Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

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Janice Tubbs challenged certain assets her father, Harry William Berkowitz transferred to himself after his wife passed away. Berkowitz and his wife, Janice's parents, created The Berkowitz Family Trust (the Trust). The Trust provided for the allocation of assets to a surviving spouse’s trust and a marital appointment trust (the Marital Trust) upon the death of either Berkowitz or his wife. The surviving spouse’s trust and the Marital Trust included a general power of appointment allowing the surviving spouse to designate a person who would receive the Trust assets. Under that power of appointment, the surviving spouse could designate himself or herself as the person who would receive the assets. Berkowitz exercised this power of appointment after his wife passed away and transferred all the Trust assets to himself, effectively divesting Tubbs and her children who were contingent beneficiaries. According to Tubbs, Berkowitz’s fiduciary duties as the successor trustee limited his exercise of the power of appointment. Berkowitz moved for summary judgment contending he had the right to transfer all assets to himself pursuant to the general power of appointment provisions, which allowed him to act in a nonfiduciary capacity. The court granted Berkowitz’s motion for summary judgment and found the general power of appointment provisions gave him unfettered discretion. Because the power of appointment was given to the surviving spouse, and not the trustee, the court rejected Tubbs’s contention that Berkowitz’s discretion was limited by his role as the successor trustee. On appeal, Tubbs contended the court erred because Berkowitz was bound by his fiduciary duties as trustee when he exercised the general power of appointment. Finding no error in the trial court's judgment, the Court of Appeal affirmed summary judgment. View "Tubbs v. Berkowitz" on Justia Law

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Keith sued its former employee, Butterfield, after he filed a patent application for what eventually issued as the 520 patent. The employer alleged that the patent was based on inventions made during Butterfield’s employment and sought declaratory judgments of noninfringement and invalidity; alleged breach of contract and misappropriation of trade secrets; and sought correction of inventorship. Butterfield later sent the employer a covenant not to sue and moved to dismiss in part, arguing that the covenant not to sue mooted the declaratory judgment claims and that the applicable statutes of limitation and the doctrine of laches barred the state-law claims. The court dismissed the declaratory judgment claims but allowed the state-law claims to proceed. The parties later filed a stipulation of dismissal with prejudice (Rule 41(a)(1)(A)(ii)), which required no court order. Days later, Butterfield moved for attorney’s fees under Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(d). In denying the motion, the court cited the 2017 Supreme Court decision, “Microsoft” and held that Rule 54 requires a judgment, “a decree and any order from which an appeal lies,” and that the parties’ stipulation to dismiss did not satisfy Rule 54’s judgment requirement because it was not an appealable order. The Federal Circuit vacated, holding that Microsoft did not apply. Judgment in the context of Rule 54 does not raise the same concerns about finality and piecemeal litigation that motivated the Microsoft opinion. View "Keith Manufacturing Co. v. Butterfield" on Justia Law

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Respondent J.H. was ordered to pay restitution as part of a 2005 juvenile delinquency adjudication. J.H.’s wardship terminated on June 6, 2014, after which writs of execution were issued for the unpaid balance. J.H. subsequently moved to quash. The superior court granted the motion, finding the restitution order was no longer valid because the 10-year enforcement period for money judgments had expired without renewal of the restitution order as required by section 683.020 of the Code of Civil Procedure. The State appealed, contending restitution orders imposed in delinquency proceedings were not subject to the 10-year enforcement period of Code of Civil Procedure section 683.020. The Court of Appeal concluded that, while restitution orders in delinquency cases were enforceable as money judgments and could be converted to money judgments, they were not money judgments for the purpose of the 10-year enforcement limit. Accordingly, the Court reversed. View "In re J.H." on Justia Law

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Kyle Christianson appealed a district court’s judgment affirming the North Dakota Department of Transportation’s suspension of his driving privileges. Christianson claimed the Department’s hearing file, which was admitted at the adjudication hearing, was improperly certified as a true copy of the Department’s official records. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded Christianson rebutted the presumption that the individual whose signature certified the record had authority to do so. Therefore, the Court reversed the hearing officer’s decision to admit the hearing file and vacated the Department’s suspension of Christianson’s driving privileges. View "Christianson v. NDDOT" on Justia Law

