SAVANNAH, Ga. — A federal judge in Georgia on Oct. 19 denied a defendant’s request to serve the remaining term of his 70-month prison sentence for his role in a trade secret theft scheme in home confinement due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, ruling that such relief could be granted only by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) (United States v. Craig German, No. 19-cr-069, S.D. Ga., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 193097).
NEW YORK — A federal judge in New York on Oct. 20 denied a man’s request for compassionate release in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, holding that while his medical conditions provide for relief, he should not be released to home confinement because he is not at high risk of contracting the virus at the correctional facility where he is incarcerated and because he still poses a risk to society based on the seriousness of his fraud scheme (United States v. Jeremy Posner, No. 18-CR-631, S.D. N.Y., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 194502).
By John P. Katerndahl
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 5 granted in part an emergency application of several South Carolina election commission and other state officials for a stay pending an appeal in the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals of a district court injunction enjoining them from enforcing state law requiring that absentee ballots be witnessed by a third party. After initially staying the injunction, the Fourth Circuit granted rehearing en banc and denied a stay (Marci Andino, et al. v. Kyron Middleton, et al., No. 20A55, 2020 U.S. LEXIS 4832, U.S. Sup.).
DENVER — A federal judge in Colorado on Oct. 15 issued orders selecting interim lead counsel for 10 consolidated class complaints accusing the owner of multiple ski resorts of breaching its contract with season passholders when it closed in mid-March due to the novel coronavirus outbreak and failed to issue refunds and denying a motion for protective order and correction action filed after the resort began offering passholders credits (Bernard Han v. Vail Resorts, Inc., No. 20-1121, D. Colo., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 190784, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 190785).
SAN FRANCISCO — A California federal judge on Oct. 14 declined to stay a preliminary injunction in a class complaint filed by two prisoners who allege that they and others have been wrongfully denied economic impact payment (EIP) benefits under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, certified a litigation class and partially granted the prisoners’ motion for summary judgment as to one claim under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), writing that the U.S. Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) have not provided any reasons for excluding incarcerated individuals from receiving payments (Colin Scholl, et al. v. Steven Mnuchin, et al., No. 20-5309, N.D. Calif., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 191400).
MIAMI — Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and certain of its senior executives violated federal securities law by failing to disclose that the cruise line had been experiencing a decrease in bookings for cruises outside of China in the wake of the novel coronavirus outbreak and that the company lacked adequate policies and procedures to combat the spread of COVID-19 on its ships, a shareholder alleges in an Oct. 7 complaint filed in Florida federal court (City of Riviera Beach General Employees Retirement System v. Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., et al., No. 20-24111, S.D. Fla.).
NEWARK, N.J. — The owners of more than 120 franchise locations under the brands Wendy's, T.G.I. Friday's, Marriott and Hilton on Oct. 12 sued their all-risk commercial business insurer in a federal court in New Jersey for breach of contract and reformation, alleging that physical loss and damage caused by the novel coronavirus “directly led” to their subsequent $40,798,390 in economic damages (Manhattan Partners LLC, et al. v. American Guaranty and Liability Insurance Company, No. 20-cv-14342, D. N.J.).
NEW YORK — An insured real estate development company contends in an Oct. 9 complaint filed in New York federal court that its environmental insurer breached its contract by denying coverage for losses incurred by the COVID-19 pandemic and state shutdown orders because the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, constitutes a pollutant under the policy (JEMB Realty Corp. v. Greenwich Insurance Co., No. 20-8537, S.D.N.Y.).
SPOKANE, Wash. — A federal judge in Washington on Oct. 13 denied an insurance fraud defendant’s request for a reduction of her 70-month prison sentence, holding that she still poses a risk to society and that her medical conditions do not present a compelling reason for compassionate release because of the COVID-19 pandemic (United States v. Sandra Victoria Talento, 18-cr-0232, E.D. Wash., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 189564).
