Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

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Life Insurance Company of North America’s terminated plaintiff-appellant Carl Van Steen’s long-term disability benefits under Lockheed Martin’s ERISA Plan. Life Insurance Company of North America (LINA) appealed the district court’s finding that its decision to terminate Van Steen’s benefits was arbitrary and capricious. Van Steen, in turn, appealed the district court’s denial of his attorney’s fees request. Van Steen was physically assaulted during an altercation while walking his dog. The assault resulted in a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) that impacted Van Steen’s cognitive abilities that prevented him from returning to full time work; Van Steen was eventually allowed to return to part-time work on a daily basis roughly six weeks later. Even on a part-time schedule, Van Steen experienced cognitive fatigue and headaches that required him to frequently rest. Due to his inability to stay organized and keep track of deadlines after the assault, Van Steen received poor feedback on his job performance. Van Steen’s claim for partial long-term disability benefits was approved on March 30, 2012. Roughly a year later, LINA reviewed Van Steen’s file, contacted his doctors, and confirmed that Van Steen’s condition and restrictions were permanent as he was “not likely to improve.” Despite this prognosis, LINA sent Van Steen a letter one week later terminating his long-term disability benefits, explaining that “the medical documentation on file does not continue to support the current restrictions and limitations to preclude you from resuming a full-time work schedule.” Having exhausted his administrative appeals under the Plan, Van Steen next sought relief before the district court. The district court reversed LINA’s decision to terminate Van Steen’s partial long-term disability benefits on the grounds that it was arbitrary and capricious, but denied Van Steen’s request for attorney’s fees. The Tenth Circuit agreed with the district court’s reversal of LINA’s decision to terminate Van Steen’s coverage. The Court also found that Van Steen was not eligible for attorney fees: “Van Steen’s arguments fail to convince us that the district court’s decision was based on a clear error of judgment or exceeded the bounds of permissible choice.” View "Van Steen v. Life Insurance Company N.A." on Justia Law

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The Tenth Circuit addressed whether the federal district court in Colorado may exercise specific personal jurisdiction over out-of-state defendant Continental Motors, Inc. based upon its contacts with Colorado through its website. Continental Motors’ website allows airplane repair businesses known as fixed- base operators (“FBOs”) to obtain unlimited access to its online service manuals in exchange for an annual fee. Arapahoe Aero, a Colorado-based FBO participating in the program, accessed and consulted the manuals in servicing an airplane that contained engine components manufactured by Continental Motors. The airplane later crashed in Idaho on a flight from Colorado. After the crash, Old Republic Insurance Company, the airplane’s insurer, paid the owner for the property loss and filed a subrogation action against Continental Motors in Colorado federal district court, seeking reimbursement. Old Republic alleged that Continental Motors’ online service manuals and bulletins contained defective information, thereby causing the crash. Continental Motors moved to dismiss the lawsuit for lack of personal jurisdiction, arguing that it did not purposely direct its activities at Colorado. Old Republic conceded that Continental Motors did not maintain sufficient contacts with Colorado to support jurisdiction for all purposes. The district court granted the motion to dismiss, ruling that it did not have specific jurisdiction over Continental Motors. On appeal, Old Republic maintains that Continental Motors was subject to specific personal jurisdiction in Colorado for purposes of this case. Finding no reversible error in dismissal, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Old Republic Insurance Co. v. Continental Motors" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Greggory Owings sustained an on-the-job injury, for which he received long-term disability benefits by defendant United of Omaha Life Insurance Company (United), under the terms of a group insurance policy issued by United to Owings’ employer. Owings disagreed with, and attempted without success to administratively challenge, the amount of his disability benefits. He then filed suit against United in Kansas state court, but United removed the action to federal district court, asserting that the federal courts had original jurisdiction over the action because the policy was governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). The district court ultimately granted summary judgment in favor of United. Owings appealed. The Tenth Circuit concluded after review of this matter that United was arbitrary and capricious in determining the date that Owings became disabled and, in turn, in calculating the amount of his disability benefits. Consequently, the Court reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of United and remanded with directions to enter summary judgment in favor of Owings. View "Owings v. United of Omaha Life" on Justia Law

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In 2007, undercover producers from NBC Universal, Inc., attended and surreptitiously recorded a seminar presented by plaintiff-appellant Brokers’ Choice of America, Inc. to teach insurance agents how to sell annuities to seniors. NBC used excerpts and information from the seminar in a “Dateline NBC” episode. Brokers’ Choice and its founder Tyrone Clark (collectively, “BCA”) sued for defamation. This appeal concerned the district court’s dismissal of the amended complaint after it compared the seminar recording with the episode and concluded the Dateline program was substantially true. After review, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed because the Dateline episode was not materially false. View "Brokers' Choice of America v. NBC Universal" on Justia Law