tort law

Dolan v. United States Postal Service

Issues 

Does the Federal Tort Claims Act's exception for "negligent transmission" of mail by employees of the United States Postal Service apply to claims of physical harm to individuals due to employee negligence in delivering mail, or is it limited to claims of mail damaged by employee negligence?

 

Petitioner Barbara Dolan sustained serious injuries when she tripped over a stack of letters, packages, and other mail that an employee of the United States Postal Service left on her porch. She sued the United States Postal Service and the United States in federal court under the Federal Tort Claims Act, alleging that the United States Postal Service employee's negligence that led to her fall made them responsible for her injuries. The district court dismissed Dolan's complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and found that the "negligent transmission" exception to the Federal Tort Claims Act barred claims for physical injury, as well as those for damaged or delayed mail. In granting certiorari, the United States Supreme Court must determine the scope of the statutory exception to the Federal Tort Claims Act, and whether it truly extends to "any claim" arising out of negligent transmission, including those for physical injury to individuals, or whether it is limited to claims for damaged mail.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

Does not this case – which involved a determination of whether the district court had jurisdiction over the claim of plaintiff when her injury was caused by the negligent placement of mail at the place of delivery – call for an exercise of this Court's supervisory power where there is a dispute between the circuits of the Court of Appeals as to whether the exception to the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. ? 2680(b) barred this lawsuit and where the Third Circuit narrowly construed the Act?

Barbara Dolan ("Dolan") was injured when she tripped over a stack of mail that a United States Postal Service ("USPS") employee had left in front of her house. Brief for the Respondents at 2.

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Bruesewitz v. Wyeth, Inc.

Issues 

Whether 42 U.S.C. § 300aa-22(b)(1) of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act provides a blanket immunity to vaccine manufacturers from tort actions filed in state or federal court by injured victims seeking compensation for injuries allegedly arising from defectively designed vaccines.

 

After their daughter suffered severe health problems following a routine vaccination for diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (“DTP”), Russell and Robalee Bruesewitz sued Wyeth, Inc., the manufacturer of the vaccine, alleging that Wyeth’s DTP vaccine was outmoded and inadequately designed. In response, Wyeth argued that Section 22(b)(1) of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act (“NCVIA”) exempted vaccine manufacturers from all design-defect claims, including the one asserted by the Bruesewitz family. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Wyeth and dismissed the claim. The Supreme Court must now determine whether to sustain the categorical preclusion of all design-defect claims advanced against vaccine manufacturers, or whether to expose vaccine manufacturers to potential design-based litigation. This decision will affect the right of vaccine victims to seek compensation for their injuries and the ability of vaccine manufacturers to avoid costly litigation that may drive them out of the vaccine market.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

Whether the Third Circuit erred in holding that, contrary to its plain text and the decisions of this Court and others, section 22(b)(1) preempts all vaccine design defect claims, whether the vaccine’s side effects were unavoidable or not?

This case turns on the Supreme Court's interpretation of the word “unavoidable” as it is used in 42 U.S.C. § 300aa-22(b)(1) of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act (“NCVIA”). See Bruesewitz v. Wyeth Inc., 561 F.3d 233, 245 (3d Cir.

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Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA)

Overview

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act is better known as CERCLA. It is codified in 42 U.S.C. Chapter 103.

Appropriation

One of several torts falling under the category of invasion_of_privacy. Appropriation occurs when a defendant uses a plaintiff's name, likeness, or image without his or her permission for commercial purposes. When a defendant uses a plaintiff's name or likeness for a newsworthy purpose, however, this does not fall under the tort of appropriation and can be used as a defense by defendants.

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Unascertainable Cause

In this situation, multiple defendants are simultaneously negligent, but only one injury results, leaving a state of uncertainty over which defendant's breach caused the plaintiff's injury and which defendant should be held liable. In this case, the court deals with this situation by shifting the burden of proof on each of the defendants to provide evidence to prove that their breach of duty did not cause the plaintiff's injury. If neither defendant can satisfy this burden of proof, then both defendants can be held joint and severally liable.

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Merged Causes

A case where two defendants separately breach duties owned to a plaintiff, but there is an issue proving but-for causation in that each defendant can use the defense that neither of their breaches were there but-for causation of the plaintiff's harm, since the plaintiff would have been harmed even if one defendant did not breach his or her duty to the plaintiff.

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