Justia U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Personal Injury
Abdelhady v. George Washington University
The appellant, Hdeel Abdelhady, filed a suit against George Washington University ("the University") after being injured on the university's property. During the proceedings, the University submitted several exhibits that contained references to Abdelhady's private medical treatments and diagnoses. Abdelhady filed a motion to seal these exhibits to protect her medical privacy, but the District Court partially denied her motion. Abdelhady appealed this decision in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.The appeals court first established its jurisdiction over the appeal by applying the "collateral order doctrine," which allows for immediate appeal of certain orders that are crucial and unreviewable after the final judgment. The court noted the high value of maintaining privacy in medical treatments and diagnoses and affirmed that an order denying a motion to seal records containing such information is immediately appealable.Turning to the merits of the appeal, the appeals court found that the District Court had erred in denying Abdelhady's motion to seal. It noted a lack of clarity in the District Court's decision and found that the lower court had relied on the incorrect assumption that Abdelhady had already disclosed in her redacted complaint all of the same information she sought to have sealed. The appeals court also found that the District Court did not adequately consider several factors that should guide such a decision, including the need for public access to the documents, Abdelhady's interest in medical privacy, and the extent of previous public access to the records.Consequently, the appeals court found that the District Court had abused its discretion and vacated the lower court's decision. The case was remanded back to the District Court for further consideration of all relevant factors and a more detailed explanation of its decision. The appeals court underscored that this remand did not imply that Abdelhady's motion to seal should have been granted in full, noting several ambiguities in her request. View "Abdelhady v. George Washington University" on Justia Law
Whiteru v. WMATA
In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is faced with deciding if a passenger on a train station platform, who involuntarily falls into a non-public area (a trough housing electrical and lighting equipment) and sustains severe injuries, becomes a trespasser due to his fall. The injured party, Okiemute C. Whiteru, was intoxicated and fell into the trough after attempting to sit on the station platform ledge. The fall resulted in a fractured vertebra, which led to his eventual death by asphyxiation. Whiteru's parents and estate filed claims of negligence and wrongful death against the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), arguing that WMATA failed in its duty as a common carrier to render aid to Whiteru.In a previous decision, the court held that Whiteru's contributory negligence did not preclude liability for WMATA's failure to aid. However, on remand, WMATA argued that Whiteru's status changed from passenger to trespasser when he fell into the non-public area, thus reducing WMATA's duty of care. The district court granted WMATA's motion for summary judgment, accepting the argument that Whiteru became a trespasser upon his fall.The Appeals Court, however, found uncertainty in how to determine Whiteru's status under District of Columbia law as either a passenger or a trespasser, which in turn would determine WMATA's duty of care. The court found no controlling precedent from the District of Columbia Court of Appeals on this matter and thus certified the question to that court. The certified question asks if, under District of Columbia law, a passenger of a common carrier who involuntarily falls into a non-public area, sustaining immobilizing injuries, may recover for the exacerbation of the injuries due to the common carrier's failure to aid him, if the common carrier knew or had reason to know of the injuries. View "Whiteru v. WMATA" on Justia Law
Mary Ofisi v. BNP Paribas, S.A.
Appellants are survivors and family members of victims of the 1998 U.S. embassy attacks in Kenya and Tanzania. They bring suit against Appellee BNP Paribas, S.A. (“BNPP”), an international bank, alleging the bank acted in support of the terrorists who committed those attacks. The district court granted Appellee’s motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). The DC Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Appellants’ Section 2339A(a) ATA claim using the exact words the court did in Owens: “Plaintiffs’ complaint fails to plausibly allege that any currency processed by BNPP for Sudan was either in fact sent to al Qaeda or necessary for Sudan to fund the embassy bombings. Therefore, Plaintiffs fail to adequately allege that they were injured ‘by reason of’ BNPP’s acts and cannot state a claim for relief based on a theory of primary liability under the ATA.” Here, Appellants do not plausibly allege that any money passed from BNPP’s financial support of Sudan to al-Qaeda in preparation for the embassy bombings. View "Mary Ofisi v. BNP Paribas, S.A." on Justia Law
Devon Tinius v. Luke Choi
D.T. and six other Plaintiffs were arrested for violating a citywide temporary curfew in Washington, D.C., in June 2020. At the time of their arrests, Plaintiffs were standing on a public street peacefully protesting police killings of Black Americans. Plaintiffs alleged they were out on the streets four hours after the start of the curfew on June 1, 2020, when they were arrested for violating the mayor’s order. Plaintiffs sued the arresting officers and the city for damages. Their principal claim is that, because they were engaging in peaceful public protests, their arrests for breaking the curfew violated their First Amendment rights. The district court granted the Defendants’ motions to dismiss, holding that the June 1 curfew order was a constitutionally valid time, place, and manner restriction. The court held that the remaining claims also failed because they were contingent on the order’s asserted invalidity under the First Amendment. The DC Circuit affirmed. The court explained that Plaintiffs included an allegation that their overnight detention in handcuffs injured their wrists, but they sued the arresting officers, not persons responsible for the conditions of their detention. That allegation thus does not support an excessive force claim against these Defendants. Further, Plaintiffs argued that the June 1 Order violated their fundamental right to travel, but that claim is forfeited. Plaintiffs neither pleaded nor pressed a right-to-travel claim in the district court. View "Devon Tinius v. Luke Choi" on Justia Law
