Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

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Itron alleged that misrepresentations by three of SmartSynch's corporate officers (defendants) caused it unknowingly to assume an unwanted $60 million contractual obligation to a third party, Consert. Itron eventually settled Consert's claims and then filed suit against defendants for negligent misrepresentation. The magistrate judge ordered Itron to produce, without qualification, materials that were shielded from disclosure by the attorney-client privilege. The Fifth Circuit granted Itron's petition for mandamus and vacated the magistrate judge's order, holding that the mere act of filing the lawsuit effected no waiver of any attorney-client privilege. The court remanded with instructions to reevaluate defendants' motion. View "In Re: Itron, Inc." on Justia Law

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Itron alleged that misrepresentations by three of SmartSynch's corporate officers (defendants) caused it unknowingly to assume an unwanted $60 million contractual obligation to a third party, Consert. Itron eventually settled Consert's claims and then filed suit against defendants for negligent misrepresentation. The magistrate judge ordered Itron to produce, without qualification, materials that were shielded from disclosure by the attorney-client privilege. The Fifth Circuit granted Itron's petition for mandamus and vacated the magistrate judge's order, holding that the mere act of filing the lawsuit effected no waiver of any attorney-client privilege. The court remanded with instructions to reevaluate defendants' motion. View "In Re: Itron, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit withdrew its prior opinion and substituted the following opinion. The court vacated the district court's holding that production of a privilege log pursuant to an employment discrimination investigation was sufficient to establish that the attorney-client privilege protected BDO's withheld documents. The court held that by adopting the magistrate judge's recommendation, the district court erred when inverting the burden of proof, requiring that the EEOC prove that BDO improperly asserted the attorney-client privilege as to its withheld documents, and concluding that all communications between a corporation's employees and its counsel were per se privileged. The court remanded for a determination applying the correct attorney-client privilege principles and legal standards. In regard to the protective order, because the magistrate judge's incorrect application of the legal standard may have affected both her analysis of the allegedly disclosed communications and the breadth of the protections she imposed in her order, the court remanded so that BDO's request for protection may be considered under the proper legal standard for determining privilege. View "EEOC v. BDO USA, LLP" on Justia Law

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Defendants sought to vacate the district court's judgment stemming from defendants' breach of an agreement with plaintiffs to purchase, renovate, and sell Katrina-damaged properties. Plaintiffs contend that the district court should have required both defendants to pay the full $94,000 in damages. Defendants argued that the jurisdictional defects warrant vacating the judgment. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the judgment and posttrial order awarding attorneys' fees and costs as to Defendant Karry Causey. In regard to Defendant Garry Causey, the court remanded for the district court to engage in additional findings concerning the attempts to serve Garry. View "Norris v. Causey" on Justia Law

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Defendant filed an interlocutory appeal challenging the district court's denial of defendant's motion to dismiss based on his assertion of Texas's attorney immunity. Plaintiff alleged that defendant conspired with two others to defraud her into purchasing a Texas company owned by one of the defendants, Paul Rembach. The district court concluded that Texas's attorney immunity was inapplicable because defendant's representation of Rembach occurred during a business transaction (a stock transfer) and was unrelated to litigation or an otherwise adversarial context. The Fifth Circuit held, however, that defendant took actions that constituted fraud independent of his duties as an attorney and would not qualify as "acts taken and communications made to facilitate the rendition of legal services" to the client. Defendant could not shield his own willful and premeditated fraudulent actions from liability simply on the ground that he was an agent of his client. The court explained that independently fraudulent conduct was foreign to the duties of an attorney and fell outside the scope of client representation. Because defendant failed to establish the scope of his representation of Rembach and that his alleged conduct fell within that scope, the court affirmed the district court's judgment on those alternative grounds. View "Kelly v. Nichamoff" on Justia Law