5th Circuit Injury & Tort Law News - U.S. Fifth Circuit
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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.

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.

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."

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:

BP received some bad news this week from the Fifth Circuit: It has to pay up according to the settlement agreement it signed to compensate the victims of the Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill.

We wouldn't hold our breath that this is BP's last word on the case, but for now it appears that the oil giant will have to shell out billions to affected and possibly affected Gulf-area businesses, Reuters reports.

What did the court say to finally shut the door on this epic BP case?

BP is still fighting with Gulf business owners over the billions businesses feel are owed under the Deepwater Horizon settlement, but the Fifth Circuit may have given BP a wakeup call with a small typo.

On Thursday night, in response to plaintiffs' motion to dismiss BP's request for an en banc rehearing of the settlement issues, the Court mistakenly issued this order -- granting the motion.

Another order quickly filed on Friday vacated the mistaken order, but how did the mix-up happen?

Yes, it's true. The Fifth Circuit finally decided that age old question: is a forklift a motor vehicle?

The court in Boyett v. Redland Ins. Co. needed to answer this ludicrous metaphysical question because an insurance company wanted to use Louisiana law to try to foreclose any chance of a truck driver receiving compensation from a forklift accident.

No dice insurers, a forklift is a motor vehicle.