Justia U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Injury Law
Baker v. DOWCP
Petitioner worked as a marine carpenter and was injured while building a housing module designed for use on a tension leg offshore oil platform (TLP) named Big Foot. On appeal, petitioner challenges the Benefits Review Board's decision affirming the denial of benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA), 33 U.S.C. 901-950, and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), 43 U.S.C. 1331-1356. Big Foot, like other TLPs, is a type of offshore oil platform used for deep water drilling; the parties concede that Big Foot was not built to regularly transport goods or people. The court agreed with the ALJ that petitioner was not covered by the LHWCA because he was not engaged in maritime employment as a shipbuilder, based on his determination that Big Foot is not a “vessel” under the LHWCA. The court also concluded that, based on the specific facts of petitioner's employment, his injury does not satisfy the substantial nexus test and is not covered under the LHWCA as extended by the OCSLA. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Baker v. DOWCP" on Justia Law
Doe v. United States
Plaintiffs, eight female alien detainees, filed suit alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 2671 et seq., as well as several state law claims, after a male CCA officer, Donald Dunn, sexually assaulted them. The court concluded that the district court did not err in dismissing plaintiffs’ Section 1983 claim against CCA and Evelyn Hernandez, the former CCA facility administrator, or in granting summary judgment for Dunn. The CCA defendants, in housing alien detainees according to ICE specifications, were performing a federal function, rather than operating the detention center under color of state law. Williamson County had almost no involvement in the detention center’s day-to-day operations. The court also concluded that summary judgment for Williamson County was proper where the county is not directly responsible for CCA’s failure to follow policy, and the county did not otherwise act with deliberate indifference in monitoring the detention center. Furthermore, plaintiffs have not plausibly asserted that ICE officials acted with deliberate indifference and the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' FTCA claims against the United States. The court affirmed as to the federal claims, but reversed the dismissal of the remaining state claims and remanded. View "Doe v. United States" on Justia Law
Charles v. Atkinson
Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that they were injured in a vehicle collision with Thomas Lee Atkinson, an employee of CFC. The district court granted summary judgment for CFC and its insurer, Amerisure. However, Atkinson remains in the litigation. The court held that, absent Rule 54(b) certification, either service or appearance by a named party will defeat appellate jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1291 if the claims involving that party are not addressed in the final judgment or prior order. Accordingly, although Atkinson has never appeared in this litigation, if he has been served, this court would lack jurisdiction under section 1291. Because it is unclear from the record whether Atkinson was ever served, the court remanded to the district court for the limited purpose of determining whether Atkinson has been served and entering an order stating its findings and conclusions as to service. View "Charles v. Atkinson" on Justia Law
Patterson v. Aker Solutions Inc.
Plaintiff, a U.S. citizen working for Blue Offshore, allegedly sustained a knee injury while working on board a Luxembourg-flagged vessel that was located off the coast of Russia. Plaintiff filed suit against Blue Offshore and two other companies, Aker Solutions and FMC Technologies, alleging negligence. Plaintiff later amended his complaint and added more defendants, including FMC Kongsberg and FMC Eurasia. After completion of the jurisdictional discovery, the district court found that neither specific nor general personal jurisdiction existed over Aker Subsea or FMC Kongsberg. Therefore, the district court dismissed these parties from the suit. At issue in this appeal is whether the district court erred in dismissing Aker Subsea under Rule 12(b)(2). The court concluded that exercising general personal jurisdiction over Aker Subsea would be inappropriate where Aker Subsea’s limited contacts with the United States - eleven secondment agreements - are insufficient to satisfy due process concerns. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Patterson v. Aker Solutions Inc." on Justia Law
Savoie v. Huntington Ingalls, Inc.,
Joseph Savoie was employed at the Avondale Shipyard between 1948-1996. The Avondale Shipyard fulfilled contracts from the federal government. The specifications for Navy and Coast Guard vessels required asbestos insulation through at least 1968. After Savoie contracted mesothelioma, he filed numerous negligence and strict liability claims. Plaintiffs in this case are Joseph's survivors. At issue is whether strict liability claims based on the existence of asbestos at the shipyard give rise to federal jurisdiction under the federal officer removal statute, 28 U.S.C. 1442. The Savoies’ negligence claims challenge discretionary acts of the shipyard free of federal interference. As a result, the government’s directions to the shipyard via the contract specifications did not cause the alleged negligence, and those claims do not support removal. In regard to plaintiffs' strict liability claims, under Louisiana law, there is a causal relationship between the government's requirements that the shipyard use asbestos in constructing its Navy and Coast Guard vessels and Savoie’s asbestos exposure while working on those same vessels. Therefore, the district court erred in finding that this nexus requirement was not satisfied. Because the district court never had the opportunity to consider whether the defenses are colorable, the court remanded to allow the district court to do so in the first instance. View "Savoie v. Huntington Ingalls, Inc.," on Justia Law
Posted in: Injury Law
Block v. New York Times Co.
This case arose from a New York Times article about Senator Rand Paul, which briefly quotes Walter Block, an economics professor. Block filed suit against defendants asserting claims for defamation and false light invasion of privacy. Although Block does not dispute that he made the statements at issue, he argues that the article takes the statements so far out of context as to make them untrue and defamatory. The district court granted a special motion to strike under Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure article 971 (anti-SLAPP law), dismissed the complaint, and awarded defendants attorney's fees. In Lozovyy v. Kurtz, the court interpreted Louisiana law and concluded that “the Louisiana Supreme Court would recognize that Article 971’s ‘probability of success’ standard does not permit courts to weigh evidence, assess credibility, or resolve disputed issues of material fact.” Because the district court lacked the benefit of the court's recent guidance in Lozovyy, the court vacated and remanded for the district court to apply the standard. On remand, the district court should consider whether Block has established a genuine dispute of material fact on each element of his claims. View "Block v. New York Times Co." on Justia Law
Shakeri v. ADT Security Servs.
