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After a commercial warehouse sustained substantial fire damage, the owner of the warehouse (Emerald), filed suit against the lessee (Sunrise), the insurance agent, and the insurer. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the insurance defendants, holding that Emerald's claims failed under Florida and Mississippi law. In this case, no Mississippi case recognizes a duty owed by an agent to a party in Emerald's position when the agent procures insurance for its insured. Emerald's claims under Florida law failed because it had never claimed status as a third-party beneficiary to the contract to procure insurance. View "Emerald Coast Finest Produce Co. v. Alterra American Insurance Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law

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The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of habeas relief based on his claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel at the penalty phase. The court held that counsel's performance in raising and developing petitioner's claim for ineffective assistance of trial counsel at the penalty phase was not deficient. Furthermore, petitioner failed to establish prejudice. View "Wessinger v. Vannoy" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's 400 month sentence after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance. The court held that the district court did not clearly err by applying a two-level enhancement for importation of methamphetamine under USSG 2D1.1(b)(5), and by applying an enhancement to his base offense level for maintaining a premises for the purpose of manufacturing or distributing a controlled substance under USSG 2D1.1(b)(12). Finally, the district court did not err by not granting defendant a three-point reduction for acceptance of responsibility under USSG 3E1.1. View "United States v. Rico" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Government filed a civil forfeiture proceeding, seeking certain of Erick Silva Santos' assets that were allegedly tied to his conduct as a corrupt Mexican official. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's fugitive disentitlement order and dismissed Silva's appeal of the default judgment of forfeiture. In this case, the district court did not err in its interpretation of the Mexican documents—that is, that they did not expressly and unambiguously provide a basis for concluding that the instant charges have been presented to and resolved by any official act of government in Mexico. Because no authority of Mexico has ever exonerated Silva, the court need not discuss his additional arguments. View "United States v. All Funds on Deposit at Sun Secured Advantage" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Claimants appealed the denial of civil claims under the Settlement Program that was established following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Claimants submitted Individual Economic Loss (IEL) claims for lost wages as employees of their architectural firm. The firm had already received a Business and Economic Loss (BEL) award under the Settlement Program. The Fifth Circuit held that the BEL framework, by compensating the business for the owners' lost wages through the fixed-cost designation of their wages, precluded compensating those same owners for the same wages through an IEL claim. Because the Settlement Program did not contemplate the requested compensation, the court affirmed the judgment. View "In Re: Deepwater Horizon" on Justia Law

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Debtors claimed an exemption for funds held in an individual retirement account (IRA). The Fifth Circuit upheld the bankruptcy court's holding that the funds had lost their exempt status because Texas law provides that funds withdrawn from a retirement account remain exempt only if rolled over into another retirement account within sixty days. In this case, debtors subsequently withdrew the funds from the IRA and did not roll them over into another IRA. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Hawk v. Engelhart" on Justia Law

Posted in: Bankruptcy

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Plaintiffs, Pamela and Nick McCarty, filed suit against Hillstone, alleging a premises liability claim after Pamela slipped and fell at one of defendant's restaurants. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment dismissal and held that plaintiffs failed to identify evidence from which a jury could, under any of the three methods of proof outlined in Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Reece, 81 S.W.3d 12, 814–15 (Tex. 2002), conclude that Hillstone had actual or constructive knowledge of the restaurant floor's allegedly dangerous condition. View "McCarty v. Hillstone Restaurant Group, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the bankruptcy courts' findings that debtor was involved in a scheme designed to deprive mortgage holders of foreclosure sale proceeds, and that the damages flowing from this scheme were nondischargeable debts pursuant to 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(4) and 523(a)(6). The court held that debtor's debts to the Countrywide Plaintiffs (and Bank of America) "arise" from larceny and were nondischargeable in bankruptcy. The court also held that debtor failed to demonstrate that he was prejudiced by the bankruptcy court entering the Countrywide Adversary Judgment without lifting the automatic stay in his Chapter 7 case. View "Cowin v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Bankruptcy

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment against plaintiff on his failure to accommodate and hostile work environment claims. Because plaintiff failed to brief his intentional infliction of emotional distress claim, the court confined its review to his Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq., claims. The court held that plaintiff's failure to accommodate claim was unexhausted and plaintiff failed to provide sufficient evidence showing that defendants knew of his disability. The court also held that plaintiff failed to demonstrate that either defendant failed to take prompt, remedial action addressing the alleged harassment. View "Patton v. Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief. The court held that petitioner's Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial was not violated; his due process and Confrontation Clause rights were not violated when he could not cross-examine his brother on the brother's alleged violence; and petitioner's right to present a complete defense and present witnesses were not violated when his expert on confessions and interrogations was barred from testifying. View "Boyer v. Vannoy" on Justia Law