Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
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This case is related to a consent decree that was aimed at making improvements to Texas's implementation of Medicaid's Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment program. Plaintiffs challenge the district court's determination that, despite their status as a "prevailing party" under 42 U.S.C. 1988, they are not entitled to fees. Plaintiffs appeal the district court's underlying judgment and its subsequent denial of their motion to reconsider.The Fifth Circuit concluded that, because plaintiffs failed timely to appeal the underlying judgment, the court lacks jurisdiction to review it. Accordingly, the court dismissed that portion of the appeal. The court concluded that the denial of the motion for reconsideration is properly before the court. The court explained that, although the district court construed that motion under the incorrect Federal Rule of Civil Procedure, it nonetheless reached the proper result. In this case, the district court erred by construing the motion as arising from Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b). Rather, Rule 59(e) was the proper procedural mechanism under which the district court ought to have considered the motion to reconsider. However, the error was harmless because Rule 59(e) provides a lower threshold for a movant to prevail. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Frew v. Young" on Justia Law

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Petitioners filed a petition for review challenging the EPA's 2017 Rule, "Promulgation of Air Quality Implementation Plans; State of Texas; Regional Haze and Interstate Visibility Transport Federal Implementation Plan." Petitioners also sought reconsideration of the 2017 Rule, contending that the 2017 Rule was adopted without following notice and comment requirements and that it was unlawful, arbitrary, and capricious in various ways. Petitioners and the EPA then filed a joint motion requesting the petition for review of the 2017 rule be held in abeyance pending the EPA's resolution of the petition for reconsideration and the completion of any reconsideration process. The Fifth Circuit granted the motion. The EPA subsequently issued the 2020 Rule. Petitioners sought review of the 2020 Rule and filed a motion requesting the D.C. Circuit to confirm that venue was proper in that court. Respondent-Intervenors jointly moved for reconsideration of an order denying without prejudice their motion to confirm venue and order transferring this consolidated proceeding to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.The Fifth Circuit explained that it has employed a "first-filed" rule, much like the rule set forth in 28 U.S.C. 2112, when faced with a competing challenge to the same administrative action in another court of appeals. The court concluded that the 2020 Rule should be the agency action relied upon for purposes of section 2112 and the "first-filed" rule. Because petitioners first filed their challenge to the 2020 Rule in the D.C. Circuit, that court should be the first to determine the venue question. Finally, Respondent-Intervenors can show no prejudice from the court's orders consolidating and transferring the consolidated cases. Therefore, the court denied the motion for reconsideration. View "National Parks Conservation Ass'n v. EPA" on Justia Law

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In this long-running contract dispute, at issue is whether the parties are entitled to fee awards. The Fifth Circuit concluded that IWS is entitled to some fees under the Texas Theft Liability Act (TTLA) and remanded for a determination of the proper amount. The court clarified that the mandate of Transverse II did not depart from Texas law governing fee segregation, and fees incurred defending the TTLA claim do not become unrecoverable simply because they may have furthered another nonrecoverable claim as well.The court also concluded that, because the Supply Contract itself does not authorize attorneys' fees, under Iowa law, the district court lacked a basis on which to award Transverse attorney's fees for IWS's breach of this agreement. In this case, IWS has made the showing necessary to prevail under plain-error review, and thus the court reversed the fee award to Transverse on the Supply-Contract claim. Finally, the court rejected Transverse's contention that the district court erred by failing to recognize it as the prevailing party on the Non-Disclosure Agreement claim and refusing to award Transverse the related fees. The court explained that Transverse did not prevail, substantially or otherwise, on this claim and thus there was no error on the district court's part. View "Transverse, LLC v. Iowa Wireless Services, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, five former employees of CB&I who worked as laborers on a construction project in Louisiana, quit before the project ended and thus made them ineligible to receive the Project Completion Incentive under the term of that plan. Plaintiffs filed suit in state court seeking the bonus for the period they did work, arguing that making such employees ineligible for bonuses amounts to an illegal wage forfeiture agreement under the Louisiana Wage Payment Act. LA. STAT.ANN. 23:631, 23:632, 23:634. After removal to federal court, the district court concluded that the incentive program was an Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) plan because it required ongoing discretion and administration in determining whether a qualifying termination took place.The Fifth Circuit concluded that the employee benefit at issue—a bonus for completing the project—is not an employee benefit plan under ERISA. The court explained that the plan involves a single and simple payment; determining eligibility might require the exercise of some discretion, but not much; and the plan lacks the complexity and longevity that result in the type of "ongoing administrative scheme" ERISA covers. Therefore, there is no federal jurisdiction over this action. The court vacated and remanded for the case to be returned to state court. View "Atkins v. CB&I, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit in Texas district court against Mabe after plaintiff was involved in a car accident with a truck owned by Mabe and operated by a Mabe employee. The accident occurred in Louisiana, a few miles from its border with Texas. Although the Texas district court concluded that Mabe lacked sufficient contacts with Texas to subject the company to personal jurisdiction in the state, the Texas district court found that it was in the interests of justice not to dismiss the case and instead transferred it to the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, which was the federal district court sitting in the district in which the accident occurred. The Louisiana federal district court concluded that plaintiff's claims were time-barred and granted summary judgment for Mabe.The Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded, concluding that 28 U.S.C. 1631 permitted the Texas district court to transfer this case to the Louisiana district court for lack of personal jurisdiction; the provisions of section 1631 apply irrespective of the Texas district court's invocation of 28 U.S.C. 1406(a); section 1631, which was specifically designed to protect federal litigants from the forfeiture that could result from a statute of limitations running after a plaintiff's mistakenly filing an action in a court that lacks jurisdiction if the interests of justice so demand, neither runs afoul of the Erie doctrine and the Rules of Decision Act it effectuates nor transgresses constitutional bounds; and section 1631 is therefore the standard against which the Louisiana district court should have measured whether the action had been timely filed in that court, and its application must necessarily precede that of the Louisiana Civil Code articles.Applying section 1631, the court accepted that plaintiff is deemed to have filed his suit in the Louisiana district court on November 22, 2016, the date he actually filed suit in the Texas district court. Therefore, plaintiff must be deemed to have filed his claim "in a court of competent jurisdiction and venue" on that date and thereby interrupted the one-year prescriptive period under Louisiana law. Accordingly, the Louisiana district court erred by granting Mabe summary judgment on the basis that plaintiff's claim was time-barred. View "Franco v. Mabe Trucking Co., Inc." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit joined the Fourth Circuit in holding that the Fair Labor Standards Act preempts redundant state law tort claims for unpaid minimum wages and overtime compensation when the state's law does not provide for minimum wages and overtime compensation. In this case, Mississippi does not have state labor laws governing minimum wage or overtime, so it would be impossible for Employees to state a claim for wage and hour violations under state law independent of the FLSA. Furthermore, it would be impossible for Employees to state a claim under the FLSA because sovereign immunity bars suit against the DOC. The court explained that the state law claims based on violations of the FLSA similarly fail because of preemption. Therefore, the court concluded that dismissal with prejudice was appropriate. The court affirmed all dispositions of the district court. View "Aldridge v. Mississippi Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit granted panel rehearing; denied rehearing en banc; withdrew its prior opinion; and substituted the following opinion.Frank Williams, Jr. filed suit in Louisiana state court against his former employer, Lockheed Martin, seeking to recover damages for asbestos-related injuries. After Williams passed away, his children were substituted as plaintiffs. Lockheed Martin removed the case under federal officer removal jurisdiction and the district court granted summary judgment for Lockheed Martin, issuing sanctions against plaintiffs' counsel for improper ex parte communications.The court affirmed the district court's judgment, concluding that the district court properly considered the full state-court record as it existed at the time of removal and Lockheed Martin has met the requirements for federal officer removal jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1442(a)(2)(1). In this case, Lockheed Martin alleged the requisite nexus and has stated sufficient facts to make out a colorable Boyle defense. The court also concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion with respect to any of the challenged discovery orders.The court applied Louisiana law and affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Lockheed Martin on plaintiffs' survival and wrongful death claims. Finally, the court concluded that the district court did not err by imposing sanctions on plaintiffs' attorney and that the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding $10,000 in attorney's fees. View "Williams v. Lockheed Martin Corp." on Justia Law

