Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tricked or treated, we got some things good and heated

Criminal law -- Habeas corpus -- Murder -- Death penalty -- Counsel -- Ineffectiveness -- Sentencing phase of capital trial -- Failure to investigate and present mitigating evidence concerning petitioner's mental health at time of crime -- State court's determination that petitioner's trial counsel was not constitutionally ineffective in preparing for sentencing phase of trial was neither contrary to nor an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law -- Court cannot say that state court unreasonably rejected claim in face of unanimous death-penalty recommendation from jury; finding of four statutory aggravators, including that murder was especially heinous, atrocious and cruel; finding that petitioner was triggerman; petitioner's boasting and detailed statement to a friend; weaknesses highlighted in petitioner's “new” mitigating evidence; and further aggravating evidence that this “new” mitigating evidence may have revealed

Criminal law -- Medicare fraud -- Conspiracy to defraud United States, to cause submission of false claims, and to pay health care kickbacks -- Conspiracy to commit health care fraud -- Evidence -- Trial court improperly excluded, as hearsay, videotape which arguably showed coconspirators assuring defendant that there was no fraudulent scheme at clinic which employed defendant and which was established as front for massive Medicare scam -- Error was harmless because videotape was duplicative of witness testimony discussing the exculpatory content of videotape, which testimony was stressed by defendant's counsel in closing argument -- District court did not abuse discretion by refusing to exclude evidence that individual who provided funding and personnel necessary to start clinic was once defendant's ex-husband -- Evidence was sufficient to support convictions of both defendants on all counts -- Sentencing -- Reasons given by district court justified sentencing physician-defendant above the guidelines and imposing sentence which was far greater than that imposed on coconspirators who were more deeply involved in fraudulent scheme -- District court did not err in assigning little weight to post-verdict polygraph examinations after finding that evidence that defendant gave perjured testimony was so overwhelming that no polygraph could sway district court's decision to apply obstruction of justice enhancement -- Mandatory Victim Restitution Act -- Term “victim” as used in MVRA includes government -- Amount of loss -- No error in attributing entire loss to defendant-nurse, notwithstanding her argument that she knew clinic was providing medically unnecessary treatment, but there was no evidence that she knew clinic was billing Medicare for infusions that were not provided at all -- Risk of death or serious injury -- No error in applying two-level enhancement based on finding that nurse-defendant's offense involved “conscious or reckless risk of death or serious bodily injury”
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. SANDRA MATEOS, ANA ALVAREZ, Defendants-Appellants. 11th Circuit.

Medicaid Cuts: LA. CLASS ACTION CHALLENGES REDUCTION OF MEDICAID HOME-CARE SERVICES, Pitts v. Greenstein, 13 No. 9 Westlaw Journal Nursing Home 1, Westlaw Journal Nursing Home October 22, 2010
A class of disabled Medicaid recipients in Louisiana has alleged the state health department's plan to reduce benefits for home-based care violates federal disability law and might unnecessarily force thousands into nursing homes. Lead plaintiffs Helen Pitts and Kenneth Roman asked the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana to grant preliminary and permanent injunctions enjoining the state's Department of Health and Hospitals from denying long-term personal-care services.

Health Care Reform: STATES GET $49 MILLION TO BUILD INSURANCE EXCHANGES, 13 No. 9 Westlaw Journal Nursing Home 6, Westlaw Journal Nursing Home October 22, 2010
The federal government has awarded $49 million in grants to 48 states and the District of Columbia to help them research and develop health insurance exchanges aimed at helping consumers shop for coverage. The state-based exchanges will make buying health insurance easier by providing eligible consumers and small businesses "one-stop shopping" where they can compare and purchase health insurance coverage, according a Sept. 30 statement released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Health Care Reform: DOCTOR-OWNED HOSPITALS URGE COURT TO STRIKE BAN ON NEW FACILITIES, Physician Hosps. of Am. v. Sebelius, 13 No. 9 Westlaw Journal Nursing Home 7, Westlaw Journal Nursing Home October 22, 2010
An industry group representing physician-owned hospitals has asked a federal judge to allow it to proceed with a lawsuit seeking to block part of the new health care reform law that limits the growth and construction of new doctor- owned facilities. Physician Hospitals of America, along with the Texas Spine and Joint Hospital, a 20-bed private facility in Tyler, Texas, are challenging the constitutionality of Section 6001 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act.

