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Cheryl Brown and Matthew Denis were involved in a traffic accident, when Denis’s truck bumped into Brown’s car from behind. Denis claimed the accident happened when he inadvertently took his foot off the brake as he turned to roll the rear window down to provide fresh air to his dog, who was riding in the back seat. Denis’s truck, which was positioned behind Brown’s car, rolled forward five to six feet, striking her rear bumper. The collision took place in stop-and-go traffic. Denis, a sergeant with the Vermont State Police, estimated his speed at impact to be two miles per hour and did not believe there was any damage caused to Brown’s vehicle from the collision. Brown claimed the impact caused a scratch on her rear bumper. The truck Denis was driving did not have any markings indicating it was a police vehicle. Brown filed suit against the State of Vermont alleging it was responsible for injuries she sustained in the accident due to Denis’s negligence. Brown also raised constitutional claims, alleging: (1) due process and equality of treatment violations under the Vermont Constitution’s Common Benefits Clause, and (2) an equal protection, and possibly a due process, claim under the United States Constitution. Brown did not name Denis as a defendant in her suit. Brown’s constitutional claims were based on her assertion that Denis received favorable treatment because he was not prosecuted for causing the accident or leaving the scene without providing identifying information. Before trial, the court dismissed the due process and equal protection claims under the United States Constitution on the basis that Brown had only sued the State, and not Denis personally, and that the State was not a “person” for claims arising under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The court further ruled that Brown lacked standing to assert any claim based on the State’s failure to prosecute Denis. The court also dismissed the Common Benefits Clause claim because Brown lacked any cognizable interest in the prosecution or discipline of Denis. Lastly, the court held that, to the extent a due process claim had been raised, it was undisputed that Brown received the information required to be exchanged in the event of a car collision shortly after the accident, and her ability to file suit against the State as a result of the accident showed her due process rights were not impeded. On appeal, Brown alleged several errors in pre-trial and trial rulings, as well as in the failure to grant her a new trial. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Brown v. Vermont" on Justia Law

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Stowe Cady Hill Solar (Cady Hill) applied to the Vermont Public Utility Commission for a certificate of public good to construct a group net-metered solar array in the Town of Stowe. The Commission dismissed Cady Hill’s application after finding that the application was incomplete because two adjoining landowners were not given notice that the application had been filed contemporaneous with that filing. After review, the Vermont Supreme Court held that Cady Hill’s application met the completeness requirement as that requirement has been applied in the Commission’s prior decisions and, therefore, the application should not have been dismissed. View "In re Petition of Stowe Cady Hill Solar, LLC" on Justia Law

