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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of a motion to dismiss plaintiff's claims against the City and Eddie Salame, Chief of the Grapevine Police Department (GPD). The court also affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Officer Robert Clark on plaintiff's remaining excessive force claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983 on the basis of qualified immunity. Ruben Garcia-Villalpando was shot and killed by Clark. Given the tense and evolving factual circumstances, the court held that Clark reasonably believed that Garcia-Villalpando posed a threat of serious harm. In this case, Garcia-Villalpando fled the scene of a serious crime, drove recklessly and endangered others, refused to obey roughly thirty commands, and approached Clark on a narrow highway shoulder directly adjacent to speeding traffic. The court explained that the fact that Garcia-Villalpando was ultimately found to have been unarmed was immaterial. Because plaintiff failed to demonstrate that Garcia-Villalpando's Fourth Amendment rights were violated, her claims against the City and Salame for failure to train and inadequate screening/hiring failed as well. View "Romero v. Grapevine, Texas," on Justia Law

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After plaintiff suffered permanent injuries when an unmanned utility vehicle ran her over, the jury awarded her and her husband a $15 million verdict. The Fifth Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion by giving a more expansive definition of "safer alternative design;" the court rejected Textron's argument that a single-answer jury question erroneously commingled both supported and unsupported alternative-design theories; the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting two pieces of evidence: a video depicting another unintended-acceleration event unfolding during a high-school football game at Dallas Cowboys Stadium and a "Best Protection" letter; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to bifurcate the trial. View "Nester v. Textron, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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Johnson, Every, Green, and Robinson were riding in a truck. Thibodaux Officer Amador recognized Robertson and knew she had an outstanding warrant. He stopped the truck, asked Robertson to exit, and handcuffed her. Every opened her door. Amador told her to get back in; she complied. More officers arrived and asked the passengers for identification. Green said she did not have any, but provided her name. She was not arrested. Johnson and Every refused to identify themselves. The officers arrested them for resisting an officer by refusing to identify themselves during a supposedly lawful detention (Louisiana Revised Statute 14:108) and pulled the women from the truck. Every ran; an officer used his Taser. The officers took the women to jail. They brought 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims. The court generally denied motions in limine seeking to exclude the testimony of the city’s experts on orthopedic surgery and on arrest techniques, police procedures, police training, and use of force, but prohibited testimony as to plaintiffs’ drug use, prior incidents with doctors or law enforcement, or the facts. A jury returned a verdict for the officers. The Fifth Circuit reversed as to Johnson’s unlawful arrest claims against four officers but otherwise affirmed. Under the Fourth Amendment, officers may not require identification absent an otherwise lawful detention based on reasonable suspicion or probable cause. Johnson’s detention lasted longer than necessary to effect the purpose of the stop, without any evidence that would support a finding of reasonable suspicion. View "Johnson v. Thibodaux City" on Justia Law

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Vendors and contractors provided materials and services in connection with an offshore mineral lease. Under the Louisiana Oil Well Lien Act, La. Rev. Stat. 9:4863(A)(1), 9:4864(A)(1), they secured liens on the lessee’s operating interest upon the commencement of labor. They timely recorded the liens. The lessee later sold “term overriding royalty interests” to OHA. In the lessee’s subsequent bankruptcy proceeding, the service providers intervened, seeking to enforce their liens on OHA’s royalty interests. The district court agreed with the bankruptcy court and dismissed their complaints, concluding that the statute that created the liens extinguished them via a safe-harbor provision. The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The safe-harbor question is one of statutory interpretation: Was OHA’s purchase of the overriding royalties a purchase of “hydrocarbons that are sold or otherwise transferred in a bona fide onerous transaction by the lessee or other person who severed or owned them” at severance? The royalties were “sold,” the transaction was “bona fide,” and the seller was a “lessee.” OHA purchased more than an interest in proceeds; it purchased an interest in the to-be-produced hydrocarbons themselves. A purchase of overriding royalties is a purchase of “hydrocarbons” under the statute, so the lienholders’ failure to provide pre-purchase notice renders their liens extinguished. View "OHA Investment Corp. v. Schlumberger Technology Corp." on Justia Law

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In accordance with a written plea agreement, Salas is serving a 288-month federal sentence for trafficking in cocaine and heroin. The Fifth Circuit denied Salas, authorization to file a second or successive 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion. None of Salas’s proposed claims are based on newly discovered evidence. The court rejected a claim that he is entitled to relief under Burrage v. United States (2014). In Burrage, the Supreme Court held that, in order to apply the mandatory sentence under 21 U.S.C. 841(b)(1)(C) for a death resulting from the defendant’s drug trafficking, it is necessary to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the death would not have occurred “but for” the defendant’s conduct. However, Burrage was decided on direct appeal; nothing suggests that the Supreme Court has made Burrage retroactive to cases on collateral review. In addition, the Burrage Court was interpreting a statute and did not announce a new rule of constitutional law. View "In Re: Salas" on Justia Law

