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

by
Pennywell delivered his petition for direct review of his state conviction—which resulted in multiple life sentences—to prison guards for mailing. Through some unknown fault in the mailing process, the Louisiana Supreme Court never received the petition. Once Pennywell discovered the petition had never arrived at the Louisiana Supreme Court, he promptly refiled it. As a result of the untimeliness caused by the mailing failure of his first petition, however, the Louisiana Supreme Court dismissed his renewed petition for direct review as untimely. That decision was the basis for all subsequent denials of state and federal post-conviction relief.The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal of Pennywell’s petition, holding that Pennywell was entitled to equitable tolling. The failure to timely deliver the petition to the Louisiana Supreme Court was through no fault of Pennywell; by the failure of the mail system, Pennywell was “prevented in some extraordinary way from asserting his rights.” Given the undisputed facts, Pennywell demonstrated due diligence and an extraordinary circumstance that justify equitable tolling. View "Pennywell v. Hooper" on Justia Law

by
In this dispute over terms of an online auction, the Fifth Circuit concluded that the district court abused its discretion by improperly admitting evidence and taking judicial notice of the terms. The court explained that Exhibit 41, an internet printout, was not properly authenticated, and the district court abused its discretion by determining that the exhibit was fit under Federal Rule of Evidence 803. Furthermore, the district court erred in taking judicial notice of the terms because a private internet archive falls short of being a source whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned as required by Rule 201. Because the district court's errors were not harmless, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Weinhoffer v. Davie Shoring, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit treated the petition for rehearing en banc as a petition for panel rehearing; granted the petition for panel rehearing; and withdrew its prior opinion in this case.Plaintiffs, two Planned Parenthood entities and three Jane Does, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the Louisiana Department of Health is unlawfully declining to act on Planned Parenthood's application for a license to provide abortion services in Louisiana. The district court denied the Department's motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1); the Department filed an interlocutory appeal; and plaintiffs moved to dismiss.The court denied the motion to dismiss the appeal because the Department asserted sovereign immunity in the district court. Therefore, the court has jurisdiction over this interlocutory appeal. The court further concluded that at least one of the plaintiffs' claims for injunctive relief is a valid invocation of federal jurisdiction under Ex parte Young. In this case, because plaintiffs' requested injunction to "promptly rule" on the license application satisfies the requirements of Ex parte Young, the court concluded that plaintiffs have survived the Department's Rule 12(b)(1) motion and the case may proceed. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, Inc. v. Phillips" on Justia Law

by
BP retained the Responders (O’Brien’s and NRC) for nearly $2 billion to assist with the cleanup of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Thousands of the Responders' workers filed personal injury lawsuits against BP, which were consolidated and organized into “pleading bundles.” The B3 bundle included “all claims for personal injury and/or medical monitoring for exposure or other injury occurring after the explosion and fire of April 20, 2010.” In 2012, BP entered the “Medical Settlement” on the B3 claims with a defined settlement class. The opt-out deadline closed in October 2012. The Medical Settlement created a new type of claim for latent injuries, BackEnd Litigation Option (BELO) claims. After the settlement, plaintiffs could bring opt-out B3 claims if they did not participate in the settlement, and BELO claims if they were class members who alleged latent injuries and followed the approved process. Responders were aware of the settlement before the district court approved it but neither Responder had control over the negotiations, nor did either approve the settlement.In 2017, BP sought indemnification for 2,000 BELO claims by employees of the Responders. The Fifth Circuit held that BP was an additional insured up to the minimum amount required by its contract with O’Brien’s; the insurance policies maintained by O’Brien’s cannot be combined to satisfy the minimum amount. O’Brien’s is not required to indemnify BP because BP materially breached its indemnification provision with respect to the BELO claims. View "O'Brien's Response Management, L.L.C. v. BP Exploration & Production, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs filed suit after defendant installed two pipelines on their property partially outside the boundary established in the parties' servitude agreement. At issue in this appeal is whether, as a consequence of this encroachment, plaintiffs are entitled to disgorgement of all profits defendant earned from the gas that flowed through the pipelines.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants, concluding that the most plaintiffs could recover are the additional profits defendant earned as a direct result of the encroachment, as compared to the profits it would have earned if it had installed the pipelines entirely within the servitude. In this case, plaintiffs have no evidence that defendant earned any such additional profits, and thus the district court correctly determined that defendant was not responsible for disgorging its profits. View "Mary v. QEP Energy Co." on Justia Law

