Justia U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals
Trans Energy, Inc. v. EQT Production Co.
In a quiet title action, the parties disputed claims of ownership to the gas rights underlying a plot of land known as Blackshere. On appeal, EPC appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs. The court granted plaintiffs' motion to supplement the record and found no jurisdictional defect with respect to Republic Partners; the court dismissed REV from the suit where, having reviewed the parties' arguments and the record, the court was satisfied that there was no reason to believe that any party would be harmed by REV's absence, or that plaintiffs received an improper tactical advantage by including REV as a party; the court affirmed the district court's decision that the Memorandum unambiguously conveyed to Cobham the gas rights in the Blackshere Lease; the court rejected EPC's argument that because plaintiffs failed to offer the 2004 Confirmatory Assignment into the record the district court lacked a factual basis on which to find that Prima ever received title to the Blackshere Lease; the court affirmed the district court's decision that Prima was a bona fide purchaser for value in 2004 and therefore held superior title to the Blackshere Lease by virtue of its unbroken, recorded chain of title; and the court rejected EPC's challenges to the district court's procedural rulings. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Trans Energy, Inc. v. EQT Production Co." on Justia Law
Meyers v. Lamer
Plaintiff sued defendant and defendant's employer for negligence under Maryland state law after a tractor-trailer truck driven by defendant struck plaintiff while he was working in a utility bucket. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of defendant and his employer, concluding that plaintiff assumed a risk that he would be struck by a tractor-trailer truck while working above an open lane of traffic and that plaintiff was contributorily negligent. The court vacated the district court's conclusion that plaintiff assumed the risk because plaintiff's status as a worker in the street precluded availability of the assumption-of-risk defense for defendants. The court also vacated the district court's ruling that plaintiff was contributorily negligent where plaintiff was entitled to rely on his coworker to provide fair warning to him. The court remanded for trial. View "Meyers v. Lamer" on Justia Law
FTC v. Ross
The FTC filed suit against defendant for engaging in deceptive internet advertising practices involving the use of a "scareware" scheme that tricked consumers into purchasing computer security software. On appeal, defendant challenged the district court's judgment enjoining her from participating in the deceptive practices and holding her jointly and severally liable for equitable monetary consumer redress. The court concluded that the district court had sufficient statutory power to award "complete relief," including monetary consumer redress, which is a form of equitable relief; the court held that one may be found individually liable under the Federal Trade Commission Act, 15 U.S.C. 41 et seq., if she (1) participated directly in the deceptive practices or had authority to control those practices, and (2) had or should have had knowledge of the deceptive practices; the court rejected defendant's evidentiary challenges; the district court did not clearly err in finding that defendant had authority to control the deceptive acts within the meaning of the Act nor did the district court clearly err in finding that defendant directly participated in the deceptive marketing scheme; and the district court did not clearly err in finding that defendant had actual knowledge of the deceptive marketing scheme and/or that she was at the very least recklessly indifferent or intentionally avoided the truth. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "FTC v. Ross" on Justia Law
Taneja v. First Tennessee Bank NA
The trustee filed an action to avoid and recover certain payments made by FMI to First Tennessee. The trustee alleged that the payments were fraudulent transfers under 11 U.S.C. 548, and were part of a fraudulent scheme. The court concluded that the bankruptcy court and the district court correctly applied the objective good-faith standard in determining that the bank employees' testimony provided competent objective evidence that satisfied the bank's burden of proving its affirmative defense under section 548(c). The court also concluded that the bankruptcy court did not clearly err in holding that the bank accepted the payments from FMI in good faith. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Taneja v. First Tennessee Bank NA" on Justia Law
United States v. Robinson
Defendant appealed his sentence for cocaine distribution. Defendant argued that the district court committed plain error in assigning the drug quantity by relying on a statement in the presentencing report (PSR). The court concluded that defendant waived this argument when he made the conscious choice to proceed on the basis of the information contained in the PSR. The court also concluded that the district court did not clearly err by treating defendant's 2003 marijuana sentence as a prior sentence rather than relevant conduct, and by adding two points to his criminal history score because he participated in a drug conspiracy while on probation. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "United States v. Robinson" on Justia Law
United States ex rel. Rostholder v. Omnicare, Inc.
