The United States Supreme Court is expected to resolve a critical circuit split this term concerning a defendant’s right to appeal orders of remand based on several grounds when removal from state to federal court is triggered by federal officer or civil rights jurisdiction. To do this, the Court must examine the plain language and legislative intent of at least six different provisions contained in Title 28 of the United States Code, clarify the duties of the Courts of Appeal, and potentially even redefine the meaning of an “order” that is issued by a U.S. district court.

On January 19, 2021, the Court heard oral argument in BP P.L.C., et al. v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore.  This case – which garnered the attention of nearly two dozen amici curiae, including the United States government and the United States Chamber of Commerce – was originally filed in Maryland state court by the City of Baltimore (the “City”).  Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. BP P.L.C., et al., 388 F.Supp.3d 538, 568 (D. Md. 2019).  The City alleged that the defendant energy companies caused the City to sustain injuries related to climate change.  Id. at 548.  Two of the defendants removed the case to the United States District Court for the District of Maryland on several grounds, including federal officer jurisdiction.  Id. at 567.  The defendant energy companies asserted that they were acting under the direction of federal officers in light of their alleged contractual obligations with the U.S. government to supply fuel to the U.S. Navy.[1]  Id. at 568.

Continue Reading Removal, Remand, and Appeal: A Weedy Issue of Orders, Statutory Language, and Jurisdiction Under SCOTUS Review

The United States Supreme Court’s March 25 opinion in Ford Motor Co. v. Montana Eighth Judicial District Court, et al., 592 U.S. ____ (2021), has been highly anticipated by consumers and corporate defendants alike. Ford’s argument in the companion Minnesota and Montana cases was intriguing: even where a foreign defendant admits it has “purposefully availed” itself of the privilege of conducting activities within a state, can the forum court maintain specific jurisdiction if such conduct was not a “causal link” to the litigation? With Justice Kagan writing for five justices, the Court answered in the affirmative: “When a company like Ford serves a market for a product in a State and that product causes injury in the State to one of its residents, the State’s courts may entertain the resulting suit.”[1]

Continue Reading Expanding specific jurisdiction factors, Supreme Court cautions against “anything goes” interpretation

Over the past weeks a majority of states in the United States have experienced severe winter weather that has impacted the lives of millions of Americans. With severe winter weather comes dangerous driving conditions and increases in deadly accidents.

In response to the recent winter storm damage experienced throughout the country and the historic shut downs in Texas, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a regional emergency declaration covering 33 states and the District of Columbia. The FMCSA was developed to reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks and buses within the U.S. Department of Transportation.[1] Under FMCSA emergency declarations, certain Federal safety regulations, such as hours of service, are suspended for motor carriers and drivers engaged in specific aspects of the emergency relief effort. The most recent declaration in response to the states affected granted relief from Parts 390 through 399 of Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations.[2]

Direct assistance ends when a driver or commercial vehicle is not transporting cargo or providing services supporting emergency relief as it relates to the severe winter storms; or when the motor carrier dispatches the driver or commercial motor vehicle to another location to begin operations in commerce.[3] When the direct assistance ends, the driver and motor carrier are again subject to the Federal Regulations mentioned above, unless returning to the motor carrier’s terminal or the driver’s normal work reporting location when returning empty. The emergency declaration still keeps in place certain regulations for drivers such as those regarding controlled substances, alcohol and testing requirements. Continue Reading The Legal Impact of Severe Winter Weather on Trucking and Transportation Companies

In the last several months, MG+M’s Transportation Practice Group has been retained to protect the interests of trucking companies whose drivers were involved in significant highway accidents. This is nothing new for the attorneys who comprise MG+M’s robust trucking and transportation counseling and defense practice. However, the recent actions of MG+M’s Emergency Response teams that were deployed to accident scenes have solidified the immense utility to our clients of placing litigators at a truck’s location within minutes of collision. It is almost a truism that a lawsuit will follow any trucking accident that causes personal injury or property damage. Moreover, in the commercial vehicle context, government agencies (most regularly, through a police force’s commercial enforcement unit or “truck squad”) are required to investigate the crash, the truck’s driver, and trucking company policies. Official investigative reports will issue. Those reports play an acute role in determining whether a potential lawsuit will resolve early or if litigation will be hampered by protracted discovery.

In short, when it comes to commercial trucking litigation, “the devil is in the details,” and the earlier litigation counsel becomes involved, the easier it is for a defendant trucking company to meaningfully contribute to an accident’s investigation by providing and preserving critical evidence. Additionally, the presence of counsel at accident scenes benefits clients by having on-the-ground resources for witness identification and management, ensuring that investigators’ questions are free from ambiguity and contained to the scope of the accident, and that company employees understand their rights at the initial investigation stage. Continue Reading The Critical Role of Litigators in Commercial Vehicle Accident Investigations

In a recent August 2020 decision, the Supreme Court of Massachusetts in. (SJC-12856) determined that molestation policy exclusions do not preclude coverage arising out of alleged assault in personal injury claims. The Court found that the term “physical abuse” was ambiguous in a homeowner’s insurance policy and a personal injury claim arising out of a physical altercation was not sufficient to trigger an abuse and molestation policy exclusion for the coverage of a bodily injury claim.

Background

On September 13, 2014 Timothy Krusell, who was 23 years old at the time, was with a friend when he struck up a conversation with Robert Christian Haufler, age 62, and his companion. The conversation became heated and Krusell pushed Haufler, causing him to lose his balance and fall onto a parked automobile before striking the pavement. Krusell fled the scene and Haufler suffered broken bones and other injuries that resulted in permanent damage to his right arm. Haufler filed a civil action against Timothy Krusell and Dorchester Mutual, the homeowners’ insurance carrier of Krusell’s parents (“the Krusells”).  Dorchester Mutual agreed to defend the claim under a reservation of rights, citing to a coverage exclusion in the Krusells’ insurance policy relating to “intentional acts.”

The Krusells requested that Dorchester Mutual participate in settlement negotiations, however, Dorchester Mutual declined to participate in on the grounds that it had insufficient information to determine whether the claim will be denied. The Krusells settled the claim for $750,000, anticipating that Dorchester Mutual would cover $500,000 under their insurance policy. Dorchester Mutual commenced a declaratory judgment action seeking a judgment that it had no duty to indemnify the Krusells under the terms of their homeowners’ insurance policy, and the Krusells brought a counterclaim against Dorchester Mutual, arguing that its refusal to participate in settlement discussions constituted a breach of contract, a breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and a violation of G.L.c. 93A and G.L.c. 176D.

Continue Reading Can Physical Abuse Be Sufficient to Preclude Insurance Coverage Under an Abuse and Molestation Policy Exclusion?