Fifth Circuit Throws Out DOL Fiduciary Rule

The United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal vacated the entire DOL Fiduciary rule in a split decision on March 15, 2018, U.S. Chamber of Commerce v. DOL, No. 17-10238 (5th Cir. 3/15/2018).  Two other circuits have upheld the DOL rule (the Tenth and the District of Columbia Circuits).  This ruling will not become immediately applicable as it is subject to rehearing and appeal to the Supreme Court.  Accordingly, advisers should continue to follow applicable DOL fiduciary rule policies and procedures.  It may be several months before whether we know the impact of this decision. Continue Reading

FBA Provides Update on Maritime Developments in New Orleans and the Lower Mississippi River Region

I attended a great meeting yesterday at the Port of New Orleans hosted by the FBA Admiralty Law Committee. Here are some bullets and takeaways, which are certainly of interest to anyone in the maritime industry along the lower Mississippi River.  I am especially grateful that the following people were able to speak with us:

  • Patricia Krebs, Chair of the Admiralty Law Committee of the New Orleans Chapter of the Federal Bar Association
  • Robert “Rusty” Barkerding, Jr., Chairman of the Port of New Orleans Board of Commissioners
  • Ronald Wendel, Vice President- Finance & Administration (CAO/CFO) of the Port of New Orleans
  • Aaron C. Smith, President & CEO of OMSA (Offshore Marine Service Association)

It’s wonderful to have people at such a high level take time out of their day to share the latest and greatest of what’s going on locally in our industry. Continue Reading

Louisiana Third Circuit Issues Decision on the Procedure for Settlements in Cases Governed by Act 312

In a decision issued today, the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal issued the first appellate court opinion addressing the procedure for approval of settlements in cases governed by Act 312 (La. R.S. 30:29).  Britt v. Riceland Petroleum Corp., is a “legacy” lawsuit in which landowners sued Riceland Petroleum Company and BP America Production Company—the current and former operators on a certain tract of plaintiffs’ property.  Riceland and BP ultimately chose to settle all of the claims that Plaintiffs brought against them, and as part of the settlement they agreed to remediate the landowners’ property to the necessary state standards.  The settling parties then complied with the express mandates of Act 312 as they:  (1) provided notice of the settlement to the Department of Natural Resources (“LDNR”) and Attorney General (“AG”); (2) allowed the LDNR at least thirty days to review the settlement and provide any comments to the trial court; and, (3) sought and obtained the trial court’s approval of the settlement. Continue Reading

Louisiana Supreme Court Upholds Expropriation of Commercial Venture

In a decision announced this week, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality and method of compensation for the expropriation by a governmental body of property owned by an ongoing commercial venture.   In St. Bernard Port, Harbor & Terminal District v. Violet Dock Port, Inc., LLC, the St. Bernard Port, Harbor & Terminal District (the “Port”), a government-owned public cargo facility, sought to expand its operations along the Mississippi River. The Port unsuccessfully negotiated the purchase of 75 acres of property owned by Violet Dock Port, Inc., LLC (the “Landowner”) which utilized the property to layberth and service oceangoing ships for the United States Navy.  The Port subsequently expropriated the property under the quick-take expropriation provisions of LA. R.S. 19:141, et seq., for a purported compensation of $16 million.  Continue Reading

Ninth and Fifth Circuits Split on Issue of Punitive Damages Under Maritime Law

The stage appears to be set for intervention by the United States Supreme Court following the Ninth Circuit’s recent panel decision in Batterton v. Dutra Group, No. 15-56775 (9th Cir. Jan. 23, 2018).  In Batterton, the Ninth Circuit expressly disagreed with the Fifth Circuit in holding that an injured seaman may recover punitive damages in a claim for unseaworthiness against a vessel owner under the general maritime law.  Compare McBride v. Estis Well Service, 768 F.3d 382 (5th Cir. 2014) (en banc).  The circuit split, which follows disagreement among the lower courts, hinges on differing views of the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision in Miles v. Apex Marine Corp., 498 U.S. 19 (1990) on this area of law. Continue Reading

The Dusky Gopher Frog is Heading to the United States Supreme Court

In July 2017, Weyerhaeuser Company, a Louisiana landowner and timber lessee, filed a Petition for a writ of certiorari asking the United States Supreme Court to overturn the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (“FWS”) designation of private land in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana as “critical habitat” for the endangered dusky gopher frog.  The FWS made this “critical habitat” designation under the Endangered Species Act.  Weyerhaeuser Company argues that the property has not been a habitat for the gopher frog since the 1960s, the land lacks certain habitat features for the gopher frog to survive in the area, and the designation drastically reduces the value of the property by preventing certain commercial development projects.  (A prior article posted on The Energy Law Blog discussing the Petitioner’s writ of certiorari is available here). Continue Reading

U.S. Fifth Circuit Issues CAFA Opinion in Mass Action Addressing Two Issues of First Impression

In Warren Lester, et al. v. Exxon Mobil Corp., et al., No. 14-31383, ___ F.3d ___ (5th Cir. 1/9/2018), the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion addressing two issues of first impression involving the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (“CAFA”).[1] A full copy of the opinion can be accessed here. Continue Reading

Highly Anticipated En Banc Fifth Circuit Opinion Reframes Maritime Contract Analysis

In a highly anticipated ruling, the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its en banc decision in In re: Larry Doiron, Inc., No. 16-30217 (5th Cir. Jan. 8, 2018).  The case called upon the court to determine whether a contract for performance of specialty services to facilitate the drilling or production of oil and gas on navigable waters is maritime in nature.  In ruling that the particular contract at issue in the case was non-maritime, the Fifth Circuit took the significant step of streamlining and re-framing the analysis for maritime contracts generally. Continue Reading

(Plaintiffs Claiming) Trespass Beware

In Chauvin v. Shell Oil Company, the Louisiana Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment of the trial court granting summary judgment to defendants on Plaintiffs’ trespass action.  In doing so, the Fifth Circuit made clear that to succeed on a trespass claim when the contracts at issue are ambiguous, parole evidence from the plaintiffs’ experts and the plaintiffs themselves should be consistent with ownership. Continue Reading

Louisiana Supreme Court Grants Writs from Second Circuit Decision Finding Holder of Mortgage Encumbering a Mineral Lease Solidarily Liable with Mineral Lessees for Damages Resulting from the Mineral Lessees’ Breach of Contractual and Statutory Obligations

On Friday, December 15, the Louisiana Supreme Court granted three separate writ applications filed by each of the defendants in Gloria’s Ranch, L.L.C. v. Tauren Exploration, Inc.  These applications sought review of the Louisiana Second Circuit’s June 2, 2017 decision affirming the trial court’s ruling that Wells Fargo, a mortgage lender with a security interest in a mineral lease, was solidarily liable with its borrowers (the mineral lessees) for a breach of the mineral lessees’ contractual and statutory obligations to produce in paying quantities, pay royalties, and respond to the mineral lessor’s demands regarding those obligations.  Continue Reading

LexBlog