Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

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The issue this case presented for the Tenth Circuit's review involved an interpretation of an environmental regulation addressing the renewal of permits under Title V of the Clean Air Act. The statute and accompanying regulation allowed renewal of these permits only if they ensured “compliance with” all of the “applicable requirements.” The term “applicable requirements” was defined in the regulation, but not the statute. The Sierra Club interpreted the regulatory definition to require compliance with all existing statutory requirements; the EPA interpretd the regulatory definition more narrowly, arguing that the applicability of certain requirements was determined by the state permit issued under a separate part of the Clean Air Act (Title I). The Tenth Circuit agreed with the Sierra Club’s interpretation: the regulatory definition of “applicable requirements” included all requirements in the state’s implementation plan, and Utah’s implementation plan broadly required compliance with the Clean Air Act. So, the Court concluded, all of the Act’s requirements constituted “applicable requirements” under the regulation. View "Sierra Club v. EPA" on Justia Law

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This case arose out of a stabbing that took place outside of an Idaho Falls bar. Steven and Audra Fell were patrons of the First Street Saloon, owned and operated by Fat Smitty’s L.L.C. (Fat Smitty’s). Towards the end of the evening, an altercation took place that resulted in Steven Fell being stabbed by another patron, LaDonna Hall. The Fells filed a complaint against Fat Smitty’s, alleging Fat Smitty’s breached its duty to: (1) warn the Fells, as invitees, of any hidden or concealed dangers in the bar; (2) keep the bar in a reasonably safe condition; and (3) protect the Fells from reasonably foreseeable injury at the hands of other patrons at the bar. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Fat Smitty’s, ruling that the Fells’ claims were barred by Idaho’s Dram Shop Act because the Fells failed to give Fat Smitty’s timely notice of their claims. The Fells appealed the district court’s grant of summary judgment. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Fell v. Fat Smitty's" on Justia Law

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The Lorenzen Revocable Trust (“Lorenzen”) and David and Cynthia Pearson owned neighboring properties near Hayden Lake in Kootenai County, Idaho. The properties shared a common driveway. The properties were originally part of a 1,400 acre estate. Over the years, parcels were carved off the estate and frequently replatted. Two of those parcels included a cabin owned by Lorenzen and the “Red Barn” property owned by the Pearsons. The Pearsons purchased the Red Barn property in 2013 via quitclaim deed. Although the easement language was not in the Pearsons’ deed, the easements originally granted and reserved in a 1976 deed were recorded with the county and listed as exceptions from coverage in Pearsons’ title insurance policy. From 2013 onward, disputes over the shared driveway began. The disputes culminated in 2016 when Pearsons installed an electronic gate to control access to the shared driveway. In October 2016, Phyllis Lorenzen filed a complaint seeking a declaratory judgment to define the rights concerning the parties’ easement and access rights, as well as listing other causes of action. Four days later, Lorenzen filed a motion for a preliminary injunction against Pearsons, seeking to enjoin them “from blocking or otherwise interfering with access” via the shared driveway. The district court granted the motion for a preliminary injunction, ordering Pearsons to provide an access code or remote control to the gate and restraining both parties “from blocking or otherwise interfering with access” to their respective properties via the shared driveway. The next month, Phyllis Lorenzen passed away. Pearsons later filed an answer and counterclaim, arguing that Phyllis Lorenzen’s death “ended the express easement” from the 1976 quitclaim deed. They also filed a motion to dissolve the court’s prior preliminary injunction. The district court denied Pearsons’ motions, and the case proceeded to trial with the injunction remaining in effect. In 2018 following a jury trial, the district court issued a decision finding that the easement language in the quitclaim deeds was ambiguous; both parties had express easements granted to them as well as their heirs, successors and assigns. The district court then denied Pearsons’ motion to reconsider from the bench. Pearsons argued on appeal that the district court erred in establishing a legal description of the easement from the Plaintiff’s land survey. They argued this matter required another hearing to present evidence to establish an accurate metes-and-bounds description. The Idaho Supreme Court affirmed, finding Pearsons failed to provide an alternative metes-and-bounds survey for the district court to consider despite having had months to do so. "Only after their counsel was repeatedly unavailable to the court when it tried to request information or schedule such a hearing, did the district court accept and utilize the only legal description admitted as evidence. Pearsons cannot complain over the results of their inaction now, especially when they failed to object to the admittance of the land survey as evidence at trial." View "Lorenzen v. Pearson" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Oregon Supreme Court's review centered on a final order of the Oregon State Board of Nursing (the board) and the meaning of the term “time limitations” in ORS 183.645(1). That statute required the chief administrative law judge (ALJ) to assign a different ALJ to a contested case on written request from a party, subject to applicable “time limitations” that the chief ALJ has established by rule for submitting such requests. The chief ALJ established OAR 471-060-0005, under which the chief ALJ evaluated the timeliness of a request by determining whether a party had a “reasonable opportunity” to make an earlier request. Licensee Rebecca Pulito challenged a preliminary decision of the chief ALJ that denied her request for a different ALJ. In that decision, the chief ALJ determined that licensee had failed to take advantage of a “reasonable opportunity” to make an earlier request. The contested case proceeded on the merits, and the board issued a final order revoking licensee’s nursing license. The Court of Appeals affirmed without opinion. Licensee then petitioned the Oregon Supreme court for review. Licensee argued OAR 471-060-0005 was invalid because it did not impose a “time limitation” as authorized by ORS 183.645(1). Alternatively, she contended the chief ALJ erred in applying OAR 471-060-0005 because her request for a different ALJ was made within a reasonable time. The Supreme Court concluded OAR 471-060-0005 was invalid as written and that the error in denying licensee’s request for a different ALJ required reversal. Because that ruling was dispositive, the Supreme Court did not reach licensee’s alternative argument that the chief ALJ erred in applying the rule. The final order was reversed and the matter remanded for a new hearing. View "Pulito v. Board of Nursing" on Justia Law

