Justia U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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In 1974, when Sarkees was 19, he worked for Goodyear for seven months. Sarkees believed he was exposed to the chemical ortho-toluidine (OT). He took chemical samples and unloaded railroad tank cars, the majority of which contained OT, he drove a forklift to load Nailax2 (made with OT), and he manually cleaned Nailax reactors and packaged Nailax. While conducting many of these tasks, Sarkees recognized the smell of OT and experienced chemicals splashing on his skin. He often cleaned the inside of Nailax reactors, wearing “the same contaminated coveralls for the entire work shift.” Sarkees approximated that he cleaned the filters “more than 80 times,” inhaling a “strong chemical smell” and fumes without a respirator. A 2014 Department of Health and Human Services report states, “Epidemiological studies have demonstrated a causal relationship between exposure to o-toluidine and urinary-bladder cancer in humans.” Beginning in 1998, Sarkees participated in a bladder cancer screening program offered by Goodyear to former employees. In 2016, he was diagnosed with bladder cancer.The district court dismissed his suit for negligence and strict products liability, after excluding expert testimony that OT was the specific cause of his cancer. The Second Circuit vacated. In excluding the expert’s opinion, the district court improperly relied on a state court evidence ruling instead of the applicable federal evidence rule. The evidence is admissible under Federal Rule 702 and “Daubert.” View "Sarkees v. E. I. DuPont de Nemours and Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a pro se medical malpractice action under the Federal Tort Claims Act, alleging that he suffered dental injuries during several appointments while incarcerated by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) at Federal Correctional Institution Danbury. Plaintiff initially filed suit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, which sua sponte transferred the case to the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut. That court dismissed the action for insufficient service of process because plaintiff failed to include a certificate stating that after a reasonable inquiry a good faith belief exists that there had been negligence, as required by Connecticut General Statutes 52-190a.The Second Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal of the action for insufficient service of process, concluding that Connecticut General Statutes 52-190a a is a procedural rather than substantive rule and is therefore inapplicable in civil actions in federal court. The court explained that there is no reason to overturn the transfer order. To the extent that plaintiff seeks to have this case transferred back to the Southern District of New York based on his current residence and potential witnesses located in New York, the court stated that he must move for such a transfer in the district court. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Corley v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, the estates of crew members and pilots of a civilian flight that crashed into a mountain near Kabul Afghanistan International Airport, filed suit alleging state-law wrongful death claims against Midwest, the U.S. military contractor providing air traffic control services at the airport. Plaintiffs allege that an air traffic controller's negligent instructions to the pilot caused the fatal crash. The district court granted summary judgment to Midwest, holding that the estates' claims were preempted by the combatant activities exception to the Federal Tort Claims Act and, alternatively, that the contractor neither had a duty to provide "terrain separation" for the flight nor proximately caused the accident.With respect to the jurisdictional challenge, the Second Circuit applied de novo review and concluded that the district court correctly determined that this case could be removed to federal court under the federal officer removal statute. However, as to the challenge to the grant of summary judgment to Midwest, the court applied de novo review, construing the evidence in the light most favorable to plaintiffs and drawing all reasonable inferences in their favor, and concluded that plaintiffs' claims are not preempted and that there remain genuine disputes of material fact regarding Midwest's liability for the fatal crash. The court explained that Midwest, acting through the local air traffic controller, owed a duty of care to Flight 662, and plaintiffs have produced sufficient evidence for a jury to conclude that this duty was breached and that such breach proximately caused the fatal crash. Finally, the court concluded that the parties' remaining arguments on appeal are without merit. The court vacated the district court's judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Badilla v. Midwest Air Traffic Control Service, Inc." on Justia Law

