Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
by
Appellant a Louisiana attorney representing oil spill claimants in the settlement program, was accused of funneling money to a settlement program staff attorney through improper referral payments. In a disciplinary proceeding, the en banc Eastern District of Louisiana found that Appellant’s actions violated the Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct and suspended him from practicing law before the Eastern District of Louisiana for one year. Appellant appealed, arguing that the en banc court misapplied the Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct and abused its discretion by imposing an excessive sanction.   The Fifth Circuit found that the en banc court misapplied Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 1.5(e) and 8.4(a) but not Rule 8.4(d). Additionally, the en banc court did not abuse its discretion by imposing a one-year suspension on Appellant for his violation of 8.4(d). Accordingly, the court reversed the en banc court’s order suspending Appellant from the practice of law for one year each for violations of Rule 1.5(e) and 8.4(a). The court affirmed the en banc court’s holding that Appellant violated Rule 8.4(d). Finally, the court remanded to the en banc court for further proceedings. On remand, the court is free to impose on Appellant whatever sanction it sees fit for the 8.4(d) violation, including but not limited to its previous one-year suspension. View "In re Jonathan Andry" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs allege that Boeing and Southwest Airlines defrauded them by, among other things, concealing a serious safety defect in the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft. The district court certified four classes encompassing those who purchased or reimbursed approximately 200 million airline tickets for flights that were flown or could have been flown on a MAX 8.In reviewing Defendants' interlocutory appeal, the Fifth Circuit reversed the district court. The court found that Plaintiffs lacked Article III standing because they failed to allege any concrete injury. View "Earl v. Boeing" on Justia Law

by
In June 2011, a fifteen-year-old shot his brother, an eleven-year-old, with a Remington Model 700 rifle equipped with an X-Mark Pro trigger. The boy and his parents (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) sued Remington, the retailer that sold the rifle, and Remington’s predecessors in interest (collectively, “Defendants”) in Mississippi state court. Plaintiffs emphasized that Remington had in April 2014 recalled all Model 700 rifles with X-Mark Pro triggers because the rifles “can and will spontaneously fire without pulling the trigger.” They brought state-law claims for product liability, failure to warn, negligence, and gross negligence.   Defendants moved to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). In their response to that motion, Plaintiffs asked to file a federal-court complaint to allege additional facts related to the statute of limitations. The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the district court’s subject-matter jurisdiction was based on diversity of citizenship. The court, therefore, applied “federal procedural and evidentiary rules and the substantive laws of the forum state.” Mississippi has a general three-year statute of limitations. For “non-latent injuries” like the one alleged here, the cause of action accrues on the date of the injury. But Plaintiffs, who filed suit in March 2018, argue that the statute of limitations was tolled by Defendants’ fraudulent concealment. The district court rejected that argument. The Fifth Circuit agreed, finding that Plaintiffs failed to meet Rule 9(b)’s requirements. View "Stringer, et al v. Remington Arms, et al" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff petitioned for a writ of mandamus directing the district court to remand this removed action to state court for want of federal-court jurisdiction. This matter arises from a traffic collision. Plaintiff is a citizen of Louisiana, as is the driver of the other vehicle, Defendant. At the time of removal by diverse Defendant Zurich American Insurance Company (“Zurich”), neither Defendant nor defendant Dynamic Energy Services International, LLC, had been served. Plaintiff initiated an action in Louisiana state court against the three defendants. According to Zurich, it could remove to federal court because the driver—a citizen of the forum state—had not yet been served.   The Fifth Circuit denied the petition for writ of mandate. The court explained that because the only basis for removal, in this case, was diversity jurisdiction, and complete diversity is lacking, The court explained that the district court must dismiss want of jurisdiction. the critical distinction is whether diversity is complete. In that regard, Plaintiff, in his mandamus petition, correctly posits that “Texas Brine is consistent with Deshotel,” based on the fact that “[i]n Texas Brine, unlike [Plaintiff], diversity was complete. Had the Texas plaintiff wanted, it could have filed its case originally in federal court. Plaintiff by contrast, could not have done so.” View "In Re: Calvin Levy" on Justia Law

by
After an alleged collision with a mail vehicle, Plaintiff submitted a claim to the U.S. Postal Service under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”), seeking about $15,000 for damage to his truck. The postal service denied his claim because Plaintiff’s insurance covered it. Under the FTCA, this triggered a six-month window in which Plaintiff could either seek reconsideration or sue. He did neither. Instead, over eight months later, Plaintiff filed a second claim with the postal service, now seeking $2 million for back injuries from the same incident. The district court dismissed his suit as time-barred and the Fifth Circuit affirmed.   The court explained that Plaintiff’s first SF-95 presented his entire claim based on the November 14, 2019, accident. This claim could have been amended to include personal injury damages or appealed—all consistent with the procedures outlined in the FTCA. When the USPS denied that claim on March 26, 2020, the six-month clock started running, and it stopped ticking on September 26, 2020. During that time, Plaintiff neither sought reconsideration nor filed suit. Accordingly, the district court correctly ruled that Plaintiff’s action is untimely and his claim is, therefore “forever barred.” View "Broussard v. USA" on Justia Law