by
On remand from the Supreme Court, the Fifth Circuit agreed with the parties that, in light of Borden v. United States, 141 S. Ct. 1817 (2021), defendant's conviction for aggravated assault in Texas does not qualify as an aggravated felony under 8 U.S.C. 1326(b)(2). The court remanded the case to the district court for the limited purpose of reforming its judgment to reflect defendant's conviction and sentencing under section 1326(b)(1). View "United States v. Gomez Gomez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
On remand from the Supreme Court, the Fifth Circuit concluded that unresolved questions of state law must be certified to the Texas Supreme Court. The court certified the following questions of state law to the Supreme Court of Texas: Whether Texas law authorizes the Attorney General, Texas Medical Board, the Texas Board of Nursing, the Texas Board of Pharmacy, or the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, directly or indirectly, to take disciplinary or adverse action of any sort against individuals or entities that violate the Texas Heartbeat Act, given the enforcement authority granted by various provisions of the Texas Occupations Code, the Texas Administrative Code, and the Texas Health and Safety Code and given the restrictions on public enforcement in sections 171.005, 171.207 and 171.208(a) of the Texas Health and Safety Code. View "Whole Woman's Health v. Jackson" on Justia Law

by
Braylon Jordan swallowed small magnets when he was two years old. The magnets shredded his internal organs and necessitated surgery to remove most of his intestines, leaving him severely disabled. At issue in this appeal is whether there is insurance coverage for M&O's defense and for a partial settlement of the Jordans' claims.The Fifth Circuit concluded that, because no claim arising from Braylon Jordan's injuries was timely made against M&O during Evanston's policy period, Evanston is not obligated to provide M&O costs of its defense or coverage for the partial settlement between the Jordans and its then-CEO Craig Zucker. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment that Evanston was not obligated to indemnify Zucker. However, the court reversed the district court's denial of Evanston's motion for summary judgment and rendered judgment in Evanston's favor. View "Jordan v. Evanston Insurance Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law
by
The Fifth Circuit dismissed a petition for review of the BIA's decision finding petitioner subject to removal because he committed two crimes involving moral turpitude (CIMTs) under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(ii). After determining that res judicata does not bar the proceedings, the court concluded that petitioner's conviction for deadly conduct qualified as a CIMT because reckless offenses may constitute CIMTs and deadly conduct, which requires an offender to take actions creating imminent danger or serious physical injury, is categorically a CIMT. The court also concluded that petitioner's 2005 adjustment to lawful permanent resident status constitutes the operative admission for purposes of this removal proceeding under section 1227(a)(2)(A)(ii). Therefore, because petitioner's convictions for deadly conduct and evading arrest occurred after he adjusted his status, he has been convicted of two CIMTs after admission to the United States. View "Diaz Esparza v. Garland" on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal, based on failure to state a claim, of the complaint alleging a 42 U.S.C. 1983 claim theorizing that defendants' refusal to return loaned funds violated the Takings Clause. The court applied Massó-Torrellas v. Mun. of Toa Alta, 845 F.3d 461, 468 (1st Cir. 2017), which held that when a municipality acts in a contractual or proprietary capacity, actions such as contract termination or detention of property under the contract that would constitute a simple breach of contract when a non-governmental entity is involved do not become a constitutional violation simply because the contracting party is a municipality. In this case, all of the misconduct in the complaint involves "commercial" and not "sovereign" acts, and thus any claim that Preston Hollow may have asserted should be a breach of contract claim rather than a taking claim. View "Preston Hollow Capital, LLC v. Cottonwood Development Corp." on Justia Law