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

September 2010 Archives

Sexual Harassment Action Against Daycare Center, and Criminal Matter

In Prince v. Kids Ark Learning Ctr., No. 09-2365, a sexual harassment action against a defunct daycare center, the court affirmed the district court's order declining to impose liability on the center's successor, holding that the predecessor's owner had poor health; the predecessor was on probation with the state due to mismanagement; and it was losing its license notwithstanding the discriminatory conduct.

Plaintiff's Age Discrimination Action Affirmed, and Criminal Matters

In US v. Hatchett, No. 10-1062, the court affirmed defendant's wire fraud sentence where the district court did not err in finding that the testimony at sentencing, bank records, and defendant's admissions were sufficient to establish the number of victims by a preponderance of the evidence.

US v. Burrell, No. 09-1664

In US v. Burrell, No. 09-1664, the court vacated defendant's sentence for conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine base and powder cocaine, holding that the district court did not identify any factors that it considered relevant in deciding to reduce defendant's sentence and determining the extent of that reduction.

Shelton v. Kennedy Funding, Inc., No. 09-1670

In Shelton v. Kennedy Funding, Inc., No. 09-1670, a breach-of-contract and fraud action arising out of the sale of an Arkansas cemetery and involving the alleged breach of a loan agreement, the court affirmed judgment for plaintiff where 1) the Estoppel Certificate at issue did not fall within the surety prong of the Arkansas Statute of Frauds; 2) a reasonable jury could find the certificate's terms were sufficiently definite to impose an obligation upon defendant to place $675,000 in an escrow account for plaintiff's benefit in the event of a default on the loan; and 3) projections of future events or conduct could not support a fraud claim as a matter of law.

Summary Judgment Against EEOC Affirmed, and Criminal Matter

In US v. Loaiza-Sanchez, No. 09-2999, the court affirmed defendants' sentence for conspiring to distribute, and possessing with intent to distribute a substantial quantity of methamphetamine, holding that 1) a person's legal status as a deportable alien is not synonymous with national origin; and 2) the district court considered defendant's arguments for a downward variance but appropriately exercised its discretion in rejecting them.

Lykken v. Brady, No. 09-15506

In Lykken v. Brady, No. 09-15506, an action asserting civil rights violations arising from a search of plaintiffs' farm, the court affirmed summary judgment for defendants where 1) the arrival of the officers and initial detention of plaintiffs caused plaintiffs' cattle to bolt, but it was obvious that the officers' arrival at the scene was necessary in order to execute the search warrant; and 2) the fact that probable cause existed for the search could lead a reasonable officer to suspect the occupants of the house might attempt to conceal the objects of the search if the plaintiffs were allowed unfettered access to the house.

Remand Order Under Class Action Fairness Act Reversed, and Tort Matter

In Hamilton v. Palm, No. 09-3676, a diversity negligence action, alleging that plaintiff fell and was seriously injured doing roofing work and constructing an addition on property owned by defendants, the court affirmed the dismissal of the complaint is reversed where the district court made an unwarranted extension of the pleading standards of Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937 (2009).

 

In Landers Auto Group Number One, Inc. v. Continental Western Ins. Co., No. 09-2783, an action seeking indemnity and defense under an insurance contract, the court affirmed summary judgment for defendant where defendant-insurer had no duty to defend the Truth in Lending Act claims in the underlying action, because the plain language of the word "accident" when read in context with the policy made it clear the policy referred to physical accidents as opposed to accounting errors.

Detroit Gen. Ret. Sys. v. Medtronic, Inc., No. 09-2518

In Detroit Gen. Ret. Sys. v. Medtronic, Inc., No. 09-2518, an action alleging that a biotechnology company engaged in securities fraud by misleading investors as to the seriousness of a problem with certain medical equipment, the court affirmed the dismissal of the action where plaintiff failed to plead fraud with particularity.

