Justia Business Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
Thomas v. Hughes
The Fifth Circuit slightly modified the district court's final judgment to prevent the possibility of double recovery and otherwise affirmed the district court's final judgment, attorney's fee award, and denial of post-judgment relief on various grounds. The court concluded that the district court did not err in limiting defendant's testimony as it did; the evidence was sufficient for the jury to conclude that defendant and Performance Probiotics misappropriated trade secrets; defendant breached her fiduciary duty to PPI; defendant fraudulently transferred assets in violation of the Texas Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act; and to support the jury's decision to pierce the corporate veils of PPI and Performance Probiotics.The court also concluded that the district court did not err by retaining jurisdiction over API or abuse its discretion either in denying defendant's motion for a new trial or in awarding attorney's fees and expenses. The court clarified that the district court's judgment could be read to allow for a duplicative recovery and thus modified the judgment affirmatively to state that plaintiffs may not recover the amount of the Comal County judgment twice. View "Thomas v. Hughes" on Justia Law
MDK Sociedad de Responsabilidad Limitada v. Proplant Inc.
MDK, a Bolivian entity, filed suit against Proplant, a Texas-based corporation under both breach of contract and tort theories. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Proplant, concluding that MDK did not meet the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(d) standard for deferring summary judgment, and thus the district court did not err by ruling on Proplant's summary judgment motion before the parties had completed discovery. In this case, MDK's opening brief failed to adequately present its arguments that Proplant's summary judgment motion and the district court's summary judgment order were "legally deficient." Therefore, MDK has waived these issues.Finally, the court rejected MDK's contention that the district court erred in granting summary judgment on MDK's two breach of contract claims. In regard to the first claim, the court concluded that MDK has not pointed to any evidence suggesting that it did in fact execute the October Document. In regard to the second claim, the court concluded that MDK failed to meet its burden of demonstrating by competent evidence that there is a dispute of material fact as to whether YPFB awarded Proplant the O&M contract. View "MDK Sociedad de Responsabilidad Limitada v. Proplant Inc." on Justia Law
O’Brien’s Response Management, L.L.C. v. BP Exploration & Production, Inc.
BP retained the Responders (O’Brien’s and NRC) for nearly $2 billion to assist with the cleanup of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Thousands of the Responders' workers filed personal injury lawsuits against BP, which were consolidated and organized into “pleading bundles.” The B3 bundle included “all claims for personal injury and/or medical monitoring for exposure or other injury occurring after the explosion and fire of April 20, 2010.” In 2012, BP entered the “Medical Settlement” on the B3 claims with a defined settlement class. The opt-out deadline closed in October 2012. The Medical Settlement created a new type of claim for latent injuries, BackEnd Litigation Option (BELO) claims. After the settlement, plaintiffs could bring opt-out B3 claims if they did not participate in the settlement, and BELO claims if they were class members who alleged latent injuries and followed the approved process. Responders were aware of the settlement before the district court approved it but neither Responder had control over the negotiations, nor did either approve the settlement.In 2017, BP sought indemnification for 2,000 BELO claims by employees of the Responders. The Fifth Circuit held that BP was an additional insured up to the minimum amount required by its contract with O’Brien’s; the insurance policies maintained by O’Brien’s cannot be combined to satisfy the minimum amount. O’Brien’s is not required to indemnify BP because BP materially breached its indemnification provision with respect to the BELO claims. View "O'Brien's Response Management, L.L.C. v. BP Exploration & Production, Inc." on Justia Law
Vikas WSP, Ltd. v. Economy Mud Products Co.
