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Saturday, October 08, 2011

Decisions of interest involving Government and Administrative Law

Decisions of interest involving Government and Administrative Law
Source: Justia October 7, 2011

Court: U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals
Docket: 10-2342
 October 3, 2011
Judge: Thompson
Areas of Law: Civil Rights, Labor & Employment Law
Plaintiff, a dental hygienist at defendant's dental health center for more than 10 years, claimed that supervisors subjected her to unpaid work hours because she is black and then to selective discipline and other malfeasance in retaliation for questioning her unpaid hours. The district court entered summary judgment for defendant. The First Circuit affirmed. Plaintiff established only "a litany of petty insults, vindictive behavior, and angry recriminations" that are not actionable.



Court: U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals
Docket: 10-4132
 October 4, 2011
Judge: Per curiam
Areas of Law: Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Labor & Employment Law
Plaintiff appealed from the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants on her claims of sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq, and the New York State Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. Law 290-301. The district court granted summary judgment after determining that plaintiff had offered "sham evidence" in opposition to defendants' motions for summary judgment. The court held that the district court did not err in concluding that, in light of plaintiff's inconsistent and contradictory testimony, there was no genuine issue of fact to be decided by a jury. Accordingly, the court affirmed summary judgment in favor of defendants.



Court: U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals
Docket: 10-20499
 October 5, 2011
Judge: Per curiam
Areas of Law: Arbitration & Mediation, Contracts, Insurance Law, Labor & Employment Law
This case arose when Cat Tech sought indemnification from its insurers after Cat Tech damaged several components of a hyrotreating reactor owned by Ergon Refining, Inc. and arbitrators entered an award against Cat Tech for the damage. Insurers subsequently denied the claim, contending, inter alia, that the "your work" exclusion found in the policies precluded coverage for damage to the reactor. The district court found that insurers had no duty to indemnify Cat Tech. The court held that the information contained in the arbitration award was insufficient to properly apply the "your work" exclusion. As such, the court concluded that the district court erred when it relied on the award in granting insurer's summary judgment motion. On remand, the district court should conduct any additional fact-finding necessary to determine whether the damage suffered by Ergon's reactor was limited only to those components upon which Cat Tech worked, or instead included other components unrelated to Cat Tech's operations. Accordingly, the judgment was reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings.



Court: U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals
Docket: 11-10120
 October 5, 2011
Judge: Prado
Areas of Law: Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Labor & Employment Law
This case involved a claim brought under 42 U.S.C. 1981 by a terminated employee against his former union, which represented him in a grievance hearing in connection with his termination. Plaintiff alleged that defendants discriminated against him on account of his race by failing to argue during the grievance hearing that he was being terminated for a racially discriminatory reason. The court held that plaintiff failed to state a prima facie claim for racial discrimination by the union under section 1981, and therefore the district court was correct to grant defendants' motion for summary judgment.



Court: U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals
Docket: 10-1214
 October 6, 2011
Judge: WILLIAMS
Areas of Law: Labor & Employment Law
Seven months after the bank recruited plaintiff to serve as a vice presidents, it fired her. She had no performance issues, no attendance problems, and no complaints against her. She had dinner with a member of the board of directors, who told her the fantasies he had about her. She declined his advances and complained to human resources. The board member resigned. Shortly after that, the bank's new president told its then-president that he heard plaintiff had done something that she should have been fired for. About two months after the new president assumed office, plaintiff was fired. The district court entered summary judgment for defendants on her retaliation claims under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 2000e-3. The Seventh Circuit reversed. A retaliatory discharge case must be tried unless defendant presents unrebutted evidence that it would have taken the adverse employment action against the plaintiff in any case.



Court: U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals
Docket: 10-2787
 September 30, 2011
Judge: Loken
Areas of Law: Contracts, Insurance Law, Labor & Employment Law
Plaintiffs commenced a diversity action against defendant, asserting claims for breach of the insurance contract and for vexatious refusal to pay. Applying Missouri law, the district court granted defendant summary judgment, concluding that the insurance policy at issue unambiguously excluded losses caused by plaintiffs' CEO, a shareholder, and by plaintiffs' COO, a non-shareholder, acting in collusion with the CEO. The court affirmed and held that the Officer-Shareholder exclusion was consistent with Missouri public policy, and in the alternative, the Officer-Shareholder exclusion was unambiguous and excluded plaintiffs' claim.


