Supreme Court Takes Up 5 Cases for Start of New Term

WASHINGTON (CN) – In a batch of five cases taken up for the start of the October term, the Supreme Court agreed Thursday to review claims over a fishing trip that turned fatal when public utility workers attempted to raise a downed power line from the Tennessee River.

Gary Thacker says he had been in a boat with his friend, Anthony Szozda, for a local fishing tournament on July 30, 2013, as the work from the Tennessee Valley Authority was underway.

Earlier in the day a power line had become lax when a pulling cable failed during a conductor-replacement project, and the TVA was lifting the conductor out of the water when Thacker and Szozda’s boat sped past.

The conductor struck both men, killing Szozda instantly and causing serious injuries to Thacker.

Thacker and his wife sued the TVA for negligence, but a federal judge found that the utility had immunity, and the 11th Circuit affirmed dismissal of the case.

Per its custom, the U.S. Supreme Court did not issue any comment Thursday in agreeing to take up the case.

Thacker is represented by Franklin Taylor Rouse with Conchin, Cloud & Cole in Huntsville, Alabama.

Another case that the Supreme Court granted certiorari on Thursday involves a class action against Home Depot from a customer with an unpaid credit card debt.

George Jackson brought his consumer-protection claims as a counterclaim to the state collections action he faced in North Carolina. Home Depot was not a party to the collections action but instead was an original defendant to the counterclaim.

It is vying to remove the matter to federal court, but a federal judge refused, and the Fourth Circuit affirmed.

In its petition for certiorari, Home Depot asked the Supreme Court to decide “whether an original defendant to a class-action claim can remove the class action if it otherwise satisfies the jurisdictional requirements of the Class Action Fairness Act when the class action was originally asserted as a counterclaim against a co-defendant.”

The Supreme Court’s order Thursday says it also wants the parties to argue whether third-party counterclaim defendants are covered by precedent from the 1941 case Shamrock Oil & Gas Co. v. Sheets, which says an original plaintiff may not remove a counterclaim against it.

Home Depot is represented by Sarah Harrington with Goldstein & Russell in Bethesda, Maryland. Jackson is represented by Brian William Warwick of Varnell & Warwick in Lady Lake, Florida.

The Supreme Court took up as well an appeal by Allina Health Services, a hospital network whose operations include the Montefiore Medical Center, Mount Sinai Medical Center and New York Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Allina had initiated the dispute over fractions that the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services used to determine the total amount of payment that a hospital should receive under the Medicare program.

Though a federal judge granted the government summary judgment, holding that the calculations at issue did not require notice-and-comment rulemaking, the D.C. Circuit reversed and remanded.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court granted an ensuing petition for certiorari by U.S. Health and Human Services. The order says the court will decide whether HHS is required under federal statute “to conduct notice-and-comment rulemaking before providing the challenged instructions to a Medicare Administrator Contractor making initial determinations of payments due under Medicare.”

Akin Gump attorney Stephanie Webster represents Allina.

The fourth case challenges a jury award of $124 million in damages to tech giant Oracle, which accused the tech-support company Rimini Street of copyright infringement and computer hacking.

Rimini wants the Supreme Court to decide whether the Copyright Act’s allowance of “full costs” to a prevailing party is limited to taxable costs, as the Eighth and 11th Circuits have held, or also authorizes nontaxable costs, as the Ninth Circuit held in affirming the underlying decision.

Gibson Dunn & Crutcher attorney Mark Andrew Perry represents Rimini. Kirkland & Ellis attorney Paul Clement represents Oracle.

The fifth and final case comes from the Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association regarding a Tennessee law that requires a person, corporation or firm to be a resident of Tennessee for at least two years before it can obtain a license to sell alcoholic beverages. The law also includes a 10-year residency requirement to renew a license.

After a federal judge found that the residency requirements violate the dormant Commerce Clause, the Sixth Circuit affirmed.

Jones Day attorney Shay Dvoretzky represents the Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association.

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