This case concerns three orders purporting to enforce a settlement between the parties in a commercial dispute: (1) an order declaring that Vikas breached the settlement; (2) an order striking Vikas's pleadings as a sanction; and (3) a summary judgment that Vikas had procured the settlement by fraud, causing $40 million in damages.The Fifth Circuit concluded that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to issue the summary judgment for fraud and thus the court vacated the order and denied as moot Vikas's related appeals. The court also vacated the sanctions order based on either lack of subject matter jurisdiction or an abuse of discretion standard. Finally, the court vacated the ruling that Vikas breached the settlement, concluding that the district judge ignored key provisions of the settlement and failed to support his judgment with relevant record evidence. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Vikas WSP, Ltd. v. Economy Mud Products Co." on Justia Law
Ledford v. Keen
After plaintiff was run over by a barrel-racing horse at a Texas rodeo, she filed suit against Kosse Roping Club, the rodeo operator, for negligence. Ten months later, plaintiff filed suit against the club's directors.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims against the directors as untimely. The court need not decide the validity of plaintiff's tolling theory because it concluded that, under Texas law, plaintiff could not pierce the club's corporate veil based solely on evidence that the club was undercapitalized. Therefore, plaintiff's veil-piercing theory failed and, along with it, any argument that the limitations clock against the directors was tolled by her suing Kosse. View "Ledford v. Keen" on Justia Law
Petrobras America, Inc. v. Samsung Heavy Industries Co., Ltd.
Petrobras, the American subsidiary of a Brazilian oil and gas producer, alleges that Samsung, a Korean shipbuilder, secretly bribed Petrobras executives to finalize a contract between Petrobras and Pride. In a 2007 contract, Samsung had an option to build a deep-sea drillship if Pride secured a drilling-services contract with another company. Samsung arranged to bribe Petrobras executives to secure Pride's contract for the construction of DS-5. After Petrobras put DS-5 on permanent standby and conducted an internal audit, it informed Brazilian prosecutors. A 2014 investigation into corruption throughout Brazil, included a separate bribery scheme in which Samsung contracted with Petrobras to construct two other ships.In 2019, Petrobras sued Samsung for its role in the bribery that led to the Petrobras–Pride DS-5 contract, citing common-law fraud under Texas law and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1962(c),(d). The district court took judicial notice of Petrobras’s 2014 SEC filing and Washington Post and Reuters articles, describing the bribery schemes underlying other Samsung–Petrobras contracts that did not mention the Petrobras–Pride DS-5 contract. From those, the court inferred that Petrobras was on notice by 2014 that the DS-5 contract was suspect. Holding that “the specific drillship in this case is not subject to its own limitations clock,” the district court dismissed the suit. The Fifth Circuit reversed. The pleadings do not establish as a matter of law that Petrobras had actual or constructive notice of its injury before March 2015, so dismissal at the pleading stage was improper. View "Petrobras America, Inc. v. Samsung Heavy Industries Co., Ltd." on Justia Law
Academy of Allergy & Asthma in Primary Care v. Quest Diagnostics, Inc.
AAAPC and UAS filed suit against Quest for conspiring to force them out of the market of providing allergy and asthma testing. The district court dismissed plaintiffs' claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).The Fifth Circuit concluded that plaintiffs' claims alleging that Quest violated sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act and the Texas antitrust law are not time-barred. The court explained that plaintiffs' allegations about Phadia and Quest's continued meetings with providers and payors do not restart the statute of limitations; plaintiffs' allegations regarding the June 2015 policy change does not suffice to restart the statute of limitations; but plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged that Phadia and Quest were involved in the alleged conspiracy and that the allegation regarding Phadia's May 2014 email reset the statute of limitations. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's dismissal as to the state and federal antitrust claims. The court also reversed the dismissal of plaintiffs' misappropriation of trade secrets claim, concluding that plaintiffs have sufficiently pled they could not have discovered their misappropriation injury using reasonable diligence. Moreover, nothing in the complaint forecloses their potential rejoinder to the statute of limitations defense. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the civil conspiracy and tortious interference claims. Finally, the court affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiffs' request for leave to amend their complaint. View "Academy of Allergy & Asthma in Primary Care v. Quest Diagnostics, Inc." on Justia Law
WickFire, LLC v. Woodruff
WickFire filed suit against Media, alleging a violation of section 43(a) of the Lanham Act, tortious interference with existing contracts, tortious interference with prospective economic relationships, and civil conspiracy. In this appeal, Media challenged the jury verdict in favor of WickFire.The Fifth Circuit concluded that the district court had jurisdiction over WickFire's Lanham Act claim and thus pendent jurisdiction over each of WickFire's state law tort claims. On the merits, the court concluded that any argument that WickFire offered insufficient evidence regarding the section 43(a) claim is moot where the jury found that there were no damages and thus WickFire cannot be a prevailing party under the Act. The court also concluded that WickFire's tortious interference with contractual relations claim failed as a matter of law. However, because the evidence of damages is insufficient as a matter of law, the court reversed the judgment as to the tortious interference with prospective business relations claim. Because each of WickFire's underlying claims failed, the court reversed the judgment as to the civil conspiracy claim. Finally, the court concluded that TriMax is not entitled to judgment as a matter of law on WickFire's justification defense. Accordingly, the court denied TriMax's motion to dismiss; reversed as to WickFire's tortious interference claims and its civil conspiracy claim; and affirmed in all other respects. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "WickFire, LLC v. Woodruff" on Justia Law
Belliveau v. Barco, Inc.