Court: U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals
Docket: 11-3054
 October 3, 2011
Judge: Linn
Areas of Law: Civil Rights, Government & Administrative Law, Injury Law, Labor & Employment Law
Plaintiff, a mail processing clerk, was injured on-duty in 2005 and received workers' compensation. She partially recovered and, in 2008, the Postal Service provided a modified light duty assignment. In June 2010, pursuant to the National Reassessment Process, the Postal Service informed plaintiff that work within her medical restrictions was no longer available in her commuting area. The Merit Systems Protection Board dismissed her claim under 5 C.F.R. 353.304(c)) of wrongful denial of restoration following partial recovery from a compensable injury. The Federal Circuit affirmed. The Board applied the correct standard in determining its jurisdiction, and its factual determinations were supported by substantial evidence. Plaintiff did not identify any vacant position available within her commuting area that she was able to perform. Plaintiff did not make a non-frivolous allegation that the Service acted arbitrarily in not restoring her, even after the Board ordered her make such a showing and afforded her time to do so.



Court: U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals
Docket: 10-3137
 October 3, 2011
Judge: Prost
Areas of Law: Aerospace/Defense, Government & Administrative Law, Labor & Employment Law
In 2006, plaintiff, employed as an auditor at the Department of Defense was removed from his position for failing to maintain his Secret level security clearance. His loss of security clearance was based on his wife's status as a diplomat for Honduras. The Merit Systems Protection Board affirmed. The Federal Circuit affirmed. The DoD complied with its internal procedures in revoking plaintiff's security clearance and the decision was supported by substantial evidence.



Court: Connecticut Supreme Court
Docket: SC18377
 March 15, 2011
Judge: Zarella
Areas of Law: Constitutional Law, Injury Law, Labor & Employment Law
These two consolidated appeals arose from the collision of two city fire trucks. As a result of the collision, firefighter John Keane died, and firefighter William Mahoney suffered serious injuries. Monica Keane brought an action against Defendants, the firefighters who drove the trucks, alleging negligence in their operation of the fire trucks and that their negligence caused John Keane's death. In the second case, William and Erin Mahoney filed a complaint against Defendants, two firefighters and the city, alleging that the firefighters were negligent and that their negligence caused William Mahoney to sustain injuries. In both cases, the trial court granted the motions of Defendants to strike all counts of the complaint, concluding that Conn. Gen. Stat. 7-308 barred firefighters who are eligible to receive workers' compensation benefits from bringing negligence actions against other firefighters for their injuries. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgments of the trial court, holding that section 7-308 does not violate equal protection and, therefore, the trial court properly granted Defendants' motions to strike on the ground that the actions were barred by the immunity provision in section 7-308.



Court: Georgia Supreme Court
Docket: S10G1899
 October 3, 2011
Judge: Hines
Areas of Law: Injury Law, Labor & Employment Law
The court granted certiorari to the Court of Appeals in order to consider whether the Court of Appeals erred in concluding that the State Board of Worker's Compensation exceeded its authority in promulgating its Rule 205. The court held that, contrary to the analysis and resulting conclusion by the Court of Appeals, Rule 205 was not burden-shifting in the manner found and did not interfere with the substantive rights of the parties. The court also held that there was evidence to support the subject ruling that Mulligan did not sustain a subsequent compensable injury. Therefore, the judgment of the Court of Appeals reversing the order of the superior court interpreting Rule 205 was affirmed.



Court: Indiana Supreme Court
Docket: 93S02-1102-EX-89
 September 29, 2011
Judge: Shepard
Areas of Law: Business Law, Government & Administrative Law, Insurance Law, Labor & Employment Law
Franklin Electric formed two new subsidiaries and started new unemployment experience accounts with a low introductory contribution rate for each one, which equaled about half the experience rating of Franklin Electric. The Department of Workforce Development later canceled the subsidiaries' experience accounts, and all experience balances and liabilities reverted to Franklin Electric. The Department also demanded back payments, interest, and a ten percent penalty. A liability administrative law judge (LALJ) affirmed the Department's determination that the three entities were a single employer but waived the penalty imposed by the Department. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court granted transfer and vacated the opinion of the court of appeals and affirmed the determination of the LALJ, holding (1) the new subsidiaries were not new employers because they were not distinct and segregable from Franklin Electric; (2) Franklin Electric's experience rating should have applied to contributions made by the subsidiaries; and (3) because there was no evidence suggesting improper conduct on the part of Franklin Electric, the penalty was not appropriate.



