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

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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After the en banc court held unlawful a Texas statute requiring voters to present photo ID in order to vote, the only issue in this appeal is whether plaintiffs are prevailing parties and thereby entitled to recover attorneys' fees under 42 U.S.C. 1988(b) and 52 U.S.C. 10310(e).The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's finding that plaintiffs are prevailing parties under Buckhannon Board and Care Home, Inc. v. West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, 532 U.S. 598, 604 (2001), and the district court's award of attorneys' fees. In this case, plaintiffs successfully challenged the Texas photo ID requirement before the en banc court, and used that victory to secure a court order permanently preventing its enforcement during the elections in 2016 and 2017. Furthermore, the court order substituted the photo ID requirement with a mere option—which of course defeats the whole purpose of a mandate, and the state cannot go back in time and re-run the 2016 and 2017 elections under a photo ID requirement. Finally, defendants' claims to the contrary under Sole v. Wyner, 551 U.S. 74, 82 (2007), and Dearmore v. City of Garland, 519 F.3d 517 (5th Cir. 2008), are unavailing. View "Veasey v. Abbott" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit withdrew its prior opinion and substituted the following opinion.In this insurance coverage dispute, at issue is who counts as an "employee" under the Texas Anti-Indemnity Act (TAIA). The Fifth Circuit concluded that Zurich was not required to file a cross-appeal and thus dismissed the cross-appeal. The court also concluded that the Maxim Policy does not assign Maxim's rights to Zurich, and thus Maxim can pursue this claim against Zurich under the Berkel Policy.The court certified the following question to the Supreme Court of Texas: Whether the employee exception to the TAIA, Texas Insurance Code 151.103, allows additional insured coverage when an injured worker brings a personal injury claim against the additional insured (indemnitee), and the worker and the indemnitee are deemed "co-employees" of the indemnitor for purposes of the TWCA. View "Maxim Crane Works, LP v. Zurich American Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, representatives of a class of plaintiffs, filed suit against an ADT employee in state court seeking millions in damages after the employee, who installed ADT's home-security surveillance systems, used his access privileges to spy on customers in their homes. ADT, which is being sued directly by other plaintiffs in both Texas and Florida for the breach of privacy, intervened in this suit and removed to the district court under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA). The district court granted plaintiffs' motion to remove to state court under the home state exception to CAFA.The Fifth Circuit granted ADT's motion to appeal under 28 U.S.C. 1453(c) and reversed the district court's remand order. In this case, plaintiffs claim to represent a class of plaintiffs seeking millions in recovery for the invasion of their privacy, although, as of yet, they have asserted claims against only the offending employee (who is imprisoned). The court explained that the thrust of this suit is to gain access to ADT's deep pockets and ADT, having properly intervened, must be considered a primary defendant under CAFA. View "Madison v. ADT, LLC" on Justia Law

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Petrobras, the American subsidiary of a Brazilian oil and gas producer, alleges that Samsung, a Korean shipbuilder, secretly bribed Petrobras executives to finalize a contract between Petrobras and Pride. In a 2007 contract, Samsung had an option to build a deep-sea drillship if Pride secured a drilling-services contract with another company. Samsung arranged to bribe Petrobras executives to secure Pride's contract for the construction of DS-5. After Petrobras put DS-5 on permanent standby and conducted an internal audit, it informed Brazilian prosecutors. A 2014 investigation into corruption throughout Brazil, included a separate bribery scheme in which Samsung contracted with Petrobras to construct two other ships.In 2019, Petrobras sued Samsung for its role in the bribery that led to the Petrobras–Pride DS-5 contract, citing common-law fraud under Texas law and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1962(c),(d). The district court took judicial notice of Petrobras’s 2014 SEC filing and Washington Post and Reuters articles, describing the bribery schemes underlying other Samsung–Petrobras contracts that did not mention the Petrobras–Pride DS-5 contract. From those, the court inferred that Petrobras was on notice by 2014 that the DS-5 contract was suspect. Holding that “the specific drillship in this case is not subject to its own limitations clock,” the district court dismissed the suit. The Fifth Circuit reversed. The pleadings do not establish as a matter of law that Petrobras had actual or constructive notice of its injury before March 2015, so dismissal at the pleading stage was improper. View "Petrobras America, Inc. v. Samsung Heavy Industries Co., Ltd." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision to vacate its judgment in a breach-of-fiduciary-duty action based on lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. In this case, after the firm filed suit to recover its fees, the parties reached an agreed judgment. The district court then discovered that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction.The court concluded that the district court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1332 because the firm is a Texas plaintiff suing a Texas defendant, and the combination of the firm's misleading citizenship allegations and the district court's lack of knowledge about it rendered the judgment void and properly vacated under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(4). The court read Picco v. Global Marine Drilling Co., 900 F.2d 846 (5th Cir. 1990), fairly and holistically, finding that Picco accords with the court's decision here. The court also concluded that the firm forfeited its standing argument. Finally, the court concluded that the district court had jurisdiction to direct the firm to return fees paid pursuant to a void judgment. View "The Mitchell Law Firm, LP v. Bessie Jeanne Worthy Revocable Trust" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of relief under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) to plaintiff in a personal injury case where his counsel failed to see the electronic notification of a summary judgment motion filed by defendants. In this case, counsel's computer's email system placed the notification in a folder that he does not regularly monitor, and counsel did not check the docket after the deadline for dispositive motions had elapsed. Consequently, counsel did not file an opposition to the summary judgment motion.The court concluded that its precedent makes clear that no such relief is available under circumstances such as this. The court explained that counsel provided the email address to defendants, counsel was plainly in the best position to ensure that his own email was working properly, and counsel could have checked the docket after the agreed deadline for dispositive motions had already passed. Therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the Rule 59(e) motion. The court also concluded that plaintiff forfeited his claim that a fact dispute precluded summary judgment by failing to raise it first before the district court. View "Rollins v. Home Depot USA, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit granted the petition for rehearing, withdrew its prior opinion, and substituted the following opinion in its place. The court denied the petition for en banc rehearing.Six Louisiana parishes, joined by the Louisiana Attorney General and the Louisiana Secretary of Natural Resources, brought forty-two suits challenging decades of drilling activities by various oil companies. The court concluded that because an expert report filed by the parishes revealed a new theory of liability for the first time, the companies' removal based on federal officer jurisdiction was timely. However, rather than deciding whether federal-officer jurisdiction exists, the court remanded for the district courts to address this question with the benefit of its recent en banc decision in Latiolais v. Huntington Ingalls, Inc., 951 F.3d 286, 290 (5th Cir. 2020). In addition, the court agreed with both district courts that there is no federal-question jurisdiction in this case. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Parish of Plaquemines v. Chevron USA, Inc." on Justia Law

