Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries
Molinar v. 21st Century Insurance Co.
In this case, the Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District Division One State of California decided on a matter concerning an automobile insurance policy. The plaintiffs, Silvia Escarcega and Alberto Molinar, who are the parents of Tania Molinar, filed a lawsuit against 21st Century Insurance Company (defendant) for refusal to defend or indemnify their daughter in a lawsuit brought against her following a car accident she caused. The insurer denied coverage on the grounds that the policy had been cancelled due to nonpayment of premiums prior to the accident. The plaintiffs argued that the insurer had a duty to give advance notice of cancellation not only to them as policyholders but also to their adult daughter who was named as an insured driver on their policy and whose vehicle was also insured under the policy.The court held that under Insurance Code section 662, subdivision (a), the insurer was required to give advance notice of cancellation to the adult daughter. Because the insurer did not give notice to the adult daughter, the policy was still legally in effect when she got into the accident driving her covered vehicle without knowledge of the purported cancellation. Therefore, the court reversed the trial court's summary judgment in favor of the insurer on claims arising out of its refusal to defend or indemnify the daughter. The court remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Molinar v. 21st Century Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Chicago Joe’s Tea Room, LLC v. Village of Broadview
In this case, the plaintiff, Chicago Joe's Tea Room LLC, had plans to open an adult entertainment business in a suburb of Chicago. However, the Village of Broadview denied the plaintiff's application for a special-use permit, which led to the plaintiff claiming that their constitutional rights were violated. The plaintiff sought millions of dollars in lost profits for the business that never opened. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois excluded most of the plaintiff's evidence and theories for lost-profit damages due to substantive and procedural issues. The court then awarded the plaintiff just $15,111 in damages. The plaintiff appealed, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the decision of the lower court, finding no abuses of discretion. The appellate court stated that the plaintiff's calculations of lost profits were beyond the scope of the plaintiff's personal knowledge of a similar business and required expert-like analysis and adjustments. The court also ruled that the plaintiff failed to disclose necessary damages evidence in a timely manner, a violation of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The plaintiff was also denied the opportunity to amend their complaint to challenge a state statute, as the request was made a decade after the issue became relevant. The court found that granting the amendment would have caused undue delay and prejudice to the Village. View "Chicago Joe's Tea Room, LLC v. Village of Broadview" on Justia Law
Premier Dealer Services, Inc. v. Allegiance Administrators, LLC
In a case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, Premier Dealer Services, a developer and administrator of automobile dealers’ aftermarket products, sued Allegiance Administrators for infringing its copyright. The issue stemmed from Premier's creation of a Lifetime Powertrain Loyalty Program, which included a loyalty certificate that set out the program's terms and conditions. Premier had registered this certificate for copyright protection. When Allegiance started working with a former Premier client, it used Premier’s Lifetime Powertrain Loyalty Program certificates in its own plan, with minor modifications in the contact information.In the lawsuit, the district court ruled that Allegiance had infringed Premier’s copyright, ordered Allegiance to give up any profits from using the certificates, and awarded Premier attorney’s fees. On appeal, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the decision of the lower court.The appellate court held that Premier's certificate was "original" and thus protected by copyright. The court clarified that originality in copyright law has a low threshold, requiring only that the author independently created a work with some minimal degree of creativity. The court rejected Allegiance's argument that the certificates were scenes a faire—stock or standard phrases that necessarily follow from a common theme or setting, which are not protectable by copyright. The court found that Allegiance had not provided sufficient evidence that industry standards or other external constraints dictated the content of the certificates.Regarding the disgorgement of profits, the court agreed with the lower court's calculations. It noted that Premier had successfully shown a reasonable relationship between Allegiance’s infringement and its gross revenues. The burden then shifted to Allegiance to demonstrate which part of its gross revenues did not result from the infringement, but Allegiance failed to fulfill this burden.Finally, the court upheld the award of attorney’s fees to Premier, finding that the lower court did not abuse its discretion in characterizing Allegiance's arguments as unreasonable and contrary to settled law. View "Premier Dealer Services, Inc. v. Allegiance Administrators, LLC" on Justia Law
Protopapas v. Travelers Casualty and Surety Co.
