Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Contracts
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A patient sued a hospital after learning that a hospital employee intentionally disclosed the patient’s health information in violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The patient alleged the disclosure breached the hospital’s contractual obligations to him. The superior court instructed the jury to return a verdict for the hospital if the jury found that the employee was not acting in the course and scope of employment when she disclosed the patient’s information. The jury so found, leading to judgment in the hospital’s favor. The Alaska Supreme Court found the jury instruction erroneously applied the rule of vicarious liability to excuse liability for breach of contract. "A party that breaches its contractual obligations is liable for breach regardless of whether the breach is caused by an employee acting outside the scope of employment, unless the terms of the contract excuse liability for that reason." The Court therefore reversed judgment and remanded for further proceedings, in particular to determine whether a contract existed between the patient and hospital and, if so, the contract’s terms governing patient health information. View "Guy v. Providence Health & Services Washington" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court convicting Defendant of felony sexual intercourse without consent, holding that Defendant received constitutionally effective assistance of counsel.At issue was whether Defendant's trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance when counsel allowed prior consistent statements from a forensic interview into evidence without challenge. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the record before the Court implied at least a plausible justification for counsel's actions; and (2) without more evidence, it cannot be determined whether defense counsel did not perform effectively for Defendant. View "State v. Mikesell" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal vacated and remanded the trial court's order granting respondent's anti-SLAPP motion to strike Brighton's cross-claim for fraud. The parties' dispute stemmed from a contract between respondent and Brighton where Brighton would pay respondent $3,000 for a one-day photo shoot. Respondent filed suit against Brighton, alleging that the company failed to pay her immediately upon completion of the photoshoot. Brighton cross-complained, asserting claims for declaratory relief and fraud.The court concluded that, even if it were to assume that respondent met her burden of showing that Brighton's cross-claim for fraud arose from protected conduct, reversal is required because Brighton has shown a probability that it will prevail on its claim. In this case, the evidence submitted shows that Brighton's fraud cross-claim has the requisite minimal merit where Brighton submitted evidence that respondent made a misrepresentation when she told the company to pay LA Models for her services during the photoshoot upon receipt of an invoice rather than immediately upon her "termination" as an employee when the shoot concluded; it can be inferred that plaintiff knew that misrepresentation was false based on her actions, she intended for Brighton to rely on her misrepresentation, and Brighton justifiably did so; and reliance on respondent's misrepresentation damaged Brighton by exposing it to $90,000 in waiting-time penalties plus attorney fees and costs— in addition to the costs Brighton incurred in defending itself against her lawsuit. View "Brighton Collectibles, LLC v. Hockey" on Justia Law

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The underlying class action alleged that the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) unlawfully denied hearing-impaired inmates “the assistance they need to communicate effectively and participate in IDOC programs and services.” A 2018 Settlement required IDOC to screen inmates for hearing problems, refer inmates in need to a licensed audiologist for a more thorough audiological evaluation, maintain records of inmates’ evaluations, and provide inmates with care according to the results of their evaluations. For about a year after the court approved the Settlement, IDOC incorrectly referred about 700 inmates to licensed hearing instrument dispensers (LHIDs)—hearing-aid salesmen—instead of audiologists for evaluations. IDOC discontinued the practice in July 2019, based on an out-of-court agreement.In 2020, Plaintiffs moved to enforce the Settlement arguing that IDOC is not ensuring that the audiological evaluations are completed within a reasonable time period and sought attorney fees for the investigation and resolution of the LHID violations. The district court concluded that IDOC was in substantial non-compliance with the Settlement through the LHID violations,, ordered IDOC to pay about $54,000 in attorney fees, and held that the Settlement requires IDOC to ensure the audiological evaluations are completed within a reasonable timeframe, which it defined as 90 days after a referral. The Seventh Circuit affirmed with respect to attorneys’ fees. The district court incorrectly determined that IDOC was obligated to ensure that its inmates receive audiological evaluations within a set timeframe; the Settlement contains no such requirement. View "Holmes v. Godinez" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court conditionally granted mandamus relief in this arbitration dispute, holding that the trial court abused its discretion in determining that pre-arbitration discovery was warranted in this case.After Plaintiff's employment was terminated she sued Defendant, her former employer, claiming discrimination and retaliation. Defendant moved to compel arbitration pursuant to the company's employee handbook acknowledgment and agreement, which contained an arbitration agreement. At issue was Plaintiff's second motion to compel pre-arbitration discovery claiming that an enforceable arbitration agreement did not exist. After the trial court granted the motion Defendant sought mandamus relief. The court of appeals denied the motion. The Supreme Court conditionally granted mandamus relief, holding that the trial court clearly abused its discretion in ordering pre-arbitration discovery because Plaintiff failed to provide the trial court with a reasonable basis to conclude that it lacked sufficient information to determine whether her claims were arbitrable. View "In re Copart, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff treated children in the pediatric intensive care unit of a hospital owned by VHS under his professional services agreement with PICCS, which itself operated under a separate coverage agreement with VHS. After PICCS terminated plaintiff, he filed suit alleging claims of race discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 42 U.S.C. 1981. The district court granted summary judgment dismissing plaintiff's claims against VHS.