Justia Injury Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals
Beneden v. Al-Sanusi, et al
Peter Knowland sued Syria, Libya, and a number of Syrian and Libyan individuals and organizations for sponsoring and supporting the terrorist attacks on international flight terminals in Rome and Vienna on December 27, 1985. Knowland was injured in the Vienna attack. The district court dismissed the case as untimely, and Knowland's legal representative appealed. Because Knowland filed suit after the statute of limitations had run pursuant to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. 1605A, his only hope of obtaining judicial relief depended on his ability to invoke the "related action" provision. Knowland argued that his suit was related to Estate of Buonocore v. Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, a suit against many of the same defendants for their alleged support of the Rome attack. The court concluded that the Vienna and Rome attacks constituted the same incident and thus Buonocore put defendants on notice that they could be liable for the Vienna attack. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Beneden v. Al-Sanusi, et al" on Justia Law
Rollins v. Wackenhut Services, Inc., et al
Plaintiff appealed from the dismissal of wrongful death and survival actions she filed against her son's employer and two pharmaceutical companies. Plaintiff's son committed suicide using a gun provided by his employer while he was taking prescribed medication manufactured and distributed by the pharmaceutical companies. The court held that the district court did not err in ruling that plaintiff failed to state a claim of negligence against the employer when the district court invoked, sua sponte, District of Columbia law that suicide was an intervening and independent cause of death subject to limited exceptions that were inapplicable. The court declined to certify questions of negligence-liability to the D.C. Court of Appeals. The court also held that the district court did not err in ruling that the complaint failed to state a plausible claim of products liability against the pharmaceutical companies and in denying her leave to amend. View "Rollins v. Wackenhut Services, Inc., et al" on Justia Law
Feld v. Feld
Karen Feld sued her brother, Kenneth Feld, after Kenneth had her forcibly removed from the building in which he owned a condominium she was visiting. Karen sued Kenneth for assault, battery, and false imprisonment. Kenneth counterclaimed that Karen had trespassed on his property. The jury found against Karen on her claims and against Kenneth on his. On appeal, Karen challenged the district court's determination that Kenneth could use force to remove Karen from the common areas of the building. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that under D.C. law, the right to exclude another from one's property includes the right to use reasonable force, and given the findings of the district court, there was no reason to carve out an exception to this rule for condominium owners who seek to exclude persons from common areas.
McGaughey v. District of Columbia
Appellant claimed that the Metropolitan police were negligent in the way they responded to her fears that she was sexually assaulted. The district court granted summary judgment against her claims on the ground that the police owed her no duty of care. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) Appellant's claim failed because she could not show the police cause the harm alleged; and (2) Appellant's argument that the police acted as if they had the authority to stop the hospitals from conducting their own exams failed because nothing the police said or did could reasonably be construed to be a command that the hospitals could not use their own equipment to conduct a forensic exam on Appellant.
Burke v. Air Serv. Int’l, Inc.
Plaintiff, a former British soldier, was severely wounded in an ambush in Afghanistan, where he was working for a private security contractor. Plaintiff sued the transport company that furnished the helicopter he flew in on and the construction company that contracted with his employer for his security services, alleging that they had negligently failed to take appropriate security measures for his trip. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants because Plaintiff failed to proffer, as required by District of Columbia law, an expert to testify regarding the standard of care for such security precautions. Plaintiff appealed, maintaining that no expert was required because, inter alia, "every juror will have seen" such films as High Noon. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff's reliance on old Westerns rather than expert testimony to establish the standard of care was fatal to his negligence claim; and (2) the Erie doctrine was fatal to Plaintiff's alternative contention that the Court should disregard D.C.'s expert testimony requirement altogether.