Relator filed a qui tam action under the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729-3733, against Omnicare, alleging that defendants violated a series of FDA safety regulations requiring that penicillin and non-penicillin drugs be packaged in complete isolation from one another. The court concluded that the public disclosure bar did not divest the district court of jurisdiction over relator's FCA claims. The court concluded that once a new drug has been approved by the FDA and thus qualified for reimbursement under the Medicare and Medicaid statutes, the submission of a reimbursement request for that drug could not constitute a "false" claim under the FCA on the sole basis that the drug had been adulterated as a result of having been processed in violation of FDA safety regulations. The court affirmed the district court's grant of Omnicare's motion to dismiss, holding that relator's complaint failed to allege that defendants made a false statement or that they acted with the necessary scienter. The court also concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying relator's request to file a third amended complaint. View "United States ex rel. Rostholder v. Omnicare, Inc." on Justia Law
Stevenson v. City of Seat Pleasant, MD
Plaintiffs filed suit against police officers, the County, and the City after officers assaulted them outside of a nightclub. The court affirmed the district court's post-trial determination that plaintiffs' complaint sufficiently stated a cause of action for bystander liability under 42 U.S.C. 1983. In doing so, however, the court vacated and remanded the district court's summary judgment ruling to the opposite effect. The only defendant that the reversal of this issue impacted was Officer Lowery because he was the only defendant against whom the section 1983 count survived dismissal. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Officer Adey on the excessive force and battery counts with respect to all plaintiffs and the grant of summary judgment to Officer Lowery in his alleged role as a principal actor on the section 1983 count with respect to Plaintiffs Howard and Barnett. Because Officer Adey was not liable for either the battery or the excessive force counts as to any of plaintiffs, the County was also not liable under the Maryland constitutional count on the theory of vicarious liability. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying plaintiffs' Rule 59(e) motion to alter or amend the ruling on summary judgment. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded with instructions. View "Stevenson v. City of Seat Pleasant, MD" on Justia Law
Clear Sky Car Wash LLC v. City of Chesapeake, VA
After the City initiated a "quick take" proceeding to take the property of Clear Sky Car Wash, Clear Sky filed suit to challenge the City's actions. Clear Sky alleged that the City's conduct violated the mandatory real property acquisition policies set forth in the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970 (URA), 42 U.S.C. 4651, which were applicable to state agencies when, as here, federal funds were involved. The district court granted the City's motion to dismiss. The court affirmed, concluding that section 4651 did not create enforceable rights. Therefore, Clear Sky lacked any basis for a private action to remedy violations under the URA. Further, 42 U.S.C. 1983 did not give Clear Sky enforceable rights to file suit. The court rejected Clear Sky's argument that it had an Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. 551 et seq., claim against the USDOT to require it to enforce the policies of section 4651. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Clear Sky Car Wash LLC v. City of Chesapeake, VA" on Justia Law
Millennium Inorganic Chemicals v. National Union Fire Ins.
Millennium, processor of titanium dioxide, filed suit contending that the Insurers had wrongfully denied Millennium's claim for coverage under contingent business interruption provisions of commercial liability insurance policies issued by the Insurers. After an explosion occurred at Apache's, a gas producer, Varanus Island facility, it notified Alinta, a retail gas supplier, which in turn sent a notice of "force majeure" to Millennium and other customers. On appeal, National Union and the Insurers challenged the district court's grant of partial summary judgment in favor of Millennium. The court found the term "direct" to be clear as used in the Policies and without ambiguity and, therefore, rejected Millennium's claim to the contrary. The court concluded that, on the plain language of the Policies, Apache could not be considered a direct contributing property to Millennium. The court rejected Millennium's alternative argument that it could also receive coverage under the "for the account of" clause of the Endorsements because coverage was triggered only by damage to or destruction of contributing properties. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded where Millennium presented no plausible reading of the Policies under which it could receive coverage for its contingent business interruption losses. View "Millennium Inorganic Chemicals v. National Union Fire Ins." on Justia Law
American Civil Liberties Union v. Tata
North Carolina's House Bill 289 authorized the state's Division of Motor Vehicles to issue, among other specialty license plates, a "Choose Life" plate. However, this law authorized no pro-choice specialty license plate. North Carolina vehicle owners who wanted a pro-choice specialty plate, along with the ACLU, filed suit challenging the statute. North Carolina argued that it could so discriminate because specialty plate messages constituted pure government speech free from First Amendment viewpoint-neutrality constraints. The court concluded that, because the specialty plate speech at issue implicated private speech rights and was not pure government speech, North Carolina's authorizing a "Choose Life" plate while refusing to authorize a pro-choice plate constituted viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment and a permanent injunction in favor of the vehicle owners and the ACLU. View "American Civil Liberties Union v. Tata" on Justia Law