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

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Emotional distress damages are not available under the Rehabilitation Act (RA) and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). In this case, plaintiff filed suit against Premier, a federal funding recipient, for disability discrimination. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of Premier's motion to dismiss, holding that because punitive damages are unavailable for a funding recipient's "breach" of its Spending Clause "contract," despite the existence of exceptions to the general prohibition against such damages, emotional distress damages are unavailable for a funding recipient's "breach" of the RA or the ACA, despite the existence of exceptions. The court did not believe that it was within its power to expand the Spending Clause contract-law analogy, which would expose federal funding recipients to greater liability. The court found that the Bell rule was not a vehicle for importing remedies that have already been rejected. View "Cummings v. Premier Rehab Keller, PLLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, Second Amendment advocates, filed suit seeking to prevent the State Department from blocking their efforts to publish plans for how to assemble a firearm using a 3D printer. Plaintiffs settled with the State Department and then voluntarily dismissed the suit. Now plaintiffs seek to revive their Texas suit under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) in response to a nationwide injunction against enforcement of the settlement issued by the Western District of Washington. The Fifth Circuit declined plaintiffs request to revive the lawsuit, holding that Rule 59(e) authorizes motions to alter or amend judgments, not to revive lawsuits. The court explained that the initiation and prosecution of the Washington suit did not render any action by the district court in Texas erroneous, let alone manifestly erroneous. View "Defense Distributed v. United States" on Justia Law

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Louisiana filed suit against the United States, alleging that the Corps failed to maintain the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway in compliance with the River and Harbor Improvements Act. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint and held that Louisiana failed to satisfy the requirements for the waiver of sovereign immunity under section 702 of the Administrative Procedure Act, because the state did not challenge agency action and the state's alleged injury did not fall within the zone of interests of the River and Harbor Improvements Act. The court also held that the state's failure to act claim was not subject to judicial review under the APA because the Corps is not legally required to preserve and/or maintain the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway at a certain width. Therefore, the state's complaint was properly dismissed based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction. View "Louisiana v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a wrongful death action against defendants, alleging inter alia, claims for negligence, premises liability, and breach of warranty. On appeal, plaintiffs argued that the Texas court erred in not exercising personal jurisdiction over PNK because a non-resident company, like PNK, may be subjected to general jurisdiction for its targeted advertising in the forum state. The Fifth Circuit affirmed and held that the Southern District of Texas properly held that it lacked personal jurisdiction over PNK and appropriately transferred this action to Louisiana. In this case, PNK is a limited liability company domiciled in Louisiana, and PNK's corporate contacts with Texas are not of the exceptional nature such that PNK could be found to be "at-home" in Texas. The court rejected plaintiffs' claims to the contrary and held that it could not exercise general jurisdiction over PNK. View "Frank v. P N K (Lake Charles) LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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Plaintiffs filed suit challenging the county's 2011 redistricting plan for electing county commissioners, alleging a violation of their rights under section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by providing only one Anglo-majority district. Determining that plaintiffs had standing, the Fifth Circuit held that the district court did not clearly err in finding that plaintiffs failed to meet the threshold conditions in Thornburg v. Gingles, 478 U.S. 30, 79 (1986), and in finding that plaintiffs failed to make a claim for voter dilution. In this case, the district court concluded that plaintiffs did not prove that Anglos, a minority in Dallas County, have the potential to elect their preferred candidate, a Republican, in a second commissioner district. The court rejected plaintiffs' claims that the district court applied the wrong standard, and that they need only provide an alternative map with two Anglo-majority districts. The court explained that an alternative map containing an additional majority-minority district does not necessarily establish an increased opportunity for the Anglo-preferred candidate. Furthermore, there was no case in which the ability to create an influence district was considered sufficient to establish a section 2 vote dilution claim. The court also held that plaintiffs failed to plead a racial gerrymandering claim, because the complaint did not allege a Shaw claim. Rather, the complaint only once alleged that race predominated, and it made this allegation five pages before stating the claim for relief. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's refusal to entertain a claim of racial gerrymandering and its denial of the vote dilution claim after trial. View "Harding v. County of Dallas" on Justia Law

