Articles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

by
Plaintiff filed suit against Dynamic for negligence and gross negligence after he was injured during a personnel-basket transfer to Dynamic's 86A platform. The district court granted summary judgment to Dynamic, holding that it was not vicariously liable for the alleged negligence of its independent contractors. The Fifth Circuit affirmed, holding that personnel-basket transfers are not ultrahazardous activity because they require substandard conduct to cause injury, and that Dynamic did not authorize an unsafe working condition that caused injury to plaintiff. View "Davis v. Dynamic Offshore Resources" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff and his wife filed suit against the Government under the third-party liability provision of the Longshore and Harborworkers' Compensation Act (LHWCA), 33 U.S.C. 905(b), after plaintiff was injured while aboard a public vessel owned by the Government and operated by its agents. Plaintiff was inspecting the vessel in connection with his employer's bidding on repair work. The district court concluded that, because the Government's negligent failure to safely illumine the stairwell was the factual and legal cause of plaintiff's accidental fall and its disabling consequences, the Government was fully liable for his resulting harm and disability, even though his preexisting conditions made the consequences of the Government's negligence more severe than they would have been for an ordinary victim. The Fifth Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not apply the wrong legal standard in this case with regard to plaintiff's preexisting medical conditions; the district court did not err in holding that the accident was the sole cause of plaintiff's damages; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by limiting the testimony of the Government's expert witness. View "Koch v. United States" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit against defendants after he was injured when his rifle suddenly discharged, firing a bullet through his foot. Plaintiff alleged five products liability claims and one claim under Texas law. The district court entered summary judgment in favor of defendants because plaintiff's claim was time-barred. At issue was whether the district court properly applied Texas's choice of law rules, which is dependent upon whether section 71.031(a) of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code is a choice of law provision and whether the statute applies in federal court. The court concluded that Hyde v. Hoffmann-La Roche, Inc. is controlling in this case. In light of Hyde, the court concluded that section 71.031 is a choice of law provision that applies in both state and federal courts, and an analysis of section 71.031 demonstrates the result is the same regardless of whether plaintiff is considered a resident of Texas or Georgia. In this case, even assuming the rifle was first purchased in 1998, plaintiff had until 2013 to initiate his products liability suit, but he did not do so until 2015, which was more than fifteen years from the date of the sale of the rifle. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Burdett v. Remington Arms Co., LLC" on Justia Law

by
This consolidated case under the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. 883, and general maritime law, involved an accident on a barge in the navigable waterways of Louisiana. Defendant, the barge owner, appealed the district court's judgment for plaintiffs. The court held that evidence supported the district court's award to plaintiff McBride for pre-death fear and conscious pain and suffering, and the district court's award of damages for loss of past and future support was not clearly erroneous. The court also concluded that the district court's award of future cure until plaintiff Touchet reaches maximum medical improvement and for future medical expenses beyond Touchet's maximum medical improvement was not reversible error. Finally, the district court did not clearly err in finding that Touchet was permanently disabled and by awarding damages for lost earnings. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "McBride v. Estis Well Service, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs, former American and British soldiers assigned to protect employees of an industrial water injection facility, filed suit claiming that KBR did not responsibly handle the contamination at the facility, leading plaintiffs to suffer injuries stemming from hexavalent chromium exposure. The district court granted summary judgment for KBR. The court concluded that the political question doctrine does not bar the court's review of this case where, under Lane v. Halliburton, this appeal primarily raised legal questions that may be resolved by the application of traditional tort standards. On the merits, the court concluded that plaintiffs have not adduced sufficient evidence to prove that exposure to sodium dichromate caused their injuries based on a reasonable medical probability and scientifically reliable evidence. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "McManaway v. KBR, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Air Force Captain Meredith Morris and her husband filed suit against Air Force Captain Michael Thompson for injuries Captain Morris sustained on Randolph Air Force Base. The district court granted Thompson's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction based on the Feres doctrine. The court concluded that plaintiffs' claims were incident to service and thus the Feres doctrine applied regardless of the rank of the parties or the bringing of state-law claims; the court rejected plaintiffs' claims that the application of the Feres doctrine would interfere with their constitutional rights; the husband's loss of consortium claim was consequently barred; and the failure to seek certification under the Westfall Act, 28 U.S.C. 2679(b)(1), did not divest the court of the jurisdiction to resolve what was brought to it on this appeal. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Morris v. Thompson" on Justia Law