Court: Nevada Supreme Court
Docket: 54849
 September 29, 2011
Judge: Cherry
Areas of Law: Contracts, Government & Administrative Law, Labor & Employment Law
Eric Spannbauer, a police officer with the North Las Vegas Police Department, was asked to resign by the City Police Department Association. Spannbauer resigned, signing a letter of agreement prepared by the Department. Spannbauer later filed a complaint with the Employee-Management Relation Board (EMRB) against the Association, the City, and the Department, alleging multiple prohibited practices in violation of Nev. Rev. Stat. 288, including gender discrimination. The EMRB found that the City and Department had committed prohibited labor practices and that the Association had breached its duty of fair representation. The City and the Department petitioned the district court for judicial review, which the district court denied. The City, on behalf of itself and the Department, filed an appeal. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was substantial evidence to support the EMRB's finding that the City and Department discriminated against Sannbauer on the basis of his gender in violation of Nev. Rev. Stat. 288.110(1)(f); and (2) the EMRB appropriately disregarded the resignation agreement, including the covenant not to sue, as there was substantial evidence that the agreement was a culmination of prohibited practices in violation of Nev. Rev. Stat. 288.270(1).



Court: Nevada Supreme Court
Docket: 55502
 October 6, 2011
Judge: Hardesty
Areas of Law: Government & Administrative Law, Injury Law, Insurance Law, Labor & Employment Law
Mallory Warburton was working for the City of North Las Vegas when she was involved in a car accident and suffered numerous injuries. The City started paying workers' compensation benefits to Warburton at a rate of $10 an hour. At the time of the accident, Warburton was expected to make $12 an hour because of a promotion to manager of one of the City's pools. After an administrative appeal, a hearing officer instructed the City to redetermine Warburton's benefits using the $12-an-hour rate of pay for a pool manager. An appeals officer reversed, concluding Warburton's benefits should be based on the $10-an-hour rate of pay she was actually receiving at the time of the accident. The district court reversed the appeals officer's decision. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the appeals officer's conclusion was not supported by substantial evidence and that substantial evidence supported the district court's determination that (1) Warburton's primary job at the time of the accident was that of pool manager, and (2) Warburton's workers' compensation benefits must be determined using an average monthly wage calculation at the $12-an-hour rate of pay.



Court: Ohio Supreme Court
Docket: 20101405
 September 29, 2011
Judge: Per Curiam
Areas of Law: Government & Administrative Law, Injury Law, Labor & Employment Law
Appellant Cerena Mackey was employed by the Ohio Department of Education when she suffered an industrial injury. After she retired from the workforce, Mackey filed for permanent total disability (PTD) compensation. The Industrial Commission of Ohio granted compensation to Mackey. The Department moved for reconsideration, alleging that the hearing officer had made a clear mistake of law in failing to determine whether Mackey's retirement was voluntary or involuntary. The Commission granted the motion and, after a hearing, vacated the award, finding (1) Mackey's retirement was unrelated to her injuries and was hence voluntary, and (2) Mackey's voluntary retirement foreclosed PTD compensation. Mackey filed a complaint in mandamus in the court of appeals, which the court denied. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Commission did not abuse its discretion in (1) reopening the issue of Mackey's PTD eligibility in order to consider the effect of her retirement upon it, and (2) finding that Mackey's retirement was voluntary.



Court: Ohio Supreme Court
Docket: 20101535
 October 4, 2011
Judge: Per Curiam
Areas of Law: Government & Administrative Law, Injury Law, Insurance Law, Labor & Employment Law
In 1970, while working for Employer, Employee was injured. In 1989, Employee retired. In 2008, Employee applied for permanent total disability (PTD) compensation. The Industrial Commission of Ohio concluded that Employee was permanently and totally disabled without ruling on the credibility of the assertion that Employee retired because of his injury or determining whether his retirement was voluntary or involuntary. The court of appeals granted Employer a limited writ of mandamus that vacated the Commission's order and ordered the Commission to reconsider the matter. The Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals, holding that because a voluntary retirement from the work force prior to asserting PTD precludes the payment of compensation for that disability, the court of appeals was correct in ordering further consideration of whether Employee retired because of his injury and whether his retirement was voluntary.