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GAIC filed suit seeking a declaratory judgment that it was not required to defend or indemnify Eastern Concrete because of a pollution exclusion in its insurance policy. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Eastern Concrete's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and grant of GAIC's motion for summary judgment. After determining that the district court properly exercised personal jurisdiction over Eastern Concrete, the court held that, under Texas law, an unplanned discharge of "rock fines," pellets produced during the course of quarry operations, is not covered by a company's umbrella insurance policy and is excluded by a pollution exclusion. In this case, rock fines are "contaminants" under the policy at issue and thus GAIC had no duty to defend or indemnify Eastern Concrete. View "Eastern Concrete Materials, Inc. v. ACE American Insurance Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law
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The Fifth Circuit affirmed HHS's decision that extrapolating the Medicare underpayment rate to all claims paid over the relevant time period resulted in a repayment demand of more than $12 million. The court held that the district court correctly rejected Palm Valley's due process claim; Palm Valley failed to exhaust its challenge to the "homebound" standard and thus the court could not consider the issue; substantial evidence supported HHS's determination that many beneficiaries were not homebound; and there was no error in the extrapolation methodology. View "Palm Valley Health Care, Inc. v. Azar" on Justia Law

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White Glove appealed the district court's dismissal of its 42 U.S.C. 1981 racial discrimination claim and grant of summary judgment on its 42 U.S.C. 1981 retaliation claim. The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of White Glove's racial discrimination claim, holding that White Glove did not need a racial identity to have standing to assert a 42 U.S.C. 1981 racial discrimination claim and White Glove has statutory standing to assert a section 1981 racial discrimination claim. However, the court held that no genuine factual dispute existed regarding whether White Glove engaged in protected activities, and thus the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on the section 1981 retaliation claim. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "White Glove Staffing, Inc. v. Methodist Hospitals of Dallas" on Justia Law

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The General Land Office challenged both the Service's listing of the Golden-Cheeked Warbler as an endangered species in 1990 and, about 26 years later, the Service's denial of a petition seeking to delist the Warbler. The Fifth Circuit held that the General Land Office's challenge to the Service's decision to list was untimely. The court held that the Service did not violate the National Environmental Policy Act or its implementing regulations when it declined to delist the Warbler, and thus the district court correctly granted the Service's motion to dismiss. However, the court agreed with the General Land Office that the Service applied the incorrect heightened standard when reviewing the delisting petition. Therefore, the court held that the Service's decision denying the delisting petition was arbitrary and capricious, and vacated the decision, remanding for further proceedings. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, vacated in part, and remanded. View "General Land Office of the State of Texas v. United States Department of the Interior" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit denied defendant's motion to change the name of his judgment of confinement to "Kathrine Nicole Jett." Plaintiff had previously come out as a transgender woman. The district court denied the motion as meritless. The court held that defendant's request to change the name on his judgment of commitment was an unauthorized motion which the district court was without jurisdiction to entertain. Therefore, the court vacated the district court's judgment. In this case, defendant's request did not fall into any of the recognized categories of postconviction motions. Furthermore, defendant's request was not authorized under 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(2) because it was not based upon an amendment to the Sentencing Guidelines. The court also denied defendant's motion to refer to him with female instead of male pronouns. The court held that no authority supported the proposition that the court could require litigants, judges, court personnel, or anyone else to refer to gender-dysphoric litigants with pronouns matching their subjective gender identity; if a court were to compel the use of particular pronouns at the invitation of litigants, it could raise delicate questions about judicial impartiality; and ordering use of a litigant's preferred pronouns may well turn out to be more complex than at first it might appear. View "United States v. Varner" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Rights