U.S. Eighth Circuit - The FindLaw 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

August 2010 Archives

Action by Murder Victim's Estate, and Criminal and Employment Matters

Watson v. CEVA Logistics U.S., Inc., No. 09-3322, involved African-American plaintiffs' action alleging racially hostile work environment claims under Title VII.  The court reversed summary judgment for defendants on the grounds that, contrary to the ruling below: 1) the alleged harassment was objectively severe and pervasive enough to create a hostile work environment; and 2) plaintiffs came forth with sufficient evidence that defendant knew or should have known about the harassment and failed to take prompt and effective remedial measures.

In US v. Durham, No. 09-2951, the court affirmed in part defendant's sentence for knowingly receiving child pornography, holding that, if an oral sentence and the written judgment conflict, the oral sentence controls.  However, the court reversed in part on the ground that defendant presented "concrete evidence" of his ignorance of the pornography's distribution, and as a result, even under the stricter Dodd standard, the district court's application of the distribution enhancement was improper.

Clear Channel Outdoor, Inc. v. St. Paul, No. 09-2670, involved a First Amendment action against the City of St. Paul, Minnesota, after the St. Paul City Council enacted an ordinance prohibiting all billboard extensions.  The court affirmed summary judgment for plaintiff on the ground that a refusal to remand in this situation simply retained the status quo and allowed the City to begin its legislative process anew.

Breach of Rebate Promotion Action, and Criminal Matter

Curtis Lumber Co. v. Louisiana Pac. Corp., No. 09-2602, involved an action by a retail supplier of building materials regarding defendant's alleged failure to follow through on defendant's rebate promotion that plaintiff promoted to many of its customers.  The court affirmed in part partial summary judgment for defendant, holding that the testimony offered by plaintiff fell short of the elevated burden for proving fraud by circumstantial evidence.  However, the court reversed in part where 1) plaintiff alleged distinct injuries that would not have occurred had defendant paid rebates owed to plaintiff's customers; and 2) there was a question of material fact as to whether defendant's rebate documents misrepresented or omitted a material term of the rebate promotion.

Crop Insurance-Related False Claims Act Action, and Criminal Matters

US v. Hawley, No. 08-2992, concerned a civil action by the U.S. against an insurance agent, and his insurance company, alleging that defendants violated the False Claims Act by committing fraud in connection with federal crop insurance.  The court reversed summary judgment for defendant on the grounds that 1) the government adequately preserved its argument that the insurer's reimbursement demands were the "claims" presented to the government; and 2) the evidence created a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether defendant caused his company to present claims for reimbursement to the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation.

Capella University, Inc. v. Executive Risk Specialty Ins. Co., No. 08-2382, involved an action alleging that defendant-insurer owed a duty to defend plaintiff against a federal lawsuit brought by one of plaintiff's former students.  The court affirmed in part judgment for plaintiffs on the grounds that 1) the lawsuit was not subject to an exclusion in the policy as based upon, arising from, or in consequence of a prior or pending formal administrative proceeding; and 2) no unfair advantage to plaintiff or detriment to defendant would result from allowing a subsequent, accurate accounting of the fees and costs to form the basis for the award in this case. However, the judgment is reversed in part where plaintiff did not waive its right to statutory prejudgment interest.

In O'Meara v. Feneis, No. 09-2161, a prosecution for second-degree criminal sexual assault, the court affirmed the denial of petitioner's habeas petition, holding that the Minnesota Court of Appeals' decision that Blakely did not apply retroactively to the determination of petitioner's sentence was not contrary to, and did not involve an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law.

US v. Robinson, No. 09-3451

In US v. Robinson, No. 09-3451, the court affirmed defendant's methamphetamine manufacturing convictions and sentence on the grounds that 1) a loaded .22 revolver's proximity - within six feet - to saleable quantities of methamphetamine, digital scales, and pills used to manufacture methamphetamine coupled with an officer's expert testimony regarding the use of firearms in methamphetamine trafficking could lead a reasonable trier of fact to conclude that defendant possessed that weapon to protect his methamphetamine trafficking activities; 2) defendant waived his Confrontation Clause rights; and 3) the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting evidence based on the reasonable probability that the exhibits had not been altered prior to testing.

Camishi v. Holder, No. 09-2503, involved a petition for review of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) decision dismissing petitioner's appeal from the Immigration Judge's (IJ) order removing him from the U.S. to Albania.  The court denied the petition on the ground that, since the IJ denied the petition on an adverse credibility finding independent of the time bar, and the BIA affirmed the credibility finding, there was no prejudice and petitioner's due process rights under the Fifth Amendment were not violated.

