Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

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After an allegation that Bush had choked his son, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) began an investigation. Bush’s then-wife, Erika, obtained a court order suspending Bush’s parenting time. Bush filed a federal lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 on behalf of himself and his children, alleging violations of their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights and claiming that DCFS employees’ conduct set off events culminating in a state court order infringing on his and his kids’ right to familial association.The district court dismissed, finding that Bush and his children lacked standing to bring a constitutional challenge to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act and that the Younger abstention doctrine barred the court from ruling on the remaining constitutional claims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed.. Bush failed to allege facts sufficient to establish standing for his First Amendment claim. Adhering to principles of equity, comity, and federalism, the court concluded that the district court was right to abstain from exercising jurisdiction over the remaining claims. View "J.B. v. Woodard" on Justia Law

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PerDiemCo, a Texas LLC, is the assignee of the patents, which relate to electronic logging devices. PerDiemCo’s current sole owner, officer, and employee, Babayi, lives and works in Washington, D.C. PerDiemCo rents office space in Texas, which Babayi has never visited. Trimble and ISE, Trimble’s wholly owned subsidiary, manufacture and sell GPS devices. Trimble, incorporated in Delaware, is headquartered in California. ISE is an Iowa LLC with an Iowa principal place of business.Babayi sent a letter to ISE accusing ISE of using technology covered by PerDiemCo’s patents, stating that PerDiemCo “actively licenc[es]” its patents and listed companies that had entered into nonexclusive licenses after the companies had “collectively spent tens of millions of dollars" on litigation. Babayi offered a nonexclusive license. ISE forwarded the letter to Trimble’s Chief IP Counsel, Brodsky, in Colorado, who explained that Trimble would be PerDiemCo’s contact. Babayi replied that PerDiemCo also believed that Trimble’s products infringed its patents. The parties communicated by letter, telephone, and email at least 22 times before Trimble and ISE sought a declaratory judgment of noninfringement in the Northern District of California. The district court held that it lacked specific personal jurisdiction over PerDiemCo. The Federal Circuit reversed. In patent litigation, communications threatening suit or proposing settlement or patent licenses can establish personal jurisdiction. A broad set of a defendant’s contacts with a forum are relevant to the minimum contacts analysis. Here, the minimum contacts or purposeful availment test was satisfied. View "Trimble Inc. v. PerDiemCo LLC" on Justia Law

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Kristina Knight agreed to an endorsement to her Nationwide automobile insurance policy providing the coverage in the policy would not apply to her husband. During the policy period, Danny Knight was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident. Knight, as personal representative of Danny's estate, recovered $25,000 in UIM coverage under Danny's motorcycle insurance policy with Progressive Casualty Insurance Company and $25,000 in UIM coverage under a policy with ACCC Insurance Company insuring a different vehicle Danny owned. Knight made a claim with Nationwide to recover an additional $25,000 in UIM coverage under her insurance policy. Nationwide denied the claim and filed this lawsuit asking the trial court to declare Nationwide did not have to pay the $25,000 because Danny was excluded from all coverages under the policy. On appeal, Knight claimed the endorsement excluding coverage for her husband violated public policy and Nationwide could not enforce it. The South Carolina Supreme Court found the exclusion was clear and unambiguous and was not in violation of any statute. Therefore, the Court held the exclusion was enforceable. View "Nationwide Insurance Company of America v. Knight" on Justia Law

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The United States District Court for the District of South Carolina certified a question to the South Carolina Supreme Court on whether a homeowner's insurance policy that did not define the term "actual cash value," an insurer could depreciate the cost of labor in determining the "actual cash value" of a covered loss when the estimated cost to repair or replace the damaged property includes both materials and embedded labor components. This issue arose in two cases in which the homes of Miriam Butler and Joseph Stewart were damaged in separate fires. Butler and Stewart each purchased a homeowner's insurance policy from one of the defendants, both of whom were subsidiaries of The Travelers Companies, Inc. Butler and Stewart elected not to immediately repair or replace their damaged property. Each thus elected not to receive replacement cost but instead to receive a cash payment for the ACV of the damaged property. The certified question addressed whether Travelers properly calculated the ACV payments Travelers offered to Butler and Stewart to settle their property damage claims. The Supreme Court responded affirmatively: “the fact the labor cost is embedded makes it impractical, if not impossible, to include depreciation for materials and not for labor to determine ACV of the damaged property. Rather, the value of the damaged property is reasonably calculated as a unit. Therefore, we answer the certified question "yes," because it makes no sense for an insurer to include depreciation for materials and not for embedded labor.” View "Butler v. The Travelers Home" on Justia Law

