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

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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These consolidated actions arose from fatal injuries suffered by James Andrew Brenek, II when he was electrocuted by an electrically-energized generator housing cabinet on a rig in Jefferson County, Texas. Brenek was employed by Guichard, which had leased the generator involved in the accident from Aggreko. Guichard had a primary commercial liability policy with Gray and an excess commercial liability policy with Chartis. Aggreko had a primary insurance policy with Indian Harbor. Indian Harbor appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Gray, and Gray conditionally appealed the district court's decision to apply Texas, rather than Louisiana, law to the issues before it. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment, concluding that the outcome of the dispute would be the same under both Texas and Louisiana law. Therefore, the court need not engage in a conflict-of-laws analysis and applied Texas law. Under Texas law, the court held that Gray exhausted its policy limit and its duty to defend Aggreko when it paid $950,000—the remainder of its liability coverage limit—to the Breneks in exchange for the Breneks agreement not to execute any judgment against Aggreko and to recognize Aggreko's entitlement to claim a $950,000 damages credit. View "Aggreko, LLC v. Chartis Specialty Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit denied a petition for panel rehearing and withdrew its prior opinion, substituting the following opinion. At issue was whether a claimant in a civil forfeiture proceeding may counterclaim for constitutional tort damages against the United States. The district court adopted the First Circuit's reasoning and held that a claimant may never file counterclaims of any kind. The court affirmed the district court's judgment, dismissing the counterclaims for a different reason. The court found the First Circuit's reasoning unpersuasive and declined to adopt it. Rather, the court held that the United States has not waived sovereign immunity for claims seeking damages based on alleged Fourth and Fifth Amendment violations arising from the property seizure. View "United States v. $4,480,466.16 in Funds Seized from Bank of America Account Ending in 2653" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Orkin and dismissal of their numerous claims under Louisiana law. Plaintiffs had contracted with Orkin to protect their property from termites, but later discovered that their home had become infested with Formosan termites. The Fifth Circuit held that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment and dismissing plaintiffs' claim that Orkin was contractually liable for the cost of repairing the damage to their home caused by Formosan termites; the district court did not err in granting summary judgment to Orkin on plaintiffs' Louisiana Unfair Trade Practices Act and Louisiana Insurance Code claims; and the district court did not err in dismissing plaintiffs' detrimental reliance claim. However, the district court erred by dismissing plaintiffs' claim that Orkin was negligent or grossly negligent in directing and approving installation of a moisture barrier under their home. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded. View "Cenac v. Orkin, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the denial of petitioner's motion for modification of his Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act benefits. Petitioner's appeal stemmed from the injury he sustained from a contracted IMIA employee when petitioner was employed at Avondale. In this appeal, petitioner objected to the Board's findings on the IMIA employee's employment status. The court considered the nine Ruiz factors to determine that the IMIA employee was not Avondale's borrowed servant. Therefore, the court affirmed the Board's conclusion that the ALJ's order was supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole and was in accordance with the law. The court rejected petitioner's remaining claims in support of the borrowed servant status. Finally, the court rejected Avondale's claim on cross appeal and held that Section 33(f) relief awarded by the ALJ remains in effect, and the unmodified compensation award stands following this appeal. View "Mays v. Director, Office of Workers' Compensation Programs" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to UTA in an appeal arising out of a Title IX suit for damages alleging that UTA discriminated on the basis of sex in disciplining Thomas Klocke. Klocke was placed on disciplinary probation by UTA and was not allowed to attend class because he had harassed another student for being gay. Klocke committed suicide shortly afterwards. His estate filed suit against UTA, seeking damages for Klocke's suffering and anguish prior to his death. The court held that UTA's disciplinary decisions were reasonable and justifiable on non-discriminatory grounds, and an inference of gender bias in these circumstances would necessarily be speculative. The court also held that the selective enforcement claim failed because none of the cases that the estate has identified permit the inference that similarly situated female students were treated more favorably than Klocke. Finally, the estate cited no additional evidence to support a retaliation claim. View "Klocke v. University of Texas at Arlington" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff was injured on the deck of a ship, he filed suit against the United States, the ship's owner, for negligence under the Jones Act and unseaworthiness under general maritime law. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment against plaintiff, holding that no summary-judgment evidence, however it might have been developed, reached the fact of whether plaintiff slipped on grease. Furthermore, plaintiff's claim of unseaworthiness likewise failed. View "Jones v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Walgreens in an action alleging that Walgreens negligently gave medication prescribed for another patient to the driver of the car that caused fatal accidents killing himself and another individual. Under Texas law, a pharmacy does not owe a duty of care to third parties injured on the road by a customer who was negligently given someone else's prescription. Looking to the factors the Texas Supreme Court would consider—in particular, the foreseeability of the harm, the presence of other protections, and the danger of interference with the legislature's balancing of public policies—the court held that the Texas Supreme Court would not recognize a duty between a pharmacy and third parties injured as a result of a customer taking the incorrect prescription. The court declined to exercise its discretion to certify the issue to the Texas Supreme Court. View "Martinez v. Walgreens Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Fannie Mae in an action brought by plaintiff alleging a defamation claim. Plaintiff's claim stemmed from her termination as a sales representative for Fannie Mae. The court held that summary judgment was appropriate for most aspects of plaintiff's defamation claim because she largely failed to make a prima facie case. To the extent that she did make a prima facie case by alleging that the investigative report defamed her by accusing her of concealing her association with the outside broker, the court held that her defamation claim was defeated by Fannie Mae's qualified privilege. View "Warren v. Federal National Mortgage Assoc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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Plaintiff filed a negligence action against Hunter Express and its employee after the employee's truck collided into plaintiff's truck, causing him permanent injuries. The jury found defendants fully liable for the accident and awarded plaintiff over $2.8 million in damages. Addressing the grounds for a new trial that defendants did present to the district court, the Fifth Circuit held that, under either Texas sufficiency review or the federal maximum recovery rule, the $1 million award for future physical pain was too high. In this case, pain that can largely be managed through nonprescription methods did not warrant such a sizeable recovery. The court also held that the record did not support any award of future mental anguish where plaintiff's claims failed to rise to the level of a substantial disruption in his routine. Therefore, the court remanded for the district court to determine the amount of remittitur. View "Longoria v. Hunter Express, Ltd." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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Plaintiffs filed suit in state court against C.E.N. Concrete, Storm Water Management, and Lane Construction after Jeffery Hoyt slid off an icy patch of road and drowned in his car in an adjacent body of water. All the parties were citizens of Texas, except for Lane. Lane removed the case to federal court and the district court later granted its motion for summary judgment. The Fifth Circuit held that the district court's bad-faith finding was not clearly erroneous and that plaintiffs could not avoid that result by relying on cases that predate Congress's enactment of the bad-faith exception to 28 U.S.C. 1446(c)(1)'s time bar. Furthermore, the voluntary-involuntary rule did not bar Lane from removing the case to federal court and the district court did not err in denying plaintiffs' second motion to remand. However, the district court erred by granting summary judgment to Lane where Lane failed to show as a matter of law that its TxDOT-documented negligence before the accident and its TxDOT-documented inspection deficiencies after the accident did not cause Jeffery's death. Furthermore, material disputes of fact precluded plaintiffs' premises liability claim. Finally, the court vacated the grant of summary judgment on the gross negligence claim and remanded for reconsideration. View "Hoyt v. Lane Construction Corp." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury