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8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Digest: June 7, 2023

Minnesota Lawyer//June 8, 2023

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8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Digest: June 7, 2023

Minnesota Lawyer//June 8, 2023

Administrative

 

Estate Tax

Corporate Value; Life Insurance Proceeds

Plaintiff’s estate appealed the judgment of the district court denying plaintiff’s appeal from the assessment of estate taxes. Michael and Thomas Connelly were the sole shareholders of their building materials company. The company took out life insurance policies on each brother to obtain proceeds to redeem the brother’s shares upon death. When Michael died, the IRS assessed the company’s fair market value as including the life insurance proceeds intended to redeem his stock. The district court denied plaintiff’s refund request, ruling that the Connellys’ stock purchase agreement did not affect the company’s valuation, which had to include the life insurance proceeds as a significant asset.

Where the company ignored the valuation mechanisms established in the stock purchase agreement, the district court properly included the life insurance proceeds in the company’s value since a buyer of the company would obtain control of the proceeds.

Judgment is affirmed.

Connelly v. U.S. Department of Treasury, Internal Revenue Service (MLW No. 79977/Case No. 22-3683 – 13 pages) (U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit, Gruender, J.) Appealed from U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Missouri, Clark, J.

 

 

Bankruptcy

 

Chapter 7

Sale of Residence; Motion to Compel Trustee to Abandon Property

Debtor appealed the denial of her motion to compel the trustee to abandon certain real property. Debtor initially filed a Chapter 13 petition, listing her residence at a value that would have provided no net proceeds in a sale. Debtor later converted her bankruptcy to Chapter 7, by which time the value of her residence had increased significantly and would generate $62,000 in proceeds from a sale. Believing the trustee was planning to sell her home, debtor moved to compel the trustee to abandon the property. The bankruptcy court denied the motion, ruling that the increase in equity between the petition date and conversion date was property of the bankruptcy estate and was worth more than “inconsequential value.”

Where an increase in equity in debtor’s home accrued for the benefit of the bankruptcy estate upon the conversion of debtor’s case to Chapter 7, the bankruptcy court correctly denied debtor’s motion where the increased value was consequential to the estate.

Judgment is affirmed.

In re: Machele L. Goetz (MLW No. 79976/Case No. 22-6009 – 13 pages) (U.S. Bankruptcy Appellate Panel, 8th Circuit, Hastings, J.) Appealed from U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Western District of Missouri, Fenimore, J.

 

 

Civil Practice

 

Adverse Judgment

Diversity Action

Where appellant challenged an adverse grant of summary judgment in his diversity action raising claims under Arkansas law, the district court did not err in granting judgment for the defendants.

Judgment is affirmed.

Lemus v. Agents Mutual Insurance Company (MLW No. 79991/Case No. 22-3123 – 2 pages) (U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit, per curiam) Appealed from U.S. District Court, Western District of Arkansas.

 

 

 

Discovery Order

Subpoenas; Legislative Privilege

Where several current and former members of the North Dakota legislature and a legislative aide sought relief from district court orders that compelled them to comply with subpoenas in a civil case against the state, arguing that the discovery orders infringed on legislative privilege, the subpoenas should have been quashed based on legislative privilege, so the petition for writ of mandamus is granted in part and the court is ordered to quash the subpoenas.

Petition granted.

In re: North Dakota Legislative Assembly (MLW No. 80011/Case No. 23-1600 – 10 pages) (U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit, Colloton, J.) Appealed from U.S. District Court, District of North Dakota.

 

 

Sherman Act

Monopolization; Supplemental Jurisdiction

Where an ophthalmologist brought a Sherman Act claim alleging that the defendant attempted to monopolize the vitreoretinal care market, the district court properly dismissed the claim because the complaint failed to state an actual adverse effect on competition and failed to plead a relevant market, and the court did not abuse its discretion by not exercising supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims.

Judgment is affirmed.

Par v. Wolfe Clinic, P.C. (MLW No. 79990/Case No. 22-2286 – 10 pages) (U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit, Benton, J.) Appealed from U.S. District Court, Southern District of Iowa, Ebinger, J.

 

 

Civil Rights

 

§1983

Deliberate Indifference

Medical Need; Sufficiency of Evidence

Plaintiff appealed the summary judgment dismissal of his §1983 action alleging deliberate indifference to medical need.

Where plaintiff failed to prove that he was diagnosed by a physician with a medical condition requiring treatment or that his alleged medical condition was obvious enough for a layperson to recognize the need for treatment, the district court correctly dismissed the case on summary judgment.

Judgment is affirmed.

Hayes v. Daniel (MLW No. 79985/Case No. 22-3032 – 2 pages) (U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit, per curiam) Appealed from U.S. District Court, Western District of Arkansas, Hickey, J.

 

 

 

Deliberate Indifference

Medical Needs

Where the estate of a man who died of chronic alcoholism and cardiovascular disease in the custody of the sheriff’s department alleged deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs, the estate presented no meaningful basis to disturb the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the defendants.

Judgment is affirmed.

Estate of James Earl Turner v. Calhoun County Sheriff’s Department (MLW No. 80005/Case No. 21-3657 – 3 pages) (U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit, per curiam) Appealed from U.S. District Court, Western District of Arkansas.

 

 

 

DNA Testing

Standing; Qualified Immunity

Where the district court found that an Arkansas death row inmate who sought DNA testing had standing to challenge the relevant Arkansas statute with the court ruling that the plaintiff had standing to challenge the law on procedural due process grounds and that the defendant officials were not entitled to qualified immunity, the judgment is affirmed because the plaintiff sufficiently alleged an injury in fact and the defendants were not immune to suit under the Eleventh Amendment because the plaintiff sought prospective declaratory and injunctive relief and has alleged a sufficient connection between the defendants and the enforcement of the statute.

Judgment is affirmed.

Johnson v. Griffin (MLW No. 79989/Case No. 22-1922 – 10 pages) (U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit, Kelly, J.) Appealed from U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Arkansas, Baker, J.

 

 

 

Inmate Action

Statute Of Limitations; Tolling

Where an incarcerated man sued corrections officers for sexual misconduct and harassment, and the district court dismissed the action as untimely, the claim was governed by the two-year statute of limitations, and was not timely, and tolling did not apply.

Judgment is affirmed.

Botts v. West (MLW No. 80006/Case No. 22-1342 – 3 pages) (U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit, per curiam) Appealed from U.S. District Court, Northern District of Iowa.

 

 

Contracts

 

Unit Purchase Agreement

Dissolution of Company; Breach

Plaintiff appealed the grant of summary judgment for defendant. Plaintiff invented a medical device and established a new company to develop the device and bring it to market. Plaintiff’s company contracted with defendant for the development, with defendant agreeing to periodically purchase the company’s stock as the device met developmental milestones. The parties later executed a unit purchase agreement to govern defendant’s purchase of the company’s remaining equity. However, when development of the device met trouble, defendant ultimately chose to end the project. Plaintiff sued to recover the payment due if the device had met the remaining contractual milestones, but the district court granted summary judgment for defendant.

Although defendant had not shut down other projects that faced setbacks, the setbacks encountered by plaintiff’s device, including a lethal defect and the entry of a competitor’s product into the market, meant that plaintiff could not establish that defendant failed to follow its “general” practice in shutting down plaintiff’s company.

Judgment is affirmed.

Mortier v. LivaNova USA, Inc. (MLW No. 79979/Case No. 22-2125 – 12 pages) (U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit, Benton, J.) Appealed from U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, Tostrud, J.

 

Criminal Law

 

Child Pornography

Felon in Possession of Firearm; Motion to Suppress Evidence

Defendant appealed the denial of his motion to suppress evidence of child pornography and a firearm. Defendant was arrested after he confronted his girlfriend and another woman who had reported defendant to law enforcement for collecting child pornography. Police found a firearm during a search of defendant’s vehicle, and his girlfriend turned over hard drives belonging to defendant that contained child pornography.

Where police responded to a 911 call from defendant’s girlfriend who provided specific details about defendant’s location, police had reasonable suspicion to stop defendant and could ask defendant about the presence of firearms under the public-safety exception, and Miranda warnings were not required before asking for his consent to search. The search warrants for defendant’s hard drives were supported by probable cause.

Judgment is affirmed.

U.S. v. Elliott (MLW No. 79973/Case No. 22-2210 – 5 pages) (U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit, per curiam) Appealed from U.S. District Court, Southern District of Iowa, Ebinger, J.

 

 

 

Conspiracy to Distribute Drugs

Plea Agreement; No Further Federal Prosecution

Defendant appealed his sentence for conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. Defendant pled guilty pursuant to a plea agreement in which the government promised that “there would be no further federal criminal prosecution” for distribution or possession with intent to distribute. At the district court’s request during sentencing, the government elicited witness testimony connecting defendant to a drug-related death during the conspiracy. On appeal, defendant argued that this testimony breached the plea agreement.

Where the elicited testimony did not lead to the institution of a new, separate criminal prosecution for drug-induced death, the government did not breach its obligations under the plea agreement.

Erickson, J., concurring: “I write separately to note that defense counsel asserted, which the government did not dispute, that this provision was added to the plea agreement to avoid the scenario that played out at sentencing— that is, consideration of whether Flying Bye distributed drugs that resulted in Yellow Earrings’ death. I have concerns about whether the prosecutor’s actions in eliciting the testimony contravened the parties’ pre-plea agreement bargain to not attempt to link Flying Bye to the overdose death.”

Judgment is affirmed.

U.S. v. Flying Bye (MLW No. 79983/Case No. 22-2742 – 6 pages) (U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit, per curiam) Appealed from U.S. District Court, District of South Dakota, Kornmann, J.

 

 

Drug and Firearms Offenses

Plea Agreement; Appeal Waiver

Defendant appealed the sentence imposed after he pled guilty to drug and firearms offenses pursuant to a plea agreement containing an appeal waiver.

Where defendant’s challenge to the substantive reasonableness of his sentence fell within the scope of the appeal waiver, the court dismissed the appeal.

Appeal is dismissed.

U.S. v. Chau (MLW No. 79986/Case No. 23-1339 – 2 pages) (U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit, per curiam) Appealed from U.S. District Court, Western District of Missouri, Harpool, J.

 

 

 

Drug Distribution

Sentencing Enhancement; Maintaining a Drug Premises

Defendant appealed the sentence imposed by the district court after he pled guilty to distributing methamphetamine, challenging the district court’s two-level sentencing enhancement for maintaining a drug premises.

Although no drugs were found in defendant’s shop adjacent to his residence and defendant claimed to have conducted drug transactions at other locations, there was other substantial evidence to prove that defendant conducted drug sales at the shop, including sales to a confidential informant.

Judgment is affirmed.

U.S. v. Valdez (MLW No. 79978/Case No. 21-3727 – 3 pages) (U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit, per curiam) Appealed from U.S. District Court, Western District of Arkansas, Brooks, J.

 

 

Firearms Offenses

Plea Agreement; Appeal Waiver

Defendant appealed the sentence imposed following his guilty plea to firearms offenses pursuant to a plea agreement that contained an appeal waiver.

Where the appeal waiver encompassed defendant’s appellate issues, the court dismissed the appeal.

Appeal is dismissed.

U.S. v. Hampton (MLW No. 79974/Case No. 22-3199 – 2 pages) (U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit, per curiam) Appealed from U.S. District Court, Western District of Missouri, Ketchmark, J.

 

 

 

Murder

Upward Departure; Substantive Reasonableness of Sentence

Defendant appealed the sentence imposed by the district court after defendant pled guilty to second-degree murder. The district court applied a two-level departure for extreme conduct and sentenced defendant near the top of the guidelines range. Defendant challenged the upward departure and the substantive reasonableness of his sentence.

Where there was significant evidence to indicate that defendant had the principal role in the murder, the gruesome nature of the murder supported the upward departure for extreme conduct.

Judgment is affirmed.

U.S. v. Fineran (MLW No. 79971/Case No. 22-2498 – 4 pages) (U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit, per curiam) Appealed from U.S. District Court, District of South Dakota, Lange, J.

 

 

Possession of a Firearm by a Felon

Correctional Facility Offenses; Acceptance-of-Responsibility Reduction

Defendant appealed the sentence imposed following his guilty plea to being a felon in possession of a firearm. While in jail prior to pleading guilty, defendant sexually assaulted several corrections officers. The district court concluded that defendant’s behavior in incarceration disqualified him for an acceptance-of-responsibility reduction. The district court further found that defendant’s prior Kansas conviction for attempted assault of a police officer with a deadly weapon qualified as a crime of violence for sentencing purposes.

Although occurring more than a year after his arrest, defendant’s behaviors while awaiting sentencing clearly indicated a lack of acceptance of responsibility for criminal behavior, and the district court properly sentenced defendant where causing fear of imminent harm or death in attempted aggravated assault satisfied the force clause.

Judgment is affirmed.

U.S. v. Chappell (MLW No. 79982/Case No. 22-2503 – 5 pages) (U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit, Gruender, J.) Appealed from U.S. District Court, Western District of Missouri, Kays, J.

