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Mann, a Palmerton Area School District football player, experienced a hard hit during a practice session. While some players thought that Sheldon may have been exhibiting concussion-like symptoms, he was sent back into the practice session by Coach Walkowiak. Sheldon then suffered another violent collision and was removed from the practice field. He was later diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury. Sheldon’s parents asserted that Walkowiak violated Sheldon’s constitutional right to bodily integrity under a state-created danger theory of liability and that the District was accountable under a “Monell” theory. The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Walkowiak’s alleged conduct, if proven at trial, would be sufficient to support a jury verdict in favor of Mann on his state-created danger claim, but the right in question—to be free from deliberate exposure to a traumatic brain injury after exhibiting signs of a concussion in the context of a violent contact sport—was not clearly established in 2011. Walkowiak was entitled to qualified immunity. There was not sufficient evidence to warrant a jury trial on the Monell claim against the District. View "Mann v. Palmerton Area School District" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs were among a class of individuals working in two separate part-time capacities for Lackawanna County. The County apparently tracked and paid these employees for each of their individual jobs, but in 2011 became aware that it had failed to aggregate the hours in both jobs, resulting in a failure to pay the overtime rate for hours beyond 40 hours per pay period. Lackawanna County conceded basic overtime violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 207(a)(1). At trial, the plaintiffs presented inadequate evidence on “willfulness,” so that the court entered a directed verdict on that issue. A finding of willfulness expands the limitations period for claims under the Act, in effect permitting a plaintiff to receive a larger award. The Third Circuit affirmed. The evidence did not suggest the County was subjectively aware of the FLSA problem at the time of the violations, at least with respect to the plaintiffs. A lack of evidence going to good faith is not the same as evidence in support of intentionality. The court also affirmed an award of attorneys’ fees at an hourly rate of $250. View "Souryavong v. County of Lackawanna" on Justia Law

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Jeffrey Ware, Ph.D., was a University of Pennsylvania neuroscientist, studying the effects of radiation on biological organisms with the goal of better understanding how radiation affects astronauts while in orbit. Ware used cesium-137 irradiators to track the effects of low-level radiation on mice and rats. In 2010, Ware suffered a rare form of brain cancer, gliosarcoma. His widow, Boyer, claims gliosarcoma is associated with radiation exposure but produced no expert reports and that Ware’s cancer specifically resulted from radiation exposure that UPenn failed to properly monitor, protect against or warn of. Ware underwent chemotherapy and radiation at the University’s hospital. Boyer alleges that Ware was not given appropriate information about these treatments; that, given the advanced stage of his disease, they provided little benefit; and that a UPenn doctor enrolled Ware in a research study to investigate the effects of chemotherapy and radiation on brain cancer patients without his knowing consent. The Third Circuit affirmed the application of the Price-Anderson Act, 42 U.S.C. 2011, and its remedy-limiting provisions to Boyer's suit. The Act gives federal courts jurisdiction to resolve a broad set of claims involving liability for physical harm arising from nuclear radiation. Boyer’s case is within the Act’s reach. View "Estate of Ware v. Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania" on Justia Law

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Union Pacific employee Dowling became totally disabled by multiple sclerosis in 1997. His disability benefits ended in 2012 when he reached age 65 and began to draw a pension. Instead of calculating Dowling’s pension based on Dowling’s last 10 years of actual work—ending in 1997—the administrator operated as if Dowling had worked and been paid his final base salary— $208,000 per year— for his credited years of service, until his retirement in 2012, even though Dowling had not actually worked during that period. Dowling is covered by a 277-page retirement plan composed of introductory material, 19 articles of content, and various appendices—none of which explicitly address Dowling’s precise situation. The administrator’s interpretation provides Dowling with a lower monthly payment than he expected. Dowling challenged the administrator’s decision as contradicting the plan’s plain language. In Dowling’s suit under ERISA, 29 U.S.C. 1132(a)(1)(B), the district court found the plan ambiguous and the administrator’s interpretation reasonable. The Third Circuit affirmed. The plan’s terminology, silence, and structure render it ambiguous, so the plan accords the plan administrator discretion to interpret ambiguous plan terms. The mere existence of a conflict of interest is alone insufficient to raise skepticism of the plan administrator’s decision. View "Dowling v. Pension Plan for Salaried Employees of Union Pacific Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: ERISA

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From 2006 through 2011, Poulson tricked homeowners facing foreclosure into selling him their homes and engaged in a multi-million-dollar Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors in those distressed properties. Poulson pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1341. The district court calculated his total fraud to be $2,721,240.94; concluded that this fraud resulted in “substantial financial hardship” for more than 25 victims; and sentenced Poulson to 70 months’ imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release, with a condition prohibiting Poulson from working in the real estate industry for five years. The Third Circuit affirmed in part, upholding the court’s determination of the number of victims who suffered a “substantial financial hardship” under U.S.S.G 2B1.1. The court reasoned that the Guidelines give the court considerable discretion. The court vacated the imposition of a five-year occupational restriction on his three-year term of supervised release, the statutory maximum, and remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Poulson" on Justia Law

