Fourth Circuit Survey

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Week of October 28, 2019 through November 1, 2019

In re: Search Warrant Issued June 13, 2019 (Amended 10/31/2019): The Fourth Circuit held that the use of a “Filter Team” — created ex parte by a magistrate judge and comprised of federal agents and prosecutors — to inspect privileged attorney-client materials is improper for several reasons, including, inter alia, the Team is contrary to foundational principles that protect attorney-client relationships, the Team’s creation inappropriately assigned judicial functions to the executive branch, and the Team was approved in ex parte proceedings prior to the search and seizures. Accordingly, the Court reversed the district court’s Denial Order authorizing the Filter Team and failing to enjoin the Filter Team’s review of seized materials, and remanded for further proceedings. 

Full Opinion

Moore v. Frazier (Agee 10/31/2019): The Fourth Circuit held that the district court had jurisdiction to consider whether Appellants’ Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative (“I-130 Petition”) pending at the time the Adam Walsh Act amended § 1154 should be processed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) under the former or amended version of the statute. The Court further held that the USCIS correctly used the amended statute in adjudicating Appellants’ I-130 Petition. Therefore, the Court affirmed the district court’s judgment dismissing the complaint because Appellants’ claim fails as a matter of law. 

Full Opinion

Planned Parenthood v. Baker (Wilkinson 10/29/2019): The Fourth Circuit held that the Medicaid Act’s free-choice-of-provider provision afforded an individual plaintiff, a Medicaid recipient, a private right of action to challenge South Carolina’s denial of her right to the qualified and willing family-planning provider of her choice, and that she demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success on her free-choice-of-provider claim. The Court further held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in enjoining South Carolina from terminating Planned Parenthood South Atlantic’s provider agreement. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the district court’s judgment issuing a preliminary injunction in favor of the individual plaintiff. 

Full Opinion


Highlight Case

United Financial Casualty Co. v. Ball,

Decided: October 30, 2019

The Fourth held that neither the Employee Indemnification and Employer’s Liability exclusion or the Worker’s Compensation exclusion in a standard commercial automobile insurance policy barred coverage for the liability of a third-party permissive user of an insured vehicle who caused personal injuries to an employee of a named insured. 

Employees of Milton Hardware, LLC were performing construction work at the home of Rodney Perry when Milton Hardware’s owner authorized Perry to move one of Milton Hardware’s trucks, which was blocking the driveway. In doing so, Perry accidentally struck a Milton Hardware employee, Greg Ball, causing him serious injuries. Ball requested indemnification from Milton Hardware’s insurer, United Financial, but United Financial denied coverage and commenced this action for declaratory judgement stating that the policy it issued to Milton Hardware did not cover Perry’s liability for Ball’s injuries. The district court granted a declaratory judgment in favor of United Financial. 

The Court reasoned that because Ball’s negligence claim against Perry was a claim against a third party, rather than a claim against his employer for workers’ compensation, the Worker’s Compensation exclusion did not apply. The Court further reasoned that the policy’s broad exclusion for Employee Indemnification and Employer’s Liability was inoperable because its limitation of coverage contravened West Virginia Code § 33-6-31, which requires motor vehicle insurance policies issued in the State to provide liability coverage to individuals using an insured vehicle with the owner’s consent, except when the injured person can claim workers’ compensation in connection with an accident for which his employer is liable 

In concluding that neither the Worker’s Compensation exclusion nor the Employee Indemnification and Employer’s Liability exclusion barred coverage to Perry as an insured, the Court vacated the district court’s judgement and remanded for further proceedings. 

Full Opinion

Kate Heil