Writer’s Weekly Picks

Our Daily Opinion Summaries writers chose these cases to highlight this week.

From the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, we have In Re FEMA Trailers Formaldehyde Products Liability Litigation (1/23/12). This case is about the “toxic trailers” issued by FEMA in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Plaintiffs sued under the Federal Tort Claims Act for injuries related to their exposure to formaldehyde in the trailers, but the Court held that the voluntary, cost-free provision of the trailers to disaster victims was immunized conduct under the FTCA, and affirmed the district court’s motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.

From the U.S. Court of Appeal for the 10th Circuit comes SECSYS, LLC v. Vigil (1/23/12). This corruption case involves government officials in New Mexico. In it, the plaintiff sued for discrimination because they were denied a bid-rigged contract, since they would not pay the full “allegedly extortionate demand.” The Court in this case affirmed the district court’s dismissal of plaintiff’s case.

The Maine Supreme Court issued an interesting insurance opinion this week. In Cookson v. Liberty Mut. Fire Ins. Co. (1/24/12), plaintiff lost his tractor to fire. He held two insurance policies from Liberty Mutual, one for his primary residence and one for a property where he was constructing a house. He would drive his tractor between the two properties. Liberty Mutual denied the claim based on a personal property exclusion in both policies. The plaintiff sued, and the superior court held for Liberty Mutual. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Cookson’s tractor was not the type of vehicle that fell within the limited exception for “vehicles not subject to motor vehicle registration” to the otherwise broad personal property exclusion of all “motor vehicles or all other motorized land conveyances,” and (2) Cookson’s tractor was not the type a homeowner would commonly purchase and employ simply to service his or her residence.

Finally, in Otay Mesa Prop. v. United States (1/25/12), the U.S. Court of Appeal for the Federal Circuit held that a government easement on the plaintiff’s private property, used for border patrol purposes, was a temporary, rather than permanent taking. The land use included creating new roads, constructing a permanent tented structure, and installing underground motion-detecting sensors. Does Jan Brewer know about this?