Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

by
The Miller Trust is the successor owner of property previously owned by spouses Jack (now deceased) and Helen. The trustees sued previous owners including the Estate of Jack Miller and a lessee, DuBois, seeking redress for environmental contamination that originated from a dry cleaning business that operated on the property in 1956-1985. DuBois filed a counterclaim. Zurich determined it had a duty to defend and retained counsel to represent the Estate. The trustees tendered the Dubois counterclaim for defense, asserting that they were additional insureds under the Estate's Zurich policies. Zurich agreed subject to an extensive reservation of rights but denied the trustees' request for independent counsel based on conflicts of interest. The trustees sued Zurich in state court, alleging breach of the contract and of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Zurich unsuccessfully filed an "anti-SLAPP" (strategic lawsuit against public participation) special motion to dismiss, Code of Civil Procedure 425.16, asserting that the claims “arise from allegations about the conduct of attorneys representing Zurich’s insured in the” federal action and that the trustees could not demonstrate a probability of prevailing because that conduct was protected by the litigation privilege. The court of appeal affirmed, in favor of the trustees. Zurich met its burden of demonstrating the applicability of the anti-SLAPP statute but the trustees met their burden of demonstrating a probability of prevailing on the merits. A bad faith action can be subject to the anti-SLAPP statute where the basis for liability is judicial communications. View "Miller Marital Deduction Trust v. Zurich American Insurance Co." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court vacated the order of the circuit court granting Plaintiff's writ of prohibition to stay further hearing on the revocation of his driver's license, holding that the circuit court lacked subject matter jurisdiction and should have dismissed the petition for writ of prohibition. In response to Plaintiff's petition filed in the Circuit Court of Monongalia County, the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) asserted that the circuit court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because jurisdiction for extraordinary writs related to records maintained by the DMV is only proper in Kanawha County. The circuit court granted the writ of prohibition, concluding that the Legislature's recent amendment to W. Va. Code 14-2-2 made jurisdiction proper in Monongalia County. The Supreme Court held that the circuit court's order was void because section 14-2-2 is a venue statute and W. Va. Code 53-1-2 governs subject matter jurisdiction. View "Holley v. Feagley" on Justia Law

by
In March 2011, Appellees Elaine Gold, Amy Shaye, Heather Hunter, and Roderick Benson sued Appellants, the DeKalb County School District (“the District”) and the DeKalb County Board of Education (“the Board”) for, inter alia, breaching an agreement to provide two-years advance notice prior to suspending contributions to their DeKalb County Tax-Sheltered Annuity Plan (“TSA Plan”) accounts. Finding that Appellees failed to establish the existence of an enforceable contract, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Appellants, and Appellees appealed to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals reversed the grant of summary judgment on the issue of liability, vacated the remainder of the court’s order and remanded the case with direction. The Georgia Supreme Court agreed with the outcome of the appellate court’s decision: summary judgment was granted in error, and denying Appellee’s summary judgment on the issue of liability for breach of contract was made in error too. The Court determined that based upon the language of the Board’s own bylaws, the TSA Plan’s provision providing for the termination or suspension of the plan “at any time” could not amend the two-year notice provision embodied in the bylaws by way of a 1982 Amendment. View "Dekalb County School District v. Gold" on Justia Law

by
In Langley v. MP Spring Lake, LLC, 813 SE2d 441 (2018), the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of MP Spring Lake (“Spring Lake”) on two premises-liability tort claims brought by Pamela Langley. While a lawful tenant of Spring Lake Apartments in Morrow, Georgia, Langley fell in a common area of the complex when her foot got caught and slid on a crumbling portion of curb. She later made claims of negligence and negligence per se due to Spring Lake’s alleged failure to repair the curb despite being aware of its disrepair. Spring Lake asserted, as one of its defenses, that Langley’s claims were barred by a contractual limitation period contained within her lease. Spring Lake then moved for summary judgment on this basis, arguing that, because Langley’s lease contained a one-year limitation period for legal actions and she filed her complaint two years after the injury occurred, her claim was time-barred. Langley petitioned for certiorari, raising: (1) Does the “Limitations on Actions” provision of Langley’s lease contract apply to her premises-liability tort action against MP Spring Lake, LLC?; and (2) If so, is that provision enforceable? The Georgia Supreme Court concluded the provision was not applicable to Langley’s premises-liability tort action against Spring Lake. It therefore reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeal s and remanded for further proceedings. View "Langley v. MP Spring Lake, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Applicant Derby GLC Solar, LLC appealed a Public Utility Commission (PUC) decision denying its application for a certificate of public good (CPG) for a netmetered solar electric-generation facility. The PUC determined that applicant’s proposed project failed to satisfy 30 V.S.A. 248(b)(7) or (10). Applicant contended the PUC erred by not weighing the alleged economic benefits of the project against its adverse impacts, improperly considered evidence that should not have been admitted, misinterpreted the language of section 248, and treated applicant’s project differently than similarly situated projects. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "In re Application of Derby GLC Solar, LLC" on Justia Law

