Justia U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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Petitioner seeks review of the Board's decision holding that petitioner could not receive concurrent payments for total disability and permanent partial disability under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, 33 U.S.C. 901–50. In this case, petitioner seeks concurrent compensation for a “scheduled” injury (hearing loss) under 33 U.S.C. 908(c)(13) and total disability caused by his back injury. Stevedoring Servs. of Am. v. Price allows concurrent awards for certain time-delayed injuries. The court held that, where the only evidence of hearing loss is a post-retirement audiogram, the Bath Iron Works Corp. v. Director, Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs rule applies when determining the timing of disabilities under Price. Here, petitioner's last day of exposure to excessive noise was the same day as his back injury and Price does not apply. Under wage-compensation principles, concurrent payments for total disability and scheduled permanent partial disability are generally unavailable. Therefore, the Price exception does not apply because plaintiff's hearing loss did not precede his back injury. The court rejected petitioner's claim that he should at least be provided a decreased award capped at two-thirds of his wage under ITO Corp. of Baltimore v. Green. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for review. View "Fenske v. Service Emp. Int'l" on Justia Law

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Trader Joe's filed suit against defendant for trademark infringement and unfair competition under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1051 et seq., and Washington law after defendant purchased Trader Joe's-branded goods in Washington state and transported them to Canada for resell in a store defendant designed to mimic a Trader Joe's store. The district court dismissed the Lanham Act and state law claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court held, consistent with recent case law from the Supreme Court and this court, that the extraterritorial reach of the Lanham Act raises a question relating to the merits of a trademark claim, not to federal courts’ subject-matter jurisdiction. The court concluded, on the merits, that Trader Joe’s alleges a nexus between defendant's conduct and American commerce sufficient to warrant extraterritorial application of the Lanham Act. Therefore, the court reversed as to the Lanham Act claim. The court affirmed the dismissal of the state law claims because Trader Joe’s did not allege trademark dilution in Washington or harm to a Washington resident or business. View "Trader Joe's Co. v. Hallatt" on Justia Law
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Plaintiff filed suit against his former employer, RSA, alleging retaliatory discharge claims under both state law and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001 et seq. A jury awarded him lump-sum damages on his state law claims, and the district court then entered judgment in his favor on his ERISA claim. Even though, at plaintiff's request, the jury had been instructed to include front pay in its damages award, the district court granted plaintiff additional equitable remedies consisting of reinstatement as well as front pay until reinstatement occurred. RSA appeals these equitable remedies. Given the way in which the jury was instructed and the evidence presented at trial, the court concluded that the jury’s verdict encompassed an implicit factual determination as to the entire amount of front pay to which plaintiff was entitled on account of his retaliatory discharge. Therefore, the court held that the district court’s grant of an additional front pay remedy for the same harm disregarded that determination in violation of the Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial. The court also held that, although the reinstatement remedy does not necessarily conflict with factual findings implicit in the jury’s verdict, it is nevertheless improper because plaintiff waived that relief when he elected to seek the duplicative front pay remedy from the jury. Accordingly, the court reversed the equitable awards. View "Teutscher v. Woodson" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001 et seq., against the Plan and MetLife, claiming that MetLife, the claim administrator and insurer of the Plan, improperly denied his claim for long-term disability (LTD) benefits. The district court granted defendants' cross-motion for summary judgment. The court concluded that the abuse-of-discretion review should be tempered with some skepticism because plaintiff has offered evidence of a conflict of interest where the independent physician consultants (IPCs) have earned a substantial amount of money from MetLife and have performed a substantial number of reviews for the company as well. The court further concluded that, taking into account the totality of the circumstances, MetLife abused its discretion in denying plaintiff's claim. In this case, the evidence included the financial conflict of interest of the IPCs on whom MetLife relied; the substantial evidence of plaintiff's mental limitations due to pain medication and physical limitations; and the IPCs’ reviews of plaintiff's condition, without having examined him and without explaining why they rejected his credibility, particularly in regard to evidence corroborating his credibility (both medical and nonmedical). Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded with instructions to the district court to remand this case to MetLife so that it may re-evaluate the merits of plaintiff's LTD claim. View "Demer v. IBM Corp." on Justia Law
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Petitioner, a citizen of Mexico, seeks review of the BIA's decision finding him ineligible for adjustment of status or cancellation of removal. Petitioner was determined ineligible for adjustment or cancellation under 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(II) because he had been convicted of violating a controlled substance law. The court concluded that a state conviction expunged under state law is still a conviction for purposes of eligibility for cancellation of removal and adjustment of status. And even though incarceration is not required, the federal definition of conviction is satisfied regardless of the rehabilitative purpose of probation, where the alien was punished or his liberty was restrained by the terms of his probation. The court concluded that petitioner is disqualified from seeking cancellation of removal and adjustment of status because he suffered such a qualifying conviction for a crime relating to a controlled substance. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for review. View "Reyes v. Lynch" on Justia Law
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Petitioner, convicted of second degree murder, appealed the denial of habeas relief. In Tarango v. McDaniel, the court stated that Mattox v. United States “compels a criminal trial court to consider the prejudicial effect of any external contact that has a ‘tendency’ to influence the verdict.” The court held further that a tendency to influence the verdict exists per se and triggers a presumption of prejudice whenever there is “unauthorized external contact between a juror and a government agent, whose official position ‘beyond question carries great weight with a jury.’” Because the court is bound by Tarango, the court assumed that petitioner was entitled to a presumption of prejudice under clearly established federal law by a juror's alleged misconduct. Even assuming a presumption of prejudice applies in petitioner's case, however, the court concluded that the California Court of Appeal’s analysis did not unreasonably apply clearly established federal law by concluding the government had rebutted the presumption. The court also concluded that, because the Court of Appeal did not act contrary to or unreasonably apply clearly established federal law when analyzing prejudice, petitioner is not entitled to relief on this ground; the court rejected petitioner's argument that the Court of Appeal unreasonably applied clearly established federal law when it concluded that the state trial court was within its discretion in refusing petitioner's request for an additional evidentiary hearing to investigate his juror misconduct claim; and petitioner is not entitled to relief where the trial court did not unreasonably deny his request for a third continuance where the trial judge had several reasons for denying the motion that were neither unreasonable or arbitrary. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Godoy v. Spearman" on Justia Law
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After BNSF suspended an employee, BMWED filed a complaint against BNSF alleging that BNSF's disciplinary actions interfered with and subverted the Railway Labor Act's (RLA), 45 U.S.C. 151-188, grievance and arbitration processes, and sought a declaration that BNSF’s actions violated the RLA. BNSF subsequently filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to enjoin BMWED from proceeding with a threatened strike. The district court ruled in favor of BNSF, concluding that the dispute was minor and subject to mandatory arbitration, and enjoining the threatened strike. BMWED filed an interlocutory appeal of the preliminary injunction. The court concluded that the subsequent entry of the final judgment in the case mooted the question of the procedural propriety of the preliminary injunction. The court concluded that the district court properly applied the ConRail test (Consolidated Rail Corp. v. Railway Labor Executives. Ass’n ) and properly concluded that the parties' dispute is a minor one. The court rejected BMWED's attempts to sidestep the ConRail framework by claiming that the distinction between minor and major disputes does not apply to the case. Rather, the court concluded that this is a dispute that fits squarely within the major/minor framework from the RLA and ConRail. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Bhd. of Maint. of Way v. BNSF" on Justia Law

