On May 27, 2022, the Circuit Court of Cook County ruled that Illinois’ recently enacted prejudgment interest statute is unconstitutional. Hyland v. Advocate Health and Hospitals Corporation, et al., No. 2017-L-003541. We reported on the passage of that statute here. In Hyland, a wrongful death/medical malpractice case, the court ruled that the statute violated the right to trial by jury and the prohibition against special legislation. This order will surely face appellate scrutiny, but for now it raises some uncertainty over the valuation of personal injury and wrongful death cases pending within the state.
Just a decade ago, it was still an open question whether parties could challenge the admissibility of expert testimony in class certification proceedings. The United States Supreme Court recognized the issue in Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 564 U.S. 338 (2011), and suggested that experts should be scrutinized as usual, noting that “The District Court concluded that Daubert did not apply to expert testimony at the certification stage of class-action proceedings. We doubt that this is so . . .” Since then, multiple circuits have taken that hint and held that a court must conduct a full Rule 702 analysis before deciding whether to certify a class. The Fifth Circuit, in Prantil v. Arkema Incorporated, 986 F.3d 570 (5th Cir. 2021), became the fourth federal court of appeal to adopt this rule expressly. As the district court’s recent decision on remand in Prantil demonstrates, a full Rule 702 analysis can make the difference between certifying or rejecting a class.
As things stand, a spouse who marries a decedent post-injury cannot recover wrongful death damages in the Fourth District but can recover such damages in the Fifth District. All eyes are on the Florida Supreme Court to resolve the confusion, contradiction and uncertainty facing some Florida litigants related to wrongful death claims.
The Florida Supreme Court has accepted a proposed rule amendment to permit interlocutory appeals of court orders on punitive damages claims. On January 6, 2022, the Florida Supreme Court approved by 6-1 an amendment to Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.130 to allow interlocutory appeals of nonfinal orders granting or denying leave to amend a complaint to assert a claim for punitive damages. Prior to this amendment, a party could only appeal such an order by petitioning for a writ of certiorari. And in that posture, the appellate court’s review was limited only to whether the trial court complied with the procedural requirements for making such a claim.
Practically, this means Florida appellate courts will be able to immediately review trial court orders regarding punitive damages claims on both procedural and substantive grounds. With this amendment, the merits of a plaintiff’s punitive damages claim can now be appealed prior to any discovery of a defendant’s financial information. The new rule takes effect April 1, 2022.
Three circuit court decisions issued in the past two weeks have considered the CMS vaccine mandate, bringing the issue – and similar vaccine mandate lawsuits – to the Supreme Court in the final weeks of the year. The CMS mandate generally requires that facilities certified to participate in Medicare or Medicaid ensure their staff are fully vaccinated against COVID unless the employee is exempt for medical or religious reasons. CMS issued the vaccine mandate on November 5, 2021. It went into effect immediately, with staff to be fully vaccinated by January 4, 2022.
For some time, we have been following the emerging case law on whether companies, such as Amazon, that create an online marketplace for other sellers, may be held liable when products supplied by those sellers cause injury. The cases have gone both ways, but on November 30 Amazon added another ruling to its win column when a New York appellate court upheld a ruling dismissing negligence and breach-of-warranty claims based on injuries allegedly caused by a defective service from a third-party provider on a product sold by a third party on Amazon’s website.
In Wallace v. Tri-State Assembly LLC (Case No. 2020-04820), the First Department of New York’s Appellate Division affirmed an order dismissing claims against Amazon by an individual who was injured after the handlebars on his electric bike came apart, causing him to fall. His father ordered the bike on Amazon’s website from a third-party seller in China, and at the same time purchased an assembly option from an Amazon-approved service provider, Tri-State. Plaintiff alleged that Amazon and its “agents” were negligent and breached warranties of fitness and merchantability.