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After receiving a credit card receipt printed with the first six and last four digits of her credit card, Thomas sued TOMS for violating the “truncation requirement” of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 (FACTA), 15 U.S.C. 1681c(g), which prohibits anyone who accepts credit or debit cards for payment from printing more than the last five digits of a customer’s card number on the receipt, and offers actual and statutory damages.The district court dismissed, finding that the alleged violation did not result in harm sufficiently concrete for Article III standing purposes. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. FACTA reflects Congress’s concern with preventing identity theft, and its belief that truncating card numbers is the most effective means of doing so but a violation of the truncation requirement does not automatically cause an injury in fact. Thomas’s allegations do not establish an increased risk of identity theft; they do not show how, even if her receipt fell into the wrong hands, criminals would have a gateway to her personal and financial data, and she did not allege that the receipt was lost, stolen, or seen by a third party. View "Thomas v. TOMS King (Ohio), LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2012, Bernard’s mother died, leaving a $3 million estate entirely to Bernard’s homeless, mentally ill sister, Joanne, who had lived in Denver. Bernard and his wife, Katherine are professors at Northwestern University School of Law. Bernard had himself appointed Joanne’s conservator and redirected the inheritance to himself. Bernard’s cousin, Wrigley, found Joanne in New York. Bernard and Wrigley each sought appointment as guardian of Joanne’s property in New York.Joanne’s guardian ad litem discovered that Bernard had diverted much of Joanne’s inheritance and hired Kerr, a forensic accountant, to investigate Bernard and Pinto, Joanne’s representative payee, who had withdrawn funds from her account. The Denver probate court suspended Bernard as Joanne’s conservator and ordered that Pinto provide a complete accounting, Wrigley allegedly made threats against Katherine. The Denver court entered a $4.5 million judgment against Bernard.Katherine wrote to the New York court on Northwestern University letterhead, alleging “misappropriation of Joanne’s assets by Pinto.” Wrigley then called the deans at Northwestern’ to complain about Katherine.Katherine sued Wrigley and Kerr, alleging defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The court rejected Katherine’s attempt to fire her attorney and present her own closing argument and accused Katherine of “gamesmanship,” stating that it could not “trust [her] to follow the rules” based on her performance as a witness. Her attorney claimed to be physically ill and the judge then granted a continuance. Ultimately, the jury rejected Katherine’s claims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to the court’s evidentiary decisions, including overruling Katherine’s objections to closing arguments, and to jury instructions. View "Black v. Wrigley" on Justia Law

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Responding to a call to the sheriff’s office that the occupant was intoxicated and possibly suicidal, Deputy Kyle Wilson drove to the home of Shane Bridges. Within seconds of his arrival at the home, Wilson had fired 13 rounds from his semiautomatic handgun at Bridges, hitting him twice and killing him. The shooting led to claims by Plaintiff Janelle Bridges, special administrator of Shane. Bridges’ estate, against Deputy Wilson and the Board of County Commissioners of Mayes County. She sued Wilson under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for allegedly violating Mr. Bridges’ constitutional rights by using unreasonable force, and sued the Board under the Oklahoma Governmental Tort Claims Act (OGTCA) based on alleged negligence by Deputy Wilson. The district court granted the Board summary judgment on the ground that the OGTCA did not waive the Board’s immunity from suit because Wilson was acting “as a protector, not as a law enforcer.” The section 1983 claim against Wilson was then tried to a jury, which ruled in Wilson’s favor. At trial Plaintiff contended that when Wilson drove up, Mr. Bridges had briefly opened the door to his home to look outside and had never fired a weapon, but that Wilson began firing at him after he had closed the door and gone inside, where he was hit by shots that pierced the door. Wilson’s account was that Mr. Bridges began firing at him from the porch of the home after he had parked his vehicle, and that Wilson fired only in response to the shots from Mr. Bridges, who then retreated into his home and died. Plaintiff did not dispute the jury verdict on appeal to the Tenth Circuit, but she challenged the summary judgment entered in favor of the Board. After reviewing the briefs and the record, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the summary judgment in favor of the Board on the ground suggested at oral argument (the Court did not address the immunity issue). “But on the evidence and theories of liability in this case, … a negligence claim under the OGTCA would be incompatible with the jury verdict. Plaintiff could prevail on the merits on each claim if, and only if, Mr. Bridges did not initiate the gun battle by firing at Deputy Wilson from his porch. By rendering a verdict in Wilson’s favor, the jury must have found that Mr. Bridges fired first.” View "Bridges v. Wilson" on Justia Law

