Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries
Brown v. Austin, et al.
This appeal stemmed from Alfred Brown’s lawsuit under the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. secs. 701–796l, against his former employer, the Defense Health Agency. In April 2010, the Agency hired Brown as a healthcare fraud specialist (HCFS) assigned to the Program Integrity Office (PIO) in Aurora, Colorado. Shortly after joining the Agency, Brown told his supervisors that he had been diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder and other panic and anxiety disorders related to his military service. When Brown’s symptoms worsened in September 2011, he was hospitalized and received in-patient treatment for one week. The Agency approved Brown’s request for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The district court granted summary judgment for the Agency, determining that there were no triable issues on Brown’s claims that the Agency failed to accommodate his mental-health disabilities and discriminated against him based on those disabilities. Brown appealed, challenging the district court’s rulings that: (1) his requests for telework, weekend work, and a supervisor reassignment were not reasonable accommodations; and (2) he failed to establish material elements of his various discrimination claims. The Tenth Circuit found no reversible error: (1) granting Brown’s telework and weekend-work requests would have eliminated essential functions of his job, making those requests unreasonable as a matter of law; (2) Brown did not allege the limited circumstances in which the Agency would need to consider reassigning him despite the fact that he performed the essential functions of his position with other accommodations; (3) the Court declined Brown’s invitation to expand those limited circumstances to include reassignments that allow an employee to live a “normal life;” and (4) Brown did not allege a prima facie case of retaliation, disparate treatment, or constructive discharge. Summary judgment for the Agency was affirmed. View "Brown v. Austin, et al." on Justia Law
Wikimedia Foundation v. National Security Agency/Central Security Service
The Fourth Circuit considered for the second time the Wikimedia Foundation's contentions that the government is spying on its communications using Upstream, an electronic surveillance program run by the NHS. In the first appeal, the court found that Wikimedia's allegations of Article III standing sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss and vacated the district court's judgment to the contrary. The district court dismissed the case on remand, holding that Wikimedia did not establish a genuine issue of material fact as to standing and that further litigation would unjustifiably risk the disclosure of state secrets.The court concluded that the record evidence is sufficient to establish a genuine issue of material fact as to Wikimedia's standing, and thus the district court erred in granting summary judgment to the government on this basis. However, the court concluded that the state secrets privilege prevents further litigation of this suit. Furthermore, Wikimedia's other alleged injuries do not support standing. View "Wikimedia Foundation v. National Security Agency/Central Security Service" on Justia Law
Finlan v. Chase
Defendant-appellant Chase sexually assaulted aesthetician, plaintiff-respondent Kimberly Finlan during a facial treatment session at a resort spa. Finlan sued Chase, and in the course of litigating her personal injury action, she sent multiple letters offering to settle for $999,000. The letters stated that her offers were made pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure section 998, but said nothing about how the offers were to be accepted. Chase did not respond to these offers. Finlan prevailed at trial, receiving an award of $3,875,000. The issue presented for the Court of Appeal's review in this case centered on whether a simple reference to section 998 satisfied the acceptance provision requirement of the statute. The Court concluded it did not, based on settled caselaw. Further, the Court determined a valid acceptance provision required more than mere reference to a judgment; section 998 offers must provide some kind of instruction or indication as to how they can be accepted, utilizing a written acceptance that includes a signature from the offeree’s counsel or the unrepresented offeree. Accordingly, the section 998 offers in this case were not statutorily valid, and the trial court's postjudgment order was reversed to the extent it allowed plaintiff to recover costs and interest that could only be awarded based on defendant's failure to accept a legitimate section 998 offer. View "Finlan v. Chase" on Justia Law
Penrod v. K&N Engineering, Inc.
Plaintiffs, three individuals who purchased oil filters designed by K&N, seek to represent a nationwide class of all purchasers of three styles of K&N oil filters that they allege share a common defect, although most proposed class members had oil filters that never exhibited the alleged defect.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's finding that plaintiffs failed to plausibly allege the amount in controversy exceeded $5 million and therefore lacked jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act. The court concluded that the class members whose oil filters never failed have not sustained injury or damages and cannot assist plaintiffs in meeting the $5 million jurisdictional threshold. Therefore, without these losses to aggregate, plaintiffs do not not plausibly allege an amount in controversy in excess of $5 million. View "Penrod v. K&N Engineering, Inc." on Justia Law
Curcio v. Fontana Teachers Assn. CTA/NEA
Plaintiff-appellant Sharon Curcio, formerly a teacher with the Fontana Unified School District (the district), learned her personnel file included derogatory statements about her. When the district refused to allow Curcio to obtain or review those statements, she sought assistance from her union, the Fontana Teachers Association (FTA), and from the California Teachers Association (CTA). When the union didn't help, Curcio initiated proceedings before the Public Employees Relations Board (the board), claiming FTA and CTA breached their duties of fair representation and engaged in unfair practices in violation of the Educational Employment Relations Act (the Act). When the board decided not to issue a complaint, Curcio filed this lawsuit and appealed when the superior court sustained FTA and CTA’s demurrer, without leave to amend, to Curcio’s second amended petition for writ of mandate. The demurrer was grounded on FTA and CTA’s claims that the board had the exclusive jurisdiction to decide whether Curcio had or had not stated an unfair practice and, therefore, the superior court lacked jurisdiction. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Curcio v. Fontana Teachers Assn. CTA/NEA" on Justia Law
Manti Holdings, LLC et al. v. Authentix Acquisition Company, Inc.
In 2017, a third-party entity acquired Authentix Acquisition Company, Inc. (“Authentix”). The cash from the merger was distributed to the stockholders pursuant to a waterfall provision. The Authentix common stockholders received little to no consideration. A group of common stockholders filed a petition for appraisal to the Court of Chancery under Section 262 of the Delaware General Corporation Law (“DGCL”). Authentix moved to dismiss the petition, arguing that the petitioners had waived their appraisal rights under a stockholders agreement that bound the corporation and all of its stockholders. The Court of Chancery granted the motion to dismiss, holding that the petitioners had agreed to a clear provision requiring that they “refrain” from exercising their appraisal rights with respect to the merger. The court awarded the petitioners equitable interest on the merger consideration and declined to award Authentix pre-judgment interest under a fee-shifting provision. All parties appealed the Court of Chancery’s decisions. Pointing to Delaware’s "strong policy favoring private ordering," Authentix argued stockholders were free to set the terms that will govern their corporation so long as such alteration was not prohibited by statute or otherwise contrary to Delaware law. Authentix contended a waiver of the right to seek appraisal was not prohibited by the DGCL, and was not otherwise contrary to Delaware Law. "As a matter of public policy, there are certain fundamental features of a corporation that are essential to that entity’s identity and cannot be waived." Nonetheless, the Delaware Supreme Court determined the individual right of a stockholder to seek a judicial appraisal was not among those fundamental features that could not be waived. