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

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The Fifth Circuit vacated the award of attorney's fees in this bankruptcy action and remanded for further proceedings. The court held that a court may compensate an attorney under 11 U.S.C. 330(a) only for services requiring legal expertise that a trustee would not generally be expected to perform without an attorney's assistance. In this case, the bankruptcy court failed to apply the proper legal standard in two respects. First, the bankruptcy court appeared to permit Chaffe to recover for the performance of ordinary trustee duties because of the successful result of the bankruptcy proceeding. Second, the bankruptcy court ignored that the burden rests on the attorney requesting compensation under section 330(a) to justify the services rendered. View "Sylvester v. Chaffe McCall, LLP" on Justia Law

Posted in: Bankruptcy
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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for conspiracy to possesses with intent to distribute a controlled substance and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance. The court concluded that, even if the district court erred in accepting his plea to conspiracy, defendant failed to demonstrate that his substantial rights were affected under plain error review. Finding United States v. Martinez, 15 F.4th 1179 (5th Cir. 2021, persuasive, the court also concluded that the district court did not err, plainly or otherwise, in including the standard conditions of supervised release in defendant's sentence. View "United States v. Vargas" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Domain Protection seeks the return of property for its conversion claim and statutory damages and attorney's fees on its Stored Communications Act claim. In its cross-appeal, Sea Wasp argues that Domain Protection lacked Article III standing and that the district court erred in ruling that Sea Wasp violated federal and state law. Sea Wasp also seeks attorney's fees for ultimately prevailing on the Texas Theft Liability Act claim. Attorney Schepps challenges the district court's sanctions.The Fifth Circuit concluded that there is no jurisdictional problem with this lawsuit because it is enough for Article III's injury-in-fact requirement that Domain Protection contended when filing suit that it did not possess domain names it owned. The court also concluded that the district court did not err as to the conversion claim where Domain Protection did not identify any property Sea Wasp has not returned; because Domain Protection did not prove actual damages, it is not entitled to statutory damages under the Stored Communications Act; Domain Protection's claims seeking to recover damages or attorney's fees are without merit; and because both sides prevailed in some aspects of this suit, the district court did not err in refusing to award fees. Finally, in regard to Schepps' challenges to the sanctions, the court remanded to allow the parties an opportunity to brief the issue of Schepps' failure to disclose his relationship with Domain Protection. Accordingly, the court affirmed except for the sanctions, vacating the sanctions and remanding for further proceedings. View "Domain Protection, LLC v. Sea Wasp, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that a jailer at the Shelby County Jail sexually assaulted him and other detainees, and that the sheriff violated plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment right to procedural and substantive due process. On appeal, the sheriff challenges the district court's denial of his motion to dismiss.The Fifth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part, concluding that the alleged connection between the jailer's prior termination from the Shelby County Jail for abusing detainees and the alleged abuse of plaintiff and other detainees in the Shelby County Jail is sufficient to state a claim for deliberate indifference in rehiring. However, plaintiff failed to allege any facts regarding the lack of a training program, nor are there allegations that the alleged abusive conduct occurred with such frequency that the sheriff was put on notice that training or supervision was needed. Whether the sheriff is liable for punitive damages is not part of the qualified immunity analysis, and this court does not have jurisdiction to consider this question in this interlocutory appeal. Finally, the court granted the sheriff's motion to strike. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Parker v. Blackwell" 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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The Fifth Circuit vacated defendant's conviction for charges stemming from his involvement in a significant tax fraud scheme. The scheme involved the use of several offshore accounts, including certain accounts in the Isle of Man. Defendant appeals both the denial of the motions to dismiss and the denial of his requested jury instruction. The court concluded that defendant was entitled to have the district court fully consider his statute of limitations defense, to have the district court calculate the exact time the statute of limitations ran under existing precedent, to dismissal of any charge that was untimely under that calculation, and to a jury instruction on the statute of limitations defense. View "United States v. Pursley" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal 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 reversed the district court's denial of defendant's motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity in an excessive force action brought by plaintiff. During a routine traffic stop, plaintiff repeatedly challenged defendant's reasons for stopping him, refused to comply with his orders, batted his hand away, called him a liar, warned him to call in backup, and dared him to use his taser.The court concluded that defendant did not violate the Fourth Amendment by tasing plaintiff one time in order to arrest him. Even assuming a Fourth Amendment violation, the court concluded that it was not clearly established at the time that defendant's single use of the taser was constitutionally excessive. Therefore, the district court erred in concluding otherwise. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Betts v. Brennan" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendants' convictions and sentences for various drug trafficking counts after attempting to drive a pickup truck containing over 38 kilograms of methamphetamine hidden in a compartment in the truck's tires from Mexico into the United States. Defendants raised numerous issues on appeal.The court concluded that the district court did not err in denying defendants' Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29 motions; although the district court erred by allowing the Government to elicit improper expert testimony from a Border Patrol agent, the error did not affect defendants' substantial rights; the Government did not impermissibly comment on defendants' silence in its opening and closing arguments; and the Government did not improperly allude to evidence not in the record during its closing argument. The court rejected Defendant Melissa Lara's three independent arguments. Finally, the court concluded that Defendant Mary Ann Lara's 288 month sentence was not substantively unreasonable. View "United States v. Lara" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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In 2012, the Archdiocese purchased a roof membrane system from Siplast, for installation at a Bronx high school. Siplast guaranteed that the system would “remain in a watertight condition for a period of 20 years.” In 2016, school officials observed water damage in the ceiling tiles after a rainstorm and notified the installing contractor and Siplast. A designated Siplast contractor unsuccessfully attempted to repair the damage and prevent leaks. The Archdiocese ultimately obtained an estimate for remediation and replacement of approximately $5,000,000.The ensuing lawsuit alleged “Breach of the Guarantee” Siplast submitted a claim to its insurer, EMCC, asserting coverage under commercial general liability policies that covered “property damage” caused by an “occurrence,” defined as “an accident, including continuous or repeated exposure to substantially the same general harmful conditions.” The policies were subject to exclusions for “Your Product/Your Work” and “Contractual Liability.” The district court granted EMCC summary judgment, finding that while the complaint did allege property damage that was caused by an “occurrence,” the alleged damage fit within the Your Product/Your Work Exclusion. The Fifth Circuit reversed, finding that EMCC had a duty to defend. The underlying complaint contains allegations of damage to property other than Siplast’s roof membrane as part of the claim against Siplast; the exclusion does not apply. View "Siplast, Inc. v. Employers Mutual Casualty Insurance Co." on Justia Law