by
Two former students of Tulane University, on behalf of a putative class of current and former students, sued the University for failing to provide a partial refund of tuition and fees after Tulane switched from in-person instruction with access to on-campus services to online, off-campus instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic. The district court agreed with Tulane that the student's complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim.   The Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded. The court concluded that the claim is not barred as a claim of educational malpractice because the Students do not challenge the quality of the education received but the product received. Second, the court rejected Tulane’s argument that the breach-of-contract claim is foreclosed by an express agreement between the parties because the agreement at issue plausibly does not govern refunds in this circumstance. And third, the court concluded that Plaintiffs have not plausibly alleged that Tulane breached an express contract promising in-person instruction and on-campus facilities because Plaintiffs fail to point to any explicit language evidencing that promise. But the court held that Plaintiffs have plausibly alleged implied-in-fact promises for in-person instruction and on-campus facilities. Moreover, the court found that the Students’ alternative claim for unjust enrichment may proceed at this early stage. Finally, genuine disputes of material fact regarding whether Plaintiffs saw and agreed to the A&DS preclude reliance on the agreement at this stage. Thus, Plaintiffs have plausibly alleged a claim of conversion. View "Jones v. Admin of the Tulane Educ" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff began receiving prescription medication administered through a pain pump and filled by AIS Healthcare (“AIS”). In 2021, she discovered that AIS was billing her insurer at a rate of $120 per day for allegedly unauthorized services. Plaintiff filed suit in state court, seeking damages for contract, tort, and unjust enrichment claims. AIS removed to federal court and moved to dismiss the case on grounds that Plaintiff lacked standing to sue because she had suffered no injury. Noting that “a breach of contract alone is an insufficient injury in fact,” the district court concluded that Plaintiff could not satisfy standing’s redressability element for the claims asserted and dismissed them with prejudice under Rule 12(b)(1).   The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment dismissing Plaintiff’s claims for lack of standing, however, the court modified the district court’s judgment dismissing Plaintiff’s claims for lack of standing. First, the court explained that the district court erred in holding that Plaintiff failed to show an injury in fact through her associated breach of contract and tort claims. However, because the court agreed with the district court that Plaintiff’s claims are not redressable by the damages she seeks, the court affirmed its dismissal of her claims for lack of standing. Further, the district court’s dismissal with prejudice appears to be a “scrivener’s” error. The court thus modified the district court’s judgment dismissing Plaintiff’s claims with prejudice to make it without prejudice and affirm the judgment as modified. View "Denning v. Bond Pharmacy" on Justia Law

by
Loggerhead Holdings, Inc., a holding company that owned a scuba diving cruise business, was one of many plaintiffs who brought suit against an oil company because of the explosion of an offshore drilling rig and the resulting discharge of a massive quantity of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Loggerhead’s claims were dismissed on summary judgment.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part. The court explained that Loggerhead had been able to continue operations for several years despite its fraught financial condition, and indeed despite reporting net losses on its taxes for the three years preceding the disastrous events of April 2010 in the Gulf. Whether it could have continued to survive, if not thrive, had the April events not occurred presents a fact question. Thus, the court concluded that a reasonable factfinder could find the requisite causal link between the Deepwater Horizon disaster and Loggerhead’s demise. Summary judgment should not have been granted.   However, because Loggerhead was not able to offer more than Dixon’s allegations and an unsupported estimate — evidence “so weak or tenuous on an essential fact that it could not support a judgment in favor of the nonmovant” — the district court properly granted BP’s motion for summary judgment on the Section 2702(b)(2)(B) claim. View "Loggerhead Holdings v. BP" on Justia Law

by
This is an appeal from a district court’s grant of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Plaintiff sought a declaratory judgment that Defendant Biloxi H.M.A., L.L.C., doing business as Merit Health Biloxi (“Merit Health”), a hospital, has a duty to disclose that it charges a “facility fee,” also referred to as a “surcharge,” to all emergency room patients who receive care at its facility. The district court, making an Erie guess informed by the Mississippi Supreme Court’s references to, and partial application of, the Restatement (Second) of Torts Section 551, determined that Merit Health did not have a duty to disclose because the surcharge was not a “fact basic to the transaction”, and it, therefore, granted the motion to dismiss.   The Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded. The court explained that in applying relevant legal precepts, the court thinks that the Mississippi Supreme Court would hold that Plaintiff has sufficiently alleged facts that Merit Health had a duty to exercise reasonable care to disclose the surcharge. First, Plaintiff alleged that the surcharge was a material fact. Second, Plaintiff alleged that Merit Health was aware that patients like her were unaware of the surcharge, but nonetheless failed to disclose it. Third, Plaintiff alleged that she had a reasonable expectation of disclosure because Merit Health holds itself out to be a “caring community-based organization” and patients like her expected Merit Health to disclose the surcharge based on the confidence and trust that they placed in the hospital. View "Henley v. Biloxi H.M.A." on Justia Law

by
Environmental groups sued ExxonMobil under the Clean Air Act for thousands of unauthorized emissions from the company’s complex in Baytown, Texas. Applying guidance from the Fifth Circuit, the district court determined that Plaintiffs proved traceability for only 3,651 of the 16,386 violation days. It ordered Exxon to pay $14.25 million dollars, lessening the penalty by more than five million dollars to reflect the reduced number of justiciable violations.   The Fifth Circuit found no error in the district court’s fact-intensive analysis of standing or penalty. The court explained that the district court properly accounted for the reduced number of violations in its final balancing of the statutory factors, reducing the penalty multiplier from 50% of the value of noncompliance to 10%. Thus, the district court’s conclusion on economic benefit stands.   Further, the court explained that in considering the length of only select few of those thousands of violations would not fully reflect the extent of Exxon’s unlawfulness. Thus, the court would not disturb the district court’s conclusion that the duration factor weighs for a penalty. The court additionally explained that there was no abuse of discretion on the seriousness factor. The district court considered each violation; it found that the traceable violations involved relatively high levels of emissions and necessarily considered the amount of each violation when it added them up to reach the 1.5-million-pound figure. Exxon does not offer any alternative definitions of “seriousness” that the district court could have applied instead. View "Env TX Citizen Lobby, et al v. ExxonMobil, et al" on Justia Law