Civil Procedure, Civil Rights, Criminal, Employment, ERISA and Insurance Matters - Employment Law - U.S. Fifth Circuit
U.S. Fifth Circuit - The FindLaw 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Civil Procedure, Civil Rights, Criminal, Employment, ERISA and Insurance Matters

Sullivan v. Leor Engy. LLC, No. 06-20867, involved an action for breach of an employment contract.  The court of appeals affirmed the dismissal of the complaint on the grounds that 1) under Texas law, a contract for a stated term longer than one year is not taken out of the statute of frauds when there is a mere possibility of termination within one year due to contingent events set forth in the contract, including termination by a party; 2) payment of a salary for services rendered was insufficient to take the alleged agreement out of the statute of frauds because the services were fully explained by the salary without supposing any additional consideration; and 3) plaintiff's equitable estoppel claim failed because he did not allege reliance damages.

In US v. Seale, No. 07-60732, the court of appeals affirmed defendant's kidnapping conviction based on a 1964 offense, on the grounds that 1) although more than forty years elapsed from the date of the alleged crime to defendant's indictment, this fact alone did not establish a due process violation; 2) the evidence was clearly sufficient to support defendant's conviction even without an allegedly inadmissible confession; and 3) defendant produced no evidence that would support a conclusion that an alleged coconspirator expressly waived the attorney-client privilege and thus that the coconspirator's attorney could testify.

Raby v. Livingston, No. 08-20772, concerned a 42 U.S.C. section 1983 action alleging that Texas' method for lethal injection violated plaintiff death row inmate's right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment.  The court of appeals affirmed summary judgment for defendants on the grounds that 1) difficulty in starting an IV in the arm of inmates who had destroyed their veins through drug use was not indicative of a failure to adhere to the execution procedure; 2) there were no constitutional issues with regard to the monitoring of the inmate's appearance for visible signs that the inmate was awake following the sodium thiopental injection; and 3) plaintiff failed to establish that the Texas lethal injection protocol created a demonstrated risk of severe pain.

Schexnayder v. Hartford Life & Accident Ins. Co., No. 08-30538, involved an ERISA action claiming that defendant-insurer wrongly denied plaintiff disability benefits.  The court of appeals affirmed summary judgment for plaintiff on the merits, on the grounds that defendant's decision was procedurally unreasonable because the Social Security Administration (SSA) determined that plaintiff was fully disabled and unable to perform any work, but defendant did not address the SSA award in any of its denial letters.  However, the court reversed the district court's order granting plaintiff attorney's fees, holding that the legal questions in this case were much closer than the district court credited, and the district court therefore abused its discretion in assessing attorneys' fees against defendant.

Price v. Johnson, No. 09-10389, concerned an appeal from the district court's order remanding to state court an action seeking an order to take an investigatory deposition of a Congresswoman.  The court of appeals dismissed the appeal because the court of appeals would only review remand orders if the district court affirmatively stated a non-28 U.S.C. section 1447(c) ground for remand.

Acevedos v. Allsup's Convenience Stores Inc., No. 09-10417, involved a class action against defendant-employer, seeking payment of unpaid wages and overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act.  The court of appeals affirmed the district court's ruling that plaintiffs' claims were improperly joined, holding that district courts have considerable discretion to deny joinder when it would not facilitate judicial economy and when different witnesses and documentary proof would be required for plaintiffs' claims.  However, the Fifth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the action on the ground that misjoinder was not an appropriate ground for dismissal.

Qureshi v. US, No. 09-20317, involved plaintiff's appeal from a sua sponte order of the district court requiring him to obtain the court's permission before filing suit in any federal court in the state of Texas.  The court of appeals vacated the order, on the ground that the district court entered the injunction without giving any prior notice to plaintiff and without offering him any opportunity to oppose the injunction or be heard on its merits.

Jones v. Cain, No. 09-30174, involved habeas petition in a murder prosecution.  The court of appeals affirmed the grant of the petition, holding that the state court unreasonably applied clearly established federal law by holding that no Sixth Amendment violation occurred when a jury heard recorded testimony from a deceased witness to a murder.  However, the court vacated the order conditionally dismissing the indictment, on the ground that a habeas court can act solely on the body of the prisoner, and thus it ordinarily lacks the power to order the dismissal of an indictment.

Catlin Syndicate Ltd. v. Imperial Palace of Miss., Inc., No. 09-60209, involved a declaratory judgment action by an insurer seeking a declaration that the policy did not cover certain Hurricane Katrina-related losses.  The court of appeals affirmed summary judgment for plaintiff on the ground that the proper method for determining loss under the business-interruption provision was to look at sales before the interruption rather than sales after the interruption.

Pendergest-Holt v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyd's, No. 10-20069, involved an action by various insureds, each faced with civil and criminal allegations that they engaged in a massive Ponzi scheme, seeking reimbursement of defense costs under a directors' and officers' liability policy from the policy's underwriters.  The court of appeals affirmed an injunction prohibiting defendant-insurers from withholding defense funds, on the ground that a "determination in fact" under the policy, absent language unambiguously pointing to the underwriters as the decisionmakers, required a judicial act.  However, the court of appeals reversed the order in part, holding that the district court needed to decide whether the underwriters were responsible thereafter for reimbursement of the executives' defense costs.

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