Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
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Plaintiff filed suit against the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, alleging disability discrimination and retaliation in violation of the Rehabilitation Act. At issue in this appeal is the enforceability of the parties' settlement agreement. The Fifth Circuit held that the district court properly exercised jurisdiction to decide the motions to enforce and subsequent motion for reconsideration; the district court did not err in concluding that the settlement agreement does not allow plaintiff to receive $150,000 because she has not elected disability retirement; and the district court must hold an evidentiary hearing to determine whether the settlement agreement is enforceable. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded for the district court to consider whether the settlement is valid and enforceable, or whether a mutual mistake warrants rescinding it. View "Wise v. Wilkie" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit withdrew its earlier opinion and substituted the following opinion. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff and his wife's suit against the HSPCA, as well as Texas county and state officials, for unlawful search and seizure under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The court also affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff's adversary proceeding against the HSPCA alleging fraudulent transfer under 11 U.S.C. 542, 548, and 550. The district court correctly held that the statute of limitations barred plaintiff's section 1983 claims against both the HSPCA and Texas county and state officials. Because there was a valid, final judgment from the state court proceedings, the district court properly dismissed Hoffman's adversary claims under collateral estoppel. View "Hoffman v. Houston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' suit against the HSPCA, as well as Texas county and state officials, for unlawful search and seizure under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The court held that the district court correctly concluded that the statute of limitations barred plaintiffs' claims against defendants. Plaintiffs alleged that the seizure of their horses occurred on June 24, 2015, and thus they had to bring their claim no later than June 26, 2017. However, in this case, plaintiffs first filed suit after that date. Even accepting plaintiffs' claim that the seizure was only finalized when the justice court divested them of ownership, the court held that the record makes clear that the justice court issued its order on July 8, 2015 and their claims would still be time-barred. View "Hoffman v. Houston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit reversed and vacated the district court's order denying vacatur of sealing orders. The court held that the decision denying vacatur of the sealing orders is appealable under the collateral order doctrine, because the decision is conclusive; the decision addresses important and unsettled questions of law concerning the Louisiana Public Records Law and appellants' First Amendment and common law rights to access settlement agreement information contained in a sealed court recording and sealed minutes, particularly where a minor's privacy interests are involved; the subject of the decision is completely separable from the merits of the litigation; and the decision would be effectively unreviewable on appeal from final judgment. On the merits, the court held that the district court abused its discretion in denying appellants' motion for vacatur by relying on erroneous conclusions of law and misapplying the law to the facts. In this case, the settlement agreement involves public officials or parties of a public nature and matters of legitimate public concern, and it does not appear that the district court weighed as a factor in favor of disclosure the presumption of the public's right of access. View "Bradley v. Ackal" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff alleged that her mortgage lender improperly enforced an adjustable-rate rider and that an assignment of her mortgage was invalid. After the parties executed a settlement agreement disposing of the first lawsuit, the second and third lawsuits were dismissed on res judicata grounds. Plaintiff added new claims in her fourth and fifth lawsuits. In this appeal, plaintiff seeks to revive the claims from her fifth lawsuit. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint based on res judicata grounds. In this case, all of plaintiff's previous actions resulted in a final merits judgment from courts of competent jurisdiction and all four identities were met under Mississippi law. The court also held that plaintiff's appeal was frivolous and ordered her to show cause within fourteen days as to why she should not be sanctioned. View "Anderson v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against UTMB and his supervisors for various claims brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The district court granted summary judgment to defendants on all claims. The Fifth Circuit dismissed the appeal for want of prosecution for plaintiff's failure to adhere to the federal and local rules of appellate procedure. In this case, most of the documents produced in plaintiff's supplemental appendix were not first introduced to the district court