Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

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On November 8, 2019, the district court entered judgment dismissing Young’s prisoner civil-rights complaint. A notice of appeal was due to be filed by December 9. Young’s notice of appeal was dated December 17 and filed on December 30. Young claimed that he did not see the judgment until November 21, because “he was placed on dry cell protocol” on October 22, and was transferred on October 30, and placed in the prison’s psychiatric unit. An attached exhibit confirmed the transfer. Young stated that inmates in the psychiatric unit are not permitted to have property in their possession. The Sixth Circuit remanded for a determination of whether Young has shown excusable neglect or good cause to warrant an extension of time for filing a notice of appeal. Both 28 U.S.C. 2107(c) and Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a)(5) provide for an extension of time where the party seeking such an extension files a motion asking for more time. While no particular form of words is necessary, a simple notice of appeal does not suffice. However, district courts must liberally construe a document that could reasonably be interpreted as a motion for an extension of time. Young’s notice of appeal effectively reads as a motion for an extension of time to file and will be treated as such. View "Young v. Kenney" on Justia Law

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The issues presented by this appeal for the Court of Appeal’s review arose in the procedural context of an anti-SLAPP motion brought by Tamara Kinsella, in defendant Kevin Kinsella’s malicious prosecution complaint. Shortly after Tamara initiated dissolution of marriage proceedings against Kevin, Tamara sued Kevin based on what she contended was his promise, prior to their marriage, that the property and income they acquired during their relationship would belong equally to both of them (Marvin Action). After Tamara voluntarily dismissed the Marvin Action, Kevin sued her for malicious prosecution in the present action. Seeking to have Kevin's malicious prosecution complaint stricken as a SLAPP, Tamara responded with an anti-SLAPP motion. In her effort to establish that Kevin could not show she lacked probable cause to prosecute the Marvin Action, Tamara relied on an interim adverse judgment rule: She (1) presented evidence that the trial court in the Marvin Action denied Kevin's motion for summary judgment, and (2) argued that this interim victory on Kevin's summary judgment motion precluded Kevin from establishing that Tamara lacked the requisite probable cause to file and prosecute the Marvin Action. In opposition, Kevin relied on the fraud exception to the interim adverse judgment rule: He argued that, because Tamara defeated Kevin's summary judgment motion in the Marvin Action by having submitted materially false facts on which the court relied in denying the motion, Tamara was not entitled to rely on the interim adverse judgment rule's presumption that resulted from the denial of his summary judgment motion in the Marvin Action. The trial court ruled that the malicious prosecution complaint was a SLAPP and struck it. Kevin appealed, arguing the trial court erred in determining that he did not establish the requisite probability of prevailing on the merits of his claim against Tamara. The Court of Appeal concurred with Kevin’s argument and reversed. View "Kinsella v. Kinsella" on Justia Law

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Under Colorado law, employers must pay all employees time-and-a-half wages for overtime hours, with certain exemptions. Employers need not pay overtime wages to “companions, casual babysitters, and domestic employees employed by households or family members to perform duties in private residences.” The question this case presented for the Tenth Circuit’s review was whether “companions” working for third-party employers (rather than for households or family members) fell within the companionship exemption. The Court determined they do. Accordingly, it reversed the district court’s judgment concluding otherwise. View "Jordan v. Maxim Healthcare Services" on Justia Law

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Fourstar, a federal prisoner, filed a Tucker Act Complaint with a Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. He claimed that the government is mismanaging certain Indian properties and resources. The Claims Court denied his motion to proceed in forma pauperis, citing 28 U.S.C. 1915(g), which provides: In no event shall a prisoner bring a civil action or appeal ... under this section if the prisoner has, on 3 or more prior occasions, while incarcerated or detained in any facility, brought an action or appeal in a court of the United States that was dismissed on the grounds that it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, unless the prisoner is under imminent danger of serious physical injury,” Prison Litigation Reform Act, 110 Stat. 1321. Fourstar did not pay the filing fee. The court dismissed his complaint. Fourstar was released from prison and later filed a Notice of Appeal. He later filed a statement that he was subsequently arrested and detained and unsuccessfully moved to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal. Because Fourstar was not a prisoner at the time of filing his appeal, section 1915 is not applicable. The Federal Circuit affirmed that the three-strikes rule was met by Fourstar’s litigation history and that Fourstar was not subject to the “imminent danger” exception. View "Fourstar v. United States" on Justia Law

