Justia U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Injury Law
Durden v. United States
Plaintiff filed suit against the government under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 1346(b), alleging that the Army was negligent and therefore liable for an Army Specialist's sexual assault against plaintiff. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the government, concluding that plaintiff failed to establish that the sexual assault was foreseeable under North Carolina law, and thus the Army did not breach a duty owed to plaintiff as landlord of Fort Bragg; the Army did not have a special relationship with the assailant for purposes of an FTCA claim; the government did not breach a voluntarily assumed duty to plaintiff; and, because discovery would serve no purpose, it was not error for the district court to reach the merits of plaintiff's claim at this stage of the litigation. The court also concluded that, although the government's ability to control a tortfeasor must be independent of the tortfeasor's status as a government employee, knowledge of the tortfeasor's propensity for violence or criminal history did not, per se nullify an FTCA claim. Accordingly, the district court's dismissal on this alternative basis was erroneous. View "Durden v. United States" on Justia Law
Mingo Logan Coal Co. v. Owen
Mingo Logan challenged the award of benefits to claimant under the Black Lung Benefits Act (BLBA), 30 U.S.C. 921(c)(4). Because the court concluded that the ALJ did not in fact apply rebuttal limitations to Mingo Logan, and the Board affirmed the ALJ's analysis, the court did not reach Mingo Logan's challenge to the standard announced by the Board to rebut the section 921(c)(4) presumption of entitlement to benefits. The court affirmed the Board's award of benefits because it also found that Mingo Logan's other challenges to the ALJ's factual findings lacked merit. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for review. View "Mingo Logan Coal Co. v. Owen" on Justia Law
Eastern Associated Coal Corp. v. DOWCP
Claimant was awarded benefits under the Black Lung Benefits Act (BLBA), 30 U.S.C. 901-945. At issue was whether the awards of attorneys' fees properly reflected market-based evidence of counsel's hourly rate, as required by the lodestar analysis in Hensley v. Eckerhart. The court held that neither the ALJ nor the BRB abused its discretion in concluding that counsel provided sufficient market-based evidence of rates, and that the number of hours billed for attorneys' services reasonably reflected the work completed. The court also held that the award of fees for work performed by certain legal assistants was not supported fully by the record, and modified that award accordingly. View "Eastern Associated Coal Corp. v. DOWCP" on Justia Law
Cioca v. Rumsfeld
Plaintiffs, current and former members of the armed forces, brought suit against defendants, two former Secretaries of Defense, alleging that they were victims of rape and sexual misconduct by fellow servicemembers during their military careers. Plaintiffs sought money damages pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics. The court held that no Bivens action will lie where special factors counsel hesitation in creating an implied right of action and special factors clearly counsel hesitation in implying a cause of action for injuries arising out of military service. The court concluded that judicial abstention was the proper course in this case pursuant to Chappell v. Wallace, United States v. Stanley, and Feres v. United States. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint. View "Cioca v. Rumsfeld" on Justia Law
Bunn v. Oldendorff Carriers GmbH & Co.
This case arose when plaintiff, a longshoreman, slipped and fell on Oldendorff's ship during loading operations. On appeal, Oldendorff challenged the judgment entered on a jury verdict under section 5(b) of the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act, 33 U.S.C. 905(b). The court concluded that the district court did not err in denying plaintiff's motions for judgment as a matter of law where a jury could reasonably find Oldendorff liable for simple negligence. The court also concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion for a new trial where the district court properly informed the jury that a shipowner may be "liable for injury resulting directly from an unsafe condition on the ship of which it was aware and which it voluntarily agreed and undertook to remedy, but failed to do so." Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Bunn v. Oldendorff Carriers GmbH & Co." on Justia Law
E.D. v. Pfizer, Inc.
This case arose when nineteen plaintiff families sought to file a single complaint, raising products liability and negligence claims against the Pharmaceutical Companies. On appeal, the Pharmaceutical Companies challenged the district court's decision to remand for lack of subject matter jurisdiction to the Circuit Court of Wayne County, West Virginia. The court concluded that it did not have the authority to review the remand order because the Pharmaceutical Companies have failed to establish that an exception should apply here, and because the plain language of 28 U.S.C. 1447(c) barred the court's review of the case. View "E.D. v. Pfizer, Inc." on Justia Law
Waldburger v. CTS Corp.
Plaintiffs brought a nuisance action against CTS because their well water contained solvents that had carcinogenic effects. The district court dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6), concluding that North Carolina's ten-year limitation on the accrual of real property claims barred the suit. The court reversed and remanded, holding that the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Liability, and Compensation Act (CERCLA), 42 U.S.C. 9601-9675, preempted North Carolina's ten-year limitation. In so holding, the court furthered Congress's intent that victims of toxic waste not be hindered in their attempts to hold accountable those who have strewn such waste in their land. View "Waldburger v. CTS Corp." on Justia Law
Union Carbide Corp. v. Richard
These consolidated cases involved claims for survivors' benefits under the Black Lung Benefits Act, 30 U.S.C. 901 et seq. Petitioners, the coal mine operators responsible for payment of respondents' benefits, petitioned for review, claiming that principles of res judicata foreclosed respondents - each of whom previously and unsuccessfully sought survivors' benefits under the Act - from relying on a recent amendment to the Act to pursue benefits again through a "subsequent claim." The court affirmed the Board's awards, concluding that res judicata did not bar the subsequent claims because the amendment created a new cause of action that was unavailable to respondents when they brought their initial claims. View "Union Carbide Corp. v. Richard" on Justia Law
Clodfelter v. Republic of Sudan
Plaintiffs filed suit against Sudan after the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole and the district court found Sudan liable under the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA), 46 U.S.C. 30301 et seq. On appeal, plaintiffs challenged the district court's conclusion that the DOHSA action precluded their subsequent federal cause of action under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. 1605. The court concluded that the various provisions of section 1083 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 (NDAA), Pub. L. No. 110-181, 122 Stat. 3, were inapplicable here and, therefore, the court declined to consider the constitutionality of NDAA section 1083; the district court did not abuse its discretion when, as part of a close look, considered sua sponte whether res judicata barred plaintiffs' claims; but the court concluded, however, that res judicata should not apply here. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Clodfelter v. Republic of Sudan" on Justia Law
Westmoreland Coal Co. v. Cochran
Westmoreland challenged an ALJ's decision, affirmed by the Benefits Review Board, to award black lung benefits to one of Westmoreland's former employees. The ALJ found that the evidence failed to establish that the employee suffered from clinical pneumoconiosis but did establish that the employee suffered from legal pneumoconiosis. Regarding this legal pneumoconiosis finding, the ALJ chose to credit one medical opinion over others. The ALJ also found that the employee was totally disabled as a result of his pneumoconiosis and thus awarded him benefits under the Black Lung Benefits Act, 30 U.S.C. 901 et seq. The court concluded that the ALJ's decision and order to award benefits was supported by substantial evidence, rational, and consistent with applicable law. Therefore, the Board did not err in affirming the ALJ's decision and order, and the court accordingly denied Westmoreland's petition for review. View "Westmoreland Coal Co. v. Cochran" on Justia Law