Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
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Pakistan International Airlines (“PIA”) failed to transport the body of N.B. to Pakistan for burial due to a miscommunication by employees of Swissport USA, PIA’s cargo loading agent. N.B.’s family members sued PIA and Swissport in New York state court under state law; PIA removed the action to the district court. Following cross-motions for summary judgment and an evidentiary hearing, the district court held that Plaintiffs’ claims are preempted by the Montreal Convention and dismissed the suit. On appeal, Plaintiffs argued that the Montreal Convention, which preempts state-law claims arising from delayed cargo, does not apply because human remains are not “cargo” for purposes of the Montreal Convention and because their particular claims are not for “delay.”   The Second Circuit affirmed. The court explained that human remains are cargo for purposes of the Montreal Convention; and on the facts found by the district court, the claims arise from delay. The claims are therefore preempted by the Montreal Convention. The court further wrote that it was Plaintiffs who cut off PIA’s ability to perform under the terms of the waybill. That decision was understandable given the need to bury N.B. quickly, and it cannot be doubted that Plaintiffs found themselves in a hard situation. But their only recourse against PIA and Swissport was a claim under the Montreal Convention, a claim which they have consistently declined to assert. View "Badar v. Swissport USA, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed from a district court judgment granting Defendants’ motion to dismiss her complaint. n relevant part, the district court found wanting her claims for fraud in the enforcement of a mortgage; fraud upon the court; collusion and deceit upon the court in violation of New York State Judiciary Law Section 487; and negligence. It explained that it was precluded by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine from adjudicating all of Plaintiff’s claims, and that, in any event, principles of res judicata and estoppel barred her from pursuing these claims.   The Second Circuit affirmed in part the district court’s judgment dismissing Plaintiff’s fraud and negligence claims against the Attorney Defendants and vacated in part the dismissal of her claims under New York Judiciary Law Section 487. The court concluded that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine does not require the dismissal of Plaintiff’s claims; that res judicata does not bar her claims, and that collateral estoppel bars her fraud and negligence claims, but not her section 487 claim for deceit upon the court View "Hansen v. Miller" on Justia Law

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The Department of Labor brought a petition seeking review of a final order issued on December 31, 2020 by the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The Commission found the phrase “stored in tiers” in the second sentence of 29 C.F.R. Section 1910.176(b) did not apply to pallets of merchandise located in a Walmart Distribution Center in Johnstown, New York.   The Secretary argued that the Commission erred in finding Section 11 1910.176(b) inapplicable to Walmart’s tiered storage system because it unambiguously includes material placed or arranged one above another in tiered storage racks, such as the system used at the Distribution Center. Alternatively, the Secretary also argued that if the Court found the regulation ambiguous, the Court should defer to the Secretary’s reasonable interpretation.   The Second Circuit vacated and remanded finding that the Secretary of Labor’s interpretation was reasonable. The court explained that the Commission’s cramped definition ignores other types of tiers, including seating arrangements at sporting events and music venues with layers of seats that are independently supported and placed one over the other with gaps between them. There is nothing inconsistent in the remaining language of the standard that militates against an interpretation that shelves can be tiers. Here, the pallets stored on the selective racking became unstable and merchandise on the pallets fell. Accordingly, the court concluded that the Secretary’s competing interpretation of the language of the standard is reasonable. View "Martin J. Walsh v. Walmart, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendant-Appellant Donald J. Trump and Movant-Appellant the United States of America appealed from a district court’s judgment denying their motion to substitute the United States in this action pursuant to the Westfall Act of 1988. On appeal, Appellants argued that substitution is warranted because the President of the United States is a covered government employee under the Westfall Act, and because Trump had acted within the scope of his employment when he made the allegedly defamatory statements denying Plaintiff-Appellee’s 2019 sexual assault allegations.   The Second Circuit reversed the district court’s holding that the President of the United States is not an employee of the government under the Westfall Act. And the court vacated the district court’s judgment that Trump did not act within the scope of his employment, and certified that question to the D.C. Court of Appeals.   The court certified the following question: Under the laws of the District, were the allegedly libelous public statements made, during his term in office, by the President of the United States, denying allegations of misconduct, with regards to events prior to that term of office, within the scope of his employment as President of the United States? View "E. Jean Carroll v. Donald J. Trump" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued individuals and entities affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia ("ROCOR" and, collectively, "Defendants") -- for defamation, contending that they defamed him when they publicly accused him of forging a series of letters relating to his appointment as the Bishop of Miami. Defendants moved to dismiss based on the "church autonomy doctrine," arguing that Plaintiff's suit would impermissibly involve the courts in matters of faith, doctrine, and internal church government. The district court denied the motion. Defendants then filed a motion for reconsideration and a motion to limit discovery to the issue of whether the church autonomy doctrine applied or otherwise to stay proceedings. The district court denied those motions as well   The Second Circuit held that it lacks jurisdiction to hear the appeal because the collateral order doctrine does not apply in the circumstances here. Accordingly, the court granted Plaintiff’s July 15, 2021, motion to dismiss. Dismissed the appeal, and vacated the temporary stay granted on September 2, 2021. The court explained that the district court's orders lack the conclusiveness required for appellate jurisdiction under the collateral order doctrine. Likewise, the court concluded that the district court's orders do not involve a claim of right separable from the merits of the action. View "Belya v. Kapral, et al." on Justia Law

