by
The insurer of a Louisiana sugarcane farm raised several arguments that the farm was entitled to statutory immunity under Louisiana workers' compensation law from an action brought by two injured cane planters. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of plaintiffs, holding that plaintiffs were neither employees of the farm nor its independent contractors. Rather, plaintiffs were employees of the farm's independent contractor. Therefore, the farm was not entitled to statutory immunity from suit. View "Jorge-Chavelas v. Louisiana Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Co." on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to HHS in an action under the Administrative Procedure Act arising from a demonstration project deviating from the ordinary Medicare reimbursement rules. In this case Texas Tech could keep the additional fees it received for implementing the project only if its care management model achieved cost savings. When the government determined that Texas Tech failed to do so, it demanded return of about $8 million in fees. As a preliminary matter, the court held that the demonstration agreement was not a procurement contract and the HHS Departmental Appeals Board had jurisdiction over this case. On the merits, the court held that it need not resolve whether the Board erred in suggesting that the common law of contracts never informs grant disputes, because, even if it did, the Board made valid findings justifying the rejection of Texas Tech's various contract theories. The court rejected Texas Tech's contention that CMS breached the demonstration agreement by failing to provide an appropriately matched control group; by refusing to allow Texas Tech to access relevant Medicare claims data; and by engaging RTI to evaluate whether differences between the intervention and control groups may have accounted for the apparent lack of cost savings. Finally, the court held that, although the Board did not expressly address two common law contract doctrines -- mistake and impracticability -- it did make findings that doom those two defenses. View "Texas Tech Physicians Assoc. v. US Department of Health and Human Services." on Justia Law

by
Jatera filed suit against the Bank and SPS in state court, seeking a judgment declaring the lien on the property at issue void because defendants failed to initiate foreclosure proceedings within the four-year statute of limitations. After removal to federal district court, the district court held that the homeowner lacked standing as a plaintiff because she no longer retained an interest in the property. The district court also concluded that detrimental reliance runs to the benefit of the party asserting it, and Jatera had failed to show it detrimentally relied on the acceleration notice. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Jatera's motion for summary judgment and granted defendants' summary judgment motion. The court held that detrimental reliance was not an exception to the lender's right to unilaterally withdraw an acceleration notice under Texas law. Therefore, in this case, the court need not determine whether there was such reliance, including whether Jatera was assigned the homeowner's detrimental-reliance claim, or whether the homeowner suffered such reliance. View "Jatera Corp. v. US Bank National Assoc." on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit vacated the BIA's final order denying petitioner's motion to reopen removal proceedings. Petitioner claimed that she never received notice of her removal hearing. The court held that the BIA abused its discretion in refusing to reopen petitioner's removal proceedings where petitioner satisfied her obligation to provide a new address to the "Attorney General" by notifying ICE of her change of address. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Fuentes-Pena v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law

by
The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendants' convictions and sentences for their participation in a scheme to pose as singles looking for romantic relationships online, only to swindle their victims into sending money to Nigeria and South Africa. Defendants would steal personal information and then impersonate the victims, getting cash advances and transferring funds out of the victims' accounts. Then defendants cultivated online relationships, convincing their "paramours" to launder their money. The court held that shackling defendants at trial was not an abuse of discretion; the emails and copy of Defendant Mewase's passport was admissible; and the district court properly remove and replaced Juror 20 where the district court identified legally relevant reasons for removal, such as sleeping through witness testimony, misrepresenting this fact to the district court, not understanding the jury instructions, and not deliberating. The court held that the district court did not clearly err by applying the leadership enhancement to Defendant Ayelotan and Raheem's sentences; Ayelotan and Raheem's within-Guidelines sentences did not violate the Eighth Amendment; the district court did not clearly err in determining the intended loss calculation was over $25 million; and the sentences were substantively reasonable. View "United States v. Ayelotan" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
Defendant's prior conviction for aggravated assault constituted a "crime of violence" under 18 U.S.C. 16, and thus an aggravated felony under 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43)(F). The Fifth Circuit held that United States v. Reyes-Contreras, 910 F.3d 169 (5th Cir. 2018) (en banc), did not make previously innocent activities criminal. In Reyes-Contreras, the court held that United States v. Castleman, 572 U.S. 157, 162–68 (2014), was not limited to cases of domestic violence, and that for purposes of identifying a conviction as a crime of violence, there was no valid distinction between direct and indirect force. Therefore, this holding foreclosed defendant's use of the distinction between direct and indirect force -- a distinction he hoped would help him establish that aggravated assault under Texas law was not a crime of violence under 18 U.S.C. 16. View "United States v. Gomez Gomez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's summary judgment award to plaintiffs in an action alleging that Premier misclassified them as independent contractors and failed to compensate them for overtime pay pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Plaintiffs are directional driller consultants (DD) and Premier is a company that specializes in directional drilling for oil. The district court determined that plaintiffs were employees, not independent contractors (IC). However, the court applied the factors in United States v. Silk, 331 U.S. 704 (1947), and held that the degree of control factor favored IC status; plaintiffs had enough control over their profits and losses to have this factor support IC status; the skill and initiative required in performing the job favored IC status; and the permanency of the relationship weighed in favor of IC status. The court evaluated three additional relevant factors and reached the same conclusions as the district court. View "Parrish v. Premier Directional Drilling, L.P." on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit dismissed a petition for review of an FTC order based on lack of jurisdiction. The court held that the FTC's order denying the Board's motion to dismiss and granting the FTC's motion for partial summary decision was not a cease and desist order and thus the Federal Trade Commission Act did not expressly authorize the court to exercise jurisdiction in this case. The court also held that the language in the Act could not be interpreted to allow appellate review of collateral orders. View "Louisiana Real Estate Appraisers Board v. FTC" on Justia Law

by
Defendant was convicted of attempting to cross the United States border carrying two bags of hard candies impregnated with over 5.1 kilograms of methamphetamine. The Fifth Circuit held that the district court erred by instructing the jury that it could find defendant had culpable knowledge if he had been "deliberately ignorant" of the disguised drugs. The court stressed that a deliberate ignorance instruction should rarely be given. In this case, the instruction was not supported by evidence showing defendant engaged in purposeful contrivance to avoid learning of the illegal conduct. However, the court held that the error was harmless because substantial evidence supported the conclusion that defendant actually knew he was carrying illicit candy. Accordingly, the court affirmed the conviction. View "United States v. Araiza-Jacobo" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
Mid-Continent filed a declaratory judgment action seeking a declaration that it did not owe coverage for a judgment assessed against its insured, PSI. The district court ruled that the Cooperation Clause in the policy applied to PSI's third-party claim in the underlying lawsuit and that only parts of the judgment were covered. The Fifth Circuit affirmed in part and held that, regardless of whether the Cooperation Clause applied to affirmative claims, the Cooperation-Clause jury instruction was not an abuse of discretion. The court reversed the district court's conclusion that the Professional Liability Endorsement did not cover the entire judgment and held that it did. View "Mid-Continent Casualty Co. v. Petroleum Solutions, Inc." on Justia Law