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

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The estates of New Jersey nursing home residents, who died from COVID-19, alleged that the nursing homes acted negligently in handling the COVID-19 pandemic. The nursing homes removed the case to federal court. The district court dismissed the cases for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.The Third Circuit affirmed rejecting three arguments for federal jurisdiction: federal-officer removal, complete preemption of state law, and the presence of a substantial federal issue. The 2005 Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP Act), 42 U.S.C. 247d-6d, 247d6e, which protects certain individuals—such as pharmacies and drug manufacturers—from lawsuits during a public-health emergency, was invoked in March 2020 but does not apply because the nursing homes did not assist or help carry out the duties of a federal superior. The PREP Act creates an exclusive cause of action for willful misconduct but the estates allege only negligence, not willful misconduct; those claims do not fall within the scope of the exclusive federal cause of action and are not preempted. The PREP Act’s compensation fund is not an exclusive federal cause of action. The estates would properly plead their state-law negligence claims without mentioning the PREP Act, so the PREP Act is not “an essential element" of the state law claim. View "Estate of Joseph Maglioli v. Alliance HC Holdings, LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2019, Mallet learned that Bundy was its newest competitor in the sale of baking release agents, the lubricants that allow baked goods to readily separate from the containers in which they are made. Bundy was well-known for other commercial baking products when it launched a new subsidiary, Synova, to sell baking release agents. Synova hired two Mallet employees, both of whom had substantial access to Mallet’s proprietary information. That information from Mallet helped Synova rapidly develop, market, and sell release agents to Mallet’s customers.Mallet sued, asserting the misappropriation of its trade secrets. The district court issued a preliminary injunction. restraining Bundy, Synova, and those employees from competing with Mallet. The Third Circuit vacated and remanded for further consideration of what, if any, equitable relief is warranted and what sum Mallet should be required to post in a bond as “security … proper to pay the costs and damages sustained by any party found to have been wrongfully enjoined or restrained.” A preliminary injunction predicated on trade secret misappropriation must adequately identify the allegedly misappropriated trade secrets. If the district court decides that preliminary injunctive relief is warranted, the injunction must be sufficiently specific in its terms and narrowly tailored in its scope. View "Mallet & Co., Inc. v. Lacayo" on Justia Law

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In 1997, Liang learned that his girlfriend was pregnant. Because they had not yet married, Chinese government officials forced her to abort their baby. To protest, Liang met with a local official. A scuffle ensued. It ended when a security guard slammed a door on his hand, scarring it. Liang then began attending underground church meetings. In 2000, Chinese police burst into a church meeting and declared it an illegal religious gathering. They arrested several people, including Liang. At the station, the police abused and beat Liang; he still suffers hearing loss. They locked him in a cold cell, gave him little to eat, and kept him for 15 days. Liang kept going to church. To avoid the police, the group met less often and constantly changed locations.Almost a decade later, Liang fled to the U.S. and sought asylum, claiming political persecution and religious persecution. Though the IJ found Liang credible, he found that he had not been persecuted, despite the government’s apparent concession. The BIA affirmed, categorizing the incidents as not “sufficiently egregious” and the threat of rearrest as not “concrete and menacing.” The Third Circuit granted a petition for review. The BIA was right about political persecution, but its reasons for rejecting religious persecution were flawed. By not considering religious persecution cumulatively, it misapprehended applicable law. View "Liang v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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Current and former mortgage loan officers claim that Citizens Bank forced them—and more than a thousand of their colleagues—to work over 40 hours a week without paying them the overtime they were due under state and federal law. They filed a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 207, and parallel state-law claims that they wished to pursue as a class action under FRCP 23. The district court scheduled a trial on the primary factual issue in the FLSA opt-in collective action but left unresolved whether it would certify a class for the state-law opt-out Rule 23 action.The Third Circuit stayed the trial. Citizens had a sufficient likelihood of success on its mandamus petition, and mandamus is the only relief available. By compelling the FLSA opt-in collective action trial before deciding Rule 23 class certification, the district court “created a predicament for others to unravel” and “clearly and indisputably erred.” Allowing the planned FLSA collective action trial would publicly preview the evidence common to the FLSA and state-law claims, giving potential Rule 23 class members an enormous informational advantage in any subsequent “do-over.” Citizens would suffer irreparable injury absent a stay; a stay will not substantially injure the plaintiffs. View "In re: Citizens Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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Talley, a Pennsylvania state prison inmate, signed a settlement agreement resolving two prior lawsuits. He alleges that the Settlement Agreement was fraudulent because attorneys had not entered a “‘proper’ appearance” on behalf of a defendant and that another attorney breached the Agreement when he filed it as an exhibit to a motion in one of the suits. Talley asserted violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. 1961, violations of the First, Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments, and numerous state law claims.The district court dismissed, finding that the attorney had entered a permissible appearance by signing and filing an answer on behalf of the defendants, and Talley’s RICO and constitutional claims were meritless because the Agreement was never actually filed on the docket. The court denied Talley leave to amend his federal claims as futile. Talley moved to proceed in forma pauperis (IFP) on appeal. The Third Circuit granted the IFP motion and affirmed the dismissal. The IFP statute, 28 U.S.C. 1915 providing that prisoners may proceed in federal court without prepayment of filing fees, contains a “three-strikes rule.” Courts may call a strike when a prisoner’s “action or appeal . . . was dismissed on the grounds that it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted[.]” Talley’s prior “mixed dismissals” are not strikes. View "Talley v. Wetzel" on Justia Law

