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Wellman, a Butler Area high school, freshman suffered head injuries while playing flag football in a physical education class, during football practice, and during a game. Despite a concussion diagnosis and requests from Wellman’s mother and doctor, the school refused to provide any accommodation. A CT scan revealed post-concussive syndrome. The school was unresponsive. Wellman received homebound instruction through his sophomore year. The school denied Wellman an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). For junior year, he enrolled in private school, from which he graduated. Wellman filed a due process complaint with the Pennsylvania Department of Education. In a settlement, Wellman released the District from all claims which could have been pursued under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400; the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); or any other statute. Wellman then filed suit under the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 794, the ADA, 42 U.S.C. 12132, and 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging equal protection violations. The Third Circuit remanded for dismissal with prejudice, citing the Supreme Court’s 2017 "Fry" opinion, which requires that courts consider the “gravamen” of the complaint to determine whether a plaintiff seeks relief for denial of the IDEA’s core guarantee of a free and appropriate education (FAPE); if so, then the plaintiff must exhaust his IDEA administrative remedies. Wellman released all claims based on the denial of a FAPE and has no claims to exhaust. View "Wellman v. Butler Area School District" on Justia Law

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Barna attended a School Board meeting and expressed concerns on behalf of himself and friends. Board President Markovich responded that Barna should bring his friends. Barna replied, “my friends have guns.” Markovich asked Barna to leave a subsequent meeting. Barna stated: “I may have to come after all of yous” and went after a Board member. A security guard restrained Barna. The superintendent informed Barna that he could attend Board meetings but would be banned from future attendance if he engaged in disorderly conduct. Barna subsequently attended meetings without incident until, in October 2011. Barna became confrontational after being denied the opportunity to ask questions, stating: “Do you want to fight?” During a recess, Barna uttered “[s]on of a bitch” within earshot of attendees. The Board solicitor sent Barna a letter barring him from attending Board meetings, school extracurricular activities, and from “be[ing] physically present” on the campus. Barna was permitted to submit written questions, which the Board would answer in a timely manner. Barna sued, alleging violations of his First Amendment right to free speech and First and Fourteenth Amendment rights to be free from unconstitutional prior restraint. The court granted defendants summary judgment, citing qualified immunity. The Third Circuit affirmed in favor of the individual officials in their individual capacities but vacated with respect to the Board and the individual officials in their official capacities. The district court overlooked Supreme Court precedent that municipalities do not enjoy qualified immunity from suit for damages under 42 U.S.C. 1983. View "Barna v. Board of School Directors Panther Valley School District" on Justia Law

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Joyce, a member of the Seafarers Union, agreed to serve as a bosun aboard the MAERSK OHIO for three months in 2012. The Union and Maersk had a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that was incorporated by reference into the Agreement. Joyce fell ill onboard, was declared unfit for duty, and repatriated to the U.S. The CBA provided that, if a seafarer was medically discharged before the conclusion of his contract, he was entitled to unearned wages for the remaining contract period. Overtime was not included in the definition of unearned wages. Joyce received only base pay for the time left on his contract after his discharge. Joyce alleged that the CBA provisions governing unearned wages violated general maritime law. The district court granted Maersk summary judgment, distinguishing the Third Circuit’s 1990 “Barnes” holding that the specifics of what is covered by a seafarer’s right to “maintenance” (traditionally, food and lodging expenses) could be modified by a court, even if those specifics were established in a CBA. The Third Circuit affirmed, overruling the Barnes decision and joining other circuits, holding that a union contract freely entered by a seafarer that includes rates of maintenance, cure, and unearned wages will not be reviewed piecemeal by courts unless there is evidence of unfairness in the collective bargaining process. View "Joyce v. Maersk Line Ltd" on Justia Law

