Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

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Petitioners California Disability Services Association; Horrigan Cole Enterprises, Inc., doing business as Cole Vocational Services; Unlimited Quest, Inc.; Loyd’s Liberty Homes, Inc.; and First Step Independent Living Program, Inc. petitioned for mandamus relief and damages, and sought a declaration against the California Department of Developmental Services (Department) and its director, Nancy Bargmann (collectively respondents). Petitioners challenged the Department’s denial of their requests for a rate adjustment due to the increase of the minimum wage, which, in turn, impacted the salaries of their exempt program directors, who had to be paid twice the minimum wage. The trial court denied petitioners’ petition and complaint for declaratory relief finding providers’ classification of the program directors as exempt employees was not mandated by law, thus “there is no ministerial duty imposed on the Department to grant a wage increase request in order to accommodate continued entitlement to the exemption.” Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "California Disability Services Assn. v. Bargmann" on Justia Law

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Mitze unsuccessfully appealed the denial of her application for social security benefits. Several years later, Mitze moved to seal her medical information and all other information pertaining to her case, citing “harassing phone calls from solicitors” who knew her personal medical information because the courts had “publicized” it by issuing opinions. She claims that she and her children have experienced social stigma and that thieves broke into her home to steal pain medication, which publicly available documents revealed that she had been prescribed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of Mitze’s motion. A strong presumption exists in favor of publishing dispositional orders, even in cases involving substantial privacy interests such as state secrets, trade secrets, and attorney-client privilege. The court acknowledged that the existing remedies of proceeding anonymously, requesting redactions, or sealing records may be inadequate in the social security context. News outlets have the right to publish information obtained from public court records and cannot be ordered to remove articles reporting on the decisions in her case. The court rejected an argument under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, 42 U.S.C. 1320d-6, which regulates the disclosure of information by only healthcare providers and their affiliates. View "Mitze v. Saul" on Justia Law

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This appeal stemmed from an attempt to hold Defendant Paul Robben liable for securities fraud. Various Plaintiffs alleged that Robben fraudulently induced them to purchase ownership interests in a Kansas limited liability company named Foxfield Villa Associates, LLC (“Foxfield”). Plaintiffs argued that those interests were securities under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Plaintiffs contended Robben violated section 10(b) of the 1934 Act (its broad antifraud provision) and SEC Rule 10b-5 (an administrative regulation expounding upon that antifraud provision) when engaging in his allegedly deceitful conduct. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the specific attributes of the LLC interests in this case lead it to conclude the interests at issue were not securities as that term was defined by the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. The Court affirmed the district court's order declining to characterize the LLC interests as securities, thus granting summary judgment to defendants on those grounds. View "Foxfield Villa Associates v. Robben" on Justia Law

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In late 2014 Andy James was working in Deadhorse for Northern Construction & Maintenance, LLC, a company owned by John Ellsworth and members of his family. Ellsworth also owned Alaska Frontier Constructors, Inc. Alaska Frontier had some kind of business relationship with Nanuq, Inc. In late December Northern Construction sent James from his usual work assignment to work in some capacity in connection with an ice road being constructed and maintained for Caelus Energy Alaska, LLC. James was instructed to work at the direction of Scott Pleas. Despite dangerous blizzard conditions, Pleas directed James to accompany another worker, Johann Willrich, to check fuel levels on equipment idling outside; James objected due to the weather, but was threatened with the loss of his job if he did not follow the direction. James complied; he climbed a large grader to fuel it, but a wind gust blew him off, resulting in shoulder and spinal injuries. James filed personal injury lawsuits, which were consolidated, against the companies. The companies sought and obtained summary judgment rulings that they had statutory employer immunity from the injury claims under the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Act’s exclusive liability provision. James appealed. The Alaska Supreme Court found that because numerous issues of material fact made it impossible to determine whether the companies were entitled to judgment as a matter of law that they were immune from liability under the Act, summary judgment was reversed, the judgment against James vacated, and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "James v. Alaska Frontier Constructors, Inc." on Justia Law

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Sandra Shinaberry petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for certiorari review of the Court of Civil Appeals' no- opinion affirmance of a circuit court's judgment awarding a fee to a guardian ad litem appointed to represent four minors for the sole purpose of making a recommendation to the circuit court on whether a proposed settlement was in the minors' best interest. In 2012, Shinaberry's automobile rear-ended an automobile being driven by Sherri Guy. Guy's three minor children and a minor stepchild were in her car. The children were treated for soft-tissue injuries. The children, by and through their parents, sued Shinaberry and her insurer. In April 2015, a settlement was reached between Shinaberry and her insurer and the four minor children. Mark Wilson was appointed as guardian ad litem for the four children for the purpose of determining if the settlement was fair to the children. By 2018, a final pro ami hearing was held to approve the settlement and Wilson's fee for serving as guardian ad litem. Wilson was awarded $8,000 for his services as guardian ad litem based on his affidavit that he worked 32 hours at a rate of $250 an hour; it was undisputed that Wilson never prepared a report with a recommendation as to whether the settlement was in the best interest of the minors. Shinaberry objected to Wilson's fee, and complained that he unnecessarily delayed the settlement. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, finding the circuit court exceeded its discretion in awarding Wilson $7,750 as a fee because the record contained insufficient evidence to support that fee. View "Ex parte Shinaberry." on Justia Law

