Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries
Intel Corp. Investment Policy Committee v. Sulyma
The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) requires plaintiffs with “actual knowledge” of an alleged fiduciary breach to file suit within three years of gaining that knowledge, 29 U.S.C. 1113(2), rather than within the six-year period that would otherwise apply. Sulyma worked at Intel, 2010-2012, and participated in retirement plans. In 2015, he sued plan administrators, alleging that they had managed the plans imprudently. Although Sulyma had visited the website that hosted disclosures of investment decisions, he testified that he did not remember reviewing the relevant disclosures and that he had been unaware of the allegedly imprudent investments while working at Intel. Reversing summary judgment, the Ninth Circuit held that Sulyma's testimony created a dispute as to when he gained “actual knowledge.” A unanimous Supreme Court affirmed. A plaintiff does not necessarily have “actual knowledge” of the information contained in disclosures that he receives but does not read or cannot recall reading. To meet the “actual knowledge” requirement, the plaintiff must, in fact, have become aware of that information. The law sometimes imputes “constructive” knowledge to a person who fails to learn something that a reasonably diligent person would have learned but section 1113(2)'s addition of “actual” signals that the plaintiff’s knowledge must be more than hypothetical. While section 1113(2)'s plain meaning substantially diminishes the protection of ERISA fiduciaries, Congress must be the one to make changes. The Court noted the “usual ways” to prove actual knowledge. View "Intel Corp. Investment Policy Committee v. Sulyma" on Justia Law
VanderKodde v. Mary Jane M. Elliott, P.C.
Defendants bought consumer debts. Collection proceedings in Michigan state court suit resulted in a judgment against each plaintiff. The defendants employed Michigan’s simplified post-judgment garnishment procedure. None of the debtors timely objected. The rate of post-judgment interest “is calculated on the entire amount of the money judgment, including attorney fees and other costs,” using a complex formula. The Michigan Department of Treasury’s website lists every judgment interest rate calculated using this method. During the 11-year period at issue, it reached a peak of 4.033% and a valley of 0.687%. The plaintiffs’ debts were, instead, subjected to a rate of 13%, the maximum interest rate allowed for a judgment “rendered on a written instrument evidencing indebtedness with a specified [or variable] interest rate” although the underlying default judgments specify that they are “not based on a note or other written evidence of indebtedness,” and none of the judgments include any supporting written instrument. The plaintiffs alleged that using the 13% rate was improper and filed a federal suit under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692, and the Michigan Collection Practices Act. The Sixth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the debtors’ suit. The suit “is not the rare one" subject to the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, under which federal courts are prohibited from reviewing appeals of state-court decisions. The plaintiffs' injuries stemmed from the defendant’s conduct, not the state-court judgment. View "VanderKodde v. Mary Jane M. Elliott, P.C." on Justia Law
Smart v. City of Wichita
In the early morning hours of March 10, 2012, as hundreds of people emptied out of bars and concert venues in Wichita’s Old Town neighborhood at closing time, two Wichita Police Officers fatally shot Marquez Smart. Smart’s estate and heirs sued the City of Wichita, along with Officers Lee Froese and Aaron Chaffee, alleging the officers used excessive force. Smart. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Officers Froese and Chaffee on the basis of qualified immunity, reasoning that although the jury could find that the officers had violated Smart’s right to be free from excessive force, the officers had not violated clearly established law under the facts presented. The district court also granted summary judgment in favor of the City. After review, the Tenth Circuit determined there was evidence from which the jury could conclude that the officers were mistaken in their belief that Smart was an active shooter. And there was also evidence from which the jury could conclude, with the benefit of hindsight, their mistake was not reasonable. The court affirmed summary judgment as to all defendants on the first two claims of violation of constitutional rights, and as to Officer Froese and the City with respect to the third claim. But the Court reversed judgment as to Officer Chaffee on Smart’s claim that Officer Chaffee fired the final shots after it would have been apparent to a reasonable officer that Smart was no longer a threat. The matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "Smart v. City of Wichita" on Justia Law
Lexington Insurance Company v. Precision Drilling Company
In an earlier appeal, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Wyoming’s anti-indemnity statute would not defeat possible insurance coverage to an additional insured. In this second appeal and cross-appeal, the issue presented for the Court's review centered on whether the district court correctly ruled that additional-insured coverage existed under the applicable insurance policies; whether the district court entered judgment for the additional insured in an amount greater than the policy limits; and whether the district court correctly ruled that the additional insured was not entitled to prejudgment interest and attorneys’ fees. Ultra Resources, Inc. held a lease for a Wyoming well site. In January 2007, Ultra contracted with Upstream International, LLC under a Master Service Agreement to manage the well site. The Ultra-Upstream contract required Upstream to obtain insurance policies with a stated minimum amount of coverage for Ultra and Ultra’s contractors and subcontractors. To do so, Upstream obtained two policies from Lexington Insurance Company - a General Liability Policy (“General Policy”) and a Commercial Umbrella Policy (“Umbrella Policy”). Lexington issued and delivered the two policies in Texas. Ultra contracted with Precision Drilling (“Precision”) to operate a drilling rig at the well site. Precision maintained a separate insurance policy with Lloyd’s of London (“Lloyd’s”), covering Precision for primary and excess liability. Upstream employed Darrell Jent as a contract management of some Ultra well sites. Jent assumed that Precision employees had already attached and tightened all A-leg bolts on a rig platform. In fact, Precision employees had loosened the A-leg bolts (which attach the A-legs to the derrick) and had not properly secured these bolts. After supervising the pin removal, Jent had just left the rig floor and reached “the top step leading down from the rig floor” when the derrick fell because of the “defectively bolted ‘A- legs’ attaching the derrick to the rig floor.” Jent was seriously injured after being thrown from the steps, and sued Precision for negligence. Precision demanded that Ultra defend and indemnify it as required by the Ultra-Precision drilling contract. Ultra, in turn, demanded that Upstream defend Precision under the insurance policies required by the Ultra-Upstream Contract. The Tenth Circuit concluded the district court ruled correctly on each issue presented, so it affirmed. View "Lexington Insurance Company v. Precision Drilling Company" on Justia Law
Edwards v. McMillen Capital, LLC
The Second Circuit held that plaintiff did not "lose" in state court such that his federal complaint was an appeal from an adverse state-court judgment, and thus the Rooker-Feldman doctrine did not apply. Plaintiff had filed suit against McMillen in Connecticut state court, filed two amended complaints, and then two substitute complaints. After the state court dismissed the second amended complaint and the first substitute complaint for failure to state a claim or as barred by the applicable statutes of limitations, it later dismissed the case for failure to prosecute. Plaintiff then filed this instant action in federal district court based on substantially the same facts as pleaded in the state proceedings and asserting the same claims as those in the second substitute complaint that was dismissed for failure to prosecute. Because the district court's decision was solely grounded in the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, the court vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "Edwards v. McMillen Capital, LLC" on Justia Law
Sage Financial Properties, LLC v. Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co.
The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court denying as untimely Defendant's motion for substitution of judge, holding that the substitution motion was timely because federal law halts any proceedings in the state court once a notice of removal is filed unless and until the case is remanded. Plaintiffs sued Defendant in the Seventh Judicial District Court based on Defendant's denial of an insurance claim. After a summons was issued and served upon Defendant, Defendant filed a notice of removal to the United States District Court for the District of Montana on the basis of diversity of citizenship. The federal district court granted Plaintiffs' motion for remand to state court after determining that the parties lacked complete diversity. Ninety-five days after it was served Defendant filed a motion for substitution of judge. The trial court ruled the motion was untimely. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because Defendant filed its motion for substitution the same day the state court clerk received notice that the federal court had ordered remand and returned the original state court documents, the motion was timely. View "Sage Financial Properties, LLC v. Fireman's Fund Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Textron, Inc. v. Travelers Casualty and Surety Co.