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After plaintiff suffered post-operative injuries following implantation of artificial lenses during cataract surgery, she and her husband filed suit against Bausch & Lomb, the manufacturer of the lenses, as well as related entities. On appeal, plaintiff challenged the district court's grant of defendants' motion to dismiss the negligence and failure-to-warn claims and denial of the motion for leave to amend the complaint to add a claim based on wrongful marketing.The Second Circuit reserved decision and certified two questions to the Supreme Court of Connecticut: 1) Whether a cause of action exists under the negligence or failure-to-warn provisions of the Connecticut Product Liability Act, Conn. Gen. Stat. 52-572h, 52-572q, or elsewhere in Connecticut law, based on a manufacturer's alleged failure to report adverse events to a regulator like the FDA following approval of the device, or to comply with a regulator's post-approval requirements. 2) Whether the Connecticut Product Liability Act's exclusivity provision, Conn. Gen. Stat. 52-572n, bars a claim under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act, Conn. Gen. Stat. 42-110a, et seq., based on allegations that a manufacturer deceptively and aggressively marketed and promoted a product despite knowing that it presented a substantial risk of injury. View "Glover v. Bausch & Lomb, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a second amended complaint (SAC), seeking (A) to hold the bank liable as a principal under the Antiterrorism Act of 1990 (ATA) for providing banking services to Hizbollah, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization alleged to have injured plaintiffs in a series of terroristic rocket attacks in Israel in July and August 2006; and (B) to hold the bank liable as a coconspirator or aider and abettor of Hizbollah under the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA). The district court granted defendant's motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).The Second Circuit concluded that plaintiffs having abandoned their ATA terrorism and JASTA conspiracy claims, and thus the court addressed only their JASTA aiding-and-abetting claims. In regard to the JASTA aiding-and-abetting claims, the court found merit in plaintiffs' contentions that the district court did not correctly apply the analytical framework set out in Halberstam v. Welch, 705 F.2d 472 6 (D.C. Cir. 1983), specified by Congress as the proper legal framework for assessing such claims. The Halberstam requirements for a claim of aiding and abetting are (1) that the person whom the defendant aided must have performed a wrongful act that caused injury, (2) that the defendant must have been "generally aware of his role as part of an overall illegal or tortious activity at the time that he provide[d] the assistance," and (3) "the defendant must [have] knowingly and substantially assist[ed] the principal violation."The court concluded that the district court erred in its findings as to the plausibility of, and the permissible inferences that could be drawn from, SAC allegations of the bank's knowledge that the customers it was assisting were affiliated with Hizbollah and that it was aiding Hizbollah's terrorist activities. The court explained that the plausibility of the allegations as to LCB's knowledge of Hizbollah's terrorist activities and of the customers' affiliation with Hizbollah is sufficient to permit the inference that LCB was at least generally aware that through its money-laundering banking services to the customers, LCB was playing a role in Hizbollah's terrorist activities. Furthermore, the SAC adequately pleaded that LCB knowingly gave the customers assistance that both aided Hizbollah and was qualitatively and quantitatively substantial. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's dismissal of the JASTA aiding-and-abetting claims and remanded for further proceedings. View "Kaplan v. Lebanese Canadian Bank" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of a Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) suit brought by plaintiff after he sustained injuries as a result of being struck by a USPS truck. The court agreed with plaintiff that the district court erred in finding plaintiff's presentment inadequate.The court concluded that notice required for FTCA presentment must provide a reviewing agency with sufficiently specific information as to the basis of the claim, the nature of claimant's injuries, and the amount of damages sought such that the agency can reasonably understand what it must investigate to determine liability, to value the claim, and to assess the advisability of settlement. The court also concluded that an FTCA claimant can provide the specific information required for presentment by narrative, by evidence, or by other means. Furthermore, an FTCA claimant who provides a sufficiently specific narrative need not also submit substantiating evidence to satisfy presentment. The court explained that, while a failure to present such evidence can support an agency's administrative denial of a claim, it does not deprive a district court of jurisdiction over an FTCA action subsequently filed by the claimant. In this case, plaintiff presented information sufficient to provide such notice. Accordingly, the court remanded with directions to reinstate plaintiff's complaint. View "Collins v. United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the operative amended complaints in two actions seeking to hold defendant bank liable under the Antiterrorism Act of 1990 (ATA), for providing banking services to a charitable organization with alleged