by
This case arose out of disputes between the parties involving a twelve year commercial lease of office space in Baltimore, Maryland. The Fourth Circuit held that the district court misconstrued the lease agreement and misapplied Maryland law in concluding that Montgomery Park had a duty to endeavor to relet the premises and minimize its damages as a condition precedent to recovering against NCO. The panel held that the lease agreement's language incorporated the common law mitigation-of-damages doctrine, which holds that a plaintiff cannot recover damages which it could have reasonably avoided. Therefore, Montgomery Park's recovery should only have been reduced by the amount of rent that NCO could demonstrate would have been recovered by reasonable efforts to re-let the space. The court also held that the district court, in evaluating the commercial reasonableness of Montgomery Park's mitigation efforts, applied the wrong standard. The court held that reasonable commercial efforts to mitigate damages did not require Montgomery Park to favor NCO’s space over other vacant space in the building, but rather, commercial reasonableness only required Montgomery Park to reasonably market NCO's space on an equal footing with the other spaces that it was seeking to rent. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "NCO Financial Systems, Inc. v. Montgomery Park, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Absent some form of congressional authorization, USSG 5K2.23 does not permit a district court to adjust a federal sentence below the statutory minimum to account for a related state sentence that has already been discharged. The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's decision reducing defendant's mandatory-minimum sentence by seven months for time served in state prison for related conduct. The court held that the district court erred by basing the sentencing departure solely on USSG 5K2.23 without an independent statutory basis. The court remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Moore" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The Fourth Circuit held that the district court erred in denying plaintiffs' motion to remand their case to state court and deciding Bayer's motion to dismiss in an action seeking damages for violations of North Carolina tort and products liability law. The court held that plaintiffs' action did not fall within the small class of cases in which state law claims may be deemed to arise under federal law for purposes of conferring federal jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1331. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's judgments and remanded with instructions that the action be remanded to North Carolina state court. View "Burrell v. Bayer Corp." on Justia Law

by
In an action arising from a condemnation proceeding, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's partial grant of summary judgment to MVP based on its right to condemn certain temporary and permanent easements on the properties of several landowners, including WPPLP. In this case, MVP was authorized by FERC to exercise its rights of eminent domain to construct a natural gas pipeline. The court also affirmed the district court's grant of MVP's motion for a preliminary injunction allowing MVP immediate access to the easements described in MVP's complaint. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding evidence regarding potential damage to WPPLP and WPPLLC's coal as a result of the pipeline; the district court did not err by declining to join WPPLLC as an indispensable party; there was no genuine dispute of material fact as to MVP's claim to invoke eminent domain powers; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that the Winter factors favored a grant of a preliminary injunction to MVP. View "Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC v. Western Pocahontas Properties" on Justia Law

by
The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for three counts of major fraud against the United States, three counts of wire fraud, and three counts of presentation of false or fraudulent claims. This case involved parallel False Claims Act (FCA) and criminal proceedings arising from defendant's failure to provide multinational forces in Iraq with contracted-for armored vehicles. The court held that defendant's criminal prosecution was not estopped by the prior FCA action where defendant failed to demonstrate that all five Fiel factors must be resolved in his favor. The court also held that the government was a party to the contract with Armet and that the government both sufficiently alleged such party status in the indictment and provided sufficient evidence at trial to establish this element of the charged crimes. Finally, the court held that the district court's denial of defendant's motion for a new trial was proper. View "United States v. Whyte" on Justia Law

by
The Sanitary Board challenged the EPA's decision disapproving a revised standard for the receiving waters of the Board's wastewater treatment facility along the Kanawha River. The district court dismissed the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) claims as moot following the issuance of a new permit to the Board. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of the EPA on the merits, finding that the agency did not violate the APA. The court held that, on the record, it was evident that the EPA reached a justified conclusion and its decision was not arbitrary, capricious, nor contrary to law. In this case, the EPA employed the scientific expertise and grounded judgment that the Clean Water Act contemplates. View "Sanitary Board of the City of Charleston v. Wheeler" on Justia Law

by
After the merger of RCA and AFIN, RCA shareholders filed suit alleging that the proxy statement was false and misleading under federal securities laws. In this case, the shareholders alleged that the proxy statements and omissions regarding (A) the AFIN NAV; (B) the sale of the Merrill Lynch properties; (C) SunTrust Bank; and (D) the AFIN Standalone Projections were materially misleading. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the claims, holding that the statements the shareholders complained of were not false or misleading and the alleged omissions were addressed by narrowly tailored warning language. View "Paradise Wire & Cable Defined Benefit Pension Plan v. Weil" on Justia Law

by
The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion based on ineffective assistance of counsel. The court held that precedent at the time of defendant's 2013 sentencing did not strongly suggest that his career offender enhancement was improper, and thus counsel's failure to raise that argument did not constitute deficient performance under Strickland v. Washington. View "United States v. Morris" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit alleging that defendant unlawfully accessed messages in plaintiff's web-based email account in violation of the Virginia Computer Crimes Act and the federal Stored Communications Act (SCA). The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims under the Virginia Act, holding that the district court improperly applied the doctrine of collateral estoppel to bar reconsideration of whether plaintiff adequately alleged that his property or person was injured within the meaning of the Virginia Act. The court also held that the district court incorrectly determined that plaintiff failed to plausibly allege injury to person or property within the meaning of the Virginia Act. The court held that previously opened and delivered emails stored in a web-based email client were "electronic storage" for purposes of the SCA, 18 U.S.C. 2510(17)(B). The court distinguished that opened and delivered emails stored by a web-based email service did not fall within the plain language of Subsection (A). Accordingly, the district court erroneously granted defendant's motion for summary judgment by concluding otherwise. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Hately v. Watts" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
Plaintiff appealed the district court's dismissal of his action against the Department of Education for violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Plaintiff's action stemmed from defendants' treatment of an allegedly fraudulent student loan in plaintiff's name. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the action based on lack of jurisdiction because Congress had not waived sovereign immunity for suits under the FCRA. The court held that the purported FCRA waiver in this case fell short of being unambiguous and unequivocal. View "Robinson v. US Department of Education" on Justia Law