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

DeLorean Widow Loses Royalties Case

It turns out you can go back to the future only in the movies, not in royalty claims.

So it seems for Sallie DeLorean in DeLorean v. DeLorean Motor Company. The widow of carmaker John DeLorean sued for royalties the car company received through merchandising and commercials from the Back to the Future movies.

If you didn't know it, the movies made more money than the car. But the plaintiff will get none of that because, well, it's in the past.

3rd Circuit Denies 'Outrageously Excessive' Attorney's Fees

Attorneys always complain when a judge cuts their fees in a case.

And while they complain about it, they also try to figure out why. They'll conjure up everything from cost-cutting to paranoid delusions: "The judge was mad because I make more money than she does."

In Clemens v. New York Central Mutual Fire Insurance Company, the judge cut $900,000 in attorney's fees to zero. Go figure.

Pennsylvania Gambling Contributions Law Struck Down

Gambling has come a long way in Pennsylvania, once known more for Amish settlements than for casinos.

Today, Pennsylvania takes in more tax dollars from casinos than any other state in the country. It's a multi-billion dollar business.

Lawmakers got a little nervous about potential corruption and banned political donations from the gambling industry. A judge said they can't do that -- at least not that much.

Court Revives Nursing Home Kickback Case

A federal appeals court reinstated a lawsuit against a pharmaceutical company that allegedly got kickbacks from nursing homes to get more lucrative business.

In United States of America v. Omnicare, Inc., plaintiff Mar Silver blew the whistle on PharMerica Corporation in the alleged kickback scheme. He claimed the company defrauded the government by giving below-cost medications to Medicare patients in exchange for better-paying Medicaid patients.

It's called "swapping" in the business, if you haven't read about it. How the plaintiff knew about it was key to the appeals court decision.

Court: Church Can Fire Pastor for Low Attendance

The Sixth Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church didn't really need a court decision to fire its pastor.

But the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals said the members had every right to do it, despite the lawsuit in Lee v. Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church of Pittsburgh. Reverend Dr. William David Lee had sued the church for breach of an employment contract.

The reverend lost at trial and again on appeal. That's what happens sometimes when you appeal to higher authority.

Television Producer Lee Daniels Wins Copyright Case Over 'Empire'

Clayton Prince Tanksley, a struggling actor and producer, thought he had hit.

He pitched a story idea in a contest, and then saw a similar show make it to the screen. "Empire," a Fox Television production, was a hit.

Unfortunately for the aspiring producer in Tanksley v. Daniels, it was not based on his idea. Not even close, said the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

When a nonprofit demanded arbitration under FINRA against J.P. Morgan, and filed a declaratory action in federal court to compel it, J.P. Morgan sought to litigate the matter out in a different court.

According to the bank, despite the fact that FINRA Rule 12200 is clear that customers have a right to arbitrate FINRA claims, the forum selection clause in its contract trumps the federal regulation. Unfortunately for the bank, both the federal district, and now Third Circuit Court of Appeals, didn't see it that way, and have ordered the bank to arbitrate the claims.

Ex-Congressman Wins Reversal of Bribery Convictions, But...

It's news when a congressman's bribery convictions are overturned, but that's because sometimes the news and politics are backwards.

In United States of America v. Fattah, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals threw out four bribery convictions against Chaka Fattah. The real news, however, is that the appeals court affirmed 13 other corruption convictions -- each carrying a 10-year sentence.

If you do the math, it was not exactly a win for the decades-long congressman. In any case, his political career is definitely over.

Drivers Get No Love From Court for Toll Road Debts

Toll booth operators have pretty boring jobs, but they might get a jolt out of this federal court decision.

In St. Pierre v. Retrieval-Masters Creditors Bureau, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals said that unpaid tolls are not debts under federal debt collections law. If that sounds complicated, it comes down to this:

If drivers don't pay their tolls, debt collectors can chase them down with a vengeance.

Court: No Religious Reason Around Administrative Process

For the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, it will take more than a prayer to stop a natural gas pipeline.

Not even a lawsuit helped the sisters of the Roman Catholic organization who sued to stop the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline. In Adorers of Blood of Christ v. FERC, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals said they should have objected during administrative proceedings first.

The sisters sued on religious freedom grounds, but the appeals court washed its hands of the case. Their only chance now will be a petition to God or the U.S. Supreme Court.