This morning the Federal Circuit released two precedential opinions. The first comes in a veterans case appealed from the Court of Federal Claims; the second comes in a patent case appealed from the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. The Federal Circuit also released a nonprecedential opinion in another veterans case appealed from the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Here are the introductions to the opinions.
LaBonte v. United States (Precedential)
Appellant, Robert J. LaBonte, Jr., is a veteran who served in the United States Army. In 2006, he went absent without leave (“AWOL”) for six months. After he voluntarily returned to his base, he pleaded guilty to a charge of desertion in a court-martial proceeding and was separated from the Army with a Bad Conduct Discharge.
In 2015, Mr. LaBonte applied to the Army Board for Correction of Military Records (“ABCMR” or “Board”), seeking retroactive medical retirement. He alleged that, while in the Army, he had had a permanent disability resulting from post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), traumatic brain injury (“TBI”), depression, and anxiety incurred during service. He also alleged that these disabilities had rendered him unfit for service prior to his absence without leave, his court-martial, and his discharge. In 2018, the Board denied his claim.
Mr. LaBonte then filed suit in the United States Court of Federal Claims challenging the ABCMR decision. On December 3, 2019, the court remanded the case to the Board for further proceedings. LaBonte v. United States, No. 18-1784C (Fed. Cl. Dec. 3, 2019), J.A. 2716. On April 29, 2020, on remand, the Board again denied Mr. LaBonte’s claim for disability retirement. J.A. 2763–65. Subsequently, with the case back before the Court of Federal Claims, Mr. LaBonte challenged the ABCMR’s April 2020 decision and moved for judgment on the administrative record. The government renewed a previous motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted and, in addition, cross-moved for judgment on the administrative record.
On October 30, 2020, the Court of Federal Claims granted the government’s motion to dismiss. LaBonte v. United States, 150 Fed. Cl. 552, 564–65 (2020). The court determined that, in order for the ABCMR to grant Mr. LaBonte disability retirement, the Board would have to correct Mr. LaBonte’s DD-214 Form (“DD-214”) to show that he was separated due to physical disability rather than due to a court-martial conviction. Id. at 561–62. Concluding that a statute, 10 U.S.C. § 1552(f), prohibited the Board from correcting Mr. LaBonte’s DD-214 in this manner, the court held that the Board was without authority to grant Mr. LaBonte the relief he was seeking. Id. at 562–64. Pursuant to RCFC 12(b)(6), it therefore dismissed Mr. LaBonte’s claim for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, without reaching the merits of his challenge to the Board’s decision. Id. at 564–65.
Mr. LaBonte now appeals the Court of Federal Claims’ dismissal of his complaint. For the reasons set forth below, we hold that the Court of Federal Claims erred in holding that the ABCMR lacked authority to grant the relief Mr. LaBonte is seeking. The court therefore erred in dismissing his complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Accordingly, we reverse the court’s decision and remand the case to the court for consideration of the merits of Mr. LaBonte’s challenge to the April 2020 decision of the Board.
Kamstrup A/S v. Axioma Metering UAB (Precedential)
Kamstrup A/S appeals a final written decision of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. The Board found claims 1–15 of Kamstrup’s U.S. Patent No. 8,806,957 unpatentable as obvious or anticipated. On appeal, Kamstrup challenges the Board’s claim constructions. In addition, Kamstrup challenges the Board’s anticipation and obviousness determinations largely on the basis that the Board erred in rejecting Kamstrup’s claim construction arguments. We affirm.
Gonzalez v. McDonough (Nonprecedential)
The United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (“Veterans Court”) affirmed the decision of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (“the Board”), denying Vietnam veteran Daniel Gonzalez’s claim for service connection for ischemic heart disease (IHD). On finding that Mr. Gonzalez did not have IHD or any other ailment listed in the regulation governing presumptive service connection, the Board and the Veterans Court denied Mr. Gonzalez’s petition for veterans benefits. Their rulings are in accordance with law, and are affirmed.