5th Circuit Injury & Tort Law News - U.S. Fifth Circuit
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The Supreme Court has granted cert to an appeal of the Fifth Circuit's ruling that native Indian tribal courts have jurisdiction to hear civil tort claims against nonmembers. Specifically, the Fifth Circuit found that a Dollar General store could be sued in tribal court after a store manager of a store on tribal land allegedly molested a young member of the Choctaw tribe.

The ruling was the first of its kind and suggested that businesses and individuals who enter into agreements with an Indian tribe, especially commercial ones, can be subject to the jurisdiction of the tribal courts. As the dissent in that case noted, it was an ambitious ruling, especially "coming from a circuit that decides little Indian law."

Mexican States Can't Sue for Damage Caused by Deepwater Horizon

Even though it happened a little over five years, the Deepwater Horizon explosion is the gift that keeps on giving -- to the environment, and to lawyers.

This week's saga involves three Mexican states -- Veracruz, Tamaulipas, and Quintana Roo -- that sued BP, Transocean, and the other usual suspects, over damages resulting from the subsequent oil spill. The Fifth Circuit affirmed denial of their claims for lack of a "proprietary interest."

Mediation Ordered in Trinity Guardrail Case

Last week, we covered the enormous verdict in the Trinity guardrail case: $175 million which, when tripled under federal law, could mean a verdict of $525 million. While Trinity has indicated it plans to appeal the jury verdict, that may not be necessary.

Why? The judge in the case has just referred the parties to mediation with a Duke Law professor, Francis McGovern, who is one of the foremost experts in alternative dispute resolution. On top of that, Trinity faces uneasy investors and declining stock prices, both of which would be alleviated by a resolution of the case.

Highway Guardrail Fraud Verdict: $525M to Gov't, Whistleblower

The United States and Joshua Harman will split a $525 million jury award following a fraud suit in Texas federal court against Trinity Industries, a company that makes those metal highway guard rails that are supposed to stop cars. Key words: supposed to.

As it turns out, some of the rails instead turned into metal skewers, slicing through car bodies and killing at least five people, injuring even more.

BP has taken its last gasp of air as it seeks it's one and only option in the ongoing saga of the oil-spill settlement agreement the company hastily signed. After unsuccessful attempts with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, the oil giant is now trying its hand with the U.S. Supreme Court.

Whether the Supreme Court will grant cert. remains to be seen, but in the meantime, let's take a look at the legal backdrop of the case.

Mexican Teen's Family Can Sue CBP Agent Over Cross-Border Shooting

This is one of the more interesting jurisdictional and constitutional questions you'll read about for a while: does the family of an unarmed Mexican national, shot across the border by a Border Patrol agent standing in the United States, have any cognizable claims whatsoever?

The answer, for now, is yes: the Fifth Circuit held, earlier this week, that the family could bring a Fifth Amendment claim against the agent himself, but no claims against his supervisors, the agency, or the U.S. government. The panel held that Border Patrol Agent Jesus Mesa Jr.'s conduct was "arbitrary," "shocked the conscience," and could for the basis for a Fifth Amendment claim, even though the victim, 15-year-old Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca was not a U.S. citizen and was killed in foreign territory.

BP Reaches Out to Supreme Court in Oil Spill Appeal

British Petroleum made a bad bargain, a settlement that contained a formula that made it possible for parties not affected by the massive Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster to gain windfall payouts. Though that formula was tweaked last year, and again this year, BP still wants to freeze the payouts.

Too bad, said the Fifth Circuit, both in a panel opinion and an en banc denial. Now, the oil company is reaching out to the Supreme Court in hopes that the nine justices will save the company from its own bad bargain, one that some argue has already been "fixed."

BP's Bad Bargain Deepwater Settlement Stands, For Now

Deepwater Horizon. Lots of oil. Lots of damage to businesses, homes, and nature. Lots of litigation and payouts.

In 2012, British Petroleum (BP) agreed to a settlement that, instead of requiring direct proof of damages, would set damages according to a formula that incorporated geographic distance from the spill, type of business, and other factors. The formula has led to some absurd results, like profitable businesses that were undamaged getting millions of dollars, or businesses that were already dead at the time of the oil spill getting payouts.

Tribal court jurisdiction can be tricky, but the Fifth Circuit seemed to simplify it in a case where a Native American minor was allegedly molested at a Dollar General.

Dolgencorp, which operates a Dollar General on a Choctaw Reservation in Mississippi, is being sued by a Choctaw minor who was employed in the store as part of a Youth Opportunity Program (YOP) training program. Unfortunately, while employed there, the minor alleges that the manager, a non-tribe member, molested him.

The Fifth Circuit found that the tribal courts do have jurisdiction over the minor's tort claim against Dolgencorp, but why?

A Texas law firm's SLAPP appeal has been denied by the Fifth Circuit, which found that the firm's ads were not protected under Texas' anti-SLAPP laws.

Anti-SLAPP jurisprudence is still evolving, and this was a new issue for the Fifth Circuit: whether law firm ads disparaging a Texas dentist could escape liability under the Lanham Act through an anti-SLAPP motion.

Here's why this ruling left the Texas firm no longer smiling: