Justia Injury Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals
Clodfelter v. Republic of Sudan
Plaintiffs filed suit against Sudan after the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole and the district court found Sudan liable under the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA), 46 U.S.C. 30301 et seq. On appeal, plaintiffs challenged the district court's conclusion that the DOHSA action precluded their subsequent federal cause of action under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. 1605. The court concluded that the various provisions of section 1083 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 (NDAA), Pub. L. No. 110-181, 122 Stat. 3, were inapplicable here and, therefore, the court declined to consider the constitutionality of NDAA section 1083; the district court did not abuse its discretion when, as part of a close look, considered sua sponte whether res judicata barred plaintiffs' claims; but the court concluded, however, that res judicata should not apply here. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Clodfelter v. Republic of Sudan" on Justia Law
Westmoreland Coal Co. v. Cochran
Westmoreland challenged an ALJ's decision, affirmed by the Benefits Review Board, to award black lung benefits to one of Westmoreland's former employees. The ALJ found that the evidence failed to establish that the employee suffered from clinical pneumoconiosis but did establish that the employee suffered from legal pneumoconiosis. Regarding this legal pneumoconiosis finding, the ALJ chose to credit one medical opinion over others. The ALJ also found that the employee was totally disabled as a result of his pneumoconiosis and thus awarded him benefits under the Black Lung Benefits Act, 30 U.S.C. 901 et seq. The court concluded that the ALJ's decision and order to award benefits was supported by substantial evidence, rational, and consistent with applicable law. Therefore, the Board did not err in affirming the ALJ's decision and order, and the court accordingly denied Westmoreland's petition for review. View "Westmoreland Coal Co. v. Cochran" on Justia Law
DiFederico v. Marriott Int’l, Inc.
Albert DiFederico, a former naval commander, was serving as a civilian contractor for the State Department in Pakistan when he was killed in a terrorist attack on the Marriott Islamabad Hotel. His widow and their three sons brought this wrongful death action and survivorship claim alleging that Marriott was liable for its failure to adequately secure its franchise hotel. The district court granted Marriott's motion to dismiss on the basis of forum non conveniens, finding that Pakistan was an available, adequate, and far more convenient forum to hear the case. Plaintiffs brought their suit in the forum of Marriott's principal place of business, the District of Maryland. The court found that plaintiffs were entitled to heightened deference in their choice of forum. The court concluded that it would be a perversion of justice to force a widow and her children to place themselves in the same risk-laden situation that led to the death of a family member. Plaintiffs were inconvenienced by the fear, emotional trauma, and associated logistical complexity that would afflict them if this case were dismissed and decided in Pakistan. The court's review of several of the applicable public and private factors provided additional support for the court's conclusion that the district court abused its discretion in dismissing the case. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "DiFederico v. Marriott Int'l, Inc." on Justia Law
Spaulding v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.
Plaintiffs filed suit against Wells Fargo after plaintiffs' application for a mortgage modification under the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) was denied. The district court concluded that plaintiffs had failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted and therefore granted Wells Fargo's motion to dismiss. The court concluded that plaintiffs have not plausibly stated a breach of contract claim; plaintiffs' negligence claim failed because there was no express or implied contract and therefore, no tort duty could arise as a matter of law; plaintiffs' Maryland Consumer Protection Act, Md. Code Ann., Com. Law 13-301(1), claim failed because Wells Fargo did not make misrepresentations when it stated that it needed more information to process plaintiffs' HAMP application; and the district court court properly dismissed the negligent misrepresentation and common law fraud claim. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Spaulding v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A." on Justia Law
Butler v. United States
Plaintiff, individually and as executor of the estate of her husband, appealed the district court's dismissal of her action for wrongful death and loss of consortium under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 1346. The court concluded that, because adjudication of plaintiff's FTCA claim would not affect the validity of her VA benefits award, the district court did not err in holding that 38 U.S.C. 511 did not preclude the court from making independent findings of fact and conclusions of law in plaintiff's FTCA proceeding. Nor did the district court err in holding that there were no genuine issues of material fact since plaintiff conceded that she would not call any expert witnesses to prove her medical malpractice case, as required by North Carolina law. Accordingly, the court held that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment to the Government. View "Butler v. United States" on Justia Law
Ellis v. Louisiana-Pacific Corp.
