U.S. Fifth Circuit - The FindLaw 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

June 2012 Archives

Premises Liability Claims: Does Proximity Establish a Duty?

Truck driver Michael Daniel was exiting the Airgas Carbonics plant in Star, Mississippi in 2009 when he collided with a passing train operated by Illinois Central Railroad Company. He died two days later.

Illinois Central, Airgas, and Michael's widow, Clydine Daniel, filed claims and counterclaims against each other, trying to assign blame in the case. This week, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed Clydine's negligence claims against Airgas, finding that the company owed no duty to Michael Daniel at the time of the collision.

Attorney Sanctions: Firm Fined for Leaking Discovery Documents

You know how people occasionally spill secrets? Accidentally hit "Reply All" on a sensitive email? It can be embarrassing.

For lawyers, however, divulging information that should be kept quiet can lead to thousands of dollars in attorney sanctions.

Last week, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld $29,667.71 in sanctions against a Florida tire litigation firm that accidentally distributed material that was subject to a protective order in a products liability case, the ABA Journal reports.

Prisoner Can Sue for Bad Haircut

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals clarified on Thursday that a bad haircut can form the basis for a lawsuit.

While we’d like to see the courts recognize that torturing tresses warrants an intentional (or negligent) infliction of emotional distress claim, the judicial branch isn’t quite there yet. However, the courts are open to claims that unsanitary barbering procedures can pose a health threat.

The New Orleans-based appellate court ruled this week that a Mississippi prison official who implemented unsanitary barbering procedures can’t hide behind qualified immunity.

Fifth Circuit Green Lights Red Light Cameras in New Orleans

New Orleans drivers lost their due process challenge to the city’s red light camera policy last week, reports The Times-Picayune.

The plaintiffs sued to challenge New Orleans’ Automated Traffic Enforcement System Ordinance, which permits the city to use automated cameras to detect speeding violations and cars entering an intersection against a red light. A district court concluded that the ordinance affords constitutionally-adequate due process, and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed.

Waiver of Appeal Applies to Supervised Release Terms

Can a defendant who signed a waiver of appeal, appeal?

In most cases, the answer is no. The waiver isn't absolute, but the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals won't allow most appeals once the waiver has been signed.

Fifth Circuit Sucks the Life Out of Vampire Lawsuit

We dropped the ball.

On Friday, we were distracted by casket-building monks being bullied in court by the Louisiana State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors. We completely overlooked the fact that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals had issued a Prison Litigation Reform Act opinion in a vampire lawsuit.

(Brief thanks to Staci Zaretsky at Above the Law for bringing this matter to our attention.)

Can't a Monk Sell a Casket?

Hurricane Katrina didn't just destroy people's homes; it destroyed their livelihood.

Before the epic 2005 storm, the St. Joseph Abbey monks in Covington, La. paid for their living costs through timber from a pine forest on the abbey's property, reports Businessweek. When the storm destroyed the forest, the monks began selling caskets. It turns out that they were breaking the law.

Thursday, the monks argued to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that a Louisiana law allowing only licensed funeral establishments to sell caskets is unconstitutional.

Disgraced Gretna Councilman Loses Peremptory Strike Appeal

It may be time for disgraced Gretna Councilman Jonathan Bolar to start nesting in his jail cell. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Bolar's corruption convictions and 17-year sentence this week, reports WWL-TV.

Witnesses testified during Bolar's 2009 trial that he extorted and tried to extort them for cash "campaign contributions" in exchange for his support for their business and residential projects before the Gretna City Council, reports the Times-Picayune. Bolar claimed that the witnesses were lying. The jury believed the government's witnesses, and convicted Bolar on 13 counts of extortion, wire fraud, failure to file tax returns, and structuring financial transactions to evade reporting requirements.

Ambiguous Pre-Approval Terms Can Be Hazardous to Your Case

Many health insurance plans require a patient to get pre-approval for services from an out-of-network service provider, except in cases of medical emergency, urgent care, or as otherwise provided under the terms of the plan. Monday, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals opened the door for some pre-approval-lacking patients to get coverage when a plan contains ambiguous referral terms.

Plaintiff-Appellant Nancy Koehler challenged a summary judgment ruling dismissing her suit to recover health insurance benefits under an Employee Retirement Income Security (ERISA) employee benefits plan after Aetna refused to reimburse her for care she received from an out-of-network specialist.

Jeff. Parish Cops Get Qualified Immunity in Excessive Force Claim

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Friday that Jefferson Parish deputies who placed a mentally-ill suspect in a four-point restraint that led to his death did not employ excessive force.

Based on Fifth Circuit precedent on the issue, the court ruled that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity.