ATLANTA - Strict liability and negligence claims asserted in an Engle progeny suit are preempted by federal law, the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled April 8 (Earl E. Graham, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Faye Dale Graham v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al., No. 13-14590, 11th Cir.; 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 5657).
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims on April 8 ruled that the Board of Veterans Appeals instructions given to a doctor who examined a veteran and determined that his cancer had not been caused by exposure to Agent Orange were "inartfully worded" but did not constitute prejudicial error (Lena M. Allen v. Robert A. McDonald, No. 14-0222, Vet. Clms.; 2015 U.S. App. Vet. Claims LEXIS 435).
NEWARK, N.J. - A New Jersey federal judge on April 6 granted a disability claimant's motion to remand a suit to New Jersey state court after determining that claimant's suit no longer raises any federal questions because the disability insurer was dismissed from the suit (John B. McHugh Jr. v. Vanguard Benefit Solutions LLC, et al., No. 14-5867, D. N.J.; 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 44577).
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. - A resident of a California care facility for the elderly filed a class complaint against the owners and operators on April 6 in California state court, alleging negligent business practices and staffing assignments based on the number of residents rather than the needs of the residents (Doreen Trombley, et al. v. Westpac Investments, Inc., et al., No. 15CV7010, Calif. Super., San Luis Obispo Co.).
CAMDEN, N.J. - The plaintiffs who sued railroad company defendants alleging personal injury from vinyl chloride that was spilled as a result of a train derailment filed a brief on April 6 in New Jersey federal court arguing that the defendants' motion for partial summary judgment should be denied because there is no preemption of the residents' core claims (In re: Paulsboro Derailment Cases, No. 13-784, D. N.J.).
DES MOINES, Iowa - After finding that a teacher's lung injury was caused by exposure to mold in the building where she worked, the Iowa Court of Appeals on April 8 affirmed a decision awarding her compensation for an occupational injury (United Heartland Inc., et al. v. Kathleen Brown, No. 14-1070, Iowa App.; 2015 Iowa App. LEXIS 321).
TRENTON, N.J. - After finding that tenants failed to show that alleged mold growth in their apartment prevented their landlord from increasing their rent, a New Jersey appeals court on April 8 affirmed a decision allowing the landlord to evict them (Georgian Gardens v. Russell and Vanessa Shields, No. A-3598-13T3, N.J. Super., App. Div.; 2015 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 761).
PHILADELPHIA - A disability insurer did not abuse its discretion in denying a long-term disability benefits claim because its decision is supported by substantial medical evidence, a Pennsylvania federal judge said April 6 (Salvatore Chiodo v. Aetna Life Insurance Co., No. 14-02270, E.D. Pa.; 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 44511).
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A federal judge in West Virginia on April 8 denied Foal Coal Co. LLC's motion to seek interlocutory appeal of three rulings entered against it in a lawsuit brought by three environmental groups accusing the company of violating the Clean Water Act (CWA), finding that decisions are not appropriate for immediate review by the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals (Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition Inc., et al. v. Fola Coal Company LLC, No. 13-5006, S.D. W.Va.; 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 45647).
SAN ANTONIO - A federal judge in Texas granted an insurer's motion for summary judgment in an insurance bad faith lawsuit, ruling that an insured has failed to show that the insurer acted in bad faith in denying the insured's claim for damages under a commercial crime insurance policy (Tesoro Refining & Marketing Co. LLC v. National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, Pa., No. 13-931, W.D. Texas; 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 45168).
LOS ANGELES - Crane Co. and a couple alleging asbestos exposure on March 6 filed response briefs in a California federal court, opposing motions seeking the exclusion of expert testimony that "each and every exposure" significantly contributes to disease and an order in a recent bankruptcy case (Howard Utech, an individual, Joann Utech, an individual v. Asbestos Corporation Limited, et al., No. 14-4977, C.D. Calif.).
NEW ORLEANS - After finding that parties were required to arbitrate a dispute pursuant to the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) arbitration rules, the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on April 7 affirmed a trial court's decision refusing to confirm and vacating an arbitration award that was issued under the American Arbitration Association rules (AAA) (Poolre Insurance Corp., et al. v. Organizational Strategies Inc., et al., No. 14-20433, 5th Cir.; 2015 U.S. App. 5601).