Plaintiffs Shakeri and Taji filed suit against ADT, alleging a breach of contract claim and tort claims under Texas law for negligence, fraud, unconscionable conduct, and breach of the implied warranty of good and workmanlike performance. Plaintiffs were robbed at gunpoint and injured at their jewelry store. During the robbery, Shakeri pushed the button to trigger the alarm system multiple times, but the alarm system and the backup alarm failed to work. The district court ultimately dismissed plaintiffs’ tort claims and limited their contractual recovery in three separate orders. Determining that plaintiffs are bound by the terms of a 1999 Contract, the court concluded that the district court erred in dismissing plaintiffs' negligence claim where Shakeri's injury is the kind of physical harm that is not covered by the economic loss rule and is not defeated by the existence of a contract between the parties; plaintiffs failedto state adequate claims for breach of the implied warranty of good and workmanlike performance under Texas law; the district court did not err in dismissing plaintiffs’ unconscionable conduct claim; and plaintiffs' fraudulent inducement claim is barred under Texas law. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' negligence claim and remanded for further proceedings on this claim. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' remaining tort claims. View "Shakeri v. ADT Security Servs." on Justia Law
Villarreal v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.
Plaintiff filed suit for breach of contract, negligence, wrongful foreclosure, and violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA), Tex. Bus. & Com. Code 17.50(a)(1)). On appeal, plaintiff challenged the district court's dismissal of her claims, as well as her motion to join a non-diverse defendant. The court concluded that the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's breach-of-contract claim was proper because she failed to allege any facts showing her own performance and did not refute the facts in documents referred to in her complaint, central to her claims, and attached to the motion to dismiss; the dismissal of the negligence claim was proper where any damages stemming from an alleged violation of those solely contractual duties are not redressable in tort; the wrongful-foreclosure claim was properly dismissed where plaintiff never alleged that Wells Fargo disposed of the house at a “grossly inadequate selling price,” nor does she allege that Wells Fargo fraudulently chilled the bidding at the foreclosure sale; and, where plaintiff bases her DTPA claims on Wells Fargo’s failure to make automatic withdrawals to pay the loan, such services cannot form the basis of a DTPA claim because they are incidental to the loan and would serve no purpose apart from facilitating the mortgage loan. Finally, in regard to the motion to join a non-diverse defendant, the district court applied the correct legal standard and its finding of fact were not clearly erroneous. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Villarreal v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A." on Justia Law
Cuba v. Pylant
These two consolidated appeals stem from suits between Donald Cuba and Julia Pylant where Julia accused Cuba of rape and Cuba was later acquitted of the charge. In No. 15-10212, Cuba sued Julia and her parents (collectively “the Pylants”) for malicious prosecution, defamation, and tortious interference with contractual relations. In No. 15-10213, Julia sued Cuba for assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”), and Cuba counterclaimed with causes of action substantially identical to those in his suit. The Pylants moved, in both suits, to dismiss Cuba's claims under the Texas Citizens' Participation Act (Texas's anti-SLAPP statute), Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. 27.004. The district court eventually held that the TCPA motions were moot because they had already been denied by operation of law. The court agreed with the Pylants that, under the TCPA framework, the 30-day deadline before a motion is deemed denied by operation of law runs only from the date of the hearing on the motion. But, because no such hearing was held in these cases, the TCPA motion was not denied by operation of law. In this case, the appeals are timely where the operative date from which the 30-day clock under Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure ran was March 6, 2015, the date of the order denying the motion. On the merits, the court concluded that the TCPA applies in this case where, as Cuba concedes, all of the acts that the Pylants are being sued for are exercises of the right to petition as defined under the statute. The court further concluded that Cuba's claims of malicious prosecution and defamation are pleaded in sufficient detail. However, as to the defamation claim, the Pylants have established an affirmative defense as to certain of the communications at issue. Finally, Cuba’s tortious interference claim does not survive the motion to dismiss. Accordingly, the court vacated the orders from which these interlocutory appeals are taken, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Cuba v. Pylant" on Justia Law
Trinity Marine Products, Inc. v. United States
Trinity filed an administrative claim in 2012 and a complaint in federal court in 2013 under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 1346(b)(1), 2680(h), alleging malicious prosecution. In 1999, Trinity was indicted for illegally storing hazardous waste without a permit and the charges were dismissed in 2003. The district court dismissed Trinity's claim as time barred. The principal issue on appeal is whether equitable tolling is applicable in this case where one of the federal agents investigating Trinity intentionally concealed his extramarital affair with another investigator. Under Louisiana law, a claim of malicious prosecution requires showing both an “absence of probable cause” and “the presence of malice.” Thus, the only evidentiary basis for a viable malicious-prosecution FTCA claim “well grounded in fact” would be evidence to support the allegations that federal law enforcement officers maliciously instigated the prosecution despite a lack of probable cause. The court held that the district court erred by failing to equitably toll the statute of limitations, determining that the Government has not met its burden of conclusively establishing that Trinity would have discovered evidence to support the allegations in the complaint through the exercise of reasonable diligence prior to 2011. In this case, neither the unsealed grand jury testimony nor the amended complaint conclusively establish that Trinity would have discovered evidence to verify the allegations that federal law enforcement officials maliciously instigated the case despite a lack of probable cause. Accordingly, the court reversed as to this issue. The court concluded, however, that collateral estoppel is not applicable in this case. The court affirmed as to this issue. View "Trinity Marine Products, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law