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Russell, Daniel, and Carson co-owned a business. Under a succession plan, the company was to purchase life insurance. If a shareholder died, the company would use the proceeds to buy the deceased shareholder’s stock. Daniel died. The company received insurance proceeds and kept the money. Elizabeth, Daniel’s widow, sued Russell and Carson for conversion and breach of fiduciary duty. A Kansas court issued a judgment against Russell for $822,900.77. Russell and Carson had expected Liberty to defend and indemnify them under their Directors, Officers and Company Liability Coverage and Fiduciary Liability Coverage. Liberty cited a “Personal Profit Exclusion” for claims based upon "gaining ... any profit, remuneration or financial advantage” to which they are “not legally entitled” and a “Contract Exclusion” regarding claims "attributable to any actual or alleged liability under or breach of any contract.” Russell and Carson sued Liberty in Missouri state court for bad-faith. Elizabeth joined the suit. Liberty, a corporate citizen of Massachusetts and Illinois, removed the case to federal court. Russell and Carson sought remand, arguing that in “direct action[s]” against insurers, the insurer takes the citizenship of those it insures, 28 U.S.C. 1332(c)(1); if the Trust’s equitable garnishment claim was a direct action, Liberty shared Russell’s Missouri citizenship. The district court held that the equitable garnishment claim required Russell as a defendant, but Russell’s bad-faith claim required him as a plaintiff. The court severed the suit: Russell and Carson could sue for bad-faith failure to defend and indemnify; the Trust could separately sue Liberty and Russell. The Eighth Circuit affirmed summary judgment on the bad faith claim. Because the Missouri statutory claim is not a direct action, complete diversity exists. The district court had jurisdiction over the bad-faith claim. The policy exclusions applied. View "Russell v. Liberty Insurance Underwriters, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court concluding that the superior court is not vested with the inherent supervisory authority to order the public disclosure of grand jury materials that could potentially be reopened and that dealt with events for which the potentially relevant statute of limitations has not yet run, holding that the superior court does not have the authority to disclose grand jury material outside of Rule 6(e)(3) of the Superior Court Rules of Criminal Procedure. A statewide grand jury convened to investigate the possibility of potential criminality in connection with a government deal gone bad (the 38 Studios deal). The investigation concluded with an announcement that there were no provable criminal violations in connection with the deal. In a separate action, the State initiated civil litigation against individuals and entities involved in the 38 Studios deal, and settlements followed. Thereafter, the Governor filed a miscellaneous petition seeking release of the 38 Studios grand jury records, arguing that the superior court has the discretion to release grand jury materials. The superior court denied the petition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the superior court does not have inherent authority to disclose grand jury materials beyond the parameters of the permitted disclosures set forth in Rule 6(e). View "In re 38 Studios Grand Jury" on Justia Law