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Appellants Nancy and Scott Hart sued Daniel Parker alleging tort damages from an automobile accident caused by Parker. Before the Harts filed their complaint, Parker passed away. The Harts were unsure as to whether Parker was still alive when they filed their complaint and named both Parker and the Estate of Daniel Parker (the “Estate”) as defendants. Appellee, the Estate, moved to dismiss the Harts’ complaint on numerous grounds. The Superior Court granted the Appellee’s motion, holding that the complaint was time-barred by 12 Del. C. 2102(a). On appeal, the Harts challenged the Superior Court’s order dismissing their claims against the Estate and argued that the Superior Court erred as a matter of law when it held that the Harts’ claims were time-barred by Section 2102(a). The Delaware Supreme Court concurred the Harts’ claims were not time-barred by Section 2102(a). The Court therefore reversed the dismissal, and remanded this matter back to the Superior Court for further proceedings. View "Hart v. Parker" on Justia Law

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Under California Public Resources Code section 21167.6, documents "shall" be in the record in a CEQA challenge to an environmental impact report (EIR). The County of San Diego (County), as lead agency for the Newland Sierra project, no longer had "all" such correspondence, nor all "internal agency communications" related to the project. If those communications were by e-mail and not flagged as "official records," the County's computers automatically deleted them after 60 days. When project opponents propounded discovery to obtain copies of the destroyed e-mails and related documents to prepare the record of proceedings, the County refused to comply. After referring the discovery disputes to a referee, the superior court adopted the referee's recommendations to deny the motions to compel. The referee concluded that although section 21167.6 specified the contents of the record of proceedings, that statute did not require that such writings be retained. In effect, the referee interpreted section 21167.6 to provide that e-mails encompassed within that statute were mandated parts of the record - unless the County destroyed them first. The Court of Appeal disagreed with that interpretation, "[a] thorough record is fundamental to meaningful judicial review." The Court held the County should not have destroyed such e-mails, even under its own policies. The referee's erroneous interpretation of section 21167.6 was central to the appeals before the Court of Appeal. The Court issued a writ of mandate to direct the superior court to vacate its orders denying the motions to compel, and after receiving input from the parties, reconsider those motions. View "Golden Door Properties, LLC v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

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Denver Police Sergeant Justin Dodge fatally shot Joseph Valverde after he saw Valverde pull out a gun as a SWAT team arrived to arrest him after an undercover drug transaction. Plaintiff Isabel Padilla, as personal representative of Valverde’s estate, sued Dodge under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming Dodge used excessive force in violation of Valverde's Fourth Amendment rights. Dodge moved for summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds, but the district court denied the motion. The district court held: (1) a reasonable jury could find that Valverde had discarded the gun and was in the process of surrendering before Dodge shot him; and (2) the use of deadly force in that situation would violate clearly established law. Dodge appealed. After review, the Tenth Circuit reversed the district court. "Dodge is entitled to qualified immunity because he had only a split second to react when Valverde suddenly drew a gun. He did not violate the Fourth Amendment by deciding to shoot without waiting to see whether Valverde was merely taking the gun from his pocket to toss away rather than to shoot an officer. And to the extent that Plaintiff is arguing that Dodge should be liable because he recklessly created the situation that led to the apparent peril, Dodge is entitled to qualified immunity because he did not violate clearly established law." View "Estate of Joseph Valverde v. Dodge" on Justia Law

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Robert Stratton, Sr. owned an antique truck and, in 2006, delivered it to John Shivers’s vehicle repair and restoration business in Liberty, Mississippi. Stratton and Shivers contemplated that Shivers would restore the truck at some point in the future, but they made no firm plans for the restoration, and they never agreed that Shivers would charge a storage fee. Stratton’s truck remained at Shivers’s shop until Jerry McKey bought the business from Shivers in May 2009. Shivers told McKey that Stratton owned the truck, but neither Shivers nor McKey notified Stratton of the change in the business’ ownership. When Stratton learned that the business had changed hands, he contacted McKey and requested possession of the truck. But McKey refused to let Stratton have his truck unless he paid storage fees. Stratton sued McKey for replevin, and the circuit court ruled that Stratton was entitled to possession of the truck conditioned upon his paying McKey $880 for storage fees within thirty days. Stratton appealed; the Court of Appeals affirmed. But the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed both the trial and appellate courts, rendering judgment for Stratton. When McKey failed to relinquish possession of the truck, Stratton filed another complaint against him, and McKey filed a counterclaim for fees for storing the truck. McKey conceded that because he had sold the truck during the pendency of Stratton’s appeal, he owed Stratton the truck’s value. After a bench trial, the Circuit Court of awarded Stratton $350, which represented the value of the truck after the deduction of $1,000 in storage fees owed to McKey. Stratton appealed, challenging the amount of damages and challenging the circuit court’s award of storage fees to McKey. McKey did not file an appellee’s brief. In this case's second trip before the Mississippi Supreme Court, the court affirmed in part and reversed in part. The Court found McKey's counterclaim for storage fees was untimely, and the circuit court erred in awarding storage fees. View "Stratton v. McKey" on Justia Law

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Bettye Turner invested approximately $2 million into a securities brokerage account that was created and managed by David Carrick, an investment broker then employed with Morgan Stanley Smith Barney (Morgan Stanley). Carrick later worked for Stern, Agee & Leach, Inc. (Stern Agee). Turner and Carrick signed an Account Application in order to transfer Turner’s funds to a Stern Agee account. The Account Application incorporated by reference a Client Account Agreement that contained an arbitration provision. Eventually, Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Inc. (Stifel), acquired and merged with Stern Agee. Turner filed a lawsuit against Carrick and Stifel alleging negligent management and supervision of her investment account. Carrick and Stifel moved to compel arbitration. The trial court denied their motion to compel arbitration, and Carrick and Stifel appealed. Because the trial court erred by failing to compel arbitration, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s judgment and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Carrick v. Turner" on Justia Law