Justia U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Civil Procedure
Edmonds-Radford v. Southwest Airlines
Defendant-Appellee Southwest Airlines graded its new hires based on two overarching categories of criteria: Attitude and Aptitude. By all accounts, Plaintiff-appellant Krista Edmonds-Radford had the necessary Attitude for her position as a Southwest Customer Service Agent. Unfortunately, she failed to exhibit the necessary Aptitude, and Southwest terminated her for failing to meet expectations. That termination led to this disability-based lawsuit, in which Edmonds-Radford sued Southwest for disparate treatment, failure to accommodate, and retaliation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Southwest on all claims, and Edmonds-Radford appealed. After review, the Tenth Circuit determined: (1) Edmonds-Radford failed to establish her prima facie case or that Southwest’s proffered reason for her termination was pretextual; (2) Edmonds-Radford failed to present evidence she requested any accommodations in connection with her disability (in any event, Southwest provided all requested accommodations); and (3) because there was no proof she made any disability-based accommodation requests, Edmonds-Radford's retaliation claim based on such requests was doomed. "But even if Edmonds-Radford had made disability-based accommodation requests, her retaliation claim would still fail in light of our conclusions that Edmonds-Radford failed to establish that her disability was a determining factor in her termination, or that Southwest’s legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the termination was pretextual. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Southwest on all claims. View "Edmonds-Radford v. Southwest Airlines" on Justia Law
Brown v. Austin, et al.
This appeal stemmed from Alfred Brown’s lawsuit under the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. secs. 701–796l, against his former employer, the Defense Health Agency. In April 2010, the Agency hired Brown as a healthcare fraud specialist (HCFS) assigned to the Program Integrity Office (PIO) in Aurora, Colorado. Shortly after joining the Agency, Brown told his supervisors that he had been diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder and other panic and anxiety disorders related to his military service. When Brown’s symptoms worsened in September 2011, he was hospitalized and received in-patient treatment for one week. The Agency approved Brown’s request for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The district court granted summary judgment for the Agency, determining that there were no triable issues on Brown’s claims that the Agency failed to accommodate his mental-health disabilities and discriminated against him based on those disabilities. Brown appealed, challenging the district court’s rulings that: (1) his requests for telework, weekend work, and a supervisor reassignment were not reasonable accommodations; and (2) he failed to establish material elements of his various discrimination claims. The Tenth Circuit found no reversible error: (1) granting Brown’s telework and weekend-work requests would have eliminated essential functions of his job, making those requests unreasonable as a matter of law; (2) Brown did not allege the limited circumstances in which the Agency would need to consider reassigning him despite the fact that he performed the essential functions of his position with other accommodations; (3) the Court declined Brown’s invitation to expand those limited circumstances to include reassignments that allow an employee to live a “normal life;” and (4) Brown did not allege a prima facie case of retaliation, disparate treatment, or constructive discharge. Summary judgment for the Agency was affirmed. View "Brown v. Austin, et al." on Justia Law
Dodson International Parts v. Williams International Company
Williams International Company LLC designed, manufactured, and serviced small jet engines. Dodson International Parts, Inc., sold new and used aircraft and aircraft parts. After purchasing two used jet engines that had been manufactured by Williams, Dodson contracted with Williams to inspect the engines and prepare an estimate of repair costs, intending to resell the repaired engines. Williams determined that the engines were so badly damaged that they could not be rendered fit for flying, but it refused to return one of the engines because Dodson had not paid its bill in full. Dodson sued Williams in federal court alleging federal antitrust and state-law tort claims. Williams moved to compel arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), relying on an arbitration clause on the original invoices. The district court granted the motion, and the arbitrator resolved all of Dodson’s claims in favor of Williams. Dodson then moved to reconsider the order compelling arbitration and to vacate the arbitrator’s award. The court denied both motions and, construing Williams’s opposition to the motion for vacatur as a request to confirm the award, confirmed the award. Dodson appealed, challenging the district court’s order compelling arbitration and its order confirming the award and denying the motions for reconsideration and vacatur. After review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed, holding: (1) the claims in Dodson’s federal-court complaint were encompassed by the arbitration clause; (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Dodson’s untimely motion to reconsider; and (3) that Dodson failed to establish any grounds for vacatur of the arbitrator’s award or for denial of confirmation of the award. View "Dodson International Parts v. Williams International Company" on Justia Law
Hayes v. Skywest Airlines
Plaintiff John Hayes prosecuted his employment discrimination case to a favorable verdict and judgment. During trial, two instances of misconduct prompted Defendant SkyWest Airlines, Inc. to request a mistrial. But it was Defendant’s own misconduct. Thus, the district court tried to remedy the misconduct and preserve the integrity of the proceedings, but did not grant Defendant’s request. After the trial, exercising its equitable powers, the district court granted Plaintiff’s request for a front pay award. Following final judgment, Defendant moved for a new trial based, in part, on the district court’s handling of the misconduct incidents and on newly discovered evidence. The district court denied that motion. Defendant appealed, asking the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse and remand for a new trial or, at the very least, to vacate (or reduce) the front pay award. Finding the district court did not abuse its discretion or authority in this case, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the front pay award. View "Hayes v. Skywest Airlines" on Justia Law
Brooks v. CDOC, et al.