 

Possession of Firearm by a Felon

Jury Instructions; Constitutionality of Statute

Defendant appealed his conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm. Defendant argued that the district court erred in instructing the jury on the elements of the offense and in responding to two questions from the jury during deliberations. Defendant further argued that he had a constitutional right under the Second Amendment to possession a firearm as a convicted felon.

Where the question of whether a predicate conviction qualified as an offense that would bar defendant from possessing firearms was a legal question, the district court did not err in its instruction identifying defendant’s alleged prior conviction as a predicate offense, and defendant’s further challenges to the jury instruction were the result of invited error. The jury’s questions also effectively asked the district court to decide a particular element of the offense, which the district court properly declined to answer.

Smith, J., concurring: “I concur fully in Parts I and II of the opinion. I concur as to the judgment in Part III and agree that § 922(g)(1) is not unconstitutional as applied to Jackson and that Heller remains the relevant precedent we are bound to apply.”

Judgment is affirmed.

U.S. v. Jackson (MLW No. 79984/Case No. 22-2870 – 16 pages) (U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit, Colloton, J.) Appealed from U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, Frank, J.

 

 

Right to Self-Representation

Failure to Hold Hearing; Habeas Petition

Respondent appealed the district court’s grant of petitioner’s §2254 petition. Petitioner was charged with various offenses in Missouri state court and requested to proceed pro se. The trial court initially deferred petitioner’s request and ultimately denied the motion, finding that his waiver was conditional on deposing witnesses or the filing of speedy trial motions. Petitioner filed direct appeals and collateral proceedings in state court challenging the denial of his motion to proceed pro se. Ultimately, petitioner filed the present motion, which the district court granted after finding that petitioner had unequivocally invoked his right to self-representation and the trial court had failed to conduct a proper hearing.

Where the record clearly reflected that petitioner had expressed a desire for counsel if the trial court honored his demand for a speedy trial and wanted to depose witnesses pro se, the district court erred in concluding that petitioner had made an unequivocal request to proceed pro se.

Judgment is reversed.

Bolden v. Vandergriff (MLW No. 79972/Case No. 22-2054 – 11 pages) (U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit, Erickson, J.) Appealed from U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Missouri, White, J.

 

 

Seizure

Motion To Suppress

Where hospital security officers restrained a defendant being treated for a gunshot wound to his leg after he became agitated and began to refuse medical treatment, the actions of the officers were objectively reasonable, and the scope of the seizure was tailored to the circumstances, so there was no Fourth Amendment violation and the denial of the defendant’s motion to suppress a gun found in his pocket is affirmed.

Judgment is affirmed.

U.S. v. Conley (MLW No. 80009/Case No. 22-2282 – 9 pages) (U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit, Kelly, J.) Appealed from U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, Nelson, J.

 

 

 

Sentencing

Upward Departure

Where a defendant challenged his sentence in a child pornography case, any procedural error in the district court’s upward variance was harmless considering the court’s rationale for its variance.

Judgment is affirmed.

U.S. v. Kistler (MLW No. 80007/Case No. 22-1514 – 4 pages) (U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit, Smith, J.) Appealed from U.S. District Court, District of South Dakota, Viken, J.

 

 

 

Sexual Abuse

Jury Instructions; Sufficiency of Evidence

Where a defendant convicted of the sexual abuse of a minor challenged a jury instruction, the instruction was plain error but did not impact the defendant’s substantial rights, so he was not entitled to reversal, and the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions.

Judgment is affirmed.

U.S. v. Waters (MLW No. 80008/Case No. 22-1887 – 6 pages) (U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit, Colloton, J.) Appealed from U.S. District Court, District of South Dakota, Viken, J.

 

 

Supervised Release

Revocation; Reasonableness of Sentence

Defendant appealed the revocation of her supervised release after she tested positive for methamphetamine six times. Defendant also challenged the substantive reasonableness of her sentence.

Where the district court was aware of alternatives to incarceration, it did not abuse its discretion by imprisoning defendant after noting that she had been given chances for drug treatment yet demonstrated her willingness to do anything for drugs.

Judgment is affirmed.

U.S. v. Campos (MLW No. 79975/Case No. 22-3454 – 3 pages) (U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit, per curiam) Appealed from U.S. District Court, Western District of Arkansas, Brooks, J.

