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Lipitor, a pharmaceutical drug, is prescribed to lower patients’ “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides. Plaintiffs, more than 3,000 women, claim that they developed diabetes as a result of taking Lipitor. The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated the lawsuits for pretrial proceedings. The parties agreed on four bellwether cases. Plaintiffs enlisted general experts, to testify that there was a causal association between Lipitor and diabetes; specific experts, to testify that Lipitor proximately caused the onset of diabetes in the bellwether plaintiffs; and an expert biostatistician, who concluded that taking Lipitor led to a statistically significant increased risk of diabetes. Plaintiffs also sought to introduce internal Pfizer emails, information from Lipitor's labeling, a statement in Lipitor's FDA New Drug Application, and information from the Lipitor website. Citing Federal Rule of Evidence 702, the court excluded the opinions of the statistician; the general causation expert, except relating to a specific dosage; and the specific causation opinions. The rulings left the plaintiffs without their bellwether cases, limited to a subset of patients who had taken an 80 mg dose. The court issued show-cause orders asking whether any plaintiff could submit evidence that would enable her claim to survive summary judgment given prior rulings. Some plaintiffs submitted evidence showing only that they were not diabetic before taking Lipitor, that they were diagnosed with diabetes after taking Lipitor, and that they lacked certain risk factors that might make them especially likely to develop the disease. After the court rejected the evidence, the plaintiffs unsuccessfully argued that the cases ought to be returned to their transferor district courts for individual resolution on the issue of specific causation. The Fourth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the defendants. View "Plaintiffs Appealing Case Management Order 100 v. Pfizer, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's defamation suit against her employer, Remedi, in an action alleging that a coworker engaged in crude, baseless, and ignorant speculation about the reasons for plaintiff's absence from work to undergo a medical procedure. The court held that the coworker's statement, while offensive and odious, would not support an action against Remedi under Virginia law because a company cannot be held liable for employee statements made outside the scope of employment. View "Garnett v. Remedi SeniorCare of Virginia" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit vacated defendant's 308 month resentence after a successful 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence. The court agreed with defendant that the district court improperly designated him as a career offender under the 2016 United States Sentencing Guidelines Manual, and that this incorrect designation led to the further error of applying the wrong version of the Guidelines Manual to determine his Guidelines range. Therefore, the court remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Fluker" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment rejecting defendant's attempt to contest the validity of his underlying sentence. Defendant was placed on supervision after serving a fifteen-year prison sentence for a federal firearm conviction and violated the terms of his supervised release within three months. The court held that the district court lacked jurisdiction in revocation proceedings to consider the validity of an underlying sentence, and the new term of supervised release was in no way "plainly unreasonable" pursuant to United States v. Crudup, 461 F.3d 433, 437 (4th Cir. 2006). View "United States v. Sanchez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against GBMC, seeking to recover funds to Medicare and to collect for herself under the Medicare Secondary Payer Act, 42 U.S.C. 1395y, which authorizes a private cause of action for double damages where a recalcitrant payer "fails" to reimburse Medicare. Sixteen days after plaintiff filed the federal suit, GBMC paid her $403,722.24, which represented the amended final judgment amount plus post-judgment interest. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of GBMC's motion for summary judgment, holding that, although plaintiff was injured when GBMC was obligated under law to pay for her medical care but did not, GBMC did not fail to reimburse plaintiff because its payment was well within plaintiff's proposed deadline. View "Netro v. Greater Baltimore Medical Center, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's order sanctioning three attorneys and their law firms under both its inherent authority and 28 U.S.C. 1927. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding compensatory sanctions totaling $150,000. In this case, the sanctioned attorneys' objections to the authenticity of certain documents abused the judicial process both because they lacked a good faith basis and because the attorneys made repeated misrepresentations to the court in order to sustain these objections. Furthermore, under section 1927, the district court found that the attorneys engaged in bad-faith conduct and that this conduct multiplied the proceedings unreasonably and vexatiously. The court held that the district court correctly articulated the applicable legal standards, made appropriate factual findings, and supported its conclusions with ample evidence from the record. View "Six v. Generations Federal Credit Union" on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of qualified immunity to defendants, the town manager and its director of public safety, regarding plaintiffs' alleged due process violations after plaintiffs were terminated from their employment with the Department of Public Safety based on the content of private text messages. The court held that defendants deprived plaintiffs of constitutionally cognizable liberty interests under clearly established law, and plaintiffs were not afforded due process of law. The court held, however, that the district court erred in holding that defendants were not entitled to qualified immunity as to plaintiffs' First Amendment claims. In this case, plaintiffs' evidence did not establish beyond debate that their interest in speaking freely outweighed the Department's interest in maintaining order and discipline. Therefore, the court reversed in part and remanded for further proceedings. View "Cannon v. Village of Bald Head Island" on Justia Law

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Defendant pleaded guilty to multiple counts of sexual exploitation of a child and one count of receipt and distribution of child pornography. The Fourth Circuit dismissed defendant's challenge to the amount of restitution awarded to the contact victim because it fell within the scope of his appeal waiver. The court vacated the restitution order because the district court's reasons for denying restitution to the non-contact victims contradicted the Supreme Court's instruction in Paroline v. United States. Therefore, the court remanded for further proceedings to determine an appropriate amount of restitution for each non-contact victim. View "United States v. Ahlazshuna Dillard" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Verisign filed suit against XYZ, alleging false advertising based on a false "gold rush" scheme involving domain names. The district court ultimately granted summary judgment for XYZ, but denied it attorney fees under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1117(a). The Fourth Circuit held that a prevailing party need only prove an exceptional case by a preponderance of the evidence, rather than by clear and convincing evidence. The court further clarified that a prevailing party need not establish that the losing party acted in bad faith in order to prove an exceptional case. Therefore, the court remanded for the district court to consider the motion under the appropriate legal and evidentiary standards. View "Verisign, Inc. v. XYZ.Com LLC" on Justia Law

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Verisign filed suit against XYZ, alleging false advertising based on a false "gold rush" scheme involving domain names. The district court ultimately granted summary judgment for XYZ, but denied it attorney fees under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1117(a). The Fourth Circuit held that a prevailing party need only prove an exceptional case by a preponderance of the evidence, rather than by clear and convincing evidence. The court further clarified that a prevailing party need not establish that the losing party acted in bad faith in order to prove an exceptional case. Therefore, the court remanded for the district court to consider the motion under the appropriate legal and evidentiary standards. View "Verisign, Inc. v. XYZ.Com LLC" on Justia Law