Justia U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Military Law
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The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's orders involving plaintiff and Union Pacific's motions for judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) and plaintiff's motion for attorney fees in this suit under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA).As a preliminary matter, the court concluded that the lack of damages or equitable relief at the district court level did not strip this court of subject matter jurisdiction. On the merits, the court concluded that the district court improperly granted plaintiff's motion for judgment as a matter of law where a reasonable jury could find Union Pacific attempted to fit plaintiff into an appropriate job within the corporation's reorganized structure upon his return from deployment, thereby leading to the conclusion Union Pacific reemployed him in accordance with the escalator position principle. The court reversed the district court's JMOL decision on the reemployment claim.In addressing the denial of its own JMOL motion, Union Pacific raised affirmative defenses for the first time on appeal. The court will not consider Union Pacific's new arguments on appeal. Nonetheless, on the record before the court and on de novo review, the court concluded that the district court should have granted Union Pacific's motion for JMOL because no reasonable jury could find in favor of plaintiff on his reemployment claim. In this case, the record does not support the conclusion that Union Pacific failed to place plaintiff in the position that he would have otherwise been in had he not been deployed. Finally, because plaintiff was not entitled to judgment as a matter of law on his reemployment claim, he does not qualify as a prevailing party for the purpose of recovering attorney fees. View "Quiles v. Union Pacific Railroad Co., Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of Plaintiffs Mullen and King's complaint against the United States based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Plaintiffs' causes of action stemmed from the death of Rosemarie Ismail, a 69-year-old veteran who died from a hematoma after a liver biopsy performed at a VA hospital. The district court concluded that King failed to properly present her Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) claim because Mullen, who filed an administrative wrongful death claim with the VA as the personal representative of Ismail's estate, did not have the authority under Missouri law to act on King's behalf.The court held that the DOJ regulations specifically contemplate that Mullen, as the personal representative of Ismail's estate, may present an administrative wrongful death claim even if she is not authorized to bring an FTCA action in that same capacity. Given the court's plain reading of the FTCA and the corresponding regulations, the court concluded that Mullen had the requisite authority to present a wrongful death claim to the VA and consequently that King's FTCA claim was administratively exhausted. The court explained that an FTCA notice of claim need not be filed by a party with the legal authority or capacity under state law to represent the beneficiaries' interests in state court. Therefore, the district court had subject matter jurisdiction over King's FTCA claim. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "King v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a habeas corpus petition under 28 U.S.C. 2241 where petitioner was convicted in 2012, after trial by general court-martial, of rape committed in 1998. At the time of petitioner's conviction and direct appeals, there was no statute of limitations for prosecution of rape under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). In 2018, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces held for the first time that a five-year statute of limitations applied to rape in United States v. Mangahas, 77 M.J. 220, 222-24 (C.A.A.F. 2018). However, in United States v. Briggs, 2020 WL 7250099, at 2 (U.S. Dec. 10, 2020), the Supreme Court held that there is not a statute of limitations under the UCMJ for rapes committed between 1986 and 2006. Therefore, the court held that petitioner's conviction was not untimely. View "Hill v. Rivera" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Anixter on plaintiff's claim that the company violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), by discriminating and retaliating against him on the basis of his prior service in the military and exercise of rights protected under the statute.The court held that plaintiff failed to show a genuine dispute of material fact that his military status was a motivating factor in Anixter's decision to fire him. The court noted that most of Anixter's actions that plaintiff claimed violated USERRA were not independently actionable under the statute. The court held that the order for plaintiff to perform some manual labor did not exceed his disability restriction and was therefore not materially adverse; Anixter's denial of plaintiff's request for a service dog was not sufficiently adverse; and defendant's discharge from Anixter four days after requesting PTSD accommodation did not create sufficient evidence of a genuine dispute of material fact regarding Anixter's unlawful motivation to fire plaintiff. Rather, the undisputed evidence indicated that plaintiff's temperament played a part in Anixter's decision to fire him, which was consistent with the company's explanation that it fired him due to this disagreement. View "McConnell v. Anixter, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act against the United States for negligent supervision and training. Plaintiff alleged that he suffered emotional and physical distress after the Veterans Administration (VA) sent him a letter erroneously stating that his corneal ulcerations were not service-connected.The court held that the Veterans' Judicial Review Act (VJRA) limits district courts' jurisdiction over suits involving a VA benefits determination. Therefore, the Board's determination that the February 2015 letter contained a "clear and unmistakable" error does not constitute an admission of negligence such that the district court would no longer need to review a benefits determination in deciding plaintiff's claim. Therefore, the action was properly dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. View "Newcombe v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's order granting summary judgment for Dollar General in an action brought by plaintiff, after returning from military service, alleging that the company denied him reemployment as required under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA). The court held that there was a genuine dispute of material fact as to plaintiff's resignation; a reasonable jury could find that plaintiff's application for the store manager position at the Bryant store was sufficient to give a reasonable employer adequate notice that he was a returning service member seeking reemployment; Dollar General was not entitled to judgment as a matter of law on plaintiff's USERRA claim because he was not obligated to seek reemployment through the leave coordinator; and judicial estoppel did not bar plaintiff's USERRA claim. View "Scudder v. Dolgencorp, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against her former employer under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), alleging that the employer violated USERRA by failing to promptly reemploy her and the violation was willful. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's order granting relief to plaintiff under USERRA, holding that the district court did not clearly err by finding that the employer acted willfully and plaintiff was entitled to liquidated damages. View "Mace v. Willis" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a member of the National Guard, filed suit against TXD, alleging that TXD violated the Uniform Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), 38 U.S.C. 4301 et seq., when it terminated him while he was deployed on active duty in Iraq. On appeal, plaintiff challenged the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of TXD. At issue was whether TXD violated its USERRA obligations to plaintiff while he was on leave by not including him on an asset list of TXD employees provided to Foxxe, which took over TXD's operations without interruption. The court reversed and remanded, concluding that the modified claim turned on one or more essential facts that the summary judgment record did not address. View "Dorris v. TXD Services, LP" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 2671 et seq., alleging that the VA negligently withheld benefits. Determining that the court had jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1291, the court concluded that resolving plaintiff's claim would require the district court to determine whether the VA acted negligently in the benefits determination. Therefore, the district court lacked jurisdiction under 38 U.S.C. 511(a) and the district court properly dismissed the case. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Jones v. United States" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff's employment was terminated by Minco as part of a reduction in force, he brought this action under the Uniformed Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), 38 U.S.C. 4301 et seq. The court concluded that the jury's finding that plaintiff's position of employment would have been terminated had he not left for military service was entirely consistent with USERRA's text and its implementing regulations. Plaintiff did not properly preserve his remaining contention. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Milhauser v. Minco Products, Inc." on Justia Law