Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims against defendants after plaintiff's daughter died from inhaling a large quantity of aerosol dust remover in a Wal-Mart parking lot. The court held that plaintiff's negligence claim based on premises liability failed because she did not plead that there were any issues with the conditions of the premises, and because Wal-Mart did not owe the daughter any duty of care regarding her purchase or abuse of dust remover. Furthermore, Wal-Mart was not liable for negligent entrustment under Restatement (Second) of Torts 390 and under Texas laws, and Wal-Mart employees were not liable in their individual capacities. The court affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiff's motion to remand and motion to alter or amend the complaint. View "Allen v. Walmart Stores, LLC" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff lost his arm when his vehicle collided with a piece of farm equipment being towed by a truck, plaintiff filed suit against Progressive, the company that leased the equipment to the driver of the truck, alleging that the company was negligent in failing to warn the driver of the dangers associated with towing the equipment with a pickup truck instead of a tractor. The district court granted summary judgment for Progressive on the failure to warn claim. The Fifth Circuit affirmed and held that plaintiff failed to create a factual dispute regarding the essential element of proximate cause. In this case, plaintiff failed to put forth any evidence that corroborated his conclusory assertion that the truck's lack of control over the farm disc led to his accident. View "Funches v. Progressive Tractor and Implement Co." on Justia Law

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After an intoxicated driver fled Austin police and knowingly accelerated through a closed city block during the South by Southwest Festival and killed four people, the family of one of the victims filed a wrongful death action against the festival organizers and the City of Austin. Plaintiffs alleged that defendants failed to adequately blockade the street and prevent the ensuing harm. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the action for failure to state a claim under Texas law. The court held that plaintiffs failed to plausibly allege the SXSW defendants controlled the premises where the driver struck the victim. Therefore, the district court properly dismissed the negligence and premises-liability claims against the SXSW defendants for lack of duty. The court held that plaintiffs failed to allege any violation of a codified standard of conduct and thus plaintiffs' negligence per se claim was properly dismissed. The court also held that the district court properly dismissed the implied warranty and public nuisance claim. Finally, the City's immunity was not waived because plaintiffs have failed to state a valid premises claim. View "Smit v. SXSW Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law

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After plaintiff was injured when he fell off a defective ladder between a casino vessel and hotel owned by PNK, he filed suit against PNK for damages under Louisiana law. The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to PNK and held that genuine fact issues exist as to whether PNK may be liable for plaintiff's injuries. The court held that a reasonable fact finder could conclude that PNK expressly or impliedly authorized the particular manner which rendered the work unsafe. The court also held that plaintiff's possible negligence before using the defective ladder could be taken into account, not as a complete bar to recovery via summary judgment, but rather through comparative fault principles. Furthermore, there were genuine issues as to whether the risk posed by the defective ladder was unreasonable under Louisiana law. The court rejected PNK's alternative argument and remanded for further proceedings. View "Renwick v. P N K Lake Charles, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's actions under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), alleging that his discharge by a VA hospital and its employees intentionally inflicted emotional distress upon him and tortiously interfered with his business relationships. The court held that the Civil Service Reform Act (CSRA) preempted plaintiff's FTCA tort claims relating to his discharge for alleged whistleblowing. Therefore, plaintiff could not bring his claim for lack of jurisdiction. View "Griener v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Manitowoc Cranes after her husband, John, was injured in a crane accident that rendered him physically and mentally incapacitated. The jury ruled for plaintiff, finding that Manitowoc failed to warn Model 16000 Series crane operators that, if the crane tips over, large weights stacked on the rear of the crane can slide forward and strike the operator's cab. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's final judgment against Manitowoc for $2.8 million in actual economic damages and $600,000 in non-economic damages. The court held that Manitowoc was not entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the failure-to-warn claim where Manitowoc's warning was inadequate, and the inadequate warning proximately caused John's injuries. In this case, Manitowoc's misuse allegations did not convince the court that John's alleged misuse proximately caused his injuries, and the jury had an adequate basis for finding that an alternative warning could have communicated valuable additional information about the falling counterweight danger, allowing John to avoid injury. Finally, the court rejected Manitowoc's expert and evidentiary challenges. View "Williams v. Manitowoc Cranes, LLC" on Justia Law

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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