Docket – March 14, 2019

Happy Pi Day!

4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Burrell v. Bayer Corp. (P), 4th Cir. (Harris) from WDNC at Asheville (Cogburn).

In this North Carolina personal-injury suit, the plaintiff’s claims seeking damages for violation of state tort and products-liability law do not fall within the small class of cases in which state-law claims arise under federal law for purpose of federal-question jurisdiction.

Although the plaintiffs’ claims necessarily implicate significant questions regarding Bayer’s compliance with federal regulations, North Carolina courts are fully capable of applying federal preemption law in this highly-regulated area, ensuring that the plaintiffs may recover only for violations of state-law duties that parallel rather than add to Bayer’s federal regulatory obligations.

Vacated and remanded.

United States v. Moore (P), 4th Cir. (Floyd) from DSC at Columbia (Wooten).

Prior to his federal sentencing for drug convictions, the defendant-appellant served seven months in state prison for related conduct. At sentencing, the district court reduced his mandatory-minimum sentence by seven months, over the government’s objection, to reflect his discharged state sentence. But absent some form of congressional authorization not present here, U.S. Sentencing Guidelines § 5K2.23 does not permit a district court to adjust a federal sentence below the statutory minimum to account for a related state sentence that has already been discharged.

Reversed and remanded.

Supreme Court of Virginia

Seeraj-Montague v. Friendly Ride Access LLC (U), SCV (per curiam) from Fairfax.

The circuit court abused its discretion when, acting sua sponte, dismissed with prejudice the plaintiff’s personal injury action when neither she nor her attorney appeared for trial.

After granting previous continuances, the circuit court advised the parties that the matter would not be continued further except for good cause shown. But prior to the trial date, the plaintiff’s counsel became very ill, sought another continuance on that basis, and advised the defendant as much. The plaintiff provided the court with details of counsel’s illness, including vomiting and diarrhea, his medical treatment, and his communications with opposing counsel. He was unable to ingest food or water or to stand for longer than 5 minutes.

After dismissal, the circuit court’s decision to deny the motion for reconsideration even after learning the nature of counsel’s illness was unduly harsh. The record contains no indication that counsel’s illness was feigned or that a continuance was sought solely to delay or evade a trial. And counsel’s efforts to communicate his medical condition to the appellees and the circuit court are undisputed.

Reversed and remanded.

Categories: Daily Dockets

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