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

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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Plaintiff petitioned for a writ of mandamus directing the district court to remand this removed action to state court for want of federal-court jurisdiction. This matter arises from a traffic collision. Plaintiff is a citizen of Louisiana, as is the driver of the other vehicle, Defendant. At the time of removal by diverse Defendant Zurich American Insurance Company (“Zurich”), neither Defendant nor defendant Dynamic Energy Services International, LLC, had been served. Plaintiff initiated an action in Louisiana state court against the three defendants. According to Zurich, it could remove to federal court because the driver—a citizen of the forum state—had not yet been served.   The Fifth Circuit denied the petition for writ of mandate. The court explained that because the only basis for removal, in this case, was diversity jurisdiction, and complete diversity is lacking, The court explained that the district court must dismiss want of jurisdiction. the critical distinction is whether diversity is complete. In that regard, Plaintiff, in his mandamus petition, correctly posits that “Texas Brine is consistent with Deshotel,” based on the fact that “[i]n Texas Brine, unlike [Plaintiff], diversity was complete. Had the Texas plaintiff wanted, it could have filed its case originally in federal court. Plaintiff by contrast, could not have done so.” View "In Re: Calvin Levy" on Justia Law

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The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)  brought an enforcement action against BP, alleging the company capitalized on the hurricane-induced chaos in commodities markets by devising a scheme to manipulate the market for natural gas. BP sought judicial review of FERC’s order finding that BP engaged in market manipulation and imposing a $20 million civil penalty.   The Fifth Circuit explained that because FERC predicated its penalty assessment on its erroneous position that it had jurisdiction over all (and not just some) of BP’s transactions, the court must remand for a reassessment of the penalty in the light of the court’s jurisdictional holding. Thus, the court granted in part and denied in part BP’s petition for review and remanded to the agency for reassessment of the penalty.   The court explained that it has rejected FERC’s expansive assertion that it has jurisdiction over any manipulative trade affecting the price of an NGA transaction. The court, however, reaffirmed the Commission’s authority over transactions directly involving natural gas in interstate commerce under the NGA. The court further determined that there was substantial evidence to support FERC’s finding that BP manipulated the market for natural gas. The court found that FERC’s reasoning in imposing a penalty was not arbitrary and capricious, though the court concluded that FERC’s reliance on an erroneous understanding of its own jurisdiction necessitates remand for recalculation of the penalty. Finally, the court held that neither separation of functions nor statute of limitations issues justify overturning the Commission’s order. View "BP America v. FERC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-Appellants, forty-eight owners of property located near the former Dresser Industrial Valve Operations Facility (“Dresser Facility”) in Rapides Parish, Louisiana, appeal the district court’s order dismissing the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (“LDEQ”) as improperly joined and denying their motion for remand. They further challenge the injunction issued by the district court against Plaintiff M.G. from pursuing a proceeding in state court.   The Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded the district court’s ruling. The court concluded that Defendants failed to meet their burden of establishing that LDEQ was improperly joined. Although the district court carefully reviewed certain Louisiana constitutional provisions and statutes in determining that Plaintiffs had not stated a cognizable claim against LDEQ, the court noted that at least one Louisiana appellate court has recognized that LDEQ may be sued in tort for its negligence under circumstances similar to those alleged by Plaintiffs. Additionally, it is unclear whether LDEQ would have discretionary immunity under La. R.S. Section 9:2798.1 in this case under the court’s standard for determining improper joinder, any ambiguity or uncertainty in the controlling state law must be resolved in Plaintiffs’ favor. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court’s dismissal without prejudice of LDEQ and its denial of Plaintiffs’ motion for remand. View "D & J Invst of Cenla v. Baker Hughes" on Justia Law

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Two former students of Tulane University, on behalf of a putative class of current and former students, sued the University for failing to provide a partial refund of tuition and fees after Tulane switched from in-person instruction with access to on-campus services to online, off-campus instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic. The district court agreed with Tulane that the student's complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim.   The Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded. The court concluded that the claim is not barred as a claim of educational malpractice because the Students do not challenge the quality of the education received but the product received. Second, the court rejected Tulane’s argument that the breach-of-contract claim is foreclosed by an express agreement between the parties because the agreement at issue plausibly does not govern refunds in this circumstance. And third, the court concluded that Plaintiffs have not plausibly alleged that Tulane breached an express contract promising in-person instruction and on-campus facilities because Plaintiffs fail to point to any explicit language evidencing that promise. But the court held that Plaintiffs have plausibly alleged implied-in-fact promises for in-person instruction and on-campus facilities. Moreover, the court found that the Students’ alternative claim for unjust enrichment may proceed at this early stage. Finally, genuine disputes of material fact regarding whether Plaintiffs saw and agreed to the A&DS preclude reliance on the agreement at this stage. Thus, Plaintiffs have plausibly alleged a claim of conversion. View "Jones v. Admin of the Tulane Educ" on Justia Law

