U.S. Third Circuit - FindLaw

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


The Third Circuit clarified trademark confusion standards under the Lanham Act last week. In a case involving two financial services firms, the court re-emphasized that a trademark is infringed when another mark is so similar that it is likely to cause confusion.

That's just confusion itself, not confusion to purchasers or confusion to customers, the Third Circuit ruled. This ruling reversed a lower court's determination that a trademark was unlikely to be infringed because evidence of confusion was not from "actual customers."

Employers cannot simply reject a faulty request for medical leave filed under the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Third Circuit ruled on Monday. Rather, employers have a duty to inform their workers about their request's deficiency and allow them an opportunity to correct it.

The case came after Deborah Hansel, a nurse's assistant at Lehigh Valley Health Network in Pennsylvania, requested medical leave for a then undiagnosed condition. After taking days off, the hospital fired her. At her termination, the hospital only stated that her request was faulty and had been denied.

Victims in Pennsylvania who have been awarded punitive damages cannot collect damages against their tortfeasor's insurer, the Third Circuit ruled last Friday. Their ruling stems from the Keystone State's public policy against allowing individuals to insure against punitive damages.

Allowing the victims to collect punitive damages from the insurers (through an assigned breach of contract and bad faith claim) would circumvent the punitive purpose of the damages, the circuit found.

The confirmation hearing went well for Judge L. Felipe Restrepo in early June. After long delays for Judge Restrepo, it shouldn't be long before the 3rd Circuit officially welcomes their new judge to the bench.

A longtime judge on the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Restrepo received President Obama's nomination for the circuit court on November 12th. From the beginning on this process, the judge's public supporters have included Pennsylvania senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey.

The operator of a home hospice care company had his Medicare fraud, conspiracy, and money laundering convictions upheld by the Third Circuit recently. Matthew Kolodesh had claimed that his conviction was obtained through prosecutorial misconduct.

He alleged that the prosecutors improperly relied upon a recording of him planning to defraud Medicare and improperly introduced stereotypes that Russians sought to "game the system." The Third Circuit, however, disagreed, finding that the prosecutor's actions were appropriate given the context.

Chaka Fattah Jr. just wanted to start an education company. Now he's facing a slew of legal issues, including a 23-count indictment.

Fattah Jr., son of the Pennsylvania congressman, has been the center of attention in Philadelphia since 2012 concerning alleged tax fraud and misuse of bank loans. He faces up to $13 million in fines from the IRS. The ongoing legal dispute took a bad turn for Fattah on June 1st when the Third Circuit dismissed his appeal.

No Anticipatory Invocation of Miranda, Says Penn. Sup. Ct.

Ever since Miranda v. Arizona, the right to remain silent, and its companion, the right to have an attorney present during questioning, has been walked back both by the U.S. Supreme Court and various state supreme courts.

Earlier this week, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that a person can't invoke his Fifth Amendment right to counsel under Miranda in anticipation of police questioning. Along with a recent decision of the California Supreme Court, Pennsylvania's decision moves Miranda's temporal period in favor of the police.

A large class action law firm has filed a writ of mandamus with the Third Circuit, seeking to prevent a court appointed special master from interviewing its plaintiffs. The firm, Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, gained prominence due to its role in the $260 billion tobacco settlement in the late 1990s, but recently received sanctions for thalidomide lawsuits which were described as "bad-faith advocacy" which "gives new meaning to 'frivolous.'"

As the cases began to falter, and sanctions began to mount, Hagens Berman sought to dismiss them en masse. That led to the special master seeking to interview the plaintiffs, in order to determine if they had knowingly agreed to abandoned their cases.

3rd Cir. Upholds Porn Recordkeeping Requirements

In an attempt to make porn distributors police themselves, Congress passed into law 18 USC 2257, which requires that they keep records of all their performers so they can prove no one in their employ is underage. They also must produce these records at the government's request, or permit the government to inspect them at any time.

Porn companies think this requirement is onerous and violates the First and Fourth Amendments. The Third Circuit actually agreed, to some extent, at least as to the Fourth Amendment argument.

Three insurance companies were sued by two patients and their pharmacies after the companies had refused to pay for blood-clotting-factor products under ERISA health plans. Eventually, the insurance companies paid them in full, including interest. Each time, the patients recovered through settlement, not court order.

The patients filed for attorneys' fees under ERISA, which allows for recovery of attorneys' fees when there has been "some success" on the merits. The settlements were success enough, the First Circuit reasoned, deciding for the first time that the catalyst theory allows recovery of fees in ERISA cases. ERISA attorneys, now's the time to pop the champagne.