Justia Injury Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals
Addie v. Kjaer
The sellers own an island off St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, and a launch providing access to the island from St. Thomas. In 2004, the buyers signed land contracts and an escrow agreement to purchase the properties for $21 million and $2.5 million, respectively. Premier Title served as the escrow agent and was party to the escrow agreement. Unbeknownst to the buyers, D’Amour, the sellers’ attorney-in-fact, owned Premier. The contract required an initial deposit of $1 million. The buyers paid an additional $500,000 nonrefundable deposit to extend the closing date. The sellers were to deliver “Clear and Marketable” title and assignments of all permits, submerged land leases and other licenses necessary for occupancy of the dock and other improvements. At the scheduled closing, it was determined that dock permits had expired and that there were several exceptions to title. The sellers refused to refund the deposits. The buyers appealed district court orders, rejecting certain claims; the sellers cross-appealed other orders. D’Amour appealed some holdings. The Third Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part, concluding that conclude that the buyers are entitled to recover the $1.5 million deposit in restitution, and that the tort claims are barred by the gist of the action doctrine. View "Addie v. Kjaer" on Justia Law
Papotto v. Hartford Life & Accident Ins. Co.
Frank Papotto was playing golf with co-workers and drank about four to five beers. Papotto dropped his cell phone and fell out of the golf cart while reaching for it. He suffered a head injury and died five hours later. A toxicology screen conducted posthumously revealed a blood-alcohol level of 0.115 %. The New Jersey state standard for intoxication is 0.08, putting Papotto over the legal limit for operating a motor vehicle. His widow sought payment of benefits from Hartford under Papotto’s accidental death and dismemberment policy. The policy explicitly excludes losses “sustained while Intoxicated.” Hartford’s Plan Administrator denied payment of benefits because the deceased had consumed alcohol prior to his death. The district court concluded that the policy implicitly required a causal connection between intoxication and the loss, and remanded to the Plan Administrator. The Third Circuit dismissed an appeal for lack of jurisdiction, finding that the remand order is not immediately appealable as a final judgment. View "Papotto v. Hartford Life & Accident Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Agostini v. Piper Aircraft Corp.
A 2010 airplane crash in West Palm Beach resulted in the death of the pilot and three passengers. The estates filed suit in state court; the defendants removed the case to federal court. The district court granted plaintiffs’ motion to remand the matter to Pennsylvania, finding that one defendant is a citizen of Pennsylvania, and not diverse from all plaintiffs. Defendants claim that the remand was based on unsubstantiated argument, unauthenticated documents, and facts outside the record that had not been established by affidavit or testimony. The district court denied a motion to reconsider. The Third Circuit dismissed an appeal. Although the district court had jurisdiction to rule on the motion to reconsider the remand order, the appellate court has no jurisdiction to review its ruling on the motion for reconsideration. The denial of reconsideration was not a collateral matter over which the federal court retained jurisdiction. View "Agostini v. Piper Aircraft Corp." on Justia Law
In Re: W.R. Grace & Co.
For more than 30 years, Grace has defended itself against asbestos-related lawsuits filed by building owners seeking redress for costs involved in removing Grace products. AMH owns a hospital complex that used Grace products in its construction and filed a class action lawsuit in South Carolina state court. Before resolution of that litigation, Grace filed a petition for Chapter 11 protection. After about 10 years, most property damage claims against Grace had been settled, contingent on approval of an 11 U.S.C. 524(g) trust and an injunction channeling property damage claims against Grace to that trust for payment. AMH did not settle. The Bankruptcy Court confirmed Grace’s reorganization, including a trust and channeling injunction, over AMH’s objections. The district court and Third Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that the reorganization plan did not meet the requirements of section 524(g), which provides a mechanism for handling overwhelming asbestos-related liabilities in Chapter 11 proceedings; that the plan failed to provide equal treatment as required by 11 U.S.C. 1123(a)(4), (C) ; that Grace did not show that the Plan was proposed in good faith under 11 U.S.C. 1129(a) and did not show that the Plan is feasible. View "In Re: W.R. Grace & Co." on Justia Law
In re: W.R. Grace & Co.