Civil rights -- Municipal corporations -- Employment discrimination -- Retaliation -- Title VII -- Error to dismiss Title VII retaliation claim based on determination that factual findings of county personnel board, an independent state agency, were entitled to preclusive effect over the federal action -- District court improperly failed to draw distinction between Title VII and section 1983 with regard to preclusive effects of state administrative proceedings on actions brought thereunder
PATRICK L. BISHOP, SR., Plaintiff-Appellant, v. BIRMINGHAM POLICE DEPARTMENT, CITY OF, Defendant, BIRMINGHAM, CITY OF, THE, Defendant-Appellee. 11th Circuit.

Federal jurisdiction -- Torts -- Removal of state court action to federal court -- Timeliness -- Appellate court need not decide whether defendant's notice of removal was timely in instant case because any error in failing to remand case to state court on ground that notice of removal was untimely would be procedural error and would be insufficient to warrant vacating judgment and remanding for new trial in state court where it was undisputed that requirements for diversity jurisdiction were met by time district court entered judgment
BRIAN MOORE, as Personal Representative on behalf of the Estate of Bernard P. Rice, Deceased, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. NORTH AMERICA SPORTS, INC., a foreign corporation, d.b.a. World Triathlon Corporation, d.b.a. Ironman Triathlon, d.b.a. Ford Ironman Florida, f.k.a. Ironman North America, USA TRIATHLON, a foreign company, Defendants-Appellees. 11th Circuit.

Insurance -- Appraisal -- Error to grant insured's motion to compel appraisal before court resolved underlying coverage dispute -- Conflict certified -- Insurer did not waive right to deny coverage by failing to deny coverage before suit was filed

Insurance -- Homeowners -- Attorney's fees -- Appraisal -- No fees were awardable for portion of case where parties were unable to agree on an umpire, and insurer filed petition for selection of neutral umpire -- Insureds were entitled to award of attorney's fees for successfully defeating insurer's request that trial court direct umpire to provide an itemized appraisal
JOSE ALEJANDRO PINEDA AND MARTHA PINEDA, Appellants/Cross-Appellees, vs. STATE FARM FLORIDA INSURANCE COMPANY, Appellee/Cross-Appellant. 3rd District.

Insurance -- Homeowners -- Hurricane damage to home -- Attorney's fees -- Insurer's post-suit payment of additional policy proceeds entitles insured to section 627.428 attorney's fees where the insurer wrongfully caused its insured to resort to litigation in order to resolve a conflict with its insurer when it was within the company's power to resolve it -- Error to enter summary judgment for insurer in insured's action against insurer where there were factual issues as to whether insured was forced to file suit to resolve claim under policy

Mortgage foreclosure -- Error to enter final summary judgment of foreclosure where plaintiff failed to file with court the original note, evidence of assignment of mortgage and note, or affidavit of ownership and filed no other admissible evidence establishing plaintiff's status as holder and owner of note and mortgage -- Appellate court unable to determine whether trial court considered copy of original note and affidavit of ownership presented by plaintiff at summary judgment hearing, as these documents were not part of record at time the motion for summary judgment was granted -- Moreover, the documents were not authenticated, filed, and served more than twenty days before hearing, as required by procedural rules
GUISEPPE SERVEDIO a/k/a Joseph Servedio, Appellant, v. US BANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION, as Indenture Trustee, on behalf of the holders of Terwin Mortgage Trust 2007-AHL1, Asset-Backed Securities Series 2007-AHL1, Appellee. 4th District.

Mortgage foreclosure -- Error to enter summary judgment of foreclosure of commercial mortgage loan where lender accepted a substantial paydown after an initial default and acceleration, and the parties entered into an agreement to reinstate the mortgage after the entry of an earlier judgment -- Summary judgment was improper where there exists a triable issue regarding the reinstatement agreement and the parties' performance under it
ONE 79TH STREET ESTATES, INC. and DARRELL WILSON a/k/a Keith D. Wilson, a single man; PO BOY REALTY INVESTMENT, INC., Appellants, vs. AMERICAN INVESTMENT SERVICES, Appellee. 3rd District.

