Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

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Defendant Ashley Nutbrown-Covey is the mother of three children: J.N., born in 2013; A.N., born in 2008; and A.C., born in 2004. In August 2011, defendant and A.N.’s father took A.N. (then three years old) to the emergency room for an injury to A.N.’s leg. A.N. was examined by a physician, whose treating records indicate that although it was obvious that A.N. was injured, there were no deformities or external bruising to A.N.’s leg. The physician ordered X-ray examinations, which showed that A.N. was suffering from a spiral fracture of the left leg, meaning that A.N.’s leg had been subjected to significant torque. Although the physician was a mandated reporter, he did not notify the Department for Children and Families (DCF) of A.N.’s injury because nothing indicated that A.N. had been injured by defendant or any other adult. Neither DCF nor the State took any action until 2014. This case presented the question whether the doctrine of issue preclusion bars the State from prosecuting defendant for alleged abuse of one child, A.N., after the family court, in an earlier child-in-need-of-supervision (CHINS) proceeding involving a different child, J.N., found that there was insufficient evidence to adjudicate J.N. CHINS for being without proper parental care or subsistence. The Vermont Supreme Court held that, given the facts of this case, the prosecution was not barred by issue preclusion. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the trial court’s denial of defendant’s motion to dismiss. View "Vermont v. Nutbrown-Covey" on Justia Law

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State employee Shirley Shea suffered from chronic pain and has been unable to work. She applied for occupational disability benefits, claiming that prolonged sitting at work aggravated a preexisting medical condition. The Division of Retirement and Benefits denied the claim. An administrative law judge affirmed that decision, determining that employment was not a substantial factor in causing Shea's disability. On appeal, the superior court reversed the administrative law judge’s decision. Because the administrative law judge’s decision was supported by substantial evidence, the Alaska Supreme Court reversed the superior court’s decision and affirmed the administrative law judge. View "Alaska Dept. of Administration, Division of Retirement & Benefits v. Shea" on Justia Law

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Complete Cash Holdings, LLC ("Complete Cash"), appealed a judgment entered on a jury verdict in favor of Lola Mae Powell. This case arose out of Complete Cash's repossession of Powell's 2002 Chevrolet Avalanche truck based on a forged title-pawn agreement. Although the trial court granted Complete Cash's motions for a JML as to some of Powell's claims against Complete Cash, the trial court allowed the remainder of the claims, including Powell's claim under the FDCPA, to be submitted to the jury. The jury then returned a general verdict for Powell, awarding her compensatory damages and punitive damages. The jury's verdict was general, but it also included a special interrogatory indicating that the jury specifically found that Complete Cash was a debt collector under the FDCPA. After the trial court entered a judgment on the jury's verdict, Complete Cash, in a renewed motion for a JML, renewed its arguments that there was insufficient evidence from which to conclude that Complete Cash was a debt collector. Based on these facts, the Supreme Court concluded that Complete Cash adequately challenged Powell's FDCPA claim. Furthermore, the Court concluded that based on the jury's express finding that Complete Cash was a debt collector under the FDCPA, that the jury's award of compensatory damages was based, at least in part, on Powell's claim that Complete Cash had violated section 1692f(6). Accordingly, there was no question that the jury's verdict was based on a "bad count." Because the FDCPA does not provide for the award of punitive damages, the Court presumed the jury's verdict was based in part on Powell's claims of conversion or wantonness. "This, however, does not save the jury's verdict because we know, based on the special interrogatory, that the jury based its general verdict in part on a bad count. For this reason, we must reverse the entirety of the compensatory-damages award." Further, this reversal of the jury's compensatory-damages award mandated reversal of the punitive damages award. Therefore, the trial court's judgment had to be reversed in its entirety and the case remanded for a new trial. View "Complete Cash Holdings, LLC v. Powell" on Justia Law

