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Coffee Barista's Don't Interact With Customers Enough for Tip Pooling

The Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded a decision by a Texas federal district court in a case that involved barista tips, Montano v. Montrose Restaurant Assoc.

The legal issue at bar was whether or not "coffeemen" (aka baristas) are lawfully entitled to a percentage customer tips under a restaurant's tip pooling arrangement. It turns out that it has little to with what you call them; it has more to do with the nature of their work.

Mandatory Arbitration Agreements for Employees OK, 5th Cir. Rules

The National Labor Relations Board has been a thorn in the Fifth Circuit's said these past few years. Several days ago, however, the panel court made it perfectly clear that it hadn't changed its mind with regards to the proper scope of the National Labor Standards Act.

The issue at bar (now apparently settled) is whether or not employers can require the signing of mandatory arbitration clauses that preclude employee lawsuits against the company. The answer? Such clauses are allowed.

Race Abuse by Students Not Within Title VI's Scope, 5th Cir. Rules

What's a school's liability for discrimination suffered by its students at the hands of other students? This was the broad legal question posed by the Fennell family in Kyana Fennell v. Marion Independent School District.

The Fifth Circuit dismiss the complaint against a Marion Independent School District (MISD) and several of its employees. The circuit court found that school officials were not "deliberately indifferent" to racist student behaviors.

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."