Articles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

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Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that defendants violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 201 et seq., by improperly classifying them as exempt employees and failing to pay appropriate overtime. Plaintiffs were also class members of a previously settled opt out class action in California that released FLSA claims (the Lofton settlement). The district court granted summary judgment to defendants. The court concluded that the FLSA does not create an exception to how California preclusion law would treat the enforcement of an opt out class action settlement, and the Lofton settlement was a final judgment for preclusion purposes. The court concluded, pursuant to Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Epstein, that plaintiffs’ FLSA claims in the instant appeal would be precluded by the Lofton settlement under California law; the FLSA does not create an implied exception to the Full Faith and Credit Act, 28 U.S.C. 1738; and the fact that FLSA claims can be released, and therefore precluded, by the settlement of an opt out class action in state court does not conflict with section 216(b)’s requirement that such claims only be asserted on an opt in basis. The court concluded that there was insufficient evidence to find a due process violation and rejected plaintiffs' claims that there was inadequate representation because of the improprieties committed by ILG and class counsel’s response, and the notice sent to class members was inadequate. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Richardson v. Wells Fargo Bank" on Justia Law

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Appellants purchased tickets to Super Bowl XLV and were either displaced from their seats, relocated, or had an obstructed view of the field. The majority of the affected ticketholders settled with the NFL. However, appellants in this instance elected to file suit, alleging various claims relating to breach of contract and fraud. Most of appellants’ claims were dismissed before trial, and class certification was denied. Seven individual appellants went to trial against the NFL and prevailed on breach of contract, but not on fraudulent inducement claims. The court concluded that, because appellants have presented no authority supporting that a third-party vendor with limited responsibility is also responsible for the performance of the express ticket terms, appellants’ argument that the Cowboys are liable for their tort claims fails; an inference of fraudulent inducement is untenable; and the economic loss rule bars appellants' claims. The court also concluded that the contract claims failed where the unambiguous term of the contract entitling ticketholders to “a spectator seat for the game” was not breached by an obstructed view of the video board. Furthermore, the fraudulent inducement claims failed because appellants were not fraudulently induced to buy Super Bowl tickets thinking they would see the game on the video board. As to class certification, the court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to certify the Displaced Class, the Relocated Class, and the Obstructed-View Class. Finally, the court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in declining to give appellants' proposed jury instruction. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Ibe v. Jones" on Justia Law

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The Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project aimed to reduce flooding by improving draining canals, increasing capacity for pump stations, and constructing new pump stations. Its efforts at constructing a new canal in New Orleans’s Ninth Ward resulted in complaints of property damage to surrounding homes. Plaintiffs filed suit seeking to represent a class of property owners and residents who owned immovable property or resided within 1,000 feet to the north or south of the Project. The district court denied plaintiffs’ motion, concluding that they failed to satisfy the requirements of commonality under Rule 23(a) and predominance and superiority under Rule 23(b)(3). The court agreed with the district court that jurisdiction exists under the federal officer removal statute. The court concluded that this suit seeks to recover different damages caused by different acts committed by different defendants at different times over a five year period. Therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that individualized issues of causation and damages would predominate. The court affirmed the denial of certification and remanded to allow the district court to consider how the case of the named plaintiffs should proceed. View "Crutchfield v. Sewerage & Water Bd." on Justia Law

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Duwayne Mason appealed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Seacor, as well as the denial of Mason's motion to be recognized as a plaintiff who opted out of the class action settlement at issue in this case. Seacor owned and operated a vessel that assisted in putting out the fire after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill explosion in the Gulf of Mexico and that subsequently took part in the cleanup efforts. In response to a class action filed against it relating to damages stemming from the Deepwater Horizon incident, Seacor filed a limitation of liability action under 46 U.S.C. 30505. Mason, an employee of Seacor and a member of the crew aboard the vessel, alleged injuries sustained from his firefighting efforts. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in failing to determine that Mason had opted out of the class action settlement through informal means. Even assuming arguendo that a reasonable indication of a desire to opt out would suffice, the court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining that Mason’s conduct did not reasonably indicate a desire to opt out of the Medical Benefits Settlement Class. Further, the court rejected Mason's argument that the notice of the Agreement was constitutionally deficient in both delivery and content where Mason had actual notice through his counsel, which satisfies due process. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "In Re: Deepwater Horizon" on Justia Law

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This case stemmed from a settlement agreement entered into by BP and a class of parties harmed by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Claimants filed a “Motion for Authority to File Wetlands Claims” with the district court, invoking the district court’s supervisory authority over the interpretation and implementation of the settlement agreement. Claimants asked the district court to either determine that all seven of their claims were formally submitted in July 2012 before the six-month deadline had passed or excuse the missed six-month deadline and allow them to file claims anew. The district court denied the motion in a summary order. The court declined to deem claimants to have submitted claims on the parcels at issue in July 2012. The settlement agreement clearly designates the claim form as the manner in which claims should be submitted, and no claim forms were submitted for the two parcels at issue in July 2012, or at any time before the six-month window had closed. The court also declined to exercise any discretion it may have to excuse claimants’ failure to meet the six-month deadline. Finally, the court rejected claimants' due process claim as forfeited. Regardless, the enforcement of a properly noticed deadline generally does not effect a due process violation. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "In re: Deepwater Horizon" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and the putative class filed suit claiming to be post-foreclosure owners of disputed oil and gas interests. After the case was removed by defendants under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), 28 U.S.C. 1332(d)(2), plaintiff moved to remand to state court under the local controversy exception. The district court granted the motion and remanded. Although plaintiff has presented sufficient evidence to show that, under the narrow definition, the proposed class consists of over two-thirds Texas citizens, the court concluded that plaintiff has failed to present any evidence about those owners who purchased mineral interests post-foreclosure but have since sold or otherwise relinquished their interests. The court also concluded that plaintiff has not proven that the exception for local controversies applies because the class that the petition at the time of removal sought to have certified is not clearly limited to current owners, and there is inadequate evidence of the citizenship of the interim owners in the broader class. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Arbuckle Mountain Ranch v. Chesapeake Energy" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit in Louisiana state court alleging personal and property damages stemming from oil pipe-cleaning operations. After the case was removed to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), 28 U.S.C. 1332(d), the district court allowed jurisdictional discovery and then ordered the case remanded to state court again. The court reversed, holding that the district court erred when it found that no plaintiff satisfies CAFA’s individual amount-in-controversy requirement. The court remanded to the district court to address plaintiffs' remaining jurisdictional arguments. View "Robertson v. Chevron" on Justia Law