At the time this appeal was initiated, Jason Brooks was a Colorado-state inmate serving a lengthy prison sentence for securities fraud. Brooks had an extreme and incurable case of ulcerative colitis: even when his disease was well treated, Brooks suffered from frequent, unpredictable fecal incontinence. This case involved the Colorado Department of Corrections’s (“CDOC”) efforts, or lack thereof, to deal with the impact of Brooks’s condition on his ability to access the prison cafeteria. Specifically, the issues presented centered on whether the district court erred when it concluded: (1) Brooks’s Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) claim for damages failed because the CDOC’s offer to provide Brooks with adult diapers was a reasonable accommodation of Brooks’s disability; and (2) Brooks’s Eighth Amendment claim against ADA Inmate Coordinator Julie Russell failed because the decision not to access the cafeteria with the use of adult diapers was Brooks’s alone. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals determined the district court erred in its treatment of Brooks’s ADA claim for damages. "A reasonable juror could conclude the offer of adult diapers was not a reasonable accommodation of Brooks’s disability. Thus, at least as to the question of the reasonableness of the proposed accommodation, the district court erred in granting CDOC summary judgment on Brooks’s ADA claim for damages." On the other hand, the Court concluded the district court correctly granted summary judgment in favor of Russell on Brooks’s Eighth Amendment claim: "the record is devoid of sufficient evidence for a jury to find Russell acted with a sufficiently culpable state of mind—deliberate indifference to Brooks’s ability to access food—when she declined Brooks’s request for a movement pass." Accordingly, the Court dismissed in part, reversed in part, and remanded this matter to the district court for further proceedings. View "Brooks v. CDOC, et al." on Justia Law
Gerson v. Logan River Academy, et al.
Plaintiff Samantha Gerson was allegedly sexually abused when she was 15 years old by an employee (the Perpetrator) at Logan River Academy, a residential treatment facility in Logan, Utah. She filed suit against Logan River a decade later in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, from which the case was transferred to the United States District Court for the District of Utah. Logan River moved to dismiss on the ground that the suit was barred by Utah’s applicable statute of limitations. Gerson responded that the suit was timely under California law. The district court applied California’s choice-of-law doctrine, determined that Utah’s statute of limitations governed, and granted the motion to dismiss. Finding no reversible error in that decision, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed dismissal. View "Gerson v. Logan River Academy, et al." on Justia Law
Hetronic International v. Hetronic Germany GmbH, et al.