 

 

 

Supervised Release

Violations

Where a defendant challenged the revocation of his term of supervised release, the district court did not err in finding that the defendant violated the terms of release after he was arrested for harassment and false imprisonment.

Judgment is affirmed.

U.S. v. Colizziano (MLW No. 80010/Case No. 22-2319 – 3 pages) (U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit, per curiam) Appealed from U.S. District Court, Southern District of Iowa.

 

 

Immigration

 

Asylum

Social Group; Homosexual Men

Where a petitioner from Mexico sought review of the denial of his application for asylum and the withholding of removal, substantial evidence supported the finding that the petitioner failed to demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution based on his membership in the social group of married homosexual males in Mexico, and he was not eligible for asylum or the withholding of removal since he failed to show that his life or freedom would be threatened by membership in the group.

Petitions denied.

Pacheco-Moran v. Garland (MLW No.79987/Case No. 21-3779 – 13 pages) (U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit, Loken, J.) Petition for review of an order of the Board of Immigration Appeals.

 

 

Insurance Law

 

Subrogation

Property Damage

Where the insurer of a restaurant that suffered property damage when a car crashed into it sought reimbursement from the drivers’ insurers before the insured recovered from them, the conduct was not unlawful under Missouri’s subrogation statute and state case law, and the insurer’s actions did not violate its duty of good faith and fair dealing.

Judgment is affirmed.

White Knight Diner, LLC v. Owners Insurance Company (MLW No. 80004/Case No. 21-2956 – 10 pages) (U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit, Kelly, J.) Appealed from U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Missouri.

 

 

Negligence

 

Contamination Injury

Borrowing Statute; Timeliness

Where a plaintiff, who sued a manufacturing facility for allegedly improperly disposing of a chemical that he claimed caused him to develop multiple sclerosis, challenged the grant of summary judgment to the defendant, the district court correctly determined that the plaintiff’s claim originated in Texas since he lived there when he first developed symptoms and learned of a possible connection between his condition and the exposure, because under Missouri law the claim originated where a reasonably prudent person would have been on notice of a potentially actionable injury, and under Texas law the negligence claim was subject to a two-year statute of limitations, so the suit was untimely.

Judgment is affirmed.

Knapp v. FAG Bearings, LLC (MLW No. 79988/Case No. 22-1506 – 7 pages) (U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit, Grasz, J.) Appealed from U.S. District Court, Western District of Missouri, Harpool, J.

 

 

 

Product Liability

Automatic Sliding Door; Sufficiency of Evidence

Plaintiff appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants. Plaintiff was leaving a Home Depot store with purchases on two flat carts. The store’s automatic doors opened for an employee who was pushing the first cart, then closed on plaintiff as he walked through. Plaintiff sued Home Depot and the doors’ manufacturer/installer. The district court granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment, noting that plaintiff had not presented any evidence beyond his assertions that the automatic doors closed prematurely or were otherwise defective. The district court further held that plaintiff could not rely on the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor.

Where plaintiff offered no evidence demonstrating that Home Depot caused the alleged dangerous condition of the doors or had knowledge of the condition, including failing to present expert testimony, the district court correctly dismissed plaintiff’s negligence claims.

Judgment is affirmed.

Oien v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc. (MLW No. 79981/Case No. 22-2374 – 7 pages) (U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit, Erickson, J.) Appealed from U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, Schreier, J.

 

 

 

Slip and Fall

Evidence of Hazard; Failure to Timely Submit Evidence

Plaintiff’s estate appealed the summary judgment dismissal of its negligence claim. While visiting one of defendant’s stores, Jacqulyn McQuiston passed a wet floor sign when entering the restroom. McQuiston later fell inside the handicapped stall, suffering a broken ankle that required the cessation of her chemotherapy treatments. McQuiston later passed away from cancer. The district court granted defendant summary judgment on plaintiff’s claim, finding insufficient evidence in the record to prove that the floor inside McQuiston’s stall was wet.

Where there was no direct evidence of water on the floor, as no witnesses testified to seeing water, the circumstantial evidence, including the presence of the wet floor sign, was insufficient to establish the presence of water on the floor, and the district court correctly granted summary judgment where plaintiff’s counsel attempted to untimely submit additional evidence.

Judgment is affirmed.

McQuiston v. Walmart Stores East I, LP (MLW No. 79980/Case No. 22-2284 – 5 pages) (U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit, per curiam) Appealed from U.S. District Court, Western District of Missouri, Bough, J.

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