In this case, a South Carolina court-appointed receiver brought an action against Travelers Casualty and Surety Company and other insurers, alleging breaches of insurance policies issued to a defunct company within a state receivership. Travelers removed the action to federal court, asserting diversity jurisdiction. However, the district court granted the receiver’s motion to remand the case back to state court. The court held that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction because the case involved property of a state receivership exclusively under the jurisdiction of the state court (based on the doctrine articulated in Barton v. Barbour), and the removal lacked unanimous consent of all defendants due to a forum selection clause in some of the insurance policies issued to the defunct company.Upon appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit dismissed the appeal, holding that the district court's conclusions in support of remand were at least colorably supported. The court found that the district court's reliance on a lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and procedural defect as grounds for remand were colorably supported, and thus, not reviewable under 28 U.S.C. § 1447(d). The court also concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to review the district court's remand order and dismissed the appeal. View "Protopapas v. Travelers Casualty and Surety Co." on Justia Law
Anne Arundel County v. BP P.L.C.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision to remand two lawsuits back to Maryland state court. The lawsuits were brought by the City of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County against more than 20 energy companies, including BP P.L.C. The local governments accused the companies of misrepresenting and concealing information about the environmental impact of their fossil fuel products in violation of Maryland's Consumer Protection Act and various state tort laws. The companies tried to remove the cases to federal court, arguing that because they had acted under federal authority in their operations, the court had federal question jurisdiction. However, the appeals court found that the company's activities related to fossil fuel production were not relevant to the claims brought by the local governments, which were based on alleged concealment or misrepresentation of information about fossil fuel products. The court also rejected the companies' argument that the First Amendment question related to their right to free speech provided a basis for federal jurisdiction, as this question was a defense rather than a necessary element of the plaintiffs' state-law claims. View "Anne Arundel County v. BP P.L.C." on Justia Law
TriCoast Builders, Inc. v. Fonnegra
In this case, the Supreme Court of California held that a trial court has discretion to grant or deny relief from a jury trial waiver under section 631(g) of the Code of Civil Procedure. The court is not required to grant relief just because proceeding with a jury would not cause hardship to other parties or the court. The court should consider various factors, including the timeliness of the request and the reasons supporting the request. The court further held that a litigant who challenges the denial of relief from a jury waiver for the first time on appeal must show actual prejudice to obtain reversal.The case involved TriCoast Builders, Inc. and Nathaniel Fonnegra. Fonnegra hired TriCoast to repair his house after a fire, but he was unhappy with the quality of the work and terminated the contract. TriCoast sued Fonnegra for damages. Fonnegra initially demanded a jury trial, but waived this right on the day of the trial. TriCoast, which had not demanded a jury trial or paid the jury fee, requested a jury trial after Fonnegra’s waiver. The trial court denied their request and a bench trial was held. TriCoast appealed the judgment, arguing that the trial court erred in denying their request for a jury trial. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeal, concluding that TriCoast had not established the prejudice necessary to justify reversing the trial court's judgment. View "TriCoast Builders, Inc. v. Fonnegra" on Justia Law
CREECH V. TEWALT
In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision to deny a preliminary injunction requested by Thomas Eugene Creech, a death row inmate. Creech raised constitutional claims concerning his execution method, arguing that the State failed to provide sufficient information about its lethal injection drug, pentobarbital, and that the execution protocol was deficient. The Court, however, found that Creech was unlikely to succeed on his claims, noting that the State had adequately disclosed the planned execution method and that Creech's arguments about the drug's provenance were speculative. Creech's Eighth Amendment claims, which focused on potential unnecessary pain during execution, were rejected as he had not identified an alternative execution method and did not have any known conditions that create a substantial risk of severe pain. Additionally, Creech's argument about the protocol's lack of requirement for an anesthesiologist and a brain monitor were dismissed as they were against Supreme Court precedent. The Court also found that the balance of equities and public interest did not favor Creech. Thus, the Court affirmed the lower court's denial of Creech's request for preliminary injunctive relief. View "CREECH V. TEWALT" on Justia Law
