U.S. Tenth Circuit - The FindLaw 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

September 2010 Archives

Action Regarding Denial of Medical Insurance Coverage, and Criminal Matter

In Izzo v. Wiley, No. 10-1195, a habeas petition challenging the decision of the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) denying petitioner's eligibility for the Elderly Offender Home Detention Pilot Program, the court affirmed the denial of the petition where the phrase "term of imprisonment to which the offender was sentenced" in 42 U.S.C. section 17541 unambiguously referred to the term imposed by the sentencing court, without any consideration of good time credit.

In Oklahoma v. Tyson Foods, Inc., No. 09-5134, an appeal by the Cherokee Nation from the district court's denial of its motion to intervene in a dispute between the State of Oklahoma and Tyson Foods regarding Tyson's alleged disposal of poultry waste in the Illinois River Watershed, the court affirmed where the district court could properly find that the Nation had unduly delayed seeking to intervene because from the outset of the litigation it had no reason to believe that the State would represent its interests in monetary relief.


In re: Dittmar, No. 09-3230, involved bankruptcy trustees' appeal from the judgment of the bankruptcy appellate panel holding that debtors' stock appreciation rights (SARs) were not part of debtors' bankruptcy estates under 11 U.S.C. section 541.  The court reversed where 1) while the value of the SARs before any payment event occurred may have been de minimis, that did not mean that debtors did not have a property interest in the SARs; and 2) the SARs created by the collective bargaining agreement at issue were more akin to contingent pre-petition property rights than mere expectancies based on discretionary bonuses.

Denial of ERISA Benefits Reversed, and Contract and Tort Actions

In Murphy v. Deloitte & Touche Grp. Ins. Plan, No. 09-2028, an action concerning defendant's denial of disability benefits under an ERISA plan, the court vacated summary judgment for defendant where 1) the court's case law prohibited courts from considering materials outside the administrative record where the extra-record materials sought to be introduced related to a claimant's eligibility for benefits; and 2) neither a claimant nor an administrator should be allowed to use discovery to engage in unnecessarily broad discovery that slows the efficient resolution of an ERISA claim.

Cook v. Rockwell Int'l Corp., No. 08-1224

Cook v. Rockwell Int'l Corp., No. 08-1224, involved property owners' class action suit against the facility operators of a former nuclear weapons plant under the Price-Anderson Act (PAA), alleging trespass claims arising from the release of plutonium particles onto their properties.  The court reversed judgment for plaintiffs where 1) district court clearly had subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. section 1331; 2) because the jury was not properly instructed on an essential element of plaintiffs' PAA claims, the verdict must be set aside and the case remanded; 3) the issue of whether federal nuclear safety standards preempt state tort standards of care under the PAA is remanded; 4) the Colorado Supreme Court would not permit recovery premised on a finding that an interference, in the form of anxiety or fear of health risks, is "substantial" and "unreasonable" unless that anxiety is supported by some scientific evidence, and the district court erred in concluding otherwise; 5) defendants failed to establish that any of the state or federal standards referenced in their proposed jury instructions overcome the general rule that the jury must determine whether a given interference is "unreasonable" by weighing the harm against the utility of the interference; 6) on remand, plaintiffs are required to prove the plutonium contamination caused "physical damage to the property" in order to prevail on their trespass claims; and 7) district court did not err in instructing the jury that it could award punitive damages in the case.