by
After plaintiff was injured while riding her bicycle over a ramp at DeSoto National Forest, she filed suit against government officials under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 2671-2680. Plaintiff alleged that defendants failed to inspect and maintain the bicycle trails, and failed to warn her of the hazard. The district court granted defendants' motion to dismiss. The court concluded that the FTCA's discretionary function exception barred plaintiff's claim. In this case, the relevant Manual and Handbook provisions contemplate an element of choice as to how USFS employees inspect and maintain the trails, and the manner in which the USFS officials inspected and maintained the trails was susceptible to policy considerations. In regard to plaintiff's failure to warn claim, the court explained that it was difficult to conceive of a provision mandating the USFS to take specific action to warn the public about unknown hazards. Even if the court did not accept the district court's findings with respect to the USFS having no knowledge of the bridge, the court concluded that the discretionary exception would still apply. Here, plaintiff failed to identify specific provisions that mandate an approach to creating or placing closure signs in these circumstances, and the USFS's decision about how to post notice of the closed trail was based on considerations of social, economic, or political public policy. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Gonzalez v. United States" on Justia Law

by
Amanda Riggio filed suit against Wal-Mart after a slip and fall incident at a store. Riggio claimed that she slipped on water that had leaked onto the floor from a negligently maintained roof. After Riggio's death, her administratix was substituted as plaintiff. The district court granted summary judgment for Wal-Mart. Because Riggio provided enough evidence that a reasonable jury could find that she slipped on water that leaked through the roof, and because Wal-Mart's purportedly negligent maintenance of the roof could suffice to show that it created the condition which caused the damage under Louisiana law, the court concluded that there were genuine issues of material fact. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Deshotel v. Wal-Mart Stores" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit alleging, inter alia, violation of his First and Fourth Amendment rights after he was silenced and then ejected at a city council meeting. The court dismissed Councilman Roberts's appeal of the district court's denial of summary judgment based on qualified immunity because a factual dispute exists as to whether Roberts's conduct was viewpoint-based; affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Roberts as to punitive damages where there is no question that Roberts's conduct did not rise to the level of reckless indifference or evil intent; affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Black on the First Amendment claim because his actions as sergeant-at-arms were not objectively unreasonable in light of clearly established law; affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Black on the Fourth Amendment claim based on qualified immunity; affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on the false arrest claim; and dismissed Black’s cross-appeal on the state tort claims for lack of jurisdiction. View "Heaney v. Roberts" on Justia Law

by
After an Iraqi insurgent group kidnapped and murdered twelve Nepali men as they traveled through Iraq to a United States military base to work for Daoud, a Jordanian corporation that had a subcontract with KBR, the victims' families and one Daoud employee filed suit against Daoud and KBR under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), 28 U.S.C. 1350; the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), 18 U.S.C. 1596; and state common law. Plaintiffs settled with Daoud and the district court eventually dismissed plaintiffs' claims against KBR. The court held that the district court’s grant of summary judgment on the ATS claims in favor of KBR was proper in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co.; the district court correctly dismissed the TVPRA claims because (1) the TVPRA did not apply extraterritorially at the time of the alleged conduct in 2004 and (2) applying a 2008 amendment to the TVPRA that had the effect of permitting plaintiffs’ extraterritorial claims would have an improper retroactive effect on KBR; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing the common law claims by refusing to equitably toll plaintiffs’ state law tort claims. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Adhikari v. Kellogg Brown & Root" on Justia Law