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

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal, based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction, of plaintiff's action under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) and the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA). Plaintiff, a security guard, was shot in the leg while on duty by a pair of Islamic terrorists. The court held that plaintiff failed to satisfy the first prong of the discretionary function analysis, because he failed to point to a specific, nondiscretionary function or duty that prescribes a specific course of action for an agency or employee. The court also held that plaintiff waived his argument that a certain gun sale contravened the FBI's express policy prohibiting the sale of firearms to suspected terrorists, because plaintiff failed to adequately brief the issue. Likewise, plaintiff's argument regarding the law enforcement proviso was waived. The court declined to adopt the state created danger doctrine to overcome the FTCA's discretionary function exception; held that the district court properly dismissed the ATA claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction; and held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by barring additional discovery. View "Joiner v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit denied the petition for review of the Board's decision affirming the ALJ's conclusion that plaintiff did not suffer more severe shoulder and back injuries for the purpose of receiving benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA). The court held that the ALJ did not err in concluding that defendants' medical expert was more credible than plaintiff's treating physician, thus rebutting the presumption of a causal nexus. The court also held that the Board did not err in refusing to consider plaintiff's new argument, presented for the first time in his motion for reconsideration, that the 2017 shoulder surgery was intended to address an AC joint sprain. Finally, the court held that the ALJ's finding that plaintiff did not suffer from lumbar facet arthrosis was supported by substantial evidence. View "Bourgeois v. Director, Office of Workers' Compensation Programs" on Justia Law

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After plaintiffs filed suit against two federal agents for making allegedly defamatory comments to a local news station, the district court denied scope-of-employment discovery, substituted the United States as the proper defendant, and dismissed for failure to file an administrative claim. The Fifth Circuit held that the offending statements were made in the scope of the agents' employment; plaintiffs have no right to even limited discovery, because they failed to allege any facts that, taken as true suggested that the agents acted outside of the scope of their employment; and reconsideration was not warranted by any supposed additional evidence. View "Bolton v. United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Union Pacific in an action alleging that the company negligently contributed to a fatal railroad collision. In this case, the trucks in front of a caravan had left insufficient room for the last truck to clear the Oil & Gas Crossing. The last truck stopped on the tracks where, seconds later, a Union Pacific train collided with it, killing all three individuals inside. The court found plaintiffs' claim that Union Pacific breached a duty to provide adequate visual warning devices at the Oil & Gas Crossing unpersuasive; the Crossing was not a "dangerous trap;" and, although a jury could reasonably conclude that Union Pacific had a duty to plaintiffs to protect against the unique hazard presented by the Crossing, plaintiffs have failed to show why the signs Union Pacific installed were insufficient to fulfill this duty. The court also held that plaintiffs' claims that Union Pacific was negligent in operating the locomotive horn was either preempted by federal law or otherwise unsupported by sufficient evidence to survive summary judgment. View "Ryder v. Union Pacific Railroad Co." on Justia Law

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After a shift foreman was injured and disabled while working on an oil and gas storage facility, he filed a claim with the Department under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act. The ALJ found that the foreman fulfilled the Act's requirements, the Board affirmed the ALJ's findings, and IMTT petitioned for review. The Fifth Circuit denied the petition for review, holding that the foreman fulfilled the Act's situs requirement; he was engaged in maritime employment; he had not reached maximum medical improvement; and he adequately sought alternative employment. View "International-Matex Tank Terminals v. Director, Office of Workers' Compensation Programs" on Justia Law

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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