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The Delaware Companies challenged Delaware’s right to audit whether funds paid for stored-value gift cards issued by their Ohio-based subsidiaries are held by the Companies and subject to escheatment. Their argument relied on Supreme Court precedent establishing priority among states competing to escheat abandoned property, giving first place to the state where the property owner was last known to reside. If that residence cannot be identified or if that state has disclaimed its interest, second in line is the state where the holder of the abandoned property is incorporated; any other state is preempted from escheating the property. The Companies argued that money left unclaimed by owners of the stored-value cards is held by the Ohio Subsidiaries, so Delaware can have no legitimate escheatment claim and must be barred from auditing the Companies in connection with the gift cards. The Third Circuit held that private parties can invoke federal common law to challenge a state’s authority to escheat property but agreed that dismissal was proper. “The notion that the State cannot conduct any inquiry into abandoned property to verify a Delaware corporation’s representations regarding abandoned property lacks merit” and, to the extent the Companies challenged the scope or means of the audit, the claim is not ripe, since Delaware has taken no formal steps to compel an audit. View "Marathon Petroleum Corp v. Secretary of Finance for the State of Delaware" on Justia Law

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Ferguson pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and was sentenced to 84 months’ imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release. During that term of supervision, the U.S. Probation Office informed the court that Ferguson had been convicted in the Delaware County Court on seven counts of aggravated indecent assault on a person less than 13 years old, one count of criminal solicitation of a person less than 13 years old, and eight counts of indecent assault on a person less than 13 years old. Ferguson was sentenced to 10-20 years’ confinement in state custody, to be followed by seven years’ probation. Ferguson did not contest that he had violated the conditions of his supervised release. Although Ferguson’s violation carried a range of 30-37 months’ imprisonment under the USSG, the statutory maximum sentence was 24 months’ imprisonment followed by three years of supervision. In imposing sentence, the court described Ferguson’s arrest record and, based on his “long and serious criminal history,” imposed a sentence of 24 months imprisonment, consecutive to his state sentence, with no supervised release to follow. Neither party objected. The Third Circuit affirmed. Although the court described Ferguson’s arrest record, its characterization of his criminal history was accurate; the court did not really on the history of arrests alone. View "United States v. Ferguson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Pennsylvania State Trooper Kendra, age 26, attended routine firearm safety training led by then-Corporal Schroeter, a trained firearms instructor who had been a police officer for about 20 years. Schroeter had acknowledged in writing a list of firearms safety rules for instructors, including several rules for verifying that guns are not loaded, Schroeter violated each of these rules, raised a gun, pointed it at Kedra, and pulled the trigger. The gun was loaded. Kendra died hours later. Schroeter pled guilty in state court to five counts of reckless endangerment of another person. Kedra’s mother filed a federal civil rights complaint against Schroeter. Because the complaint did not allege that Schroeter had actual knowledge that there was a bullet in the gun, the district court held that Schroeter was entitled to qualified immunity. The Third Circuit reversed. While the objective theory of deliberate indifference was not clearly established at the time of the shooting, obviousness of risk is relevant to proving actual knowledge and the allegations of the complaint were more than sufficient to support a reasonable inference that Schroeter had such knowledge, so the complaint adequately pleaded a state-created danger claim under a then-clearly established theory of liability. View "Kedra v. Schroeter" on Justia Law

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A “top-hat” plan “which is unfunded and is maintained by an employer primarily for the purpose of providing deferred compensation for a select group of management or highly compensated employees,” 29 U.S.C. 1101(a)(1), 1051(2), 1081(a)(3), need not comply with many of the substantive provisions of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). Sikora sought to recover pension benefits under ERISA through the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and its Health System and Affiliates Non-Qualified Supplemental Benefit Plan. The district court held, and the Third Circuit affirmed, that he was not entitled to obtain such relief because he sought benefits under a top-hat plan. The courts rejected Sikora’s argument that the defendants were required to prove that plan participants had bargaining power before a court could conclude that he participated in a top-hat plan. Plan participant bargaining power is not a substantive element of a top-hat plan. View "Paul Sikora v. University of Pittsburgh Medical Center" on Justia Law