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After St. Charles filed suit against BCBS in Louisiana state court for state law fraud and abuse-of-right claims, BCBS removed the action to federal court. St. Charles had filed its third-amended petition and produced documents listing claims that involved patients insured under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Act (FEHBA).The Fifth Circuit concluded that the appropriate course is for the district court to determine on remand whether St. Charles's waivers defeat federal officer jurisdiction, because the issue was neither a basis for the district court's decision nor extensively briefed by either party, and because the record was not fully developed in the district court. If St. Charles's waiver of FEHBA-governed claims does not settle the matter, the district court's jurisdiction hinges on a proper analysis of federal officer removal. Weighing the district court's remand order against the clarified test for federal officer removal in Latiolais v. Huntington Ingalls, Inc., 951 F.3d 286, 290 (5th Cir. 2020) (en banc), the court concluded that the district court erred in its analysis. First, the district court applied St. Charles I too narrowly in determining that BCBS was not "acting under" OPM merely because St. Charles's claims "do not arise out of procedures dictated by OPM." Furthermore, even though the district court stated that the "causal nexus" element "ha[d] no bearing on the [c]ourt's decision in this case," the court concluded that this issue should be revisited on remand. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's remand order and remanded for further proceedings. View "St. Charles Surgical Hospital, LLC v. Louisiana Health Service & Indemnity Co." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit vacated the magistrate judge's grant of PNC Bank's motion for summary judgment for foreclosure, concluding that the magistrate judge lacked subject matter jurisdiction to conduct proceedings and to enter a final judgment. Finding Roell v. Withrow, 538 U.S. 580 (2003), distinguishable from this case, the court could not say that PNC's consent to trial by magistrate judge was clear and unambiguous because its express statement of non-consent is flatly inconsistent with its subsequent conduct. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "PNC Bank v. Ruiz" on Justia Law

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This diversity action brought by plaintiffs involves a dispute concerning a sinkhole that emerged near the decades-long salt-mining activities of one of the defendants. The district court approved the settlement and defendant appealed.The Fifth Circuit concluded that the settlement agreement leaves plaintiffs with claims against Texas Brine for post-sinkhole damages, and it affects Texas Brine's ability to seek indemnification and contribution from the pre-2012 Insurers for those claims. The court explained that such a settlement is certainly proper if Texas Brine did not have any right to indemnification or contribution from the pre-2012 Insurers for post-sinkhole damages. The court applied Louisiana law and concluded that Texas Brine has failed to meet its burden to show that the post-sinkhole claims were covered under the 2011 Zurich policy. Therefore, Texas Brine has failed to show plain legal prejudice from the settlement agreement, and that it has a right to contribution or indemnification from the pre-2012 Insurers for the post-sinkhole claims. The court concluded that the settlement thus did not affect any such right and Texas Brine lacks standing as a non-party to object to the settlement. Accordingly, the court dismissed the appeal. View "LeBlanc v. Texas Brine Co., LLC" on Justia Law