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Samantha Schweitzer appealed a district court order dismissing her petition for a child custody order. Schweitzer and Blake Miller have one child together, born in Wisconsin in 2014. Schweitzer had primary custody of the child after the child’s birth. On January 6, 2017, Schweitzer and the child moved from Wisconsin to North Dakota. On January 13, 2017, Miller petitioned in Wisconsin for joint custody and parenting time. After an August 2018 hearing, the parties stipulated they would have joint custody of the child and Schweitzer would move to Madison, Wisconsin. The Wisconsin court entered an order on the basis of the parties’ stipulation. In January 2019, Schweitzer petitioned for an emergency child custody order and initial child custody determination or modification of child custody determination in North Dakota. Miller moved to dismiss the petition, arguing the district court did not have subject matter jurisdiction to decide Schweitzer’s petition. Miller claimed the Wisconsin court had jurisdiction to decide custody issues relating to the child. The North Dakota district court determined it lacked jurisdiction to decide Schweitzer's petition, and the North Dakota Supreme Court concurred with that judgment. View "Schweitzer v. Miller" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, alleging disability discrimination and retaliation in violation of the Rehabilitation Act. At issue in this appeal is the enforceability of the parties' settlement agreement. The Fifth Circuit held that the district court properly exercised jurisdiction to decide the motions to enforce and subsequent motion for reconsideration; the district court did not err in concluding that the settlement agreement does not allow plaintiff to receive $150,000 because she has not elected disability retirement; and the district court must hold an evidentiary hearing to determine whether the settlement agreement is enforceable. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded for the district court to consider whether the settlement is valid and enforceable, or whether a mutual mistake warrants rescinding it. View "Wise v. Wilkie" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit withdrew its earlier opinion and substituted the following opinion. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff and his wife's suit against the HSPCA, as well as Texas county and state officials, for unlawful search and seizure under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The court also affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff's adversary proceeding against the HSPCA alleging fraudulent transfer under 11 U.S.C. 542, 548, and 550. The district court correctly held that the statute of limitations barred plaintiff's section 1983 claims against both the HSPCA and Texas county and state officials. Because there was a valid, final judgment from the state court proceedings, the district court properly dismissed Hoffman's adversary claims under collateral estoppel. View "Hoffman v. Houston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals" on Justia Law

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This case involved claims for subvention by community college districts pertaining to 27 Education Code sections and 141 regulations. The regulations includes “minimum conditions” that, if satisfied, entitles the community college districts to receive state financial support. As to the minimum conditions, the Commission on State Mandates generally determined that reimbursement from the state qA not required because, among other things, the state did not compel the community college districts to comply with the minimum conditions. Coast Community College District, North Orange County Community College District, San Mateo County Community College District, Santa Monica Community College District, and State Center Community College District (the Community Colleges) filed a petition for writ of mandate challenging the Commission’s decision. The trial court denied the petition and entered judgment, and the Community Colleges appealed. The Court of Appeal concluded the minimum condition regulations imposed requirements on a community college district in connection with underlying programs legally compelled by the state. The Court surmised the Commission was. Suggesting the minimum conditions were not legally compelled because the Community Colleges were free to decline state aid, but the Court concluded that argument was inconsistent with the statutory scheme and the appellate record. Based on a detailed review of the statutes and regulations at issue, the Court reversed judgment with regard to Cal. Code Regs., tit. 5, regs. 51000, 51006, 51014, 51016, 51018, 51020, 51025, 54626, subdivision (a), 55825 through 55831, regulation 55760 in cases involving mistake, fraud, bad faith or incompetency, and the Handbook of Accreditation and Policy Manual. The Court affirmed as to Education code sections 66738, subdivision (b), 66741, 66743, 78210 through 78218, paragraphs 2, 4 and 5 of section 66740, the portion of regulation 51008 dealing with education master plans, regulations 51024, 54626, subdivisions (b) and (c), 55005, 55100, 51012, 55130, 55150, 55170, 55182, 55205 through 55219, 55300, 55316, 55316.5, 55320 through 55322, 55340, 55350, 55500 through 55534, 55600, 55602, 55602.5, 55603, 55605, 55607, 55620, 55630, 55752, 55753, 55753.5, 55758.5, 55761, 55764, 55800.5, 55805, 55806, 55807, 55808, 55809, 58102, 58107, 58108, 59404, the portion of regulation 55000 et seq. relating to community service classes, and pages A-1 to A-54 of the Chancellor’s Program and Course Approval Handbook. The matter was remanded for further further proceedings on additional challenges. View "Coast Community College Dist. v. Com. on State Mandates" on Justia Law

