Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

by
South Carolina filed suit to enjoin the United States and others from terminating the construction of a mixed-oxide fuel nuclear processing facility located in the state. The Fourth Circuit held that South Carolina failed to establish standing to pursue its claims and therefore vacated the preliminary injunction imposed by the district court. In this case, South Carolina's alleged injury -- becoming the permanent repository of weapons-grade plutonium -- was too speculative to give rise to a sufficient concrete injury in fact. The court also held that South Carolina's claims failed on ripeness grounds where numerous contingent future events must occur before South Carolina becomes the permanent repository of the nuclear material. View "South Carolina v. United States" on Justia Law

by
The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's judgment holding that the statute of limitations barred plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. 1983 suit. The court explained that Congress did not provide fixed timing rules in section 1983 or its companion provision, section 1988. Rather, Congress specified that gaps in section 1983 should be filled by state law, as long as that law is not inconsistent with federal law. Because Virginia lacks a generally applicable statute that pauses limitations to accommodate administrative exhaustion requirements, plaintiff sought to borrow a tolling provision in the Virginia Tort Claims Act (VTCA). The court held that the VTCA did not save plaintiff's claims because it operates on a tighter schedule than section 1983 and does not govern suits against state employees. Furthermore, plaintiff could not invoke equitable estoppel under Virginia law. However, the court held that, with no Virginia rule available to toll the limitations period, refusal to do so during a prisoner's mandatory exhaustion period is inconsistent with federal law and the court could not apply it here. Therefore, the court applied federal equitable tolling principles and held that plaintiff's section 1983 complaint was timely because it was filed within two years of the date he exhausted his administrative remedies required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act. View "Battle v. Ledford" on Justia Law

by
The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's determination that plaintiff was required to wait longer than 180 days to commence a civil action under Title VII and the Rehabilitation Act after amending his initial administrative complaint before the relevant agency. The court held that the text of Title VII, as well as the legislative context and purpose, plainly states that a claimant may commence a civil action 180 days from "the filing of the initial charge." Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Stewart v. Iancu" on Justia Law

by
The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's action challenging various aspects of the Credit Union's website under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Plaintiff, a blind individual, alleged that his attempt to access the Credit Union's website was hindered in various ways. The court held that plaintiff, who is barred by law from making use of the Credit Union's services may not sue under the ADA for an allegedly deficient website. In this case, plaintiff was not eligible for membership in the Credit Union where he does not work for the Department of Labor and never has in the past. Accordingly, the court concluded that plaintiff's injury was not concrete, particularized, or immediately threatening. View "Griffin v. Department of Labor Federal Credit Union" on Justia Law

by
Relator appealed the district court's dismissal of his qui tam action against his former employer, United Airlines, under the False Claims Act. The Fourth Circuit held that the district court properly dismissed plaintiff's complaint as to the substantive claims under 31 U.S.C. 3729(a)(1)(A)–(B), because he failed to plead his claims with the requisite particularity. However, the court held that plaintiff pleaded retaliation under section 3730(h), and the district court therefore erred in holding that plaintiff failed to plead sufficient facts to withstand the motion to dismiss. In this case, under the objective reasonableness standard, plaintiff sufficiently alleged that he was engaged in protected activity, United knew about the protected activity, and United terminated plaintiff because he engaged in the protected activity. View "United States ex rel. Grant v. United Airlines, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal, based on lack of personal jurisdiction in Virginia, of an action for breach of contract and related causes against Associated Broadcasting. The court held that plaintiff failed to demonstrate that Associated Broadcasting had the minimum contacts with Virginia that were sufficient to satisfy the Due Process Clause. In this case, Plaintiff Sneha Media was a Virginia company, Plaintiff Nord Sinew was an Indian company, and Associated Broadcasting was an Indian company. Associated Broadcasting carries on its business solely in India, and, by a contract executed in India, it gave Nord the right to distribute its TV9 programming elsewhere. Furthermore, the only relevant contact that Associated Broadcasting had with Virginia was a single meeting. View "Sneha Media & Entertainment v. Associated Broadcasting Company" on Justia Law

by
The plaintiff, who arbitrated a claim that arose under a federal statute, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (known as the Stored Communications Act), 18 U.S.C. 2701, sought to vacate or modify the arbitration award. The plaintiff filed a motion in the district court; for jurisdiction, he invoked 28 U.S.C. 1331 (federal-question jurisdiction) and 1332 (diversity jurisdiction). The Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. 10-11, which provides for the enforceability of arbitration agreements and specifies procedures for conducting arbitrations and enforcing arbitration awards, does not provide an independent jurisdictional basis for disputes under the Act. The Fourth Circuit vacated the dismissal of the action, stating that the better approach for determining subject-matter jurisdiction over section 10 and 11 motions is to look to the nature of the underlying claim in dispute, as is done with respect to section 4 petitions to compel arbitration. If the underlying claim is one that otherwise could be litigated in federal court, the motion can likewise be resolved in federal court. The district court had federal-question jurisdiction because the plaintiff’s underlying claim arose under federal law. View "McCormick v. America Online, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Ott worked for Maryland’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS). In 2010, she learned that a pediatrician had molested her daughter, causing Ott to develop PTSD and severe anxiety. She took medical leave and transferred to a different location. Ott says that her co-worker harassed Ott about her daughter and Ott’s mental health for a year and that DPSCS ignored the harassment. Ott’s performance deteriorated. DPSCS forced her to resign in March 2014. While still employed, Ott filed an EEOC discrimination charge, which proceeded slowly; eventually, the agency found reasonable cause for Ott’s claims and referred them to the Department of Justice, which issued a right to sue notice in July 2016. Ott filed suit in October 2016, asserting claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of her Rehabilitation Act claims as untimely. Because the Rehabilitation Act does not contain a limitations period, courts borrow the time limit from the most analogous state law claim and have previously applied Maryland’s three-year general civil case limitation. After the Fourth Circuit last addressed the issue, Maryland amended its Fair Employment Practices Act (MFEPA) to align more closely with the Rehabilitation Act so that the MFEPA qualifies as the most analogous Maryland law. The MFEPA’s two-year statute of limitations applies and bars Ott’s claims. Ott did not meet the exacting standard for invoking the doctrine of equitable tolling. View "Ott v. Maryland Department of Public Safety" on Justia Law

by
The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims against defendant and Johns Hopkins for defendant's actions as an expert witness in administrative hearings for the Federal Black Lung Program. The court held that the Witness Litigation Privilege protected witnesses, such as defendant, who testify in judicial and quasi-judicial proceedings from later civil liability. In this case, the allegations made against defendant and his associates at Johns Hopkins fell squarely within the scope of the privilege. Furthermore, plaintiffs' claims were under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and RICO's civil cause of action manifests no intention to displace the privilege. View "Day v. Johns Hopkins Health System Corp." on Justia Law

by
The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction of the Fund's action under the Tax Refund Statute, seeking to recover money paid to HHS as part of the Transitional Reinsurance Program of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. The court held that the statute applies only to taxes and other sums collected by the Internal Revenue Service under the Internal Revenue Code, and thus the Court of Federal Claims has exclusive jurisdiction over the Fund's action. View "Electrical Welfare Trust Fund v. United States" on Justia Law