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The Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates certifies graduates of foreign medical schools who wish to be accepted to a U.S. medical residency program. In 1992, Igberase obtained certification. No residency program accepted him. In 1994, Igberase submitted another application, rearranging his name and using a different date of birth. The Commission learned of the deception and notified the Medical Licensing Examination Committee. Later, Igberase applied for certification under the name “Akoda” and was admitted to a residency program. He was dismissed when the program learned that "Akoda's" social security number belonged to Igberase. Igberase/Akoda argued that it was a case of mistaken identity with his cousin. The Commission did not recommend Akoda’s case to the credentialing committee. Igberase/Akoda was admitted to Howard’s residency program. and received a Maryland medical license. Law enforcement discovered his fraudulent documents. He pleaded guilty to misuse of a social security account number.Patients who received medical treatment from “Akoda” brought a purported class action against the Commission, claiming negligent infliction of emotional distress. The district court certified (FRCP 23(c)(4)) an “issue class” of all patients examined or treated by Igberase beginning with his enrollment at Howard. The Third Circuit vacated. The district court failed to determine whether the issues identified for class treatment fit within one of Rule 23(b)’s categories and failed to explicitly consider some of the “Gates” factors: The effect certification of the issue class will have on the resolution of remaining issues; what efficiencies would be gained by resolution of the certified issues; and whether certain elements of the claim are suitable for issue-class treatment. View "Russell v. Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates" on Justia Law

Posted in: Class Action
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Hepp hosts FOX 29’s Good Day Philadelphia. In 2018, Hepp was told by coworkers that her photograph was making its way around the internet. The image depicts Hepp in a convenience store, smiling, and was taken without Hepp’s knowledge or consent. She never authorized the image to be used in online advertisements. Hepp alleged each use violated her right of publicity under Pennsylvania law. A dating app advertisement featuring the picture appeared on Facebook. A Reddit thread linked to an Imgur post of the photo. Hepp sued, citing 42 PA. CONS. STAT. 8316, and common law. The district court dismissed Hepp’s case, holding that the companies were entitled to immunity under the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which bars many claims against internet service providers, 47 U.S.C. 230(c). The Third Circuit reversed, citing an exclusion in 230(e)(2) limitation for “any law pertaining to intellectual property.” Hepp’s claims are encompassed within the intellectual property exclusion. View "Hepp v. Facebook" on Justia Law

