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

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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Laura Henry filed a lawsuit against Olakunle Oluwole and their former employer, Bristol Hospital, alleging that Oluwole had sexually assaulted her. Shortly after the complaint was filed, Oluwole was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident, which he claimed prevented him from receiving timely notice of the action. Oluwole did not initially appear in court, leading the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut to enter a default judgment against him. Five years later, Oluwole appeared and moved to set aside the default judgment, but the district court denied his motion. The case against Bristol proceeded to a jury trial, which resulted in a verdict that Henry had failed to prove that Oluwole sexually assaulted, assaulted, or battered her. Following the jury verdict, the district court vacated the default judgment against Oluwole for the assault and battery claims but left it in place for other claims.The U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut initially entered a default judgment against Oluwole due to his failure to appear. After Oluwole eventually appeared and moved to set aside the default judgment, the district court denied his motion, finding his default willful and that setting it aside would prejudice Henry. The jury trial against Bristol resulted in a verdict in favor of Bristol, finding no proof of sexual assault, assault, or battery by Oluwole. Consequently, the district court vacated the default judgment against Oluwole for the assault and battery claims but maintained it for other claims, including false imprisonment and emotional distress.The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reviewed the case and found that the district court erred in denying Oluwole’s motions to set aside the default judgment. The appellate court held that the district court should have set aside the default judgment based on the factors established in Enron Oil Corp. v. Diakuhara. Additionally, the appellate court determined that the entire default judgment should have been vacated following the jury verdict, as maintaining it was inconsistent with the jury’s findings, pursuant to the principle in Frow v. De La Vega. The Second Circuit reversed the district court’s judgment and remanded with instructions to enter judgment for Oluwole. View "Henry v. Oluwole" on Justia Law

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This case is about a dispute between Richard Roe and St. John’s University (SJU) and Jane Doe. Roe, a male student at SJU, was accused of sexually assaulting two female students, Doe and Mary Smith, on separate occasions. SJU's disciplinary board found Roe guilty of non-consensual sexual contact with both Doe and Smith and imposed sanctions, including a suspension and eventual expulsion. Roe then sued SJU, alleging that his rights under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and state contract law had been violated. He also sued Doe for allegedly defaming him in an anonymous tweet accusing him of sexual assault. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York dismissed Roe's Title IX and state law claims, and declined to exercise jurisdiction over his defamation claim. On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the district court's decision, holding that Roe's complaint failed to state a plausible claim of sex discrimination under Title IX. The court found that, while Roe had identified some procedural irregularities in SJU's disciplinary proceedings, these were not sufficient to support a minimal plausible inference of sex discrimination. Furthermore, the court ruled that Roe's hostile environment claim was fatally deficient, as the single anonymous tweet at the center of his claim was not, standing alone, sufficiently severe to support a claim of a hostile educational environment under Title IX. View "Roe v. St. John's University" on Justia Law

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In a defamation lawsuit brought by E. Jean Carroll against former President Donald Trump, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that presidential immunity can be waived and that Trump had waived his presidential immunity by failing to raise it as an affirmative defense in his original response to Carroll's complaint. Carroll sued Trump for defamation after he publicly denied her accusation of sexual assault in the mid-1990s. The court affirmed the lower court's decision to deny Trump's motion for summary judgment and his request to amend his answer to include presidential immunity as a defense. The court also upheld the lower court's decision to strike Trump's presidential immunity defense from his answer to Carroll's amended complaint. The case was remanded back to the lower court for further proceedings. View "Carroll v. Trump" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed from a partial final judgment of the district court dismissing his Connecticut state law claims for defamation and tortious interference with contract against Defendant, who accused Plaintiff of sexual assault in 2015 while the two were students at Yale University. Plaintiff argued that the district court erred in finding (1) Defendant to enjoy absolute quasi-judicial immunity for statements made at the 2018 Yale disciplinary hearing that resulted in Plaintiff’s expulsion from the university and (2) Plaintiff’s tortious interference claims based on Defendant’s original 2015 accusations to be untimely. On preliminary review, the Second Circuit was unable to determine whether Connecticut would recognize the Yale disciplinary hearing at issue as a quasi-judicial proceeding supporting absolute immunity in this case. Accordingly, the court certified questions pertinent to that determination to the Connecticut Supreme Court. That court responded that absolute immunity does not apply in this case because Yale’s disciplinary hearing was not a quasi-judicial proceeding in that it lacked procedural safeguards associated with judicial proceedings.   In response, The Second Circuit affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded. The court explained that while the Connecticut Supreme Court recognized the possibility for participants in such a hearing to be shielded by qualified immunity, the Connecticut Supreme Court concluded that Defendant is not presently entitled to dismissal on that ground because Plaintiff’s complaint sufficiently pleads the malice necessary to defeat such immunity. With this guidance as to Connecticut law, the court concluded on this appeal that Plaintiff’s complaint should not have been dismissed against Defendant except as to his tortious interference claim based on 2015 statements, which is untimely. View "Khan v. Yale Univ." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff alleged that he co-created the song “All the Way Up,” but that he has not been properly credited or compensated for his contribution. He filed this action in the district court asserting claims under the Copyright Act, as well as various tort claims. Defendants maintain that Plaintiff assigned away any rights he may have had in the song, but the agreement has never been produced, and the parties disagree about its content and effect. The district court admitted a draft version of the missing agreement as a duplicate, and then granted Defendants’ motion for summary judgment without allowing Plaintiff to conduct discovery.   The Second Circuit vacated and remanded. The court held that the district court abused its discretion in finding the draft admissible as a duplicate original under Federal Rule of Evidence 1003, but properly admitted the draft as “other evidence of the content” of the original under Rule 1004. The court further held that the district court abused its discretion in denying Plaintiff’s request to conduct discovery prior to the entry of summary judgment and erred in concluding that no genuine dispute of material fact existed based on the current record. View "Elliott v. Cartagena, et al." on Justia Law

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While riding a bicycle, Plaintiff ran into an open car door being operated by a recruiter for the U.S. Marines. Plaintiff brought a claim for negligence against the United States, pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act. The district court found the United States liable but concluded Plaintiff was also negligent and, therefore, partially liable.On appeal, the Second Circuit found that the evidence of Plaintiff's negligence was "dubious," and, even if Plaintiff was negligent, the district court failed to make the findings necessary to any holding that the plaintiff’s negligent conduct sufficiently caused the collision so as to make Plaintiff 40% responsible for the damages. View "Dooley v. United States" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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

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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