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Husband was raised in India and attended high school and college there. In 2009, he moved to Montreal, Canada to pursue a master’s degree in food science and engineering from McGill University. In 2011, Keurig Green Mountain, Inc. (employer) hired husband to be a research scientist, and brought him to Vermont on a temporary H-1B employment visa. In 2012, husband met wife, who was then residing in India. The couple married in India a short time later. Soon after the wedding, wife moved with husband to Vermont on a 4-H spouse-dependent visa; she has lived in Vermont ever since. In December 2015, while Wife was on a trip to India, husband filed for a no-fault divorce in Vermont. Upon her return, in March 2016, wife filed a complaint against husband for separate statutory spousal maintenance. The two proceedings were consolidated. Wife appealed the denial of her motion to dismiss husband’s divorce complaint under the theory that husband’s nonimmigration visa status prevented him from being a Vermont domiciliary. In addition, wife argues that husband’s complaint should be dismissed because Indian law governed the dissolution of the parties’ marriage. The Vermont Supreme Court held that husband’s nonimmigration visa status is not an impediment to his establishing Vermont residency for purposes of filing a divorce action, and that the trial court properly denied wife’s motion to dismiss. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Maghu v. Singh" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of a motion for leave to amend a complaint after certain court proceedings, holding that the district court was not required to allow leave to amend. Plaintiffs filed suit against a group of healthcare entities alleging that Defendants’ compensation practices violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Defendants filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings. Plaintiffs opposed the motion, including a request to amend should the court grant the motion. The district court ultimately granted Defendants’ motion for judgment on the pleadings as to all of Plaintiffs’ claims and noted that Plaintiffs’ counsel had voiced the possibility that Plaintiffs might seek leave to amend but never followed through with a proper motion to amend. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it denied Plaintiffs’ motion for leave to amend the complaint. View "Hamilton v. Partners Healthcare System, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Golden Eagle Land Investment, L.P. (Golden Eagle) and its coplaintiff-appellant Mabee Trust owned real property in the vicinity of Rancho Santa Fe. Appellants sought approvals for a joint development project (the project) from San Diego County land use authorities. At the same time, they began the process of seeking land use approvals for the project from defendant, respondent and cross-appellant, the Rancho Santa Fe Association (the Association or RSFA), whose activities in this respect were governed by a protective covenant and bylaws, as well as County general planning. Appellants sued the Association on numerous statutory and tort theories, only some of which were pled by the Trust, for injuries caused by allegedly unauthorized discussions and actions by the Association in processing the requested approvals, in communicating with County authorities and others. Appellants contended that these Association activities and communications took place without adequate compliance with the Common Interest Development Open Meeting Act. Appellants challenged the trial court's order granting in large part (eight out of nine causes of action) the Association's special motion to strike their complaint, based on each of the two prongs of the anti-SLAPP test. Appellants contended that none of these related tort and bylaws claims arose out of or involved protected Association activity, but rather they were mixed causes of action that were "centered around" alleged earlier false promises by Association representatives to abide by the provisions of the Open Meeting Act. The trial court denied the Association's motion as to one remaining cause of action, in which Golden Eagle alone alleged violations of the Open Meeting Act. The court ruled that the Association's challenged conduct in that respect was not on its face entitled to the benefits of Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16, because it did not fall within the statutory language that defined protected communications during "official" proceedings. On that cause of action only, the trial court did not find it necessary to reach the second portion of the statutory test under the anti-SLAPP statute, on whether Appellants are able to establish a probability that they will prevail on their claims. The Association cross-appealed that portion of the order, arguing the trial court erred as a matter of law in finding the anti-SLAPP statute was inapplicable by its terms. The Court of Appeal concluded the trial court correctly applied the anti-SLAPP statutory scheme in granting the Association's motion to strike the second through ninth causes of action, as variously alleged by one or both Appellants. In addition, the Court reversed the order in part, concluding that the trial court should have granted the motion to strike the first cause of action regarding alleged violations of the Open Meeting Act. View "Golden Eagle Land Inv. v. Rancho Santa Fe Assn." on Justia Law

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A mother moved to modify an existing custody arrangement with her ex-husband. She asked that she be given primary custody of their daughter and that the ex­ husband’s visitation rights and legal custody over her son (the ex-husband’s stepson) be terminated. The trial court denied her motion and found that, given the recent intervention of the stepson’s biological father, the ex-husband’s obligation to pay child support was terminated. The Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s denial of the modification motion with regard to the daughter. However, the legal intervention of a previously absent biological parent constituted a substantial change in circumstances as a matter of law, and accordingly the Court reversed the trial court’s denial of the modification motion for the son and remanded for best interests findings under AS 25.24.150(c). Finally, the Supreme Court held that a psychological parent’s child support obligation continues so long as that parent maintains some custody of the child, and reversed the trial court’s absolution of the ex-husband’s child support obligation. View "Moore v. McGillis" on Justia Law

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A mother appealed a superior court’s decision to modify a long-term domestic violence protective order against her ex-husband. The protective order was issued by a magistrate judge, based on his findings that the father had committed acts of domestic violence. But the superior court, during the parties’ subsequent and separate divorce and custody case, concluded that findings of domestic violence were not supported by the evidence. When modifying the protective order to accommodate a change in the parties’ living arrangements, the superior court also modified the order’s factual findings about domestic violence, noting its own conclusion that such findings were not justified. The mother argued the superior court erred by modifying the factual findings of domestic violence underlying an unappealed final order. The Alaska Supreme Court agreed the superior court lacked the authority to modify the factual findings on which the order was based. As such, the Supreme COurt vacated that aspect of the protective order. View "Ruerup v. Ruerup" on Justia Law

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Gloria Austill and Mary Ella Etheridge appealed a circuit court order granting summary judgment in favor of Dr. John Krolikowski, a senior medical examiner with the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences ("the ADFS"). They challenged the order insofar as it denied their motion to compel certain discovery. The Baldwin County District Attorney's Office authorized the ADFS to perform an autopsy on the decedent based on potential civil and/or criminal litigation against the nursing home where the decedent resided before his death. Dr. Krolikowski conducted the autopsy on the decedent, at which time the brain was saved and "fixed" in formalin. Following the autopsy, the decedent's body was transported to Radney Funeral Home in Mobile. While the decedent's body was at the funeral home, Mary Ella and Gloria ("plaintiffs") requested that the decedent's brain be referred to the University of Alabama Hospital in Birmingham ("UAB") for a neuropathological examination. Plaintiffs then learned that the brain had not been returned to the body; it had been retained by Dr. Krolikowski. Plaintiffs then sued Dr. Krolikowski, individually, as well as other fictitiously named parties, alleging that, following the autopsy, Dr. Krolikowski, without any compelling or legitimate reason, "harvested the decedent's entire brain without the family's permission and preserved it in his office for his own use." Plaintiffs sought compensatory and punitive damages based on claims of negligence and/or wantonness, trespass, conversion, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of implied contract, and the tort of outrage. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded plaintiffs failed to demonstrate, by way of their Rule 56(f) motion and affidavit in support thereof, that the discovery they requested was crucial to the issue of State-agent immunity, the trial court properly denied their motion to compel. Additionally, because plaintiffs did not challenge the merits of the trial court's summary judgment in favor of Dr. Krolikowski, the summary judgment was affirmed. View "Austill v. Krolikowski" on Justia Law

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George Bates and David Joyner appealed a circuit court order approving a final judicial accounting of the administration of a trust pursuant to 19-3B-205, Ala. Code 1975. Because the trial court did not certify its order as final pursuant to Rule 54(b) and because its order contemplated further action on behalf of the trustee, the Alabama Supreme Court determined the order at issue here was not a final appealable order. Accordingly, the Supreme Court lacked jurisdiction to entertain Bates and Joyner's appeal. View "Bates v. Stewart" on Justia Law

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Defendant Cheryl Price and Greg Lovelace petitioned for mandamus relief. Price was formerly the warden at Donaldson Correctional Facility ("the prison"), which was operated by the Alabama Department of Corrections ("the DOC"). Lovelace was a deputy commissioner of the DOC in charge of construction and maintenance. Plaintiff Marcus Parrish was a correctional officer employed by the DOC. Parrish was supervising inmate showers in a segregation unit in the prison. Parrish left the shower area briefly to retrieve shaving trimmers, and, when he returned, inmate Rashad Byers had already entered a shower cell, which had an exterior lock on it. Byers indicated that he was finished with his shower, and Parrish told him to turn around to be handcuffed, then approached Byers's shower door with the key to the lock on the door in his hand. Byers unexpectedly opened the door, exited the shower cell, and attacked Parrish. During the attack, Byers took Parrish's baton from him and began striking Parrish with it. Parrish was knocked unconscious, and he sustained injuries to his head. Parrish sued Price and Lovelace in their official capacities. Parrish later filed an amended complaint naming Price and Lovelace as defendants in their individual capacities only (thus, it appears that Price and Lovelace were sued only in their individual capacities). Parrish alleged that Price and Lovelace willfully breached their duties by failing to monitor the prison for unsafe conditions and by failing to repair or replace the allegedly defective locks. Price and Lovelace moved for a summary judgment, asserting, among other things, that they are entitled to State-agent immunity. The trial court denied the summary-judgment motion, concluding, without elaboration, that genuine issues of material fact existed to preclude a summary judgment. Price and Lovelace then petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus, arguing that they were immune from liability. After review of the trial court record, the Supreme Court concluded Price and Lovelace established they were entitled to State-agent immunity. Accordingly, the Court directed the trial court to enter a summary judgment in their favor. View "Ex parte Cheryl Price & Greg Lovelace." on Justia Law