Justia U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Personal Injury
Fuld v. Palestine Liberation Organization
Plaintiffs, several family members of a United States citizen killed in an overseas terrorist attack, appealed from the district court’s judgment dismissing their claims against the Palestine Liberation Organization (“PLO”) and the Palestinian Authority (“PA”) for lack of personal jurisdiction. The Government, as intervenor in accordance with 28 U.S.C. Section 2403(a) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 5.1(c), also appealed from that judgment. On appeal, both Plaintiffs and the Government argued that the district court erred in finding unconstitutional the Promoting Security and Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act of 2019 (“PSJVTA”), the statute on which Plaintiffs relied to allege personal jurisdiction over Defendants. The Second Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the PSJVTA specifically provides that the PLO and the PA “shall be deemed to have consented to personal jurisdiction” in any civil action pursuant to the Anti-Terrorism Act, 18 U.S.C. Section 2333, irrespective of “the date of the occurrence of the act of international terrorism” at issue, upon engaging in certain forms of post-enactment conduct, namely (1) making payments, directly or indirectly, to the designees or families of incarcerated or deceased terrorists, respectively, whose acts of terror injured or killed a United States national, or (2) undertaking any activities within the United States, subject to a handful of exceptions. Thus, the court concluded that the PSJVTA’s “deemed consent” provision is inconsistent with the dictates of the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. View "Fuld v. Palestine Liberation Organization" on Justia Law
Kyros Law P.C. v. World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.
Appellants-Cross-Appellees Konstantine W. Kyros and his law firm, Kyros Law P.C. (together, “Kyros”), appealed from a judgment imposing sanctions for litigation misconduct under Rules 11 and 37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In 2014 and 2015, Kyros brought several lawsuits against Appellees-Cross-Appellants World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. and Vincent K. McMahon (together, “WWE”). Subsequently, the district court imposed sanctions against Kyros in the amount of $312,143.55—less than the full amount requested by WWE. Kyros now appeals these final sanctions determinations. On cross-appeal, WWE challenged the district court’s reduction of the requested fee award by application of the “forum rule,” under which a court calculates attorney’s fees with reference to the prevailing hourly rates in the forum in which the court sits. The Second Circuit affirmed. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by imposing Rule 11 sanctions on Kyros. WWE’s sanctions motions and the district court’s order that reserved ruling on those motions gave abundant notice to Kyros of the repeated pleading deficiencies that risked imposition of sanctions, and he was afforded sufficient opportunity to be heard. The district court did not abuse its discretion by imposing Rule 37 sanctions on Kyros because Kyros failed to make a good-faith effort to comply with the district court’s order compelling responses to WWE’s interrogatories. The district court did not abuse its discretion by applying the forum rule to award WWE less than the requested amount of sanctions. View "Kyros Law P.C. v. World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc." on Justia Law
Buono v. Tyco Fire Prods., LP
Plaintiff was severely injured at work when a tank filled with compressed air exploded. Plaintiff brought common-law claims for strict liability and negligence against Tyco Fire Products, LP (“Tyco”), which sold the tank to Plaintiff’s employer. Tyco moved for summary judgment, arguing that Plaintiff’s claims are preempted under the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act of 1975 (“HMTA”), 49 U.S.C. Section 5125(b)(1). The district court held that the claims are preempted and granted Tyco summary judgment. The Second Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the HMTA expressly preempts nonfederal laws “about” certain subjects related to the transportation of hazardous materials in commerce. The court explained that as relevant here, the HMTA preempts state laws that are (1) “about . . . the . . . marking” of a “container . . . that is represented, marked, certified, or sold as qualified for use in transporting hazardous material in commerce,” and (2) “not substantively the same as a provision” of the HMTA or a regulation promulgated thereunder. Both requirements are satisfied here. First, the court explained that the tank was “marked . . . as qualified for use in transporting hazardous material,” and Plaintiff’s common-law claims are “about” the “marking” of Tyco’s tank. Second, the court wrote that Plaintiff’s common-law claims cannot be deemed “substantively the same” because they would impose duties beyond the HMTA and associated regulations. The HMTA thus expressly preempts Plaintiff’s common-law claims. View "Buono v. Tyco Fire Prods., LP" on Justia Law
Bohnak v. Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc.
