Docket – February 27, 2019

4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Williamson Farm v. Diversified Crop Ins. Servs. (P), 4th Cir. (Thacker) from EDNC at Raleigh (Dever).

Despite the strong presumption in favor of confirming arbitration awards pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act, a crop insurer met its heavy burden to prove that the arbitrator exceeded her powers by awarding extra-contractual damages to a farm, contrary to both the policy and binding authority from the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation.

Since the arbitrator provided only a single amount of damages rather than a breakdown of the award by contract and non-contract claims, this court has no way to distinguish what amount the arbitrator may have awarded in contractual damages (which were within the arbitrator’s authority to award) and what amount the arbitrator awarded for extra-contractual damages (which exceeded her authority). Therefore, the district court did not err in vacating the entire award.

Affirmed.

United States v. Lockhart (P), 4th Cir. (Keenan) from WDNC at Charlotte (Conrad).

The appellant has failed to satisfy his extremely high burden to prove that he would not have pleaded guilty if, during his Rule 11 plea colloquy, the magistrate judge had advised him of his potential exposure to a 15-year mandatory minimum sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act.

This conclusion is required by this court’s decision in United States v. Massenburg, 564 F.3d 337 (4th Cir. 2009), which requires a defendant on plain error review to affirmatively show a reasonable probability that he would not have pleaded guilty if he had been correctly advised of his sentencing exposure – irrespective of the extent of the sentencing court’s error. The defendant is held to this standard even though the Rule 11 error committed by the district court here left him in the dark regarding one of the most critical considerations in the guilty plea calculus: his sentencing exposure. Nevertheless, this court is bound by Massenburg and must hold that the appellant failed to satisfy his evidentiary burden.

Affirmed. Judge Gregory and Judge Floyd both wrote concurring opinions.

U.S. District Court – Virginia Eastern

Kuntze v. Josh Enters. Inc., EDVA at Norfolk (Davis).

In this wage-and-hour case, 4th Circuit precedent suggests that the half-time calculation of the “fluctuating workweek” payment method can apply to calculate damages in willful misclassification cases if all requirements for its application are satisfied. However, it would be premature for the court to rule at this stage on the case’s main issue: whether the parties had a clear and mutual understanding that the plaintiff’s salary was intended to cover fluctuating hours. Accordingly, the court will defer a ruling on the plaintiff’s unpaid-overtime claim until facts have been further developed.

However, the plaintiff has failed to state a claim for unpaid compensation for regular hours worked, making key allegations only by implication. She may amend her complaint to include sufficient allegations for this claim.

Motion to dismiss granted in part and denied in part.



Categories: Daily Dockets

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