We are now beginning to highlight new appeals that might impact business interests.  We will continue to monitor these cases as they progress.

Derrick Gray v. Wells Fargo (No. 11-1495).  This bankruptcy appeal presents intriguing issues of appellate jurisdiction.  The bankruptcy court ordered Wells Fargo to submit to a Rule 2004 examination regarding the reasonableness of its fees for inspecting a foreclosed property.  Wells Fargo argued that the district court had jurisdiction to hear an appeal because the Rule 2004 order was a final decision under 28 U.S.C. § 158(a)(1) or a collateral order under Cohen v. Beneficial Indus. Loan Corp.  The bank also asked for leave to appeal to the district court under 28 U.S.C. 158(a)(3).  The district court denied the appeal with an in-depth discussion of each potential basis for appellate jurisdiction.

Curt Cooley v. Lincoln Electric Co. (No. 11-3380).  This welding-rod products liability action resulted in a verdict of $787,500 in compensatory damages and a $5,000,0000 award of punitive damages, apportioned among four defendants.  The district court rejected a post-judgment challenge to this 6-1 ratio of compensatory to punitive damages under State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co. v. Campbell.  The jury’s verdict has been covered by Bloomberg, which noted that prior welding-rod trials have resulted in defense verdicts about 85% of the time.

Betty Burnett v. AIG Life Insurance Company (No. 11-5543).  In this ERISA case, the lower court overturned AIG’s decision to deny benefits in an employer’s life insurance plan.  AIG relied on evidence that the death was a suicide, but the court found that the decision to deny benefits was arbitrary and capricious based on the presence of allegedly contrary evidence.

Cranston Reid v. Gerald Baker (No. 11-5473).  The plaintiff in this shareholder derivative suit alleged unlawful banking practices and misleading financial reporting at First Horizon National Corporation.  The court dismissed the claims by applying Tennessee’s one-year statute of limitations for breach of fiduciary duty, pointing to various other prior suits making the same allegations of misconduct.