ties to Hamas, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) alleged to have committed a series of terrorist attacks in Israel in 2001-2004. The actions also seek to deny leave to amend the complaints to allege aiding-and-abetting claims under the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA).The court concluded that 18 U.S.C. 2333(a) principles announced in Linde v. Arab Bank, PLC, 882 F.3d 314 (2d Cir. 2018), were properly applied here. The court explained that, in order to establish NatWest's liability under the ATA as a principal, plaintiffs were required to present evidence sufficient to support all of section 2331(1)'s definitional requirements for an act of international terrorism. The court saw no error in the district court's conclusion that plaintiffs failed to proffer such evidence and thus NatWest was entitled to summary judgment dismissing those claims. The court also concluded that the district court appropriately assessed plaintiffs' request to add JASTA claims, given the undisputed evidence adduced, in connection with the summary judgment motions, as to the state of NatWest's knowledge. Therefore, based on the record, the district court did not err in denying leave to amend the complaints as futile on the ground that plaintiffs could not show that NatWest was knowingly providing substantial assistance to Hamas, or that NatWest was generally aware that it was playing a role in Hamas's acts of terrorism. The court dismissed the cross-appeal as moot. View "Weiss v. National Westminster Bank PLC" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit reversed in part the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's amended complaint, alleging claims of unreasonable force applied by security personnel endeavoring to remove a plaintiff, a former professional basketball player and spectator, from Madison Square Garden.The court held that plaintiff's allegations sufficed to defeat a motion to dismiss the assault and battery claims in the amended complaint. In this case, plaintiff alleges that he was "thrown to the ground" by actions that "greatly exceeded the amount of force that was necessary" and "clearly exceeded the bounds of reasonable behavior," and that he "has suffered and continues to suffer harm." The court explained that the reasonable inference to be drawn is that plaintiff has been subjected to an unreasonable amount of force. The court reversed as to the causes of action for assault and battery and affirmed as to other causes of action in a summary order filed this date, remanding for further proceedings. View "Oakley v. Dolan" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Second Circuit denied a petition for review of the Benefit Review Board's decision affirming the ALJ's award of disability benefits to an employee of a defense contractor under the Defense Base Act (DBA), which extends workers' compensation benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act to certain employees of U.S. government contractors working overseas.In this case, the employee alleged that his injuries arose out of and in the course of his employment, thereby establishing a prima facie case for benefits under the LHWCA. The court held that the record supports the Board's conclusion that petitioner failed to present sufficient evidence to prove that the named defendants were not employers. Therefore, the Board did not err when it affirmed the ALJ's finding that the employee's claims were not barred under Section 933(g) of the LHWCA. View "G4S International Employment Services (Jersey), Ltd. v. Newton-Sealey" on Justia Law

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This case arose from defendants' ownership in a manufacturing facility that used and disposed perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) which contaminated the water supply in the Village of Hoosick Falls, New York. Plaintiff, a construction company operating in the Village and the property owner, filed suit alleging property damage resulting from defendants' negligence in using and disposing of PFOA. On appeal, defendant challenged the district court's denial of defendants' motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) to dismiss the claims that defendants' negligence caused the corporate plaintiff to lose revenues and caused the individual plaintiff to suffer devaluation of his land.The Second Circuit held that the district court properly denied the motion to dismiss the claim of the property owner but erred in denying the motion to dismiss the claim of the company. The court saw no error in the district court's conclusion that the principle of 532 Madison Ave. Gourmet Foods, Inc. v. Finlandia Center, Inc., 96 N.Y.2d 8 280, 727 N.Y.S.2d 49 (2001), is inapposite to the claim of the owner, because he alleged physical contamination of his property, and thus is entitled to seek damages not only for that intrusion but also for the diminution in value of the property. Therefore, the motion to dismiss the owner's negligence claim was properly denied. However, the company's negligence claim to recover its purely economic damages should have been dismissed. The court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that the remaining claims lacked merit. View "R.M. Bacon, LLC v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp." on Justia Law