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

Articles Posted in Injury Law

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After the American Association of Neurological Surgeons' (AANS) Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) recommended that plaintiff's membership be suspended for six months, he appealed to the AANS Board of Directors. The Board downgraded the suspension to a censure, but plaintiff subsequently resigned from the AANS and filed suit, claiming that the censure harmed his future employment opportunities as an expert witness. Plaintiff filed suit against the AANS for tortious interference with prospective business relations; breach of contract (the AANS bylaws); and impairment of an important economic interest from denial of due process. The court concluded that plaintiff received sufficient due process, including notice, a hearing, and multiple levels of appeal, before he was censured for failing to review all pertinent and available records prior to testifying. Because the district court found only one basis of the censure to be unsupported by due process, the district court was correct in setting aside only that portion of the censure. The court further concluded that no Texas court has recognized a breach of contract challenge to a private association’s disciplinary process. Therefore, plaintiff failed to state a plausible breach of contract claim on which relief could be granted, and the district court properly dismissed. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Barrash v. Amer. Ass'n of Neurological Surgeons" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a technician employed by Tiger, filed suit against Triton and W&T after he was injured on board a vessel. W&T hired Triton to provide a vessel, staff, and equipment for W&T's offshore pipeline project, and also hired Tiger as a safety contractor. The district court interpreted the parties’ Master Service Contract (MSC) to place the burden of payment for plaintiff's injuries on W&T alone. The court concluded that the district court properly determined that plaintiff was W&T’s invitee; the district court's factual findings compel the conclusion that plaintiff was not Triton’s invitee; and the district court was correct to hold that W&T was liable under the MSC for Triton’s settlement and defense costs related to plaintiff's claims. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Grogan v. Triton Diving Services, L.L.C." on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts, Injury Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against C.R.E.S. alleging that it had a duty to protect him from unreasonable and foreseeable harm due to the criminal acts of third parties. Plaintiff was shot by an unknown assailant in the doorway of his apartment and C.R.E.S. is the premises owner. The district court granted summary judgment for C.R.E.S. The court held that while the district court did not err in refining the complex’s relevant criminal history prior to analyzing foreseeability, it did err in categorically excluding the residential burglaries from its foreseeability analysis. In this case, the occurrence of fourteen residential burglaries within the twelve months preceding the incident in which plaintiff was injured, and C.R.E.S.’s knowledge of these crimes, when considered in conjunction with the other crimes that the district court denominated violent crimes relevant to its analysis, raises a fact question as to whether that incident was reasonably foreseeable. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Jenkins v. C.R.E.S. Mgmt. LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Injury Law

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Plaintiff and his wife filed suit against FEMA under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 2671-2680, after plaintiff was injured from a fall while exiting a trailer owned by FEMA. The district court granted summary judgment for FEMA, concluding that plaintiff's claims are barred by the FTCA’s discretionary function exception. The court held, however, that FEMA’s decision about how customers would enter and exit the trailers was not the type of judgment the discretionary function exception was designed to protect. Because plaintiff has not overcome the presumption that this was a sufficiently policy-laden decision by alleging facts that show the conduct was not grounded in the policy of the regulatory regime, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Gibson v. United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Injury Law

