are Georgia residents, filed suit against, among others, Genuine Parts Company (Genuine Parts), a Georgia corporation that was properly registered to do business in Delaware. The plaintiffs filed suit to pursue asbestos-related personal injury claims having nothing to do with Genuine Parts’ activities in Delaware. Genuine Parts moved to dismiss the claims against it for lack of general and specific personal jurisdiction. The trial court denied Genuine Parts’ motion, finding that, by complying with Delaware’s statute requiring foreign corporations to register to do business in Delaware and to appoint an in-state agent for service of process, Genuine Parts consented to general jurisdiction in Delaware. Because the Superior Court based its finding on a theory of express consent to personal jurisdiction, the court did not conduct a due process inquiry.
When an insurer, as subrogee of its insured, files suit against a defendant to recover its subrogated payments, the defendant, not infrequently, files a third-party complaint against the insured. Typically, the defendant alleges that, if it is liable, then the insured, based on his or her contributory negligence, is liable to the defendant for contribution. Insureds, however, cannot be liable in tort to themselves.
In Sanislo v. Give Kids the World, Inc., 157 So.3d 256 (Fla. 2015), the Supreme Court of Florida considered whether a party to a contract, in order to be released from liability for its own negligence, needs to include an express reference to negligence in an exculpatory clause. The court held that, unlike an indemnification clause, so long as the language in an exculpatory clause is clear, the absence of the terms “negligence” or “negligent acts” in an exculpatory clause does not, for that reason alone, render the exculpatory clause ineffective.
Georgia’s apportionment statute, OCGA § 51-12-33, requires a jury, in some cases, to apportion responsibility for an injury among all those who contributed to it – whether a party to the lawsuit or not – based on each person’s respective share of combined fault. After the apportionment, each defendant’s liability is limited to his or her apportioned percentage. In Zaldivar v. Prickett, — S.E.2d –, 2015 WL 4067788 (Ga. July 6, 2015), the plaintiff, Daniel Prickett (Prickett), sued Imelda Zaldivar (Zaldivar) to recover for injuries that Pricket allegedly sustained in a motor vehicle accident. Zaldivar sought to apportion fault to a non-party, Overhead Door Company, Prickett’s employer, arguing that Overhead Door Company negligently entrusted its vehicle to Prickett. In addition to overruling prior case law precluding, as a matter of law, first-party claims based on negligent entrustment, the court considered whether “fault” can be apportioned to a tortfeasor whose negligence was a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury but who is otherwise immune from liability.