Justia Injury Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals
Hart v. Electronic Arts, Inc.
Hart was a quarterback, player number 13, with the Rutgers University NCAA Men’s Division I Football team, 2002 through 2005, and was required to adhere to the NCAA amateurism rules. These rules state that a collegiate athlete loses his or her “amateur” status if the athlete uses his or her athletics skill (directly or indirectly) for pay in any form in that sport or accepts any remuneration or permits the use of his or her name or picture to advertise, recommend or promote directly the sale or use of a commercial product or service of any kind. Hart was very successful and was included in EA’s successful NCAA Football videogame franchise. In the game NCAA Football 2006, for example, Rutgers’ quarterback, player number 13, is 6’2” tall, weighs 197 pounds and resembles Hart; it shares his home town, team, and class year. Hart sued EA, alleging violation of his right of publicity by appropriating his likeness for use in the NCAA Football series of videogames. The district court dismissed on First Amendment grounds. The Third Circuit reversed, holding that the games did not sufficiently transform Hart’s identity to escape the right of publicity claim. . View "Hart v. Electronic Arts, Inc." on Justia Law
United States v. Citgo Asphalt Ref. Co.
As the tanker Athos neared Paulsboro, New Jersey, an abandoned anchor in the Delaware River punctured its hull and caused 263,000 gallons of crude oil to spill. The owner of the tanker, Frescati, paid $180 million in cleanup costs and ship damages, but was reimbursed for nearly $88 million by the U.S. government under the Oil Pollution Act, 33 U.S.C. 2701. Frescati made claims against CARCO, which ordered the oil and owned the terminal where the Athos was to unload, claiming breach of the safe port/safe berth warranty made to an intermediary responsible for chartering the Athos and negligence and negligent misrepresentation. The government, as a statutory subrogee for the $88 million reimbursement reached a limited settlement agreement. The district court held that CARCO was not liable for the accident, but made no findings of fact and conclusions of law, required by FRCP 52(a)(1). The Third Circuit remanded for findings, but stated that the Athos and Frescati were implied beneficiaries of CARCO‘s safe berth warranty; that the warranty is an express assurance of safety; and that the named port exception to that warranty does not apply to hazards that are unknown and not reasonably foreseeable. The court noted that it is not clear that the warranty was actually breached, absent findings as to the Athos‘s actual draft or the clearance provided. The court further stated that CARCO could be liable in negligence for hazards outside the approach to CARCO‘s terminal. View "United States v. Citgo Asphalt Ref. Co." on Justia Law
Kendall v. Daily News Publ’g Co.
Judge Kendall contends that the Daily News and Blackburn defamed him while reporting on his decision to grant bail to Castillo, who subsequently murdered a child; his decision to use house arrest for Williams, who was subsequently involved in a police standoff; and his decision to retire. After a jury verdict awarded $240,000, the trial court awarded the defendants judgment notwithstanding the verdict. The Virgin Island Supreme court affirmed after denying Kendall’s motion for recusal based on its previous contempt proceedings against him. The Third Circuit affirmed without reaching the issue of recusal. Judge Kendall could not establish actual malice as necessary in a public-figure libel action. View "Kendall v. Daily News Publ'g Co." on Justia Law
Araujo v. NJ Transit Rail Operations, Inc.
Araujo, who worked for New Jersey Transit Rail Operations, witnessed a fatal accident in 2008, when a construction worker was electrocuted on the job. He reported an emotional injury and was later suspended for violation of a rule relating to the accident. He filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety & Health Administration Office of Whistleblower Protection, which issued findings in favor of Araujo, and ordered NJT to pay $569,587 in damages, to which NJT objected. Araujo then filed suit, alleging that he was disciplined in retaliation for his participation in an activity protected by the Federal Rail Safety Act, 49 U.S.C. 20109, in reporting his injury. The district court found that the discipline was not retaliatory and granted NJT summary judgment. The Third Circuit reversed, holding that NJT failed to refute Araujo’s assertion that his actions were in line with NJT practice at the time of the accident. View "Araujo v. NJ Transit Rail Operations, Inc." on Justia Law
Zimmerman v. Norfolk S. Corp.
Zimmerman was riding his motorcycle on an evening in 2008 and approached a railroad crossing. It was dark and a building obscured the tracks. When he was less than 76 feet away, he noticed a train approaching. He tried to stop, but his front brake locked and he flew over the handlebars, colliding with a locomotive and leaving him partially paralyzed. He sued Norfolk, asserting state tort claims. The district court entered summary judgment for the railroad, citing preemption by the Federal Railroad Safety Act, 49 U.S.C. 20106. The Third Circuit affirmed with respect to a claim that the railroad was negligent per se for violating requirements in 23 C.F.R. 646.214(b), which states that crossings with limited sight distance and high train speeds must have adequate warning devices, defined by statute as automatic gates and flashing lights. The court reversed with respect to claims that the railroad negligently failed to warn him of the approaching train; negligently maintained the crossing devices, particularly a sign that warned of the approaching crossing that was covered by tree branches, pavement markings that no longer existed, and crossbucks had been allowed to fall into disrepair; and failed to provide adequate sight distance. View "Zimmerman v. Norfolk S. Corp." on Justia Law
Mala v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc.
