Articles Posted in U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals

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This case was an interlocutory appeal from the district court’s denial of qualified immunity in an Eighth Amendment case brought by a Colorado state prisoner. Plaintiff Homaidan Al-Turki filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against several prison officials, including Defendant Mary Robinson (a prison nurse) based on these officials’ failure to provide him with any type of medical evaluation or treatment while he was suffering through several hours of severe abdominal pain from what turned out to be kidney stones. The district court granted qualified immunity to the other prison officials, none of whom were medical professionals, but denied Defendant Robinson’s summary judgment motion for qualified immunity. Defendant then filed this interlocutory appeal. On appeal, the issues this case presented to the Tenth Circuit were: (1) whether the hours of severe pain Plaintiff experienced constituted a sufficiently serious medical need to satisfy the objective prong of the Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference test; and (2) whether Defendant’s alleged actions violated clearly established law. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court on both issues. View "Al-Turki v. Robinson, et al" on Justia Law

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Chris Hogan lost his job with the Utah Telecommunications Open Infrastructure Agency("UTOPIA"). Claiming he was fired for revealing a conflict of interest in contract awards, he threatened to sue the agency for wrongful termination. Shortly after making this threat, he was subject to several unflattering media articles about his job performance and his termination dispute with the agency’s leaders. Several of the stories claimed his threats to sue the agency amounted to extortion or blackmail. One of the stories was written pseudonymously by Michael Winder, the mayor of West Valley City where UTOPIA did much of its business. Hogan sued UTOPIA, the mayor, the City, and a number of other people he believed were involved in the publication of the articles. He claimed the articles were defamatory, portrayed him in a false light, invaded his privacy, were an intentional infliction of emotional distress, a deprivation of his constitutional rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. 1983, and a civil conspiracy under 42 U.S.C. 1985. He also sued UTOPIA for First Amendment violations, breach of contract, wrongful termination, and other violations of state law in a separate lawsuit. The district court dismissed all of the claims, and finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed: "because the articles' critical statements are explained by their context, we agree with the district court's conclusion that the articles were neither defamatory nor otherwise tortiously offensive. And we further agree that Hogan's federal law claims cannot go forward because he has insufficiently pleaded that the defendants' actions were exercises of their power under state law and that the defendants conspired to punish Hogan for bringing his claims to court." View "Hogan v. Winder, et al" on Justia Law

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In 2009, Bancorp sought to conduct a secondary stock offering to raise about $90 million. In its securities filings the company alerted potential investors that it had significant investments in mortgage backed securities, and that these investments had suffered badly during the financial crisis of 2008. The company stated that it had conducted internal analyses and consulted independent experts and now expected the level of delinquencies and defaults to level off and the market for its securities to rebound soon. But the company also stressed that if adverse market conditions persisted longer than the company expected it would have to recognize further losses. Bancorp’s opinion about the immediate future didn’t bear out. In the fifteen months after the offering, the company had to recognize about $69 million more in losses. Plaintiffs alleged in their lawsuit against Bancorp that the statements rendered in the offering statement about the prospects for its securities portfolio was false and should have given rise to liability under section 11 of the Securities Act of 1933. The district court disagreed, holding that Bancorp’s failed market predictions, without more, weren’t enough to trigger liability. "To establish liability for an opinion about the future more is required. But what?" Agreeing with the district court, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "MHC Mutual Conversion Fund, et al v. Sandler O'Neill & Partners, et al" on Justia Law