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Appellant Advanced Indicator and Manufacturing, Inc. claims its building was damaged by Hurricane Harvey’s winds. Advanced’s insurer, Acadia Insurance Company, determined that the damage to the building was caused by poor maintenance and routine wear and tear. When Acadia denied Advanced’s claim, Advanced sued. Advanced filed a motion to remand the case to state court   The district court granted Acadia’s motion and granted summary judgment on Advanced’s extra-contractual claims. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of the motion to remand, reversed the grant of summary judgment on Advanced’s claims, and remanded the matter to the district court.   The court explained that Advanced’s argument is unavailing because it fails to consider Flagg’s command that “the district court must examine the plaintiff’s possibility of recovery against that defendant at the time of removal.” At the time of removal, then, it would have been proper for the district court to find that “there is no possibility of recovery by [Advanced] against an in-state defendant.” Accordingly, the differences between Sections 542A.006(b) and 542.006(c) are not material as long as the insurer elects to accept liability for the agent before removal. The court held that summary judgment was not warranted on Advanced’s breach of contract claim given the evidence Advanced has put forth. This conclusion requires the reversal of the district court’s dismissal of Advanced’s other claims. View "Adv Indicator v. Acadia Ins" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, including the American Civil Liberties Union, sought an injunction compelling the Texas Attorney General to release the names of certain individuals who were suspected of being non-citizens but were registered to vote. The case arose when the Texas Attorney General began matching Department of Public Safety data against voter registration rolls on a weekly basis and intended to notify county election officials of voters identified as potential non-citizens. Through their claim under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, Plaintiffs obtained an injunction from the district court requiring the State of Texas to provide the names and voter identification numbers of persons suspected of being noncitizens though registered to vote.The Fifth Circuit reversed, finding that Plaintiffs lacked standing to bring a case under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, finding that they did not suffer injury in fact because "an injury in law is not an injury in fact." View "Campaign Legal Center v. Scott" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was employed by Employer, an operator of a casino resort, from January 7, 2015, until she gave two weeks’ notice on June 28, 2019. Upon the termination of her employment, Plaintiff claimed she was subject to pregnancy and sex discrimination, harassment, and constructive discharge in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act based on the adequacy of her lactation breaks and harassment she experienced from co-workers.The district court granted summary judgment to Employer, holding that Plaintiff did not present sufficient evidence to support a prima facie case of disparate treatment, harassment, or constructive discharge. The court further noted that, even if Plaintiff could support a prima facie case of disparate treatment related to the provided lactation breaks, her claim would still fail because Employer articulated legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for not giving her breaks at the exact times requested.The Fifth Circuit affirmed, holding, 1.) Plaintiff's allegations did not support a finding that her co-workers' conduct was objectively severe, 2.) Plaintiff's subjective disparagement of Employer's policies was insufficient to support her constructive discharge claim, and, 3.) Plaintiff's FLSA claims were untimely because they were first raised in response to Employer's motion for summary judgment. View "Bye v. MGM Resorts" on Justia Law

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In a dispute over the applicability of a forum selection clause contained in a franchise agreement, the Fifth Circuit held that non-signatories to a franchise agreement may be bound to the contract’s choice of forum provision under the equitable doctrine that binds non-signatories who are “closely related” to the contract. View "Franlink v. BACE Services" on Justia Law

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Petitioner petitioned for review of an order of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). The order dismissed his appeal of an Immigration Judge’s denials of his claims for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture. He presented several procedural and substantive challenges on appeal.   The Fifth Circuit dismissed the petition for review in part for lack of jurisdiction  and denied in part. The court explained that the BIA did not specifically discuss the IJ’s interpretation of the evidence, but it did reference the particular testimony on the severity of his attacks, the police involvement, and the affidavits that Petitioner alleged the IJ misconstrued. Even if the BIA did not agree with Petitioner’s contention about mischaracterizations, the BIA did mention the evidence that Petitioner alleges it failed to consider meaningfully. This is sufficient.    Finally, the court concluded, that it was reasonable for the BIA to conclude that the new evidence Petitioner presented would not change the outcome of his case. The medical evaluation Petitioner sought to submit would not have altered his case because the evaluation did not discuss symptoms and injuries related to the BJP attacks. Further, it was reasonable for the BIA to conclude Petitioner’s new declaration or affidavits would not have influenced his case, considering he already supplied a declaration and his testimony describing his injuries as minor could not be remedied with his additional evidence. View "Kumar v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Following Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Org., 142 S. Ct. 2228 (2022), the State of Louisiana filed an “emergency Rule 60(b) motion to vacate permanent injunction” concerning the enforcement of Act 620, which requires physicians performing abortions to have “active admitting privileges” within thirty miles of the facility at which the abortions are performed. La. R.S. 40:1299.35.2(A)(2). It requested relief forthwith or, alternatively, relief within two days of filing its motion. Two days later, the district court denied the State’s motion. The State immediately filed an “emergency motion for reconsideration” and requested a ruling by the next day. The district court again denied the State’s motion.   The Fifth Circuit dismissed the appeal holding that the court lacks appellate jurisdiction. The court explained the district court’s orders cannot be read to have denied the underlying request for relief when the district court implicitly and explicitly stated its intent to defer a ruling on the matter. Further, the court reasoned that to have the “practical effect” of refusing to dissolve an injunction, the State must show that the orders have a “direct impact on the merits of the controversy.” The court noted that the district court’s orders did not touch the merits of the State’s underlying request for relief but, for the same reasons stated earlier, acted as the functional equivalent of a scheduling order. Lastly, the court held that the State has not shown it is entitled to mandamus. View "June Medical Svcs v. Phillips" on Justia Law