Plaintiff, a prolific inventor in the field of lighting technology, licensed his intellectual property exclusively to High End Systems in 2007. High End became a wholly owned subsidiary of Barco several years later. After Barco decided to sell High End to a third party in 2017, plaintiff filed suit alleging claims against Barco including breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and fraud by nondisclosure arising out of the events leading up to the sale of High End.The Fifth Circuit held that the district court properly granted summary judgment on plaintiff's claim to pierce the corporate veil. In this case, to hold Barco liable for High End's alleged breach of contract, plaintiff must show that Barco (the then-shareholder) used High End (the corporation) to (1) "perpetrate an actual fraud" (2) primarily for Barco's "direct personal benefit." The court concluded that the evidence, when viewed as a whole, does not raise a fact issue regarding Barco's dishonest purpose or intent to deceive plaintiff in entering into the Barco Sublicense. The court explained that piercing the corporate veil is not a cumulative remedy for creditors of corporate or other legal entities in Texas; that theory does not make owners of such entities codefendants for every breach of contract case. Rather, it is a remedy to be used when the actions of the entity's owner amounting to "actual fraud" have rendered the entity unable to pay its debts. The court held that the district court properly granted summary judgment on plaintiff's claim for breach of fiduciary duty and fraud by nondisclosure. The court agreed with the district court that there was no evidence of a fiduciary relationship between plaintiff and Barco. View "Belliveau v. Barco, Inc." on Justia Law
Shah v. VHS San Antonio Partners, LLC
Shah, a board-certified pediatric anesthesiology specialist, joined STAR, which became the exclusive provider of anesthesia services at several San Antonio-area acute-care hospitals, including NCB. BHS guaranteed STAR $500,000 in collections for pediatric anesthesia services provided at NCB. In 2012, STAR became the exclusive provider of anesthesia services at four BHS hospitals. Shah was not a party to the 2012 agreement, nor was he named in the pediatric income guarantee but he continued to practice as a STAR pediatric anesthesiologist, becoming the primary beneficiary of STAR’s guaranteed collections. In 2016, STAR and BHS amended the 2012 agreement, eliminating the pediatric income guarantee. The exclusivity provision remained. STAR terminated its relationship with Shah. Shah could no longer provide pediatric anesthesia services at NCB or any other BHS facility included in the exclusivity agreement. Shah requested authorization to provide pediatric anesthesia care at NCB; BHS responded that Shah’s reappointment to the Medical Staff of BHS and his privileges were approved but the exclusivity provision precluded Shah from providing pediatric anesthesia services at six BHS facilities (including NCB). After unsuccessfully suing STAR in Texas state court, Shah sued under the Sherman Act.The Fifth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the BHS parties. Shah’s definition of the relevant market is insufficient as a matter of law; it does not encompass all interchangeable substitute products because it does not include the two non-BHS facilities that the BHS parties contend serve as viable alternatives to BHS facilities. View "Shah v. VHS San Antonio Partners, LLC" on Justia Law