May 1, 2013 4th Circuit published opinions

DiFederico v Marriott International, Incorporated

DiFederico’s husband was killed in a terrorist attack while staying at a Marriott hotel in Pakistan. She sued Marriott alleging negligence in the creation and performance of the security plan at the hotel. The district court dismissed on inconvenient forum grounds. The panel reversed. It held that Pakistan was not an available forum as the statute of limitations had run and that defense could not be waived. Also, there was no evidence in the record that DiFederico purposely let the statute run before filing suit. The panel held the district court erred by not giving heightened deference to DiFederico’s forum choice as Marriott is headquartered in Maryland where the suit was filed. Given that DiFederico would face emotional trauma and significant logistical challenges if the suit is tried in Pakistan, the witnesses to be called are in the United States, the bulk of eh evidence is there, there is an interest in an American jury to decide the case and the district court is perfectly able to interpret and apply Pakistani law, the balance of factors favors trial in the United States. Thus, the case was remanded for further proceedings.

United States v Davis

Davis broke into a house and stole a firearm and other items. He pled guilty to possession of a stolen firearm. The presentence report noted that there was no basis for a restitution award to the gun owner. However, the district court imposed restitution as part of the sentence. The panel reversed. It held that under United States Supreme court precedent, restitution under 18 USC 3663 is limited to victims of the crime pled to. There was no damage to the homeowner from the possession of the gun and thus restitution was not authorized. Nor did the plea agreement authorize restitution as it limited liability to awards under 3663. Applying plain error analysis, the panel held the error was obvious, affected Davis’ substantive rights as he was ordered to pay an unauthorized restitution award and allowing that award to stand would affect public confidence and the fairness of judicial proceedings as the award was illegal. Thus, the panel reversed.

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