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

Articles Posted in Class Action
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Duwayne Mason appealed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Seacor, as well as the denial of Mason's motion to be recognized as a plaintiff who opted out of the class action settlement at issue in this case. Seacor owned and operated a vessel that assisted in putting out the fire after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill explosion in the Gulf of Mexico and that subsequently took part in the cleanup efforts. In response to a class action filed against it relating to damages stemming from the Deepwater Horizon incident, Seacor filed a limitation of liability action under 46 U.S.C. 30505. Mason, an employee of Seacor and a member of the crew aboard the vessel, alleged injuries sustained from his firefighting efforts. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in failing to determine that Mason had opted out of the class action settlement through informal means. Even assuming arguendo that a reasonable indication of a desire to opt out would suffice, the court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining that Mason’s conduct did not reasonably indicate a desire to opt out of the Medical Benefits Settlement Class. Further, the court rejected Mason's argument that the notice of the Agreement was constitutionally deficient in both delivery and content where Mason had actual notice through his counsel, which satisfies due process. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "In Re: Deepwater Horizon" on Justia Law

Posted in: Class Action
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This case stemmed from a settlement agreement entered into by BP and a class of parties harmed by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Claimants filed a “Motion for Authority to File Wetlands Claims” with the district court, invoking the district court’s supervisory authority over the interpretation and implementation of the settlement agreement. Claimants asked the district court to either determine that all seven of their claims were formally submitted in July 2012 before the six-month deadline had passed or excuse the missed six-month deadline and allow them to file claims anew. The district court denied the motion in a summary order. The court declined to deem claimants to have submitted claims on the parcels at issue in July 2012. The settlement agreement clearly designates the claim form as the manner in which claims should be submitted, and no claim forms were submitted for the two parcels at issue in July 2012, or at any time before the six-month window had closed. The court also declined to exercise any discretion it may have to excuse claimants’ failure to meet the six-month deadline. Finally, the court rejected claimants' due process claim as forfeited. Regardless, the enforcement of a properly noticed deadline generally does not effect a due process violation. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "In re: Deepwater Horizon" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and the putative class filed suit claiming to be post-foreclosure owners of disputed oil and gas interests. After the case was removed by defendants under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), 28 U.S.C. 1332(d)(2), plaintiff moved to remand to state court under the local controversy exception. The district court granted the motion and remanded. Although plaintiff has presented sufficient evidence to show that, under the narrow definition, the proposed class consists of over two-thirds Texas citizens, the court concluded that plaintiff has failed to present any evidence about those owners who purchased mineral interests post-foreclosure but have since sold or otherwise relinquished their interests. The court also concluded that plaintiff has not proven that the exception for local controversies applies because the class that the petition at the time of removal sought to have certified is not clearly limited to current owners, and there is inadequate evidence of the citizenship of the interim owners in the broader class. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Arbuckle Mountain Ranch v. Chesapeake Energy" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit in Louisiana state court alleging personal and property damages stemming from oil pipe-cleaning operations. After the case was removed to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), 28 U.S.C. 1332(d), the district court allowed jurisdictional discovery and then ordered the case remanded to state court again. The court reversed, holding that the district court erred when it found that no plaintiff satisfies CAFA’s individual amount-in-controversy requirement. The court remanded to the district court to address plaintiffs' remaining jurisdictional arguments. View "Robertson v. Chevron" on Justia Law

Posted in: Class Action
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Plaintiffs, holders of BP securities, filed suit against BP and two of its executives, alleging that BP made two distinct series of misrepresentations in violation of federal securities law: one series regarding its pre-Deepwater Horizon spill safety procedures, and one regarding the flow rate of the oil after the spill occurred. The district court only certified the post-spill class. Both sides appealed. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in certifying the Post-Spill class where the district court determined that plaintiffs had established a model of damages consistent with their liability case and capable of measurement across the class, as required by the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Comcast Corp. v. Behrend. Accordingly, the court affirmed as to that issue. The court also affirmed the district court's decision not to certify the Pre-Spill class where plaintiffs’ materialization-of-the-risk theory cannot support class certification. View "Ludlow v. BP" on Justia Law

