Justia U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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GRC, a manufacturer and supplier of refractory products designed to retain strength when exposed to extreme heat, previously included asbestos in its products. GRC was the defendant in 31,440 lawsuits alleging injuries from “exposure to asbestos-containing products manufactured, sold, and distributed by GRC” dating back to 1978. GRC’s insurers initially fielded these claims. During the 1970s and ‘80s, GRC had entered into primary liability insurance policies with several different insurers. GRC also secured additional excess insurance policies. In 1994 GRC’s liabilities from thousands of settled claims far exceeded the limits of its primary insurance coverage. In 2002, after years of continued settlements, GRC tendered the underlying claims to its excess insurance carriers. All denied coverage on the basis of a policy exclusion: It is agreed that this policy does not apply to EXCESS NET LOSS arising out of asbestos, including but not limited to bodily injury arising out of asbestosis or related diseases or to property damage. The district court ruled in favor of GRC. The Third Circuit reversed. The phrase “arising out of,” when used in a Pennsylvania insurance exclusion, unambiguously requires “but for” causation. The losses relating to the underlying asbestos suits would not have occurred but for asbestos, raw or within finished products. View "General Refractories Co. v. First State Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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In 2008, the Delaware correctional system was facing scandal for its handling of inmate releases. One inmate committed suicide in his cell on the day he was supposed to be—but was not—released. Dozens of others had either been released too early or too late. Reform consisted of establishment of a new Central Offender Records office within the Delaware Department of Corrections. Inmates who were over-detained sued top correctional officials in a putative class action, claiming that Delaware’s problems with over-detentions have, if anything, gotten worse since 2008. The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The court noted that “hard, reliable data about the number of over-detentions occurring each year is more or less missing from the record.” To survive summary judgment on an allegation of deliberate indifference, the plaintiffs needed more than speculation connecting any increase in over-detentions with the COR policies they deem ineffective. View "Wharton v. Danberg" on Justia Law

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Covertech manufactures and sells reflective insulation under its rFOIL brand—its U.S. trademark, registered since 2001. The umbrella rFOIL brand includes ULTRA. In 1998, TVM, a distributor, and Covertech entered into a verbal agreement, designating TVM as the exclusive U.S. marketer and distributor of Covertech’s rFOIL products. In 2007, Covertech terminated the agreement. TVM was consistently late with payment; Covertech discovered TVM had been purchasing comparable products from Reflectix, and passing off some of them as Covertech’s. The parties entered a new agreement, under which Covertech manufactured products for TVM to sell under the TVM brand name; Covertech also continued to sell TVM rFOIL products for resale using Covertech’s product names. TVM violated its agreement to refrain from buying competitors’ products. After Covertech learned of TVM’s illicit purchases, the parties terminated their relationship. Covertech began to sell its products directly in the U.S. Covertech unsuccessfully tried to persuade TVM to stop using rFOIL brand names. The Canadian Intellectual Property Office registered the ULTRA mark in 2010. In 2011, TVM registered ULTRA as its U.S. trademark. Covertech filed an adverse petition with the PTO and filed suit. The district court granted Covertech judgment and awarded damages, 15 U.S.C. 1117(a), (c), applying the “first use test,” and rejecting a defense of acquiescence. The Third Circuit affirmed as to ownership, citing the rebuttable presumption of manufacturer ownership that pertains where priority of ownership is not otherwise established, but vacated as to damages. The district court incorrectly relied on gross sales unadjusted to reflect sales of infringing products to calculate damages. View "Covertech Fabricating Inc v. TVM Building Products Inc" on Justia Law

