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


Court to Reconsider Free Speech in Public Meetings

You can't say bomb in an airport -- Ben Stiller learned when protesting treatment by airline representatives.

And you can't say, "some of my friends have guns," as John Barna should have learned protesting school board actions. "I may have to come after all of yours," he added in a sequel.

That earned him expulsion from Panther Valley School Board meetings, and he responded with a First Amendment lawsuit. His case was dismissed, but the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals said it is not over yet.

Third Circuit Sees Sea Change in Maritime Law

The appeals court judges could see it coming, like a wave building on the horizon.

For decades, other circuit courts had ruled that sailors were bound by collective bargaining agreements over pay rates. The U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals held to an older view of maritime law.

"Today we stop swimming against the tide," the judges said in Joyce v. Maersk Line, Ltd. It was significant because the court overruled its own precedent, but it also broadsided the plaintiff who had relied on the 27-year-old decision.

Court Revives Civil Rights Case Over Trooper Killed in Training

Firearms instructor Richard Schroeter didn't check to see if his gun was loaded, then accidentally shot and killed Trooper David Kedra during routine training.

Schroeter pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment, and Kedra's mother sued for civil rights violations. She alleged that Schroeter subjected her son to a state-created danger, but a trial judge said the instructor was entitled to qualified immunity.

In Kedra v. Schroeter, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed. The plaintiff may soon have her day in court, but one judge said the case may have long-term impact.

Guard Allegedly Encouraged Inmate's Suicide, Reviving Lawsuit

Ever have one of those days when everything seems to go wrong?

From the moment you roll out of bed and stub your toe, you know it's going to be one of those days. That's how it must have felt for Joan Mullin, only much worse.

She sued prison officials for contributing to her son's suicide. Then her lawyer misfiled some key evidence, and her case was dismissed.

Fortunately, Murphy's law is not a real law. Mullin finally got some relief from the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Mullin v. Balicki.

New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez 'Dodges Bullet' in Mistrial

In the criminal defense world, a 10-2 deadlock is a pretty big win.

A complete acquittal would be like a home run, but jurors voted 10-2 and sent a big message to the prosecutors in United States of America v. Menendez. Don't try it again.

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, whose bribery case ended in a mistrial, hopes the Department of Justice doesn't refile charges against him. But for Senate Democrats, the mistrial was a ticket to the big game where they need every vote.

Eye Drops Plaintiffs Get Relief on Appeal

Don't shed a tear for the plaintiffs in the wasted eye drops case.

Their putative class-action was dismissed for lack of standing, but the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision in Cottrell v . Alcon Laboratories. The appeals court said the trial judge applied a too-narrow definition of injury.

The plaintiffs alleged eye drop bottles wasted their medicine. In other words, standing is in the eye of the bottle holder.

Stephanos Bibas Makes it to the 3rd Circuit

Justice Stephanos Bibas made it to the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals by a Senate vote of 53-43.

He won largely along party lines with only one Democrat crossing the aisle to vote for the Republican nominee. It was close during a week when four judges were confirmed to federal appeals courts.

Critics said Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was rushing the process. But for Bibas, who has never been a judge, it was still a win.

Maritime Law Protects Sailors From Asbestos

Maritime law applies to a different world, one where ships and sailors live.

But if the "special solicitude for the safety and protection of sailors" goes further ashore, machine makers may have a problem. In re. Asbestos Products Liability Litigation, a federal appeals court said manufacturers may be liable for injuries from parts added to their products later.

That means the "bare metal defense" won't work. Manufacturers can be held liable even for asbestos they don't put in their machines.

Deaf, Blind Moviegoer Wins Accommodation Appeal

What's the fun for someone sitting in an empty movie theatre?

Exactly, there is none. That's the point the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals made in reversing and remanding McGann v. Cinemark U.S.A., Inc.

The plaintiff, who was deaf and blind, had a right to experience a movie through special interpreters. The theater needs to accommodate him or explain why it cannot, the court said.

Two sheriff's deputies out of Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania filed an appeal after winning a judgment against their employer for unpaid overtime in the Souryavong v. Lackawanna County case. The government employer contended that the failure to pay overtime was an administrative error, a payroll glitch and nothing more.

While the lower district court did award the three plaintiffs their unpaid wages, and even doubled the damages and awarded attorney's fees, the plaintiffs, and their attorney, filed an appeal seeking more money. Sadly for the plaintiffs and their attorney, the appellate court did not disturb the ruling of the lower court.