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In a previous lawsuit, HCB won a $2 million judgment against Lee McPherson for a defaulted loan. After unsuccessful attempts to collect, HCB filed suit against McPherson, seeking treble damages under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). One month after HCB filed suit, McPherson registered the $2 million judgment plus interest with the first court. The district court dismissed the suit with prejudice, concluding that McPherson satisfied the underlying judgment and thus HCB suffered no injury.The Fifth Circuit joined its sister circuit and held that a plaintiff may not recover treble damages sustained in a RICO action after the underlying debt is satisfied. In this case, because HCB recovered its lost debt shortly after filing suit, the court concluded that the debt is no longer lost. The court explained that HCB points to a speculative investment return even though it received post-judgment interest, and thus it has no legal claim to lost investment opportunity. Therefore, HCB cannot plead an essential statutory element of a RICO offense. Because no amendment can cure that pleading defect, the district court did not abuse its discretion by dismissing the federal claims with prejudice or declining supplemental jurisdiction over the state-law claims. View "HCB Financial Corp. v. McPherson" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Quadvest and Woodland Oaks filed suit against SJRA, a state entity, alleging that SJRA violated Section 1 of the Sherman Act when it entered into and enforced contracts relating to the purchase of wholesale water in Montgomery County, Texas. The district court denied SJRA's motion to dismiss.The Fifth Circuit affirmed, concluding that, for the purposes of the court's jurisdictional analysis, SJRA invokes state-action immunity as a state entity. Therefore, this interlocutory appeal is proper under the court's precedent. On the merits, the court concluded that the Texas Legislature did not authorize SJRA’s entry into and enforcement of the challenged groundwater reduction plan (GRP) contract provisions with the intent to displace competition in the market for wholesale raw water in Montgomery County. Therefore, SJRA is not entitled to state-action immunity at this stage in the proceedings. View "Quadvest, LP v. San Jacinto River Authority" on Justia Law

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Texas state prisoner Haverkamp, a biological male at birth who identifies as a transgender woman, sued, alleging violations of the Equal Protection Clause by denying Haverkamp medically necessary sex-reassignment surgery and by failing to provide certain female commissary items and a long-hair pass. Texas’s Correctional Managed Healthcare Committee has a policy concerning the treatment of gender disorders. Based on the state’s advisory, the district court ordered service of Haverkamp’s operative complaint on Dr. Murray, whom the state identified as the proper defendant if Haverkamp were seeking sex-reassignment surgery, and the nine Committee members who had not yet been named as parties. The district court subsequently denied motions to dismiss, concluding that the state was not entitled to sovereign immunity.The Fifth Circuit vacated. Haverkamp’s suit is barred by sovereign immunity because the Committee members are not proper defendants under Ex Parte Young; Haverkamp fails to allege they have the requisite connection to enforcing the policies Haverkamp challenges. In light of the state’s representations to the district court that these defendants are the proper state officials to sue, the court did not dismiss them from the case. View "Haverkamp v. Linthicum" on Justia Law