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

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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After the CSSP denied ACR's claim under the Business Economic Loss (BEL) Framework of the Deepwater Economic Loss and Property Damage Settlement Agreement, ACR requested review of the decision. The district court denied discretionary review and ACR appealed. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying review because the denial does not result in a contradiction or misapplication of the Settlement Agreement. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Claimant ID 100250022 v. BP Exploration & Production, Inc." on Justia Law
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Plaintiff filed suit in state court against Crane and 24 other defendants to recover injuries allegedly caused by exposure to asbestos. After removal to federal district court, the district court remanded to state court. The court concluded that the military specifications and affidavits at issue provide a not-insubstantial and non-frivolous basis upon which Crane may assert government-contractor immunity. The court concluded, under 28 U.S.C. 1442(a)(1), that the facts in the record before it are sufficient to establish that Crane was “acting under” the Navy. In this case, Crane has established the requisite causal nexus between the charged conduct and its official authority. The court explained that Crane’s relationship with Zeringue derives solely from its official authority to provide parts to the Navy, and that official authority relates to Crane’s allegedly improper actions, namely its use of asbestos in those parts. Because Crane has established the right to remove the suit pursuant to section 1442, the court need not determine whether Crane independently established the right to remove Zeringue’s failure to warn claim. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Zeringue v. Allis-Chalmers Corp." on Justia Law

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A group of Houston-area pastors and a council representing the interests of Houston-area pastors challenged the dismissal of their claims against Annise Parker, the former mayor of Houston. This case stemmed from a heated dispute surrounding the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance ("HERO"), enacted by the city council in 2014. HERO was controversial; its supporters claimed it was a garden-variety non-discrimination ordinance mainly designed to prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered ("LGBT") persons, while its opponents maintained that it granted LGBT individuals special privileges and that, to avoid rejection, it was rammed through the council instead of being put to referendum. The district court found, variously, that plaintiffs lacked standing, that they failed to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), that they failed to show Parker was not immune from suit, and that res judicata barred their claims. Because the claims are non-justiciable, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal. View "Williams v. Parker" on Justia Law

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Relator-appellee Jeffrey Simoneaux brought a qui tam action against his former employer, E.I. duPont de Nemours & Company ("duPont"), under the False Claims Act ("FCA"). He contended that duPont had violated the reverse-false-claims provision by concealing an obligation to pay the United States a penalty arising from alleged violations of the Toxic Sub-stances Control Act ("TSCA"). He also averred that duPont had retaliated against him in violation of the FCA. DuPont unsuccessfully moved for summary judgment on both claims, and the Fifth Circuit permitted an interlocutory appeal. Because duPont had no “obligation” to pay the United States, the Court reversed and remanded the denial of summary judgment on the reverse false claim. With respect to the retaliation claim, the Court dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. View "Simoneaux v. E. I. DuPont de Nemours & Co." on Justia Law

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Appellants-attorneys Shawn Fitzpatrick and Timothy Flocos were sanctioned by the district court for certifying that their clients’ initial disclosures under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(1) were complete and correct even though the disclosures failed to mention evidence that Appellants later used during a deposition. Appellants appealed, asking the Fifth Circuit to reverse the district court’s decision and remit to them the monetary sanctions collected by the district court. Appellants argued that they used two recordings solely to impeach a witness' credibility; therefore, they were not required to disclose the recordings under Rule 26(a)(1). Appellants also argued that the district court failed to properly consider whether their decision to withhold the evidence at issue from the initial disclosures was substantially justified. Finding no reversible error in the district court's decision to sanction appellants, the Fifth Circuit affirmed. View "Olivarez v. GEO Group, Inc., et al" on Justia Law

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The Board appeals the district court's order doubling the compensation of Donald Massey, the part-time Court Compliance Officer (CCO). Massey monitors the integration efforts of the Tangipahoa Parish School System. The court concluded that it has jurisdiction to hear this appeal under 28 U.S.C. 1292(a)(1). On the merits, the court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in relying on the information that Massey provided in calculating his salary, and the district court did not abuse its discretion by crediting Massey with time spent working as a CCO when many of the tasks that Massey reported to have performed were outside the scope of his duties and responsibilities as a CCO. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Moore v. Tangipahoa Parish School Board" on Justia Law

