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

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On remand from the district court, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of Catamaran's motion for summary judgment. Pursuant to recent Supreme Court precedent in Lamps Plus, Inc. v. Varela, 139 S. Ct. 1407, 1416-17 (2019), an ambiguous agreement cannot provide the necessary contractual basis to conclude that the parties agreed to class arbitration. Therefore, the court must determine whether there is an affirmative contractual basis to conclude that the parties agreed to class arbitration. The court held that there was no contractual basis to conclude that the parties agreed to class arbitration. In this case, the agreements were not inconsistent with individual arbitration and do not support the conclusion that the parties intended class arbitration and believed that intent was so evident from the terms of the written agreements that it was unnecessary to express that intent within the agreements themselves. View "Catamaran Corp. v. Towncrest Pharmacy" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for conspiracy to distribute heroin and aiding and abetting the distribution of heroin. The court held that the evidence was sufficient to support the jury verdicts. In this case, ample evidence showed that defendant knowingly and intentionally joined a conspiracy to distribute heroin, and a jury could reasonably infer that defendant knew in advance that he was driving to a drug transaction and intentionally facilitated his associate's transfer of heroin. The court also held that the district court did not err by applying a four-level sentencing increase under USSG 3B1.1(a) for an aggravating role in the offense, and a two-level sentencing increase under USSG 3C1.1 for obstruction of justice. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion in declining to grant a downward variance. View "United States v. Outlaw" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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A Missouri statute and two regulations that regulate retail advertising by alcohol producers and distributors violated the First Amendment right to free speech. The Eighth Circuit held that, although the statute on its face does not restrict speech, its practical operation restricts speech based on content and speaker identity, and thus the statute implicates the First Amendment. Furthermore, Missouri's authority under the Twenty-First Amendment cannot save the statute from its First Amendment implications. Under the Central Hudson test, the court held that Missouri has not demonstrated that the harm of undue influence is real or that the Statute alleviates this harm to a material degree. Furthermore, Missouri has also failed to prove that the Statute’s speech restriction as applied is not more extensive than necessary to serve its interest. Like the statute, the court held that the regulations failed to meet Central Hudson's third and fourth prongs. View "Missouri Broadcasters Assoc. v. Schmitt" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction of being a felon in possession of a firearm. The court held that the district court did not err by denying defendant's Rule 29 motion for judgment of acquittal, because the evidence was sufficient to sustain his conviction. In this case, there was sufficient evidence to establish a nexus between defendant and the firearm found on his plane. The court held that defendant knowingly possessed the gun where recorded jail calls showed that he referenced items that needed to be removed from the plane and where he admitted at trial that the gun looked like the firearm he had previously purchased. Furthermore, defendant had dominion over the plane, the gun was found near personal items that belonged to defendant, and defendant had recently absconded from Tennessee while awaiting trial on a state charge for being a felon in possession of a firearm. View "United States v. Parsons" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal, based on lack of personal jurisdiction, of plaintiffs' action against defendants over a dispute involving an investment agreement. The court held that defendants had sufficient contacts with Arkansas to establish personal jurisdiction in light of the nature and quality of contacts with the forum state, the quality of contacts, the relation of the cause of action to the contacts, the interest of forum state, and the convenience of the parties. In this case, the court held that the first and third factors weigh in favor of personal jurisdiction, while the second, third, and fourth factors were more neutral. The court found that personal jurisdiction applies to the claims asserted against both Defendants Esebag and ULG, and thus Esebag's actions were sufficient to bind the company and assert personal jurisdiction over ULG without violating the traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. View "Whaley v. Esebag" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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After an underground storage facility in a cave that formerly housed a limestone mine experienced a series of dome-outs, the primary insurer sought a declaratory judgment that the operator of the facility's claimed losses were not covered. Four excess insurers also sought declarations of no coverage; the operator of the facility, Interstate, counterclaimed against the insurer, alleging a vexatious refusal to pay claim under Missouri law; and the district court granted summary judgment for the insurers. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment, holding that the insurers were entitled to the declaratory judgment that no coverage existed under the respective policies. The court applied the meaning that would be attached by an ordinary person of average understanding, and held that the district court properly dismissed Interstate's claims because the rubble zone above the natural ceiling of Interstate's facility was not part of the "building." The court explained that, because the decay that caused the dome-outs in this case occurred within the rubble zone, it follows that the dome-outs were not caused by "building decay" within the meaning of the policy. View "Westchester Surplus Lines Insurance Co. v. Interstate Underground Warehouse & Storage, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for conspiracies to import and possess cocaine and attempted possession of the drug. The court also held that the district court did not err in calculating defendant's offense level based on its finding that the quantity of cocaine exceeded five kilograms, and the district court did not clearly err by imposing a sentencing enhancement under USSG 3B1.1(b), because defendant had acted as a manager or supervisor. View "United States v. Guzman" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of supplemental security income to claimant, who suffers from borderline intellectual functioning, learning delays, schizoaffective disorder, mood disorder, personality disorder, and an anxiety disorder. The court held that substantial evidence supported the ALJ's determination that claimant was not disabled within the meaning of the social security guidelines and listings regardless of which Section 12 mental disorder listing was considered. View "Cronin v. Saul" on Justia Law

Posted in: Public Benefits
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Defendant Green's motion to suppress evidence, and affirmed Defendants Green and Herbert's sentences for being a felon in possession of a firearm. The court held that the district court did not clearly err by finding that the officer had probable cause to stop the vehicle in which Green was riding, because the vehicle was speeding and there were two possible state violations regarding the license plate. Furthermore, the first patdown of Green was justified by reasonable, articulable suspicion and the second frisk was also reasonable in light of the newly discovered firearm. The court also held that the district court did not procedurally err by implying a four-level sentencing enhancement under USSG 2K2.1(b)(6)(B) for the use or possession of a firearm or ammunition in connection with another felony offense; the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying a motion for a downward variance; the district court did not abuse its discretion in imposing a three-level upward departure; and the district court adequately explained the basis for its sentencing decision. View "United States v. Green" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Plaintiff filed an amended complaint seeking damages under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that each individual defendant violated his constitutional right to procedural due process under the Fourteenth Amendment when the local animal shelter, after a five-day holding period, put a stray dog up for adoption and spayed the dog before delivering it to the adopting family. Defendants did not know that the stray dog was plaintiff's young German Shepherd, which boasts world champion lineage and had escaped from plaintiff's back yard two weeks earlier. The Eighth Circuit held that the district court failed to devote sufficient attention to whether plaintiff had a protected procedural due process property interest and if so, the nature and extent of that interest. The court agreed with the Supreme Court of Arkansas that affirmative pre-deprivation notice is not constitutionally required in this situation, when an animal shelter holds a stray dog for more than five days and then adopts out and spays the dog after the owner fails to file a claim. The court also held that plaintiff failed to prove that each individual defendant's conduct violated his right to procedural due process. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's order insofar as it denied summary judgment to the individual defendants acting in their individual capacities, remanding with directions. View "Lunon v. Botsford" on Justia Law