Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

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Croce, the Chair of Human Cancer Genetics at Ohio State University (OSU), has published over 650 papers during his 45-year career; 12 were subject to corrections and two more were withdrawn with Croce’s consent. New York Times reporter Glanz emailed Croce, asking to discuss “promising anti-cancer” research. After a meeting, Glanz emailed Dr. Croce, stating that the scope of the story had broadened and that Glanz had made records requests at OSU and other institutions. Glanz later sent a letter on Times letterhead to OSU and to Croce with pointed questions, many of which followed allegations made by others against Croce. Croce retained counsel and responded, denying the allegations as “false and defamatory.” Glanz sent another email that contained additional allegations. Croce’s counsel again responded, denying each allegation. Ultimately, the Times published an article on its website (and social media) with the title, “Years of Ethics Charges, but Star Cancer Researcher Gets a Pass”; and text, “Dr. Carlo Croce was repeatedly cleared by Ohio State University, which reaped millions from his grants. Now, he faces new whistle-blower accusations.” The article appeared on the front page and above the fold in the printed edition and detailed various allegations against and criticisms of Croce. Croce brought defamation, false light, and intentional-infliction-of-emotional-distress claims. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the claims. The article is a standard piece of investigative journalism that presents newsworthy allegations made by others, with appropriate qualifying language. View "Croce v. New York Times Co." on Justia Law

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Fox used Amazon.com to order a hoverboard equipped with a battery pack. Although Fox claims she thought she was buying from Amazon, the hoverboard was owned and sold by a third-party that used Amazon marketplace, which handles communications with the buyer and processes payments. The board arrived in an Amazon-labeled box. The parties dispute whether Amazon provided storage and shipment. In November 2015, following news reports of hoverboard fires and explosions, Amazon began an investigation. On December 11, Amazon ceased all hoverboard sales worldwide. Approximately 250,000 hoverboards had been sold on its marketplace in the previous 30 days. Amazon anticipated more fires and explosions, scheduling employees to work on December 26, to monitor news reports and customer complaints. On December 12, Amazon sent a "non-alarmist" email to hoverboard purchasers. Fox does not recall receiving the email but testified that she would not have let the hoverboard remain in her home had she known all the facts. On January 9, Matthew Fox played with the hoverboard and left it on the first floor of the family’s two-story home. When a fire later broke out, caused by the hoverboard’s battery pack, two children were trapped on the second floor. Everyone escaped with various injuries; their home was destroyed. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the summary judgment rejection of allegations that Amazon sold the defective or unreasonably dangerous product (Tennessee Products Liability Act) and caused confusion about the source of that product (Tennessee Consumer Protection Act of 1977) but reversed a claim that Amazon breached a duty to warn about the defective or unreasonably dangerous nature of that product under Tennessee tort law. View "Fox v. Amazon.com, Inc." on Justia Law

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After Booth started working at a Tennessee Nissan factory, he injured his neck and sought medical treatment. Booth’s physician recommended several work restrictions, including that he not reach above his head or flex his neck too much. Booth. continued to work on the assembly line for about a decade without incident. In 2015, Booth requested a transfer to another position in the factory, which Nissan denied because that position’s duties conflicted with Booth’s work restrictions. Booth claimed that Nissan’s denial was disability discrimination that violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12101. Nissan then announced plans to restructure the assembly line. Booth alleged that two additional jobs Nissan assigned to him as part of the restructuring would have violated his work restrictions, When he informed Nissan about this conflict, Nissan told him to see a physician. Booth’s physician modified the restrictions, clearing him to work the new jobs. Although Booth remains a Nissan employee, he claimed that Nissan failed to accommodate him—a separate ADA violation—by pressuring him to remove his work restrictions. The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Nissan. To sue under the ADA, the plaintiff must be disabled; just because a plaintiff has work restrictions does not mean that he is disabled. Booth has not advanced evidence that he is disabled. View "Booth v. Nissan North America, Inc." on Justia Law