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Tyrone Clark and his company, Brokers' Choice of America, sued NBC Universal, Inc. and some of its employees after it aired a "Dateline" segment titled "Tricks of the Trade." The aired segment featured snippets of Clark taken from one of his two-day seminars for insurance brokers on BCA’s property in Colorado. The crew surreptitiously filmed the seminar. Using select words from the two-day seminar, the aired program depicted Clark as one who teaches insurance agents how to employ misrepresentations and other questionable tactics in order to dupe senior citizens into purchasing inappropriate annuity products. BCA's complaint alleged several state-law claims: defamation, trespass, fraud, and intrusion. It also alleged three violations of 42 U.S.C. 1983, a Fourth Amendment illegal search and seizure violation and two Fourteenth Amendment violations, invasion of privacy and stigmatization. Dateline moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Applying the Colorado Shield Law, specifically the Colorado's newsperson's privilege, the magistrate judge stayed discovery. The district court later granted the motion to dismiss with leave to file an amended complaint. BCA's amended complaint raised only the defamation claim and the 1983 claims, both of which were ultimately dismissed too. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded the case for further proceedings: the Court affirmed the dismissal of BCA's Fourth Amendment and 1983 privacy and stigmatization claims. The Court reversed the dismissal of the defamation claim. View "Broker's Choice of America, et al v. NBC Universal, Inc., et al" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Maria Gallardo and her child, who was born with cerebral palsy, filed suit against the United States of America pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act. Plaintiffs claimed that the performance of Ms. Gallardo's attending obstetrician, Dr. Jeffery McCutcheon, fell below the applicable standard of care during the labor and delivery of the child. After a bench trial, the district court found in favor of the United States. On appeal, plaintiffs asserted seven separate challenges to the district court's order finding in favor of the government. However, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that all seven challenges lacked merit. And, for that reason, the Court affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of the United States. View "Gallardo v. United States of America" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Higby Crane Service, LLC (Higby) entered into a Contract with Defendant DCP Midstream, LP that covered crane work to be done at the gas processing plant of DCP's wholly owned subsidiary National Helium, LLC (collectively, "DCP"). A fire negligently started by DCP damaged Higby's crane. The other Plaintiff, National Interstate Insurance Co. had issued Higby a commercial inland marine (CIM) policy covering direct physical loss to certain property. National paid Higby under the policy, and Plaintiffs then sued DCP for the loss. DCP counterclaimed that Higby had breached the contract by failing to obtain a commercial general liability (CGL) policy that would have indemnified DCP for its negligence and therefore Higby should bear the loss from the damage to the crane. The United States District Court for the District of Kansas granted summary judgment to Plaintiffs, and DCP appealed. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit reversed and remanded for further proceedings to determine whether the required CGL policy would have protected DCP from liability. View "National Interstate Insurance, et al v. National Helium, et al" on Justia Law

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Sixteen years ago Carolyn Bayless began to suffer from a mysterious illness. As her condition deteriorated, she sought to learn what caused (and how to treat) her illness. In 2008, convinced that she was the victim of exposure to nerve gas emitted by an Army testing facility, she filed a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act. When this lawsuit followed in 2009, the Army responded that she knew of her claim by at least 2005 and had waited too long to assert it. The district court agreed and granted summary judgment dismissing the case. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit concluded that under the "unusual circumstances presented here," the period of limitation did not accrue until February 2007. Therefore, the Court reversed. View "Bayless v. United States, et al" on Justia Law

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Alan Christoffersen drove a truck for United Parcel Service (UPS) until he was struck and killed by an underinsured motorist. After the accident, Christoffersen's heirs sued UPS and its automobile insurer (Liberty Mutual Insurance Group), asserting claims for underinsured motorist (UIM) benefits. All parties moved for summary judgment. The district court granted UPS's motion on the ground that Utah's Worker's Compensation Act provided the exclusive remedy. On the claim against Liberty Mutual, the court granted judgment to the heirs for $10,000. The heirs and Liberty Mutual appealed. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit concluded that Liberty Mutual did not incur liability because UPS validly rejected UIM coverage; therefore, with regard to the claim against Liberty Mutual, the Court reversed the judgment of $10,000 for the heirs and remanded the case with instructions to grant summary judgment to Liberty Mutual on the entire claim. Furthermore, the Court affirmed the grant of summary judgment to UPS because it was not considered a "self insurer" for purposes of Utah's UIM statute. View "Christoffersen v. United Parcel Service, et al" on Justia Law

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Denver police arrested Marvin Booker on a warrant for failure to appear at a hearing regarding a drug charge. During booking, Booker died while in custody after officers restrained him in response to alleged insubordination. Several officers pinned Booker face-down to the ground, one placed him in a chokehold, and another tased him. The officers sought medical help for Booker, but he could not be revived. Booker’s estate sued Deputies Faun Gomez, James Grimes, Kyle Sharp, Kenneth Robinette, and Sergeant Carrie Rodriguez, alleging they used excessive force and failed to provide Booker with immediate medical care. Defendants moved for summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds. The district court denied their motion because disputed facts precluded summary judgment. The Defendants appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Estate of Marvin L. Booker, et al v. Gomez, et al" on Justia Law

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THI of New Mexico at Hobbs Center, LLC and THI of New Mexico, LLC (collectively THI) operate a nursing home in Hobbs, New Mexico. When Lillie Mae Patton's husband was admitted into the home, he entered into an arbitration agreement that required the parties to arbitrate any dispute arising out of his care at the home except claims relating to guardianship proceedings, collection or eviction actions by THI, or disputes of less than $2,500. After Mr. Patton died, Mrs. Patton sued THI for negligence and misrepresentation. THI then filed a complaint to compel arbitration of the claims. The district court initially ruled that the arbitration agreement was not unconscionable and ordered arbitration. Under New Mexico law a compulsory-arbitration provision in a contract may be unconscionable, and therefore unenforceable, if it applies only, or primarily, to claims that just one party to the contract is likely to bring. The question before the Tenth Circuit was whether the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) preempted the state law for contracts governed by the FAA. The Court held that New Mexico law was preempted in this case and the arbitration clause should have been enforced. View "THI of New Mexico at Hobbs v. Patton" on Justia Law