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's partial final judgment, concluding that plaintiff's Title VII claim fails for lack of an employment relationship with VHS under either integrated-enterprise or joint-employment theories. The court also concluded that plaintiff's section 1981 claim fails because he cannot identify an impaired contractual right enforceable against VHS. In this case, plaintiff failed to show any contractual right enforceable against VHS under his physician agreement. View "Perry v. VHS San Antonio Partners, LLC" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff prevailed on her procedural due process and breach of contract claims against TSC, the trial court vacated the jury's verdict on the breach of contract claims and reduced the damages award on her procedural due process claim to $1.The Fifth Circuit held that TSC is entitled to neither sovereign immunity under the United States Constitution nor governmental immunity under state law. In this case, the Texas Legislature abrogated TSC's governmental immunity such that plaintiff could bring state law breach of contract claims against TSC. Therefore, the argument that the Texas Legislature attempted to limit federal jurisdiction over these claims is unavailing. The court also held that it was not required to address TSC's alternative arguments and declined to do so. The court reversed the dismissal of plaintiff's breach of contract claims, reinstated the jury's verdict on those claims, and remanded for the district court to consider TSC's alternative arguments regarding whether sufficient evidence supports plaintiff's breach of contract claims. The court affirmed the district court's grant of judgment as a matter of law on the due process violation damages and reduction of the jury's award of $12,500,000 to the nominal amount of $1. The court reversed the district court's vacatur of the portion of the attorneys' fees award based on the breach of contract claims and remanded for the district court to address TSC's alternative arguments regarding those claims and to determine whether plaintiff is entitled to attorneys' fees and in what amount. View "Tercero v. Texas Southmost College District" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that defendants unlawfully used photographs of them to advertise strip clubs owned by defendants in violation of New York Civil Rights Law sections 50 and 51. The district court granted summary judgment for defendants, holding that plaintiffs signed full releases of their rights to the photographs.The Second Circuit concluded that the terms of Plaintiff Shake and Hinton's release agreements are disputed material facts, and defendants concede that neither they nor the third-party contractors that created and published the advertisements secured legal rights to use any of the photographs at issue. The court held that the district court erred in granting summary judgment to defendants and in denying summary judgment to plaintiffs on liability. Therefore, the court vacated in part and remanded for further proceedings.The court affirmed in part and held that the district court correctly concluded that plaintiffs had not accepted the offer of judgment because the offer's settlement amount term was ambiguous, the parties disagreed over how to interpret the term, and there was accordingly no meeting of the minds. Finally, the court held that the district court correctly dismissed the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125(a), New York General Business Law Section 349, and libel claims. View "Electra v. 59 Murray Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law

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After the University terminated her employment as the head coach of the women's basketball team, plaintiff filed suit alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, as well as state-law claims for breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and invasion of privacy.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment as to the breach of contract and Title IX claims. The court concluded that judgment in favor of plaintiff on the breach of contract claim was proper where a reasonable jury could have concluded that plaintiff's management of funds did not give the University cause to terminate her employment. Furthermore, the University was not entitled to a new trial on plaintiff's breach of contract claim. In this case, the district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to provide the requested jury instruction and any error on the district court's part was harmless. In regard to the Title IX claim, the court concluded that denial of plaintiff's jury instruction was not an abuse of discretion or grounds for a new trial. However, the court reversed the district court's judgment as to the privacy claim and concluded that it failed as a matter of law. The court explained that the facts disclosed by the University were of legitimate concern to the public and the district court clearly erred in concluding otherwise. View "Taylor-Travis v. Jackson State University" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiff's disability discrimination suit against the United States Patent and Trademark Office and its director, holding that the district court did not err.The district court dismissed the action on the grounds that Plaintiff waived his discrimination claim in a settlement agreement that allowed him to resign from his job instead of being terminated. On appeal, Plaintiff argued that the district court erred in finding that his allegation of an unenforceable waiver was implausible. Specifically, Plaintiff argued that the agreement was void because he did not knowingly and voluntarily agree to it. The First Circuit disagreed, holding that the district court properly concluded that the waiver was binding. View "Perez-Tolentino v. Iancu" on Justia Law