WASHINGTON, D.C. - In what it said was its "largest privacy and data security enforcement action to date," the Federal Communications Commission on April 8 announced a $25 million settlement with AT&T Services Inc. related to data breaches that occurred in three of the telecommunication carrier's offshore call centers, exposing the customer proprietary network information (CPNI) of around 280,000 U.S. customers (In the Matter of AT&T Services Inc., No. EB-TCD-14-00016243, FCC).
ST. PAUL, Minn. - The Minnesota Court of Appeals on April 6 affirmed a lower court's ruling that a professional liability insurer cannot be made a party to a garnishment proceeding arising from an alleged mortgage fraud scheme involving its insured because coverage under the policy did not attach to the insured due to lack of notice, further finding that a garnishment proceeding is not a proper procedure to seek relief from an alleged successor in interest to the insured (Melony Michaels, et al. v. First USA Title LLC, et al., No. A14-0931, Minn. App.; 2015 Minn. App. Unpub. LEXIS 323).
SAN FRANCISCO - A federal judge in California on April 7 denied United Behavioral Health's (UBH) motion to dismiss a putative class action alleging that the insurer denied claims for mental illness and substance abuse-related outpatient treatment in violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Gary Alexander, et al. v. United Behavioral Health, No. 14-cv-05337, N.D. Calif.; 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 46046).
CHICAGO - A Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on April 7 ruled that the federal government can garnish the monthly payments of a man who pleaded guilty to insurance fraud in order for him to pay restitution, finding that a federal judge in Illinois did not err in finding that the payments did not fall within the Consumer Credit Protection Act's (CCPA) definition of earnings (United States of America v. Gary L. France, No. 14-2743, 7th Cir.; 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 5588).
ALEXANDRIA, Va. - An insurer did not abuse its discretion in terminating long-term disability (LTD) benefits after determining that the claimant exceeded the total monthly earnings limits when a company bonus was calculated into his earnings for the year; however, the insurer failed to meet its burden that it is entitled to recoup all of the overpayments, a Virginia federal judge said April 6 (Jeffrey P. Fine v. Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada, No. 14-551, E.D. Va.; 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 44729).
FRESNO, Calif. - In light of a prior order limiting the scope of a Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) lawsuit to a single well adjoining the plaintiffs' property, a California federal magistrate judge on April 6 denied a motion to compel discovery requests for a water utility's operations beyond that well (Viola Coppola, et al. v. Gregory Smith, et al., No. 1:11-cv-01257, E.D. Calif.; 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 45164).
OKLAHOMA CITY - Halliburton Energy Services Inc. (HESI), which was sued by Oklahoma residents who contend that they were injured from exposure to radioactive waste from a chemical plant it operates, on April 6 filed a brief in Oklahoma federal court contending that the plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration of an order denying class certification is "unavailing" (Mitchell L. McCormick v. Halliburton Energy Services Inc., No. 11-01272, W.D. Okla.).
PHILADELPHIA - The Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on April 7 reversed a decision to dismiss a borrower's claim for violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) against a law firm, finding that a foreclosure complaint was a communication that was served on the borrower in an attempt to collect debt (Dale Kaymark, individually and on behalf of other similarly situated current and former homeowners in Pennsylvania v. Bank of America N.A., et al., No. 14-1816, 3rd Cir.; 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 5548).
SAN FRANCISCO - Specific terminology need not be used to meet the requirement of Employee Retirement Income Security Act Section 403(a) that "all assets of an employee benefits plan shall be held in trust by one or more trustees," the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled April 7 (David Barboza v. California Association of Professional Firefighters, et al., Nos. 11-15472, 11-16024, 11-16081, 16082, 9th Cir.; 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 5583).
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - A dispute over the "Portarrest" trademark will proceed in Alabama federal court, thanks to an April 7 ruling by a federal judge (Engineered Arresting Systems Corporation v. Atech Inc. et al., No. 14-518, N.D. Ala.; 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 44999).
DENVER - A Colorado water court properly found that three water rights were abandoned, the state Supreme Court ruled April 6 (Concerning the Protest of Tom McKenna, et al. v. Steve Witt, et al., No. 13SA304, Colo. Sup.; 2015 Colo. LEXIS 276).