U.S. Third Circuit - The FindLaw 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog


Nuclear Security Guard's Disability Suit Fails

We do not want mentally disturbed people in charge of nuclear power -- and we're not even talking about certain world leaders.

In the case of McNelis v. Pennsylvania Power & Light Company, the court was talking about a security guard at a nuclear power plant. He sued for disability discrimination, but the court concluded he was not mentally fit for the job.

It is a sad story for the individual in the case, but emphasizes the explosive potential for everybody from paranoia around nuclear power.

Court: Secular Anti-Abortion Organization Must Offer Contraception Coverage

Few judges will offer an opinion about religious issues with abortion or contraception before being appointed to the federal bench, but it is another matter after confirmation.

In Real Alternatives, Inc. v. Secretary Department of Health and Human Services, Judge Kent A. Jordan had no problem expressing his opinion. In the 115-page decision, he stretched his dissent over 55 pages to say that employees should not be compelled to pay for insurance coverage that offends their religious beliefs.

"What my colleagues fail to appreciate is that coercing financial support for something deeply objectionable is a real and substantial burden, and a forced signature alone can be problematic," he said. "In matters of conscience, the signing of one's name is more than a scrawl on paper."

The Third Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of a whistleblower case against a make-up company because the claims were more than just "skin deep."

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this case is the court's acceptance that a lawyer's whistleblower claim can be premised upon an obligation under the code of professional responsibility. The lower court dismissed the case partly based on the fact that the rules of professional responsibility were not laws that the makeup company had to abide by, and therefore did not fit the New Jersey statute at issue. The Third Circuit disagreed and specifically ruled that the rules of professional conduct could be used as the basis of a whistleblower claim premised on NJ's Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA).

Just a few days after the most popular hot dog eating holiday in the country, the legal fight between two titans of the hot dog industry came one step closer to reaching a final resolution. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals issued their order in the closely watched Parks v. Tyson case. Tyson Foods owns Ball Park brand hot dogs, while Parks became known for making PARKS' brand hot dogs.

Although the PARKS brand was, at one time, among the leading brand of hot dogs, after the owner died, the company never really recovered, but it never went away. However, when Ball Park sought to expand their line of dogs with their new "Park's Finest" label, Parks the brand filed suit claiming trademark dilution, infringement, and false advertising.

In a pair of cases out of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, a three judge panel reversed a seemingly rogue lower federal district court ruling that refused to extend First Amendment protections to two individuals who photographed police in public. While the cases were remanded back to the lower federal court, the circuit court seemed to caution the parties that the defendants were likely to be immune from liability, regardless of the outcome of the appeal.

The cases are: Fields v. City of Philadelphia, et al., Case No. 16-1650, and Geraci v. City of Philadelphia, et al., Case No. 16-1651. Michael Fields was standing on the sidewalk video recording police as they were breaking up a college party. Fields was arrested simply for making the recording. Amanda Geraci was physically restrained, by the neck, when she attempted to photograph a police officer arresting a protester.

Divorce is painful enough, but beating a man to sign divorce papers? Oy vey!

Yet that's what three Jewish rabbis were doing. They kidnapped husbands, then beat and tortured them to finalize their religious divorces.

And you thought circumcision was painful!

In May, the Third Circuit ruled on a False Claims Act suit against Genentech. Other major decisions involved asbestos litigation, a petition for IRS relief, and a First Amendment retaliation claim. For a quick review of the top cases from May 2017, we've put together a list from the FindLaw Opinion Summary Archive:

FCA Suit Against Genentech Dismissed

A federal appeals court turned back a lawsuit that said Genentech concealed health risks about Avastin in seeking government approval for the cancer drug.

The U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals said the plaintiff did not show how Genentech's actions would have made any difference under the False Claims Act. In fact, the court said Gerasimos Petratos, the former head of analytics for the company and whistleblower in the suit, acknowledged that the government would have deemed any of the alleged violations insubsubstantial.

"He concedes that Genentech followed all pertinent statutes and regulations," the court said in Petratos v. Genentech. "If those laws and regulations are inadequate to protect patients, it falls to the other branches of government to reform them."

Aaron Hernandez died in prison on Wednesday, having taken his own life. The former New England Patriots tight end's suicide came as he was serving a life sentence for murdering Odin Lloyd, the boyfriend of his fiancee's sister, and just days after he had been acquitted in another double murder case.

Hernandez's may be one of the most famous prison suicides, but it's not the only one. Every year, hundreds of inmates kill themselves, making it the leading cause of death in local jails, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Now, the Third Circuit has clarified just when such suicides may be considered violations of the Eighth Amendment.

Qualified Immunity Trumps First Amendment Lawsuit Over Wetlands

Identifying a right to be free from retaliatory restriction on speech, a federal appeals court ruled that a township official was nonetheless immune from liability when he told local residents not to contact him or other town leaders about a property dispute.

The Third Circuit ruled last week that the official had violated a Pennsylvania couple's rights with his "no contact" email, but that the right was not clearly established in the law at the time. Under the circumstances, the appeals court said, the official was entitled to a qualified immunity.