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Laura Miller appeals from a summary judgment entered by the Jefferson Circuit Court ("the circuit court") in favor of the City of Birmingham ("the City"), Sandy Roberts, and Alice Crutchfield (collectively, "the City defendants"). Robert Miller, Laura's husband, was employed by the City as a firefighter. Unum Life Insurance Company of America ("Unum") issued a group life and accidental death and dismemberment policy. According to the summary of benefits, the policy included different life-insurance benefits for active employees and for retired employees. Under the policy, as an active employee, the City paid Robert's insurance premiums, thereby entitling him to a life-insurance benefit of $151,000. However, if Robert were to retire, he would be required to pay his life-insurance premiums and would be entitled to only a $50,000 life-insurance benefit. The summary of benefits specified that, in order to be eligible for a waiver of the life-insurance premiums, the insured had to "be disabled through your elimination period," which was nine months. In 2012, Robert was diagnosed with brain cancer and soon became unable to perform the duties of his job. Laura contended once the Millers learned of Robert's condition, they "sought to obtain information about [Mr. Miller's] life insurance benefit and all other benefits that might be available." The Millers did not have a copy of the policy or the summary of benefits at that time. The Millers and Ed Bluemly, Mrs. Miller's brother-in-law, met with Sandy Roberts, the assistant benefit administrator and the pension coordinator for the Jefferson County Personnel Board, and Alice Crutchfield, a personnel technician for the Jefferson County Personnel Board, to learn about the available benefits. The Millers asked for a copy of the policy, and there was a dispute over whether the Crutchfield gave the Millers a copy. The Millers ultimately sued the City for negligence with respect to the policy and collection of the benefits to which Robert was entitled. After review of this matter, the Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's summary judgment in favor of the City insofar as the circuit court based its summary judgment in favor of the City on the City defendants' argument that the City was entitled to immunity from Laura's claim alleging wanton and reckless misrepresentation. However, the Court reversed the circuit court's summary judgment in favor of the City defendants in all other respects. The Case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Miller v. City of Birmingham et al." on Justia Law

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Andrew Barnwell appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of CLP Corporation ("CLP"). CLP owned and operated a McDonald's fast-food restaurant. In 2013, Barnwell visited the restaurant. Barnwell stated that after he entered the restaurant, he went straight to the restroom to wash his hands. Upon exiting the restroom, Barnwell alleged he slipped and fell, and complained of leg and back pain shortly thereafter. Barnwell sued CLP, asserting a claim of negligence. After a review of the facts entered in the trial court record, the Supreme Court held the circuit court erred in entering a summary judgment in favor of CLP. "CLP failed to present substantial evidence supporting its affirmative defense that the [floor's] condition that allegedly caused Barnwell to slip and fall was an open and obvious danger." View "Barnwell v. CLP Corporation" on Justia Law

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This petition for review returned to a long series of administrative cases arising out of the California energy crisis of 2000 and 2001 all centering on whether the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC” or “Commission”) acted arbitrarily or capriciously in calculating certain refunds. FERC that FERC had acted outside its jurisdiction when ordering governmental entities/non-public utilities to pay refunds, the Commission vacated each of its orders in the California refund proceeding to the extent that they ordered governmental entities/nonpublic utilities to pay refunds. In sum, although the tariffs were not specific, the Ninth Circuit could not concluded FERC acted arbitrarily or capriciously in its construction of the tariffs. View "California Pub. Util. Comm'n v. Federal Energy Reg. Comm'n" on Justia Law

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In 2014-2015, Schmückle, a German citizen living in Germany, served as MAG Group’s CEO and managing director of MAG Germany. In 2015, MAG Holdings and MAG US sued (in Michigan) for breach of fiduciary duty, professional negligence, waste of corporate assets, unjust enrichment, and tortious interference under Michigan law. In response to a challenge to jurisdiction, plaintiffs alleged that Schmückle “transacted business” within Michigan and that his “actions and activities led to consequences” in Michigan. Plaintiffs asserted that: Schmückle was responsible for “worldwide operations,” including MAG US; they (Michigan residents) reported directly to Schmückle by email and phone; Schmückle was involved in determining the Michigan facility's operations, budgets, work flow, and sales priorities; he charged MAG US an annual fee, used to pay part of his salary and expenses; he reallocated work from the “consistently profitable” Michigan facility to the “less-profitable” MAG Germany operations and negatively affected the profitability of MAG US in Michigan; and he told MAG US leaders to prepare to transfer $10 million to MAG Germany. Schmückle allegedly visited Michigan twice as CEO, maintains a residence in Oregon, and sits on the boards of U.S.-based three companies. The district court, without holding an evidentiary hearing, dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction. The Sixth Circuit reversed, stating that the record did not overcome the presumption that exercising personal jurisdiction over Schmückle in Michigan was reasonable. View "MAG IAS Holdings, Inc. v. Schmückle" on Justia Law

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Avoca Plaintiffs filed suits against New Kerr-McGee, alleging toxic tort claims. The suits were stayed when the owners/operators of the Avoca Plant, Tronox debtors, filed for bankruptcy. In this appeal, Avoca challenged the district court's order enforcing a permanent anti‐suit injunction issued after the bankruptcy settlement. New Kerr‐McGee had moved in the district court for an order enforcing the Injunction and for sanctions, asserting that the Injunction forecloses claims that arise from liabilities derived from or through the Tronox debtors that are also generalized and common to all creditors. The district court concluded that the claims are barred by the Injunction and, without imposing sanctions or finding contempt, ordered the Avoca Plaintiffs to dismiss with prejudice their state‐court complaints. The court rejected the Avoca Plaintiffs' assertions of appellate jurisdiction, concluding that the district court's order is not "final" for purposes of 28 U.S.C. 1291, because it neither found contempt nor imposed sanctions; the order is not a decision by the district court on review of a bankruptcy court order, as required by 28 U.S.C. 158(d); and the court lacked jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1292(a)(1) because the district court properly construed (and neither modified nor continued) the Injunction. The court held that the Avoca Plaintiffs' personal injury claims based on conduct of the Tronox debtors, and asserted against New Kerr‐McGee on a variety of state‐law indirect‐liability theories, are generalized "derivative" claims that fall within the property of the bankruptcy estate. Accordingly, the court lifted the stay and dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. View "In re Tronox Inc." on Justia Law

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Appellees brought a collection action against Lyshe and served Lyshe with discovery requests. They did not send a separate electronic copy, but instructed Lyshe to contact them if he wanted an electronic copy. Requests for admission required that Lyshe verify his responses, included a blank notary block, and provided that any matter would be deemed admitted unless Lyshe made a sworn statement in compliance with the Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure. Lyshe sued, alleging violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) by failing to provide electronic discovery without prompting and requiring that the responses to the requests for admission be sworn and notarized. The district court concluded that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction and dismissed the case, reasoning that Lyshe did not plead any injury in connection with the alleged violations of the state rules. Appellees did not violate the Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure by offering to send electronic copies of the discovery only upon Lyshe’s request. Regarding alleged errors in the requests for admissions, the court reasoned that Lyshe failed to allege that he was misled or felt compelled to make a sworn verification or that he even responded to the requests. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, agreeing that Lyshe did not suffer any concrete harm. View "Lyshe v. Levy" on Justia Law

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In 2006, the City of San Diego (City) obtained a Site Development Permit (SDP) to construct a new lifeguard station on Mission Beach. The SDP stated that failure to utilize the permit within 36 months of its issuance would automatically void the permit. Over the ensuing years, the City worked to secure a permit from the California Coastal Commission (Commission) and to obtain funding for the project. Largely because of the economic downtown, the City struggled to find financing for the project and no construction occurred until 2015. At that time, the City notified nearby residents that its contractor would begin construction in March. The City issued building permits in April and its contractor began initial work on the project, then stopped before the summer moratorium on beach construction. In August 2015, before the end of the moratorium, Citizens for Beach Rights (Citizens) brought a petition for writ of mandate and claim for declaratory relief seeking to halt construction on the grounds that the SDP issued in 2006 had expired. The trial court agreed with Citizens and issued a permanent injunction, preventing further construction without a new SDP. The City appealed, arguing Citizens' claims were barred by the applicable statutes of limitations or the doctrine of laches and, even if the action was not time barred, the SDP remained valid in 2015 under the City's municipal code and policies. The City also argued Citizens improperly sought declaratory relief. After review, the Court of Appeal held Citizens' action was barred by the applicable statutes of limitations and, even if Citizens' claims had been timely pursued, the SDP remained valid when construction began. View "Citizens for Beach Rights v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law