Mala entered Crown Bay Marina, tied the boat to a fueling station and began filling his tank with an automatic gas pump. Before walking to the register to buy oil, Mala asked an attendant to watch his boat. When Mala returned, the tank was overflowing and fuel was spilling into the boat and the water. The attendant shut off the pump and acknowledged that it was malfunctioning. Mala began cleaning up; the attendant provided soap and water. Mala departed; the engine caught fire and exploded. Mala was thrown into the water and was severely burned. Mala sued, claiming negligent training and supervision and negligent maintenance. At the time Mala was imprisoned; he has filed at least 20 pro se lawsuits. The district court concluded that his history of filing frivolous lawsuits precluded in forma pauperis status, 28 U.S.C. 1915; rejected Mala’s jury demand; dismissed certain defendants; held a bench trial at which Mala represented himself; and ruled in favor of Crown Bay, although an advisory jury returned a verdict of $460,000 for Mala. The Third Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that the court should have provided additional assistance, wrongfully denied a jury trial, and improperly ruled on post-trial motions. View "Mala v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc." on Justia Law
Defoe v. Phillip
Phillip and Defoe worked together at an oil refinery in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Phillip was driving a company-owned vehicle near the refinery when it struck Defoe. While recovering, Defoe filed a claim and received benefits under the Virgin Islands Workers’ Compensation Act, 24 V.I. Code 250. He also sued Phillip for negligence in the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands, which granted summary judgment for Phillip, holding that the Act prevents injured employees from suing their coworkers. The Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands reversed, declaring that it was not bound by Third Circuit pre-2007 decisions on Virgin Islands law. Phillips sought certiorari to the Third Circuit, which upheld the decision of the Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands, stating that that court “is on the road to Erie R. Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78 (1938),” which requires federal courts to defer to local courts on issues of local law. The court held that it will defer to the Supreme Court on questions of local law, subject to a manifest-error standard of review, including with respect to its pre-2007 precedents; the court did not manifestly err in rejecting that precedent. View "Defoe v. Phillip" on Justia Law
Zavala v. Wal Mart Stores, Inc.
Wal-Mart cleaning crew members sought compensation for unpaid overtime and certification of a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act, civil damages under RICO, and damages for false imprisonment. The workers, illegal immigrants who took jobs with contractors and subcontractors Wal-Mart engaged to clean its stores, alleged: Wal-Mart had hiring and firing authority over them and closely directed their actions such that Wal-Mart was their employer under the FLSA; Wal-Mart took part in a RICO enterprise by transporting and harboring illegal immigrants, encouraging illegal immigration, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and involuntary servitude (18 U.S.C. 1961(1)(F)); Wal-Mart‘s practice of locking some stores at night and on weekends, without always having a manager available with a key, constituted false imprisonment. Over eight years and multiple opinions, the district court rejected final certification of an FLSA class and rejected the RICO and false imprisonment claims on several grounds, and rejected the false imprisonment claim on the merits. The Third Circuit affirmed. Plaintiffs were not “similarly situated” under the FLSA, 29 U.S.C. 626(b). View "Zavala v. Wal Mart Stores, Inc." on Justia Law
Liberty Mut. Ins. Co. v. Sweeney
Sweeney owned a transmission shop and referred customers to Tradewell, who owned a nearby car rental business. Sweeney would sometimes simply refer customers to Tradewell or drive them to Tradewell’s business. If employees were available, Tradewell would have them take a car to Sweeney’s shop. Sweeney would sometimes pick up a car from Tradewell and deliver it to the customer and would occasionally use the car for personal errands. This was encouraged by Tradewell, who asked Sweeney to make sure the cars were running properly. In 2004 Sweeney, returning from a personal errand, was injured in an accident while driving a car owned by Tradewell that was intended for delivery to a customer the following morning. Sweeney sought underinsured motorist benefits pursuant to his policy with Liberty. Liberty sought a declaration that Sweeney was not entitled to coverage. On remand, the district court granted Liberty summary judgment, finding that “intended use” and “regular use” provisions did not bar coverage, but Liberty could deny coverage based on the “auto business” provision. The Third Circuit reversed, in favor of Sweeney, noting that Sweeney was on a personal errand, not engaged in “auto business” and did not have unfettered use of the cars.
In Re: Am. Capital
From the 1930s through the 1970s, Skinner manufactured ship engines and parts, allegedly containing asbestos. Merchant mariners began bringing injury claims in the 1980s. In 1998, AC acquired all of Skinner’s common stock. Based on lack of cash flow to maintain operations or service secured debt, Skinner and AC filed petitions for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2001; more than 29,000 asbestos claims were pending against Skinner. The Bankruptcy Court converted to Chapter 7 on the basis that the plan was patently unconfirmable. Insurers, legal representative for future asbestos claimants, Maritime Asbestosis Legal Clinic, and the Trustee, joined an appeal. The Third Circuit affirmed. The court properly found, based on the disclosure statement hearing, that the fifth plan was patently unconfirmable under 11 U.S.C. 1129(a)(3) because its success is entirely contingent on speculative future litigation, and because it asks third-party asbestos claimants, who were not a cause of the bankruptcy, to serve as the sole funding source for attorneys and other creditors, under circumstances involving inherent conflict of interest and inequitable procedural provisions. Given the futility of pursuit of a Chapter 11 plan and mounting liabilities, the court acted within its discretion by converting the case.