At issue in this insurance dispute coverage between Textron and Travelers was whether an earlier choice of law ruling in a Rhode Island coverage action between the parties qualifies for collateral and judicial estoppel effect, thus precluding Textron from seeking coverage under California law in the current California coverage action, and leading to the conclusion that Textron's claim is outside the policy period. The Court of Appeal held that the Rhode Island choice of law ruling did not have collateral and judicial estoppel effect, because the factual predicate of the Rhode Island action was not adequate to litigate and decide the identical choice of law issue presented in this case. The court stated that a triable issue of fact exists under California's continuous trigger whether the Esters action constitutes an occurrence within the policy periods of the Textron policies. Accordingly, the court reversed the trial court's grant of summary judgment for Travelers on Textron's declaratory relief complaint, and on the parties' cross complaints. View "Textron, Inc. v. Travelers Casualty and Surety Co." on Justia Law
Radiant Global Logistics, Inc. v. Furstenau
Furstenau managed Radiant’ Detroit office. When he joined a competitor, BTX, Radiant sued him for misappropriation of trade secrets. The district court entered a preliminary injunction, prohibiting Furstenau and other former Radiant employees who had joined BTX from using Radiant’s trade secrets and from contacting certain customers and carriers for a six-month period. The Sixth Circuit dismissed an appeal as moot because the six months have passed. BTX never objected to the injunction’s ongoing restriction on the use of Radiant’s trade secrets. The six-month noncompete restrictions expired and today requires nothing; a court has no way to grant relief as to that part of the order. A mootness exception for disputes “capable of repetition, yet evading review” does not apply. A live controversy remains as to the merits of Radiant’s claims, so BTX will still have the opportunity for its day in court—including an appeal —once the district court enters a final judgment. The court declined to vacate the district court’s order; BTX did not even request vacatur until after oral argument and “slept on its rights,” and a preliminary injunction has no preclusive effect—no formal effect at all—on the judge’s decision whether to issue a permanent injunction. View "Radiant Global Logistics, Inc. v. Furstenau" on Justia Law
Smallen Revocable Living Trust v. Western Union Company
A district court dismissed Plaintiff–Appellant Lawrence Smallen and Laura Smallen Revocable Living Trust’s securities-fraud class action against Defendant–Appellee The Western Union Company and several of its current and former executive officers (collectively, “Defendants”). Following the announcements of Western Union’s settlements with regulators in January 2017 and the subsequent drop in the price of the company’s stock shares, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit on behalf of itself and other similarly situated shareholders. In its complaint, Plaintiff alleged Defendants committed securities fraud by making false or materially misleading public statements between February 24, 2012, and May 2, 2017 regarding, among other things, Western Union’s compliance with anti-money laundering and anti-fraud laws. The district court dismissed the complaint because Plaintiff failed to adequately plead scienter under the heightened standard imposed by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (“PSLRA”). While the Tenth Circuit found the complaint may have given rise to some plausible inference of culpability on Defendants' part, the Court concurred Plaintiff failed to plead particularized facts giving rise to the strong inference of scienter required to state a claim under the PSLRA, thus affirming dismissal. View "Smallen Revocable Living Trust v. Western Union Company" on Justia Law
Rodriguez v. Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
The IRS allows affiliated corporations to file a consolidated federal return, 26 U.S.C. 1501, and issues any refund as a single payment to the group’s designated agent. If a dispute arises, federal courts normally turn to state law to resolve the question of distribution of the refund. Some courts follow the “Bob Richards Rule,” which initially provided that, absent an agreement, a refund belongs to the group member responsible for the losses that led to it. The Rule has evolved, in some jurisdictions, into a general rule that is always followed unless an agreement unambiguously specifies a different result. Soon after the bank suffered huge losses, its parent, Bancorp, was forced into bankruptcy. When the IRS issued a $4 million tax refund, the bank’s receiver, the FDIC, and Bancorp’s bankruptcy trustee each claimed it. The Tenth Circuit examined the parties’ allocation agreement, applied the more expansive version of Bob Richards, and ruled for the FDIC. The Supreme Court vacated. The Rule is not a legitimate exercise of federal common lawmaking. Federal judges may appropriately craft the rule of decision in only limited areas; claiming a new area is subject to strict conditions. Federal common lawmaking must be necessary to protect uniquely federal interests. The federal courts applying and extending Bob Richards have not pointed to any significant federal interest sufficient to support the rule, nor have these parties. State law is well-equipped to handle disputes involving corporate property rights, even in cases involving bankruptcy and a tax dispute. Whether this case might yield a different result without Bob Richards is a matter for the court of appeals on remand. View "Rodriguez v. Federal Deposit Insurance Corp." on Justia Law