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

August 2013 Archives

8th Cir.: Peabody Must Pay Retired Miners' Health Benefits

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Peabody Energy must continue to pay benefits to 3,100 Patriot Coal retirees after Patriot split from its once-parent company and filed for bankruptcy.

The three-judge appellate bankruptcy panel overturned a lower bankruptcy court ruling in favor of Peabody Energy, which held the company no longer was obliged to pay the benefits. That ruling was linked to the bankruptcy of Patriot Coal Corp.

University of Iowa's Firing Affirmed By Iowa Supreme Court

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday the University of Iowa was justified in firing its longtime dean of students for mishandling a high-profile 2007 student sexual assault case.

In a 7-0 decision, the court affirmed the district court's 2012 dismissal of Phillip Jones' claims that he was defamed and wrongfully terminated by UI President Sally Mason. The court's decision is a reminder for practitioners to advise their clients to be proactive in sexual abuse and harassment investigations.

Minn. Supreme Court Sides With Servers in Dine-and-Dash Lawsuit

In a major class action dine and dash lawsuit, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that servers cannot be required to cover losses from dine-and-dash customers without consent. Ruling in favor of the 750 server and bartender plaintiffs, the court remanded the case back to the district court to determine how much the employer, Uptown Drink, will have to fork over in damages.

Attorneys with clients in the food industry should pay heed to the opinion in Karl, et al. v. Uptown Drink, LLC, which fleshes out the contours of Minnesota's law on wage deductions to cover lost revenue.

Postnup Does Not Waive Spousal Rights to 401(k), 8th Cir. Says

When you sign a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement in which you agree not to be the beneficiary of a 401(k) retirement plan, does that extinguish your spousal rights to it?

To the surprise of divorced couples and family law attorneys alike, the Eighth Circuit has ruled that no, it does not extinguish your rights. You still may have a right to the 401(k).

In its decision, the appeals court ruled that a postnuptial agreement in which each party expressed "irrevocable consent" to a change of beneficiary of the other's retirement plan did not constitute a waiver of the spousal right to benefit from such plans.

No Compensation for Inmates Kept Past Release Date: 8th Cir.

Iowa inmates aren't entitled to compensation for being held beyond their proper release, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week. If the lawsuit had gone the other way, Iowa taxpayers may have had to dole out millions of dollars in settlements.

The inmates in the suit contended they were held too long under rules set forth by an Iowa Supreme Court decision in 2011.

But the Eighth Circuit affirmed the lower court ruling -- which held the inmates weren't entitled to compensation -- on the basis of qualified immunity.

Allow Legislative Prayer? Obama and Lawmakers Weigh In

The Obama administration is getting "entangled" in the legislative prayer case.

In a turn for the nearly apocalyptic, the Obama administration and the GOP have found some common ground. Both sides have filed amicus briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the right of local town boards to begin their meetings with a prayer.

Here's the low-down on what they're arguing and how it particularly affects the Eighth Circuit:

Two Cyclospora Lawsuits Dished Up in Iowa and Nebraska

Two Olive Garden patrons from Iowa and Nebraska have filed Cyclospora lawsuits against the chain's parent company. Federal court documents show Kelly Kunc of Hiawatha, Iowa, and Joyce Nendza of Holt County, Nebraska filed the lawsuits against Darden Corporation of Orlando, Florida, which owns the Red Lobster and Olive Garden chains, reports The Associated Press.

Both plaintiffs are being represented by Minneapolis attorney Ryan Osterholm. His firm, Pritzker Olsen, specializes in food-safety and food-poisoning cases. He's also representing a plaintiff in Texas.

The lawsuits serve as a good reminder to practitioners that Cyclospora lawsuits may be a viable way to broaden their personal injury practice.

Arkansas School Choice Lawsuit Dismissed as Moot by 8th Circuit

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the appeal from a lower court's ruling -- that an Arkansas school choice law violates the Equal Protection Clause -- is moot due to the General Assembly's enactment of a new school choice law.

The court held the case was rendered moot due to the enactment of the Public School Choice Act of 2013, which repealed the former school choice law in its entirety.

Lawsuits Filed to Strike Down Arkansas Same-Sex Marriage Ban

Energized by the U.S. Supreme Court's DOMA ruling, two Arkansas attorneys are turning their focus to the state constitution's same-sex marriage ban, Amendment 83, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman.

The first lawsuit was filed by attorney Cheryl Maples and the second by attorney Jack Wagoner III.

Though the attorneys have filed two separate lawsuits, the two share a sense of camaraderie and are consulting with one another on the cause. As it turns out, Maples and Wagoner are old law school pals, reports University of Arkansas at Little Rock's KUAR.