Justia South Dakota Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court reversing the decision of the Department of Labor denying Taylor Hughes's workers' compensation claim for an alleged work-related back injury, holding that the circuit court correctly held that Hughes was entitled to recover for his injury.After a hearing, the Department determined that Hughes had not proven by a preponderance of the evidence that his disability was caused by a workplace injury and that his work activities were a major contributing cause of his disability. The circuit court reversed, determining (1) the Department erred by applying the incorrect standard to the causation of the injury, and (2) the Department's finding that Hughes failed to establish causation was clearly erroneous. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court properly overturned the Department's decision because Hughes proved by a preponderance of the evidence that his injury was work-related and that his employment was a major contributing cause of his current condition. View "Hughes v. Dakota Mill & Grain" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court affirming the decision of the Department of Labor and Regulation denying Steven Billman's application for permanent total disability benefits, holding that the Department's determination that Billman was not obviously unemployable was clearly erroneous.During his employment, Billman suffered a work-related injury that required the amputation of his left leg just below the knee. The Department denied Billman's application for benefits, finding that Billman was not obviously unemployable and that he failed to conduct a reasonable job search. The circuit court affirmed the Department's findings. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Billman established that he was obviously unemployable, and therefore, he was entitled to odd-lot disability benefits. View "Billman v. Clarke Machine, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this insurance dispute arising from an employee's death, the Supreme Court remanded the determination that the employer's insurer providing underinsured motorist coverage and workers' compensation insurance was entitled to a lien on a portion of settlement proceeds received by the estate, holding that, given a lack of factual findings, there was no way to evaluate whether the court clearly erred in its assessment of the various factors impacting an equitable allocation.Charles Luze died in a work-related accident. His employer paid his wife, Jeanette Luze, workers' compensation benefits. Jeanette, as the representative of Charles's estate, then brought suit against the negligent driver and settled the claim. The estate also settled a claim against the New FB's insurer providing underinsured motorist coverage, Zurich American Insurance Company, which was also New FB's workers' compensation carrier. The circuit court determined that Zurich was entitled to a statutory workers' compensation lien on fifty percent of the settlement proceeds received by the estate and was able to subrogate against its own settlement payment of underinsured benefits. The Supreme Court remanded in part, holding (1) this Court was unable meaningfully to review the circuit court's allocation determination; and (2) the circuit court properly allowed Zurich to subrogate against the amount it paid in underinsured motorist benefits. View "Luze v. New FB Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court granting Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings and dismissing Plaintiff's fraud and deceit claims, holding that the claims were time barred.Plaintiff sued a law firm and its attorneys, alleging legal malpractice, fraud and deceit related to their representation of Plaintiff on criminal charges. The circuit court granted judgment on the pleadings for Defendants, concluding that the claims were time-barred by the three-year statute of repose for legal malpractice under S.D. Codified Laws 15-2-14.2. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that the circuit court erred in dismissing the fraud and deceit claims because those claims were subject to a six-year statute of limitations. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff's fraud and deceit claims were subsumed within his malpractice claim; and (2) therefore, all of Plaintiff's claims were precluded under the repose statute. View "Slota v. Imhoff" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court granting the motion to dismiss filed by the City of Sioux Falls and denying Plaintiffs' motion to amend their complaint alleging negligence against the City, holding that the court did not err by granting the City's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.Plaintiff was injured when her apartment collapsed after a contractor demolished certain portions of a load-bearing wall. Plaintiff and her parents sued the City, alleging negligence for issuing a building permit for the project. The City filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the public duty rule barred the suit and that Plaintiffs failed to plead sufficient facts to establish that the City owed them a special duty to bring them within the exception to the public duty rule. The circuit court granted the motion to dismiss, concluding that the complaint failed to allege sufficient facts to establish that the City owed Plaintiffs a special duty of care. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) a special duty was not created by the City's issuance of the permit, and therefore, the circuit court properly dismissed the complaint; and (2) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in denying Plaintiffs' motion for leave to amend. View "Fodness v. City Of Sioux Falls" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court in favor of Appellee in this workers' compensation case, holding that an error led to the exclusion of relevant evidence and incorrect jury instructions that impacted the jury's verdict, which prejudiced Appellants.Fern Johnson sued her former employer and its workers' compensation carrier (collectively, Appellants) alleging bad faith and conversion based on their denial of previously ordered workers' compensation medical benefits. A jury returned a verdict for Johnson. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for a new trial, holding (1) the circuit court did not err when it concluded that Appellants' legal obligation to pay Johnson's benefits was not fairly debatable; but (2) the circuit court erred when it determined that the lack of a reasonable basis to deny benefits necessarily impacted the jury's consideration of the separate bad faith element concerning Appellants' knowledge. View "Johnson v. United Parcel Service, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court granting summary judgment for Hospital on Nurse's claims for wrongful discharge, breach of contract, and defamation, holding that summary judgment was proper.Hospital terminated Nurse after it discovered errors in Nurse's documentation of controlled substances and Nurse's inability to account for controlled substances revamped from the dispensing system. Nurse brought suit against Hospital alleging several claims. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Hospital on all claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that summary judgment was properly granted in favor of Hospital. View "Henning v. Avera McKennan Hospital" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court concluding that coverage did not exist under an automobile insurance policy issued to Shelby Olsons' parents or an automobile policy issued to the shooter for injuries sustained by Shelby when she was struck by a bullet while riding in the backseat of her parents' vehicle, holding that the circuit court did not err.Shelby was struck by a bullet when the driver of another vehicle fired a handgun at the Olsons' vehicle. At issue was whether coverage for Shelby's injuries existed under the automobile policy issued to her parents or under the automobile policy issued to the shooter. The circuit court concluded that coverage did not exist under either policy because the injuries did not arise out of the use of a vehicle and, alternatively, were not caused by an accident. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of the insurance companies. View "Olson v. Slattery" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court in favor of Prussman Contracting, Inc., holding that the court did not abuse its discretion.Dennis Sedlacek commenced this suit against Prussman, alleging general negligence and failure to train and supervise its employees. Sedlacek sought damages for injuries he allegedly sustained while repairing a crane owned by Prussman. The jury returned a general verdict in favor of Prussman. On appeal, Sedlacek argued that he was prejudiced by the court's rulings restricting his ability to argue that Prussman violated Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) standards. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that even if this restriction was outside of the circuit court's range of permissible choices, Sedlacek could not establish that the error produced the adverse verdict. View "Sedlacek v. Prussman Contracting, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court affirming the decision of the South Dakota Department of Labor dismissing Plaintiff's petition seeking workers' compensation benefits for lack of prosecution, holding that Plaintiff engaged in activity within a year before the motion to dismiss was filed.Plaintiff filed a petition with the Department seeking disability benefits and medical expenses arising from her workplace injury. Eventually, Employer/Insurer filed a motion to dismiss for lack of prosecution under ARSD 47:03:01:09, asserting that there had been no activity for at least one year and that Plaintiff had failed to show good cause for the delay. The Department granted the motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Department abused its discretion in dismissing the appeal because its decision was based upon its erroneous conclusion that Plaintiff's participation in a vocational rehabilitation program was not "activity" under ARSD 47:03:01:09. View "Laplante v. GGNSC Madison, S.D." on Justia Law