Justia U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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Southern and Affiliated provide insurance coverage for the Ogletree House, an on-campus building at the University, located in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. In February 2013, the house was one of several university buildings damaged by a tornado. Southern contends, inter alia, it is not liable because, under its policy’s valuation provision, the loss by its insured, the University of Southern Mississippi Alumni Association (association), is “nothing” for coverage purposes. Affiliated, the insurer for the University, contends Southern is fully responsible for the loss, and, in the alternative, contests the district court’s pro rata allocation of liability. The district court denied summary judgment for Southern, and granted it in part for the association and Affiliated. The court concluded that Southern is not entitled to summary judgment where its valuation condition can be construed as ambiguous; and, in the alternative, its construction of its policy engenders an unfair or absurd result. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Southern Ins. Co. v. Affiliated FM Ins." on Justia Law
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Plaintiff, an employee of the School Board, filed suit alleging that she was sexually harassed by Timothy Graham, another board employee, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq. The district court granted the board’s motion for summary judgment. The court concluded that there is a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether the School Board is entitled to immunity under the Ellerth/Faragher defense. Therefore, the court reversed as to this issue. In this case, the district court erred in holding that the board’s efforts to prevent sexual harassment were reasonable as a matter of law. Plaintiff produced evidence that, if believed, would show that employees at the central office were not trained on sexual harassment, were not informed of the existence of a policy, were not shown where to find it, and were not told whom to contact regarding sexual harassment. The court concluded that this would be a sufficient basis for a reasonable jury to find that the company did not take reasonable steps to prevent and remedy sexual harassment. The court also concluded that, because plaintiff did not show the existence of a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether Graham was her supervisor in the third harassment period, the district court was correct to conclude that he was not; the court rejected plaintiff's argument that using different liability standards for the distinct periods of harassment would unduly confuse the jury; and, because plaintiff does not have any properly presented and preserved argument for why the board knew or should have known about the harassment, she cannot make out a prima facie case under the standard for coworker sexual harassment. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Pullen v. Caddo Parish Sch. Bd." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against his employer, Supreme, under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 201 et seq. After the action was filed but, according to Supreme, before it had learned of the suit, the company announced a new policy requiring employees to arbitrate employment disputes, including FLSA claims. The district court denied Supreme’s motion to dismiss or compel arbitration. The court reversed, concluding that the arbitration agreement is binding and contains a delegation clause transferring the power to decide threshold questions of arbitrability to the arbitrator. The court remanded and directed the district court to enter an order compelling arbitration. View "Kubala, Jr. v. Supreme Production Serv." on Justia Law

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Petitioner seeks review of the BIA's order dismissing his appeal of the IJ's order of removal. At issue is whether petitioner became a lawful permanent resident in 2000, when the INS officer signed the I-89 Form certifying that he was eligible for a permanent resident card, or in 2004, when USCIS formally approved his application and actually issued the card. The court agreed with the BIA that petitioner became a permanent resident in 2004, after his eighteenth birthday, when USCIS formally approved his application pursuant to 8 U.S.C. 1255(b). Therefore, petitioner is not entitled to citizenship under the Child Citizenship Act of 2009 (CCA), 8 U.S.C. 1431. In the alternative, the court concluded that, pursuant to Robertson-Dewar v. Holder, there is no evidence that the United States purposefully delayed ruling on petitioner's application with the intent of not acting therein until he had aged out of the statute, so there is no evidence of affirmative misconduct. Therefore, the court rejected petitioner's equitable estoppel argument. The court denied the petition. View "Gutierrez v. Lynch" on Justia Law
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Plaintiff was employed by Securitas, a security staffing company, and was placed as a receptionist at a company called Fidelity. Plaintiff filed suit against Securitas and Fidelity, alleging that they terminated her due to her age - she was 83-years-old. Plaintiff also alleged that Securitas terminated her in violation of Section 623(a) of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. 621−34, and sought liquidated damages, injunctive relief, and attorney’s fees. The court concluded that the district court erred as to the identity of the employer where Securitas has admitted that it was plaintiff's employer; there was some evidence which created a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether Securitas should have known of discrimination by Fidelity and the court reversed the grant of summary judgment as to this issue; and, depending on the outcome of the district court’s re-evaluation of whether Securitas did enough once learning Fidelity wanted plaintiff removed, the district court should also consider whether that re-evaluation affects its earlier analysis of Securitas’s decision to terminate her. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Nicholson v. Securitas Security" on Justia Law

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This case arose from a suit filed by plaintiff against defendants, alleging civil rights violations. The court held that a notice of appeal of a district court’s judgment is timely filed when it is docketed in a district court’s Case Management/Electronic Case Files (CM/ECF) system and a notice of electronic filing of that appeal is sent to counsel. In this case, notice of electronic filing received by plaintiff reflected that her appeal was filed one day late. Accordingly, the court dismissed plaintiff's appeal for lack of jurisdiction. View "Sudduth v. TX Health & Human Serv. Comm'n" on Justia Law
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Plaintiff filed suit against WAF and RMS, alleging breach of a reverse mortgage agreement and fraudulent inducement. Plaintiff primarily argued that the property’s foreclosure could have been avoided if WAF had not issued a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (a HECM) in violation of the United States Housing and Urban Development (HUD) guidelines. The court held that HUD regulations govern the relationship between the reverse-mortgage lender and HUD as insurer of the loan. HUD regulations do not give the borrower a private cause of action unless the regulations are expressly incorporated into the lender-borrower agreement. The court affirmed the district court's summary judgment dismissal, holding that plaintiff cannot assert a claim against defendants for breach of HUD regulations, there was no breach of contract, and no valid fraudulent inducement claim. View "Johnson v. World Alliance Fin. Corp." on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenge the EPA's action disapproving Oklahoma’s and Texas’s plans for controlling regional haze and imposing EPA’s own plans instead. The court denied EPA’s motion to dismiss or transfer because the Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. 7401, gives jurisdiction over petitions for review to the courts of appeal generally and because the Act’s forum selection clause designates the regional circuit as the appropriate venue for this challenge. The court granted the motion for a stay pending resolution of the petitions for review on the merits because petitioners have demonstrated a strong likelihood of success on the merits, because they are likely to suffer irreparable injury in the absence of a stay while EPA has not shown similar injury from the issuance of a stay, and because the public interest weighs in favor of a stay. View "State of Texas v. EPA" on Justia Law
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Petitioner, an American citizen and national, was convicted of homicide and injuries in Mexico. Pursuant to the Treaty on Execution of Penal Sentences, petitioner was transferred from Mexico to the United States. At issue is the USPC's contest of the court's jurisdiction and petitioner's assertion that the USPC’s determination of his release date was substantively unreasonable, in light of his claim that it failed to account for the abuse he suffered while imprisoned in Mexico. Because petitioner challenges the substantive reasonableness of his sentence based on the USPC’s refusal to vary downward, the court concluded that it has jurisdiction to review his claim. On the merits, the court concluded that petitioner failed to overcome the presumption of reasonableness for his within-Guidelines sentence of 204 months in prison. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for review. View "Gomez v. USPC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the city, alleging claims for hostile work environment, quid pro quo, and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq. On appeal, plaintiff challenged the district court's reduction of her attorney fee award. The district court concluded that the ratio between attorney’s fees and damages was excessively disproportionate. The court vacated the fee award and remanded for determination of a new fee award, concluding that there is no requirement of strict proportionality between attorney’s fees and damages. View "Combs v. City of Huntington" on Justia Law
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