Hetronic International, Inc., a U.S. company, manufactured radio remote controls, the kind used to remotely operate heavy-duty construction equipment. Defendants, none of whom were U.S. citizens, distributed Hetronic’s products, mostly in Europe. After about a ten-year relationship, one of Defendants’ employees stumbled across an old research-and-development agreement between the parties. Embracing a “creative legal interpretation” of the agreement endorsed by Defendants’ lawyers, Defendants concluded that they owned the rights to Hetronic’s trademarks and other intellectual property. Defendants then began manufacturing their own products—identical to Hetronic’s—and selling them under the Hetronic brand, mostly in Europe. Hetronic terminated the parties’ distribution agreements, but that didn’t stop Defendants from making tens of millions of dollars selling their copycat products. Hetronic asserted numerous claims against Defendants, but the issue presented on appeal to the Tenth Circuit centered on its trademark claims under the Lanham Act. A jury awarded Hetronic over $100 million in damages, most of which related to Defendants’ trademark infringement. Then on Hetronic’s motion, the district court entered a worldwide injunction barring Defendants from selling their infringing products. Defendants ignored the injunction. In the district court and before the Tenth Circuit, Defendants focused on one defense in particular: Though they accepted that the Lanham Act could sometimes apply extraterritorially, they insisted the Act’s reach didn’t extend to their conduct, which generally involved foreign defendants making sales to foreign consumers. Reviewing this matter as one of first impression in the Tenth Circuit, and after considering the Supreme Court’s lone decision on the issue and persuasive authority from other circuits, the Tenth Circuit concluded the district court properly applied the Lanham Act to Defendants’ conduct. But the Court narrowed the district court’s expansive injunction. Affirming in part, and reversing in part, the Court remanded the case for further consideration. View "Hetronic International v. Hetronic Germany GmbH, et al." on Justia Law
Lupia v. Medicredit
On a Monday, Medicredit, a debt collection agency, received a letter from a consumer, plaintiff-appellee Elizabeth Lupia, demanding that it cease calling her about an unpaid medical debt. The next day, before Medicredit processed the letter, it called Ms. Lupia again about the debt. This call served as grounds for Ms. Lupia's suit under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). According to Medicredit, its Tuesday call was a bona fide error, thereby shielding the agency from liability. Lupia argued Medicredit’s policy allowed for more time than that: permitting up to three business days of lag time between its receipt and processing of mail (which was how long it took Medicredit to process the letter). For that, Lupia contended, Medicredit could not shield itself under the bona fide-error defense. The district court agreed and granted Lupia’s motion for summary judgment. On appeal, Medicredit challenged Lupia’s standing in federal court and claimed the district court committed several reversible errors in granting Lupia’s motion. After review, the Tenth Circuit found no merit in any of these claims, and affirmed the district court. View "Lupia v. Medicredit" on Justia Law
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 113 v. T&H Services
T & H Services performed operation and maintenance services at Fort Carson Army base in Colorado Springs, Colorado, under a contract with the United States Army (the Army Contract) that was governed by several federal labor-standards statutes, including the Service Contract Act, and the Davis-Bacon Act. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 113 (the Union) represented some T&H employees under a collective-bargaining agreement (the CBA) that included a provision for binding arbitration of disputes “limited to matters of interpretation or application of express provisions of [the CBA].” Several Union members who repaired weather-damaged roofs at Fort Carson in the summer of 2018 were paid the hourly rate for general maintenance workers under Schedule A of the CBA. The Union, believing that the workers should have been classified as roofers under the Davis-Bacon Act and paid the corresponding hourly rate under the schedule, filed a grievance and sought arbitration of the dispute. When T&H refused, claiming that the dispute was not arbitrable under the CBA, the Union filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado to compel arbitration under section 4 of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). The district court agreed with T&H that the dispute was not arbitrable and granted summary judgment to the company. The Union appeals. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court. View "International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 113 v. T&H Services" on Justia Law
Becker v. Ute Indian Tribe, et al.
These appeals stemmed from an Independent Contractor Agreement (the Agreement) entered into by the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation (the Tribe) and a non-Indian, Lynn Becker. Becker alleged the Tribe breached the Agreement and owed him a substantial amount of money under the terms of the Agreement. The Tribe disputed Becker’s allegations and asserted a host of defenses, including, in part, that the Agreement was void both because it was never approved by the Department of the Interior and because it purported to afford Becker an interest in Tribal trust property. The dispute between Becker and the Tribe over the Agreement spawned five separate lawsuits in three separate court systems. Before the Tenth Circuit were two appeals filed by the Tribe challenging interlocutory decisions issued by the district court in Becker’s most recent federal action, including a decision by the district court to preliminarily enjoin the Tribal Court proceedings and to preclude the Tribal Court’s orders from having preclusive effect in other proceedings. The Tenth Circuit concluded the tribal exhaustion rule required Becker’s federal lawsuit to be dismissed without prejudice. Consequently, the Tenth Circuit reversed the district court’s decision preliminarily enjoining the parties from proceeding in the Tribal Court action and enjoining the Tribal Court’s orders having preclusive effect in other proceedings. The case was remanded to the district court with directions to dismiss Becker’s federal lawsuit without prejudice. View "Becker v. Ute Indian Tribe, et al." on Justia Law