Court: Oklahoma Supreme Court
Docket: 108017
 October 4, 2011
Judge: Kauger
Areas of Law: Labor & Employment Law, Public Benefits
Petitioner Ruben Espinosa sought permanent partial disability benefits for injuries to his hands, arms, and shoulders. The Workers' Compensation Court awarded benefits, but a three-judge en banc panel reduced the award to account for Petitioner's previously awarded benefits for injuries to other parts of his body. The Court of Civil Appeals vacated the panel, determining that both the trial court and the panel misapplied the applicable statute. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to resolve a conflict between two Court of Civil Appeals' opinions with differing interpretations of the limitations provided in the applicable statute. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that when the Workers' Compensation Court awards compensation for an accidental personal injury or occupational disease, pursuant to 85 O.S. 2001 Sec. 22(7), the sum of all permanent partial disability awards is limited to a total of 100% or 520 weeks (10 years) for any individual, but awards against the Multiple Injury Trust Funds, or awards for amputations and surgeries are excluded from both limitations.



Court: Oregon Supreme Court
Docket: S059056
 October 6, 2011
Judge: DeMuniz
Areas of Law: Government & Administrative Law, Labor & Employment Law, Public Benefits
Petitioners sought judicial review of a final order of the Public Employees Retirement Board (PERB). They contested the reduction of their retirement benefits as a result of PERB's efforts to recoup benefit overpayments that Petitioners had received because of an erroneous 20 percent earnings credit for 1999. The Court of Appeals certified the matter to the Supreme Court, and upon review of the applicable legal authority, the Supreme Court affirmed PERB's final order.



Court: Oregon Supreme Court
Docket: S058881
 October 6, 2011
Judge: DeMuniz
Areas of Law: Government & Administrative Law, Labor & Employment Law, Public Benefits
This opinion consolidated two cases brought before the Supreme Court on certified appeals from the Court of Appeals. Both cases involved the Public Employees Retirement Board's (PERB or the Board) revision or reduction of benefits with respect to "Window Retirees." These cases involved the Board's efforts to recoup overpayments of benefits to retirees that were predicated on a 20 percent earnings credit for calendar year 1999 that the Board approved by order in 2000. PERB sought to recoup these overpayments to the Window Retirees through an overpayment recovery mechanism set out in ORS 238.715.2. A number of members challenged the statutory mechanism for returning the payments, and the methodology the Board used in making its individualized determinations. Upon review, the Supreme Court determined that the trial court correctly granted summary judgment to the "Arken defendants" on all four of the claims raised by the "Arken plaintiffs." Furthermore, the Court determined that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment to the "Robinson petitioners" on their claims for relief. Because the Court concluded that PERB correctly applied ORS 238.715 to recoup overpayments that were made to the Window Retirees based on the 20 percent earnings credit for 1999, the Court also determined that the trial court erred in denying PERB's cross-motion for summary judgment.



Court: Utah Supreme Court
Docket: 20100211
 October 4, 2011
Judge: Parrish
Areas of Law: Contracts, Injury Law, Insurance Law, Labor & Employment Law
The underlying dispute in this appeal revolved around the issue of who was contractually obligated to pay workers' compensation benefits to an employee of Employer. The Supreme Court found that Employer's Insurer was required to pay workers' compensation benefits for all of Employer's employees and remanded the case. The district court entered a final judgment. Instead of filing a notice of appeal within thirty days of the district court's judgment, Insurer filed an "objection to judgment." Insurer then filed its notice of appeal within thirty days of the district court's order disposing of that motion. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding that it lacked jurisdiction to address the appeal as (1) Insurer did not file its notice of appeal within thirty days of the district court's final judgment, and (2) Insurer failed to file a postjudgment motion that would toll the time for appeal or one that the Court had jurisdiction to review.


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