Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

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Parents of C.J. filed suit under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA), alleging that the school district failed to provide him with a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of the school district and rejected parents' claim that the school district's refusal to provide Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) services denied C.J. a FAPE where parents could not meaningfully claim that C.J.'s individualized education plan (IEP) was predetermined; the district court did not clearly err by finding that sufficient notice of C.J.'s eligibility for summer school classes was provided; in light of the facts, the school district did not deny C.J. a FAPE by failing to protect him from bullying; and C.J.'s transition plan did not deny him a FAPE. View "Renee J. v. Houston Independent School District" on Justia Law

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After the Settlement Agreement Appeal Panel affirmed the Claim Administrator's classification of the Arcadia Facility as a "Failed Business," Graphic Packaging sought and was denied discretionary review from the district court. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of discretionary review, holding that the Appeals Panel did not misapply the Settlement Agreement. Even if it did, Graphic Packaging merely disputed the correctness of a discretionary administrative decision in the facts of a single claimant's case. The court rejected Graphic Packaging's remaining claim that the decision merits review because it contradicts a previous Appeals Panel decision. View "Claimant ID 100262194 v. BP Exploration & Production, Inc." on Justia Law

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After the Department of Education issued a proposed determination that Texas was ineligible for $33.3 million of future grants because of the shortfall in both aggregate and per capita state funding, the state argued that it had complied with the "maintenance of state financial support" (MFS) requirement because funding under a weighted-student model had remained constant. The Fifth Circuit denied Texas' petition for review and held that the weighted-student model contravenes the plain meaning of the MFS clause. The court explained that, under the weighted-student model, Texas may reduce the amount of funding for special education if it determines that the needs of children with disabilities have changed. In this case, Texas violated the plain requirements of the MFS clause by doing so and was therefore ineligible for the corresponding amount of future Individuals and Disabilities Education Act Part B grants. Finally, the MFS clause did not exceed Congress's spending power by failing to provide sufficiently clear notice of its requirements. View "Texas Education Agency v. United States Department of Education" on Justia Law

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A social security disability claimant does not have an absolute right to question medical consultants. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the denial of disability benefits to plaintiff, holding that disability claimants' interest in accurate disability decisions was adequately protected by the qualified right to question medical consultants they already enjoyed. The type of case-by-case assessment of need was common for procedural issues in disability cases. In this case, the ALJ did not abuse his discretion by refusing to issue the subpoena or interrogatories at issue. Accordingly, the court affirmed the denial of benefits. View "Barrett v. Berryhill" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of attorneys' fees for plaintiff under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The court held that the hearing officer's decision did not make plaintiff a prevailing party under the IDEA and thus she was not entitled to attorneys' fees. In this case, the officer's decision effected no change to plaintiff's educational plan, which the officer agreed was entirely appropriate despite lacking a prior autism diagnosis. Furthermore, the IDEA focuses, not on a student's diagnostic label, but on whether the student received appropriate education services, which the officer found plaintiff had received from the school district. View "Lauren C. v. Lewisville Independent School District" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment upholding a hearing officer's decision that the school district deprived plaintiff, a high school student with a disability, of a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) by failing to fulfill its Child Find duty in a timely manner. The court held that the district court did not reversibly err by concluding that taken together, the student's academic decline, hospitalization, and incidents of theft should have led the district to suspect her need for special education services by October 2014, at the latest. Therefore, the school district violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act's Child Find requirements by failing to identify, locate, and evaluate students with suspected disabilities within a reasonable time. The court also held that the student was a prevailing party entitled to attorneys' fees because she received a FAPE and thus achieved some of the benefit she sought in requesting the due process hearing. View "Krawietz v. Galveston Independent School District" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit reversed the denial of social security benefits for plaintiff, a former physician and army veteran, who was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and bipolar disorder. The court held that the ALJ's decision was not supported by substantial evidence where the ALJ erred in finding for step two of the five-step approach that plaintiff's impairments were not severe. Accordingly, the court remanded for further consideration. View "Salmond v. Berryhill" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of social security disability benefits to plaintiff. The court held that the ALJ's decision not to follow the VA's 100% disability rating determination was supported by substantial evidence where the court considered, but ultimately rejected the VA's findings, in part because the VA relied heavily on a one-time evaluation by a doctor who had not formed a treating relationship with plaintiff. The court explained that reports by two state-agency consultants cut against the VA's determination, and it was emphatically the ALJ's province to weigh the evidence and decide among these competing accounts. The court rejected plaintiff's remaining claims. View "Garcia v. Berryhill" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), alleging that the school district did not offer her daughter a free appropriate public education (FAPE). On appeal, the school district challenged an award in favor of plaintiff. The Fifth Circuit held, without adopting the characterization that the district court created a new category of IDEA private school student, that the district court's order could not be supported based on a requirement of temporary services for transfer students; plaintiff took a financial gamble of not being reimbursed when she placed her daughter in a private school without first allowing the school district to seek to comply with its obligations under IDEA; and, although the district court failed to recognize the proper private school placement, that failure did not create a penalty beyond what otherwise would be owed. Because the district court erred by holding that the school district was obligated to provide temporary services and by ordering reimbursement of the costs associated with such services, the court reversed in part. The court affirmed the district court's holding that the school district failed to make a timely offer of FAPE, thereby making reimbursement an appropriate form of relief. The court remanded for the district court to determine the amount of reimbursement owed from April 24, 2014, to the end of the school year. View "Dallas Independent School District v. Woody" on Justia Law

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Claimants appealed the denial of civil claims under the Settlement Program that was established following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Claimants submitted Individual Economic Loss (IEL) claims for lost wages as employees of their architectural firm. The firm had already received a Business and Economic Loss (BEL) award under the Settlement Program. The Fifth Circuit held that the BEL framework, by compensating the business for the owners' lost wages through the fixed-cost designation of their wages, precluded compensating those same owners for the same wages through an IEL claim. Because the Settlement Program did not contemplate the requested compensation, the court affirmed the judgment. View "In Re: Deepwater Horizon" on Justia Law