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Brandon, convicted of burglary, was sentenced to 16–48 months’ imprisonment. During intake, Brandon informed mental health staff that he had attempted suicide, had recently engaged in self-harm, and had plans about how to kill himself. Brandon was diagnosed with serious mental disorders, identified as a “suicide behavior risk,” and placed on the mental health roster. During his incarceration at Pennsylania's SCI Cresson, Brandon reported suicidal thoughts. Brandon did not receive counseling or evaluation; any mental health interviews were conducted “through the cell door slot in the solitary confinement unit.” Brandon was repeatedly subjected to solitary confinement. Most SCI Cresson incidents of self-harm occurred in solitary confinement. During Brandon’s incarceration, the U.S. Department of Justice investigated allegations that SCI Cresson provided inadequate mental health care, failed to adequately protect prisoners, and subjected them to excessive periods of isolation. Ultimately, the DOJ reported “systemwide failure” to consider mental health issues appropriately, a “fragmented and ineffective” mental healthcare program, insufficient staffing, poor recordkeeping, screening and diagnostic procedures, deficient oversight and lack of training in the proper response to warning signs by mentally ill prisoners. Brandon, age 23, committed suicide while in solitary confinement. The Third Circuit reversed dismissal of his parents’ civil rights claims. Their allegations support an inference that, despite knowing of Brandon’s vulnerability and the increased risk of suicide in solitary confinement, the defendants disregarded that risk and permitted Brandon to be repeatedly isolated in solitary confinement. View "Palakovic v. Wetzel" on Justia Law

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The consolidated appeals involve allegations that the companies holding the patents for Lipitor and Effexor XR delayed entry into the market by generic versions of those drugs by engaging in an overarching monopolistic scheme that involved fraudulently procuring and enforcing the underlying patents and then entering into a reverse-payment settlement agreement with a generic manufacturer. In 2013, the Supreme Court recognized that reverse payment schemes can violate antitrust laws and that it is normally not necessary to litigate patent validity to answer the antitrust question. The district judge dismissed most of plaintiffs’ claims. The Third Circuit remanded after rejecting an argument that plaintiffs’ allegations required transfer of the appeals to the Federal Circuit, which has exclusive jurisdiction over appeals from civil actions “arising under” patent law, 28 U.S.C. 1295(a)(1). Not all cases presenting questions of patent law necessarily arise under patent law; here, patent law neither creates plaintiffs’ cause of action nor is a necessary element to any of plaintiffs’ well-pleaded claims. The court remanded one of the Lipitor appeals, brought by a group of California pharmacists and involving claims solely under California law, for jurisdictional discovery and determination of whether remand to state court was appropriate. View "In re: Lipitor Antitrust Litigation" on Justia Law

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Wagner, age 15, was walking home, when a man demanded that she get into his car. Wagner refused and told him that she would call the police. He sped away. Stowe Township Officers Sciulli and Ruiz responded and recorded the girl’s description of the vehicle as a red, four-door sedan with a Pennsylvania license plate bearing the letters ACG, driven by a white male with dark hair, around 35 years old. The next day, her mother was driving Wagner home when Wagner saw a red car. She told her mother that it was the car that had stopped her the day before. The license number was JDG4817. They followed the car to a parking lot and saw the driver. Wagner’s mother drove her to the police station. Officers identified the car as belonging to Andrews, obtained Andrews’ license photo, and created a photo array. Wagner identified Andrews. Sciulli went to the parking lot and saw Andrews’ vehicle, a three-door coupe. Sciulli drafted an affidavit of probable cause. A magistrate issued an arrest warrant. Andrews was charged with, but acquitted of, luring a child into a motor vehicle, stalking, corruption of a minor, and harassment. He filed suit. The Third Circuit reversed the district court’s determination that Sciulli was entitled to qualified immunity, noting Siulli’s omission of information about the license plate and vehicle description discrepancies from the affidavit. View "Andrews v. Scuilli" on Justia Law

