Justia South Dakota Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Injury Law
Hernandez v. Avera Queen of Peace Hosp.
This lawsuit centered around the termination of the employment of Dr. Sonia Hernandez by Avera Queen of Peace Hospital (Avera). Hernandez brought suit against Avera and multiple persons associated with the hospital for, inter alia, defamation and breach of contract. The circuit court dismissed several of Hernandez’s causes of action and, during the ensuing jury trial, entered judgment as a matter of law dismissing the defamation action. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Avera on the breach of contract claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err (1) when it dismissed several of Hernandez’s claims against Avera and the additional parties, and (2) when it dismissed Hernandez’s defamation claim during trial. View "Hernandez v. Avera Queen of Peace Hosp." on Justia Law
Magner v. Brinkman
Plaintiffs and Defendants owned abutting properties. This lawsuit centered on the drainage of water from Defendants’ property onto Plaintiffs’ property. Specifically, Plaintiffs contended that Defendants caused an increased amount of drainage on Plaintiffs’ land by altering the natural flow of water across Defendants’ land. After a jury trial, Plaintiffs were awarded $9,950 in damages. Defendants requested judgment as a matter of law, arguing that Plaintiffs failed to offer proof that Defendants caused the increase in drainage. The court denied the motions. The court subsequently granted Plaintiffs a permanent injunction ordering Defendants to pay an additional $28,936 to Plaintiffs for repairs and preventive landscaping. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that the circuit court (1) did not err by Defendants’ motions for judgment as a matter of law, as Plaintiffs’ testimony was sufficient to permit the jury to conclude that Defendants caused the water invasion; and (2) erred in granting the injunction, as S.D. Codified Laws 21-8-14 did not authorize the first half of the injunction, and, even if it did, the second half of the injunction was overbroad and an abuse of discretion. View "Magner v. Brinkman" on Justia Law
Karst v. Shur-Co.
Richard and Susan Karst sued Shur Company and Wilson Trailer Company alleging defective design and improper warnings related to Shur’s electric-tarp system that Wilson Trailer included on a grain trailer it sold to Richard. The trial court granted summary judgment to Defendants on the Karsts’ failure-to-warn claims and granted summary judgment to Wilson on the Karsts’ negligent-defective-design claim. After a jury trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Defendants on the Karsts’ remaining claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in (1) instructing the jury on strict liability; (2) granting summary judgment on the Karsts’ improper-warnings claims; and (3) refusing to admit evidence of the warnings that were provided. View "Karst v. Shur-Co." on Justia Law
Erickson v. Earley
Tyler Erickson filed a petition for a protection order against Austin Earley, a fellow hunter. The circuit court found in favor of Erickson, determining that Earley’s actions constituted stalking, and granted Erickson a permanent order of protection. Earley appealed, arguing that the circuit court abused its discretion by granting the protection order and that the protection order violated his right to free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Earley’s actions constituted harassment, and therefore, the circuit court did not abuse its discretion by granting the protection order; and (2) the protection order did not violate Earley’s right to free speech because “freedom of expression does not include threatening or harassing conduct.” View "Erickson v. Earley" on Justia Law
Pitt-Hart v. Sanford USD Med. Ctr.