RSM Prod. Corp. v. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer U.S. LLP
RSM Production Corporation brought a complaint against a law firm and two of its partners ("Freshfields"), alleging that Freshfields, through its representation of the nation of Grenada in international arbitration, conspired to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) in an effort to prevent RSM from obtaining an exclusive license for offshore oil and gas exploration and development in Grenada. The district court ruled that RSM's lawsuit was barred under the doctrine of res judicata because of its prior lawsuit in the Southern District of New York regarding the same licensing effort. On appeal, RSM contended that Freshfields was not in privity with the New York defendants and that RSM was not required to add Freshfields as a party to that litigation on pain of res judicata. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed on the alternative ground that RSM's complaint failed to state a claim of RICO conspiracy against Freshfields.
Patton Boggs, LLP v. Chevron Corp.
This case was a part of a long-running and sprawling international litigation battle in which various indigenous Ecuadorian groups claimed that Chevron Corporation was liable for environmental harm caused in the Amazon over three decades. Patton Boggs LLP represented the plaintiffs and wished to continued to do so. The district court denied Patton Boggs both a declaratory judgment that it could not be disqualified from that representation and leave to amend its complaint with claims that Chevron and its counsel tortiously interfered with the firm's contract with its clients. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court, holding that the court did not abuse its discretion (1) by failing to exercise jurisdiction and take up the request for a declaratory judgment; (2) in denying Patton Boggs' request to amend the complaint; and (3) by dismissing Patton Boggs' new complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.
Convertino v. Dep’t of Justice
Assistant United States Attorney Richard Convertino led the prosecution of the Detroit Sleeper Cell defendants in 2003. Convertino was later removed from the case for alleged violations committed during the prosecution. The Department of Justice's (DOJ) Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) began an internal investigation into whether Convertino knowingly withheld evidence from the defense. A few months later, a reporter published an article in the Detroit Free Press including details of the OPR referral. Convertino brought suit, alleging that an unidentified DOJ employee willfully or intentionally disclosed confidential information protected by the Privacy Act to the reporter. After several years, Convertino moved for a motion to stay the proceedings on the ground he was pursuing discovery to learn the source's identity. The district court granted summary judgment to DOJ and denied Convertino's motion to stay. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court's summary judgment, holding that the district court committed an abuse of discretion in denying Convertino's motion to stay, as (1) the district court mistakenly assumed Convertino could maintain discovery proceedings even after the Privacy Act litigation ended; and (2) Convertino submitted ample evidence to suggest that additional discovery could reveal the source's identity. Remanded.
Mann, et al. v. Castiel, et al.
This case arose when plaintiffs sued defendants alleging various violations of federal and state law in connection with defendants' involvement in the satellite communications industry. Plaintiffs appealed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' case without prejudice for failure to prove service of three defendants or to show cause therefore under Rule 4(m). Because plaintiffs failed to demonstrate a waiver by defendants pursuant to Rule 4, they offered no basis on which the court could conclude that the district court clearly erred in finding plaintiffs failed to prove proper service. Plaintiffs relied on defendants' acknowledgement of being served without considering defendants' suggestion of improper service. Plaintiffs also confused defendants' motion for a stay of the case, and to dismiss the case in its entirety, with a responsive pleading joining issue with plaintiffs' claims. The record further demonstrated plaintiffs failed to show cause for their failure to effect timely service and thus the district court acted within its discretion in denying additional time to effect service. Accordingly, the court affirmed the dismissal of the case without prejudice.
Ames Construction, Inc. v. MSHR, et al.
This case arose out of an accident in which an 81-year-old truck driver for Bob Orton Trucking Co., was killed by a large pipe that fell off of his truck during a delivery to the Kennecott Utah Copper Mine. Petitioner was an independent contractor hired by the mine's owner, Kennecott to construct a tailings dam; it was responsible for receiving deliveries of materials such as the pipes in question. The MSHA cited petitioner for a violation of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, 30 U.S.C. 801 et seq. On review, the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission upheld the citation, finding that petitioner, though not the principal operator of the mine, "supervised a process, the unloading of pipes," and that as a supervisor of that process it could be liable without fault for violations occurring in the process. Petitioner challenged that conclusion both as a matter of statutory interpretation and on the facts. The court held that, though the statutory structure invited considerable confusion, the Commission's conclusion was consistent with the Act and there was substantial evidence of its necessary findings.