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In these consolidated cases, BP appealed three settlement awards, related to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, that it paid to nonprofits through its Court-Supervised Settlement Program. On appeal, BP argued that the Claims Administrator improperly interpreted the Settlement Agreement. The awards were based on the Claims Administrator’s determination that nonprofits may count donations and grants as “revenue” under the terms of the Agreement (the Nonprofit-Revenue Interpretation). As a preliminary matter, the court concluded that it has jurisdiction over this appeal under the collateral order doctrine and that BP's appeals were timely. On the merits, the court concluded that BP failed to show that the Nonprofit-Revenue Interpretation violates the plain language of the Agreement. The court held that the Nonprofit-Revenue Interpretation does not alter the class definition in violation of Rule 23 or Article III. Finally, the court concluded that there was no abuse of discretion in the district court's denial of review of the individual awards. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "In Re: Deepwater Horizon" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Denbury, alleging that Denbury breached its duty to act as a reasonable and prudent operator of the well that was drilled under oil, gas, and mineral leases. At issue on appeal was whether the district court erred in remanding the case on the basis that the local single event exclusion under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), 28 U.S.C. 1332(d)(11)(B)(ii), (ii)(I), applies to this case. The court concluded that the plain text of the exclusion supports plaintiffs' view that the terms "event" and "occurrence" are not generally understood to apply only to incidents that occur at a discrete moment in time. Moreover, this understanding is supported by legislative history and other case law interpreting the local single event exclusion. Therefore, the court held that, although the exclusion applied in cases in which the single event or occurrence happens at a discrete moment in time, the single event or occurrence may also be constituted by a pattern of conduct in which the pattern is consistent in leading to a single focused event that culminates in the basis of the asserted liability. Accordingly, the court held that the failure of the Well constituted the "event or occurrence" from which the claims of plaintiffs arose. The court affirmed the judgment of the district court.View "Rainbow Gun Club, Inc., et al. v. Denbury Onshore, L.L.C., et al." on Justia Law

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Cedar Lodge filed a proposed class action suit against Fairway Defendants in Louisiana state court and Fairway Defendants removed to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), 28 U.S.C. 1332(d). Cedar Lodge subsequently amended the complaint to add STS, a Louisiana citizen, as defendant and moved to remand to state court under the local controversy exception to CAFA jurisdiction. The district court remanded. This court then granted the Fairway Defendants permission to appeal the remand order and now hold that the application of the local controversy exception depends on the pleadings at the time the class action is removed, not on an amended complaint filed after removal. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Cedar Lodge Plantation, L.L.C., et al. v. CSHV Fairway View I, L.L.C., et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was an original member of the class of plaintiffs in Betty Dukes, et al. v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. After the Supreme Court decertified the Dukes class, plaintiff filed this putative class action in the Texas district court. That court dismissed plaintiff's individual claims because they had ceased to be tolled and were therefore time-barred. The court reversed and remanded, holding that, under Am. Pipe & Constr. Co. v. Utah and its progeny, the relevant statute of limitations remained tolled when plaintiff filed her complaint in this case. View "Odle v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc." on Justia Law

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The State filed a class action suit against several insurers to recover on the homeowner insurance policies purchased by individual Louisiana citizens but assigned by the respective policy holders to the State in return for State financial assistance in repairing and rebuilding their homes in the wake of the hurricanes. Defendants removed to federal court. The State eventually dropped its class allegations and severed this individual action from the original class action case. At issue was whether there was federal jurisdiction over these individual cases, once part of the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), 28 U.S.C. 1332(d)(2), class action. The court held that the general rule regarding federal jurisdiction over a removed case controlled; jurisdictional facts were determined at the time of removal, not by subsequent events; because at the time of removal CAFA supplied federal subject matter jurisdiction over these cases, the court held that CAFA continued to provide jurisdiction over these individual cases notwithstanding their severance from the class. View "State of Louisiana v. American National Property and Casualty Co., et al." on Justia Law