and were therefore not part of the record on appeal; plaintiff's motion was unnecessary with respect to the documents that did appear in the district court record but were not in the record excerpts appendix; the brief did not have the technical record citations that were required of appellate briefings; and plaintiff's non-compliance was prejudicial to defendants. View "Arredondo v. University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, Second Amendment advocates, filed suit seeking to prevent the State Department from blocking their efforts to publish plans for how to assemble a firearm using a 3D printer. Plaintiffs settled with the State Department and then voluntarily dismissed the suit. Now plaintiffs seek to revive their Texas suit under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) in response to a nationwide injunction against enforcement of the settlement issued by the Western District of Washington. The Fifth Circuit declined plaintiffs request to revive the lawsuit, holding that Rule 59(e) authorizes motions to alter or amend judgments, not to revive lawsuits. The court explained that the initiation and prosecution of the Washington suit did not render any action by the district court in Texas erroneous, let alone manifestly erroneous. View "Defense Distributed v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a wrongful death action against defendants, alleging inter alia, claims for negligence, premises liability, and breach of warranty. On appeal, plaintiffs argued that the Texas court erred in not exercising personal jurisdiction over PNK because a non-resident company, like PNK, may be subjected to general jurisdiction for its targeted advertising in the forum state. The Fifth Circuit affirmed and held that the Southern District of Texas properly held that it lacked personal jurisdiction over PNK and appropriately transferred this action to Louisiana. In this case, PNK is a limited liability company domiciled in Louisiana, and PNK's corporate contacts with Texas are not of the exceptional nature such that PNK could be found to be "at-home" in Texas. The court rejected plaintiffs' claims to the contrary and held that it could not exercise general jurisdiction over PNK. View "Frank v. P N K (Lake Charles) LLC" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of discretionary review of five awards made to Walmart under the Settlement Agreement arising from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. The court held that there was no showing of a misapplication or contradiction of the Settlement Agreement requiring the district court's review. In this case, the Claims Administrator conducted a searching review of the financial statements Walmart provided from both its old and new accounting system, and the PWC accountants brought specific clarification questions to Walmart regarding the changes. Furthermore, Walmart responded to the satisfaction of the Claims Administrator. The court rejected BP's claim that there was a split Appeal Panels on how to address changes in accounting systems like the one at issue here. The court saw BP's claim as one challenging the Appeal Panels' discretionary decision that raises the correctness of a discretionary administrative decision on the facts of a single claimant's case, and held that the district court's denial of a request for discretionary review of such a decision was not an abuse of discretion. View "BP Exploration & Production, Inc. v. Claimant ID 100354107" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, six Travis County Sheriff's Office detectives, filed suit alleging that they were entitled to overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The county argued that plaintiffs were exempt as both executive and highly-compensated employees. The district court granted judgment for plaintiffs. Then the district court later ruled as a matter of law that plaintiffs were paid a salary, vacated the jury's finding on the first requirement of the exemptions, and granted plaintiffs' request for a new trial. Plaintiffs sought reconsideration, contending that they had conditionally asked for a new trial on the management issue, an element of the executive exemption and first-responder exception, not on the office-work issue, which is part of the highly-compensated-employee exemption. Plaintiffs then moved for reentry of judgment in their favor. Because plaintiffs did not want a new trial, the district court entered a final judgment. Rejecting the parties' jurisdictional challenges, the Fifth Circuit affirmed and held that it had appellate jurisdiction. The court also held that plaintiffs' failure to challenge the timeliness of the Rule 50(b) motion in the district court means that they have forfeited that objection, and the district court had jurisdiction to decide the motion for judgment as a matter of law. The court explained that a new trial was needed to answer the additional questions about whether plaintiffs were exempt and, by prevailing on a Rule 50(b) motion, the county did not somehow lose its right to assert its defenses. On the merits, the court held that the district court properly held as a matter of law that the county paid plaintiffs on a salary basis. Although the ruling did not fully resolve whether plaintiffs were entitled to overtime pay, the court stated that years of litigation never answered that ultimate question. View "Escribano v. Travis County" on Justia Law