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Elaine Kirt died in 2010, due to complications that developed shortly after undergoing eye surgery. On September 23, 2011, her son, Neville Kirt, appearing in person and on behalf of his deceased mother and his two brothers, filed a request with the Division of Administration asking for a medical review panel to review the care provided to his mother by three defendants: Dr. Rebecca Metzinger, the attending surgeon; Dr. Theodore Strickland III, the anesthesiologist for the procedure; and Tulane Medical Center. In a reply letter to Neville, the Patient’s Compensation Fund Oversight Board (PCF) acknowledged receipt of the request; confirmed Dr. Metzinger, Dr. Strickland, and Tulane University Hospital & Clinic were qualified under the Louisiana Medical Malpractice Act (Act); informed Kirt a filing fee of $100 per qualified defendant was due; and requested payment of $300. The notice stated the failure to pay would render the request invalid, without effect, and would not suspend the time to file suit. Days later, then appearing through counsel, the Kirts sent a second letter asking to amend its previous request, adding two additional nurses. The Kirts included a $500 check to cover filing fees. A medical review panel convened, reviewed the care provided by all named healthcare providers, and found no breach of the standard of care. The Kirts thereafter filed against the doctors and nurses. Claims against the doctors were dismissed by summary judgments because there was no proof they breached the standard of care while treating Elaine Kirt. Those judgments expressly barred allocating fault to the dismissed parties and prohibited introducing evidence at trial to establish their fault. The nurses then filed peremptory exceptions of prescription, claiming the request for a medical review panel was invalid because the Kirts failed to pay the final $100 filing fee, and prescription was not suspended for any claims. The trial court concurred with the nurses and granted an exception of prescription. The Supreme Court determined that because the Kirts paid filing fees for five of six named defendants, dismissal of one of the nurses was proper for lack of a filing fee. The Court determined the lower courts did not consider or decide the merits of the Kirts' argument that they could not have reasonable known about the claims against two of the nurse defendants until one was deposed. Because the lower courts did not consider or decide the merits of the Kirts' basis for the exception of prescription, which could have turned on factual findings, the Supreme Court pretermitted consideration of these arguments and remanded the matter to the trial court for further disposition of the exception. View "Kirt v. Metzinger" on Justia Law

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In 2014, plaintiff George Blair filed a petition for damages in which he alleged that a 2011 Ford Escape driven by Lori Brewer struck his 2008 Honda Civic in 2013. According to Plaintiff, at the time of the collision he was at a complete stop at a traffic signal when his vehicle was suddenly struck from the rear by Brewer’s vehicle, propelling him into the intersection. At the time of the accident, Ms. Brewer was in the course and scope of her work and was driving a company vehicle owned by AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation (“Amerisource”), which, according to the Petition, had a policy of motor vehicle liability insurance with ACE American Insurance Company Inc. (“ACE”) insuring against the negligent acts of Ms. Brewer (together with Amerisource and ACE, “Defendants”). Plaintiff alleged that the collision caused injuries to his neck and back for which he sought damages from Defendants related to, inter alia, his physical pain and suffering, mental pain, anguish, and distress, medical expenses, and loss of enjoyment of life. In an apparent effort to disprove a causal connection between Plaintiff’s injuries and the collision, Defendants sought to introduce at trial the expert opinion of Dr. Charles E. “Ted” Bain. Dr. Bain west forth his calculation of a low impact collision and the likely preexisting nature of Plaintiff's injuries, thus concluding that plaintiff was not subject to forces and acceleration that would have caused serious or long-lasting injuries. Plaintiff moved to exclude the expert's report, and the trial court granted the motion. The court of appeal would reverse that order, and the issue this case presented for the Louisiana Supreme Court's review was whether the appellate court was correct in summarily reversing the trial court's exclusion. Finding no abuse of discretion in the trial court's determination that Dr. Bain's testimony was not based on sufficient facts or data, the Supreme Court reversed the appellate court and reinstated the trial court's judgment. View "Blair v. Coney" on Justia Law