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

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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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
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After plaintiff was run over by a barrel-racing horse at a Texas rodeo, she filed suit against Kosse Roping Club, the rodeo operator, for negligence. Ten months later, plaintiff filed suit against the club's directors.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims against the directors as untimely. The court need not decide the validity of plaintiff's tolling theory because it concluded that, under Texas law, plaintiff could not pierce the club's corporate veil based solely on evidence that the club was undercapitalized. Therefore, plaintiff's veil-piercing theory failed and, along with it, any argument that the limitations clock against the directors was tolled by her suing Kosse. View "Ledford v. Keen" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, an employee of Offshore Marine, injured her neck in a collision caused by REC Marine in 2015. After plaintiff injured her neck again by slipping and falling on an Offshore Marine vessel in 2018, Offshore Marine sought contribution from REC Marine for plaintiff's maintenance and cure.The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of REC Marine, concluding that under governing circuit precedent Offshore Marine has brought forth genuine issues of material fact as to whether REC Marine caused in part plaintiff's need for maintenance and cure. In this case, plaintiff's deposition, her medical records, and Offshore Marine's proposed expert's report support the conclusion that plaintiff had the same neck injury from the time of the 2015 injury onward, and that the 2018 slip and fall simply worsened it to the point of plaintiff needing maintenance and cure. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Poincon v. Offshore Marine Contractors, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of relief under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) to plaintiff in a personal injury case where his counsel failed to see the electronic notification of a summary judgment motion filed by defendants. In this case, counsel's computer's email system placed the notification in a folder that he does not regularly monitor, and counsel did not check the docket after the deadline for dispositive motions had elapsed. Consequently, counsel did not file an opposition to the summary judgment motion.The court concluded that its precedent makes clear that no such relief is available under circumstances such as this. The court explained that counsel provided the email address to defendants, counsel was plainly in the best position to ensure that his own email was working properly, and counsel could have checked the docket after the agreed deadline for dispositive motions had already passed. Therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the Rule 59(e) motion. The court also concluded that plaintiff forfeited his claim that a fact dispute precluded summary judgment by failing to raise it first before the district court. View "Rollins v. Home Depot USA, Inc." on Justia Law

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Sanchez oil was sued by a subcontractor of a contractor for alleged violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). After unsuccessfully requesting indemnification from Crescent, which hired the subcontractor, Sanchez filed a third-party complaint alleging breach of contract for Crescent's failure to indemnify Sanchez and failure to comply with the FLSA.The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of Sanchez's motion for summary judgment and grant of Crescent's motion, finding material fact issues as to whether the subcontractor was an "independent contractor" or otherwise was exempt from the FLSA. The court also found material fact issues regarding whether Crescent unreasonably withheld consent to the settlement. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Sanchez Oil & Gas Corp. v. Crescent Drilling & Productions, Inc." on Justia Law

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After plaintiff, who was employed by Hulcher Services, lost several fingers at work in an accident at the railyard, he filed suit against Norfolk, the railyard owner, under the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA).The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Norfolk, concluding that plaintiff failed to show that he was an employee of Norfolk and thus he could not recover under FELA. The court explained that plaintiff failed to show that Norfolk controlled the performance of his work or retained the right to do so. View "Wheeler v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co." on Justia Law

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The Prims attended a concert at the Pavilion after consuming wine and consumed more wine during the concert. After the concert, Janet, who suffers from MS, was “stumbling" and unstable. A Pavilion employee called for a wheelchair, escorted the Prims to the security office, and smelled alcohol on Eric’s breath. Deputy Stein, who was working traffic, noticed that Eric had difficulty standing and had slurred speech. Eric admitted that he had been drinking. Eric twice failed a horizontal gaze nystagmus test. A medic evaluated Janet and called Lieutenant Webb. The Prims insisted on walking home but they would have had to cross two busy intersections in the dark. The officers tried, unsuccessfully, to find the Prims a ride home. Stein arrested them for public intoxication. The charges were ultimately dismissed. The Prims brought claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Rehabilitation Act, and tort claims.The district court granted the defendants summary judgment. The Fifth Circuit reversed with respect to Eric’s assault claim but affirmed as to Janet’s assault claim and both false imprisonment claims. The officers are entitled to qualified immunity on the section 1983 claims. Given their apparent intoxication and their route home, the officers reasonably concluded that the Prims posed a danger to themselves or others. With respect to the ADA and Rehabilitation Act, the court affirmed, noting the Pavilion is a private entity and does not receive federal financial assistance. Janet was not discriminated against based on her disability. View "Prim v. Deputy Stein" on Justia Law

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Internet services and social media providers may not be held secondarily liable under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) for aiding and abetting a foreign terrorist organization—here, Hamas—based only on acts committed by a sole individual entirely within the United States.In July 2016, plaintiff and thirteen other police officers were shot and either injured or killed during a tragic mass-shooting committed by Micah Johnson in Dallas, Texas. Plaintiff and his husband filed suit against Twitter, Google, and Facebook, alleging that defendants are liable because they provided material support to Hamas, a foreign terrorist organization that used Internet services and social media platforms to radicalize Johnson to carry out the Dallas shooting.The Fifth Circuit held, based on plaintiffs' allegations, that the Dallas shooting was committed solely by Johnson, not by Hamas's use of defendants' Internet services and social media platforms to radicalize Johnson. Therefore, it was not an act of international terrorism committed, planned, or authorized by a foreign terrorist organization. The court also held that defendants did not knowingly and substantially assist Hamas in the Dallas shooting, again because the shooting was committed by Johnson alone and not by Hamas either alone or in conjunction with Johnson. Therefore, the district court was correct in concluding that defendants are not secondarily liable under the ATA. The court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Retana v. Twitter, Inc." on Justia Law

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James Boudreaux was injured during his employment by Owensby & Kritikos, Inc. as an equipment-testing technician on platforms located on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). Plaintiff's injury resulted from an automobile accident on his way to his work for Owensby on the OCS. Primarily at issue in this case is whether, in light of Pacific Operators Offshore, LLP v. Valladolid, 565 U.S. 207 (2012) (establishing substantial-nexus test), an onshore injury en route to a rig platform on the OCS is recoverable under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA), as extended by the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA). The ALJ determined that Boudreaux's injury arose out of, and occurred in the course of, his employment by Owensby; and, Boudreaux's injury had a substantial nexus to extractive operations on the OCS. The BRB affirmed.The Fifth Circuit applied the substantial-nexus test in Valladolid, holding that Boudreaux's injury is covered under OCSLA. Among the facts relevant to the court's inquiry, the court found persuasive Boudreaux's: being compensated by Owensby for both time and onshore mileage while traveling to and from the OCS; being on-the-job when he was injured; necessarily traveling to an intermediary pickup location to be transported from onshore to the OCS; and transporting his testing equipment in his vehicle. Furthermore, Owensby had another employee pick up Boudreaux's testing equipment to take it to the OCS after his accident. Therefore, each of these factors support Boudreaux's injury occurring as the result of operations conducted on the OCS. The court denied Owensby's petition for review, dismissed Boudreaux's cross-application based on lack of jurisdiction, and granted Boudreaux's request for reasonable attorney's fees incurred in defending against the petition, pending the court's decision on the amount to be awarded. View "Owensby & Kritikos, Inc. v. Boudreaux" on Justia Law