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Law360's Tort Report: Suit Over Chris Cornell's Suicide Settles

By Y. Peter Kang · May 17, 2021, 6:48 PM EDT

The settlement of a suit over the lead singer of Soundgarden's death and the passage of legislation giving Missouri businesses a coronavirus liability shield lead Law360's Tort Report, which compiles recent personal injury and medical malpractice news that may have flown under the radar.

Soundgarden Singer's Family Settles Med Mal Death Suit

The family of the late Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell has settled a medical malpractice suit accusing a doctor of negligently prescribing dangerous drugs for the singer that purportedly led him to take his own life.

The widow of the singer, Vicky Cornell, and other family members asked the court in April to approve a proposed settlement, according to California state court records. Terms of the deal were not discussed and an attorney for the family did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A jury trial had been set for June 23, according to court records.

Chris Cornell was 52 years old was when he died by suicide in May 2017, and his widow said in a November 2018 complaint that he might still be alive if Dr. Robert Koblin had not prescribed her husband more than 940 doses of lorazepam — a controlled substance used to treat seizures and anxiety — along with various doses of the pain medication oxycodone during the last 20 months of his life.

"His family is suing ... Koblin ... for negligently and repeatedly prescribing dangerous mind-altering controlled substances to Chris Cornell, which impaired Mr. Cornell's cognition, clouded his judgment and caused him to engage in dangerous and impulsive behaviors that he was unable to control, costing him his life," the complaint states.

Citing her husband's past struggles with substance abuse and chemical dependency, Cornell said that Koblin never performed a medical examination of her husband during those 20 months before he died but continued to prescribe him the medications. Cornell alleged that the prescriptions were made "by or through Koblin's nonphysician staff unsupervised by him through an electronic online computerized system or by calls to various pharmacies."

The case is Cornell et al. v. Koblin et al., case number 18STCV03256, in the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles.

Missouri COVID-19 Biz Liability Shield Bill Sent To Gov.'s Desk

The Missouri House of Representatives voted Friday to approve a bill giving businesses and health care providers a legal safe harbor from COVID-19 injury and death suits, sending the measure to Gov. Mike Parson, who is widely expected to sign it into law.

The Republican-controlled House passed S.B. 51 in an 97-57 vote held on the last day of the legislative session. If signed, the measure would give civil immunity to corporations, hospitals, nursing homes, government entities, schools and churches, among others, as long as the alleged negligence doesn't involve "recklessness or willful misconduct." Also included are manufacturers of products related to the pandemic, such as vaccine makers.

The bill includes a provision stating that if a business owner posts a COVID-19 warning sign outside the premises that essentially acts as a liability waiver for virus injuries, then a plaintiff must overcome a rebuttable presumption that they assumed the risk of entering the premises.

The proposed law would go into effect on Aug. 28 upon the governor's signature and would create a two-year statute of limitations for claims against businesses and a one-year time limit for medical malpractice suits.

Ex-NHL Player Alleges Sex Assault By Chicago Blackhawks Coach

The National Hockey League's Chicago Blackhawks did nothing to prevent an assistant coach from sexually assaulting a hockey player in 2010, according to a suit recently filed in Illinois state court.

The unnamed player alleges that coach Bradley Aldrich sent him inappropriate text messages, masturbated to porn videos in front of him and threatened the player financially and emotionally if he did not engage in the unspecified sexual activity, according to a May 7 complaint.

The player alleges that even though the team was aware that Aldrich — who was convicted as a sex offender in 2013 and served time in prison for an unrelated sexual assault of a minor — had previously sexually assaulted another player it failed to do anything to prevent the assault from occurring.

In addition, the player said he reported the incident to a "mental skills coach" employed by the team who "convinced Plaintiff that the sexual assault was his fault, that he was culpable for what happened, made mistakes during his encounter with the perpetrator and permitted the sexual assault to occur."

The case is John Doe v. Chicago Blackhawk Hockey Team Inc., case number 2021-L-004728, in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois.

Cruise Line Settles Proposed Class Action Over COVID-19 Infections

Celebrity Cruises has settled a proposed class suit lodged by a New York couple who say they caught COVID-19 onboard a ship traveling to South America, according to court filings.

Fred and Marlene Kantrow informed a New York federal judge on May 3 that the parties have reached a settlement of a suit filed in May 2020 alleging they contracted COVID-19 in March 2020 aboard the Celebrity Eclipse after the cruise line concealed the truth about the health of guests on board and continued to hold events, including an elbow-to-elbow salute to health care workers battling the disease.

Terms of the deal were not discussed in the filing; attorneys for the parties did not respond to requests for comment or terms of the settlement.

In April, U.S. District Judge Joan A. Lenard heavily trimmed the suit, tossing claims asserted on behalf of putative class members who were merely exposed to COVID-19 but did not contract the virus. The judge also tossed the Kantrows' claims that they suffered emotional distress based on their fear of contracting coronavirus.

The case is Kantrow et al. v. Celebrity Cruises Inc., case number 1:20-cv-21997, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

--Editing by Emily Kokoll.

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