GHP Horwath, P.C. v. Kazazian
In this case, the Supreme Court of Colorado considered a petition from GHP Horwath, P.C., Nadine Pietrowski, Bohn Aguilar, LLC, Michael G. Bohn, and Armando Y. Aguilar, asking the court to permanently enjoin Nina H. Kazazian from proceeding pro se in Colorado state courts. Over the past eleven years, Kazazian, a pro se litigant and former attorney, had initiated at least ten lawsuits and twice as many appeals, most of which were found to be duplicative, meritless, or frivolous. Her actions led to her disbarment and multiple sanctions. The court noted that while every person has the right to access Colorado courts, this right is not absolute and may be curtailed when a pro se party persistently disrupts judicial administration by filing meritless and duplicative claims. The court found that Kazazian's actions placed a strain on judicial resources and were harmful to the public interest. Therefore, the court granted the petitioners' requested relief and ordered that Kazazian be permanently enjoined from proceeding pro se in Colorado state courts. View "GHP Horwath, P.C. v. Kazazian" on Justia Law
Dinh v. Raines
In this case, tenants Matthew Raines and Melissa Clayton complained to their landlord, Tuyen Dinh, about the habitability of their rented unit, particularly due to issues with their utilities and the presence of unauthorized tenants in the building. The tenants withheld rent and requested reimbursement for additional utilities costs. When Dinh refused and subsequently evicted the tenants for nonpayment of rent, a dispute ensued. The Superior Court of the State of Alaska held a damages trial, finding largely in favor of the tenants.The Supreme Court of the State of Alaska affirmed the lower court's findings that Dinh failed to maintain the premises in a habitable condition and willfully diminished the tenants' essential services under the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (URLTA). However, the Supreme Court reversed the lower court's conclusion that the tenants could recover for the landlord's failure to deliver possession of the property. The Supreme Court also affirmed some aspects of the lower court's award of damages, but reversed those awards that were not supported by the record.The court found that Dinh's violation of housing codes and his conditional use permit diminished the value of the tenants' leasehold by the $8,800 owed in past rent. The court also found that Dinh was responsible for additional costs incurred by the tenants due to the unauthorized use of their utilities by unauthorized tenants in the building. However, the court ruled that the tenants could not recover for Dinh's failure to deliver possession of the property, despite finding that Dinh did not deliver habitable premises at the commencement of the lease. View "Dinh v. Raines" on Justia Law
Pace v. Cirrus Design Corp
In this case, Glen Pace, a Mississippi resident, appealed the dismissal of his claims against multiple corporate defendants over personal injuries he suffered in a Texas airplane crash. The United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi dismissed the claims against the out-of-state defendants for lack of personal jurisdiction and held that the two Mississippi defendants were improperly joined, which allowed removal to federal court.Upon review, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling. The appellate court agreed that Pace failed to state a claim against either in-state defendant, and thus, they were improperly joined. As for the out-of-state defendants, the court found that the district court lacked personal jurisdiction over them. The court reasoned that the aircraft crash, any equipment failure, and the injuries all occurred in Texas, and Pace's subsequent medical treatment and damages in Mississippi did not constitute an actual injury felt in the state for the purpose of establishing personal jurisdiction. The court held that Pace's injuries from the crash occurred in Texas and his subsequent medical treatment in Mississippi were "consequences stemming from the actual tort injury," which do not confer personal jurisdiction.The court also denied Pace's request for jurisdictional discovery, stating that Pace failed to present specific facts or reasonable particularity regarding jurisdictional facts. The court stressed that its decision should not be interpreted as implying a view on the merits of Pace’s claims. View "Pace v. Cirrus Design Corp" on Justia Law