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6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Sixth Circuit Upholds Preemption of Design Defect Claims

James Beck, a defense lawyer with Reed Smith, blogged on Friday about the first time that an appellate court has held that a claim that a brand-name manufacturer were negligent in the design of its drugs has been preempted because it would be impossible for the drug company to comply both with federal regulations and state tort law.

It's the first appellate authority to recognize impossibility preemption of a design defect case against a brand-name manufacturer since the U.S. Supreme Court issud its ruling in Mutual Pharmaceutical Co. v. Bartlett two years ago, Beck says.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that it would have been impossible for Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals to come up with an alternative design for one of its birth control patches either before it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration or after it was approved. The appeals court also rejected the argument that Ortho could have complied with state tort law by never starting to sell its birth control patch.

Sixth Circuit: Ohio Can't Deny Medicaid Benefits By Excluding Spouses

Ohio can't deny Medicaid benefits to a senior citizen by defining family to exclude his spouse, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has ruled.

Courthouse News' Lorraine Bailey reports that Medicare beneficiaries Leslie Wheaton, George Hart and Joe Turner did not also qualify for Medicaid benefits under a Ohio Department of Medicaid rule. That rule says that a spouse doesn't count as a member of a beneficiary's family.

Judge Raymond Kethledge opined, '"The term 'planet' might be ambiguous as applied to Pluto, but is clear as applied to Jupiter. And though there might be some ambiguity in 2015 as to whether Ukraine's borders encompass the Crimean Peninsula, there is no doubt that Kiev lies within them. So too here: whatever ambiguity the 'persons living under one roof' or 'basic unit of society' definitions might have at the margins, there is no doubt that, under either definition, a person's family includes her resident spouse."'

Sixth Circuit Upholds Disabled Girl's Use of Miniature Horse

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has ruled that an Ohio woman can pursue a claim that Blue Ash, Ohio, discriminated against her disabled daughter by banning her from keeping a miniature horse as a service animal, The Wall Street Journal's Jacob Gershman reports. Ingrid Anderson claims the city's ban on people keeping farm animals within municipal limits violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act. Anderson further argues the city should make a reasonable accommodation to allow her family to keep the miniature hourse.

Court Rules Reporter Had Right to Stay Quiet On Source

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit recently ruled that a reporter didn't have to disclose the identity of a confidential source for  a 2004 story about a federal ethics investigation into a former U.S. attorney, MLive's Khalil AlHajal reports.

David Ashenfelter, who at the time was a reporter for the Detroit Free Press, wrote a story about how then-Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Convertino handled a terrorism case in which the two defendants later had their convictions overturned. Convertino has pursued a Privacy Act Claim, claiming he was punished by the leak about the federal ethics investigation into him.

When Ashenfelter was deposed in Convertino's suit, Ashenfelter asserted a Fifth Amendment privilege against compelled self-incrimination. The Sixth Circuit agreed that he couldn't be compelled to expose his confidential sources due to '"the possibility of prosecution."'

Anti-Union Workers Can't Sue as Class

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has ruled that nonunionized child care providers in Michigan can't form a class with union members to sue over union dues being deducted from their state subsidies, Courthouse News' Lorraine Bailey reports.

Under a collective bargaining agreement, all home child care providers in Michigan who were receiving state subsidies had to become a union member or have a portion of their subsidies deducted to cover union costs (the progam of collective bargaining at issue has since ended). The Sixth Circuit said the proposed class of 40,000 childcare workers was problematic for including any provider--whether they voted to join the union or not.

No ID. No Utilities. Now A Man’s Dead. This is What Happened in the Court Case

Submitted by Amaris Elliott-Engel on Mon, 03/16/2015 - 23:14

J. Jean Johnson was delivered into this world by a Mississippi midwife, and he never did have a birth certificate or photo ID.

All he had was a social security card and his identification card from his job as a city garbageman. But that was not enough for Memphis Light, Gas & Water, which denied Johnson electricity, heat and air conditioning because he did not have state-issued photo identification. In August 2011, Johnson, an illiterate man with intellectual disabilities, died of heat stroke when the internal temperature of his apartment reached 93.2 degrees.

Even though Johnson’s niece and coworker both testified that he was unable to care for himself without help and that he often became frustrated when communicating with others, U.S. District Judge S. Thomas Anderson ruled that the time period for Johnson’s wife and sister to bring claims against the utility company had expired.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit recently reversed the judge, ruling that a jury should decide if Johnson was of “unsound mind” and if his intellectual capacity tolled the time period in which his relatives can sue the utility.

Circuit Judge Jane B. Stranch noted that the test for whether a person’s unsound mind will pause, or toll, a statute of limitations is “‘whether a person could know or understand his or her legal rights sufficiently well to manage his or her personal affairs.’”

“The deposition excerpts and affidavits read together plausibly show Johnson to have been an individual with extremely limited intellectual abilities who lacked the capacity to ‘carry out legal functions,”’ Stranch said. “He was able to function somewhat independently only with the regular assistance of family, friends, and co-workers. The record suggests that Johnson, poor and apparently disconnected from social services, was as dependent on such informal networks as a comparably disabled middle-class individual might be dependent on an assisted living facility or a court-appointed guardian.” 

An even more heart-wrenching aspect of the case is that there was an exception to the ID policy that probably should have applied to Johnson.

When Johnson tried to get utilities in 2010 at the age of 65, the utility company had an exception to the requirement that customers show valid government-issued ID— if people were in their sixth decade or older. “But MLGW did not train employees regarding how to advise customers who did not possess the necessary photo identification, nor did it train employees on how to deal with customers who were illiterate,” Stranch noted.

Sixth Circuit Rules Falsely Linking Candidates to Political Positions Isn't Defamation

The Sixth Circuit has ruled that a congressman wasn't defamed when an anti-abortion advocacy group falsely tied his vote in support of Obamacare to supporting abortion, Courthouse News' Kevin Koeninger reports. Steven Driehaus, a pro-life Democrat, lost reelection, and he filed a complaint with the Ohio Election Commission, alleging that the Susan B. Anthony List group falsely advertised that his vote in support of Obamacare supported "taxpayer-funded abortion." Even if the SBA List's statements were actually false, the former politician couldn't prove that SBA List knew the statements were false or entertained serious doubts as to their truth, the Sixth Circuit ruled.

Supreme Court Declines Louisiana Same-Sex Marriage Case

Shortly after the U.S. Court of Appeals of Fifth Circuit heard oral argument in a case that upheld Louisiana's ban on same-sex marriages, the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to take up that case, The Guardian's Amanda Holpuch reports. There are four other cases pending before the U.S. Supreme Court that went through the Sixth Cicuit, which is the only federal circuit court to uphold bans on same-sex marriage so far.

Attention #SCOTUS, We Now Have a Circuit Split on Same-Sex Marriage

Earlier today I posted about how Missouri's ban on same-sex marriage was struck down by a state-court judge, and I was feeling a complacent sense of happiness that social change was proceeding apace. Well, no more. The Sixth Circuit ruled today in favor of same-sex marriage bans in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. The decision reverses the district court judges who struck down the various states' bans as unconstitutional. As a result, there is now a circuit split on same-sex marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to take up same-sex marriage cases earlier this year, but that was when there wasn't a split among the circuit courts of appeals on the issue. The justices are much more likely to take up cases when there is a split about the circuits, so we may get a same-sex marriage case on the court's docket before June after all. Here's the opinion from the Sixth Circuit:


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