Norfolk Southern Railway Company v. STB
Norfolk Southern Railway Company (Norfolk Southern) petitioned for review of a decision of the Surface Transportation Board (STB or Board), the successor agency to the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) charged with authorizing certain rail carrier transactions under the Interstate Commerce Act. Norfolk Southern is a rail carrier that owns a 57.14 percent share of the Norfolk & Portsmouth Belt Line Railroad Company (Belt Line), the operator of a major switching terminal in Norfolk, Virginia. Norfolk Southern’s majority interest goes back to 1982, when its corporate family acquired and consolidated various rail carriers with smaller ownership interests in the Belt Line. Norfolk Southern’s competitor, CSX Transportation, Inc. (CSX), owns the remainder of the Belt Line’s shares (42.86 percent). This case involves a different question raised before the Board for the first time: whether the ICC/Board approvals of Norfolk Southern’s subsequent corporate-family consolidations in 1991 and 1998 authorized Norfolk Southern to control the Belt Line. The Board again answered no. Norfolk Southern petitioned for review. The DC Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that the Board’s decision regarding the 1991 and 1998 transactions is neither arbitrary nor capricious. The Board reasonably sought to avoid an absurd interpretation of 49 C.F.R. Section 1180.2(d)(3)’s corporate-family exemption that would allow a carrier to gain control of a new entity without following the Board’s review requirements and then “cure that unauthorized acquisition by reorganizing the corporate family.” The Board reasonably rejected Norfolk Southern’s claim that, by reshuffling the pieces of its corporate family, it acquired control authority of the Belt Line sub silentio. View "Norfolk Southern Railway Company v. STB" on Justia Law
Martin Doherty v. Turner Broadcasting Systems, Inc.
Plaintiff injured himself on the job while working as a photojournalist for media corporation Turner Broadcasting Systems, Inc. In the following years, while he was unable to work, Turner paid him for his leave. Plaintiff claimed that because his injury was job-related, Turner paid him workers’ compensation, while Turner claims that it paid him according to a separate disability policy. This distinction has legal significance because income earned as workers’ compensation is non-taxable, while disability payments are taxed. Turner reported the compensation as part of Plaintiff’s taxable income on the W-2s it filed with the IRS. Plaintiff sued Turner under 26 U.S.C. Section 7434 for willfully filing fraudulent information returns on his behalf. The district court granted summary judgment for Turner. The DC Circuit reversed. The court explained that under Section 7434, a plaintiff must show: (1) the defendant filed an information return on his or her behalf, (2) the return was false as to the amount paid, and (3) the defendant acted willfully and fraudulently. The parties agree that the W-2s qualify as information returns, and Plaintiff has raised a dispute of material fact as to the second and third elements. As to falsity, Plaintiff’s injury was job-related, and a reasonable jury could therefore conclude that the W-2s were inaccurate because they overstated his taxable income by including workers’ compensation. And as to scienter, several pieces of evidence including the language of Turner’s own policies as well as communications between the parties could lead a factfinder to conclude that Turner knew or should have known the actual nature of these payments. View "Martin Doherty v. Turner Broadcasting Systems, Inc." on Justia Law
Keren Kayemeth Leisrael – Jewish National Fund v. Education for a Just Peace in the Middle East
Appellants are victims of terrorist attacks allegedly perpetrated by the Islamic Resistance Movement, colloquially known as “Hamas.” Appellants assert that Hamas and affiliated groups are responsible for launching incendiary devices from the Gaza Strip into areas of Israel where appellants live and own property, causing substantial damage and emotional harm. They sued an American nonprofit corporation — Education for a Just Peace in the Middle East, doing business as the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights (“USCPR”) — under the Anti-Terrorism Act (“ATA”), alleging that USCPR aided and abetted and provided material support to Hamas. The district court dismissed the Complaint, holding that Appellants failed to allege sufficient links between Hamas and USCPR to hold USCPR liable for any acts of terrorism. The DC Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that the district court properly dismissed Appellants’ direct liability and aiding-and-abetting claims under the ATA. The Complaint does not adequately plead that USCPR provided funds to Hamas or otherwise aided or abetted Hamas. The court explained that Appellants’ attempt to establish aiding-and-abetting liability fails at every turn. First, although appellants claim that USCPR aided and abetted Hamas, appellants do not adequately allege that Hamas “perform[ed] a wrongful act that caused an injury.” Second, there are no facts from which we can infer that USCPR was “generally aware” that its role of providing funds to the Boycott National Committee was “part of an overall illegal or tortious activity.” Finally, the court discerned no non-conclusory factual allegations that USCPR “knowingly and substantially assisted” any incendiary launches. View "Keren Kayemeth Leisrael - Jewish National Fund v. Education for a Just Peace in the Middle East" on Justia Law
Ian Scott-Anderman, et al. v. Robert Martinez, et al.
