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

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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BP retained the Responders (O’Brien’s and NRC) for nearly $2 billion to assist with the cleanup of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Thousands of the Responders' workers filed personal injury lawsuits against BP, which were consolidated and organized into “pleading bundles.” The B3 bundle included “all claims for personal injury and/or medical monitoring for exposure or other injury occurring after the explosion and fire of April 20, 2010.” In 2012, BP entered the “Medical Settlement” on the B3 claims with a defined settlement class. The opt-out deadline closed in October 2012. The Medical Settlement created a new type of claim for latent injuries, BackEnd Litigation Option (BELO) claims. After the settlement, plaintiffs could bring opt-out B3 claims if they did not participate in the settlement, and BELO claims if they were class members who alleged latent injuries and followed the approved process. Responders were aware of the settlement before the district court approved it but neither Responder had control over the negotiations, nor did either approve the settlement.In 2017, BP sought indemnification for 2,000 BELO claims by employees of the Responders. The Fifth Circuit held that BP was an additional insured up to the minimum amount required by its contract with O’Brien’s; the insurance policies maintained by O’Brien’s cannot be combined to satisfy the minimum amount. O’Brien’s is not required to indemnify BP because BP materially breached its indemnification provision with respect to the BELO claims. View "O'Brien's Response Management, L.L.C. v. BP Exploration & Production, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, the estate and surviving parents of thirteen-year-old Gabriel Miranda, Jr., filed a products liability action against Navistar for the wrongful death of their son. Gabriel fell to his death after opening the rear emergency exit of a school bus while it was travelling at highway speed.The Fifth Circuit concluded that the district court correctly dismissed this suit on the ground that a federal regulation promulgated by the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 217 (FMVSS 217), conflicts with and therefore preempts a state common law duty to include an automatic lock. The court agreed with the district court's reading of FMVSS 217 that a school bus manufacturer must outfit school buses with rear emergency exits that can be opened in only one way: by operating a manual release mechanism. Therefore, the court reasoned that it would be impossible to comply with the regulation while implementing the electronic locking mechanism change argued for by plaintiffs. View "Estate of Gabriel Miranda, Jr. v. Navistar, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this case involving mesothelioma, the Fifth Circuit concluded that the multidistrict litigation (MDL) court engaged in improper weighing of the evidence on summary judgment relative to the survival action. Accordingly, the court reversed in part and remanded to the Louisiana district court. The court also considered it appropriate case management for the Louisiana district court to reconsider plaintiffs' motion for additional discovery. Finally, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the wrongful death claim, concluding that the district court properly determined that plaintiffs' wrongful death claims are time-barred. View "Williams v. Boeing Company" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal for want of jurisdiction of plaintiff's action against HuffPost, alleging that it libeled him by calling him a white nationalist and a Holocaust denier. Plaintiff filed suit against HuffPost in the Southern District of Texas, but HuffPost is a citizen of Delaware and New York. Furthermore, HuffPost has no physical ties to Texas, has no office in Texas, employs no one in Texas, and owns no property there. In this case, plaintiff identifies only one link to Texas that relates to the dispute: the fact that HuffPost's website and the alleged libel are visible in Texas. The court stated that mere accessibility cannot demonstrate purposeful availment. The court explained that although HuffPost's site shows ads and sells merchandise, neither act targets Texas specifically. Even if those acts did target Texas, the court concluded that neither relates to plaintiff's claim, and thus neither supports specific jurisdiction. Finally, plaintiff has not met his burden to merit jurisdictional discovery. View "Johnson v. TheHuffingtonpost.com, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Home Depot, plaintiff's former employer, in an action alleging personal injury claims stemming from a workplace incident. Specifically, plaintiff alleged that Home Depot breached its duty to provide him with proper assistance, equipment, and training to safely execute "flat stacking," a process of rearranging building materials.The court affirmed in part, concluding that there is no genuine dispute of material fact as to plaintiff's claims for inadequate assistance and training. In this case, Home Depot had no duty to provide assistance that was unnecessary to the job's safe performance. However, the court concluded that there is a genuine issue of material fact as to plaintiff's claim for inadequate equipment. The court explained that there are factual disputes over whether Home Depot had a duty to provide a back brace and whether the lack of a back brace was the proximate cause of plaintiff's injury. Accordingly, the court vacated in