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

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Renegade Swish filed suit against Emily Wright in state court for breach of employment agreement-related claims, and Wright counter-claimed based on violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Renegade Swish nonsuited its claims without prejudice and moved to realign the parties in the state court. Renegade Swish then removed to federal court, and Wright moved for remand and attorney's fees. Even assuming arguendo that it use the abuse of discretion standard on review, the Fifth Circuit found that Renegade Swift did not have an objectively reasonable basis to remove to federal court, and the district court abused its discretion in finding otherwise. Renegade Swish has not identified an actual district court split as to whether removal is proper on the basis of federal counterclaims after a plaintiff nonsuits its claims. Accordingly, the court vacated in part and remanded for further proceedings. View "Renegade Swish, LLC v. Wright" on Justia Law
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At issue in this appeal was the computation of economic losses arising out of the BP oil spill and based on the BP Settlement Agreement. The district court approved a policy adopted by the Claims Administrator (Policy 495) that consists of five methodologies to calculate claimant compensation: one Annual Variable Margin Methodology (AVMM) and four Industry-Specific Methodologies (ISMs). The Fifth Circuit held that the AVMM was consistent with the text of the Settlement Agreement, but that the four ISMs were not. The district court erred in approving the ISMs because they required the Claims Administrator to move, smooth, or otherwise reallocate revenue in violation of the Settlement Agreement. However, the ISMs, also required the Claims Administrator to match all unmatched profit and loss statements. Accordingly, the court affirmed as to the AVMM, reversed as to the ISMs, and remanded for further proceedings. View "In re: Deepwater Horizon" on Justia Law

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After a jury found that EmCare terminated three employees in retaliation for complaining of sexual harassment in the workplace, the district court denied EmCare's motion for judgment as a matter of law. The Fifth Circuit affirmed, holding that the EEOC presented sufficient evidence of causation because the jury could have logically inferred that the supervisor knew of one of the employee's complaints or that the supervisor was involved in the decision to fire the employee. View "EEOC v. Emcare, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendants Ocampo-Vergara, Salazar, and Ortiz-Fernandez were convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute heroin. The Fifth Circuit affirmed, holding that the evidence was sufficient to sustain the conviction; Ortiz-Salazar's evidentiary challenges failed because all the evidence at issue was relevant to show that he was a member of the conspiracy and none of it was unfairly prejudicial; the district court did not plainly err by permitting the testimony of a DEA agent where Ortiz-Salazar failed to show that there was a reasonable probability that his trial would have come out differently but for the illegitimate aspects of the agent's testimony; and, even assuming that the district court erred by admitting certain summary charts, such error was harmless. View "United States v. Ocampo-Vergara" on Justia Law
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After defendant pleaded guilty to illegal reentry after removal, he challenged the application of a 16-level sentencing enhancement under USSG 2L1.2 for a prior drug trafficking conviction. The Fifth Circuit affirmed, holding that defendant's 120-day sentence was a sentence of imprisonment, regardless of whether he served it in whole or in part through the work release program under California Penal Code section 4024.2. Based on his cumulative 485-day sentence, defendant was previously convicted of a felony during a trafficking offense for which the sentence exceeded 13 months. The court also held that, even assuming the district court's reliance on the plea document was error, the error was harmless. Finally, United States v. Garcia-Carrillo, 749 F.3d 376, 378 (5th Cir. 2014), was dispositive of defendant's argument that the court should remand for the district court to determine whether a lesser sentence was appropriate under an amendment to the Guidelines that took effect after the date of his sentence. In Garcia-Carrillo, the court held that it is not plain error for a district court to fail to consider a non-retroactive post-sentencing amendment to the Guidelines, even if it might have affected the sentence imposed by the district court. View "United States v. Enrique-Ascencio" on Justia Law
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The Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded the denial of defendant's motion for a sentence reduction. The court held that the district court's stated view that its hands were tied with regard to reducing the money-laundering sentence was error. The court explained that if a reduction was appropriate for the drug-trafficking offense levels, then it was appropriate for money-laundering as well. The error affected defendant's substantial rights and the court chose to exercise its discretion to correct the error. View "United States v. Torres" on Justia Law
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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion for a new trial, holding that the Government did not breach the plea agreement. In this case, the Government was not estopped from recommending that the district court deny a reduction for acceptance of responsibility and to instead apply a two-level increase for obstructing justice. Furthermore, the record did not support defendant's claim of prosecutorial vindictiveness. View "United States v. Cluff" on Justia Law
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Pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 28 U.S.C .1915(g), a third strike bars a prisoner from proceeding in forma pauperis unless the prisoner is under imminent danger of serious physical injury. A strike issues when a prisoner's action is dismissed as frivolous, malicious, or for failure to state a claim. However, a strike does not issue when only some claims are dismissed on section 1915(g) grounds. In this case, plaintiff's claims were dismissed for failure to state a claim while others were adequately pleaded but failed at summary judgment. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff's claim that defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs, but vacated the strike because the strike did not issue when only some of plaintiff's claims were dismissed on section 1915(g) grounds. View "Brown v. Megg" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Dynamic for negligence and gross negligence after he was injured during a personnel-basket transfer to Dynamic's 86A platform. The district court granted summary judgment to Dynamic, holding that it was not vicariously liable for the alleged negligence of its independent contractors. The Fifth Circuit affirmed, holding that personnel-basket transfers are not ultrahazardous activity because they require substandard conduct to cause injury, and that Dynamic did not authorize an unsafe working condition that caused injury to plaintiff. View "Davis v. Dynamic Offshore Resources" on Justia Law
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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's order holding Crystal and two of its officers jointly and severally liable for a payment that Crystal received pursuant to the BP settlement. The district court granted a clawback motion without a hearing, holding that there was no genuine dispute of material fact that Crystal was a failed business under the terms of the settlement agreement and that Crystal's sworn statement to the contrary constituted fraud. The Fifth Circuit held that there was no genuine dispute of material fact that Crystal materially misrepresented itself as an ongoing business when it filed its claim in 2012; Crystal either knew or should have known that it was a failed business when it filed its claim in 2012; and Crystal lacked standing to champion the rights of its officers because they have not sought to appeal the judgment of the district court and because Crystal failed to identify a genuine obstacle preventing the officers from filing their own appeal. View "In Re: Deepwater Horizon" on Justia Law
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