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In October 2019, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed a Commonwealth Court order and directed that the name of Sherrie Cohen be placed on the November 5, 2019 ballot as an independent candidate for Philadelphia City Council-at-Large. Because the Board of Elections only had until the close of business on October 4, 2019 to add Cohen’s name to the ballot, the Supreme Court issued its order noting that an opinion would follow. By this opinion, the Supreme Court forth its reasons for concluding that Cohen’s withdrawal as a candidate in the Democratic primary election for City Council-at-Large did not preclude her from running in the general election as an independent candidate. On August 16, 2019, the trial court issued an order granting the petitions to set aside Cohen’s nomination papers. In an opinion in support of the order, the court looked to Packrall v. Quail, 192 A.2d 704 (Pa. 1963), where the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that when a candidate withdraws his nomination petitions for a primary ballot “within the permitted period,” his subsequently filed nomination papers may be accepted. The trial court distinguished Cohen’s case from Packrall because “Cohen required Court intervention to leave the primary ballot.” The court determined this to be the decisive factor in concluding that she was “subject to the ‘sore loser’ provision.” Cohen filed a timely appeal to the Commonwealth Court. In a single-judge memorandum and order, the trial court was affirmed, holding “[w]hen a person withdraws of his or her own volition within the time for filing, it ‘undoes,’ ab initio, the filing because a person gets to choose whether he or she wants to go through the primary process to seek an office.” Cohen asserted on appeal of the Commonwealth Court’s order that that court erred by failing to consider withdrawal by court order under Election Code Section 978.4 to have the same effect as voluntary withdrawal pursuant to Section 914. The Supreme Court agreed with Cohen that “[t]he Commonwealth Court failed to acknowledge that the important dividing line in this area of the law is between voluntary withdraw[als] and candidates getting stricken from the ballot. … Because there is no principled reason to distinguish between the voluntariness of a withdrawal under Section 914 or Section 978.4, Cohen is entitled to relief from this Court.” View "In Re: Nomination Papers of Sherrie Cohen" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s review centered on the scope and application of the qualified immunity provided under Section 114 of the Mental Health Procedures Act (MHPA), 50 P.S. sections 7101-7503. On November 20, 2012, twenty-three year-old Andrew Johnson (Andrew) voluntarily admitted himself to Bowling Green-Brandywine Addiction Treatment Center (Brandywine). Andrew sought drug rehabilitation treatment for his addiction to opiates (OxyContin) and benzodiazepines (Xanax), which were first prescribed to him two years earlier for pain and anxiety related to back injuries arising from an ATV accident. He was accompanied by his mother, appellant Melissa Dean, and reported his health history to Brandywine staff. Appellee Mohammad Ali Khan, M.D., a physician at Brandywine, took Andrew’s medical history and performed a physical exam. At approximately 8:15 in the evening of November 28, 2012, the nursing staff informed Khan of Andrew’s elevated vital signs, but Khan declined to examine Andrew, did not issue any new treatment orders, and instructed the nursing staff not to transfer Andrew to the emergency room. The nursing staff again checked Andrew every few hours, noting his vital signs but giving no additional treatment. At approximately 7:50 a.m. the next morning, Andrew was found lying on the floor of his room, face down, without a pulse. He was transferred to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead. Andrew’s parents, appellant Dean and Clifton Johnson, as administrators of Andrew’s estate and in their individual capacities, filed suit against Brandywine, Dr. Kahn, and others who treated Andrew, raising medical malpractice, wrongful death and survival claims. Specifically, appellants alleged Andrew died of a cardiac arrhythmia due to the combination of medications prescribed during treatment at Brandywine, and that his death was the result of medical negligence including the failure to properly examine, diagnose, appreciate, and treat his medical condition. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court concluded the Superior Court erred in affirming entry of a compulsory nonsuit and held immunity did not apply under circumstances where: (1) the patient was admitted for and primarily received drug detoxification treatment; and (2) the patient did not receive treatment to facilitate recovery from a mental illness. Consequently, the Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Dean v. Bowling Green-Brandywine" on Justia Law

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Petitioners, consisting of several citizens groups and neighborhood associations, sought a contested case hearing in the administrative law court (ALC) to challenge the propriety of state environmental authorizations issued by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) for a project relocating and expanding the passenger cruise facility at the Union Pier Terminal (the Terminal) in downtown Charleston. Petitioners contended they had standing to seek this hearing as "affected persons" under section 44-1- 60(G) of the South Carolina Code (2018). The ALC concluded Petitioners did not have standing and granted summary judgment to Respondents. The ALC terminated discovery and also sanctioned Petitioners for requesting a remand to the DHEC Board. The court of appeals affirmed. The South Carolina Supreme Court, however, concluded Petitioners did have standing, and thus reversed the grant of summary judgment and remanded the matter to the ALC for a contested case hearing. View "Preservation Society v. SCDHEC" on Justia Law

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This case concerned accreting land along the South Carolina coast that owned by the Town of Sullivan. Petitioners Nathan and Ettaleah Bluestein and Theodore and Karen Albenesius (collectively, Petitioners) bought property in the Town that abutted the accreting land. Petitioners' properties were once considered oceanfront lots only a short distance from the beach, but due to accretion, the properties were now a substantial distance away. The accreting land was subject to a 1991 deed, which set forth certain rights and responsibilities respecting the condition of the property and the Town's duties concerning upkeep of the land. Petitioners were third party beneficiaries of the 1991 deed. Petitioners argued the 1991 deed mandated the Town keep the vegetation on the land in the same condition as existed in 1991, particularly as to the height of shrubs and vegetation. Conversely, the Town contended the 1991 deed granted it unfettered discretion to allow unchecked growth of the vegetation on the accreting land. The South Carolina Supreme Court determined all parties cherrypicked language from the 1991 deed to support their respective interpretations of the deed. But contrary to the holding of the court of appeals and the trial court's findings, the Supreme Court held the deed was “far from unambiguous;” because the 1991 deed is ambiguous in terms of the Town's maintenance responsibilities, the court of appeals erred in affirming the entry of summary judgment for the Town. As a result, the matter was remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Bluestein v. Town of Sullivans Island" on Justia Law