Appellants– the former secretary-treasurer and president, respectively, of a District Lodge of the International Association of Machinists – appealed the district court’s denial of their motion for a preliminary injunction. They sued the international union, its president, and its general secretary-treasurer. The controversy concerns the suspensions of Appellants’ and the international union’s imposition of a trusteeship on their District Lodge. Appellants’ first amended complaint alleged one count under Title I and five counts under Title III of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (the “LMRDA”). They sought equitable relief along with compensatory and punitive damages. A month after they filed their first amended complaint, they filed a motion for a preliminary injunction. The district court denied the motion. It held that Appellants had not shown a likelihood of success on the merits. It also held that the other factors did not favor them. The DC Circuit affirmed. The court held that Appellants’ request under Title III to end the trusteeship is moot. A case becomes moot when a party obtains the relief they sought. Here, the disputed trusteeship has been lifted. Further, the court explained that Appellants seek to invalidate an officer election. It is impossible to reinstate Appellant as secretary-treasurer or allow the District Lodge to elect new members to other positions unless the court invalidates the officer election that just occurred. Thus, the court rejected the Title I claim. View "Ian Scott-Anderman, et al. v. Robert Martinez, et al." on Justia Law
Xingru Lin v. DC (PUBLIC)
Appellant was working as a bus ticketing agent in Washington, D.C. when a person attempted to sneak onto a bus headed to New York without a ticket. After Appellant ordered the person off the bus the two women got into a scuffle. District of Columbia Metropolitan Police officers arrived in response to the unticketed person’s call reporting Appellant for assault. Officers grabbed Appellant, pressed her against the wall, and then forced her to the floor and handcuffed her. The police charged her with simple assault on the person attempting to get on the bus and with assaulting a police officer while resisting arrest. Appellant subsequently sued the District of Columbia and the police officers, alleging civil rights violations during this arrest and a second arrest that occurred in April 2016. She appealed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the District and its officers. The DC Circuit agreed in part and reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment for the District and its officers on Appellant’s 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 wrongful arrest, common law false arrest, and respondeat superior claims. The court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment as to Appellant’s other claims. The court explained that the district court erred in granting summary judgment to the District on Appellant’s wrongful arrest and common law false arrest claims because there is a genuine dispute of material fact over whether probable cause for the simple assault arrest had dissipated and required the police officers to release Appellant. View "Xingru Lin v. DC (PUBLIC)" on Justia Law
Dana Bernhardt v. Islamic Republic of Iran
An al-Qaeda suicide bomber killed nine people at Camp Chapman, a secret CIA base in Afghanistan. Plaintiff and other family members of the bombing victims sued HSBC Holdings PLC and several of its foreign and domestic affiliates under the Antiterrorism Act. Plaintiffs allege that HSBC helped foreign banks evade U.S. sanctions and thereby provided material support to al-Qaeda’s terrorist activities. Plaintiff claims that HSBC is liable for aiding and abetting and conspiring to bring about al-Qaeda’s terrorist attack on Camp Chapman. The district court dismissed the claims against the foreign HSBC defendants for lack of personal jurisdiction and dismissed Plaintiffs aiding and abetting and conspiracy claims for failure to state a claim. The DC Circuit affirmed. The court explained that while the ATA creates liability for those who materially assist acts of terrorism, a successful claim requires a plausible connection between HSBC and al-Qaeda. The court explained that Plaintiffs allege no common objective between HSBC and al-Qaeda. The complaint states that HSBC was trying to make “substantial profits” by evading sanctions, whereas al-Qaeda sought to “terrorize the U.S. into retreating from the world stage”; “use long wars to financially bleed the U.S. while inflaming anti-American sentiment”; “defend the rights of Muslims”; and “obtain global domination through a violent Islamic caliphate.” These objectives are wholly orthogonal to one another. The court wrote it cannot infer from the complaint the necessary connection to maintain the ATA aiding and abetting and conspiracy claims. View "Dana Bernhardt v. Islamic Republic of Iran" on Justia Law
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