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McCall resigned from Shaw and later became the CEO of Allied, Shaw’s direct competitor. Shaw sued, citing noncompete and nonsolicitation agreements in McCall’s employment contract. Those agreements call for arbitration and state that the employer may seek injunctive relief without waiving the right to arbitrate. The state court issued a Joint Protective Order. Aptim acquired the rights to McCall’s employment agreement but withdrew a subsequent motion for substitution in the suit. Aptim filed a demand for arbitration with the American Arbitration Association. Shaw filed an amended petition, deleting its request for damages, and a motion to dismiss the amended petition with prejudice. McCall filed an opposition, an answer, a counterclaim, a petition for declaratory judgment, a motion to consolidate, and a motion for constructive contempt against Aptim for demanding arbitration in violation of the protective order, though Aptim was not then a party to the case. Aptim, without Shaw, sued in federal court to compel arbitration and to stay the state-court proceeding. Before the federal court ruled, the state court issued an order joining Aptim in the state-court action, retroactively effective, finding that Aptim and Shaw had waived their arbitration rights. The federal district court then ordered arbitration and stayed the state-court action. The Fifth Circuit affirmed, finding that the factors weighed against abstention because the case does not involve jurisdiction over a thing and federal law provides the rules of decision on the merits and strongly favors arbitration. View "Aptim Corp. v. McCall" on Justia Law

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The National Firearms Act, 26 U.S.C. 5861(d) criminalizes possession of certain unregistered firearms, including silencers and “destructive devices” like grenades. Sentences for such crimes may be enhanced based on the number of devices involved. In a sting operation, Maturino tried to buy 144 live grenades (plus other firearms) from an undercover ATF agent for a Mexican drug cartel, but 143 were inert. Maturino pleaded guilty under the Act/ The district court, quoting Sentencing Guidelines commentary, imposed an eight-level enhancement based on the number of grenades “sought to be obtained.” The Fifth Circuit affirmed, rejecting Maturino’s argument that his sentence should reflect what he bought (one live grenade) not what he sought. Maturino’s plan to stockpile live grenades failed, but the sentencing court properly considered what he pursued, not what he possessed. View "United States v. Maturino" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Sam, aged 16, walked with friends to Walmart, where they split up. The group left the store; Stag, stole a jacket. At 9:49 p.m., Officer Richard responded to the reported theft, encountered Sam’s group, and activated his emergency lights. Sam’s group scattered. Another officer threatened to release a dog if they didn’t stop. Sam lay face down on the ground, with his hands on the back of his head. Sam stated in deposition that Richard slapped Sam's face, kneed him, handcuffed him, and shoved him against a car. The slap did not break the skin, but a scrape drew blood from Sam’s hip. Richard agreed that Sam did not resist, but denied using force. Another officer handcuffed Stag. Both were placed in Richard’s patrol car. Richard returned to Walmart at 10:03 p.m. A security guard identified Stag as the thief. At 10:45 p.m., Richard drove the boys to the police station. Sam’s mother picked him up. Sam did not visit a doctor that night. One of Sam’s friends stated in deposition that Sam “looked like he got hit” and “his face was a little red and bruised.” Medical records generated about six weeks later indicate that Sam complained of lingering hip pain. The district court dismissed Sam’s 42 U.S.C. 1983 complaint. The Fifth Circuit vacated in part. Sam’s evidence of excessive force is sufficient to survive a summary judgment motion. The court affirmed rejection of an unjustified detention claim. View "Sam v. Thompson" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit vacated appellee's 80 month sentence and remanded for resentencing. In this case, appellee pleaded guilty, pursuant to a plea agreement, to conspiring to possess with intent to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of marijuana. The court held that a motion by the government was required for the district court to depart below the minimum term of imprisonment established by Congress for the drug offense appellee committed. Therefore, it was error for the district court to sua sponte depart from the minimum. View "United States v. Sealed Appellee" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit vacated appellee's 80 month sentence and remanded for resentencing. In this case, appellee pleaded guilty, pursuant to a plea agreement, to conspiring to possess with intent to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of marijuana. The court held that a motion by the government was required for the district court to depart below the minimum term of imprisonment established by Congress for the drug offense appellee committed. Therefore, it was error for the district court to sua sponte depart from the minimum. View "United States v. Sealed Appellee" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law