Articles Posted in Personal Injury

by
This dispute centered on subrogation claims Victoria Insurance Company and Nationwide Insurance Company asserted against the City of Wilmington. This appeal presented a question of first impression before the Supreme Court: whether, under Delaware's motor vehicle insurance statute governing subrogation disputes among insurers and self-insurers, the losing party may appeal de novo to the Superior Court from an adverse arbitration award. In considering consolidated motions to dismiss two such appeals filed by the City against the insurers, the Superior Court determined that 21 Del. C. 2118(g)(3), which mandated arbitration for subrogation disputes arising between insurers and self-insurers, did not provide a right to appeal. Because the statute unambiguously provided for appeals from mandatory arbitration of subrogation disputes between insurers and self-insurers, the Supreme Court reversed. View "City of Wilmington v. Nationwide Insurance Co." on Justia Law

by
A jury found that plaintiffs-appellants Andrew and April Rash "sustained one or more injuries proximately caused by" negligence on the part of defendant-appellee Justin Moczulski following an auto accident. However, the jury returned a zero verdict. Plaintiffs moved for a new trial. The Superior Court denied the motion for a new trial but imposed an additur of $10,000. Plaintiffs appealed, arguing: (1) the trial court’s denial of their motion for a new trial was an abuse of discretion; and (2) the award of$10,000 for additur was unreasonable. Defendants, Moczulski and Diamond Materials, LLC, cross-appealed, contending that the motion for a new trial should have been denied without additur. After review, the Supreme Court found that there were significant disputed issues concerning the nature and extent of Mr. Rash’s injuries as well as alleged failure on his part to mitigate his injuries through treatment. In its order denying plaintiffs’ motion for a new trial, the trial court observed that “the exact nature and extent of Plaintiff’s injury [and] Plaintiff’s failure to mitigate his injuries through treatment made identifying and compensating the injury quite problematic,” an observation with which the Supreme Court agreed. Under the circumstances of this case, the Court found no abuse of discretion in the trial court’s decision to award an additur. View "Rash v. Moczulski" on Justia Law

by
Magdalena Guardado, an undocumented worker, was employed as a machine manager for Roos Foods when she was involved in a work-related accident. She injured her left wrist and thereafter received total disability benefits. The employer petitioned the Industrial Accident Board (“the Board”) to terminate those benefits on the ground that the worker was no longer disabled and could return to work. The Board found: (1) the employer met its initial burden of showing that the worker was no longer totally disabled; (2) that the worker was a prima facie displaced worker based solely on her status as an undocumented worker; and (3) the employer had failed to meet its burden of showing regular employment opportunities within the worker’s capabilities. Accordingly, it denied the employer’s petition. The questions this case presented for the Delaware Supreme Court's review were: (1) whether an injured worker’s immigration status alone rendered her a prima facie displaced worker; and (2) whether the Board properly found that the employer failed to meet its burden of showing regular employment opportunities within the worker’s capabilities because its evidence failed to take into account the worker’s undocumented status. The Court concluded that an undocumented worker’s immigration status was not relevant to determining whether she was a prima facie displaced worker, but it was a relevant factor to be considered in determining whether she is an actually displaced worker. The Court also concluded that the Board correctly rejected the employer’s evidence of regular employment opportunities for the worker because that evidence failed to consider her undocumented status. View "Roos Foods v. Guardado" on Justia Law

by
This issue this case presented for the Supreme Court's review centered on whether the collateral source rule should apply when Medicaid pays for an injured party’s medical expenses. The Delaware Supreme Court held that, when Medicaid has paid an injured party’s medical expenses, the collateral source rule cannot be used to increase an injured party’s recovery of past medical expenses beyond those actually paid by Medicaid. "As with Medicare, the difference is unnecessary to make the injured party whole because it is paid by no one." Appellant Jennifer Smith, was injured in two car collisions. Although employed when her injuries occurred, Smith qualified for Medicaid coverage. At first, her treating physician sought to recover his standard charges of $22,911 from the proceeds of any personal injury settlement. But later, the treating physician opted to forego his original billed amount, and instead billed Medicaid for his charges. Medicaid paid the treating physician $5,197.71, and asserted a lien in that amount on the proceeds of any recovery by settlement or lawsuit. When all was netted out, the Superior Court entered judgment against the defendants jointly and severally for $49,911. Relying on the applicable case law, the trial court determined that “Delaware case law is clear that the collateral source rule does not apply to Medicaid or Medicare write-offs.” In its decision here, the Delaware Supreme Court refused to extend operation of the collateral source rule and affirmed the superior court's judgment. Also affirmed was the Superior Court’s ruling that future medical expenses were not subject to Medicaid reimbursement limitations. "Unlike Medicare, Medicaid coverage is income dependent, and might not be available if a plaintiff improves her financial position to a living wage and secures other insurance. Because of the uncertainty of future coverage, Medicaid benefits cannot be used to limit a plaintiff’s future medical expenses." View "Smith v. Mahoney" on Justia Law