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A group of public servants who had contacted Navient for help repaying their loans (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) filed a putative class action lawsuit, alleging that Navient had not “lived up to its obligation to help vulnerable borrowers get on the best possible repayment plan and qualify for PSLF.”   Navient moved to dismiss the amended complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim, which the district court granted in part, dismissing all claims except “the claim brought under New York’s General Business Law Section 349”. The district court certified a class for settlement purposes under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(2) and approved the settlement as “fair, reasonable, adequate,” and “in the best interest of the Settlement Class as a whole.”   Two objectors now appeal that judgment, arguing that the district court erred in certifying the class, approving the settlement, and approving service awards of $15,000 to the named Plaintiffs. The Second Circuit affirmed concluding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in making any of these determinations. The court explained that here, the amended complaint plausibly alleged that the named Plaintiffs were likely to suffer future harm because they continued to rely on Navient for information about repaying their student loans. At least six of the named Plaintiffs continue to have a relationship with Navient. That is enough to confer standing on the entire class. Further, the court explained individual class members [in fact] retain their right to bring individual lawsuits,” and the settlement does not prevent absent class members from pursuing monetary claims. View "Hyland v. Navient Corporation" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit securities fraud and ordered to pay restitution. The district court granted the Government’s application for writs of garnishment seeking access to Defendant’s 401(k) retirement accounts. Defendant appealed. 
 The Second Circuit vacated and remanded. The court held that the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act (MVRA) authorizes garnishment of Defendant’s 401(k) retirement funds. The court remanded to the district court, however, to determine whether the ten-percent early withdrawal tax will be imposed upon garnishment, limiting the Government’s access to Defendant’s retirement funds. The court also held that the Consumer Credit Protection Act’s 25-percent cap on garnishments does not apply to limit the Government’s garnishment. View "United States v. Greebel" on Justia Law

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Art dealer Inigo Philbrick sold V&A Collection, LLC an ownership interest in artwork by Wade Guyton (the “Guyton”). In a second transaction, made without V&A’s knowledge or participation, Guzzini Properties Ltd. purchased the Guyton, an artwork by Rudolf Stingel (the “Stingel”), and a third painting. Guzzini removed the second action to federal court and then moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. V&A argued that by suing to quiet title to the Stingel in New York state court, Guzzini consented to submit to the jurisdiction of New York courts for all claims arising out of the same agreement.  The district court found that because the two lawsuits did not arise out of the same transaction, Guzzini did not implicitly consent to litigate the dispute over the Guyton in New York.   The Second Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the two key elements of conversion are (1) plaintiff’s possessory right or interest in the property and (2) defendant’s dominion over the property or interference with it, in derogation of plaintiff’s rights. Here, the court explained that V&A’s conversion claim is premised on its assertion that it has “a possessory right to and at least a 50% ownership interest in the Guyton”. These assertions, if satisfactorily established, could allow V&A to prevail on its conversion claim regardless of the outcome of the state court action. Even if the state court declares the June 2017 Agreement void, that would not settle the question of whether V&A had a “possessory right or interest in the property.” Thus, to bring its claim, V&A must find a court able to exercise jurisdiction over Guzzini. View "V&A Collection, LLC v. Guzzini Properties Ltd" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued Defendants -- individuals and entities affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia ("ROCOR" and, collectively, "Defendants") -- for defamation, contending that they defamed him when they publicly accused him of forging a series of letters relating to his appointment as the Bishop of Miami. Defendants moved to dismiss based on the "church autonomy doctrine," arguing that Plaintiff’s suit would impermissibly involve the courts in matters of faith, doctrine, and internal church government. The district court denied the motion. Defendants then filed a motion for reconsideration and a motion to limit discovery to the issue of whether the church autonomy doctrine applied or otherwise to stay proceedings. The district court denied those motions as well. Defendants appeal the three interlocutory rulings.   The Second Circuit concluded that it lacks jurisdiction to hear the appeal. Accordingly, the court granted Plaintiff’s July 15, 2021, motion to dismiss. The court dismissed the appeal and vacated the temporary stay granted September 2, 2021. Here, Defendants appealed from the district court's denials of motions to dismiss, for reconsideration, and to bifurcate discovery or otherwise stay proceedings. The court explained, first, that none of the district court's three orders is "conclusive," as none constitutes a "final rejection" of Defendants' asserted church autonomy defenses. Next, the district court's orders do not involve a claim of right separable from the merits of the action. Accordingly, the court held that the district court's orders do not fall within the collateral order doctrine. View "Belya v. Kapral, et al." on Justia Law

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Defendants, federal prison officials, appealed a district court’s judgment awarding former prisoner $20,000 for mental and emotional injury requesting damages pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), for his imprisonment in overcrowded conditions that posed a substantial risk of serious damage to his health or safety, to which Defendants were deliberately indifferent, in violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution.The Second Circuit reversed the judgment and remanded for dismissal of Plaintiff’s complaint. The court held first that the PLRA provision in 42 U.S.C. Section 1997e(e) precludes a prisoner's recovery of compensatory damages for mental or emotional injury resulting from his conditions of confinement absent a showing of physical injury. Next, Section 1997e(e) makes physical injury an element of such a claim for mental or emotional injury and is not an affirmative defense that would be subject to waiver if not presented in Defendant's answer. In light of Section 1997e(e), the jury's finding that Plaintiff failed to prove that the prison conditions of which he complained caused him physical injury precluded an award to him of compensatory damages for such mental or emotional injury as the jury found he suffered based on the conditions it found existed.Moreover, even if the jury's findings of fact warranted a conclusion that Plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment rights were violated by deliberate indifference to cruel and unusual psychological punishment caused by overcrowding, Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity from such an award. View "Walker v. Schult" on Justia Law