Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
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Plaintiff, an investor and venture capitalist and the CEO of InterOil Corporation (“InterOil”), developed a business relationship. Throughout that relationship, Plaintiff (and “entities controlled and beneficially owned by him”) provided loans, cash advances, and funds to the CEO and InterOil. Plaintiff and the CEO continued to have a business relationship until 2016, at which point the CEO’s actions and words made Plaintiff concerned he would not receive his shares back from the CEO. In late 2017, as part of a larger suit against the CEO, Plaintiff and Aster Panama sued the J.P. Morgan Defendants for (1) breach of trust and fiduciary duty, (2) negligence, and (3) conspiracy to commit theft. The district court granted summary judgment on all counts relating to the J.P. Morgan defendants and awarded them attorneys’ fees under the Texas Theft Liability Act (“TTLA”).   The Fifth Circuit affirmed. Under Texas law, the only question is whether the J.P. Morgan Defendants expressly accepted a duty to ensure the stocks were kept in trust for Plaintiff or Aster Panama. That could have been done by express agreement or by the bank’s acceptance of a deposit that contained writing that set forth “by clear direction what the bank is required to do.” Texas courts require a large amount of evidence to show that a bank has accepted such a duty. Here, no jury could find that the proffered statements and emails were sufficient evidence of intent from the J.P. Morgan Defendants to show an express agreement that they “owe[d] a duty to restrict the use of the funds for certain purposes.” View "Civelli v. J.P. Morgan Chase" on Justia Law

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The Port of Corpus Christi Authority of Nueces County, Texas (a governmental entity), sued The Port of Corpus Christi, L.P.(a private entity) and Kenneth Berry in state court. The claims were for trespass and encroachment on its submerged land that resulted from dredge operations occurring in a ship channel. Defendants removed the case, but the district court remanded, holding there was no basis for removal either under the federal officer removal statute or due to a federal question.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in denying removal on the basis of the federal officer removal statute. Further, the court explained that it agreed with the district court that the Port Authority’s complaint “disclaims any issue regarding permit compliance, stating its claim exclusively in terms of Texas state law: common law trespass.” The Port Authority did not allege a violation of either the Clean Water Act or the Rivers and Harbors Act. View "Port of Corpus v. Port of Corpus" on Justia Law

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In a case involving the denial of coverage for an automobile accident, the Fifth Circuit addressed whether uninsured motorist coverage can be denied simply because the driver, who was the son of the insured, was not listed on the policy? The court answered that question “no.” The other is whether the policy can be voided because the insured committed a material misrepresentation by failing in her application for insurance to name, as required, those of driving age who lived in her household? The court answered that question, “yes.”   The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling granting Viking Insurance’s motion for summary judgment in Plaintiffs’ suit seeking damages for a wrongful denial of benefits. The court concluded that if an insurer declines to exercise the greater power to void a policy, it still retains the lesser power to exercise a contractual right to deny coverage. The court explained that here, a knowing misstatement in the application about the drivers in the household was material if it would have caused Viking either not to issue the policy or to increase the premium. The court accepted that materiality is not affected by the relationship between the false statement and the specific coverage being sought in litigation. It is enough that the falsity was material to the decision of the company to issue the policy at the agreed price. Consequently, Viking could have voided the policy. By not voiding, Viking’s policy remained in effect. Accordingly, Viking had the right to deny Plaintiffs’ claim. View "Bradley v. Viking Insurance" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff claimed a law enforcement officer violated his Fourth Amendment rights by punching him in the face, knocking him to the pavement, then standing over him for a time. The officer punched Plaintiff because he had not moved his vehicle quickly enough at an airport passenger pickup area. The district court dismissed on the pleadings.   The Fifth Circuit reversed the judgment for the officer, and affirmed judgment for the city. The court concluded that the allegations in the complaint present a plausible claim that, viewed objectively, the excessive force used by the law enforcement officer was not just to insist the vehicle be moved, but it constituted a seizure that would prolong the encounter. On the other hand, Plaintiff does not sufficiently allege a municipal policy to support a claim against the city defendant. View "Vardeman v. City of Houston" on Justia Law

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This insurance coverage dispute arises from underlying litigation in a single-vehicle accident that led to a lawsuit by J.O. against his employer, Riata Cattle Company, Inc. (“Riata”). J.O. sued Riata in Texas state court, alleging that he suffered bodily injury when Riata’s truck, which he was driving, malfunctioned and crashed due to Riata’s failure to repair and maintain it. J.O. also alleged that Riata committed negligence and gross negligence by failing to provide him with safety equipment, failing to warn him of any dangers, failing to inspect or repair the equipment, and other negligence theories. Riata sought coverage defense from its auto liability insurer, National Liability & Fire Insurance Company (“National Liability”), which is currently defending Riata in the underlying litigation under a reservation of rights letter. National Liability subsequently filed a declaratory judgment action in federal court, seeking a determination that it owes Riata neither a defense nor indemnity under the insurance policy (the “Policy”). National Liability contends it is entitled to a declaratory judgment because the Policy excludes coverage for employees of Riata. Riata seems to concede this argument but contends that the “Form F” endorsement on the Policy compels National Liability to defend and indemnify Riata.The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that J.O. is an employee of Riata, and according to the applicable Policy, National Liability is excluded from providing insurance coverage to Riata for the underlying litigation. And Form F does not change the employee exclusion in the Policy. View "Ntl L & Fire Ins Co v. Riata Cattle Co" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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