El-Tabech v. Clarke, No. 09-1554, involved an action by a Muslim inmate alleging that prison officials were violating his religious rights under the First Amendment and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.  The court reversed two contempt orders regarding defendants' compliance with the district court's judgment, holding that 1) Congress did not reflect in 42 U.S.C. section 1988 a "clear and manifest" intent to entirely preempt statutes such as Neb. Rev. Stat. section 25-1806; 2) the district court failed to determine an appropriate compensatory post-judgment interest rate; and 3) plaintiff did not fully deduct time spent on unsuccessful or non-compensable issues, his attorneys spent an unreasonable amount of time on compensable aspects of the case, and the requested fee was not proportional to the relief obtained.

In Beckon, Inc. v. AMCO Ins. Co., No. 09-2460, an insurance coverage dispute over the validity of an insurance policy defendant issued to plaintiff, summary judgment for defendant is reversed where 1) defendant was not entitled to have the entire policy voided even assuming plaintiff lacked an insurable interest in the building; and 2) the highest court of Missouri cabined Edmister as a material misrepresentation case, rather than one which turns upon the lack of an insurable interest.

Mayer Hoffman McCann, P.C. v. Barton, No. 09-2061, involved an action seeking to enforce restrictive covenants against former employees of an accounting firm.  The court affirmed summary judgment for plaintiff on the grounds that 1) the restrictive covenants were not unenforceable for lack of consideration; 2) the Missouri Supreme Court would hold that a stockholder's agreement between a professional corporation and a shareholder falls within the class of contracts wherein restrictive covenants are appropriate; and 3) the covenant at issue was reasonable.

Drug Product Liability Case, and Criminal and Tort Matters

In re: Baycol Prods. Litig., No. 09-1964, involved a product liability action.  The district court reversed the district court's denial of appellants' motion to substitute as plaintiffs for their deceased mother, holding that the district court erred in relying upon a California procedural statute when it declared that appellants were not proper parties, rather than relying on Fed. R. Civ. P. 25(a)(1).

Gragg v. Astrue, No. 09-3238, involved plaintiff's appeal from the judgment of the district court upholding the Social Security Commissioner's denial of his application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income.  The court affirmed on the grounds that 1) plaintiff's experts' reports did not support plaintiff's argument that they concluded borderline intellectual functioning was a severe impairment separate and apart from a learning disorder; and 2) the hypothetical the ALJ gave to a vocational expert properly incorporated the limitations imposed by plaintiff's physical disabilities in combination with his cognitive impairments, and was not defective.

Csiszer v. Wren, No. 09-2010, involved an action against the hospital and obstetrician that provided care to a mother during the birth of their daughter, claiming that negligent care during the delivery was the proximate cause of the daughter's cerebral palsy.  The court affirmed judgment for defendants, holding that 1) the objectionable portions of defense counsel's argument, as well as any evidence presented concerning the financial aspects of the daughter's care and treatment, were rendered irrelevant by the jury's verdict in the defendants' favor on liability; and 2) the Arkansas statute setting forth the elements that a medical malpractice a plaintiff must prove through expert testimony did not burden plaintiffs' fundamental rights.

In US v. Straw, No. 09-3298, the court affirmed defendant's sentence for wire fraud, mail fraud, making, possessing, and uttering a forged security, and money laundering, holding that ) it was not plain error for the district court to hear defendant's family member's statement because the statement concerned defendant's background, character, and conduct; 2) given the fact that the victims of defendant's wills-and-estate-planning scheme overlapped with the victims of other schemes, and that defendant used those seminars to find new victims for his other crimes and assess their financial situations, it was not clearly erroneous for the district court to determine they were part of the same course of conduct; and 3) the district court was aware of defendant's mental health issues and there was no evidence it disregarded them in varying upward.

Johnson v. Arden, No. 09-2601, involved an action making multiple claims against several defendants as a result of allegedly defamatory statements posted on an internet discussion board.  The court affirmed the dismissal of the complaint, on the grounds that 1) defendants did not originate the material that the plaintiffs deemed damaging; 2) the record contained no evidence that defendant designed its website to be a portal for defamatory material or do anything to induce defamatory postings; and 3) there was no evidence that the website at issue specifically targeted Missouri.

Sexual Abuse Conviction Affirmed, and Tort Action

Boudwin v. Hastings Bay Marina, Inc., No. 09-2393, concerned a negligence action for injuries plaintiff sustained when he fell into a hatch in a boat on defendant-marina's premises.  The court affirmed summary judgment for defendant on the grounds that 1) no reasonable jury could find in favor of plaintiff under typical respondeat superior grounds; and 2) no reasonably prudent person would believe the harbor master had the authority to break into a boat, irrespective of his statements to the contrary, which were irrelevant for purposes of the apparent authority inquiry.