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As plaintiff-appellant Julie Huff was at the bank in early 2016, Cedric Norris entered, murdered the bank president, grabbed some money from tellers, and took Huff hostage, forcing her to drive the getaway vehicle. Police officers pursued the vehicle and were able to force it to crash. At first, Norris fired at the officers and fled in one direction while Huff fled away from him. She raised her arms and faced the officers. But they fired at her and she fell to the ground. Later, Norris came up behind her and used her body as a shield. Norris was killed in the shootout. Huff was shot at least 10 times. Huff later filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for violations of her civil rights, alleging, among other things, that Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Chris Reeves used excessive force against her, in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. She also sued McIntosh County Sheriff Kevin Ledbetter for failure to properly train his deputies. The district court granted summary judgment to both defendants. The court found Reeves did not violate Huff’s constitutional rights because he did not shoot her intentionally. And it dismissed the claim against the sheriff on the grounds that Huff could neither demonstrate a predicate constitutional violation by one of his deputies nor identify any specific training deficiency related to the alleged violation. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment on the Fourteenth Amendment claim against Reeves and the failure-to-train claim against Sheriff Ledbetter, but reversed and remanded on the Fourth Amendment claim against Reeves. The Tenth Circuit held Huff could not invoke Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process in the circumstances of this case, and she failed to point to any additional training of Ledbetter’s personnel that could have prevented the alleged constitutional violation. But the Court concluded that Huff has presented a genuine issue of material fact on whether Reeves shot her intentionally. “And because it is clearly established in this circuit that an officer may not employ deadly force against a person who poses no threat, Reeves is not entitled to qualified immunity at this stage of the proceedings.” View "Huff v. Reeves" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the Douglas County Sheriff, in his official capacity, under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the Sheriff operates the jail with a policy that allows "cross-gender supervision of inmates without reasonable safeguards in place." Plaintiff alleged that a sheriff's deputy fondled her, kissed her, and watched her shower, all without her consent, when she was an inmate in the county jail. Plaintiff reasoned that the sheriff's deputy, who is male, could do these things because of the cross-gender supervision policy.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of the Sheriff's motion to dismiss, concluding that the district court correctly held that the Sheriff was entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity under Purcell ex rel. Estate of Morgan v. Toombs County, 400 F.3d 1313 (11th Cir. 2005). The court declined to overrule Purcell and Manders v. Lee, 338 F.3d 1304 (11th Cir. 2003) (en banc), based on the court's prior precedent rule. Furthermore, the court has categorically rejected any exception to that rule based on a perceived defect in the prior panel's reasoning or analysis as it relates to the law in existence at that time. View "Andrews v. Biggers" on Justia Law

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In 2015, consumers owning Samsung top-load washing machines experienced issues with the door detaching mid-cycle. Litigation ensued across the country, with the cases consolidated into the multidistrict litigation underlying this appeal. Class counsel and the defendants negotiated a Settlement Agreement that provided class members five forms of relief. The district court, over objector-appellant John Morgan’s objection, granted final class certification and final approval to the settlement. Essential to Morgan’s objections was the Settlement Agreement’s inclusion of a “kicker” agreement and a “clear-sailing” agreement relative to the award of attorneys’ fees and costs. Morgan argued that under the “clear-sailing” agreement, Samsung agreed not to contest any request by class counsel for attorneys’ fees and costs of up to $6.55 million. Attempting to resolve his objections, Morgan and Samsung sought to negotiate a side agreement providing for the possible distribution to the class of a portion of the difference between the $6.55 million maximum permissible attorneys’ fees and costs, and the actual amount awarded by the district court. Ratification of this side agreement, however, never occurred, with Morgan walking away based on a purported fear that class counsel might sue him and his counsel if he and Samsung finalized the side agreement. On appeal, Morgan argued: (1) the district court made clear errors of fact regarding settlement negotiations and the side agreement; (2) the district court abused its discretion by granting final approval to the Settlement Agreement where it included both a “kicker” and a “clear-sailing” agreement; and (3) the district court abused its discretion by granting final class certification and allowing class counsel to continue in its role after class counsel placed its interests ahead of the class’s interests. The Tenth Circuit held a district court must apply heightened scrutiny before approving a settlement that includes both a “kicker” agreement and a “clear-sailing” agreement. But its review of the record gave the Court confidence the district court did just that. And although the district court made one clear error in its fact-finding process, the Tenth Circuit concluded the error was harmless to its ultimate decisions regarding final class certification, final approval of the Settlement Agreement, and its award of attorneys’ fees and costs. View "In re: Samsung Top-Load" on Justia Law