In November 2009, Plaintiff underwent a knee-replacement surgery at Sanford USD Medical Center. The day after the surgery, when he was still hospitalized, Plaintiff fell while walking with assistance from a patient-care technician. After being discharged, Plaintiff underwent inpatient rehabilitation and outpatient physical therapy. In September 2012, Plaintiff sought additional physical therapy for the alleged effects of the injury resulting from his fall. When Sanford declined to pay for additional treatment, Plaintiff commenced this action. Sanford moved for summary judgment, asserting that Plaintiff’s action was time-barred under S.D. Codified Laws 15-2-14.1 as a medical malpractice claim. The circuit court granted the motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that he commenced his action within the three-year statute of limitations applicable to general-negligence actions and that the circuit court erred in determining his action was time barred. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff’s action against Sanford was one for error or mistake, and therefore, section 15-2-14.1’s two-year period of repose applies; and (2) principles of estoppel and tolling are inapplicable to a period of repose, and the continuous-treatment rule did not toll section 15-2-14.1’s period of repose under the facts of this case. View "Pitt-Hart v. Sanford USD Med. Ctr." on Justia Law
Gores v. Miller
Fifteen-year-old Haley Gores was a passenger in a vehicle driven by Steven Smith when Smith lost control of the vehicle. Haley was treated by Dr. Lisa Miller for injuries she received during the accident. Dawn Gores, Haley’s mother and conservator, signed a general release in exchange for a settlement with Smith and Smith’s insurer. The release did not specifically name the treating physician or clinic, but it released al other claims that might develop from the accident. Haley and Dawn subsequently filed a malpractice suit against Dr. Miller and Yankton Surgical Associates (YSA), Dr. Miller’s practice group. Dr. Miller and YSA filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the release discharged Plaintiffs’ claims against them. The circuit court granted summary judgment, concluding that, based on the language of the release, the malpractice claims were discharged as a matter of contract. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court correctly determined that the release barred Plaintiffs’ claims as a matter of contract. View "Gores v. Miller" on Justia Law
Foster-Naser v. Aurora County
Travis Naser died in a one-vehicle accident that occurred at a T intersection at a dead-end road. The east-west road (“268th Street”) was located in Aurora County. Lynn Foster-Naser, Travis’s wife, brought suit against Aurora County for wrongful death, alleging that the County negligently failed to maintain the double-arrow sign on 268th Street. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the County, concluding that Aurora Township had a statutory duty to maintain the double-arrow sign on 268th Street, and Aurora County did not assume a duty to repair or maintain the Township’s signage when it agreed to maintain the Township’s roads. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Foster-Naser failed to present sufficient probative evidence that the County’s contract agreement to provide road maintenance included an agreement to maintain and repair the Township’s roadway signage. View "Foster-Naser v. Aurora County" on Justia Law
Smizer v. Drey
Dorothy and Harlan Smizer were seriously injured when a vehicle driven by Christina Drey collided with the Smizers’ vehicle. The Smizers brought suit against Christina alleging negligence and seeking to recover compensatory and punitive damages. The circuit court granted the Smizers’ motion for partial summary judgment on the issue of Christina’s negligence and granted Christina’s motion for partial summary judgment on the issue of punitive damages. The court also granted Christina’s motion for sanctions under S.D. Codified Laws 15-6-11(c), concluding that the Smizers did not conduct a reasonable investigation in law or fact to support their claim for punitive damages and that the Smizers improperly sought punitive damages to attempt to leverage a settlement of their negligence claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion when it held that the Smizers had no basis in law or fact to assert their claim for punitive damages and brought their claim for an improper purpose. View "Smizer v. Drey" on Justia Law
Zerfas v. AMCO Ins. Co.
David Zerfas swerved to avoid a deer carcass in his lane of travel and lost control of his vehicle. Zerfas died after his vehicle was hit by oncoming traffic. Zerfas’s wife, Stacey, sought uninsured motorist benefits with their automobile insurance company, AMCO Insurance Company, alleging that an unidentified driver left the deer carcass in the lane of travel, which caused Zerfas to lose control of his vehicle. AMCO denied Stacey’s claim on the grounds that Stacey would not legally be entitled to recover damages from the unidentified driver. Stacey subsequently brought a breach of contract action against AMCO. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of AMCO, concluding that the unidentified driver did not have a legal duty to Zerfas to remove the carcass or warn of its existence. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that no common law or statutory duty existed between the unidentified driver and Zerfas, and therefore, the circuit court did not err in granting AMCO summary judgment. View "Zerfas v. AMCO Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Klein v. Sanford USD Med. Ctr.
Plaintiff was admitted to the intensive care unit at the Sanford USD Medical Center (Hospital) after being struck in the throat and head during an altercation. Plaintiff insisted on leaving the Hospital against medical advice. After Plaintiff left the Hospital, he brutally assaulted his neighbors. Plaintiff pleaded guilty to multiple charges related to the assault but was found not guilty by reason of mental illness. Plaintiff later brought this suit against the Hospital, alleging that the Hospital negligently failed to assess his mental condition after he insisted on leaving against medical advice, which made him a danger to himself and others. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the Hospital on the grounds that S.D. Codified Laws 34-12C-7 applied, which provides good faith immunity to health care providers who follow a patient’s direction for his or her own health care, and that Plaintiff alleged no facts alleging bad faith. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court correctly found that section 34-12C-7 applies and that there was no disputed issue of material fact that the Hospital acted in good faith. View "Klein v. Sanford USD Med. Ctr." on Justia Law