Justia U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiff filed suit against Philip Morris under the Connecticut Product Liability Act, alleging that the company's Marlboro and Marlboro Lights cigarettes were negligently designed and caused his wife's death. After a jury found for Philip Morris, plaintiff appealed. The Second Circuit held that, although the district court misapplied the nonmutual offensive collateral estoppel standard, the error did not necessarily require vacatur of the judgment. Therefore, the court remanded and directed the district court to consider whether the application of nonmutual offensive collateral estoppel would be unfair. View "Bifolck v. Philip Morris USA Inc." on Justia Law

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In this declaratory judgment action over the copyright ownership of six scores composed by Ennio Morricone, the assignee of Morricone's copyrights sought to terminate that assignment under the U.S. Copyright Act. The district court granted summary judgment to Bixio Music Group, the company in which Morricone assigned his rights to the scores. The Second Circuit reversed, holding that the scores were not works made for hire under either Italian law or U.S. law. Therefore, the works were subject to the termination right of 17 U.S.C. 203. View "Ennio Morricone Music, Inc. v. Bixio Music Group" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit reversed the district court's denial of a petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. 2254. The court held that the trial court's exclusion of three defense witnesses violated petitioner's constitutional right to present a complete defense. Therefore, the court remanded with instructions to the district court to issue the writ. View "Scrimo v. Lee" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), alleging that NMSC failed to make the required contributions from 2008 to 2015. The Second Circuit vacated the district court's final judgment in favor of plaintiffs. The court clarified, consistent with circuit and Supreme Court precedent, that an employer in an ERISA action for unpaid contributions is bound to the terms of an ERISA plan document (the Trust Agreement in this case) only if the employer objectively manifests an intent to be so bound, as evaluated under ordinary principles of contract interpretation. The court applied these principles here and held that NMSC did not bind itself to the Trust Agreement -- and the interest rate established under its Delinquency Policy -- until NMSC agreed to the Memorandum of Agreement modifying the collective bargaining agreement in 2014. The court also rejected the Fund's alternative argument that applying ERISA‐plan‐based interest provisions is so fundamental to the functioning of a fund that its trustees may unilaterally impose such provisions on a delinquent employer. View "32BJ North Pension Fund v. Nutrition Management Services, Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: ERISA

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Defendant appealed the district court's imposition of a condition of supervised release that required him to perform 300 hours of community service a year over his term of supervision for a total of 695 hours. Defendant's conviction stemmed from his role in two different fraud schemes. The Second Circuit vacated and remanded for resentencing, holding that the challenged condition was not reasonably related to any of the relevant sentencing factors, was inconsistent with the pertinent Guidelines policy statements, and involved a greater deprivation of liberty than was reasonably needed to achieve the purposes of sentencing. The court held that the pertinent policy statement issued by the Sentencing Commission must be read to advise that courts should generally refrain from imposing more than a total of 400 hours of community service as a condition of supervised release. View "United States v. Parkins" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal on summary judgment of plaintiff's claim that a hospital violated section 504 the Rehabilitation Act by failing to provide her with an ASL interpreter. At issue was whether and when hospital staff members may be considered to be acting as officials or policymakers of the hospital so that their conduct may be attributed to the hospital and thereby establish plaintiff's right to damages on the ground that the defendant institution was deliberately indifferent to a violation of the Act. The court held that material issues of fact preclude summary judgment where the record contains evidence that the hospital staff at issue had knowledge of the deprivation of plaintiff's right to an interpreter, had the power to cure that violation, and failed to cure it View "Biondo v. Kaleida Health" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's award of summary judgment to defendants on plaintiff's state law claims of sex discrimination, retaliation, and hostile work environment. The court held that summary judgment was correctly entered in favor of AutoZone on plaintiff's Connecticut claims of discriminatory discharge based on sex, retaliatory discharge for reporting sexual harassment, and a sex hostile work environment because plaintiff failed to adduce sufficient evidence from which a reasonable jury could resolve any of these claims in her favor; the district court correctly concluded that plaintiff's own deposition testimony could not raise a genuine issue of fact as to AutoZone's having notice of plaintiff's sexual harassment by a co‐worker before August 2014 because that testimony was unequivocally contradicted by her own earlier sworn and written statements, and she failed plausibly to explain the numerous contradictions; and the district court correctly concluded that plaintiff failed to raise a genuine issue of fact as to the harassing co‐worker being a supervisor, which was required for AutoZone to be strictly vicariously liable for any ensuing hostile work environment. View "Bentley v. AutoZoners, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs appealed the district court's dismissal of their state law claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and the district court's subsequent denial of a motion for reconsideration. Plaintiffs argued that, on de novo review, the entire record on appeal demonstrated that they were citizens of Florida – not New York – at the time they filed their suit, and therefore satisfied the complete diversity requirement of 28 U.S.C. 1332, establishing federal subject matter jurisdiction. The Second Circuit vacated the judgment of the district court so that plaintiffs may amend their complaint, holding that courts may freely permit jurisdictional amendments even at the appellate level. The court noted that the district court may also consider whether to impose costs on plaintiffs for their failure to provide all relevant evidence at the time of the order to show cause. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Van Buskirk v. The United Group of Companies, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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Dean v. United States, 137 S. Ct. 1170 (2017), has abrogated the Second Circuit's decision in United States v. Chavez, 549 F.3d 119 (2d Cir. 2008), and permits sentencing judges to consider the severity of mandatory consecutive minimum sentences required by 18 U.S.C. 924(c) in determining sentences for underlying predicate offenses. In this case, the court was uncertain as to whether the district judge was aware of the discretion that Dean allowed him to exercise, and therefore held that the appropriate disposition was to remand for resentencing. In a summary order filed separately, the court affirmed defendant's four convictions. View "United States v. Brown" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Second Circuit held that a district court may apply a four-level sentencing enhancement under USSG 2K2.1(b)(6)(B) to a defendant who sells a firearm and drugs to a buyer in a single transaction, and to a buyer who the defendant has reason to believe is a drug dealer. The court considered Defendant Wood's remaining arguments and held that they were without merit. Accordingly, the court affirmed with respect to Defendant Wood in Appeal No. 18-985. The court affirmed the consolidated appeal of Defendant Ryan in a simultaneously filed summary order. View "United States v. Ryan" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law