Dustin Howell 2016-12-22 16:15:22
With Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court found itself in the rare circumstance of having an even number of justices and finished the term with four ties announced in nine-word orders leaving the lower courts’ decisions intact. Nonetheless, the court managed to decide several cases that could affect your practices and your clients’ interests, a few of which are summarized here. Birchfield v. North Dakota.1 Are warrantless breath and blood tests permissible under the Fourth Amendment? The defendants in this consolidated appeal refused breath and blood tests in states that criminalized such refusals. The court concluded that the Fourth Amendment permitted warrantless breath tests but held warrantless blood tests were not permissible, reasoning that piercing the skin implicated “significant privacy concerns” necessitating a warrant. Americold Realty Trust v. ConAgra Foods, Inc.2 When determining diversity of citizenship, must a court consider the residence of a trust’s shareholders, or just its trustees? Plaintiffs sued a real-estate trust over a contract dispute in state court. The defendant trust removed the case to federal court. Plaintiffs challenged the district court’s jurisdiction, arguing that certain trust shareholders’ citizenship defeated diversity because they were citizens of the same states as the plaintiff corporations. The 10th Circuit held that diversity was defeated, and the Supreme Court affirmed, reasoning that because the trust was not incorporated, its citizenship was determined from the citizenship of its “members,” including shareholders. Halo Electronics, Inc. v. Pulse Electronics, Inc.3 Is the Federal Circuit’s two-part test for determining whether a patent plaintiff is entitled to enhanced damages proper? Since 2007, the Federal Circuit has applied a two-part test to determine whether an award of enhanced damages under United States Code § 284 was appropriate: (1) did the infringer act despite an objectively high likelihood that its actions constituted infringement, and (2) was the risk of infringement known or so obvious it should have been known. The Supreme Court, emphasizing district courts’ discretion in analyzing infringers’ conduct, abrogated the test, concluding that it read too much into the statute and was “unduly rigid.” Campbell-Ewald Co. v. Gomez.4 Is class certification defeated when a named plaintiff rejects a settlement offer that would afford the plaintiff complete relief of his claim? The recipient of an unsolicited text message from a U.S. Navy contractor filed a nationwide class action, arguing that the contractor violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act when it sent a recruiting text message to 100,000 recipients. The contractor made a settlement offer to the nominal plaintiff, which he rejected. The contractor then argued that the settlement offer mooted the claim, and thus the class action, because it offered him complete relief. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that an unaccepted settlement offer or offer of judgment does not moot a plaintiff’s case, reasoning that because the offer was no longer operative after the plaintiff’s rejection, the parties remained adverse. DirecTV, Inc. v. Imburgia.5 DirecTV’s service agreement incorporated an arbitration provision that included a waiver of so-called “class arbitration.” It further provided that if such waivers were unenforceable “under the laws of your state,” then the arbitration provision as a whole would be invalid. The plaintiff, a DirecTV subscriber in California, sued DirecTV in state court. DirecTV then moved to compel arbitration. The state court declined to compel arbitration, citing California courts’ rejection of class-arbitration waivers. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the state court’s interpretation conflicted with, and was thus preempted by, the Federal Arbitration Act. Notes 1) 136 S. Ct. 2160 (2016). 2) 136 S. Ct. 1012 (2016). 3) 136 S. Ct. 1923 (2016). 4) 136 S. Ct. 663 (2016). 5) 136 S. Ct. 463 (2015). DUSTIN HOWELL is an appellate attorney at McKool Smith in Austin. He previously served as an assistant solicitor general in the Texas Attorney General’s Office and as a law clerk for former Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson.
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