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

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This insurance coverage case concerns flood damage from Hurricane Harvey to two office buildings owned by Pan Am and insured by Lexington. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Lexington. The court held that the unequivocal language of the "Windstorm" deductible, which covered flood damage, controls. Therefore, Pan Am may not recover because its buildings were damaged solely by flooding. Furthermore, even if the generic $100,000 "Flood" deductible were to also apply, the 5% TIV-based deductible would prevail under the policy's anti-stacking clause. View "Pan Am Equities, Inc. v. Lexington Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of government authorization to administer antipsychotic medication to defendant involuntarily for the sole purpose of restoring her competency for trial. The court held that all four Sell factors support the administration of the antipsychotic medication because the government's interest in bringing to trial an individual accused of a serious crime is important; involuntary medication will significantly further those interests; the involuntary medication is necessary to further those interests; and administration of the drugs is medically appropriate. In this case, the administration of Risperdal Consta is medically appropriate and defendant's case does not present any of the recognized risk factors for side effects linked to Risperdal Consta, which itself has fewer serious side effects than do earlier generation antipsychotics. View "United States v. James" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Plaintiffs filed a putative class action against the Investment Committee of the Phillips 66's retirement plan for breach of fiduciary duties under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). The Fifth Circuit rejected plaintiffs' contention that defendants breached their duty to diversify under section 1104(a)(1)(C) of ERISA and their duty of prudence under section 1104(a)(1)(B) by failing to consider reducing their holdings in the ConocoPhillips Funds. Although plaintiffs have plausibly alleged that the ConocoPhillips Funds, by its resulting concentration of investment, became an imprudent investment with the spinoff, the court held that it does not follow that defendants were obligated to force plan participants to divest from the funds. Furthermore, by closing the ConocoPhillips Funds to new investments immediately after the spin-off, defendants also ensured that they were not offering participants an imprudent investment option. Finally, the court rejected plaintiffs' contention that the district court erred in dismissing their claim that defendants failed to comply with their duty "to follow a regular, appropriate, systematic procedure to evaluate the ConocoPhillips Funds as investments in the Plan." Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's grant of defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. View "Schweitzer v. Investment Committee of the Phillips 66 Savings Plan" on Justia Law

Posted in: ERISA
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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for being a felon in possession of a firearm under 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1). The court held that, to the extent that defendant argues his indictment is fatally defective because it did not contain an element of the offense under section 922(g), he failed to preserve that claim by pleading guilty. The court also held that defendant cannot show how the Rehaif error affected his substantial rights. In the factual basis and the rearraignment, defendant admitted that he was a felon convicted of a crime punishable by more than one year. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by applying a two-level sentencing enhancement under USSG 2K2.1(b)(4)(A) for a stolen firearm; defendant's sentence is procedurally reasonable where, even if the upward departure was improper, the error is harmless because the heightened sentence was imposed as a variance as well; and defendant's sentence was substantively reasonable where the district court specifically considered the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) factors and did not abuse its discretion by imposing an 105-month sentence. View "United States v. Lavalais" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Plaintiff joined the Chinese-Manufactured Drywall Products Liability Multi-District Litigation, alleging that his home contained defective Chinese-manufactured drywall. Plaintiff challenged the district court's award of $300,000 in damages and Knauf Defendants move to dismiss. The Fifth Circuit granted the Knauf Defendants' motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and dismissed the appeal. In this case, the New Claims Settlement Agreement incorporates another agreement that has a waiver of appellate rights, and these explicit waivers clearly and unequivocally waive plaintiff's right to appeal. View "Dieuvil v. Gebrueder Knauf Verwaltungsgesellschaft, KG" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's revised sentence imposed after he was convicted of drug trafficking and firearms offenses. The court rejected defendant's reading of the First Step Act of 2018 and joined its sister circuits in holding that section 403 of the Act affords no relief to defendants whose cases were pending on direct appeal on the law's December 21, 2018 effective date. The court explained that the date that matters in the section 403 inquiry is when the district court imposed defendant's sentence—not when defendant exhausted his appeals. The court applied the new Diggles framework and held that all four of the conditions of supervised release are discretionary under 18 U.S.C. 3583(d), and therefore they are all subject to the oral pronouncement requirement. However, defendant's challenge did not clear even the first of the four plain error hurdles for there was no error at all. In this case, the district court pronounced defendant's conditions of supervised release when it stated that his new term of supervised release would be subject to the same terms and conditions as previously stated in his first written judgment. View "United States v. Gomez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's imposition of a standard condition of supervised release requiring defendant to "permit a probation officer to visit at any time at home or elsewhere and permit confiscation of any contraband observed in plain view by the probation officer." The condition was imposed after defendant pleaded guilty to interference with commerce by robbery and to brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by imposing this condition in light of defendant's violent conduct, prior drug convictions, multiple probation violations, and failure to abide by the terms of pretrial release. View "United States v. Payton" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Fifth Circuit treated the petition for en banc rehearing as a petition for panel rehearing, granted the rehearing, withdrew its prior opinion, and substituted the following opinion. Petitioner appealed the district court's dismissal of his 28 U.S.C. 2254 petition as time-barred. Petitioner was then granted a certificate of appealability (COA) to consider whether he was entitled to statutory tolling. The court held that when a state prisoner is implicitly granted extra time to seek supervisory writs from the denial of his state post-conviction application—and he does so within that time—his initial application therefore remains "pending" under the tolling provision in section 2244(d)(2). The court explained that its holding was supported by circuit precedent and the Supreme Court's teaching that a state post-conviction application remains pending for statutory tolling purposes as long as the ordinary state collateral review process is in continuance. In this case, petitioner was entitled to statutory tolling and his petition was therefore not time-barred. View "Leonard v. Deville" on Justia Law

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Defendants were convicted of conspiracy to engage in Medicare and Medicaid fraud in their operation of a home healthcare business, continuing over a period of three years and causing over $3.5 million in losses. The Fifth Circuit affirmed Defendants Emordi and Isidaehomen's conviction, holding that the evidence was sufficient for the jury to find that defendants knew of and voluntarily joined the conspiracy. The court also affirmed the district court's imposition of a two-level enhancement to Defendant Okwilagwe's sentence for an offense involving 10 or more victims; affirmed an enhancement under USSG 2B1.1(b)(1)(J) for an intended loss between $3.5 million and $9.5 million; and affirmed the restitution amount. Finally, the court affirmed Defendant Etti's sentence, holding that the district court did not plainly err by imposing the below-Guidelines sentence that was substantively reasonable. View "United States v. Emordi" on Justia Law

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This dispute arose from Humana's denial of coverage for plaintiff's hospital stay as not "medically necessary" for treatment of an eating disorder. The Fifth Circuit reviewed Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) claims such as this one under the framework set forth in Ariana M. v. Humana Health Plan of Texas, Inc., 884 F.3d 246 (5th Cir. 2018) (en banc). The court limited its review of the coverage decision to the administrative record and applied de novo review. The court held that there is a genuine dispute of material fact regarding whether plaintiff met the Mihalik Criteria (ED.PM.4.2 sub-criteria) which precluded summary judgment. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "Katherine P. v. Humana Health Plan, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: ERISA