In Turner v. Murphy Oil USA, Inc., 2006 WL 286009 (E.D. La. 2006), a mass tort class action arising from a crude oil spill in Chalmette during Hurricane Katrina, Judge Fallon certified a class, and Murphy appealed that ruling. Pending the appeal, having denied a stay, Judge Fallon ordered notice to the class pursuant to Rule 23(c)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiffs opposed affording an opt-out provision in the notice, on the basis that the definition of the class could be modified by the Fifth Circuit, thus requiring follow-up notice, but Judge Fallon thought it important to inform potential class members of the consequences of opting out immediately, in view of Murphy’s ongoing settlement program.
The notice itself is incorporated in the opinion.
In Loyola University New Orleans v. McMeans, 2006 WL 286066 (E.D. La. 2006), plaintiff sued defendant in state court to collect a promissory note issued pursuant to the Federal Perkins loan program, including a request for costs and attorney’s fees under the Higher Education Act, 20 U.S.C. Section 1091(a). Defendant removed the case to federal court, claiming federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. Section 1331. Judge Barbier held that an action to collect a promissory note arises under state law, involves a private lender and a private borrower, and concerns obligations which would be determined under state law. He stated: “The federal character of the Perkins loan program does not suffice to create a substantial federal question where it does not create the cause of action.” The case was remanded to state court.
From Findlaw.com, the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota held recently that a student loan company was not negligent and did not have a duty under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley statute to encrypt a customer database on a laptop computer that fell into the wrong hands. The decision can be read here.
Finally, the San Francisco Chronicle reports on three cases to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court this week, challenging the federal government’s power to prevent landowners from filling and developing wetlands that have some connection with a distant river or lake.
The lower courts ruled in both cases that the Clean Water Act of 1972 regulates the filling of small wetlands that impact larger waterways, even those many miles away. The wetlands in the Michigan cases are “hydrologically” connected to navigable waterways — that is, they are part of the same water system.
Property-rights groups are arguing that “navigable waters” must be interpreted to mean only rivers, streams and lakes that can be navigated by boat, or adjacent wetlands that significantly affect navigation or commerce on the larger waterways.
The two cases will afford a first look at the environmental philosophies of new Justice Alito and Chief Justice Roberts.
The cases are:
S.D. Warren v. Maine Board of Environmental Protection (read the decision of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court here)
Rapanos v. U.S. (read United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeal ruling here)
Carabell v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (read United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeal ruling here)