Plaintiffs appealed the district court's order dismissing their putative class action complaint, claiming that LP negligently designed and manufactured Trimboard, a composite building product designed and marketed for use as exterior trim around windows and doors, and violated the provisions of the North Carolina Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act (UDTPA), N.C. Gen. Stat. 75-1.1 et seq. The court held that the district court did not err in deciding that plaintiffs' negligence claims were barred by North Carolina's economic loss rule (ELR); the district court properly dismissed the UDTPA claim; and the district court properly dismissed the declaratory judgment claim. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Ellis v. Louisiana-Pacific Corp." on Justia Law
Westmoreland Coal Co. v. Sharpe
This case stemmed from plaintiff's claim for survivor benefits after her husband was awarded total disability benefits in 1993 under the Black Lung Benefits Act, 30 U.S.C. 932, until his death in 2000. The liable employer subsequently filed a modification request seeking reconsideration of the award of benefits. In 2004, the ALJ agreed to modify the 1993 award, retroactively denying plaintiff's living miner's claim and also rejecting her survivor's claim. On plaintiff's petition for review of the ALJ's decision, the court vacated and remanded for further proceedings, holding that the ALJ had failed to exercise the discretion accorded to him with respect to the modification request. On remand, the ALJ again denied plaintiff's claims but the Benefits Review Board (BRB) reversed. The employer petitioned for review and the court denied the petition, affirming the BRB's decision denying modification. View "Westmoreland Coal Co. v. Sharpe" on Justia Law
Hutchins v. U.S. Department of Labor
In August 2004, Plaintiff-Appellant Gwyniece Hutchins, a letter carrier with the United States Postal Service, stepped on an improperly fitted manhole cover maintained by the Town of Ninety Six, South Carolina. The manhole cover flipped up, and Plaintiff fell into the manhole, sustaining serious injuries. Because she was injured in the course of her duties as a United States Postal Service employee, she filed a claim for workers’ compensation under the Federal Employees' Compensation Act (FECA). The Department of Labor’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs accepted Plaintiff's claim as covered by FECA and paid her lost wages and medical benefits. In 2007, Plainitff accepted an offer of judgment arising from a South Carolina state court action that she brought against the Town. The Department of Labor asserted that it was entitled to recover a portion of that judgment. Plaintiff opposed the Department of Labor's assertion, arguing that the Town was not a "person" under 5 U.S.C. sections 8131 and 8132 and that if 5 U.S.C. section 8131 was construed to allow such a claim, it would be unconstitutional. The Office of Workers' Compensation rejected Plaintiff's arguments and determined that the Department of Labor was entitled to reimbursement. Plaintiff paid the sum but appealed the Office of Workers’ Compensation's decision to the Employees' Compensation Appeals Board. The Appeals Board affirmed. Because the Fourth Circuit agreed with the Department of Labor that the Town qualified as a "person other than the United States," the Court upheld the district court's determination that Plaintiff reimburse the Department of Labor from her judgment.
Slaughter v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore
After Racheal Wilson, a new recruit for the Baltimore City Fire Department, tragically died during a "live burn" training exercise, her survivors and estate commenced this action under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against defendants, alleging that the fire department violated Wilson's substantive due process rights by staging the exercise with deliberate indifference to her safety, so as to shock the conscience. The court concluded that because the complaint did not purport to allege that the fire department staged the live burn training exercise with the purpose of causing harm to Wilson or to any other recruit, it fell short of alleging a substantive due process violation in the context of the facts alleged, even though it might well allege causes of action under state law, as the complaint purported to do in other counts.
Harman Mining Co v. DOWCP
These appeals arose from an ALJ's order, affirmed by the Benefits Review Board, finding that Gary Looney suffered disabling obstructive lung disease arising out of his work as a coal miner and awarding his widow black lung benefits payable by Looney's former employer. The court determined that the award of benefits was supported by the record and affirmed the award of benefits to Looney, denying his former employer's petition for review.