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Joann Bashinsky petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for mandamus relief, seeking to direct the Jefferson Probate Court to vacate orders disqualifying her attorneys from representing her in the underlying proceedings and appointing a temporary guardian and conservator over her person and property. Bashinsky also sought dismissal of the "Emergency Petition for a Temporary Guardian and Conservator" that initiated the underlying proceedings and the petition for a permanent guardian and conservator filed simultaneously with the emergency petition in probate court, both of which were filed by John McKleroy and Patty Townsend. McKleroy had a professional relationship with Ms. Bashinsky that dated back to 1968, the year she and Sloan Bashinsky married. Townsend previously served the Bashinsky family as Mr. Bashinsky's executive assistant. She was the corporate secretary, controller, and chief financial officer at Golden Enterprises, and she served as Ms. Bashinsky's personal financial assistant beginning in 2017, often having daily contact with Ms. Bashinsky. At the time of the events in question, Ms. Bashinsky's personal estate was estimated to be worth $80 million, and her entire estate (including trusts and business assets) was valued at $218 million. Ms. Bashinsky's only blood relative was her daughter's only son, Landon Ash. The emergency petition, filed October 1, 2019, stated that loan amounts to Ash increased over time, and that Ash's total amount of indebtedness to Ms. Bashinsky at that time was approximately $23.5 million. Ash allegedly borrowed $13.4 million from Ms. Bashinsky in 2019 for his various business ventures. The emergency petition alleged that Ms. Bashinsky's financial transactions with Ash "are problematic in that, if the IRS were to review these loans, they might have tremendous tax consequences for Ms. Bashinsky." The petition stated McKleroy and Townsend witnessed a decline in Ms. Bashinsky's faculties in their discussions with her about financial matters. An evaluation from a geriatric physician at the University of Alabama opined Ms. Bashinsky suffered from dementia. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the permanent petition for appointing a guardian and conservator over the person and property of Ms. Bashinsky was not properly before the Supreme Court; mandamus relief with respect to that petition was denied. The Court determined an October 17, 2019 order appointing a temporary guardian and conservator for Ms. Bashinsky was void, as was the order disqualifying Ms. Bashinsky's counsel. The Supreme Court therefore granted the petition for the writ of mandamus as to those orders and directed the probate court to vacate its October 17, 2019, orders, to require the temporary guardian and conservator to account for all of Ms. Bashinsky's funds and property, and to dismiss the emergency petition. View "Ex parte Joann Bashinsky." on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court's review centered on whether petitioners-parents waived the marital counseling privilege when they filed a claim for damages against the doctors who treated their infant son on the ground that the child was misdiagnosed with cancer. Prior to the alleged misdiagnosis, Brian and Emily Magney had engaged in and completed marital counseling. Defendant doctors sought discovery of the records, but the Magneys filed a motion for a protection order to prevent disclosure given that the records were privileged. The superior court denied the motion and ordered disclosure. analogizing the marital counseling privilege to the psychologist-client privilege, which the Court of Appeals has held is automatically waived when emotional distress is at issue. The Supreme Court reversed the superior court, holding the Magneys did not automatically waive privilege because filing a lawsuit is not one of the enumerated exceptions under the "marital counseling" privilege statute. The Court could not determine on the record whether the privilege was impliedly waived by the actions of the Magneys at this point in litigation. The matter was remanded to the superior court for an in camera review of the records and evidence the parties submitted to determine whether the privilege was impliedly waived. View "Magney v. Pham" on Justia Law

