by
The Vermont Department of Taxes appeals from trial court orders in favor of defendants in consolidated tax-collection cases. Defendants Thomas Tatro, Kenneth Montani, and Tyre Duvernay failed to file personal income tax returns for various years and the Department sent a First Notice of Audit Assessment to each that provided the amount of taxes due along with interest and penalties. These notices were issued more than three years after the date that the tax returns should have been filed. Defendants did not appeal the assessments to the Commissioner pursuant to 32 V.S.A. 5883. The issue before the superior court in each case arose in the context of a collection action brought by the Department. Defendants did not appear or participate in the collection cases or in these appeals. The Department moved for default judgment. The superior court sua sponte raised a statute-of-limitations challenge to the underlying tax assessments. The court concluded that the underlying tax debts were invalid because the Department issued its notices of deficiencies or assessments of penalty or interest to defendants more than three years after defendants’ tax returns were originally due. The Department argued on appeal to the Vermont Supreme Court that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to consider the validity of the underlying debts in these collection actions, and that, in any event, it erred in concluding that a three-year limitation period applied. The Supreme Court agreed with the Department on both points. The Court therefore reversed and remanded for entry of judgment in the Department’s favor for the years covered in these cases. View "Vermont Department of Taxes v. Montani et al." on Justia Law

by
Negotiations Committee of Caledonia Central Supervisory Union (Committee) and Caledonia Central Education Association (Association) disputed whether collective bargaining negotiations between a school board negotiation committee and a teachers’ association constituted “meetings” under the Open Meeting Law and, if so, whether those meetings may be held in executive session. The Caledonia Superior Court dismissed Committee’s complaint seeking declaratory relief for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Vermont Supreme Court reversed the dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and held Vermont’s Open Meeting Law did not apply to labor negotiations between a school district negotiating committee and a labor union. View "Negotiations Committee of Caledonia Central Supervisory Union v. Caledonia Central Education Assn." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff Jimmy Vasquez, an inmate in the Colorado Department of Corrections (“CDOC”), filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, contending CDOC medical providers were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Vasquez specifically alleged Defendants delayed treating him for the hepatitis C virus (“HCV”), resulting in his suffering life-threatening permanent liver damage. In appeal No. 17-1026, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision to grant Defendants summary judgment, concluding Vasquez’s claims against Defendants Davis, Webster, Melloh, and Chamjock were time-barred, and Vasquez failed to present sufficient evidence that Defendant Fauvel acted with deliberate indifference. In appeal No. 17-1044, the Court vacated an injunction requiring the CDOC to test Vasquez’s liver function every three months. View "Vasquez v. Davis" on Justia Law

by
NDSC Industrial Park, LLC (“NDSC”) appealed a district court order dismissing its “Consent Decree Order Motion.” In the late 1990s, the United States and the State of Colorado each filed complaints against Colorado & Eastern Railroad Company (“C & E”) under CERCLA. These complaints sought reimbursement of response costs associated “with the release or threatened release of hazardous substances at the Sand Creek Industrial Site located in Commerce City and Denver, Colorado.” In an effort to avoid protracted litigation, the parties entered into a partial consent decree (the “Consent Decree”) on April 13, 1999. Pursuant to the Consent Decree, C & E agreed to sell two parcels of land, the OU3/6 Property and the OU1/5 Property (collectively the “Properties”), and pay the net proceeds of the sales to the United States and Colorado. In 2002, the remediated OU1/5 and OU3/6 Properties were put up for auction by the United States pursuant to the Consent Decree. NDSC was the winning bidder. Prior to closing on the purchase of the Properties, NDSC was made aware that C & E had already conveyed its fee interest in a right-of-way. In 2014, NDSC filed suit in Colorado state court to quiet title to the railroad right-of-way against C & E, and other interested parties in the Properties. The district court dismissed the motion because NDSC lacked standing to enforce the terms of the consent decree. On appeal, NDSC claimed the district court erred in concluding it: (1) was attempting to enforce the consent decree, as opposed to seeking a limited declaration regarding the meaning of the consent decree; and (2) did not have standing to seek a declaration that a conveyance of property violated the terms of the consent decree. Finding no reversible error in the district court’s dismissal, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "United States v. Colorado & Eastern Railroad Co" on Justia Law

by
In this personal-injury action, the DeKalb-Cherokee Counties Gas District ("DC Gas") appealed a circuit court order denying DC Gas's renewed motion for a judgment as a matter of law ("JML") or, in the alternative, for a new trial. Plaintiff Timothy Raughton, an employee of the City of Fort Payne, was working at the city landfill. One of his duties on that day was to tell users of the landfill where to dump their refuse. Neal Ridgeway, in his capacity as an employee of DC Gas, drove a dump truck to the landfill. The bed of the dump truck contained bricks and concrete blocks that had been collected from a site on which DC Gas planned to have constructed an office building. While Ridgeway dumped the contents of the truck at the landfill, Raughton stood next to the truck. In an effort to dump the remaining debris, while Ridgeway performed a maneuver, the side wall of the truck bed fell from the truck, striking and injuring Raughton. There was no evidence in this case indicating that the clutch-release maneuver violated any formal safety standards. Raughton sued DC Gas, alleging negligence and wantonness. The trial court entered a summary judgment in favor of DC Gas on Raughton's wantonness claim, but his negligence claim proceeded to trial. The jury rendered a verdict in favor of Raughton in the amount of $100,000. The trial court entered a judgment on that verdict and denied DC Gas's renewed motion for a JML. DC Gas appealed. After review of the circuit court record, the Alabama Supreme Court determined there was no evidence indicating that the side wall of the dump truck had become detached in the past or that DC Gas's agents knew that it might become detached. Moreover, no evidence was presented clearly showing how the side wall was attached to the truck or showing exactly why and how it had become detached. Thus, there was no evidence presented indicating that an inspection would have revealed that it might become detached and, therefore, that an inspection would have prevented the accident. Accordingly, the Court concluded that DC Gas could not be held liable based on its alleged negligence (failure to properly inspect the truck). Based on the foregoing, the Court reversed the trial court's judgment denying DC Gas's renewed motion for a JML, and rendered judgment in favor of DC Gas. View "DeKalb-Cherokee Counties Gas District v. Raughton" on Justia Law

by
Stephen Hrobowski, one of two named defendants in a civil action pending with the Lowndes Circuit Court, petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the trial court to vacate its August 30, 2017, order denying Hrobowski's motion for a change of venue and to enter an order transferring this action to the Montgomery Circuit Court on the basis of the doctrine of forum non conveniens. The Alabama Supreme Court determined it was undisputed: that the accident that was the subject of the action occurred in Montgomery County; that the accident was investigated by law-enforcement personnel based in Montgomery County; and that both the plaintiff and the other named defendant resided there at all pertinent times. Even assuming, that there might be some question as to whether Hrobowski remained domiciled in Lowndes County, the fact that a defendant resides in a particular forum does not, for purposes of the interest-of-justice prong of 6-3-21.1, Ala. Code 1975, outweigh the forum where the tortious conduct occurred. The Supreme Court held the trial court exceeded its discretion in denying Hrobowski's motion for a change of venue based on the interest-of-justice prong of the forum non conveniens statute. Therefore, the Court granted Hrobowski's petition and issued a writ of mandamus directing the Lowndes Circuit Court to vacate its August 30, 2017, order denying Hrobowski's motion and to enter an order transferring the underlying action to Montgomery County. View "Ex parte Stephen Hrobowski." on Justia Law

by
A defendant can prevail on the merits of its counterclaims against a governmental entity when the governmental entity recovers monetary relief on its affirmative claims by filing a lien and a lis pendens and then nonsuits its affirmative claims where the defendant seeks an offset against the amount the governmental entity recovered through the litigation process. Petitioner, which operated pecan orchards, entered into water-supply agreements with Respondent, a political subdivision. Respondent sued Petitioner for breach of contract. Petitioner counterclaimed for breach of contract and fraud. After Respondent recorded a crop lien and a lis pendens against Petitioner’s orchards, Petitioner paid Respondent the amount it sought to remove the lien and lis pendens but continued to pursue its counterclaims seeking an offset against that payment. Respondent later nonsuited its claims. The trial court granted summary judgment for Respondent, ordering that Petitioner take nothing on its counterclaims. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals erred in concluding that Petitioner could not prevail on the merits of its counterclaims merely because Respondent obtained its recovery by filing a lien and lis pendens. View "C. Borunda Holdings, Inc. v. Lake Proctor Irrigation Authority of Comanche County" on Justia Law

by
A turnover order is not a final, appealable judgment when it merely orders funds subject to an as yet unadjudicated ownership dispute into the court’s registry. Here, a turnover order directed funds subject to disputed ownership claims into the court’s registry “without prejudice” to the rights of either the judgment creditor or non-judgment debtor to later seek the funds’ release. Nearly six months after the trial court signed the turnover order, Respondent filed a motion to enforce the turnover order and to have the registry funds released to it on the grounds that Petitioner triggered a condition for releasing the funds when it neglected to appeal the turnover order. The trial court ordered the turnover order enforced and registry funds released to Respondent (the “release order”). The court of appeals dismissed Petitioner’s appeal for want of jurisdiction due to Petitioner’s failure to timely appeal the turnover order. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Petitioner timely appealed the release order; and (2) the turnover order’s provisions did not function as a mandatory injunction, which meant the release order was the final judgment on Petitioner’s claims. View "Alexander Dubs Jefferson & Townsend LLP v. Chevron Phillips Chemical Co." on Justia Law

by
A turnover order is not a final, appealable judgment when it merely orders funds subject to an as yet unadjudicated ownership dispute into the court’s registry. Here, a turnover order directed funds subject to disputed ownership claims into the court’s registry “without prejudice” to the rights of either the judgment creditor or non-judgment debtor to later seek the funds’ release. Nearly six months after the trial court signed the turnover order, Respondent filed a motion to enforce the turnover order and to have the registry funds released to it on the grounds that Petitioner triggered a condition for releasing the funds when it neglected to appeal the turnover order. The trial court ordered the turnover order enforced and registry funds released to Respondent (the “release order”). The court of appeals dismissed Petitioner’s appeal for want of jurisdiction due to Petitioner’s failure to timely appeal the turnover order. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Petitioner timely appealed the release order; and (2) the turnover order’s provisions did not function as a mandatory injunction, which meant the release order was the final judgment on Petitioner’s claims. View "Alexander Dubs Jefferson & Townsend LLP v. Chevron Phillips Chemical Co." on Justia Law

by
Defendants’ failure to fully comply with a temporary restraining order did not justify sanctions even more severe than death-penalty sanctions imposed by the trial court. Plaintiffs sought a temporary restraining order (TRO) against Defendants. Without taking evidence, the court signed a TRO prohibiting Defendants from engaging in certain conduct. Plaintiffs later filed a motion for contempt and sanctions, alleging that Defendants knowingly violated the TRO. The trial court granted the motion in an order stating that “death penalty sanctions should be imposed” against Defendants. The court then awarded sanctions of $897,938. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case, holding (1) Defendants knowingly violated the TRO without a compelling excuse; but (2) the extreme sanction imposed for the violations of the TRO was an abuse of discretion. View "Altesse Healthcare Solutions, Inc. v. Wilson" on Justia Law