Trademark Infringement Action and Agriculture Matter

In Georgia-Pac. Consumer Prods. LP v. Myers Supply, Inc., No. 09-2980, an action for contributory trademark infringement, the court affirmed summary judgment for defendant where 1) the district court did not abuse its discretion in discounting plaintiff's survey evidence and crediting more the testimony from industry insiders, and thus, correctly determined that there is no actual confusion by bathroom consumers; and 2) under Arkansas law, there was a strong presumption that interference with an at-will contract is not improper.

Malonga v. Holder, No. 09-2218

In Malonga v. Holder, No. 09-2218, a petition for review of the BIA's denial of petitioner's application for withholding of removal, the court granted the petition where 1) the court could not say the record shows more than periodic instances of mistreatment that did not rise to the level of persecution and other incidents that could not be clearly connected to a protected ground; 2) the court could not tell from the BIA's opinion whether it considered petitioner's political activities after he left the Congo; and 3) the BIA's pattern and practice analysis failed to account for the risks petitioner argued he would face as an actual or imputed political dissident.

In Dahl v. Rice County, No. 09-1210, an action alleging constitutional violations resulting from plaintiff's termination as a deputy sheriff, the court affirmed summary judgment for defendants where 1) there was no evidence that this single incident of the sheriff losing his temper represents a policy of the sheriff or of Rice County; 2) plaintiff was not "informing the public" that the department was engaged in "misfeasance, malfeasance or nonfeasance," but rather he focused on the sheriff's unpleasant demeanor; and 3) there was no evidence that the sheriff was authorized to assault employees, as would be necessary for him to prevail on a claim of procedural due process.

US v. Miller, No. 10-1187

In US v. Miller, No. 10-1187, the court reversed defendant's conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm, holding that the prosecutor improperly vouched for an officer's credibility and there was no curative instruction and no mitigating effect of the government's comments other than restating the proper burden of proof before sending the jury to deliberate.

Pollution Exclusion Interpretation, and Criminal Matter

In Scottsdale Ins. Co. v. Univ. Crop Protection Alliance, LLC, No. 09-1774, a declaratory judgment action seeking a ruling that a pollution exclusion in defendant's insurance policy relieved plaintiff of any obligation to defend or indemnify defendant, the court affirmed summary judgment for plaintiff where 1) in the insurance policy coverage context, a declaratory judgment action is ripe irrespective of whether the underlying litigation is ongoing or resolved; and 2) the underlying complaint made clear the relofted particulates at issue were toxic, and therefore, would qualify as "pollutants" under the policy.

US v. Parks, No. 09-2791

In US v. Parks, No. 09-2791, the court affirmed defendant's sentence for possession with intent to distribute heroin where defendant's prior Missouri conviction for escape from confinement was a crime of violence.

US v. Talamantes, No. 10-1212, involved a prosecution of defendant for unlawful reentry after removal following an aggravated felony conviction.  The court affirmed the imposition of a sentence of 77 months' imprisonment, holding that the sentence was not unreasonable and the district court did not abuse its discretion by imposing an increase under Guidelines section 2L1.2(b)(A).

Drug Conviction Reversed, and Criminal and Civil Rights Matters

In US v. Wilson, No. 09-3338, the court affirmed in part defendant's convictions for conspiring to distribute marijuana and cocaine, and for possessing cocaine with the intent to distribute it, holding that 1) the shooting as to which the district court admitted evidence was similar to the drug-trafficking charged in this case because it stemmed from a dispute over a drug debt; and 2) the probative value of the testimony was not substantially outweighed by its potential for unfair prejudice.  However, the court reversed in part where there was no evidence from which a reasonable jury could have found that defendant knew, on June 9, 2007, that there was cocaine in a cohort's car.

In Chism v. Curtner, No. 09-2632, a Title VII racial discrimination action related to plaintiff's termination from employment as a firefighter for the city of Forrest City, Arkansas, the court affirmed summary judgment for defendants, holding that 1) prior arrests involving his coworkers concerned individuals who were not similarly situated to plaintiff, and therefore he could not meet his prima facie case of discrimination; and 2) plaintiff had no reasonable and legitimate expectation of employment in light of Arkansas law and the terms of his employment, which was at-will.