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At initial hearings, New Jersey's Parole Board may consult any information it deems relevant, including an inmate’s criminal history. At successive parole hearings, the Board could not consider old information, including the inmate's criminal history. The 1997 Amendments to the Parole Act eliminated that prohibition and instructed the Board to prepare an “objective risk assessment” before every parole hearing, incorporating old information, including an inmate’s “educational and employment history” and “family and marital history,” and other factors. When Holmes was on parole in the 1970s, he killed two acquaintances, murdered a 69-year-old, and wounded a police officer. Sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole, Holmes remains behind bars 48 years later. At his initial parole hearing in 2001, the Board refused to release Holmes. After a 2012, hearing, the Board issued a detailed written statement that probed Holmes’s past parole violations, highlighted the homicides, and scrutinized the shootout that preceded his arrest. The statement noted his unblemished disciplinary record since his initial parole hearing. Without specifying the weight placed on each factor, the Board rejected Holmes’s request for release.Holmes challenged the decision on ex post facto grounds. The Third Circuit vacated the dismissal of his petition. For many prisoners, the rules present little risk to their parole prospects. For Holmes, the change plausibly produced a significant risk of prolonging his time behind bars. View "Holmes v. Christie" on Justia Law

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Born in Yemen in 1986, Ghanem was admitted to the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident in 2003. In 2009, Ghanem returned to Yemen to get married and settled with his wife in Sana’a. Pro-democracy uprisings, the Arab Spring, soon swept the region. Ghanem joined the reformers, participating in peaceful protests. Ghanem was warned that he was a potential political target given his open opposition to the Shia militants. Houthi rebels arrived at his home “with guns drawn” and removed his family. Ghanem was kidnapped, and brutally tortured for two weeks, followed by two weeks in the intensive care unit of a hospital. Ghanem attempted in vain to bring his torturers to justice. When his captors learned that he brought charges, they began to look for him, threatening to kill him., Ghanem fled but his abusers pursued him. While Ghanem was seeking refuge in Asia, the Houthis gained control of the government and obtained a judgment against him in absentia, sentencing him to 10 years' imprisonment.Ghanem was detained after he attempted to enter the U.S. under the mistaken impression that he still possessed a valid immigrant visa, 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(1). Appearing pro se at a removal hearing, Ghanem sought asylum and withholding of removal on the basis of past persecution for political opinion and protection from removal under the Convention Against Torture. The Third Circuit vacated the denial of relief. The evidence indicated a nexus between the persecution Ghanem suffered and a protected ground. The BIA erroneously treated Ghanem’s familial relation to his persecutors as disqualifying. Ghanem would be unable to escape “gross, flagrant [and] mass violations of human rights” with the government’s acquiescence if returned to Yemen. View "Ghanem v. Attorney General of the United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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Scott was sentenced for possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. His PSR included a career offender enhancement under U.S.S.G. 2K2.1(a)(2), which applies if a defendant “committed any part of the instant offense subsequent to sustaining at least two felony convictions of either a crime of violence or a controlled substance offense.” Scott had a 2019 conviction for possession of a firearm by a felon, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1), and a 2019 conviction for Hobbs Act robbery, 18 U.S.C. 1951(b)(1) and for using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, 18 U.S.C. 924(c), resulting in an advisory guideline range of 84–105 months’ imprisonment. Neither Scott nor the government challenged the enhancement or any of the PSR’s calculations The court sentenced Scott to 90 months’ imprisonment consecutive to an existing sentence.The Third Circuit vacated the sentence. Hobbs Act robbery is not a “crime of violence” under the career offender provision, U.S.S.G. 4B1.2(a). The court applied the “oft-bedeviling categorical approach” and compared the statutory offense with the definition of “crime of violence” found in the Guidelines to conclude that Hobbs Act robbery sweeps more broadly than the career offender guideline. The court noted the consensus of the Courts of Appeals. View "United States v. Scott" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law