Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

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Smith suffered an injury from a car accident, retained an attorney for a personal injury lawsuit, and authorized her attorney to obtain her healthcare information. The attorney requested Smith’s medical records from MHS, on three occasions. RecordQuest, not MHS, answered those requests and charged Smith’s attorney (who paid on her behalf) a $20.96 handling fee and an $8.26 certification fee each time.Smith brought a class action, alleging these charged fees contravened the permissible fee schedule set out in Wis. Stat. 146.83(3f)(b) for healthcare records requests and resulted in the unjust enrichment of RecordQuest. The district court dismissed both claims, reasoning that the statute imposes a duty upon only healthcare providers.” RecordQuest is not a healthcare provider but is the agent of MHS; “no principle of agency law holds that a principal’s liability is imputed to the agent when the agent performs the act that results in the principal’s liability.” Smith’s unjust enrichment claim failed because any unjust benefit that Smith allegedly conferred to RecordQuest belonged to MHS.The Wisconsin Court of Appeals subsequently expressly disagreed with the district court’s analysis of Smith’s statutory claim. The Seventh Circuit reversed the dismissal of the statutory claim but affirmed as to Smith’s unjust enrichment claim. Under section 146.83(3f)(b), Smith has a remedy at law for any “injustice” that allegedly resulted from excessive payments; the equitable remedy of unjust enrichment is derivative of and predicated upon the statutory claim. View "Smith v. RecordQuest LLC" on Justia Law

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Ronald Throupe, a Professor of Real Estate at the University of Denver ("DU"), brought an employment discrimination claim under Title IX against DU as well as several faculty and staff members. In 2013, Throupe was a candidate to serve as director of the Real Estate and Construction Management department. DU ultimately hired outside of the school, bringing in Barbara Jackson to lead the department. According to Throupe, upon Jackon’s arrival, she made clear in conversations with professors, she would force some of the tenured real estate faculty members to leave. In 2014, the University Title IX office was contacted multiple times about Throupe's relationship with a foreign graduate student. In an email to University officials, Jackson concluded "Ron believes he has done nothing but help this girl, but his behaviors have been totally unprofessional and inappropriate, his father/daughter views perverted, and his obsession out of control." The Title IX investigator and DU’s Manager of Equal Employment had a follow-up meeting with Throupe. Afterward, he sent an email to the Manager of Equal Employment formally reporting a hostile work environment. When Throupe later asked whether any actions had been taken in response to his report, the investigator told Throupe his claim “did not result in any formal investigation by the Office of Equal Employment.” However, the school issued him a written warning, admonishing him from further contact with the student. Throupe maintained that Jackson continued to harass him even after the written warning. The district court granted summary judgment for the defendants. Although Throupe had dedicated little space in his briefing to arguing any theory of sex discrimination, the district court identified two theories of sex discrimination in Throupe’s argument: that defendants created a hostile work environment and engaged in disparate treatment against him. But the court determined that Throupe had failed to establish a prima facie case of sex discrimination under either of these theories. Having dismissed Throupe’s sole federal claim, the district court declined to consider the remaining state law claims due to lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment, specifically concluding the district court did not err in concluding that Throupe failed to raise a triable issue of fact as to whether he was discriminated against on the basis of his sex. View "Throupe v. University of Denver" on Justia Law

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Lawrence Taylor appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of Charles Hanks in Taylor's will contest. Taylor challenged the will of his father, Billy Lee Hite, alleging, among other things, that Hite had lacked testamentary capacity when he made the will, which did not mention Taylor. Because the Alabama Supreme Court concluded that a genuine issue of material fact existed regarding whether Hite had testamentary capacity, judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Taylor v. Hanks" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Crag Dyas and Dyas, LLC appealed a circuit court's orders disposing of some of their claims against some of the defendants below. Because those orders did not constitute a valid, final judgment that would support an appeal, the Alabama Supreme Court dismissed this appeal. View "Dyas v. Stringfellow et al." on Justia Law

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In 2009, MC-2 was awarded Government Services Administration (GSA) task order to provide services for the annual GovEnergy Conference. MC-2 performed the Task Order in 2009, 2010, and 2011. GSA canceled the 2012 Conference before it began and requested that MC-2 return the entire Reserve Fund and an accounting for the Reserve Fund over the contract's life. MC-2 purportedly responded days later, arguing that GSA never before claimed that it was entitled to the difference between the Conference revenue and expenses, that MC-2 was entitled to any excess revenue, and that MC-2 had submitted a final accounting at the end of each contracting year. In 2012, MC-2 submitted a termination-for-convenience proposal.In November 2015, GSA sent MC-2 a letter providing the Contracting Officer’s final decision on MC-2’s proposal, which had sought $717,680.10, stating that the Government believed that MC-2 owed the government money. The decision stated that “GSA considers the Reserve Fund balance a contract debt. In January 2018, GSA sent a follow-up letter, demanding payment of $660,013.68. Because MC-2 had not appealed the November 2015 Final Decision, GSA deemed MC-2’s debt “final and conclusive,” 41 U.S.C. 7103(g)).In December 2018, MC-2 filed suit, arguing that the 2015 GSA letter was not a final decision because it failed to state a sum certain. The Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit as untimely because it was not brought within 12 months of the 2015 decision, as required by 41 U.S.C. 7104(b)(3). GSA issued a valid claim under the Contract Disputes Act for the return of the Reserve Funds; GSA’s claim was the subject of a written decision by the GSA contracting officer; and MC-2 failed to file suit within 12 months of receiving the contracting officer’s final decision View "Creative Management Services, LLC v. United States" on Justia Law

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After appellant filed a breach of contract claim against the Government in D.C. Superior Court, the Government removed to district court and subsequently dismissed the claim. Appellant appealed, arguing that under 28 U.S.C. 1447(c), which provides that "[i]f at any time before final judgment it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case shall be remanded, " the district court should have remanded his claim.The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment, concluding that 28 U.S.C. 1442(a)(1) and the Tucker Act make clear that section 1447(c) does not require the district court to remand in this case. The court explained that to require the district court to remand appellant's claim here, where the government has waived sovereign immunity against appellant's claim only in the Court of Federal Claims, and where that court has already dismissed appellant's claim, would be to subject the government to lengthy and piecemeal litigation of the kind that Congress intended section 1442(a)(1) to allow it to avoid. Therefore, the court concluded that, in context, Congress did not intend the "shall be remanded" language in section 1447(c) to mean that the district court must force the Government to spend one more ounce of resources on the re-litigation of a case it has already won. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Hammer v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) allows a plaintiff to bring certain state-law tort claims against the United States for torts committed by federal employees acting within the scope of their employment if the plaintiff alleges six statutory elements of an actionable claim, 28 U.S.C. 1346(b). The judgment in an action under section 1346(b) bars “any action by the claimant” involving the same subject matter against the federal employee whose act gave rise to the claim. King sued the government under the FTCA after a violent encounter with federal task force members and sued the officers individually under “Bivens.” The district court dismissed his FTCA claims, holding that the government was immune because the officers were entitled to qualified immunity under Michigan law, then dismissed King’s Bivens claims. The Sixth Circuit found that the dismissal of King’s FTCA claims did not trigger the judgment bar to block his Bivens claims.A unanimous Supreme Court reversed. The dismissal was a judgment on the merits of the FTCA claims that can trigger the judgment bar, similar to common-law claim preclusion. Whether the undisputed facts established all the elements of King’s FTCA claims is a quintessential merits decision. The court also determined that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction because, in the unique context of the FTCA, all elements of a meritorious claim are also jurisdictional. Generally, a court may not issue a ruling on the merits when it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, but when pleading a claim and pleading jurisdiction entirely overlap, a ruling that the court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction may simultaneously be a judgment on the merits. View "Brownback v. King" on Justia Law

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A Louisiana law, La. Stat. Ann. 30:16, allows citizen suits to enforce state conservation laws, but any injunction the citizen might obtain must be entered in favor of the Commissioner of Louisiana's Office of Conservation. Plaintiff filed suit contending that this potential state involvement at the end of the litigation precludes diversity jurisdiction in federal court because there is no such jurisdiction when a State is a party. The district court disagreed, held that it had subject matter jurisdiction, and remanded to state court anyway based on Burford abstention.The Fifth Circuit denied the motion to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction; reversed the remand order; and remanded for further proceedings. The court concluded that it has subject matter jurisdiction over Grace Ranch's suit. The court explained that, despite Grace Ranch's listing of Louisiana in the style of the case, the State is not a proper party because it has not authorized landowners to sue in its name. Furthermore, Grace Ranch's real-party-in-interest argument for state involvement fares no better because Louisiana has only a general interest in the outcome of this suit. The court also concluded that it has appellate jurisdiction to review the district court's abstention-based remand order. Making explicit what was previously implicit in its caselaw, the court reasoned that a discretionary remand such as one on abstention grounds does not involve a removal "defect" within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. 1447(c). Finally, the court weighed the factors for Burford abstention and concluded that abstention is not warranted. View "Grace Ranch, LLC v. BP America Production, Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the trial court's dismissal of Plaintiffs' action seeking a declaratory judgment concerning the rights and obligations of the parties under a 2001 contract, holding that the court of appeals erred in concluding that dismissal was appropriate on the grounds that the complaint was barred by the doctrine of res judicata.In a previously filed action, Plaintiffs sought similar relief, but the case was dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. In the instant case, the trial court granted Defendants' motions to dismiss, finding that Plaintiffs lacked standing. The court of appeals affirmed on other grounds, concluding that res judicata barred the complaint and, as such, declined to address the standing issue. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that dismissal of the previous case did not constitute an adjudication on the merits for purposes of res judicata. The Court then remanded the case to the court of appeals for consideration of the standing issue. View "Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. v. City of Memphis" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff prevailed on her procedural due process and breach of contract claims against TSC, the trial court vacated the jury's verdict on the breach of contract claims and reduced the damages award on her procedural due process claim to $1.The Fifth Circuit held that TSC is entitled to neither sovereign immunity under the United States Constitution nor governmental immunity under state law. In this case, the Texas Legislature abrogated TSC's governmental immunity such that plaintiff could bring state law breach of contract claims against TSC. Therefore, the argument that the Texas Legislature attempted to limit federal jurisdiction over these claims is unavailing. The court also held that it was not required to address TSC's alternative arguments and declined to do so. The court reversed the dismissal of plaintiff's breach of contract claims, reinstated the jury's verdict on those claims, and remanded for the district court to consider TSC's alternative arguments regarding whether sufficient evidence supports plaintiff's breach of contract claims. The court affirmed the district court's grant of judgment as a matter of law on the due process violation damages and reduction of the jury's award of $12,500,000 to the nominal amount of $1. The court reversed the district court's vacatur of the portion of the attorneys' fees award based on the breach of contract claims and remanded for the district court to address TSC's alternative arguments regarding those claims and to determine whether plaintiff is entitled to attorneys' fees and in what amount. View "Tercero v. Texas Southmost College District" on Justia Law