by
In 2015, plaintiffs sued 88 school districts and the California Department of Education, seeking relief for alleged violations of Education Code section 51210(g). That law requires no less than 200 minutes of physical education instruction every 10 school days for pupils in first through sixth grades. In 2017, five of the districts sought to have the court issue a writ of mandamus against them, granting the relief sought in the petition. The superior court granted the motion. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting arguments that it was error for the trial court to enter the judgments without an evidentiary proceeding; that the allegations did not preclude writ relief beyond the limited relief contained in the judgments (injunctive relief); and the trial court should have allowed amendment of the petition to state a cause of action for declaratory relief. The plaintiffs unsuccessfully argued that a writ of mandate was an inadequate remedy because it cannot compel the school districts’ employees to comply with the PE mandate and that no writ could issue unless the Districts admit noncompliance with the PE mandate. View "Cal200, Inc., v. Apple Valley Unified School District" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff Jackie Raymond alleged, among other things, that Idaho State Police (“ISP”), Payette County, and Deputy Sloan (collectively “defendants”) tortiously interfered with a prospective civil action. The defendants moved for dismissal of this claim, arguing Idaho did not recognize the tort, and even if it did, Raymond lacked standing and her claims were too speculative to establish causation. The district court agreed with defendants, holding that: (1) Idaho had not recognized the tort as an independent cause of action; (2) it would not acknowledge the tort; and (3) the facts were too speculative to establish such a claim. Raymond appealed and requested the Idaho Supreme Court to formally adopt a new tort for intentional interference with a prospective civil action by spoliation of evidence by a third party. The Supreme Court found that Idaho courts already recognized the cause of action, but took the opportunity to state this conclusion explicitly. The Court therefore reversed. View "Raymond v. Idaho State Police" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs, an abortion clinic and two of its doctors, brought a cumulative-effects challenge to Louisiana's laws regulating abortion, arguing that the provisions taken as a whole were unconstitutional, even if the individual provisions were not. The district court denied Louisiana's motion to dismiss, but certified its order for interlocutory appeal under 28 U.S.C. 1292(b). The district court then rescinded its certification so that plaintiffs could amend their complaint. The district court again denied Louisiana's motion to dismiss. Louisiana subsequently petitioned the Fifth Circuit for mandamus relief. Although the district court's failure to consider the state's jurisdictional challenges and the inadequacy of a later appeal support issuance of the writ, the court nonetheless exercised its discretion not to issue it at this time. In this case, it was not clear from the district court's order how it would resolve the state's jurisdictional challenge, and much of the state's argument in its mandamus petition went beyond jurisdiction. Therefore, the court elected to allow the district court to consider the state's jurisdictional challenges in the first instance. View "In re: Rebekah Gee" on Justia Law

by
On May 24, the district court entered an opinion with language that the judge believed would serve as a preliminary injunction. MillerCoors’s appeal was docketed but the district court did not comply with Fed.R.Civ.P. 65(d)(1)(C), which requires every injunction to be set forth without referring to any other document. On September 4, while appeal was pending, the district court entered another opinion stating that it was “modifying” the May 24 decision; it did not follow Fed.R.Civ.P. 62.1 procedures for modifying an order that is before the court of appeals, nor did it discuss the rule that only one court at a time has jurisdiction. The court still did not comply with Rule 65(d) nor did it modify the injunction under Rule 62(d). Anheuser-Busch appealed. On September 6, the court modified the September 4 modification, without discussing its jurisdiction. It did not rely on Rule 62(d), did not follow the Rule 62.1 procedure, and did not comply with Rule 65(d). The Seventh Circuit ordered a limited remand with instructions to enter the injunction on a document separate from the opinions. Although the court’s intent to afford enforceable equitable relief is sufficiently clear to provide appellate jurisdiction despite the noncompliance with Rule 65(d), enforcing that Rule is important. The district court may be able to avoid the potential jurisdictional problems that its modifications of the initial order have created. View "MillerCoors LLC v. Anheuser-Busch Companies, LLC" on Justia Law

by
SAI Montgomery BCH, LLC, d/b/a Classic Cadillac and Andrew Harper, general manager for Cadillac appealed a trial court order denying their motions to compel arbitration. The matter arose over a lease agreement. Customers made two lease payments before the car they lease was seized by law enforcement, and the lessees arrested for theft of property. A grand jury ultimately refused to return an indictment, and the lessees sued the Cadillac dealership and its general manager for malicious prosecution, slander, defamation and conversion, amongst other things. Because the Alabama Supreme Court concluded the trial court was without jurisdiction to enter the order appealed from, it dismissed the appeal. View "SAI Montgomery BCH, LLC v. Williams" on Justia Law