Articles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

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This appeal arose out of a property damage claim filed by the Hayes Family Trust with its insurer, State Farm Fire & Casualty. When the parties could not agree on the amount of loss, Hayes invoked an appraisal process provided by the policy to calculate the loss incurred. After Hayes sought the district court's assistance with the appointment of an umpire, the parties participated in the appraisal process, which resulted in a unanimous award. State Farm paid the balance of that award, and Hayes accepted payment. But despite State Farm's payment, at Hayes's request, the district court confirmed the award and entered judgment in favor of Hayes. Hayes promptly moved for an award of prejudgment interest, attorney's fees, and costs under a prevailing party statute. In response, State Farm moved to vacate or amend the judgment. Finding that the parties settled any dispute over the amount of loss, the court agreed with State Farm and vacated its order confirming the appraisal award and the judgment. Hayes appealed the order vacating judgment in an attempt to recover prejudgment interest, fees, and costs. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "In re: Hayes Family Trust" on Justia Law

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The Estate of Clayton Lockett, through its personal representative Gary Lockett, filed suit against the Governor of Oklahoma Mary Fallin; corrections officials, medical officials, EMTs and drug manufacturers, all in relation to the execution of Clayton Lockett. In 1999, Lockett kidnapped, assaulted, and killed nineteen-year-old Stephanie Neiman. Lockett shot Neiman with a shotgun and then had an accomplice bury her alive. In 2000, a jury found Lockett guilty of 19 felonies arising from the same incident, including the murder, rape, forcible sodomy, kidnapping, and assault and battery of Neiman. The jury recommended that the court impose the death penalty. Oklahoma used a common drug protocol previously administered in at least 93 Oklahoma executions: three drugs (1) sodium thiopental; (2) pancuronium bromide; and (3) potassium chloride. In 2010, facing difficulty obtaining sodium thiopental, Oklahoma officials amended the Field Memorandum to substitute in its place pentobarbital. In 2014, Oklahoma officials amended their “Field Memorandum” to allow several new alternate procedures for use in executions by lethal injection. As one of these new procedures, officials substituted midazolam as he first drug used in the protocol. Before Lockett’s execution, Oklahoma had not used midazolam during an execution. Warden Anita Trammell and Director of Corrections Robert Patton chose this new protocol. The Estate asserted several constitutional violations related to Lockett’s execution with respect to the new procedures, essentially arguing that changing of the drugs caused Lockett intense pain as additional drugs were entered into the mix. The State parties moved to dismiss the estate’s suit against them, asserting qualified immunity (among other defenses). The district court granted the motion, reasoning that the estate failed to show defendants violated any established law. Finding no error in this judgment, the Tenth Circuit agreed and affirmed. View "Estate of Clayton Lockett v. Fallin" on Justia Law

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Frances Scott and her husband Galen Amerson filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection. Scott amended her petition to identify as an asset her interest in a Florida state action that she and her half-sister had filed contesting the legitimacy of their father’s will. The bankruptcy trustee retained Florida counsel, who in turn reached a tentative settlement of the ongoing probate contest. The trustee then moved the bankruptcy court to approve the settlement agreement. The bankruptcy court granted the trustee’s motion over Scott’s objection and approved the settlement agreement. Scott appealed to the Tenth Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel (BAP), which affirmed the bankruptcy court’s decision. Scott appealed the BAP’s decision to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. At issue was whether Scott’s interest in a spendthrift trust created by her late father was properly treated as property of the bankruptcy estate, or if that interest was excluded. Finding no error in the BAP's conclusion, the Tenth Circuit affirmed inclusion of that Florida interest in Scott's bankruptcy estate. View "Scott v. King" on Justia Law

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Sheldon Hathaway became embroiled in a stranger-originated-life-insurance (STOLI) scheme at the involving his neighbor, Jay Sullivan. Here, Intervenor Defendant-Appellant Windsor Securities, LLC (Windsor) loaned Defendant-Appellant the Sheldon Hathaway Family Trust (the Trust) $200,000 to finance the initial premium on a life insurance policy (the policy) for Hathaway. In exchange, Windsor “receive[d] a moderate return on [its] investment” if a trust repaid the loan. Alternatively, Windsor “foreclose[s] on the life insurance policy that was pledged as collateral” when a trust fails to do so. That’s what happened here. But before Windsor could profit from its investment, Plaintiff-Appellee PHL Variable Insurance Company (PHL) sought to rescind the policy based on alleged misrepresentations in Hathaway’s insurance application. The district court ultimately granted PHL’s motion for summary judgment on its rescission claim, and allowed And it allowed PHL to retain the premiums Windsor already paid. On appeal, Windsor and the Trust (collectively, the defendants) argued the district court erred in granting PHL’s motion for summary judgment because there was at least a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether PHL waived its right to rescind the policy. Alternatively, they argued the district court erred in granting summary judgment because, at a minimum, a genuine dispute of material fact existed as to: (1) whether the application contained a misrepresentation; and (2) whether PHL relied on that misrepresentation in issuing the policy. Finally, even assuming summary judgment was appropriate, defendants argued the district court lacked authority to allow PHL to retain the paid premiums. The Tenth Circuit affirmed, concluding no genuine dispute of material fact existed as to whether PHL waived its right to rescind the policy. Nor was there any genuine dispute of material fact as to whether the application contained a misrepresentation or whether PHL relied on that misrepresentation in issuing the policy. Lastly, the Court held the district court had authority to allow PHL to retain the paid premiums. View "PHL Variable Insurance v. Sheldon Hathaway Family Trust" on Justia Law