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Plaintiffs filed a personal injury suit against defendants for alleged workplace injuries to Helen Allen. Defendants argued that the suit should be barred by judicial estoppel because plaintiffs failed to disclose the personal injury claim during their concurrent Chapter 13 bankruptcy proceeding.The district court granted defendants' motion for summary judgment. The court concluded that its precedent clearly establishes that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it dismissed plaintiffs’ claims based on judicial estoppel and provided a trustee with the opportunity to “pursue for the benefit of creditors a judgment or cause of action that the debtor fails to disclose in bankruptcy.” The court modified the district court’s judgment to clarify that the district court may reopen the present case and substitute a Chapter 7 trustee for plaintiffs if the trustee decides to pursue the claim within a reasonable period of time. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment as modified. View "Allen v. C & H Distributors, L.L.C.," on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a negligence suit against defendants after he was injured while employed as a boilermaker by Wyatt. CP entered into a contract with Wyatt to perform work on a vacuum tower. CP and Wyatt signed a Master Services Agreement (MSA). At issue was whether a non-operating partner in a joint-venture qualifies as a “statutory employer” as that term is used in the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Act (LWCA), LA. Stat. Ann. 23:1021 et seq., even though the operating partner signed a contract with a contractor that did not specifically designate the non-operating partner as a “statutory employer.” Whether viewed in terms of the inherent legal relationships among CP, Excel, and the joint venture and Wyatt, or proper inferences drawn from the MSA, the court did not think the parties’ failure to name or require the signature of Excel in the MSA can overcome the broad presumption of statutory employer status approved by Louisiana courts. The very purpose of CP and Excel in creating the joint venture was to give CP the exact operational authority it exercised on behalf of the joint venture when it signed the MSA with Wyatt. The parties’ written contract, in essence, “recognized” the parties to the joint venture as the statutory employers through their authorized agent. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Wright v. Excel Paralubes" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Korean Air claiming that the airline’s failure to place her in the wheelchair that she requested when she booked her flight was an “accident” under Article 17 of the Warsaw Convention. The Warsaw Convention sets forth air carrier liability for a passenger’s injuries if the accident causing the injury took place on board the aircraft, or during the process of embarking or disembarking. The court concluded that the district court was correct in holding that plaintiff’s injuries were not the result of an “accident” under the Warsaw Convention because her failure to be placed in a wheelchair was not an “unexpected or unusual” event. In this case, it would not have been “unexpected or unusual” for Korean Air employees to assume plaintiff simply did not want a wheelchair, and to refrain from tracking her down in the airport to provide her with the same empty wheelchair she just walked past. Because plaintiff did not suffer an “accident” under Article 17, the court need not determine whether the failure to place plaintiff in a wheelchair was a “link in the chain” of causes leading to her injuries. The court affirmed the judgment. View "Nguyen v. Korean Air Lines Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Aviation, Injury Law

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This law suit arose from a motor vehicle accident between a truck driven by Melvin Jones and owned by Celadon and another vehicle driven by plaintiff. The parties agree that Jones was at fault for the accident and that Celadon is vicariously liable. On appeal, Jones and Celadon challenge the district court's denial of their motion for a new trial. The court affirmed the judgment, concluding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting evidence of medical bills because Texas law permits consideration of plaintiff's medical bills, and in refusing spoliation sanctions because the timing of plaintiff's surgery alone was insufficient to demonstrate that he had acted in bad faith. View "Guzman v. Jones" on Justia Law

Posted in: Injury Law

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Plaintiffs filed these consolidated cases, alleging exposure to asbestos aboard vessels operated or owned by the various defendants. At issue was whether the cases, originally filed in state court, properly belong in federal court. Defendants argue that removal was warranted under the Federal Officer Removal Statute, 28 U.S.C. 1442(a)(1). In adopting the magistrate judge’s report and recommendation, the district court found that defendants failed to establish an adequate causal link because plaintiffs’ claims were “analogous” to “failure to warn cases” where the government owns a work space infected with asbestos and the civilian contractor operating the facility fails to warn of the danger or otherwise mitigate the risk. The court found that the evidence suggests that the Federal Officer Defendants operated the vessels in a largely independent fashion and, at a minimum, were free to adopt the safety measures plaintiffs now allege would have prevented their injuries. The court concluded that the district court properly found that remand was proper based upon this ground. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Bartel v. Alcoa Steamship Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Thoratec, manufacturer of the Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) implanted in her husband, and subsequently filed suit against the Government under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 2671 et seq., based on medical malpractice committed by a heart surgeon and a nurse. The Government appealed the district court's order denying its motion for judgment on partial findings, and its amended judgment. Plaintiff appealed the district court's damages award. The court concluded that the district court did not err as a matter of law when it applied Virginia's common knowledge exception and held that plaintiff had proved her medical malpractice claim without offering expert testimony; because plaintiff failed to present the survivorship argument issue in her post-trial motion, the court may not consider it on appeal; and the district court's award was not clearly erroneous or contrary to right reason. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Bush v. Thoratec Corp." on Justia Law