In US v. Cook, No. 09-2323, the court affirmed defendant's sentence for engaging in and attempting to engage in sexual contact with the intent to abuse the victim in Indian country, on the ground that the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding defendant's criminal history category understated his actual criminal history and likelihood of recidivism.

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Plus Criminal, Immigration and Tort Matters

Gaston v. Teamsters Local 600, No. 09-3491, concerned an action by union employees alleging that defendant breached its collective bargaining agreement (CBA), that their union breached its duty of fair representation under the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA), and that the union's business agent breached his fiduciary duty under the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA).  The court of appeals affirmed summary judgment for defendants on the ground that nothing in the LMRDA or LMRA required a union agent to attempt to amend a CBA to take action that infringes on the rights of an employee group or to engage in futile actions.

Pippin v. Hill-Rom Co., No. 09-1965, involved an action claiming that defendant acted negligently by failing to provide a reasonably safe loading area and by failing to load certain truck beds.  The court of appeals affirmed summary judgment for defendants on the grounds that 1) the mere failure to perform under a contract could not support plaintiff's negligence action; and 2) the parking lot's slope was open and obvious as a matter of law, and plaintiff could not recover from defendant on a premises liability theory.

Sanchez v. Holder, No. 09-3011, concerned a petition for review of an order of the Board of Immigration Appeals holding petitioner statutorily ineligible for cancellation of removal.  The Eighth Circuit denied the petition on the ground that there was no statutory support for petitioner's argument that the burden of proof rested on the government in this case to prove his conviction of an aggravated felony when petitioner was removable on other grounds.

US v. Tenerelli, No. 09-2948, defendant's convictions for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, aiding and abetting possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, and being a felon in possession of a firearm are affirmed on the grounds that 1) even assuming that defendant was correct that the seized videotapes were not within the scope of the warrant, their admission was harmless; 2) it was reasonable for officers to conclude that defendant was likely to possess methamphetamine at his residence when the search warrant was executed; and 3) there was no flagrant disregard of the limits of the warrant.

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In US v. Holy Bull, No. 09-1544, the court of appeals affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for sexual abuse of a minor, holding that 1) the testimony of the prior victim revealed a pattern of abuse quite similar to the abuse alleged in the indictment and therefore was properly admitted; 2) the evidence presented at trial was sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant committed sexual abuse of a minor "knowingly," as required by statute; and 3) the district court clearly included defendant's history of sexual abuse in its sentencing analysis.

In US v. Jewell, No. 09-1930, the court of appeals affirmed defendant's conviction for aiding and abetting tax evasion, on the grounds that 1) any alleged error in admitting a videotaped deposition did not contribute to defendant's conviction for aiding and abetting tax evasion; 2) there was no abuse of discretion in the district court's decision not to strike a witness's testimony based on defendant's claim that some of the witness's cross-examination answers were non-responsive and allegedly prejudicial; and 3) because defense counsel was able to thoroughly attack a witness's credibility, the district court did not abuse its discretion or violate the Confrontation Clause by limiting cross on this issue.

In re: Carpenter, No. 09-2897, involved a creditor's appeal from a bankruptcy appellate panel's holding that a social security payment to debtor was exempt and should not be included in his bankruptcy estate.  The Eighth Circuit affirmed the bankruptcy appellate panel's reversal of the bankruptcy court's order, holding that the social security payment was excluded from the Chapter 7 bankruptcy estate pursuant to 42 U.S.C. section 407.

McDermott v. Royal, No. 09-3167, concerned an action claiming that plaintiff suffered First Amendment violations during her arrest and prosecution for obstructing police officers who arrested her son.  The Eighth Circuit reversed an injunction in favor of plaintiff against the ordinance at issue, holding that the terms used in the ordinance -- "obstruct" and "resist" -- covered only physical acts or fighting words and did not give officers unfettered discretion to make arrests for mere words that annoy them.

In US v. Cates, No. 09-3181, the Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence following the revocation of his supervised release, on the grounds that 1) the district court had valid and sufficient reasons to disbelieve defendant's explanation for his positive marijuana tests; 2) there was no plain error in the district court's explanation or weighing of the sentencing factors; and 3) there was no abuse of the district court's considerable sentencing discretion and no basis for concluding defendant's below-Guidelines sentence was substantively unreasonable.

In US v. Charboneau, No. 09-3064, the court of appeals affirmed defendant's conviction for sexual abuse of a minor and abusive sexual contact in Indian country, on the grounds that 1) when a child victim testifies at trial, the Supreme Court's decision in Crawford is inapplicable; and 2) neither the medical report nor any out-of-court statement by the examining physician was admitted into evidence, and thus there was no Confrontation Clause error.

