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

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PG sought to vacate a labor arbitration award. In many labor disputes, both the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA), 29 U.S.C. 185(a), and the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. 10, provide means for seeking vacatur or confirmation of arbitration awards. The statutes employ distinct procedural vehicles, require litigants to meet different legal standards, and prescribe separate limitations periods. PG argued that even if it filed its complaint outside of the applicable limitations period for an LMRA action, it filed within the FAA’s 90-day limitations period for motions to vacate an arbitration award.The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of PG’s action as untimely. Although a party may bring both an LMRA action and an FAA motion challenging or confirming certain labor arbitration awards, PG did not proceed by motion as required by the FAA, and so did not properly invoke that statute. PG’s LMRA Section 301 action was untimely. The court clarified the procedures for seeking to vacate or confirm an arbitration award under the LMRA and under the FAA. View "PG Publishing Co v. Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh" on Justia Law

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A plan participant sued under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. 1132(a)(1)(B), claiming that an insurance-company fiduciary wrongfully terminated his benefits. The participant enrolled in his former employer’s welfare benefit plan, which provided long-term disability and life insurance benefits through group insurance policies. When his health deteriorated and he could no longer do his job, the participant claimed benefits. The insurance company, which funded and administered those policies, authorized benefits. Its in-house medical professionals reaffirmed that conclusion for two years. Then, with no recent change to the participant’s medical condition, the company used a third-party vendor to retain an outside physician to evaluate the participant. After an in-person examination, that physician concluded that the participant was not totally disabled. The company terminated benefits. The participant administratively appealed, and the cycle repeated. The company’s multiple requests for additional outside medical reviews were irregular in their timing and prompting.The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the participant. The insurance company performed two functions that are in financial tension: it determined eligibility for benefits and funded benefits. That creates a structural conflict of interest, which, combined with significant deviation from normal eligibility-review processes, influenced its fiduciary decision-making. The company abused its discretion in terminating the participant’s benefits. The court properly ordered their retroactive reinstatement. View "Noga v. Fulton Financial Corp Employee Benefit Plan" on Justia Law

Posted in: ERISA
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AT&T employed Fowler, 1986-2016. She was diagnosed in 2006 with epilepsy that caused cognitive impairments. In 2015, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and informed AT&T of her diagnosis. In December 2015, AT&T planned to reduce Fowler’s unit by consolidating roles. Fowler began a new position in March 2016. After two months, Fowler sought reassignment, acknowledging she did not have the skills for the job. AT&T, through an outsourced service center, negotiated with Fowler’s doctors on her accommodation requests but the representatives found that Fowler “could not describe a specific accommodation that would help her on the job.” Fowler, age 60, was laid off and could not find any replacement positions within AT&T. She was terminated and sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12101, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. 621.The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of AT&T. Based on the original downsizing, Fowler established an adverse employment action that could support a discrimination claim, although she eventually found another job within AT&T. However, AT&T provided powerful evidence that Fowler’s selection for downsizing was simply a neutral reduction in force; she has not provided sufficient evidence to suggest that the explanation was a pretext. As for Fowler’s termination, she may not maintain discrimination or failure-to-accommodate claims connected to a job for which she was not qualified by her own admission. View "Fowler v. AT&T Inc." on Justia Law

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Johnson developed an obsession with the allegations of sexual assault against entertainer Bill Cosby. Hoping to discredit the accusers, Johnson posed as an attorney and filed a fabricated document on the civil docket of a lawsuit against Cosby. His trick was quickly discovered. Johnson was convicted of making a false statement and identity theft. On appeal, he argued that the prosecution failed to prove that his statements were material as necessary to establish liability under 18 U.S.C. 1001.The Third Circuit reversed Johnson’s convictions. Johnson’s behavior wasted public time and resources and distracted court officials from their work but only Congress can define a federal crime. While there was significant evidence that Johnson’s statements were false, there was no evidence that any decision entrusted to the judge in the underlying Cosby trial could have been influenced by the praecipe filed by Johnson, which contained an unsigned exhibit that accused a party of failing to report income. This false statement, even if considered by the judge, was not relevant, much less material. Far from proving that using a false identity enabled the false praecipe to be filed, the record reveals that Johnson’s identity was immaterial and that Johnson could have filed the same documents under his, or any other, name. View "United States v. Johnson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Dennis was convicted of a 1991 robbery and first-degree murder and was sentenced to death. In 2013, the district court granted Dennis’s habeas petition, vacated his conviction, and ordered a new trial on all charges, finding that Dennis’s prosecutors withheld material impeachment evidence. The Third Circuit, en banc, affirmed. On remand, Dennis accepted a deal. In exchange for a time-served sentence, he pleaded nolo contendere to reduced charges. Dennis then filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging fabrication of evidence and deliberate deception, civil rights conspiracy, failure to intervene, supervisory liability, and municipal liability.The Third Circuit affirmed the denial of a motion to dismiss based on qualified immunity. Dennis has alleged the violation of his due process rights clearly established at the time of the detective’s conduct on which the claims are based. Dennis’s deliberate deception claim not only alleges that the detectives withheld exculpatory and impeachment evidence that would have supported his alibi and defense, but that they also failed to correct testimony they knew was false and concealed from the defense the evidence that revealed that trial testimony as false. The court dismissed, for lack of jurisdiction on interlocutory appeal, consideration of a ruling that the Heck bar does not apply. View "Dennis v. City of Philadelphia" on Justia Law

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SHI, owned by Vik, borrowed funds from Deutsche Bank (Bank). SHI entered a limited partnership (LP) agreement with Devon and invested $25 million, Bank issued margin calls. SHI claimed that it lacked funds to satisfy the calls. Bank sued SHI in England and Wales and received a $235,646,345 judgment, which SHI has not satisfied. SHI transferred the Devon Interest to CPR (allegedly related to Vik's father). SHI paid Devon millions of dollars for the transfer. Devon made fund distributions to the limited partners but had difficulties transmitting proceeds to CPR. CPR initiated arbitration to compel Devon to release the Proceeds. The arbitrator denied Bank’s request to intervene. Devon raised counterclaims, seeking a declaration whether the assignment to CPR was enforceable.Meanwhile, Bank sued CPR, SHI, and Devon in Delaware, alleging a conspiracy to commit fraud. The arbitrator denied Devon’s motion to stay proceedings. Devon then refused to participate in the arbitration. The arbitrator awarded CPR the proceeds, plus prejudgment interest, CPR petitioned to confirm the arbitration award; in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Devon attempted to interplead Deutsche Bank. Bank answered and sought to set aside the purported transfer of the Devon Interest to CPR, to declare SHI and CPR alter egos, and to find Devon, CPR, and SHI liable for fraud and conspiracy. The Third Circuit affirmed orders confirming the arbitration award, striking the interpleader complaint, and dismissing all third parties and claims and Devon’s counterclaim. View "CPR Management SA v. Devon Park Bioventures LP" on Justia Law

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Garrett, a New Jersey prisoner, has commenced at least 10 civil actions against prison officials, state officials, and the United States, avoiding paying filing fees for these lawsuits by proceeding in forma pauperis. All his lawsuits have been unsuccessful. Garrett appealed the dismissal of his latest lawsuit, which concerns his risk of contracting COVID-19 and speedy trial issues.The Third Circuit affirmed, citing the three-strikes rule, 28 U.S.C. 1915(g). Noting the division among circuit courts, the court stated that a suit dismissed under “Heck” is dismissed for failure to state a claim and counts as a strike. In Heck, the Supreme Court held that a prisoner lacks a “cause of action” under section 1983 if the prisoner is challenging an “allegedly unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment” before having the conviction or sentence overturned (the favorable-termination requirement). Garrett has three prior suits dismissed for failure to meet Heck’s “favorable-termination” requirement. Garrett has not shown that he is “under imminent danger of serious physical injury,” 28 U.S.C. 1915(g). View "Garrett v. Murphy" on Justia Law

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In 1972, P&A signed a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with Local 15024. In the early 1980s, according to P&A, Local 825 pressured P&A to employ them instead. P&A created Utility Systems to hire Local 825 workers. Utility signed a CBA with Local 825. In 2016-2018, Utility subcontracted a number of construction projects to P&A, which used its workers from Local 15024 on those jobs. Local 825 brought grievances against Utility. P&A feared that if Local 825’s arbitrator ruled that Utility’s subcontractors must use Local 825 workers, that might force P&A to violate its CBA with Local 15024. P&A and Utility filed suit, requesting an order compelling joint arbitration with both employers and both unions. The district court held that it could enforce joint arbitration under the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. 185(a), but that it would be inappropriate here because there was an insufficient risk that P&A and Utility would face conflicting arbitration awards simultaneously granting the same jobs to both unions. It also determined that P&A and Utility could not be deemed a single or joint employer.The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Joint arbitration is available under the Act as a general matter, either before or after the bipartite arbitration award at issue has become final, but the employers here which are two at least nominally separate companies, cannot invoke that general rule. View "P&A Construction Inc v. International Union of Operating Engineers" on Justia Law

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The Reefer arrived at the Port of Wilmington, Delaware for what its owner, Nederland, expected to be a short stay. Upon inspection, the Coast Guard suspected that the vessel had discharged dirty bilge water directly overboard and misrepresented in its record book that the ship’s oil water separator had been used to clean the bilge water prior to discharge. Nederland, wanting to get the ship back to sea as rapidly as possible, entered into an agreement with the government for the release of the Reefer in exchange for a surety bond to cover potential fines. Although Nederland delivered the bond and met other requirements, the vessel was detained in Wilmington for at least two additional weeks.Nederland sued. The Delaware district court dismissed the complaint, holding that Nederland’s claims had to be brought in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims because the breach of contract claim did not invoke admiralty jurisdiction a claim under the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS) failed because of sovereign immunity. The Third Circuit reversed. The agreement is maritime in nature and invokes the district court’s admiralty jurisdiction. The primary objective of the agreement was to secure the vessel's departure clearance so that it could continue its maritime trade. APPS explicitly waives the government’s sovereign immunity. View "Nederland Shipping Corp. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Delaware’s Unclaimed Property Law (UPL), Del. Code tit. 12 section 1101, allows the state to escheat certain types of unclaimed property held by businesses chartered in the state, if the particular business holding the property is not the owner of it, and if there has been no contact with the owner for a specified period of time. Delaware initiated an audit of Siemens, which is incorporated under Delaware law. After a near-decade-long audit process, Siemens sued the state, challenging the constitutionality of the audit and arguing that Delaware’s actions conflict with federal common law limiting the scope of any state’s escheatment authority.The district court dismissed most of Siemens’s claims and denied its motion for a preliminary injunction on the sole surviving claim, which alleged a violation of procedural due process. The Third Circuit vacated. The district court erred in concluding that Siemens failed to show irreparable harm based on its procedural due process claim, and in dismissing Siemens’s federal preemption claim as unripe. In considering the audit, the district court paid insufficient heed to a holder’s payment obligations with respect to interest and penalties under the statute and the consequences of not meeting those obligations. The court affirmed the dismissal of Siemens’s expedited-audit procedural due process claim. View "Siemens USA Holdings Inc. v. Geisenberger" on Justia Law