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In an intersection, Patterson’s SUV rammed the door of Green’s sedan. According to Green, she was briefly unconscious and, after coming to, was dazed and in intense pain. Southfield Officer Maya arrived and spoke with Patterson, who did not look injured. Maya then went to Green, still on her back on the median. Because Green “didn’t respond too many times,” Maya refrained from asking many questions. Traffic Specialist Birberick arrived while paramedics were looking after Green. Patterson told him that he had entered the intersection with a green light when his car “was struck” by Green’s car. Birberick did not think that the accident was not severe enough to warrant significant investigation. Birberick determined that the physical evidence corroborated Patterson’s account. Birberick did not complete a police incident report but only completed the crash report that Michigan requires for highway-safety planning purposes. In the “Hazardous Action” box, Birberick wrote “none” for Patterson and “disregarded traffic [signal]” for Green. Crash reports cannot be used in court. Green was hospitalized for several days. When she saw the report, she insisted that Patterson ran the light and that she had a witness. Officers followed up but decided against amending the report. Green sued Patterson, then filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983; 1985 action against officers and the city, alleging that the investigation violated her equal protection rights (Green is a black woman, Patterson a white man) and her right of access to the courts. The Sixth Circuit affirmed that the officers were protected by qualified immunity, characterizing the officers’ actions as “mere laxity.” View "Green v. Southfield" on Justia Law

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Mager alleged that he was seriously and permanently injured when he slipped on oil while he was working as a trackman at WCL’s Marquette, Michigan railway yard. Mager filed suit under the Federal Employer’s Liability Act, 45 U.S.C. 51. He was deposed and was sent notice of an independent medical examination (IME). Plaintiff’s counsel, Foley, objected because the examiner’s Appleton Wisconsin office was a substantial drive from Mager’s home in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Defense counsel sought an order compelling the IME (FRCP 35(a)) and to delay third-party mediation. The parties agreed that Mager would submit to the IME, that WCL would pay his mileage, and that a settlement conference would be scheduled with the court in lieu of mediation. After Mager objected to completing a medical questionnaire, a Rule 35 Order was entered directing Mager to “appear at the IME ….The interview and exam shall not exceed three (3) hours.” Mager and Foley appeared for the IME. Foley recorded the proceedings without prior notice to defense counsel. Mager repeatedly declined to answer relevant questions about his condition, medications, and how the injury occurred, referring the doctor to his deposition. Mager did not allow Mager’s driver’s license to be copied. Mager submitted to a physical examination. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Mager’s complaint with prejudice, FRCP 37(b)(2)(A)(v), as a sanction primarily for his and Foley’s conduct at the IME, which was willful, in bad faith, and prejudicial to the defense. No other sanctions would reflect the misconduct's seriousness. View "Mager v. Wisconsin Central Ltd." on Justia Law

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In June 2016, Mateen entered the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando and opened fire, killing 49 people and injuring another 53. Victims and family members of deceased victims brought sought damages, not from Mateen, nor from ISIS, the international terrorist organization that allegedly motivated Mateen through social media, but from social media giants Twitter, Facebook, and Google under the Anti-Terrorism Act. Plaintiffs alleged ISIS used those social media platforms to post propaganda and “virtually recruit” Americans to commit terrorist attacks. Mateen allegedly viewed ISIS-related material online, became “self-radicalized,” and carried out the shooting. Following the attack, ISIS claimed responsibility. The complaint alleged aiding and abetting international terrorism, 18 U.S.C. 2333; conspiracy in furtherance of terrorism; providing material support and resources to terrorists, 18 U.S.C. 2339A, 2339B(a)(1); negligent infliction of emotional distress; and wrongful death The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. Plaintiffs’ complaint includes no allegations that Twitter, Facebook, or Google had any direct connection to Mateen or his action. Plaintiffs did not suggest that those defendants provided “material support” to Mateen. Without these connections, Plaintiffs cannot state a viable claim under the Act. View "Crosby v. Twitter, Inc." on Justia Law