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These consolidated cases involve Antigua and its alleged involvement with the Stanford Ponzi scheme. Antigua, as a foreign nation, challenged the district court’s jurisdiction in each suit under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. 1604. The district court determined that it had jurisdiction over the suits under both the commercial activity and waiver exceptions of the FSIA. This appeal involves the third clause of the commercial activity exception. Because the court found that Antigua’s actions did not cause a “direct effect” in the United States, the court need not consider the other elements of the commercial activity exception’s third clause. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's holding that the commercial activity exception applies. Although Antigua contests the merits of the district court’s waiver ruling, Antigua does not contest the application of the commercial activity exception to OSIC’s breach of contract claims. As such, OSIC’s breach of contract claims will proceed under the commercial activity exception regardless of whether the court overturns the district court’s holding on the waiver exception. The court also concluded that the district court has already provided Antigua with the relief it seeks on appeal, and thus declined to further address the scope of the district court’s waiver ruling. Accordingly, the court reversed in part and remanded in part. View "Frank v. Commonwealth of Antigua and Barbuda" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Christian Groenke, SGIC, and GRIL owned and operated numerous Burger King restaurants in Germany. These Burger King restaurants all operated under franchise agreements entered into with Defendant BKE. BKE is a Swiss corporation and the franchisor of Burger King restaurants in Germany. Plaintiffs filed the instant lawsuit against BKE, claiming tortious interference and seeking a declaratory judgment regarding their rights under the relevant franchise agreements (the “Franchise Agreement Litigation”). The Franchise Agreement Litigation began on September 12, 2014. On April 17, 2014—five months prior to the start of the Franchise Agreement Litigation—BKE filed a separate suit against Groenke in the Northern District of Texas to recover franchise fees that Groenke allegedly owed BKE under the Personal Guarantee (the “Personal Guarantee Litigation”). The district court dismissed the Franchise Agreement Litigation on grounds of forum non conveniens based on the forum selection clause in the relevant franchise agreements. The court upheld the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' claims. However, the court held that the district court abused its discretion when it denied as moot plaintiffs’ motion for leave to amend without providing reasons for doing so, when the record also lacked “ample and obvious grounds” supporting its denial of the motion. Accordingly, the court affirmed the dismissal, vacated the order denying the motion for leave to amend, and remanded for further proceedings. View "SGIC Strategic Global Inv. v. Burger King" on Justia Law
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Plaintiffs, former employees of the County, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, after they were reassigned, and later terminated, from their positions allegedly because they failed to support the sheriff's reelection. Plaintiffs also filed grievances with the Nueces County Civil Service Commission, alleging only that they were subjected to adverse employment actions in violation of county rules prohibiting such actions on grounds of participating or failing to participate in political activity. The state court affirmed the Commission's decision against plaintiffs. The district court granted summary judgment to defendants on claim-preclusion grounds. Plaintiffs appealed, arguing that the district court applied the law of res judicata incorrectly, and that res judicata was inappropriate because plaintiffs had deliberately abstained from litigating their federal claims in state court. The court rejected plaintiffs' arguments and concluded that, because plaintiffs could and should have brought these claims in their state suit, their stated reasons for not doing so are inadequate to prevent res judicata. The court also rejected plaintiffs' claim of abstention. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Cox v. Nueces County, TX" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs appealed the district court's dismissal of their suit against multiple defendants, including the Fifth Circuit. Plaintiffs seek to transfer this appeal to another circuit, contending that all of this court's judges are biased and, in the alternative, seeking an extension of time to file their brief. The court denied the transfer, concluding that the existence of qualified judges in other circuits does not undercut the applicability of the Rule of Necessity and does not require transferring the case where an appellant indiscriminately names all judges on a court or, as here, the court itself as defendants. The court also denied an extension of time to file plaintiffs' briefs, concluding that plaintiffs have not even attempted to make the required showing under Fifth Circuit Rule 31.4.1(a). View "Haase v. Countrywide Home Loans" on Justia Law
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