Plaintiff filed this nationwide class action on behalf of herself and others similarly situated after her personally identifying information (“PII”), including her name and Social Security number, which had been entrusted to Defendants, were exposed to an unauthorized third party as a result of a targeted data hack. At issue is the proper framework for evaluating whether an individual whose PII is exposed to unauthorized actors, but has not (yet) been used for injurious purposes such as identity theft, has suffered an injury in fact for purposes of Article III standing to sue for damages. The Second Circuit reversed and remanded. The court concluded that with respect to the question of whether an injury arising from risk of future harm is sufficiently “concrete” to constitute an injury, in fact, TransUnion controls; with respect to the question whether the asserted injury is “actual or imminent,” the McMorris framework continues to apply in data breach cases like this. Thus, the court concluded that Plaintiff’s allegation that an unauthorized third party accessed her name and Social Security number through a targeted data breach gives her Article III standing to bring this action against Defendants to whom she had entrusted her PII. View "Bohnak v. Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc." on Justia Law
Gonzalez v. United States
Plaintiff, on behalf of herself and her deceased husband, brought claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act against the United States alleging that a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospital negligently failed to diagnose her husband with lung cancer. Prior to trial, the government conceded that the hospital’s ten-month failure to diagnose her husband was a departure from the standard of care. Following a two-day bench trial, the district court entered judgment and awarded $975,233.75 in damages to Plaintiff, including $850,000 for pain and suffering and $50,000 for loss of consortium. On appeal, Plaintiff argued: (1) the district court erred in failing to adequately explain its factual findings and methodology for arriving at its awards as required under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(a); and (2) the district court’s awards for pain and suffering and loss of consortium were based on legal errors. The Second Circuit affirmed the judgment. The court first clarified that the appropriate standard of review for assessing a district court’s FTCA damages award governed by New York law is whether the award “deviates materially from what would be reasonable compensation,” as articulated under New York Civil Practice Law and Rules Section 5501(c). The court nonetheless found Plaintiff’s challenges to the district court’s damages awards to be unpersuasive. The district court’s explanation for the awards in its factual findings and conclusions of law, as well as in its denial of the motion to amend or alter the judgment as to these awards, satisfied the requirements of Rule 52. View "Gonzalez v. United States" on Justia Law
Kaplan v. Bank Saderat PLC
Appellants, American victims of terror attacks in Israel, appealed from the district court’s judgment dismissing their complaint for lack of in personam jurisdiction over Appellee Bank Saderat PLC, a bank associated with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Appellants challenged the district court’s conclusion that the Appellee’s default, which occurred just after the venue was transferred from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia to the Eastern District of New York, did not forfeit its objection to personal jurisdiction in New York. The Second Circuit concluded that the district court’s judgment relied on the erroneous factual finding that the Appellee had successfully challenged personal jurisdiction in the District of Columbia before the case was transferred to New York. The court explained that the district court premised its legal conclusion – that this case was distinguishable from Mickalis Pawn Shop – on the incorrect factual finding that BSPLC’s pre-transfer, pre-default personal jurisdiction challenge in the District of Columbia was successful. The record demonstrates that BSPLC achieved no such victory. It was, therefore clear error for the district court to find otherwise and to rely on that fact for the purpose of distinguishing BSPLC’s conduct from that of the defendants in Mickalis Pawn Shop. View "Kaplan v. Bank Saderat PLC" on Justia Law
Doe v. United States
Plaintiff Jane Doe alleged that for a period of seven years, she suffered sexual, physical, and psychological abuse at the hands of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer. Four years after the alleged abuse ended, Doe brought this action against the officer, the United States, the Department of Homeland Security, and two senior DHS officials, asserting various federal and state claims. The district court granted Defendants’ motions for summary judgment based on the applicable statutes of limitations and denied Doe’s request for equitable tolling. The Second Circuit vacated the district court’s ruling and held that the district court erred in granting summary judgment because the evidence in the record could have allowed it to conclude that the prerequisites for equitable tolling were met. The court explained that the record makes plausible the inferences that years of violent sexual abuse and threats to Doe’s life constituted an extraordinary circumstance preventing Doe from sooner pursuing her claims and that she acted with reasonable diligence. View "Doe v. United States" on Justia Law
Doe v. United States
The Second Circuit vacated and remanded the district court’s ruling granting summary judgment for Defendants, a former Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer. Plaintiff, Jane Doe, alleged she was sexually and psychologically abused by Defendant, a former Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer. Four years after the abuse ended, Doe initiated this action against Rodriguez and various government defendants. Defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing Doe’s claims were untimely. Doe asked the district court to equitably toll the applicable statutes of limitations. The court granted summary judgment to Defendants. The Second Circuit vacated and remanded. The court explained that in this case, the district court denied equitable tolling as a matter of law, purporting to draw every inference in favor of Doe. The court vacated its judgment because the record allows for a finding that Doe faced extraordinary circumstances and acted with reasonable diligence. On remand, the district court should act in a fact-finding capacity and determine whether Doe has demonstrated extraordinary circumstances and reasonable diligence. The court explained that if the court determines that she has established these prerequisites for equitable tolling, then it should engage in the discretionary determination of whether to grant her request for equitable tolling. View "Doe v. United States" on Justia Law
Talarico Bros. Bldg. Corp., et al. v. Union Carbide Corp., et al.
