Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

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Where a jury awarded plaintiff nominal compensatory damages and punitive damages for his claim of hostile work environment against his former employer, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's post-trial motions and grant of attorney's fees to plaintiff. The court held that the $250,000 award of punitive damages was supported by the record where plaintiff repeatedly complained to supervisors that his manager was using racial slurs and the company did not take action; plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. 1981 claim was timely under the applicable four year statue of limitations where the workplace abuse continued into the limitations period; the punitive damages amount was constitutionally sound in light of the degree of reprehensibility of defendant's misconduct; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding attorney's fees and accepting the attorney's hourly rate as reasonable. View "Bryant v. Jeffrey Sand Co." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment against plaintiff in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging that he was unlawfully arrested in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. The court held that law enforcement had probable cause to arrest plaintiff where the totality of the circumstances at the time of the arrest were sufficient for the detective to believe that plaintiff had committed or was committing the offense of possessing child pornography. Therefore, the law enforcement agents were entitled to qualified immunity. Finally, because there was no constitutional violation, no municipal liability attached to the county and the city. View "Nader v. City of Papillion" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of summary judgment to the acting county sheriff and the county in an action brought by plaintiff alleging violation of her First Amendment right to intimate association. Plaintiff contended that the sheriff had terminated her based on her marriage to her husband, who had been terminated shortly before plaintiff. The court held that the sheriff's termination of plaintiff did not amount to a constitutional violation, because the fact that the marriage was a motivating factor in the decision to terminate plaintiff did not mean that the sheriff directly and substantially interfered with their marriage. In this case, the husband was terminated for sexually harassing other employees. Plaintiff was placed on administrative leave before the sheriff determined that her return would create a hostile work environment due to her loyalty to her husband. The court also held that, because the sheriff did not commit an unconstitutional act, no municipal liability attached to the county. View "Muir v. Decatur County, Iowa" on Justia Law

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Correction officers who disregard visible and self-reported symptoms medical professionals believe to be flu symptoms are not deliberately indifferent to an obvious need for immediate medical attention. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment dismissing plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims against correctional officers, alleging that they were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs after he suffered a stroke. In this case, while the officers were less than sympathetic to plaintiff's continuing illness, they were not deliberately indifferent to an obvious need for immediate medical attention that was sufficient to establish a cognizable claim under the Eighth Amendment. View "Roberts v. Kopel" on Justia Law

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Two male students filed suit against Minnesota's high school athletic league and others, alleging that the league unlawfully discriminated against them on the basis of sex through its rule prohibiting boys from participating on high school competitive dance teams. The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of the students' motion for preliminary injunction and directed the district court to enter a preliminary injunction. The court held that the heightened, likely-to-prevail standard did not apply to the boys' preliminary injunction motion, but instead, whether the boys have a fair chance of prevailing. On the merits, the court held that the boys had more than a fair chance of prevailing on the merits of their equal protection claim where the league has not asserted an exceedingly persuasive justification for keeping them from participating on high school competitive dance teams. Furthermore, the remaining Dataphase factors favored a preliminary injunction. View "D.M. v. Minnesota State High School League" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the City in an action alleging that the City discriminated against plaintiff based on her race when it denied her applications for rezoning to open a beauty salon in a residential neighborhood. The court held that plaintiff's race discrimination claim under the Equal Protection Clause failed because plaintiff failed to produce evidence that the City's decision constituted racial discrimination and the City's interest in preserving the neighborhood's residential character from increased commercialization was supported by the record. In a class-of-one challenge to local zoning decisions, courts are not entitled to review the evidence and reverse the commission merely because a contrary result may be permissible. Instead, the court is authorized only to ascertain whether there has been a transgression upon the property owner's constitutional rights. In this case, the court held that plaintiff's class-of-one discrimination claim failed to meet this standard where she failed to identify how any purported comparators were similarly situated in all material respects. View "Mensie v. City of Little Rock" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff and her three minor children's complaint against Children's Healthcare and a doctor. The action stemmed from the doctor's report to child protective services stating her concerns that plaintiff was harming one of the children. The juvenile court adjudicated that the child was in need of protection or services and ordered that he be placed in foster care. In this action, plaintiff sought relief under Minnesota and federal law, alleging that the doctor's report was false and caused the child to be separated from his family. The court applied Minnesota's law on collateral estoppel and held that the report's veracity was a central issue in the state court proceedings. Because the juvenile court implicitly ruled that the report was credible in its entirety, the court held that plaintiff was precluded from relitigating the issue. View "Peschong v. Children's Healthcare" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, an inmate, appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants on his claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). The court held that plaintiff failed to administratively exhaust some claims, and he failed to show a violation of his rights under RLUIPA and the First Amendment on the claims he exhausted. The court also held that the district court properly granted summary judgment on plaintiff's retaliation claims against five defendants because plaintiff did not allege any facts connecting those defendants to the challenged actions. However, the court held that a genuine issue of material fact remained as to plaintiff's retaliation claims against seven other defendants where plaintiff presented evidence that these specific defendants placed him in administrative segregation and prevented him from providing his attorney with legal documents shortly after he filed a previous lawsuit against prison officials and they knew of the lawsuit. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part and reversed in part, remanding for further proceedings. View "Bitzan v. Bartruff" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Housing Authority and plaintiff's supervisor in an action alleging various discrimination, retaliation, and constitutional claims. Plaintiff resigned from his job after he failed a drug test and his employer sought documentation of the prescription medications plaintiff was using, as well as a clearance letter from plaintiff's healthcare professionals addressing the issue. The court held that, by not including in his EEOC charge the adverse acts which he maintained forced him to resign, plaintiff failed to administratively exhaust his constructive discharge allegation; plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case of disability discrimination; plaintiff failed to show that he suffered an adverse employment action because he was suspended before his employer had any reason to suspect that he might be disabled; and plaintiff failed to show that he possessed a property interest in his employment under Arkansas law in order to prevail on his procedural due process claim. View "Voss v. Housing Authority of the City of Magnolia" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and common law, against the Tribe and tribal officers, seeking damages for their violation of his constitutional and civil rights stemming from his arrest and incarceration. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal with prejudice of claims against the Tribe and the individual defendants acting in their official capacities because those claims were barred by the Tribe's sovereign immunity. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal without prejudice of claims against defendants acting in their individual capacities based on failure to exhaust tribal court remedies. View "Stanko v. Oglala Sioux Tribe" on Justia Law