Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

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The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Wal-Mart in an action alleging a premises liability claim against the company for plaintiff's slip and fall. The court held that plaintiff's entire story, uncorroborated assumptions and all, was more plausible than Wal-Mart's proposed alternatives. In this case, plaintiff's was the only explanation supported by multiple, particularized indicia: The auto-scrubber pauses where the level of the floor changes; liquid tends to accumulate in uneven areas; and, per the post-slip cleanup effort, the spill was a concentrated puddle (rather than a trail created by a leaking garbage bin). Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Garcia v. Wal-Mart Stores Texas, LLC" on Justia Law

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During a preliminary safety briefing before a firearms training exercise hosted by the Mississippi Gaming Commission, instructor and former Commission Special Agent Sharp forgot to replace his real firearm with a “dummy” firearm. Sharp accidentally discharged his real firearm against fellow instructor and Mississippi Gaming Commission Special Agent Gorman. Gorman subsequently died from the gunshot wound. In a suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the Fifth Circuit reversed the district court’s denial of Sharp’s motion for judgment on the pleadings based on qualified immunity. To defeat qualified immunity in a Fourth Amendment claim, the plaintiff must demonstrate both a bona fide Fourth Amendment violation and that the violation was clearly established at the time of the official’s conduct. Under established Supreme Court precedent, a Fourth Amendment seizure does not occur whenever there is a governmentally caused termination of an individual’s freedom of movement but only when there is a governmental termination of freedom of movement through means intentionally applied. "There is no question about the fundamental interest in a person’s own life, but it does not follow that a negligent taking of life is a constitutional deprivation." The shooting of Gorman, as tragic as it was, was not “willful[ly]” performed by Sharp.” View "Gorman v. State of Mississippi" on Justia Law

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These appeals and cross-appeal stemmed from the Pinnacle Hip multidistrict litigation (MDL). After plaintiffs received Pinnacle's metal-on-metal design, suffered complications, and required revision surgery, plaintiffs secured a half-billion-dollar jury verdict. Both plaintiffs and defendants appealed. The Fifth Circuit held that only a few of plaintiffs' claims failed as a matter of law but that the district court's evidentiary errors and plaintiff's counsel's deceptions furnished independent grounds for a new trial. In this case, counsel concealed payments to two key expert witnesses. Therefore, DePuy was entitled to judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) on Greer's and Peterson's defective marketing claims; J&J was entitled to JMOL on all plaintiffs' aiding-and-abetting claims; and the remaining claims avoided JMOL, although a new trial was required. View "Christopher v. Johnson & Johnson" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims against the Government for false arrest and false imprisonment under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). Plaintiff claimed that she was falsely arrested and imprisoned by Custom and Border Protection (CBP) officers because the officers detained her after she presented them with an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), which in her view conclusively showed entitlement to remain in the United States. The court held that the discretionary function exception to the FTCA applied in this case where the officers enforced a removal order. The court reasoned that, what plaintiff insisted was certain from the EAD and removed all discretion was, in reality, sufficiently uncertain as to leave discretion in the hands of the officers. Furthermore, reading the discretionary function exception in conjunction with the law enforcement proviso, the court held that the district court was correct in holding that there was no subject matter jurisdiction. However, the district court did err in dismissing the FTCA claims with prejudice. Therefore, the court vacated and remanded so that the district court may enter a revised order and final judgment that dismisses the suit without prejudice. View "Campos v. United States" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff suffered permanent injuries when an unmanned utility vehicle ran her over, the jury awarded her and her husband a $15 million verdict. The Fifth Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion by giving a more expansive definition of "safer alternative design;" the court rejected Textron's argument that a single-answer jury question erroneously commingled both supported and unsupported alternative-design theories; the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting two pieces of evidence: a video depicting another unintended-acceleration event unfolding during a high-school football game at Dallas Cowboys Stadium and a "Best Protection" letter; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to bifurcate the trial. View "Nester v. Textron, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against Avondale and others in state court, alleging that defendants exposed their sister, Mary Jane Wilde, to asbestos and caused her to die of mesothelioma. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision to remand the case back to state court after removal to federal court under 28 U.S.C. 1442. The court held that, under controlling precedent, Avondale must show a causal connection between the federal officer’s direction and the conduct challenged by plaintiffs. Because Avondale has failed to make this showing of a causal nexus, the district court properly remanded the case back to state court. View "Legendre v. Huntington Ingalls, Inc." on Justia Law

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After plaintiffs were injured when oil from an airplane's air cycle machine leaked into the cabin and caused the cockpit to fill with smoke and fumes, they filed suit against several defendants. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Fairchild Controls, holding that plaintiffs' design defect theory failed where the limited expert testimony about the air-foil bearing technology did not prove that a safer design was feasible. The court also held that the failure to warn claim failed because plaintiffs were knowledgeable users, and a warning would have been superfluous. View "Davidson v. Fairchild Controls Corp." on Justia Law

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28 U.S.C. 1446(b)(3)'s removal clock begins ticking upon receipt of the deposition transcript. The Fifth Circuit dismissed Murphy Oil's appeal of an order of remand under section 1446(b)(3), based on lack of jurisdiction. In this case, Murphy Oil itself had no right to be in federal court in the first place, and only Avondale, its codefendant, could invoke the federal officer removal statute. Had Avondale not chosen to remove, Murphy Oil could not have asserted officer jurisdiction on Avondale's behalf. The court held that Murphy Oil experienced no concrete and particularized injury sufficient to satisfy the injury-in-fact prong of Article III standing. View "Morgan v. Huntington Ingalls, Inc." on Justia Law

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After a longshoreman stepped through a hole in a decommissioned oil platform and fell 50 feet to his death, his spouse filed a negligence action against Manson. The platform sat atop a barge chartered by Manson, who ordered the hole's creation but did not cover the hole or warn of its existence. The district court granted summary judgment for Manson, finding no liability under any of the three Scindia duties: a turnover duty, a duty to exercise reasonable care in the areas of the ship under the active control of the vessel, and a duty to intervene. The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment with respect to the duty to warn of hidden dangers. In this case, there was conflicting evidence regarding whether the hole was a hidden hazard, one a stevedore would not anticipate. Finally, the court held that this case fell outside the narrow caveat in West v. United States, 361 U.S. 118, 119 (1959). Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Manson Gulf, LLC v. Modern American Recycling Service, Inc." on Justia Law

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The district court held that when a minor's parents bring a lawsuit on his behalf as next friends, the statute of limitations for those claims is not tolled during his period of minority if they were aggressively litigated through the prior lawsuit. The Fifth Circuit held that the district court improperly created this exception to Texas's tolling provision to its statute of limitations, and thus reversed the dismissal of plaintiff's claims related to serious and sustained injuries he suffered while he was detained at a juvenile detention center. The court held that the district court erred by fashioning a rule of its own making to find that plaintiff forfeited the protection of Texas's tolling provision when his parents had brought suit as next friends. The court remanded for further proceedings, including consideration of res judicata and other issues presented. View "Clyce v. Butler" on Justia Law