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The Commissioner appeals the Tax Court's decision in these consolidated cases that SHI did not have deficiencies for the tax years under consideration and that SHLP and Vistancia had no adjustments to partnership items for their tax years which were under consideration. The tax court determined that the Taxpayers had used an accounting method that clearly reflected their income during the tax years under consideration. The court affirmed the tax court's decision that on the record before it, the Taxpayers used a permissible method of accounting and that method of accounting clearly reflected their income. The Tax Court determined that, as a matter of fact, the subject matter included the house, the lot, “the development . . . and its common improvements and amenities.” In this case, the Tax Court did not clearly err when it determined the subject matter of the Taxpayers’ home construction contracts; the Taxpayers’ application of the 95 percent test and the CCM logically flows from that determination. View "Shea Homes v. CIR" on Justia Law
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After Manuel Diaz was shot by an Anaheim police officer, Diaz's estate and mother filed suit against the officer and the city, alleging federal civil rights violations. The jury returned the verdict in favor of defendants. The court concluded that the trial court erred in failing to bifurcate liability from compensatory damages where graphic and prejudicial evidence about the victim has little, and in large part no, relevance to the liability issue. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded to the district court with some guidance. First, the evidence of Diaz’s drug use and gang affiliation has marginal, if any, probative value as to damages, and none as to liability. On retrial, the district court should closely review this evidence under Federal Rules of Evidence 401 and 403, and should assure that such evidence is admitted only to the degree that the testimony is connected up with Ms. Huizar’s reaction to her son’s death. Second, if plaintiffs are willing to stipulate that Diaz was a gang member (which they claim they tried to do during trial), no expert testimony about gangs - such as gang activities, tattoos, or monikers - should be admitted. Third, while there is a “strong presumption that jurors follow instructions,” a limiting instruction may not sufficiently mitigate the prejudicial impact of evidence in all cases. And fourth, if the district court is going to sustain an objection and grant a motion to strike, merely saying “stricken” does not sufficiently inform the jury about the proper use of the evidence it just heard. Finally, the court concluded that the trial court did not err in ruling force was not excessive as a matter of law. View "Estate of Diaz v. City of Anaheim" on Justia Law

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Hotels appealed the denial of their motion to preliminarily enjoin the City from enforcing the Citywide Hotel Worker Minimum Wage Ordinance. The district court denied Hotels’ motion for preliminary injunctive relief. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying the Hotels’ motion for a preliminary injunction to stop enforcement of the City’s Wage Ordinance, because the Hotels failed to show a likelihood of success on the merits. The court has consistently held that minimum labor standards do not implicate Machinists preemption, and the Wage Ordinance is no different. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "American Hotel and Lodging Ass'n v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law