Posted in: ERISA

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Ley pleaded guilty as a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1). According to the presentence report (PSR), Ley sustained a 2006 conviction for felony aggravated assault in Pennsylvania, which it classified as a “crime of violence” under the career-offender Guideline, USSG 4B1.2(a)(1). The criminal history Guidelines require the cumulative counting of sentences for offenses that are separated by an intervening arrest. Without an intervening arrest, prior sentences are counted as a single sentence if imposed on the same day. Two of Ley’s criminal history points were based on prior convictions for possession of drug paraphernalia, stemming from traffic offenses. After each, the police released Ley and advised him that the case would proceed via summons. Ley pleaded guilty and was sentenced for both offenses on the same day. His total offense level and criminal history category produced a sentencing range of 46-57 months. Ley argued that the drug paraphernalia sentences should be treated as a single sentence because they were imposed on the same day and were separated not by an arrest, but by a traffic stop so that he should have had a range of 36-47 months. Ley was sentenced to 46 months’ imprisonment. The Third Circuit vacated, citing the “plain meaning” of the Guidelines. If the issuance of a summons should be treated as an arrest, "the Commission knows how to do so." View "United States v. Ley" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Caremark is a pharmacy benefit manager. In 2006, Caremark employees identified approximately 4,500 Prescription Drug Events (PPDEs) under Medicare Part D that had been authorized for payment by Caremark, but not yet submitted to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), due to the lack of a compatible Prescriber ID. Caremark then used a dummy Prescriber ID for those PDEs and programmed that dummy Prescriber ID into its system. Thereafter, when any claim with a missing or incorrectly formatted Prescriber ID was processed, the system would default to the dummy, which allowed Caremark to submit for payment PDEs without trigging CMS error codes. Spay, a pharmacy auditor, discovered the use of “dummy” Prescriber IDs while auditing a Caremark client. That client dropped all issues identified in the audit, collected no recovery from Caremark, and did not pay Spay. Spay filed a qui tam lawsuit, asserting violations of the False Claims Act because the inaccurate PDEs were used to support reimbursement requests. The government declined to intervene. The court granted Caremark summary judgment, finding that Caremark had established sufficient government knowledge to preclude finding the required element of scienter, noting that several courts have adopted the government knowledge inference doctrine. The Third Circuit affirmed, declining to adopt that doctrine but stating that the misrepresentations were not material to the government’s decision to pay the underlying claims. View "Spay v. CVS Caremark Corp" on Justia Law

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Mullin, age 29, had been in and out of prison and struggled with substance abuse. Serving a sentence at a halfway house, Mullin was found in possession of contraband and was transferred to New Jersey’s Central Reception & Assignment Facility, where he was assessed and assigned to an area that did not feature extensive or individualized supervision. In his Assignment Facility cell, he fashioned a noose from a bedsheet and took his own life. Mullin’s mother, Joan, was given information that was incomplete and inaccurate; she was told that her son had died at a different facility, an error repeated on his death certificate. More than two years into Joan’s civil-rights suit, her attorney received a previously-undisclosed investigative report that contained statements by fellow inmates about a guard who allegedly refused Mullin’s requests for psychiatric assistance and urged Mullin to kill himself. Due to a clerical error, the disc containing those disclosures was misfiled, and not accessed until 10 months later. By that time, Joan’s complaint, premised on a knew-or-should-have-known theory of vulnerability to suicide, had been partially dismissed. The district court denied a request for leave to amend and granted the remaining defendant summary judgment. The Third Circuit vacated. Denying leave to amend was an impermissible exercise of discretion. Some factors relied upon to deny leave are not supported by the record or are at odds with precedent. Counsel’s mistake does not, alone, support the denial. View "Mullin v. Balicki" on Justia Law