Justia Injury Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
Smith v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
Plaintiff filed suit against Wal-Mart after a store employee incorrectly identified plaintiff as a shoplifting suspect in a photo lineup. On appeal, plaintiff challenged the district court's dismissal of her defamation claim.The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Wal-Mart on the defamation claim, holding that none of plaintiff's assertions raises a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether the Wal-Mart employee made her statement with actual malice. In this case, the employee could easily have been confident in her identification despite the absence of a facial piercing in the photo lineup; the record does not suggest a large discrepancy between the employee's description of the suspect and her identification of plaintiff, including the shade of her complexion; and the employee did not demonstrate malice by failing to review security footage. Finally, the court rejected plaintiff's attacks on the employee's credibility. View "Smith v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc." on Justia Law
Raicevic v. Fieldwood Energy, LLC
Plaintiff filed suit against Fieldwood and others after he was injured while working on Fieldwood's offshore platform. The jury found that Fieldwood was the only defendant that was negligent, attributing 50 percent of the responsibility to the company and the other 50 percent to plaintiff.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's entry of judgment for defendants, agreeing with the district court that plaintiff was Fieldwood's borrowed employee and thus the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act's (LHWCA) exclusive-remedy provision gave Fieldwood tort immunity. In this case, the evidence showed that both Fieldwood and Waukesha Pearce had LHWCA insurance at the time of plaintiff's injury and that is enough for Fieldwood to invoke the LHWCA's exclusive-recovery provision. Finally, the court held that the district court's consideration of Fieldwood's post-trial evidence was proper. View "Raicevic v. Fieldwood Energy, LLC" on Justia Law
Angulo v. Brown
Plaintiff filed suit against the United States and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officers for injuries suffered during an incident at the International Port of Entry Gateway Bridge in Brownsville, Texas. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the CBP officers based on qualified immunity. In this case, the court found that plaintiff was neither arrested nor unreasonably seized, and the officers did not use excessive force. The court also affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims against the United States for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction based on the customs-duty exception to the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). View "Angulo v. Brown" on Justia Law
Jordan v. Maxfield & Oberton Holdings, LLC
After their twenty-two month old son suffered terrible injuries by ingesting eight Buckyball magnets, plaintiffs filed suit against M&O for manufacturing and distributing Buckyball magnets in the United States. The jury returned a verdict for M&O and plaintiffs moved for a new trial and for relief from judgment, which the district court denied.The Fifth Circuit affirmed and held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining that plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that its evidentiary rulings constituted prejudicial error. In this case, the district court did not commit prejudicial error by granting the motion in limine and otherwise excluding post-sale evidence at trial. The court also held that the district court did not err in denying plaintiffs' motion to set aside the final judgment where plaintiffs failed to proffer bias evidence. Finally, the court held that the district court did not err in denying plaintiffs' request for a preemption jury instruction. View "Jordan v. Maxfield & Oberton Holdings, LLC" on Justia Law
Adams v. Alcolac, Inc.
Plaintiffs, primarily former U.S. military personnel who were injured by Saddam Hussein's use of mustard gas during the Gulf War, seek to hold Alcolac, Inc. liable for these injuries because, they allege, it illegally provided the government of Iraq with thiodiglycol, which was then used to create mustard gas. Plaintiffs' claims have been foreclosed in previous litigation except for two: (1) a claim under the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) and (2) a civil-conspiracy claim under Texas law.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Alcolac, holding that the first claim fails because JASTA does not provide a cause of action for injuries caused by acts of war. Furthermore, the civil-conspiracy claim fails because plaintiffs have not demonstrated that Alcolac or anyone else committed a tort in furtherance of the alleged conspiracy. The court explained that, because plaintiffs' JASTA and civil-conspiracy claims fail, they do not have valid underlying claims. Therefore, their Texas Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act claims also fail. View "Adams v. Alcolac, Inc." on Justia Law
Sanchez v. Smart Fabricators of Texas, LLC
After plaintiff was injured when he tripped on a pipe welded to the deck of a jacked-up offshore drilling rig, he filed a negligence action against Smart Fabricators under the Jones Act. The district court denied plaintiff's motion to remand to state court, granting Smart Fabricator's motion for summary judgment. The district court's ruling was based on its conclusion that plaintiff did not qualify as a seaman under the Jones Act.The Fifth Circuit reversed and held that plaintiff qualifies as a seaman under the Jones Act where plaintiff has shown that he had a substantial connection both in nature and duration to the vessels on which he worked. The court agreed with the district court that plaintiff satisfied the duration requirement of the Chandris test because he spent over 70 percent of his employment with SmartFab aboard a rig adjacent to an inland pier and around 19 percent of his employment aboard a rig on the Outer Continental Shelf. The court also held that plaintiff's connection to the vessel was substantial in nature and he satisfied the nature requirement of the Chandris test where plaintiff's work on vessels exposed him to the perils of the sea. The court explained that, although plaintiff was a land-based welder who went home every evening, such work aboard vessels did not disqualify him as a Jones Act seaman. The court remanded with instructions to remand the matter to state court. View "Sanchez v. Smart Fabricators of Texas, LLC" on Justia Law
Mays v. Chevron Pipe Line Co.