Grace has manufactured and sold specialty chemicals and construction materials for more than 100 years. The company began facing asbestos-related lawsuits in the 1970s, based on several products and activities, including operation of a Montana vermiculite mine that released asbestos-containing dust into the atmosphere and sale of Zonolite Attic Insulation (ZAI). Montana and the Crown (Canada) have been sued for alleged failure to warn citizens of the risks posed by Grace’s products and activities. Montana settled its cases for $43 million in 2011. The Crown is a defendant in lawsuits arising from the use of ZAI. Montana and the Crown sought indemnification from Grace. Grace sought protection under the Bankruptcy Code, 11 U.S.C. 524(g), which allows a company to establish a trust to handle such liabilities. Montana and the Crown objected to confirmation of a Plan of Reorganization that will send all asbestos claims to two trusts, allowing protected parties to be “unconditionally, irrevocably and fully released.” The personal injury trust is funded by $ 1.5 billion from settlements with Grace’s insurers and former affiliates, an initial payment from Grace of $ 450 million, a warrant to acquire 10 million shares of Grace common stock at $ 17 per share, and annual cash payments from Grace of $100-110 million through 2033. The property damage trust is funded by an initial payment of 180 million dollars, and a subsequent payment of 30 million dollars. The two trusts have separate mechanisms for resolving claims. The bankruptcy court, the district court, and the Third Circuit confirmed the plan. View "In re: W.R. Grace & Co." on Justia Law
Henry v. City of Erie
A 2010 fire at an apartment in Erie, Pennsylvania took the lives of a tenant and her guest. The third-floor bedroom purportedly lacked a smoke detector and an alternate means of egress, both of which are required under the Section 8 housing choice voucher program (42 U.S.C. 1437f) in which Richardson participated. The district court rejected a defense of qualified immunity in a suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 by the estates of the deceased. The Third Circuit reversed. State officials’ approval and subsidization of the apartment for the Section 8 program, even though the apartment allegedly failed to comply with Section 8’s standards, did not constitute a state-created danger toward the apartment’s tenant and her guest in violation of their constitutional substantive due process rights. View "Henry v. City of Erie" on Justia Law
Harris v. Kellogg Brown & Root Servs., Inc.
During the Iraq War, the U.S. military established the Radwaniyah Palace Complex as a base of operations. Staff Sergeant Maseth was stationed there and assigned to live in a barracks building that predated the war and was known to have significant electrical problems. In 2008, Staff Sergeant Maseth died by electrocution while taking a shower in the barracks. The shower was electrified by an ungrounded, unbonded water pump. Maseth’s estate and his parents sued KBR, a military contractor hired to perform maintenance services at the barracks. The district court dismissed, holding that the case was nonjusticiable and, alternatively, that the claims were preempted by the federal policy embodied in the Federal Tort Claims Act’s combatant activities exception, 28 U.S.C. 2680(j). The Third Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that the claims are not preempted by the combatant activities exception and reasoning that the political question issue requires a preliminary determination of which state’s law controls. View "Harris v. Kellogg Brown & Root Servs., Inc." on Justia Law
Baer v. United States
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Office of Investigations (OIG) found that the SEC had received numerous substantive complaints since 1992 that raised significant concerns about Madoff’s hedge fund operations that should have led to a thorough investigation of the possibility that Madoff was operating a Ponzi scheme. The SEC conducted five examinations and investigations, but never took the steps necessary to determine whether Madoff was misrepresenting his trading. The OIG found that had these efforts been made, the SEC could have uncovered the Ponzi scheme. Madoff’s clients filed suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. 1346(b), 2671, to recover damages resulting from the SEC’s failure to uncover and terminate the scheme in a timely manner. The district court dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, finding that the claims were barred by the discretionary function exception to the FTCA. The Third Circuit affirmed, reasoning that SEC regulations afford examiners discretion regarding the timing, manner, and scope of investigations and that there is a strong presumption that the SEC’s conduct is susceptible to policy analysis. View "Baer v. United States" on Justia Law
Johnson v. SmithKline Beecham Corp.
Johnson, a Louisiana citizen, and Lucier, a Pennsylvania citizen, suffer from birth defects allegedly caused by their mothers’ use of thalidomide. They claim that newly-accessible evidence revealed that the defendant companies were aware of the drug’s risks while marketing it to pregnant women, and that they have been engaged in a 60-year cover-up to avoid liability. After defendants removed their suit for damages to federal court, the plaintiffs moved to remand the action to state court because four of the defendants are Pennsylvania citizens. The district court denied the motion. The Third Circuit affirmed, concluding that the district court correctly analyzed the citizenship of the companies, examining the principal place of business of one company and the fact that a limited liability company assumes the citizenship of its owner. View "Johnson v. SmithKline Beecham Corp." on Justia Law
In re: Asbestos Prod Liab. Litig.
The 12 plaintiffs are represented by CVLO, which serves as counsel in approximately 2000 cases pending in multidistrict asbestos litigation. The CVLO cases represent the second largest land-based group of cases to remain in the litigation. The district court dismissed the plaintiffs’ cases, for failure to comply with orders requiring submission of medical reports and histories of exposure to asbestos in compliance with “generally accepted medical standards [that] call for information regarding duration, intensity, time of onset, and setting of exposure to asbestos.” The Third Circuit affirmed, characterizing the court orders as “typical … in the context of the management of multidistrict litigation.” In dismissing plaintiffs’ cases, the court considered and weighed the relevant factors, viewing the dilatory and prejudicial aspects as outweighing all others. The flaw in the submissions went to the very heart of the “meritorious” aspect, making the weighing of that factor impossible. View "In re: Asbestos Prod Liab. Litig." on Justia Law