LOS ANGELES — A nursing home, its owner and a doctor on Oct. 9 filed notices alerting a California federal court that they are appealing to the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals the court’s order remanding a COVID-19 wrongful death and negligence suit against them to state court (Emma Martin, et al. v. Serrano Post Acute LLC, et al., No. 20-5937, C.D. Calif.).
FRESNO, Calif. — A federal judge in California in an Oct. 9 text-only order stayed briefing on a nursing home’s motion to dismiss a wrongful death suit against it until he has ruled on the plaintiffs’ motion to remand the case, noting the “considerable overlap” of the motions, specifically, that both “address the question of the extent to which plaintiffs' state law claims of elder abuse and negligence implicate the federal Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (‘PREP Act’)” (Jaime Gonzalez, et al. v. Redwood Springs Healthcare Center, et al., No. 20-1260, E.D. Calif.).
NEW ORLEANS — A Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Oct. 13 granted the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s (TDCJ) emergency motion to stay a permanent injunction that had been scheduled to take effect Oct. 14 following a district court’s findings in a class complaint that insufficient actions were taken to protect inmates housed in a Texas prison primarily for elderly individuals and those with health issues from the novel coronavirus (Laddy Curtis Valentine, et al. v. Bryan Collier, et al., No. 20-20525, 5th Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 32325).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A Catholic University of America student who filed a putative class complaint against the school over the mid-March transition to online learning due to the novel coronavirus filed an opposition to dismissal on Oct. 9 in a District of Columbia federal court, arguing that she has alleged cognizable claims for breach of contract and unjust enrichment (Daniella Montesano, et al. v. The Catholic University of America, No. 20-1496, D. D.C.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court issued an unsigned order Oct. 13, over the dissent of one justice, allowing the 2020 census to end now rather than having the count continue to the end of the month as a lower court had ordered due to delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic (Wilbur L. Ross, Jr., et al. v. National Urban League, et al., No. 20A62, U.S. Sup.).
RIVERSIDE, Calif. — A federal judge in California on Oct. 7 modified and clarified a preliminary injunction issued in April in a class complaint by individuals being held in federal immigration detention centers who are seeking release of high-risk individuals due to the novel coronavirus pandemic due to “noncompliance” by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) (Faour Abdallah Fraihat, et al. v. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, et al., No. 19-1546, C.D. Calif.).
LANSING, Mich. — In two of the latest rulings in putative class complaints by students accusing multiple Michigan universities of breach of contract and unjust enrichment in connection with their responses in mid-March to the novel coronavirus pandemic, a Michigan judge on Oct. 1 issued two similar opinions partially granting the universities’ motions for summary disposition, finding that no express contracts existed regarding tuition, room and board and fees but permitting the students to proceed with alternative claims for unjust enrichment (Annissa Stenger v. Ferris State University, et al., No. 20-84, Mich. Clms., 2020 Mich. Ct. Cl. LEXIS 5, James Allen v. Michigan State University, et al., No. 20-57, Mich. Clms., 2020 Mich. Ct. Cl. LEXIS 6).
By Peter Kelso, Joseph Cagnoli Jr. and Marc Scarcella
SEATTLE — Following what a plaintiff’s attorney said may be the first federal civil jury trial conducted entirely over Zoom due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a Washington jury awarded a woman $1.35 million on Oct. 7 for a head injury she suffered when she fell in a cruise ship hallway. The jury also held the woman 20 percent responsible for the accident, which reduced the original award (Margaret Dallo v. Holland America Line N.V. LLC, No. 19-865, W.D. Wash.).
NEW YORK — A federal judge in New York on Sept. 30 granted an insurance fraud defendant’s motion for compassionate release after he contracted COVID-19, finding that the government was unable to show that the warden denied the man’s request for furlough after the defendant was told that the federal correctional institute (FCI) was shutting down (United States v. Raymond R. Pellegrino, No. 18-cr-496, E.D. N.Y., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 181052).