US v. Health Mgmt. Sys., Inc., No. 09-3439, concerned a qui tam action against two companies that contracted to perform work for Iowa's Medicaid program, and against two employees of the Iowa Department of Health Services, claiming that the defendants violated the False Claims Act (FCA) by obtaining federal funds to pay for medical care resulting from medical negligence without seeking reimbursement from the tortfeasors as federal law required.  The court of appeals affirmed the dismissal of the action, on the grounds that 1) the documents submitted by plaintiffs did not disclose the "essential elements" of what the relators sought to prove; and 2) there was no merit in the relators' contention that the defendants were somehow bound by an interpretation of Iowa Code section 147.136 that the State of Iowa relied on in that trial-court case against a Medicaid recipient's estate.

In US v. Henderson, No. 09-3326, the court of appeals affirmed defendant's convictions for conspiring to distribute, and possessing with the intent to distribute, in excess of five kilograms of cocaine, and distributing over five kilograms of cocaine, on the grounds that 1) following his arrest, defendant waived his Miranda rights and consented to a search of an apartment, and no intervening exculpatory act destroyed probable cause; 2) the district court's instruction regarding defendant's prior conviction mitigated concerns of prejudice; and 3) the district court's 18 U.S.C. section 851(b) error did not affect defendant's substantial rights.

In US v. Longs, No. 09-2781, the Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute more than 50 grams of cocaine base (crack), and conspiracy to possess firearms in furtherance of the drug trafficking conspiracy, on the grounds that 1) the evidence overwhelmingly supported the charge that defendant participated in the crack conspiracy as alleged in the second superseding indictment; and 2) the indictment sufficiently apprised defendant of the evidence the government would introduce at trial.

In US v. Mitchell, No. 09-3041, the court of appeals affirmed defendant's conviction for money laundering conspiracy, holding that 1) the indictment was not so defective that defendant could not have reasonably understood the offense for which he was charged; and 2) defendant did not show that the danger of unfair prejudice substantially outweighed the probative value of certain tax information. However, the court vacated defendant's sentence on the ground that the evidence was sufficient to justify a six-level enhancement pursuant to U.S.S.G. section 2S1.1(b)(1).

Center for Fam. Med. v. US, No. 09-2780, involved an action against the U.S., seeking a refund for Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) assessed and collected on stipends appellants paid to medical students.  The court of appeals affirmed the partial denial of plaintiffs' motion for attorney's fees, holding that 1) the government did not continue to push for a bright-line rule in its second motion for summary judgment; and 2) the government was substantially justified in taking the position that plaintiff did not qualify as a "school, college, or university."

Copeland v. Locke, No. 09-2485, concerned an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that defendant-police chief used excessive force to effectuate plaintiff's unlawful arrest and that the City of Bella Villa was deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's constitutional rights.  The court of appeals affirmed in part summary judgment for defendants on the ground that plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence to create a triable issue of fact as to whether the municipality was deliberately indifferent to the risk that police officers would use excessive force to effectuate an unlawful arrest of citizens.  However, the court reversed the judgment in part on the grounds that 1) if, as plaintiff averred, defendant arrested plaintiff solely for distracting him from a traffic stop through the use of his protected expression, then the arrest was unlawful even if it arguably interfered with police activity; and 2) there was a material question of fact regarding whether plaintiff's injuries were the result of excessive force.

Kuelbs v. Hill, No. 09-2697, involved an action alleging embezzlement of a trust's assets.  The court of appeals affirmed the dismissal of the action on the grounds that 1) the district court correctly determined that plaintiff was not the proper party to pursue the action due to her incompetency, and she did not move to substitute the proper party after being put on notice of the need for substitution; and 2) the tort claims plaintiff assigned to the trust were properly dismissed on the grounds they were not assignable under Arkansas law.

Mahamed v. Anderson, No. 09-2030, concerned an action alleging various civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. section 1983.  The court of appeals dismissed defendant's appeal from a denial of defendant's summary judgment motion based on qualified immunity, on the ground that, even though defendant sought to frame the issue in terms of qualified immunity, he asked the court to find qualified immunity on facts contrary to those plaintiff presented to the district court.

In US v. Dale, No. 08-3172, the court of appeals affirmed defendants' murder and conspiracy to distribute cocaine convictions, on the grounds that ) defendant's Sixth Amendment protections had not yet attached, and the admission of the out-of-court statements he made to a witness did not violate defendant's Sixth Amendment right to counsel; 2) a nontestifying defendant's out-of-court statements were non-testimonial; and 3) because defendant was permitted to impeach a witness's credibility, the district court did not abuse its discretion in limiting defendant's cross-examination of the witness.

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