Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiff's request for attorneys' fees incurred at trial and during the first appeal to this court. This appeal arose from a bench trial where plaintiff, a former Austin city councilman, prevailed on some but not all of his First Amendment claims against the City of Austin.As a preliminary matter, the court held that the district court's ancillary enforcement jurisdiction covered the "collateral issue" of plaintiff's attorney fee request. On the merits, the court held that the district court did not err in denying plaintiff's fee request because plaintiff waived his right to request fees incurred at trial. Even if the district court had discretion to excuse the delay in filing, no error occurred by failing to exercise the discretion. Furthermore, the district court did not err when it denied plaintiff's request for fees incurred on appeal where he made no request within the 14-day time period after the district court entered its initial judgment, and there also was no new judgment entered following a reversal or remand from this court. View "Zimmerman v. City of Austin" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Virginia Arnold appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of her employer, defendant-respondent Dignity Health (Dignity) and other individually named defendants. Arnold was employed as a medical assistant. She alleged defendants engaged in discrimination, harassment, and retaliation based on her age and her association with her African-American coworkers, including by terminating her employment in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). On summary judgment, the trial court concluded defendants provided evidence of legitimate reasons for plaintiff’s termination and, in rebuttal, plaintiff failed to offer any evidence that defendants’ actions were discriminatory, harassing, or retaliatory. The Court of Appeal concurred with the trial court's findings and affirmed summary judgment. View "Arnold v. Dignity Health" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Angela Bolger bought a replacement laptop computer battery on the online shopping website operated by defendant Amazon.com, LLC. The listing for the battery identified the seller as “E-Life,” a fictitious name used on Amazon by Lenoge Technology (HK) Ltd. (Lenoge). Amazon charged Bolger for the purchase, retrieved the laptop battery from its location in an Amazon warehouse, prepared the battery for shipment in Amazon-branded packaging, and sent it to Bolger. Bolger alleged the battery exploded several months later, and she suffered severe burns as a result. Bolger sued Amazon and several other defendants, including Lenoge, alleging causes of action for strict products liability, negligent products liability, breach of implied warranty, breach of express warranty, and “negligence/negligent undertaking.” Lenoge was served but did not appear, so the trial court entered its default. Amazon then moved for summary judgment, arguing primarily that the doctrine of strict products liability, as well as any similar tort theory, did not apply to it because it did not distribute, manufacture, or sell the product in question. It claimed its website was an “online marketplace” and E-Life (Lenoge) was the product seller, not Amazon. The trial court agreed, granted Amazon’s motion, and entered judgment accordingly. Bolger appealed, arguing that Amazon was strictly liable for defective products offered on its website by third-party sellers like Lenoge. In the circumstances of this case, the Court of Appeal agreed and reversed: "Amazon placed itself between Lenoge and Bolger in the chain of distribution of the product at issue here. ... Under established principles of strict liability, Amazon should be held liable if a product sold through its website turns out to be defective. Strict liability here “affords maximum protection to the injured plaintiff and works no injustice to the defendants, for they can adjust the costs of such protection between them in the course of their continuing business relationship." View "Bolger v. Amazon.com, LLC" on Justia Law

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Here, the Supreme Court addressed the propriety of a criminal defense subpoena served on Facebook seeking restricted posts and private messages of one of its users, who was a victim and critical witness in the underlying attempted murder prosecution, holding that the trial court erred in denying Facebook's motion to quash the subpoena.Lance Touchstone, the defendant in the prosecution below, argued that the trial court properly denied Facebook's motion to quash. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the trial court erred by conducting an incomplete assessment of the relevant factors and interests when it found that Defendant established good cause to acquire the communications at issue from Facebook. After highlighting seven factors a trial court should explicitly consider and balance in ruling on a motion to quash a subpoena directed to a third party the Supreme Court vacated the trial court's order denying the motion to quash and remanded the matter to the trial court to conduct further proceedings consistent with the guidelines set forth in this opinion. View "Facebook, Inc. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Washington State Nurses Association (WSNA) sought damages on behalf of its member nurses for unpaid working hours, overtime hours, and missed meal periods. The issue this appeal presented for the Washington Supreme Court's review was whether an association had standing to bring a claim on behalf of its members when it must rely on representative testimony in order to establish the amount and extent of damages that its members suffered. Since these damages established through representative testimony were not certain, easily ascertainable, or within the knowledge of the defendant, the Supreme Court held that WSNA did not have standing to bring such a claim. View "Wash. State Nurses Ass'n v. Cmty. Health Sys., Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2019, Margaret Parks and Veda Horton were candidates in the Democratic Primary runoff election for Humphreys County, Mississippi Tax Assessor and Collector. Horton received the most votes, and Parks contested the election. The circuit judge ruled that the primary should have been nullified and ordered a special election (a ruling not contested in this appeal). The circuit judge’s order was entered seven days after Horton was sworn. Parks moved the circuit court to declare her, the incumbent, the holdover officeholder, or, in the alternative, to declare the office vacant pending a special election. The circuit judge ruled that Horton was the lawful officeholder and denied the motion. This appeal challenged the circuit judge’s ruling, and the Mississippi Supreme Court had to consider whether the office should have been declared vacant or, if it was not, who the proper officeholder should have been until the new election is completed. The Supreme Court held that because Horton entered the term of office before the final adjudication of the election contest, under Mississippi Code Section 23-15-937, Horton was the lawful holder of the office until the special election. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the circuit judge’s decision to deny Parks’s motion to declare her the holdover officeholder or to declare the office vacant. View "In Re: Democratic Primary for Humphreys County Tax Assessor and Collector: Parks v. Horton" on Justia Law