by
Appellant Greenville Country Club, through its workers’ compensation carrier, Guard Insurance (“Guard”), appealed a Superior Court Order affirming a decision of the Industrial Accident Board (the “Board”). While working for Greenville Country Club, Jordan Rash suffered injuries to his lumbar spine in two separately compensable work accidents. The first accident occurred in 2009 while the country club was insured by Guard Insurance Group. The second accident occurred in 2012 while the country club was insured by Technology Insurance (“Technology”). In 2014, Rash filed two Petitions to Determine Additional Compensation, one against Guard and one against Technology. After a hearing, the Board determined that the condition at issue was a recurrence of the 2009 work injury and not an aggravation of the 2012 work injury, and concluded that Guard was therefore wholly liable for the additional compensation to Rash. Guard appealed, arguing: (1) the Board failed to properly apply the rule for determining successive carrier liability; and (2) there was no substantial evidence to support the Board’s finding that Rash fully recovered from the 2012 accident or that his ongoing condition was solely caused by the 2009 work accident. After review, the Delaware Supreme Court found no error in the Board’s decision, and that the decision was supported by substantial evidence. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the Board's decision. View "Greenville Country Club (Guard Insurance) v. Greenville Country Club (Technology Insurance)" on Justia Law

by
A group of Texas plaintiffs alleged that a corporation exposed two employees to chemicals that caused two of the employees' children to suffer from birth defects. The Superior Court judge excluded expert testimony as irrelevant under Delaware law because it would have been insufficient as a matter of Texas law. The judge did not reach the testimony's reliability under Delaware law. Because the plaintiffs waived their argument that California or Delaware substantive law applied, the Supreme Court affirmed the Superior Court judge's ruling that Texas substantive law applies. But before the Court could address whether a judge may consider substantive sufficiency when analyzing procedural admissibility, the case was remanded for the Superior Court judge to determine in the first instance whether the testimony at issue is excludable on reliability grounds.View "Tumlinson, et al. v. Advanced Micro Devices, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Employee-appellant, Gary Andreason appealed a Superior Court judgment affirming two Industrial Accident Board decisions. The first decision awarded compensation to Andreason for his work-related knee and right shoulder injuries, but denied compensation for a separate and unrelated lower back injury. The second decision denied Andreason's reargument motion challenging the Board's denial of compensation for his lower back injury. Andreason argued on appeal to the Supreme Court: (1) the Board erred as a matter of law when it determined that there was no implied agreement to compensate him for his lower back injury; (2) that title 19, section 2322(h) does not apply when compensation is paid as the result of a unilateral mistake. The Court concluded all of Andreason's arguments were without merit. View "Andreason v. Royal Pest Control" on Justia Law

by
A plaintiff who was injured in an accident sought PIP benefits from an insurance carrier. The Superior Court applied Delaware's current three-part test and analyzed: (1) "whether the vehicle was an 'active accessory' in causing the injury," (2) "whether there was an act of independent significance that broke the causal link between use of the vehicle and the injuries inflicted," and (3) "whether the vehicle was used for transportation purposes." After concluding that the insured vehicle was not used for transportation purposes, the court granted the insurance carrier's motion for summary judgment. Upon reexamination of the statutory framework for PIP coverage, the Supreme Court concluded that the test's "transportation purposes" element should have been rejected. Therefore, the Court reversed the Superior Court judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings.View "Kelty v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co." on Justia Law

by
After meeting with a high-school guidance counselor, a teenaged student said he was feeling alone and unloved, and had attempted suicide. The Counselor talked with the student for four hours; at the end of the discussion, the counselor felt the student no longer posed a threat to himself and sent him back to class. The school did not notify the student's parents of his statements or acts. After the student went home that day, he killed himself. The student's family sued the school district for wrongful death. The district court granted the district summary judgment, finding no duty to the student, and no wrongful act under the wrongful death statute. Plaintiffs appealed, asserting a common law duty based on the special relationship between a school and its students. The Supreme Court found no merit to plaintiffs' appeal except for a negligence per se claim. The alleged violations of the State Department of Education’s and the School District’s mandatory requirements to notify a parent or guardian of the student’s crisis situation state, in the Court's view, a claim of negligence per se. Accordingly, the judgment of the Superior Court was reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Rogers, et al. v. The Christina School District, et al." on Justia Law

by
A vice principal of an elementary school asked a Delaware State Trooper to come to the school give a talk about bullying to four or five fifth grade students who were under “in-school suspension.” The next day, the principal was told that there had been a bullying incident involving an autistic student whose money had been taken from him on the school bus by "AB." The principal told AB’s mother about the incident, and asked her permission to have the officer talk to AB. AB’s mother consented. The officer arrived and was told what happened. The principal and officer went to a room where AB was waiting. The principal was called away, leaving the officer alone with AB. The officer got AB to admit that he had the money (one dollar), but AB claimed that another student had taken the money. AB said that he did not know that other student’s name, but that the student was seated with AB on the school bus. Without discussing the matter with the principal, the officer followed up on AB’s claim despite being virtually certain that AB was the perpetrator. The officer obtained the bus seating chart, found AB's seat-mate, brought the two students together and questioned that student in the same manner as AB. According to the other child, the officer used a mean voice and told him 11 or 12 times that he had the authority to arrest the children and place them in jail if they did not tell the truth. AB finally admitted to taking the money from the autistic student. When he got home from school, the seat-mate told his mother what had happened. The child withdrew from school and was home schooled for the rest of that school year. The mother filed suit on her son’s behalf, as well as individually, against the Cape Henlopen School District, the Board of Education of Cape Henlopen School District, the principal, the State, the Department of Safety and Homeland Security, the Division of the Delaware State Police, and the officer, Trooper Pritchett (collectively, Pritchett). Charges against all but the officer were eventually settled or dismissed; Pritchett successfully moved for summary judgment, and this appeal followed. Viewing the record in the light most favorable to the child, the Supreme Court held that there was sufficient evidence to raise issues of material fact on all claims against the officer except a battery claim. Accordingly, the Court affirmed in part and reversed in part. View "Hunt v. Delaware" on Justia Law