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Action by Prisoners Involving Hurricane Rita-Related Injuries, and Bankruptcy, Employment, and Tort Matters

By FindLaw Staff on August 03, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Onoh v. Northwest Airlines, Inc., No. 09-10971, involved a state-law breach-of-contract and intentional-infliction-of-emotional-distress action against an airline.  The court of appeals affirmed the dismissal of the complaint on the grounds that plaintiff's conversation with an airline agent, in which the agent allegedly stated that "the U.S. State Department would not permit [her] to travel . . . .", was sufficiently related to defendant's provision of "services" under the Airline Deregulation Act to trigger preemption.

Saenz v. Harlingen Med. Ctr., L.P., No. 09-40887, concerned a Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) action based on plaintiff's alleged termination due to her epilepsy.  The court reversed summary judgment for defendant, holding that the district court erred when it held plaintiff to defendant's heightened in-house procedure, and further, plaintiff provided the minimum required notice under FMLA's default requirements.

Spotts v. US, No. 09-41039, involved an action by present and former inmates of the Federal Correctional Complex, United States Penitentiary, in Beaumont, Texas, in connection with the decision made by the Regional Director of the South Central Region of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, not to evacuate the Penitentiary in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita.  The court affirmed the dismissal of the action on the grounds that 1) plaintiffs did not plead, and never argued to the district court, that the Eighth Amendment precluded the application of the discretionary function exception to the Federal Tort Claims Act; 2) plaintiffs' contention that the Safe Drinking Water Act imposed nondiscretionary duties that were contravened by the decision not to evacuate lacked merit; and 3) defendants' decision was the type of policy decision protected by the discretionary function exception and therefore meets the second prong of the Berkovitz test.

In re: Mirant Corp., No. 09-10451, involved a fraudulent transfer adversary proceeding initiated by some of a debtor's affiliates in connection with a bankruptcy petition.  The court affirmed the denial of defendant's motion to compel arbitration on the grounds that 1) defendant moved to compel arbitration only after the district court had partially denied its third motion to dismiss, despite being fully aware of its right to compel arbitration from the outset; and 2) the eighteen-month delay between the filing of defendant's original answer and its motion to compel arbitration wasted judicial resources and disadvantaged plaintiff.

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