Mortgage foreclosure -- Receivership -- Trial court erred in allowing receiver to sell mortgaged property, over objection of record owner, before final judgment foreclosing owner's interest in the property -- Contracts -- In absence of statute authorizing court-appointed receiver in foreclosure case to sell mortgaged property before mortgage is foreclosed by final judgment, such authority must be provided in loan agreement between lender and borrower represented by promissory note and mortgage -- Receivership provision in instant case did not purport to give receiver any power of sale of mortgaged property before entry of final foreclosure judgment, but instead explicitly limited receiver's powers to a caretaker role, which included the authority only to operate the property and collect rents -- Under common law, mere appointment of receiver does not itself confer any of the owner's power or authority to sell property -- Finally, recognizing general interim power of a receiver to sell mortgaged property in a foreclosure case would contravene mortgagor's statutory right of redemption
SHUBH HOTELS BOCA, LLC, and ATUL BISARIA, Appellants, v. FEDERAL DEPOSIT INSURANCE CORPORATION, as Receiver for Mutual Bank (Illinois); and NEIL MERIN, as Court Appointed Receiver for Mortgaged Property, Appellees. 4th District.

Unfair labor practices -- School boards -- Public Employees Relations Commission properly affirmed General Counsel's summary dismissal of teacher's unfair labor practices complaints, where General Counsel found that teacher failed to prove by preponderance of evidence that his protected conduct was a substantial and motivating factor in school principal's retaliatory actions -- There was not sufficient evidence of animus, or relation of adverse events to employee's participation in protected activity, to sustain allegations of unfair labor practices

Torts -- Action against corporate defendant and county by plaintiff who claimed that she was injured when escalator at airport stopped short, causing her to fall -- Error to enter directed verdicts in favor of defendants on ground that there was insufficient evidence of negligence on their part where plaintiff presented evidence showing that defendants were notified that subject escalator stopped running earlier on the day of plaintiff's fall and there was no evidence that any work was performed on the escalator, allowing jury to reasonably infer that defendants negligently failed to determine what was causing it to stop running and correct the problem -- Jury instructions -- Error to refuse to give jury instruction on negligence per se as to county -- Error to overrule plaintiff's objection to defense closing argument that there was no evidence of prior problems with subject escalator where trial court had excluded such evidence -- Plaintiff's treating physician was not required to be an expert back surgeon in order to testify to his belief that plaintiff would need surgery in the future, and it was error to exclude this testimony -- Accordingly, it was error to deny plaintiff's motion for new trial

Torts -- Civil theft -- Complaint which alleged that plaintiffs made a loan to defendant pursuant to an oral agreement, and that at the time of the loan, defendant had no intention to repay it and/or intended not to repay the funds, stated cause of action for civil theft -- Error to grant defendant's motion for judgment on pleadings -- Allegation that defendant had no intention to repay the funds and/or intended not to repay the funds is sufficient to state claim for common law fraud, and common law fraud is explicitly included in the theft statute -- Economic loss doctrine does not bar statutory claim for civil theft -- There is no merit to defendant's contention that it is impossible to have an action for civil theft where there has been a failure to repay money unless there has been a conversion of a specific fund
WILLIAM P. WALKER, III AND GEMMA M. WALKER, HIS WIFE, Appellants, vs. JAIME A. FIGAROLA, Appellee. 3rd District.

Torts -- Res judicata -- Action by insurance company against attorney who had litigated personal injury protection lawsuits against company on behalf of insureds, alleging claim for restitution and fraud based on monies company paid out in connection with the PIP suits -- Trial court erred in dismissing complaint on ground that it stemmed from PIP lawsuits, and had been previously adjudicated by courts of competent jurisdiction or resolved by settlement agreements -- Application of res judicata was not appropriate because neither the parties nor the cause of action were the same -- Application of collateral estoppel was not appropriate where issues were not the same as those adjudicated in PIP suits

Wrongful death -- Negligent entrustment -- Negligent undertaking -- A defendant cannot be held liable for negligent entrustment or negligent undertaking based on his having taken his alcohol-impaired brother's car keys and then put the keys in a place where his brother easily found them, resulting in his brother causing a fatal collision
GERALD CANTALUPO, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Suzanne Marie Cantalupo, Appellant, v. PAUL J. LEWIS, Appellee. 4th District.

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