Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

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This diversity action brought by plaintiffs involves a dispute concerning a sinkhole that emerged near the decades-long salt-mining activities of one of the defendants. The district court approved the settlement and defendant appealed.The Fifth Circuit concluded that the settlement agreement leaves plaintiffs with claims against Texas Brine for post-sinkhole damages, and it affects Texas Brine's ability to seek indemnification and contribution from the pre-2012 Insurers for those claims. The court explained that such a settlement is certainly proper if Texas Brine did not have any right to indemnification or contribution from the pre-2012 Insurers for post-sinkhole damages. The court applied Louisiana law and concluded that Texas Brine has failed to meet its burden to show that the post-sinkhole claims were covered under the 2011 Zurich policy. Therefore, Texas Brine has failed to show plain legal prejudice from the settlement agreement, and that it has a right to contribution or indemnification from the pre-2012 Insurers for the post-sinkhole claims. The court concluded that the settlement thus did not affect any such right and Texas Brine lacks standing as a non-party to object to the settlement. Accordingly, the court dismissed the appeal. View "LeBlanc v. Texas Brine Co., LLC" on Justia Law

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In this case involving litigation over milk price regulation in Puerto Rico the First Circuit vacated the judgment of the district court granting ORIL's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim and remanded to the district court with instructions to return the case to the Puerto Rico Court of First Instance, holding that the district court lacked federal subject matter jurisdiction over this dispute.Industria Lechera de Puerto Rico, Inc. (Indulac) filed a challenge to the 2017 price order issued by the Milk Industry Regulation Administration for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in the Puerto Rico Court of First Instance, arguing that ORIL had failed to comply with certain procedural administrative requirements before issuing the order. ORIL filed a notice of removal, asserting federal jurisdiction based on 28 U.S.C. 1331 and 1441(a) and (c). The district court found that it had jurisdiction and then granted ORIL's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment, holding that federal courts lacked jurisdiction over this matter. View "Industria Lechera de Puerto Rico, Inc. v. Flores" on Justia Law

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Dr. Arunachalam sued multiple defendants alleging patent infringement and Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. 1962, violations. The case was assigned to Judge Andrews. Arunachalam added defendants, including Judge Andrews, and moved for the judge's recusal. The court referred the matter to Chief Judge Stark. Arunachalam then moved to recuse Stark, who denied that motion and dismissed Judge Andrews as a defendant. Judge Andrews denied Arunachalam’s motion to recuse and dismissed several counts, explaining that “[p]atent infringement is not a crime,” and not a RICO predicate. Arunachalam unsuccessfully moved to vacate the dismissal and, again, to recuse Andrews. A motion for leave to amend was denied as violating local rules, “in bad faith.” Only the infringement claims remained. Meanwhile, the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) found the claims at issue unpatentable. After the appeals period expired, Arunachalam opposed a motion to dismiss, arguing that “the lawless misconduct and ... fraud by the PTAB and the Federal Circuit . . . voids their rulings.”In a motion for sanctions, the defendants noted that Arunachalam had re-asserted her RICO claim in another district court. The court awarded attorneys’ fees for “defending against a baseless racketeering lawsuit,” but did not rule on the specific amounts. Arunachalam continued to file motions and questions that required responses, including requests that Judge Andrews and “attorneys of record” produce their oaths of office, “foreign registration statements,” and “bond” and “insurance information.” The Federal Circuit affirmed awards totaling about $150,000, and denial of Arunachalam’s “frivolous” motions. Arunachalam’s “abusive” litigation conduct warranted monetary sanctions and her later-filed motions were baseless and untimely. View "Arunachalam v. International Business Machines Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff David Demarest filed suit against the Town of Underhill, seeking a declaration that he had a right of vehicle access over a Town trail, and appealing the Selectboard’s decision denying his request for highway access to a proposed new subdivision on his property. The superior court granted summary judgment in favor of the Town, concluding that plaintiff’s request for declaratory relief was barred by claim preclusion and that the Town acted within its discretion in denying the permit. On appeal, plaintiff argued the trial court erred in applying claim preclusion, and that the Town exceeded its authority under the statute in denying his request for access. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed judgment. View "Demarest v. Town of Underhill" on Justia Law

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Daughter Deborah George appealed the civil division’s determination that her father, decedent Theodore George, was the sole owner of a vehicle at the time of his death and that the vehicle was properly included in his estate. Decedent purchased the vehicle at issue, a 1979 Cadillac Eldorado, in 1992. The Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) issued a Certificate of Title to decedent in 1994 in his name only. The copy of the title in the record contained no assignment of ownership to daughter. In 2006, decedent submitted a Vermont Registration, Tax, and Title Application to the DMV. Decedent’s name was listed in the space provided for the owner, and daughter’s name was listed in the adjacent space provided for a co-owner. Next to daughter’s name, a handwritten annotation said, “add co-owner.” The form directed applicants to select rights of survivorship if more than one owner was listed and provides that “if no box is checked joint tenants will be selected.” Decedent made no indication. At the bottom of the form, decedent signed the application; the line for the co-owner’s signature was left blank. No bill of sale accompanied the 2006 Registration Application. The DMV issued registration certificates naming both decedent and daughter for 2012-2013, 2014-2015, and 2017-2018. On appeal of the civil division's determination, daughter argued that decedent’s act in changing the registration to reflect joint ownership effectively transferred an interest in the vehicle to her. Alternatively, she argued that decedent’s act demonstrated his intent to make a gift of joint ownership. The Vermont Supreme Court concluded there was insufficient evidence that decedent transferred an interest in the vehicle to daughter under either theory and affirmed. View "In re Estate of Theodore George" on Justia Law

