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Western Energy Corporation appealed a district court judgment finding its quiet title action to be barred by applicable statutes of limitation and laches and awarding the mineral interests at issue to the Stauffers. In 1959, L.M. and C.S. Eckmann agreed to convey property to William and Ethel Stauffer through a contract for deed. The contract for deed included a reservation of the oil, gas, and other mineral rights in the property and described a five-year payment plan. After the payment plan concluded in 1964, the Eckmanns were to convey the property to the Stauffers by warranty deed. The warranty deed did not contain a mineral reservation, but stated that it was given "in fulfillment of a contract for deed issued on the 25th of May, 1959." Numerous conveyances, oil and gas leases, and similar transactions were completed by both the Eckmanns and Stauffers, as well as their successors in interest, between the execution of the warranty deed in 1959 and the filing of this quiet title action in 2016. Western Energy Corporation ("Western") obtained its interests in the subject minerals through mineral deeds executed in 1989 and 1990. The original parties to the warranty deed are all now deceased. Western filed this action to quiet title in 2016. Western and the Stauffers submitted stipulated facts to the district court. Although brought as a quiet title action, the relief requested was actually reformation of the warranty deed. The district court found reformation barred by the statutes of limitation as well as by the doctrine of laches. Further, the district court concluded the discrepancy between the contract for deed and the warranty deed was not enough to establish mutual mistake. Because it found that Western had not met its burden of proof to establish mutual mistake at the time of conveyance, the district court entered judgment quieting title of the minerals to the Stauffers. Finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Western Energy Corporation v. Stauffer" on Justia Law

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S.E.L. appealed dismissal of his action seeking to adjudicate the paternity of the child, J.J.M. The child was born to biological mother J.A.P. Shortly after the child's birth, J.A.P. and J.M. executed an acknowledgment of paternity, claiming J.M. was the child's father. S.E.L. filed a complaint challenging paternity, alleging the paternity acknowledgment was executed based on fraud and deceit, and requesting the court order genetic testing and declare he was the child's father. S.E.L. filed an affidavit in support of his complaint, stating he was in a sexual relationship with J.A.P. in Montana during the period of conception, J.A.P. moved to North Dakota after the child was conceived and entered into a relationship with J.M., J.A.P. never informed S.E.L. she was pregnant, and he learned about the child in the fall of 2015. He stated he attempted to establish paternity by filing paperwork with the Child Support Enforcement Division in Montana, but he learned that J.M. signed an acknowledgment of paternity in 2014. S.E.L. admitted it had been more than two years since the acknowledgment of paternity was signed, but he claimed the acknowledgment was based on fraud and deceit and should be declared void. S.E.L. also alleged the child had been removed from J.A.P. and J.M.'s care and placed in a foster home in February 2016, J.A.P. was to be released from jail in Nevada in August 2016, and J.M. was currently incarcerated in North Dakota. After a hearing, the district court ordered S.E.L.'s action be dismissed. The court found J.A.P. and J.M. were in default. The court held S.E.L. commenced the proceeding more than two years after the effective date of the paternity acknowledgment, challenges to an acknowledgment of paternity had to be commenced within two years after the effective date of the acknowledgment under N.D.C.C. 14-20-44(2), and S.E.L. was not permitted to challenge the acknowledgment because his action was untimely. The court ruled all other issues pending before the court were moot and required no further adjudication because the matter was dismissed. Judgment was entered. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed dismissal. View "S.E.L. v. J.A.P." on Justia Law

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Oliveira is a driver for a trucking company, under an agreement that calls him an independent contractor and contains a mandatory arbitration provision. Oliveira filed a class action alleging that the company denies its drivers lawful wages. The company invoked the Federal Arbitration Act, arguing that questions regarding arbitrability should be resolved by the arbitrator. The First Circuit and Supreme Court agreed that a court should determine whether the Act's section 1 exclusion applies before ordering arbitration. A court’s authority to compel arbitration under the Act does not extend to all private contracts. Section 2 provides that the Act applies only when the agreement is “a written provision in any maritime transaction or a contract evidencing a transaction involving commerce.” Section 1 provides that “nothing” in the Act “shall apply” to “contracts of employment of seamen, railroad employees, or any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce.” The sequencing is significant. A “delegation clause,” giving the arbitrator authority to decide threshold questions of arbitrability is merely a specialized type of arbitration agreement and is enforceable under sections 3 and 4 only if it appears in a contract consistent with section 2 that does not trigger section 1’s exception. Because “contract of employment” refers to any agreement to perform work, Oliveira’s contract falls within that exception. At the time of the Act’s 1925 adoption, the phrase “contract of employment” was not a term of art; dictionaries treated “employment” as generally synonymous with “work," not requiring a formal employer-employee relationship. Congress used the term “contracts of employment” broadly. View "New Prime Inc. v. Oliveira" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit granted a stay pending appeal by issuing a published opinion, as binding law of the circuit, on August 14, 2018. After the original appellants were defeated in the November 2018 elections, the current appellants moved for voluntary dismissal of the appeal. The clerk entered an order stating that, under Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 42(b), the appeal was dismissed as of January 07, 2019. Appellees then brought an unopposed motion to vacate the court's August 14th opinion. The court denied the motion to vacate the opinion granting the stay and held that the panel majority published the opinion after making certain it was a correct rendition of the law and the facts, including its holding that the district court, on remand, had violated the mandate rule. The court explained that the published opinion granting the stay was this court's last statement on the matter and, like all published opinions, bound the district courts in this circuit. View "ODonnell v. Harris County" on Justia Law