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The Lansaws operated a daycare in space leased from Zokaites. After they entered into a new lease with a different landlord, but before they moved, Zokaites served them with a Notice for Distraint, claiming a lien against personal property for unpaid rent. The following day, the Lansaws filed for bankruptcy, triggering the automatic stay, 11 U.S.C. 362(a). Zokaites’s attorney was notified of the filing on August 17, 2006. On August 21, Zokaites and his attorney entered the daycare during business hours, by following a parent, and photographed the Lansaws’ personal property. On August 27, Zokaites entered after business hours, using his key, then padlocked the doors, leaving a note stating that Zokaites would not unchain the doors unless Mrs. Lansaw’s mother agreed that she had not been assaulted by Zokaites, the Lansaws reaffirmed their lease with Zokaites, and the Lansaws ceased removing property from the daycare. The Lansaws removed the chains and slept in the building. Zokaites locked the door from the outside and left with the Lansaws’ keys. The Lansaws called the police. Meanwhile, Zokaites attorney communicated by phone and letter with the new landlord, stating that, if the new lease was not terminated, Zokaites would sue the new landlord. In an adversary proceeding, the Bankruptcy Court awarded the Lansaws attorney fees ($2,600), emotional-distress damages ($7,500) and punitive damages ($40,000) under 11 U.S.C. 362(k)(1). The district court and Third Circuit affirmed. Section 362(k)(1) authorizes the award of emotional-distress damages; the Lansaws presented sufficient evidence to support the award. View "In re: Lansaw" on Justia Law

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Transco, which operates the 10,000-mile-long Transcontinental Pipeline from South Texas to New York City, sought a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the Leidy Southeast Expansion Project, including construction of four new pipeline “loops” and the upgrade of turbines at four compressor stations. The Skillman Loop and the Pleasant Run Loop, totaling 13.23 miles, would be located in New Jersey; the Franklin Loop and Dorrance Loop, totaling 16.74 miles, would be located in Pennsylvania. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) completed the requisite Environmental Assessment and issued the certificate in December 2014, conditioned on Transco’s receipt of “all applicable authorizations under federal law” enumerated in the Environmental Assessment, including from New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Pursuant to the Clean Water Act, the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Departments of Environmental Protection (PADEP, NJDEP) reviewed Transco’s proposal for potential water quality impacts and issued. In consolidated appeals, the Third Circuit upheld the approvals. NJDEP and PADEP did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in issuing the permits. View "New Jersey Conservation Foundation v. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection" on Justia Law

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In bidding to strip and repaint the Commodore Barry Bridge, the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) rejected the lowest bidder, Alpha, as not a “responsible” contractor under its guidelines because Alpha failed to remit accident experience forms (OSHA 300) and insurance data (Experience Modification Factors) in its bid package. DRPA also declared that Corcon was actually the lowest bidder because of a “miscalculation” that DRPA perceived in Corcon’s bid. DRPA awarded the contract to Corcon. After its bid protest was denied, Alpha filed suit, seeking an injunction. The district court held a trial, concluded that DRPA acted arbitrarily and capriciously, and directed DRPA to award the contract to Alpha. The Third Circuit agreed that DRPA acted arbitrarily and capriciously, but concluded that the court abused its discretion by directing that the contract be awarded to Alpha. DRPA did not establish a rational basis under its policies for labeling Alpha “not responsible” and ”the decision to modify Corcon’s bid appeared out of thin air.” DRPA’s Board of Commissioners gave virtually no attention to Alpha’s protest. Alpha should be restored to competition; DRPA should evaluate Alpha’s bid and affirmatively determine, per its guidelines, whether Alpha, the lowest bidder, is a “responsible” contractor. View "Alpha Painting & Construction Co., Inc. v. Delaware River Port Authority" on Justia Law

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While Kwasny was managing partner at a now-dissolved law firm, the firm established a 401(k) profit-sharing plan for its employees. Kwasny was named as a trustee and fiduciary of the plan. Between September 2007 and November 2009, the plan sustained losses of $40,416.302 because plan contributions withdrawn from employees’ paychecks were commingled with the firm’s assets and were not deposited into the plan. In 2011, the Secretary of Labor received a substantiated complaint from a plan member; investigated; and filed suit to recover the lost funds, remove Kwasny as trustee and fiduciary of the plan, and enjoin Kwasny from acting as a plan fiduciary in the future. The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the Secretary, remanding for determination of whether the judgment should be offset by a previous Pennsylvania state court default judgment entered against Kwasny for the same misdirected employee contributions. The court rejected arguments based on res judicata and on the statute of limitations. There is no genuine issue of disputed fact regarding Kwasny’s violation of the Employee Retirement and Income Security Act. View "Secretary United States Department of Labor v. Kwasny" on Justia Law
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