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Smith suffered an injury from a car accident, retained an attorney for a personal injury lawsuit, and authorized her attorney to obtain her healthcare information. The attorney requested Smith’s medical records from MHS, on three occasions. RecordQuest, not MHS, answered those requests and charged Smith’s attorney (who paid on her behalf) a $20.96 handling fee and an $8.26 certification fee each time.Smith brought a class action, alleging these charged fees contravened the permissible fee schedule set out in Wis. Stat. 146.83(3f)(b) for healthcare records requests and resulted in the unjust enrichment of RecordQuest. The district court dismissed both claims, reasoning that the statute imposes a duty upon only healthcare providers.” RecordQuest is not a healthcare provider but is the agent of MHS; “no principle of agency law holds that a principal’s liability is imputed to the agent when the agent performs the act that results in the principal’s liability.” Smith’s unjust enrichment claim failed because any unjust benefit that Smith allegedly conferred to RecordQuest belonged to MHS.The Wisconsin Court of Appeals subsequently expressly disagreed with the district court’s analysis of Smith’s statutory claim. The Seventh Circuit reversed the dismissal of the statutory claim but affirmed as to Smith’s unjust enrichment claim. Under section 146.83(3f)(b), Smith has a remedy at law for any “injustice” that allegedly resulted from excessive payments; the equitable remedy of unjust enrichment is derivative of and predicated upon the statutory claim. View "Smith v. RecordQuest LLC" on Justia Law

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Ronald Throupe, a Professor of Real Estate at the University of Denver ("DU"), brought an employment discrimination claim under Title IX against DU as well as several faculty and staff members. In 2013, Throupe was a candidate to serve as director of the Real Estate and Construction Management department. DU ultimately hired outside of the school, bringing in Barbara Jackson to lead the department. According to Throupe, upon Jackon’s arrival, she made clear in conversations with professors, she would force some of the tenured real estate faculty members to leave. In 2014, the University Title IX office was contacted multiple times about Throupe's relationship with a foreign graduate student. In an email to University officials, Jackson concluded "Ron believes he has done nothing but help this girl, but his behaviors have been totally unprofessional and inappropriate, his father/daughter views perverted, and his obsession out of control." The Title IX investigator and DU’s Manager of Equal Employment had a follow-up meeting with Throupe. Afterward, he sent an email to the Manager of Equal Employment formally reporting a hostile work environment. When Throupe later asked whether any actions had been taken in response to his report, the investigator told Throupe his claim “did not result in any formal investigation by the Office of Equal Employment.” However, the school issued him a written warning, admonishing him from further contact with the student. Throupe maintained that Jackson continued to harass him even after the written warning. The district court granted summary judgment for the defendants. Although Throupe had dedicated little space in his briefing to arguing any theory of sex discrimination, the district court identified two theories of sex discrimination in Throupe’s argument: that defendants created a hostile work environment and engaged in disparate treatment against him. But the court determined that Throupe had failed to establish a prima facie case of sex discrimination under either of these theories. Having dismissed Throupe’s sole federal claim, the district court declined to consider the remaining state law claims due to lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment, specifically concluding the district court did not err in concluding that Throupe failed to raise a triable issue of fact as to whether he was discriminated against on the basis of his sex. View "Throupe v. University of Denver" on Justia Law

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Lawrence Taylor appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of Charles Hanks in Taylor's will contest. Taylor challenged the will of his father, Billy Lee Hite, alleging, among other things, that Hite had lacked testamentary capacity when he made the will, which did not mention Taylor. Because the Alabama Supreme Court concluded that a genuine issue of material fact existed regarding whether Hite had testamentary capacity, judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Taylor v. Hanks" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Crag Dyas and Dyas, LLC appealed a circuit court's orders disposing of some of their claims against some of the defendants below. Because those orders did not constitute a valid, final judgment that would support an appeal, the Alabama Supreme Court dismissed this appeal. View "Dyas v. Stringfellow et al." on Justia Law

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In 2009, MC-2 was awarded Government Services Administration (GSA) task order to provide services for the annual GovEnergy Conference. MC-2 performed the Task Order in 2009, 2010, and 2011. GSA canceled the 2012 Conference before it began and requested that MC-2 return the entire Reserve Fund and an accounting for the Reserve Fund over the contract's life. MC-2 purportedly responded days later, arguing that GSA never before claimed that it was entitled to the difference between the Conference revenue and expenses, that MC-2 was entitled to any excess revenue, and that MC-2 had submitted a final accounting at the end of each contracting year. In 2012, MC-2 submitted a termination-for-convenience proposal.In November 2015, GSA sent MC-2 a letter providing the Contracting Officer’s final decision on MC-2’s proposal, which had sought $717,680.10, stating that the Government believed that MC-2 owed the government money. The decision stated that “GSA considers the Reserve Fund balance a contract debt. In January 2018, GSA sent a follow-up letter, demanding payment of $660,013.68. Because MC-2 had not appealed the November 2015 Final Decision, GSA deemed MC-2’s debt “final and conclusive,” 41 U.S.C. 7103(g)).In December 2018, MC-2 filed suit, arguing that the 2015 GSA letter was not a final decision because it failed to state a sum certain. The Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit as untimely because it was not brought within 12 months of the 2015 decision, as required by 41 U.S.C. 7104(b)(3). GSA issued a valid claim under the Contract Disputes Act for the return of the Reserve Funds; GSA’s claim was the subject of a written decision by the GSA contracting officer; and MC-2 failed to file suit within 12 months of receiving the contracting officer’s final decision View "Creative Management Services, LLC v. United States" on Justia Law