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According to the complaint, “Plaintiff/Petitioner the People for the Ethical Operation of Prosecutors and Law Enforcement . . . is an association of residents of Orange County that includes at least one member who pays property taxes to Orange County.” People for the Ethical Operation of Prosecutors and Law Enforcement was a watchdog group seeking to ensure Orange County law enforcement agencies complied with their constitutional and statutory duties. The other plaintiffs were three individuals who were Orange County residents, and who had various interests in ensuring the integrity of the criminal justice system. The defendants were Todd Spitzer and Don Barnes who were the elected District Attorney and Sheriff, respectively. The gist of the complaint was that defendants operated an illegal and clandestine confidential informant (CI) program. The basic structure of the alleged CI program was that the Sheriff recruited confidential informants from among the prison population, moved those informants near a criminal defendant to facilitate a surreptitious interrogation, notwithstanding that the defendant was represented by counsel, which rendered the interrogations illegal under Massiah v. United States, 377 U.S. 201 (1964). The Sheriff allegedly kept extensive logs of these interactions, but kept those logs secret, even from the courts. The District Attorney used information from these interrogations, despite knowing their illegality, and did not disclose information about the CI program to defendants, in violation of their discovery duties. This appeal stemmed from a dismissal following a sustained demurrer in plaintiffs’ taxpayer suit against the Orange County officials. The trial court ruled that plaintiffs did not have standing to pursue taxpayer claims for waste under Code of Civil Procedure section 526a, nor a petition for a writ of mandate under Code of Civil Procedure section 1085. The Court of Appeal reversed, finding that the point of taxpayer standing, as well as the related doctrine of public interest standing in mandamus proceedings, was to confer standing on the public at large to hold the government accountable to fulfill its obligations to the public. "The fundamental rights at stake fit comfortably within the doctrines of taxpayer and public interest standing." View "People for the Ethical Operation of Prosecutors etc. v. Spitzer" on Justia Law

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Many years ago, a class of plaintiffs sued, alleging that the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County was engaging in unlawful political patronage in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. In 1972, the Clerk and the plaintiffs entered into a consent decree that prohibited the Clerk from discriminating against the office’s employees for political reasons; in 1983, a separate judgment extended that prohibition to hiring practices. Litigation has continued. In 2018, a magistrate judge appointed a special master to monitor the Clerk’s compliance. The special master sought to observe the conduct of the Clerk’s office managers at employee grievance meetings. The employees’ union sent the special master a cease-and-desist letter purporting to bar her from the room.The plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment clarifying that the 2018 supplemental relief order authorized the special master to observe the grievance meetings. The union—which was not a party to the suit and did not seek to become one—filed a memorandum opposing the motion, arguing that the 1972 consent decree did not provide a basis for the supplemental relief order and that the special master’s presence violated Illinois labor law and the union’s collective bargaining agreement. The magistrate agreed with the plaintiffs. The Seventh Circuit affirmed without addressing the merits of the union’s argument. Party status is a jurisdictional requirement. View "Shakman v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters" on Justia Law

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Premier sued UPMC under the federal antitrust and state unfair competition laws. Several months after the deadline the district court set in a scheduling order, Premier learned, in a deposition, about an illegal bid-rigging agreement with another party. Premier moved to amend its complaint and add a party, citing the liberal standard of Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Court denied the motion, reasoning that because the deadline had passed, Rule 16(b)(4) required Premier to show good cause.The Third Circuit affirmed. Rule 16(b)(4) applies once a scheduling-order deadline has passed, and Premier did not show good cause. The district court had noted Premier failed “to even discuss due diligence, relying instead on Rule 15(a).” View "Premier Comp Solutions LLC v. UPMC" on Justia Law

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After the district court granted defendants' Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss with prejudice plaintiffs' second amended complaint alleging violations of the federal securities laws and entered judgment for defendants, plaintiffs brought a motion under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 59(e) and 60(b) for relief from the judgment and for leave to file a third amended complaint.The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of the motion and held that plaintiffs are not entitled to relief under Rules 59(e) and 60(b). The court held that the district court applied the correct legal standard to plaintiffs' post-judgment motion by considering whether plaintiffs were entitled to relief under Rules 59(e) or 60(b), and committed no abuse of discretion in denying the motion on the grounds that plaintiffs had failed to identify an adequate basis for relief pursuant to those rules. In this case, plaintiffs failed to proffer any newly discovered evidence that would entitle them to relief under Rules 59(e) or 60(b) and, even if the purported newly discovered evidence was indeed new, the result would be the same because amendment would be futile. View "Metzler Investment GmbH v. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc." on Justia Law