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

September 2013 Archives

ERISA Death Benefits Denied Lowe's Employee Due to 'Work Trip'

A Lowe's employee was properly denied ERISA benefits on her death because of an insurance administrator's interpretation of her plan's coverage of work trips.

In a very sad case before the Fifth Circuit, Elizabeth Porter died in 2008 when a car hit hers head-on, killing herself and her unborn child. Porter had insurance benefits through her employer, Lowe's, but the company refused to pay those benefits to her husband because Porter had died while going to and from work.

The Fifth Circuit sided with the insurance administrator in Porter v. Lowe's Companies, finding that despite the gruesome facts, the decision was reasonable enough.

Tom DeLay's Money Laundering Conviction Overturned by Tex. App. Ct.

Tom DeLay may avoid prison for money laundering after all, especially after a ruling late last week by a Texas appellate court to overturn his conviction.

According to The Washington Post, the disgraced former U.S. House Majority Leader was "on [his] knees praying" at the National Prayer Center in D.C. when he received the news.

The saga of DeLay's criminal charges has lasted almost a decade since his indictment. Will this be its final chapter?

Handicapped Spot May Be Reasonable Accommodation: 5th Cir.

A suit over whether handicapped parking is reasonable accommodation for a qualifying disability was dispatched by the Fifth Circuit on Monday, with the Court giving a resounding ... maybe.

In Feist v. State of Louisiana, the appellant Pauline G. Feist, a former assistant attorney general for the state of Louisiana, is appealing her disability discrimination claim after the district court granted a summary judgment motion against her.

The state of Louisiana didn't want her to have her own handicapped spot, but was it illegal?

Fed. District Court to Hear Louisiana School Voucher Suit

A DOJ suit to block Louisiana's private school voucher program will be heard in a New Orleans federal court in mid-September, possibly answering whether the state is thwarting desegregation by issuing these vouchers.

The Times-Picayune reports that the voucher system, officially known as the Louisiana Scholarship Program, extended the option for low-income students in certain school systems to go to private school on the taxpayer's dime. However, the Department of Justice (DOJ) suit claims that this system is essentially undermining federal desegregation orders by allowing white children to transfer to public schools.

School vouchers remain a conservative answer to the persistence of the American public school system, but is it contributing to racial imbalance?

DEA Wiretap Lacked Jurisdiction, Overbroad: 5th Cir.

Wiretaps are not the legally preferred first tool of federal law enforcement, but federal law does allow applications for wiretapping in cases where it may be warranted.

On the other hand, the Fifth Circuit in U.S. v. North analyzed a situation in which the authorities did not apply for a wiretap in the correct court or use the proper safeguards to ensure protected conversations were not surveilled.

Turns out that little things like jurisdiction really do matter.

BP Contests Oil Spill Settlement, Fearing 'Fictional Losses'

In late August, British Petroleum (BP) asked the Fifth Circuit to put a freeze on the settlement process, which BP had approved in 2012, to avoid entitling business plaintiffs to an excess recovery.

BP had most recently estimated that it would pay $9.6 billion in settlement funds to plaintiffs injured in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. But the company complained that the rules approved by the claims administrator may allow businesses to recover billions for "fictional losses," reports The Times-Picayune.

Why is BP making such a fuss over a settlement agreement that it approved?

Economic Loss Doctrine Falls Flat in Credit Card Case

In a case filed Tuesday, the Fifth Circuit reviewed a tort claim by banks which had suffered economic damages at the hands of a ring of hackers who had stolen millions of credit card numbers.

Not the short-haired, mid-1990s Angelina Jolie type hackers, but the sophisticated real-world kind who caused several banks (called "Issuer Banks") to replace compromised credit cards and reimburse their customers for any fraudulent charges.

Texas Foster Kids Class Action Suit Re-Certified

A group of more than 12,000 abused foster children were re-certified as a class in a Texas federal court on Tuesday, giving the case a green light to proceed to trial.

The case is being spearheaded by Children's Rights, a New York-based group who presented evidence to the court in January about the abysmal state of the child care services in Texas, reports The Dallas Morning News.

Since the plaintiffs were originally certified as a class back in 2011, why has nothing happened in two years?