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Zuber, employed by Boscov’s at Fairgrounds Farmers’ Market in Reading, Pennsylvania, suffered an injury at work, immediately filed a workers’ compensation claim, and received work leave. About two weeks after Zuber returned to work, Boscov’s fired Zuber, Months later, Boscov’s and Zuber signed a Compromise and Release Agreement before the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry Workers’ Compensation Office. Zuber later sued under the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. 2617, and common law, claiming that Boscov’s failed to notify him of his FMLA rights and to designate his leave as FMLA protected; retaliated against him for exercising his FMLA rights; and retaliated against him for filing a workers’ compensation claim. The district court dismissed, based on a release provision in the Agreement. The Third Circuit reversed, based on the Agreement’s references to “benefits” and “monies of any kind,” “in connection with the alleged 8/12/2015 [sic] work injury claim as well as any other work injury claim(s).” Zuber seeks benefits and monies from FMLA and common law claims, not from matters related to the injury. View "Zuber v. Boscov's, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 1997, Wilkerson and Hill had a verbal confrontation. Wilkerson struck Hill in the head with a gun, then shot Hill in the chest. Wilkerson was charged with multiple crimes. In jury instructions, the judge stated that an attempted murder conviction would require a finding Wilkerson “did a certain act,” “alleged to be a shooting,” while a conviction for aggravated assault would require finding “that [Wilkerson] caused or attempted to cause serious bodily injury.” The judge did not specify that the shooting could not both serve as the basis for an attempted murder conviction and as the “attempt[] to cause serious bodily injury” for aggravated assault. The jury convicted on both counts on a general verdict form that did not specify whether the “serious bodily injury” finding underlying the aggravated assault conviction related to the shooting or the preceding assault. In federal habeas proceedings, the Third Circuit rejected Wilkerson’s double jeopardy argument that the jury instructions permitted conviction on both offenses based on the shooting alone. The state court’s rejection of that claim was not “contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law.” The court rejected, as untimely, Wilkerson’s “Apprendi” challenge to the imposition of an enhanced sentence for attempted murder based on a finding by the judge, but not the jury, that the victim suffered serious bodily injury and a claim that counsel was ineffective for not objecting to that finding. View "Wilkerson v. Superintendent Fayette SCI" on Justia Law

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In 2002, Hoffner was convicted of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, distribution of methamphetamine, and unlawful use of a communication facility. The district court applied the career offender guideline, U.S.S.G. 4B1.1, based upon Pennsylvania convictions Hoffner incurred in the 1980s, one for simple assault and another for burglary, robbery, and conspiracy. Hoffner’s direct appeal and habeas corpus petition were unsuccessful. In 2012, he filed an unauthorized second habeas corpus petition. In 2015, he filed the pro se motion seeking to file a successive habeas corpus petition, 28 U.S.C. 2255(h)(2), citing the Supreme Court’s 2015 “Johnson” holding that the residual clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act is unconstitutionally vague. Hoffner was sentenced under an identical residual clause that existed until recently in the Federal Sentencing Guidelines’ career offender guideline, U.S.S.G. 4B1.2(a)(2). The Third Circuit granted the petition. Hoffner made a “prima facie showing,” 28 U.S.C. 2244(b)(3)(C), of the pre-filing requirements for a successive habeas corpus petition: the rule on which his claim relies is a new rule of constitutional law that has been made retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court and the claim was previously unavailable. View "In re: Hoffner" on Justia Law

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Mateo, a 21-year-old citizen of the Dominican Republic, was admitted to the U.S. in 2010 as a lawful permanent resident. In 2013, he pleaded guilty to the felony charge of criminal conspiracy for an underlying offense Robbery of a Motor Vehicle. A “person commits a felony of the first degree if he steals or takes a motor vehicle from another person in the presence of that person or any other person in lawful possession of the motor vehicle.” Mateo was charged as removable as an alien convicted of an aggravated felony under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A). DHS stated that his conviction constituted an aggravated felony under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii), and was a “crime of violence” as defined in 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43)(F), which incorporates 18 U.S.C. 16, which defines “crime of violence” as (a) an offense that has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another, or (b) any other offense that is a felony and that, by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense. The Third Circuit vacated Mateo’s removal order, holding that, in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Johnson v. United States (2015), section 16(b), as incorporated, is unconstitutionally vague. View "Mateo v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

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Powell was carrying $33,550 in cash deposits from a K-Mart to an armored vehicle and met his supervisor, Bougouneau. In the parking lot, a man, whose face was partially covered, shot Powell three times and Bourgouneau once and took the bag. Schneider, an off-duty Virgin Islands police officer, happened to be present and recognized Hodge as the shooter. Hodge was apprehended. Both Powell and Bougouneau survived. Hodge was charged with: Interference with Commerce by Robbery, 18 U.S.C. 1951; multiple counts of Use and Discharge of a Firearm During the Commission of a Crime of Violence (robbery and attempted murder), 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1)(A); two counts of Attempted First Degree Murder, 14 V.I.C. 921, 922(a)(2); multiple counts of Using an Unlicensed Firearm During Commission of a Crime of Violence (attempted murder, robbery, first-degree assault), 14 V.I.C. 2253(a); two counts of First Degree Assault with Intent to Commit Murder, 14 V.I.C. 295(1); two counts of First Degree Robbery, 14 V.I.C. 1861 and 1862(1); and First Degree Reckless Endangerment, 14 V.I.C. 625(a). Before trial, Hodge indicated he wanted substitute counsel, but none was arranged. The Third Circuit vacated in part. Hodge’s multiple convictions under the Virgin Islands firearms statute violated his right against double jeopardy. The court rejected claims based on the denials of his motions to substitute counsel and to strike three jurors for cause, admission of prejudicial evidence at trial, alleged insufficiency of the evidence, and error in the jury instructions. View "United States v. Hodge" on Justia Law