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Granite Northwest sought to expand its mining operations in Yakima County, Washington. The Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation (Yakama) opposed the expansion, arguing it would disturb ancient burial grounds and a dedicated historical cemetery. Despite these objections, Yakima County issued a conditional use permit and a State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), ch. 43.21C RCW, mitigated determination of nonsignificance to Granite Northwest. Yakama challenged both in superior court. The court later stayed the SEPA challenge while Yakama exhausted its administrative appeal of the conditional use permit as required by the Yakima county code. In Yakama’s administrative appeal, the hearing officer modified the conditional use permit to require a separate permit from the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation but affirmed Yakima County’s issuance of the permit. Yakama appealed the hearing examiner’s decision to the county board of commissioners. On April 10, 2018, at a public meeting where Yakama representatives were present, the board passed a resolution affirming the hearing officer’s decision and denying Yakama’s appeal. Three days later, a county planner sent an e-mail and letter to Yakama with the resolution attached. The letter noted the county code required written notification of the decision and stated that the administrative appeal had been exhausted. On May 2, 2018, 22 days after the resolution was adopted and 19 days after the county planner’s letter, Yakama filed a new petition in superior court. Yakima County and Granite Northwest (collectively, Granite NW) moved to dismiss the second petition as untimely under RCW 36.70C.040(4)(b) because the 21-day filing period began on the date the board of commissioners passed its resolution and Yakama’s petition was 1 day late. Granite NW also moved to dismiss the previously stayed petition, arguing the stay was conditional on Yakama timely filing its administrative appeal. Yakama responded that RCW 36.70C.040(4)(b) was inapplicable and instead RCW 36.70C.040(4)(a) governed the filing period, which began when the county planner transmitted the written resolution to Yakama. The superior court agreed with Yakama, finding Yakama’s land use petition was timely filed, and accordingly, did not dismiss Yakama’s earlier petition. The Court of Appeals reversed in an unpublished decision, concluding the later petition was not timely and did not address the previously stayed petition. After review, the Washington Supreme Court concluded Yakama's petition was timely filed. The Court of Appeals was reversed. View "Confederated Tribes & Bands of the Yakama Nation v. Yakima County" on Justia Law

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In 2009, Bank of America acquired Merrill Lynch. In 2013, Merrill Lynch “merged with and into” Bank of America. In 2017, Bank of America filed a complaint, seeking to recover overpaid interest on federal tax underpayments and additional interest on federal tax overpayments arising under 26 U.S.C. 6601 and 6611. The claimed overpayment interest arose from overpayments made by Merrill Lynch. The government moved to sever the Merrill Lynch overpayment interest claims exceeding $10,000 and requested that the district court transfer them to the Court of Federal Claims or, alternatively, dismiss them for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Magistrate Judge concluded and the district court affirmed that district courts have “subject matter jurisdiction over overpayment interest claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1346(a)(1). The Federal Circuit vacated. The plain language of section 1346(a)(1) dictates that the term “any sum” refers to amounts that have been previously paid to, or collected by, the IRS, which, overpayment interest “[b]y its nature, . . . is not.” The conclusion that section 1346(a)(1) does not cover overpayment interest claims is consistent with the tax code’s broader statutory scheme; the legislative history does not contradict that conclusion. View "Bank of America Corp. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Sukru and Gulay Bayramoglu, like many others, sought to modify their home loan in the midst of the 2008 financial crisis. They eventually succeeded in doing so in late 2011, obtaining a lower interest rate and a lower monthly payment from their loan servicer, Nationstar Mortgage LLC (Nationstar). According to plaintiffs, Nationstar, among other things, unlawfully inserted an inflated loan balance, rather than their actual loan balance, in the loan modification agreement. And for that and other reasons, plaintiffs filed suit against Nationstar. The trial court rejected plaintiffs’ claims and granted Nationstar’s motion for summary judgment. According to the court, because plaintiffs had served “factually devoid” responses to Nationstar’s discovery, these responses tended to show that plaintiffs did not possess and could not reasonably obtain needed evidence to support most of their claims. And because, the court further found, plaintiffs never presented evidence to overcome this finding, it granted Nationstar’s motion. On appeal, plaintiffs contended the trial court wrongly found their discovery responses were factually devoid and, even if they were factually devoid, the court nonetheless should have found triable issues of fact precluded summary judgment. After review, the Court of Appeal agreed with the first part of plaintiffs' argument. The trial court found plaintiffs’ interrogatory responses were factually devoid because plaintiffs, rather than directly state responsive facts, told Nationstar that the answers to its interrogatories could be found in certain identified documents. "Although these responses may have been improper and warranted a motion to compel further responses, they were not the equivalent of factually devoid discovery responses." The trial court's decision was reversed to the extent it was grounded on that reasoning. View "Bayramoglu v. Nationstar Mortgage LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a petition for writ of mandate under Code of Civil Procedure section 1094.5, seeking to overturn the decision to keep his name on the Child Abuse Central Index. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the Department, holding that the Department did not serve notice of its decision in compliance with section 1094.6 and thus the statute of limitations did not bar his petition. Pursuant to section 1094.6, an agency must not add confusing information to the required notice that could mislead affected parties about the timing for seeking judicial review. View "Alford v. County of Los Angeles" on Justia Law