Articles Posted in U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals

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Plaintiff filed suit against the City and the ECCC, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq., and various California statutes. Plaintiff tripped and fell as he tried to walk around a car show vendor's display blocking a curb ramp. On appeal, defendant challenged the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants. The court concluded that the district court erred by granting summary judgment in favor of the City because the district court relied on an inapplicable legal standard and because there was a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether the City denied plaintiff access to a public service or otherwise discriminated against him under Title II. Because the City was not entitled to summary judgment on the ADA claim, the district court erred by granting summary judgment for the City on plaintiff's claims under the California statutes. The court took no position on whether the City did in fact deny plaintiff access to a public service or discriminate against him by reason of disability under 42 U.S.C. 12132. The court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Cohen v. City of Culver City" on Justia Law

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Mohammad Usman Chaudhry's family and three organizational plaintiffs filed suit after Usman was shot and killed by an LAPD officer. The Coroner took custody of his body but did not notify his family until twenty-one days later and the delay prevented Usman's family from burying him in accordance with the religions customs of Islam. On appeal, plaintiffs challenged most of the district court's orders granting defendants' motions to dismiss and for summary judgment. The City and the officer cross-appealed. The court concluded that plaintiffs waived claims against some defendants by not addressing them in their opening brief. The court held that California's prohibition against pre-death pain and suffering damages limits recovery too severely to be consistent with 42 U.S.C. 1983's deterrence policy; thus, California's survival statute, Cal. Civ. Proc. Code 377.34 does not apply to section 1983 claims where the decedent's death was caused by the violation of federal law; and therefore, the court reversed the district court's finding that section 377.34 is not inconsistent with section 1983 and the district court's striking of the jury's $1,000,000 verdict in favor of the Estate. The court remanded to the district court to consider in the first instance a motion for remittitur. The district court erred in dismissing the Estate's Cal. Civ. Code 52.1 claim and in denying its post-trial motion to amend the judgment where the City conceded that a successful claim for excessive force under the Fourth Amendment provides the basis for a successful claim under section 52.1. The court reversed and remanded with instructions to amend the judgment to reflect the Estate's success on that claim. The court reversed the district court's dismissal of Usman's parent's section 1983 claim against the officer for violating their Fourteenth Amendment right to substantive due process. The court concluded that the court's decision recognizes that parents have a liberty interest in the companionship of their adult children and have a cause of action under the Fourteenth Amendment when the police kill an adult child without legal justification. The court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the County defendants on the negligence claim under California law; affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants on Usman's siblings' intentional infliction of emotional distress and section 1983 substantive due process claims; reversed as to their negligence claim against the County; and vacated the district court's attorneys' fees award. View "Chaudhry, et al v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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UNM, a trade show cleaning company, filed suit against SDC, alleging claims for interference with contract, interference with prospective economic advantage, and antitrust violations. The court reversed the district court's holding that under California law, SDC could not be held liable for the tort of intentional interference with contractual relationship; reversed the grant of judgment as a matter of law on that ground; affirmed the district court's holding that it committed instructional error by not interpreting the terms of the contract and that this error constituted prejudicial error that warranted a new trial; affirmed the district court's holding that SDC possessed state action immunity from UNM's antitrust claim; held that the a new trial is warranted on UNM's claim for intentional interference with contractual relationship; and concluded that, under California law, SDC could not be liable for punitive damages because it is a public entity. View "United Nat'l Maint. v. San Diego Convention Ctr." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, machinists at Pearl Harbor, filed suit against defendants under state tort law on the theory that defendants failed to warn them of the hazards posed by asbestos used in and around equipment defendants sold to the Navy. Defendant Crane removed the actions to federal court under the federal removal statute, 28 U.S.C. 1442. The district court denied plaintiffs' motions to remand to state court and certified their orders for interlocutory appeal. The federal officer removal statute authorizes removal of a civil action brought against any person "acting under" an officer of the United States "for or relating to any act under color of such office." In this instance, Crane established that it is a "person" within the meaning of the statute, a causal nexus exists between plaintiffs' claims and the actions Crane took under the federal officer's direction, and it has a "colorable" federal defense to plaintiffs' claims. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's orders. View "Leite v. Crane Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. 2671 et seq., alleging sexual assault committed by a sergeant of the Corps while he was on recruitment detail at her middle school. The court concluded that plaintiff's claim accrued when she became aware of her injury and its immediate cause, not when she learned of the Corps' negligence. Because plaintiff did not file her administrative claim until four years later, the FTCA's two-year statute of limitations, absent tolling, had run. When the district court dismissed plaintiff's claim, equitable tolling was not available under the FTCA. During plaintiff's appeal, the court held in Wong v. Beebe, that equitable tolling of the statute of limitations was available in FTCA actions. The court held that Wong's conclusion that section 2401(b) was nonjurisdictional and subject to equitable tolling applied to the entirety of that subsection. Therefore, the court vacated the district court's decision and remanded for the district court to consider plaintiff's equitable tolling argument. View "Gallardo v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Novartis, manufacturer of Zometa, alleging products liability, negligent manufacture, negligent failure to warn, breach of express and implied warranty, and loss of consortium. On appeal, plaintiff contended that the district court erred by excluding the causation testimony offered by her expert when it found the testimony to be irrelevant and unreliable. The court concluded that the expert's testimony was relevant because it indicated that plaintiff's bisphosphonate use was a substantial factor in her development of bisphosphonate-related osteonecrosis of the jaw. The court also concluded that the expert's testimony was reliable where he used a differential diagnosis grounded in significant clinical experience and examination of medical records and literature. Accordingly, the court concluded that the expert's testimony created a genuine issue of material fact regarding the specific causal link between plaintiff's bisphosphonates treatment and her development of osteonecrosis of the jaw. The court reversed the district court's summary judgment in favor of Novartis and remanded. View "Messick v. Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp." on Justia Law