part and remanded. View "Molina v. Home Depot USA, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants in an action brought by plaintiff, an oil-platform worker, after he injured his back while building scaffolding. Plaintiff filed suit against the companies managing both the day-to-day construction and the overall construction project. The court concluded, however, that a reasonable jury could not find that either company was liable for the worker's injury because neither was his direct employer. In this case, the Hickman factors weigh in favor of holding that plaintiff was Grand Isle and BP's independent contractor. Furthermore, the court agreed with the district court that the operational-control exception did not apply as to either BP or Grand Isle. View "Coleman v. BP Exploration & Production, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that he was denied proper medical treatment after his shoulder was injured while defendant was escorting him to the shower, seeking relief under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The district court accepted the magistrate judge's findings and dismissed the complaint with prejudice.The Fifth Circuit concluded that the Western District of Louisiana may be an improper venue for plaintiff's FTCA claim and that venue may be a jurisdictional issue in FTCA cases. The court vacated the district court's order dismissing the FTCA claim and remanded for determination of whether venue is proper. The court also affirmed the district court's implicit denial of plaintiff's implicit motion to amend his complaint to include a Bivens claim. View "Moler v. Wells" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's order dismissing with prejudice plaintiff's claims stemming from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Plaintiffs complied with all pretrial orders (PTOs) except for PTO 68, which required plaintiffs to provide past and present information about their medical conditions. Plaintiffs thrice attempted to comply with PTO 68 but the district court found their responses "puzzling" and "hard to make sense of" at the show cause hearing. The court concluded that there is a clear record of delay by plaintiffs in complying with PTO 68 and that no lesser sanction than dismissal with prejudice would serve the interests of justice. Accordingly, the district court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing plaintiffs' claims with prejudice. View "Moore v. BP Exploration & Production, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that neoprene production from the Pontchartrain Works Facility (PWF) exposed residents of St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana, to unsafe levels of chloroprene. Plaintiff filed suit against Denka and DuPont—the current and former owners of the facility—as well as the DOH and DEQ in state court. After removal to federal court, the district court denied plaintiff's motion to remand, granted each defendants' motion to dismiss, and dismissed the amended petition for failure to state a claim.After determining that removal was proper under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) and that the state agencies have consented to federal jurisdiction, the Fifth Circuit concluded that the equitable doctrine of contra non velentem tolls prescription of plaintiff's claims against DuPont and DOH. Consistent with Louisiana's contra non valentem analysis as to what plaintiff reasonably knew or should have known at the time, the court disagreed that, on the record before it, plaintiff had constructive knowledge sufficient to trigger the running of prescription over a year before she filed suit in June 2018. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's holding that plaintiff's claims were prescribed.The court concluded that plaintiff's custodial liability claims against DuPont fail for the same reason as her claims against Denka: a failure to state a plausible duty and corresponding breach. The court agreed with the district court's grant of Denka's motion to dismiss for failure to state a plausible claim of negligence and strict custodial liability arising from Denka's past and current neoprene manufacturing at the PWF. In this case, plaintiff fails to adequately allege a duty owed by Denka, and consequently whether Denka breached such a duty. Finally, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's declaratory relief claims against DEQ. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Butler v. Denka Performance Elastomer, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the district court's dismissal of his negligence and intentional tort claims alleging that Bureau of Prison (BOP) officials caused him a variety of harm while he was incarcerated at USP Beaumont.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's negligence claims based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court concluded that the district court fairly construed plaintiff's complaint as asserting that BOP officials acted negligently in transferring him to USP Beaumont and in housing him in the general population despite his concerns for his safety, and correctly held that those challenged actions are encompassed by the discretionary function exception. The court reversed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's intentional tort claims for lack of jurisdiction and remanded for the district court to determine, with respect to whether the law enforcement proviso applies, whether the BOP officials were acting within the scope of their employment when committing the alleged torts. View "Dickson v. United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury