Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

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After plaintiff missed the statutory deadline to file a claim against a public entity, he applied to submit a late claim. Then plaintiff filed his complaint the same day, not waiting for the public entity to respond to his application.The Court of Appeal held that the Government Claims Act, Gov. Code, 810, is not satisfied by filing a complaint before rejection of a claim. In this case, plaintiff filed suit against the District for injuries he suffered while attempting to board one of the District's boats. The court held that section 946.6, which allows a petition to seek relief from the failure to comply with the claim requirement after denial of an application for leave to present a claim, did not apply here. Furthermore, the complaint plaintiff filed the same day was premature. In this case, the lawsuit is precluded because it was not preceded by rejection of a claim, and plaintiff's noncompliance with the Act cannot be cured by amending the complaint to allege he complied. Finally, the court held that there was no abuse of discretion in awarding costs. View "Lowry v. Port San Luis Harbor District" on Justia Law

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The U.S. EPA promulgated new landfill emissions guidelines in 2016. Each state was required to submit a plan for implementing the new guidelines. The EPA was to approve or disapprove each state plan. For states that failed to submit a plan, the EPA had to promulgate a federal plan that would govern implementation in those states. The deadline for EPA issue the federal plan was set by regulation for November 2017. The EPA missed the deadline. Several states sued to force EPA to promulgate its federal plan. EPA responded to the suit and also began the rulemaking process to extend its regulatory deadline. While that rulemaking was underway, the district court entered an injunction requiring EPA to promulgate the federal plan within six months (November 2019). Months later, the EPA finalized the rulemaking process, extending its regulatory deadline by two years to August 2021. The district court declined to modify the injunction.The Ninth Circuit reversed. The district court abused its discretion in denying the EPA’s request for relief because the new regulations constituted a change in law, and removed the legal basis for the court’s deadline. A shift in the legal landscape that removed the basis for an order warranted modification of the injunction. The court rejected an argument that courts must look beyond the new regulations and conduct a broad, fact-specific inquiry into whether modification prevented inequity. View "California v. United States Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law

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PDX is a last-mile shipper of wholesale auto parts in New Jersey and other states. Depending on the volume and timing of its customers’ shipping needs, PDX hires “independent owner-operators” on an “as-needed” basis. PDX long classified these drivers as independent contractors. In 2012, after completing an audit of PDX for 2006-2009, the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development determined that PDX had misclassified its drivers, finding they were employees, not independent contractors. The Department reached the same conclusion in two subsequent audits and sought payment of unemployment compensation taxesPDX filed suit, contending New Jersey’s statutory scheme for classifying workers was preempted by the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 and was unconstitutional under the Interstate Commerce Clause. An action before the New Jersey Office of Administrative Law (OAL) was stayed at PDX’s request. SLS, also a last-mile shipper, was audited by the Department and was allowed to intervene in the lawsuit. The Department’s audit against SLS remains pending.The trial court dismissed the entire case as barred by the Younger abstention doctrine. The Third Circuit held that the trial court correctly dismissed PDX, but erred in dismissing SLS. PDX’s OAL action is an ongoing judicial proceeding in which New Jersey has a strong interest and PDX may raise any constitutional claims while SLS is not subject to an ongoing state judicial proceeding. View "PDX North Inc v. Commissioner New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, two young Oregonians, concerned about the effects of climate change and their guardians, filed suit against the Governor and the State of Oregon (collectively, the State), contending the State was required to act as a trustee under the public trust doctrine to protect various natural resources in Oregon from substantial impairment due to greenhouse gas emissions and resultant climate change and ocean acidification. Among other things, plaintiffs asked the circuit court to specify the natural resources protected by the public trust doctrine and to declare that the State had a fiduciary duty, which it breached, to prevent substantial impairment of those resources caused by emissions of greenhouse gases. Plaintiffs also asked for an injunction ordering the State to: (1) prepare an annual accounting of Oregon’s carbon dioxide emissions; and (2) implement a carbon reduction plan protecting the natural resources, which the court would supervise to ensure enforcement. The circuit court granted the State’s motion for summary judgment and denied plaintiffs’ motion for partial summary judgment, concluding the public trust doctrine did not encompass most of the natural resources that plaintiffs identified, and did not require the State to take the protective measures that plaintiffs sought. In 2015, the circuit court entered a general judgment dismissing the action, and the Court of Appeals vacated the judgment and remanded for the circuit court to enter a judgment, consistent the Court of Appeals opinion, declaring the parties’ rights. Plaintiffs appealed, arguing that as a matter of common law, the public trust doctrine was not fixed and, that it must evolve to address the undisputed circumstances presented, namely, that climate change was damaging Oregon’s natural resources. They argued the doctrine was not limited to the natural resources that the circuit court identified and, the doctrine should cover other natural resources beyond those that have been traditionally protected. The Oregon Supreme Court held the public trust doctrine currently encompassed navigable waters and the submerged and submersible lands underlying those waters. "Although the public trust is capable of expanding to include more natural resources, we do not extend the doctrine to encompass other natural resources at this time." The Supreme Court also declined to adopt plaintiffs’ position that, under the doctrine, the State had the same fiduciary duties that a trustee of a common-law private trust would have, such as a duty to prevent substantial impairment of trust resources. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the Court of Appeals, which vacated the judgment of the circuit court. The matter was remanded the circuit court to enter a judgment consistent with Supreme Court's judgment. View "Chernaik v. Brown" on Justia Law

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Cook County Sheriff Dart instituted disciplinary proceedings against several Sheriff’s officers (plaintiffs) by filing charges with the Cook County Sheriff’s Merit Board under Counties Code, 55 ILCS 5/3-7011. The plaintiffs filed motions with the Board to dismiss the charges. While the administrative proceedings were pending, the plaintiffs filed suit, seeking declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief against the Sheriff, Cook County, the Board, and the Cook County Board of Commissioners, asserting that the Board was not legally constituted because several of its members were appointed to or served terms that did not comply with the Code section 3-7002 requirements.The Illinois Supreme Court reversed the dismissal of the suit for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. Because the plaintiffs challenged the authority of the Board to address the charges, the “authority” exception to the exhaustion requirement applied. The circuit court can adjudicate the requests for back pay and other claims, which do not fall within the particular expertise of the Board. The plaintiffs raised the issue before the Board, which refused to hear them until after the disciplinary proceedings were complete. Given that the Board had not taken any substantive action regarding the disciplinary charges before the filing of the lawsuit, the “de facto officer doctrine” does not apply. View "Goral v. Dart" on Justia Law

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Workforce Safety and Insurance (“WSI”) appealed a district court judgment affirming an administrative law judge’s (“ALJ”) order that affirmed WSI’s April 2018 order awarding permanent impairment benefits to Jason Tolman and that reversed WSI’s July 2018 order denying benefits for his depression and anxiety conditions. In September 2014, Tolman was injured when he was driving a tanker truck and involved in a single vehicle roll-over accident. WSI accepted his claim for benefits. In April 2018, WSI issued an order awarding Tolman $4,905 in permanent impairment benefits based on a determination that he had sustained a 16 percent impairment of the whole body. In July 2018, WSI issued an order denying benefits in connection with his depression and anxiety, deciding these conditions were not caused by his physical injury and existed before the work injury. Tolman requested an administrative hearing on the orders, and a hearing was held before an independent ALJ in April 2019. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the ALJ erred in applying N.D.C.C. 65-01-02(10)(a)(6) and concluding Tolman established his depression and anxiety conditions were compensable. The Court affirmed that part of the ALJ’s order affirming WSI’s April 2018 order; but reversed that part of the ALJ’s order reversing WSI’s July 2018 order, and reinstated WSI’s July 2018 order. View "WSI v. Tolman" on Justia Law

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Shawn Kluver and Little Knife Disposal, LLC, appeal from a district court judgment ordering them to pay $140,042.83 to Titan Machinery, Inc., and $100,731.62 to Renewable Resources, LLC. In 2016, Kluver was the general manager of Renewable Resources, which was in the business of oilfield waste disposal. “At Kluver’s request and direction,” Renewable Resources leased a Case excavator and other equipment from Titan. The rental agreement for the Case excavator showed an estimated return date of June 28, 2016. Kluver also executed a credit application and personal guaranty with Titan to ensure Renewable Resources’ payment obligations under the rental agreement. Renewable Resources made all payments under the rental agreement from June 21, 2016, to December 6, 2016. No additional rental payments were made. In February 2017, while still employed by Renewable Resources, Kluver executed the operating agreement of Little Knife Disposal, LLC, as its sole member. Little Knife was also in the business of oilfield waste disposal. After Renewable Resources failed to make rental payments, Titan retrieved the Case excavator in October 2017. The excavator was damaged during the lease, and the excavator’s bucket was missing. In November 2017, Titan sued Renewable Resources for damaging the equipment and failing to pay the balance due under the rental agreement. In January 2018, Renewable Resources filed a third-party complaint against Kluver and Little Knife, claiming they wrongfully used the equipment leased from Titan and did not reimburse Renewable Resources. Renewable Resources requested that Kluver and Little Knife indemnify Renewable Resources for their use of the equipment. In October 2018, Titan obtained a $140,042.83 money judgment against Renewable Resources. In January 2019, Titan sued Kluver, claiming that under the personal guaranty he was liable for Renewable Resources’ debt to Titan. Kluver denied Titan’s allegations and brought a third-party complaint against Renewable Resources, asserting Renewable Resources should indemnify him for any amounts he was required to pay to Titan. Kluver and Little Knife argued the district court erred in finding they benefited from the equipment leased by Renewable Resources. They claimed there was no evidence they received a benefit from the Case excavator leased by Renewable Resources and the court erred in ordering them to indemnify Renewable Resources. Finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the order in favor of Titan Machinery and Renewable Resources. View "Titan Machinery v. Kluver" on Justia Law

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Jeremy Hoffarth appealed an order denying his motion for relief from a divorce judgment and his subsequent motion to reconsider. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the appeal of his motion for relief from the judgment was untimely. The Court therefore affirmed the order denying his motion to reconsider because the district court did not abuse its discretion. View "Hoffarth v. Hoffarth" on Justia Law

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RFM-TREI Jefferson Apartments, LLC; RFM-TREI Lincoln Apartments, LLC; Dickinson Homestay, LLC; and Lodgepros Dickinson, LLC (together “the Taxpayers”) appealed district court judgments affirming the Stark County Board of Commissioners’ (“the Board”) denials of their applications for tax abatements or refunds. The Taxpayers collectively owned two apartment complexes and two hotels located in the City of Dickinson. The Taxpayers filed applications for abatement or refund of their 2016 property taxes. The Taxpayers’ opinions of value for each property differed from the City’s valuations by a range of roughly $1.8 million to $20.3 million. After holding a hearing, the City recommended the Board deny each application. The Board indeed denied the abatement applications in four separate written decisions. Using the same language in each, the Board concluded the assessor’s valuations were not “in error, invalid, inequitable, unjust, or arrived at in an arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable manner.” The decisions also explained the Board did not believe the Taxpayers provided “sufficient enough information relating to the subject properties, or the local market for competing properties, to lead us to the same value conclusions requested by the applicant.” The district court affirmed each denial in separate, written orders and judgments. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the Board acted arbitrarily and unreasonably in adopting assessments exceeding the true and full value of the property. The Court reversed the district court judgments and the Board’s decisions denying the Taxpayers’ abatement applications. The matters were remanded for a new hearing to determine the “true and full value” of the properties and reconsideration of the abatement applications. View "RFM-TREI Jefferson Apartments v. Stark County Board of Comm'rs" on Justia Law

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G&D Enterprises (“G&D”) appealed the dismissal of its claims against against Merrilynn Liebelt. G&D and Liebelt owned adjacent properties in the City of Beulah, North Dakota. In the summer of 2015, G&D discovered a private water line while digging on its property, puncturing the line. The water line crossed a portion of G&D’s property and supplied water to Liebelt’s residence on her property. Before either G&D or Liebelt owned their respective property, both properties had been one lot. The existence of the water line was not recorded, and neither party had actual knowledge of the water line before G&D discovered it. It was undisputed that there was no express easement of record for the water line. In November 2017, G&D filed a summons and complaint at district court, asserting claims against Liebelt for private nuisance and civil trespass and seeking damages and injunctive relief. Liebelt answered, denying the allegations and asserting G&D was not entitled to any damages, injunctive relief, or recovery. In March 2019, Liebelt moved the district court for summary judgment on all claims. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the court erred in granting summary judgment because the court misapplied the law, and genuine issues of material fact existed on G&D’s claims for nuisance and trespass, and the court erred in dismissing G&D’s request for injunctive relief. View "G & D Enterprises v. Liebelt" on Justia Law