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

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S.H., the daughter of William and Chantal Holt, was born prematurely while the family was stationed at a United States Air Force (USAF) base in Spain. As a result of her premature birth, S.H. was diagnosed with cerebral palsy after the family returned to the United States. The Holts filed suit against the United States, alleging that officials at a USAF base in California negligently approved the family's request for command sponsored travel to a base in Spain ill-equipped to deal with Mrs. Holt's medical needs. The Holts also argued that S.H.'s injury first occurred upon their return to the United States. The district court awarded damages to the Holts. The court applied the foreign country exception of the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 2680(k), and held that an injury is suffered where the harm first impinges upon the body, even if it is later diagnosed elsewhere. Here, the undisputed facts of this case indicate that the force—the brain injury S.H. suffered at or near the time of her birth—impinged upon her body in Spain. Consequently, Spain is where the Holts' claims arose. The court concluded that S.H.'s cerebral palsy is derivative of the harm she sustained at birth. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded with instructions to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. View "S. H. V. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, two prisoners housed at Taft Correction Institute, filed suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 1346, after they contracted coccidioidomycosis (cocci), alleging that the United States breached its duty to protect them from harm. Taft is the only federally-owned and contractor-operated prison in the country. The district court granted the government’s motions to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1), under the independent contractor exception to the FTCA. The court concluded that plaintiffs have met their burden to show that the independent contractor exception does not bar the district court’s subject matter jurisdiction under the FTCA. The government owed a duty of care to plaintiffs under California law, which generally assumes that landowners have a duty to exercise reasonable care in the ownership and management of property. In this case, the government’s duty was underscored by the special relationship that California recognizes between jailer and prisoner. The court concluded that the BOP’s duty to warn prisoners before transferring them to Taft arose outside of the scope of its contractor relationship with GEO/MTC, and therefore is not barred by the independent contractor exception. Furthermore, the BOP did not delegate all of its duties to GEO/MTC, even once prisoners arrived at Taft. Instead, it retained both the exclusive right to construct new buildings and the exclusive right to make modifications to existing buildings. The BOP also explicitly excluded its contractors from participating in the development of a cocci prevention policy. As to these claims, the independent contractor exception to the FTCA does not bar the district court’s exercise of subject matter jurisdiction. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Edison v. United States" on Justia Law

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After James McIndoe died from complications related to mesothelioma, McIndoe's legal heirs filed suit against defendants, arguing that McIndoe’s exposure to asbestos-containing materials aboard their ships contributed to his death. The district court granted defendants' motions for summary judgment. The court agreed with the district court that McIndoe’s heirs cannot sustain an action for strict products liability premised upon the notion that the warships in question are themselves “products” under maritime law. The court also concluded that, although plaintiffs have established that there was a genuine issue of fact as to whether McIndoe was exposed to asbestos-containing materials originally installed upon such ships, plaintiffs have established no genuine issue of fact regarding whether any such exposure was a substantial factor in McIndoe’s injuries. Therefore, plaintiffs cannot prevail on their general negligence claims. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "McIndoe v. Huntington Ingalls Inc." on Justia Law

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Lien Claimants attempted to collect on valid judgments they hold against Iran for their injuries arising out of terrorism sponsored by Iran. Lien Claimants seek to attach a $2.8 million judgment that the Ministry obtained in an underlying arbitration with an American company, Cubic. The district court granted Lien Claimants’ motion to attach the Cubic Judgment. The court held that the United States does not violate its obligations under the Algiers Accords by permitting Lien Claimants to attach the Cubic Judgment. The court also held that the Cubic Judgment is a blocked asset pursuant to President Obama’s 2012 Executive Order No. 13359 subject to attachment and execution under the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA), 28 U.S.C. 1610 note. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "The Ministry of Defense v. Frym" on Justia Law

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Three masked intruders entered plaintiff's home, fatally shooting her husband and daughter, and shooting plaintiff in the arm. Plaintiff and her surviving daughter filed suit alleging that the United States is liable under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 1346(b)(1), 2680(a), for damages arising out of the attack because the FBI negligently failed to disclose the information about the impending home invasion to local law enforcement, in contravention of the Attorney General’s Guidelines for Domestic FBI Operations. The district court granted the United States' motion to dismiss. The court concluded that the FBI’s decision whether or not to disclose information regarding potential threats is discretionary; the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying discovery; the FBI’s decision whether to disclose information is the type of decision that Congress intended to shield from FTCA liability; and the design-implementation distinction does not apply to permit suit against the government in this case. Therefore, the district court properly concluded that the government satisfied both prongs of the discretionary function exception. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Gonzalez v. United States" on Justia Law