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Allstate investigated suspicious trading on its equity desk and unearthed email evidence that portfolio managers were timing trades to inflate their bonuses at the expense of portfolios, including pension funds to which Allstate owed fiduciary duties. Allstate retained attorneys, who hired consultants. The consultants used an algorithm to estimate a potential adverse impact of $91 million. Allstate poured $91 million into the portfolios. Allstate fired four portfolio managers. Allstate's 2009 Form 10-K and an internal memo explained these events, without mentioning the fired portfolio managers. The former employees sued, alleging defamation and that Allstate violated 15 U.S.C. 1681a(y)(2), the Fair Credit Reporting Act, by failing to give them a summary of the attorneys' findings after they were fired. A jury awarded $27 million in damages. The judge added punitive damages and attorney’s fees. The Seventh Circuit vacated and subsequently ordered dismissal. The 10-K and internal memo were not defamatory per se and are actionable (if at all) only on a theory of defamation per quod, which requires proof of special damages causally connected to the publication. The plaintiffs testified that they could not find comparable work after being fired, but presented no evidence that any employer declined to hire them as a consequence of Allstate’s statements. The four lacked a concrete injury to support Article III standing on the FCRA claim. View "Rivera v. Allstate Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Southwestern Community College District (District) and its governing board (Board) (together Southwestern) demoted Arlie Ricasa from an academic administrator position to a faculty position on the grounds of moral turpitude, immoral conduct, and unfitness to serve in her then-current role. While employed by Southwestern as the director of Student Development and Health Services (DSD), Ricasa also served as an elected board member of a separate entity, the Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD). The largest number of incoming District students were from SUHSD, and the community viewed the school districts as having significant ties. As a SUHSD board member, Ricasa voted on million-dollar vendor contracts to construction companies, such as Seville Group, Inc. (SGI) and Gilbane Construction Company, who ultimately co-managed a bond project for the SUHSD. Before and after SGI received this contract, Ricasa went to dinners with SGI members that she did not disclose on her Form 700. Ricasa's daughter also received a scholarship from SGI to attend a student leadership conference that Ricasa did not report on her "Form 700." In December 2013, Ricasa pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of violating the Political Reform Act, which prohibited board members of local agencies from receiving gifts from a single source in excess of $420. Ricasa filed two petitions for writs of administrative mandamus in the trial court seeking, among other things, to set aside the demotion and reinstate her as an academic administrator. Ricasa appealed the denial of her petitions, arguing the demotion occurred in violation of the Ralph M. Brown Act (the Brown Act) because Southwestern failed to provide her with 24 hours' notice of the hearing at which it heard charges against her, as required by Government Code section 54957. Alternatively, she argued the demotion was unconstitutional because no nexus existed between her alleged misconduct and her fitness to serve as academic administrator. Southwestern also appealed, arguing that the trial court made two legal errors when it: (1) held that Southwestern was required to give 24-hour notice under the Brown Act prior to conducting a closed session at which it voted to initiate disciplinary proceedings, and (2) enjoined Southwestern from committing future Brown Act violations. The Court of Appeal concluded Southwestern did not violate the Brown Act, and that substantial evidence supported Ricasa's demotion. However, the Court reversed that part of the judgment enjoining Southwestern from future Brown Act violations. View "Ricasa v. Office of Admin. Hearings" on Justia Law

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Dennis Woolman, former president of The Clemens Coal Company, challenged a district court’s determination that Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Company didn’t breach a duty to him by failing to procure for Clemens Coal an insurance policy with a black-lung disease endorsement. Clemens Coal operated a surface coal mine until it filed for bankruptcy in 1997. Woolman served as Clemens Coal’s last president before it went bankrupt. Federal law required Clemens Coal to maintain worker’s compensation insurance with a special endorsement covering miners’ black-lung disease benefits. Woolman didn’t personally procure insurance for Clemens Coal but instead delegated that responsibility to an outside consultant. The policy the consultant ultimately purchased for the company did not contain a black-lung-claim endorsement, and it expressly excluded coverage for federal occupational disease claims, such as those arising under the Black Lung Benefits Act (the Act). In 2012, a former Clemens Coal employee, Clayton Spencer, filed a claim with the United States Department of Labor (DOL) against Clemens Coal for benefits under the Act. After some investigation, the DOL advised Woolman that Clemens Coal was uninsured for black-lung-benefits claims as of July 25, 1997 (the last date of Spencer’s employment) and that, without such coverage, Woolman, as Clemens Coal’s president, could be held personally liable. Woolman promptly tendered the claim to Liberty Mutual for a legal defense. Liberty Mutual responded with a reservation-of-rights letter, stating that it hadn’t yet determined coverage for Spencer’s claim but that it would provide a defense during its investigation. Then in a follow-up letter, Liberty Mutual clarified that it would defend Clemens Coal as a company (not Woolman personally) and advised Woolman to retain his own counsel. Liberty Mutual eventually concluded that the insurance policy didn’t cover the black-lung claim, and sued Clemens Coal and Woolman for a declaration to that effect. In his suit, Woolman also challenged the district court’s rejection of his argument that Liberty Mutual should have been estopped from denying black-lung-disease coverage, insisting that he relied on Liberty Mutual to provide such coverage. Having considered the totality of the circumstances, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded the district court didn’t err in declining Woolman’s extraordinary request to expand the coverages in the Liberty Mutual policy. “Liberty Mutual never represented it would procure the coverage that Woolman now seeks, and the policy itself clearly excludes such coverage. No other compelling consideration justifies rewriting the agreement— twenty years later—to Woolman’s liking.” View "Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance v. Woolman" on Justia Law

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Believing that the decision to stop paying teachers for English Learning Acquisition (ELA) training violated a series of the parties’ Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs), the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) pursued a grievance against the District that was referred to nonbinding arbitration and resulted in a recommendation in favor of the DCTA. Because the District declined to adopt that recommendation, however, the DCTA brought this suit asserting a breach-of-contract claim against the District. The trial court ruled that the relevant provisions of the CBAs were ambiguous and that their interpretation was, therefore, an issue of fact for the jury. The jury, in turn, found the District liable for breach of contract and awarded damages to the DCTA. A division of the court of appeal subsequently affirmed the judgment of the trial court. After its review, the Colorado Supreme Court concluded interpretation of the CBAs was properly submitted as an issue of fact to the jury because the CBAs were ambiguous regarding payment for ELA training. “[B]ecause the CBAs are fairly susceptible to being interpreted as expressly requiring compensation for ELA training, we cannot conclude that the management rights clause includes the right to refuse to pay for ELA training.” View "School Dist. No. 1 v. Denver Classroom Teachers Ass'n" on Justia Law

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In 2014, the Arapahoe County Department of Human Services (the Department) was ordered to take custody of D.Z.B. and house him in a particular facility pending his delinquency adjudication. Believing that the district court order imposed a duty on it that was in violation of statutory requirements, the Department appealed that order. The court of appeals dismissed the appeal, concluding that the Department, as a non-party to the delinquency proceedings, lacked standing to appeal the order. In reaching that conclusion, the Colorado Supreme Court determined the district court conflated the test to evaluate whether a plaintiff has standing to bring a lawsuit with the test to determine whether a non-party has standing to appeal a decision of a lower court. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded for the division to apply the correct standing analysis and to consider any other remaining arguments. View "Colorado in Interest of D.Z.B." on Justia Law

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Websites like Airbnb serve as intermediaries, providing homeowners a forum for advertising short-term rentals of their homes and helping prospective renters find rooms and houses for temporary stays. Chicago’s 2016 Shared Housing Ordinance requires interested hosts to acquire a business license; its standards include geographic eligibility requirements, restrictions on how many units within a larger building can be rented, and a list of buildings where such rentals are prohibited. Approved hosts are subject to health, safety, and reporting requirements, including supplying clean linens and sanitized cooking utensils, disposing of waste and leftover food, and reporting illegal activity known to have occurred within a rented unit. Keep Chicago Livable and six individuals challenged the Ordinance. The Seventh Circuit remanded for a determination of standing, stating that it was not clear that any plaintiff had pleaded or established sufficient injury to confer subject matter jurisdiction to proceed to the merits. The individual owners did not allege with particularity how the Ordinance (and not some other factor) is hampering any of their home-sharing activities; the out-of-town renters did not convey with sufficient clarity whether they still wish to visit Chicago and, if so, how the Ordinance is inhibiting them. All Keep Chicago Livable contends is that the alleged uncertainty around the Ordinance’s constitutionality burdens its education and advocacy mission; it does not allege that it engages in activity regulated by the Ordinance. View "Keep Chicago Livable v. Chicago" on Justia Law