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Peabody appealed the Board's affirmance of the ALJ's decision ordering Peabody to pay a coal miner's surviving spouse all the benefits to which the coal miner was entitled to receive under the Black Lung Benefits Act, 20 C.F.R. 718.201(a). The court concluded that the ALJ did not violate the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. 553, by considering the regulatory preamble to the Black Lung Benefits Act in his decision and the ALJ's award of benefits to the coal miner was supported by substantial evidence. Accordingly, the court denied Peabody's petition for review. View "Peabody Coal v. OWCP" on Justia Law

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Panansam Narayanan suffered from an advanced-stage lung disease. While he was aboard a British Airways international flight, he was allegedly denied supplemental oxygen. When Narayanan died six months after the plane landed, his heirs and estate filed suit pursuant to Article 17(1) the Montreal Convention, S. Treaty Doc. No 106-45, alleging that the denial of supplemental oxygen on his flight to London hastened Narayanan's death. The action was filed more than two years from the date of the flight's arrival, but within two years of Narayanan's death. The court held that Article 35(1) of the Convention was clear: a claim for damages based on an injury incurred aboard an international flight must be filed within two years of the date upon which the aircraft arrived at its destination. In this case, plaintiffs' wrongful death claim was not timely filed and the court held that the district court correctly dismissed the complaint without leave to amend. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Narayanan v. British Airways" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a defamation suit against defendant where defendant published blog posts on several websites that she created accusing plaintiffs of fraud, corruption, money-laundering, and other illegal activities. The court joined its sister circuits in concluding that the protections of the First Amendment did not turn on whether the defendant was a trained journalist, formally affiliated with traditional news entities, engaged in conflict-of-interest disclosure, went beyond just assembling others' writings, or tried to get both sides of a story; therefore, the court held that the Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc.'s negligence requirement for private defamation actions was not limited to cases with institutional media defendants; because defendant's blog post addressed a matter of public concern, even assuming that Gertz was limited to such speech, the district court should have instructed the jury that it could not find defendant liable for defamation unless it found that she acted negligently; the district court also should have instructed the jury that it could not award presumed damages unless it found that defendant acted with actual malice; the court rejected defendant's argument that plaintiffs are public officials; and the court found no error in the district court's application of the Unelko Corp. v. Rooney test and rejected plaintiffs' cross-appeal. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Obsidian Finance Group v. Cox" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that officers in the Army caused his infant son's death by ordering his pregnant wife, a servicewoman on active duty, to perform physical training in contravention of her doctors' instructions, which ultimately induced premature labor. The district court held that the suit was barred by the Feres doctrine and dismissed the action for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The Feres doctrine immunizes the United States from liability for tort claims arising out of activities incident to military service. The court concluded that, under its own precedent, Feres barred plaintiff's wrongful death claim. The court employed the "genesis test," by asking whether the family member's Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 2671 et seq., claim had its genesis in injuries to members of the armed forces. In this case, the infant's injury derived from his mother's military service. The court rejected plaintiff's claim that genetic injuries differed from claims based upon injuries incurred in utero. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Ritchie v. United States" on Justia Law