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After a rally for then-presidential candidate Trump, the Chicago Tribune newspaper posted a photograph on Twitter of a woman at the rally, wearing a Trump T-shirt, and giving a Nazi salute. A Twitter user posted that photograph, with a photograph of Boulger, with the false statement, “The ‘Trump Nazi’ is Portia Boulger, who runs the Women for Bernie Sanders Twitter account. It’s another media plant.” The actor and producer James Woods tweeted the same pictures, adding: Woods had more than 350,000 Twitter followers. News outlets identified the woman in the Nazi salute photograph as Peterson. Woods instead tweeted a follow-up: “Various followers have stated that the Nazi Salute individual and the #Bernie campaign woman are NOT the same person.” Boulger requested a retraction. Woods deleted the tweet and posted: “I have an opportunity to clarify something I challenged immediately when it hit Twitter. Portia A. Boulger was NOT the ‘Nazi salute lady.’” and ” “Though she supports @BernieSanders, I am happy to defend her from abuse. I only wish his supporters would do the same.” Boulger “received hundreds of obscene and threatening messages, including death threats.” Boulger sued for defamation and invasion of privacy under Ohio law. The district court extended the service deadline to August 7, Woods filed an answer on June 7, asserting insufficient service of process. The district court found that Woods waived his jurisdictional defenses but granted Woods judgment on the pleadings. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, noting the ambiguity of Woods’s tweet. Because Woods’s tweet could reasonably be read to have an innocent meaning, under the innocent construction rule the tweet, as a matter of law, is not actionable. Woods’s actions waived the jurisdictional issue. View "Boulger v. Woods" on Justia Law

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Burchett and Jude suffered from serious mental illnesses. Each hired attorney Conn to represent them in applying for Social Security disability benefits, 42 U.S.C. 405(a), which were granted in 2009 and 2010. Conn was perpetrating a fraudulent scheme. Conn paid doctors to submit fraudulent letters concerning his clients' ailments and bribed an ALJ to assign Conn’s cases to his own docket and to decide nearly all of those cases in favor of Conn. Plaintiffs allege that the SSA had reason to suspect Conn's fraud in 2007 due to the reports of internal whistle-blowers. In 2011, the Wall Street Journal published a story about Conn’s exploits. Conn was indicted and pleaded guilty. The Huntington, West Virginia SSA office's former Chief ALJ, pleaded guilty to retaliation against a whistle-blower. The SSA’s Appeals Council informed Jude and Burchett that it was legally required to redetermine their eligibility for benefits (42 U.S.C. 1320a-8(l). Their benefits were suspended pending redeterminations. Each requested additional time to gather evidence. About two weeks after the SSA notices, before the SSA granted those requests, Jude and Burchett each committed suicide. Their estates filed Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) claims for wrongful death with the SSA, 28 U.S.C. 1346(b) and 2671, and a Bivens claim alleging procedural due process violations. The Federal Circuit affirmed dismissal of the claims, concluding that the FTCA’s discretionary function exception applied to preclude that claim and that the Bivens claim was improperly formulated. View "Jude v. Commissioner of Social Security" on Justia Law

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Tony Gunter injured his shoulder on the job. After Gunter had surgery to repair the injury, his doctor imposed work restrictions. Thinking the restrictions prevented him from performing his job, his employer, Bemis Company, fired Gunter. Gunter sued, alleging Bemis violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. A jury ruled in favor of Gunter and awarded him damages, some of which the district court reduced. The parties cross-appealed. The Sixth Circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. The Sixth Circuit determined the district court erred in giving the jury the option of awarding front pay rather than reinstating Gunter, and vacated the front-pay award. The Court affirmed the district court's judgment in all other respects. View "Gunter v. Bemis Co., Inc." on Justia Law

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Henderson, a patient with Alzheimer’s disease at Watermark’s nursing home, wandered from her room unattended and died after drinking detergent that she found in a kitchen cabinet. Henderson’s estate filed a wrongful death suit against Watermark. Morrison provided kitchen services at the facility and its employees had been in the kitchen shortly before Henderson discovered the detergent, but Watermark did not implead Morrison and argued that Morrison’s employees had properly locked the cabinet before leaving. A jury awarded $5.08 million. Watermark did not appeal but settled with Henderson’s estate for $3.65 million. On a joint motion, the court dismissed the action with prejudice. Months later, Watermark sued Morrison for contractual indemnification and breach of contract. The district court dismissed, finding that issue preclusion barred both claims. The Sixth Circuit affirmed in part. While a judgment that is set aside upon settlement can be used for collateral-estoppel purposes in future litigation, only the contractual indemnification issue is barred. Under the parties’ contract, Watermark can prevail on its indemnification claim only by showing that the damages it seeks were not the result of its own negligence. It cannot do so; the jury determined that the damages were the result of Watermark’s negligence. The jury’s finding of negligence does not, however, preclude Watermark from going forward with its breach-of-contract claim, which does not rely on the indemnity provision of the parties’ contract. View "Watermark Senior Living Communities, Inc. v. Morrison Management Specialists, Inc." on Justia Law