Twenty-eight individuals and businesses commenced this citizen suit under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (“RCRA”), which creates a private right of action against any entity that has “contributed . . . to the past or present handling, storage, treatment, transportation, or disposal of any solid or hazardous waste which may present an imminent and substantial endangerment to health or the environment.” Plaintiffs complained of elevated levels of radiation detected on their land and seek to hold responsible three entities that operated nearby chemical plants during the twentieth century. The district court dismissed their complaints, holding, among other things, that the radioactive materials found on the plaintiffs’ properties fall outside the scope of RCRA because they were recycled industrial byproducts rather than discarded waste. Defendants raised a host of additional arguments in support of dismissal. The Second Circuit affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded. The court explained that as to Defendants Union Carbide Corporation and Occidental Chemical Corporation, the complaint plausibly alleged the elements of a citizen suit under RCRA, or the Plaintiffs have identified extrinsic evidence that may render amendment fruitful. However, as against defendant Bayer CropScience Inc., there are no particularized allegations from which liability can reasonably be inferred. The court reasoned that there is one probative allegation implicating Bayer: Stauffer’s Lewiston plant was located within 2,000 feet of the Robert Street properties and within a mile of four of the Plaintiffs’ other properties. But proximity alone is insufficient to make Bayer’s contribution plausible. View "Talarico Bros. Bldg. Corp., et al. v. Union Carbide Corp., et al." on Justia Law
In re: M/V MSC Flaminia
Deltech Corp. (“Deltech”), a chemical manufacturer, joins here with Stolt-Nielsen USA, Inc., and Stolt Tank Containers B.V. (together, “Stolt”), a shipping concern, to challenge the district court’s determination that they alone bear liability for damages caused by an explosion and fire that took place in June 2012 aboard the ocean-going vessel M/V MSC Flaminia. In the first phase of a three-part proceeding, the district court addressed the causes of the explosion. It determined that the decision to ship DVB-80 from New Orleans Terminal rather than a northeastern port, the early filling of the DVB-80 containers and their early transport to New Orleans Terminal, the conditions in which the tanks of DVB-80 were kept at New Orleans Terminal, and their placement and stowage onboard the Flaminia were the primary causes of the explosion. It exculpated other parties to the shipping transaction from legal liability. It is this decision that Deltech and Stolt challenge now in an interlocutory appeal. The Second Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part. The court reversed the district court’s determination that Deltech and Stolt are strictly liable under Section 4(6) of the Carriage of Goods at Sea Act (“COGSA”), but the court affirmed its ruling that Deltech and Stolt are liable under a failure-to-warn theory pursuant to Section 4(3). As to the other defendants, the court affirmed the district court’s conclusion that the carrier and related shipowner interests were not negligent in their treatment of the shipment and that New Orleans Terminal too, was not negligent. The court also affirmed the district court’s determination that Stolt has not stated a claim against its subcontractor. View "In re: M/V MSC Flaminia" on Justia Law