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

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Plaintiffs, three women who suffered persistent hair loss after chemotherapy treatments, sued as a part of a multidistrict litigation (MDL) against distributors of the drug Taxotere (docetaxel) for permanent chemotherapy-induced hair loss, asserting a failure-to-warn claim.Louisiana law provides a one-year liberative prescription period for products-liability cases. Furthermore, under Louisiana law, there is a firmly rooted equitable-tolling doctrine known as contra non valentem agere non currit praescriptio, which means "[n]o prescription runs against a person unable to bring an action."The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of Sanofi, agreeing with the district court that plaintiffs' claims are facially prescribed. The court interpreted Louisiana law to require that once hair loss persisted after six months, contra non valentem tolled the prescription period until the point when a prospective plaintiff through the exercise of reasonable diligence should have "considered [Taxotere] as a potential root cause of" her injury. In this case, the court concluded that plaintiffs did not act reasonably in light of their injuries and their causes of action were reasonably knowable in excess of one year prior to their filing suit. Therefore, Louisiana's equitable tolling doctrine of contra non valentem did not save plaintiffs' claims. View "Thibodeaux v. Sanofi U.S. Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of qualified immunity and summary judgment to defendant on plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims, alleging that defendant, an off-duty sheriff's deputy at the time, used excessive force when he shot her several times. Plaintiff had emerged from a stopped vehicle and would not follow defendant's demands, and when she reached behind her waist, defendant feared that she might be reaching for a weapon and shot her. The court concluded that defendant made a split second decision to use deadly force against a non-compliant person who made a movement consistent with reaching for a weapon, and plaintiff failed to identify clearly established law prohibiting defendant's use of deadly force.Plaintiff also alleged that defendant shot her in retaliation for engagement in activity protected by the First Amendment. The court agreed with the district court that plaintiff did not present evidence that her speech and expressive conduct was a but-for cause of the shooting. In this case, defendant did not discharge his firearm at plaintiff when she began shouting expletives at him or when she was walking towards him. Rather, he shot her when she reached her hand behind her back towards the waistband of her pants. Finally, plaintiff has not shown that defendant responded to her medical needs with deliberate indifference. View "Batyukova v. Doege" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. The court concluded that the district court did not err in applying a four-level sentencing enhancement for possession of a firearm "in connection with another felony offense" pursuant to USSG 2K2.1(b)(6)(B). The court also concluded that the district court did not clearly err by delegating supervision of the "modality, duration, intensity, etc." of drug treatment to the probation officer. View "United States v. Huerta" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Defendant was convicted of three counts of possession of child pornography. The Fifth Circuit vacated defendant's Count Two conviction and sentence under 18 U.S.C. 2252(a)(4)(B) and (b)(2), and modified the district court's judgment to impose only a $200 special assessment and a $10,000 assessment under the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act. The court affirmed in all other respects. In this case, the court could not say that the district court's decision to exclude the relevant expert testimony was manifestly erroneous; the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting into evidence the images and video clips of child pornography; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting the two pornographic narratives. Finally, the court rejected claims of instructional error. View "United States v. Naidoo" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on plaintiff's failure-to-warn claim asserted against the manufacturers of Taxotere, a chemotherapy medication. Plaintiff argues that Taxotere's manufacturers failed to provide an adequate warning of potentially permanent hair loss, which caused her injuries.The court concluded that, under Louisiana law, plaintiff cannot establish causation where, on this record, it is beyond any genuine dispute that a warning of the risk of permanent hair loss—as opposed to temporary hair loss—would not have affected the prescribing physician's decision to prescribe Taxotere. Therefore, plaintiff's claim fails as a matter of law. View "Phillips v. Sanofi U.S. Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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After defendant pleaded guilty to four counts of wire fraud for purporting to broker cattle deals worth millions of dollars, pocketing the money, and then disappearing the herd, the district court ordered more than $2 million in restitution. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the restitution award, rejecting defendant's contention that the Government failed to prove which cattle he sold and which he stole. Rather, the court concluded that the Government easily met its burden of proving an actual loss of $2,066,525 where it led the district court through each and every line item in its restitution request. Furthermore, the district court went through the data itself, considered the testimony and evidence, and found that each line item individually constituted an actual loss by a preponderance of the evidence. View "United States v. Williams" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Commission charged Impax Laboratories with antitrust violations for accepting payments ultimately worth more than $100 million to delay the entry of its generic drug for more than two years. The Commission conducted a rule-of-reason analysis and unanimously concluded that Impax violated antitrust law.The Fifth Circuit denied the petition for review, concluding that substantial evidence supports the Commission's finding that the reverse payment settlement threatened competition. In this case, Endo agreed to make large payments to the company that was allegedly infringing its patents; in exchange, Impax agreed to delay entry of its generic drug until two-and-a-half years after the FDA approved the drug; and neither the saved costs of forgoing a trial nor any services Endo received justified these payments. Furthermore, substantial evidence supports the Commission's conclusion that a less restrictive, no-payment settlement, alternative was feasible. Therefore, Impax agreed to an unreasonable restraint of trade because the reverse payment settlement was an agreement to preserve and split monopoly profits that was not necessary to allow generic competition before the expiration of Endo's patent. View "Impax Laboratories, Inc. v. Federal Trade Commission" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit denied a petition for review of the ARB's decision upholding petitioner's discharge. Petitioner argues that he was improperly terminated for reporting a job-related injury, an act protected by the Federal Railroad Safety Act. The court held that the ARB did not err in finding that the railroad terminated petitioner's employment for failing to comply with his obligation to report promptly all known injuries and that his eventual acknowledgement of the injury was not a "contributing factor" for purposes of the Act. In this case, there is unchallenged evidence in the record that it was not the fact of reporting an injury but the failure to report promptly an earlier injury that caused petitioner to be discharged. View "Yowell v. Administrative Review Board" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Heinz for trademark infringement, trademark counterfeiting, false designation of origin, and for violations of various Louisiana trademark laws. Heinz filed a counterclaim to have plaintiff's Metchup trademark registration canceled for abandonment or nonuse. The claims relate to plaintiff's mayonnaise and ketchup product and Heinz's Mayochup product. The district court dismissed plaintiff's claims because it found that there was no likelihood of confusion between Mayochup and Metchup and no confusion caused by Heinz's fleeting use of Metchup in advertising. The district court also canceled plaintiff's trademark registration after concluding that he failed to prove that he had made lawful, non-de minimis use of the Metchup mark in commerce.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims against Heinz, agreeing with the district court that there is little chance that a consumer would confuse plaintiff's Metchup with Heinz's Mayochup or be confused by Heinz's use of Metchup in advertising. However, the court vacated the district court's cancelation of plaintiff's trademark and remanded for further proceedings. The court explained that because plaintiff sold some Metchup and testified that he hoped to sell more, a finder of fact should determine whether his incontestable trademark should be deemed abandoned and canceled. View "Perry v. H. J. Heinz Company Brands, LLC" on Justia Law

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After Joseph Hutcheson died as a result of police officers restraining him at the Dallas County Jail, Hutcheson's wife and mother filed suit against the county and four individual officers, bringing an excessive force claim against the officers and failure-to-train and wrongful-death claims against the county. Hutcheson died from a combination of the narcotics in his system and the stress from his struggle with and restraint by the officers. The district court dismissed or granted summary judgment on all claims.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on the excessive force claim, concluding that plaintiffs failed to raise a dispute of material fact regarding whether the officers used unreasonable force to restrain a resisting suspect. The court also concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying the motion for limited discovery on the issue of qualified immunity. The court further concluded that the district court properly dismissed the failure-to-train claim where plaintiffs failed to allege that the county provided no training, so they cannot show that the county was deliberately indifferent. Finally, the court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying leave to file a second amendment. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment in its entirety. View "Hutcheson v. Dallas County" on Justia Law