by
The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Wal-Mart in an action alleging a premises liability claim against the company for plaintiff's slip and fall. The court held that plaintiff's entire story, uncorroborated assumptions and all, was more plausible than Wal-Mart's proposed alternatives. In this case, plaintiff's was the only explanation supported by multiple, particularized indicia: The auto-scrubber pauses where the level of the floor changes; liquid tends to accumulate in uneven areas; and, per the post-slip cleanup effort, the spill was a concentrated puddle (rather than a trail created by a leaking garbage bin). Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Garcia v. Wal-Mart Stores Texas, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

by
The Fifth Circuit granted respondent's petition for rehearing en banc and withdrew the prior opinion, substituting the following opinion. The court affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's 28 U.S.C. 2254 application. The court held that, under Gonzalez v. Crosby, petitioner's purported Rule 59(e) motion was not an unauthorized successive section 2254 application and, if timely filed, would toll the deadline for filing a notice of appeal until the entry of the order disposing of the motion. In this case, petitioner's Rule 59(e) motion, which was delivered by petitioner's "next friend," was timely filed and tolled the deadline for filing a notice of appeal. Finally, the court held that petitioner was not entitled to section 2254 relief because the circumstances in this case did not rise to the level of the extreme situations wherein courts have previously imputed juror bias. View "Uranga v. Davis" on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for conspiracy to possess marijuana with intent to distribute, and aiding and abetting the possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. The court held that there was sufficient evidence to support defendant's conviction even if he never exercised dominion or control over the marijuana. In this case, defendant associated with a criminal venture, ensured that his coconspirator possessed the marijuana in order to transport it across the border, purposefully participated in the venture, and sought by his actions to make the venture succeed. View "United States v. Scott" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The Fifth Circuit vacated defendant's sentence after he pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. The court held that defendant's prior Texas conviction for robbery was not a violent felony because it did not have the "use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force" as an element. Accordingly, defendant lacked the three requisite prior violent felonies to be sentenced as an armed career criminal. The court remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Burris" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The Fifth Circuit reversed the denial of social security benefits for plaintiff, a former physician and army veteran, who was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and bipolar disorder. The court held that the ALJ's decision was not supported by substantial evidence where the ALJ erred in finding for step two of the five-step approach that plaintiff's impairments were not severe. Accordingly, the court remanded for further consideration. View "Salmond v. Berryhill" on Justia Law

Posted in: Public Benefits

by
Plaintiff appealed the district court's summary judgment determination that her late husband was personally liable under 26 U.S.C. 6672 for over $4.3 million in penalties for the unpaid withholding taxes of his medical practice. The Fifth Circuit reversed the denial of the motion for reconsideration; affirmed the district court's determination that the husband's $100,000 loan was unencumbered for purposes of section 6672 liability; vacated the remainder of the summary judgment because there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether his medical practice had $4.3 million in available, unencumbered funds after the husband learned of the unpaid taxes; and remanded for further proceedings. View "McClendon v. United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Tax Law

by
The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence after he was convicted of distributing a visual depiction of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct. The court held that the district court did not err in determining that his Texas deferred adjudications qualified as prior convictions for the purpose of 18 U.S.C. 2252(b)(1)'s sentencing enhancement. Furthermore, defendant's due process rights were not violated and his argument that his sentence exceeded the statutory maximum term of imprisonment was foreclosed by precedent. View "United States v. Ary" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's judgment in favor of LINA, the insurer and plan administrator of a life insurance policy. Plaintiff, the beneficiary of the policy, was denied benefits because LINA determined that the insured's death was caused in part by intoxication or drug abuse. The court took into account LINA's conflict of interest, its procedural unreasonableness, its denial of a full and fair review, and the counter-balanced nature of the evidence, and held that LINA abused its discretion in denying benefits. The court remanded with instructions to enter judgment for plaintiff and for any further proceedings. View "White v. Cigna Group Insurance Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law

by
The Fifth Circuit withdrew its prior opinion and substituted this opinion in its place. The court reversed defendant's sentence, holding that his prior conviction for sexual assault under Texas Penal Code 22.011(a)(2) was not a crime of violence within the meaning of USSG 2L1.2(b)(1)(A)(ii) of the 2015 Sentencing Guidelines. The court need not decide whether defendant's prior conviction qualified as an aggravated felony under 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43)(F) and 2L1.2(b)(1)(C) of the 2015 Sentencing Guidelines, because even if it did, the sixteen level increase defendant received was still erroneous. Accordingly, the panel remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Hernandez-Avila" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief to petitioner, who was sentenced to death for the murder of a seventy-year old woman. The court held that petitioner was not intellectually disabled and not ineligible for execution under Atkins v. Virginia; he did not receive ineffective assistance of counsel on direct appeal and, even if counsel was deficient, petitioner could not establish prejudice; and his trial counsel was not ineffective by failing to conduct an adequate sentencing investigation or by failing to present an adequate mitigation case during the penalty phase of trial. View "Busby v. Davis" on Justia Law