After James Mays was killed in an explosion on an offshore platform owned by Chevron, Mays' widow and children filed suit against Chevron for state law wrongful death. Mays was directly employed by Furmanite, a Chevron subcontractor, which serviced valves on Chevron's platforms. At issue was whether Mays' accident was covered by the federal Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA). The jury found that Mays' death was caused by Chevron's Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) activities, and thus the LHWCA applied and Chevron did not enjoy state immunity.The Fifth Circuit affirmed and rejected Chevron's argument that the district court erred by instructing the jury to consider Chevron's OCS operations in answering the substantial nexus question. The court held that the district court did not misapply Pacific Operators Offshore, LLP v. Valladolid, 565 U.S. 207 (2012), by instructing the jury to determine whether there was a substantial nexus between Mays' death and Chevron's—as opposed to Furmanite's—OCS operations. The court also rejected Chevron's argument that the evidence linking its OCS operations to Mays' death failed to meet the substantial nexus test as a matter of law. Finally, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to reduce the jury's $2 million loss-of-affection award to Mrs. Mays. View "Mays v. Chevron Pipe Line Co." on Justia Law
State Farm Lloyds v. Richards
State Farm filed suit seeking a declaratory judgment that it had no duty to defend or indemnify the insureds in the underlying action. In the underlying action, Jayden Meals' mom filed a personal injury suit against his paternal grandparents, the insureds, after Jayden, who was 10 years old, died in an ATV accident. The district court found that the extrinsic evidence satisfied both the motor-vehicle exclusion and the insured exclusion.The Fifth Circuit certified a question of Texas law to the Texas Supreme Court, which answered that the policy-language exception to the eight-corners rule is not a permissible exception under Texas law. Therefore, the district court erred by applying the policy-language exception in this case. The court held that the eight-corners rule applies here; the underlying third-amended complaint contains allegations within its four corners that potentially constitute a claim within the four corners of the policy; and thus the court reversed the district court's holding that State Farm does not have a duty to defend the insureds. The court stated that State Farm has a duty to defend, so the exception to non-justiciability does not apply. Because the underlying suit remains pending, the court reversed the district court's holding that State Farm has no duty to indemnify. View "State Farm Lloyds v. Richards" on Justia Law
Hale v. Metrex Research Corp.
Claiming that she suffered injuries when her dentist soaked her dentures in CaviCide disinfecting solution, which is manufactured by Metrex, plaintiff filed suit against Metrex, the dentist, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and others.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of judgment on the pleadings to Metrex on plaintiff's claim that Metrex failed to warn and label its product adequately. The court held that plaintiff's failure to warn claim failed as a matter of law because she admitted in her complaint that CaviCide's label warned against the specific use that allegedly caused her injuries. In this case, plaintiff conceded that the use of CaviCide to disinfect dentures or any surface or instrument that contacts mucous membranes is prohibited by the CaviCide label. Furthermore, plaintiff maintained that her injures were caused by the dentist's failure to follow manufacturer's instructions clearly printed on the label for the proper use of the product. View "Hale v. Metrex Research Corp." on Justia Law
Gray v. Alabama Great Southern Railroad Co.
After Gregory Tramaine Miller was crushed to death between the couplers of two rail cars while working as a conductor trainee with the railroad, plaintiffs filed suit under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA).The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the railroad, holding that Miller's failure to establish 3-Step Protection before going between rail cars was the sole cause of his death, that his going between moving rail cars was unforeseeable, and that plaintiffs failed to produce evidence of any negligent acts by the railroad attributable to causing Miller's death. View "Gray v. Alabama Great Southern Railroad Co." on Justia Law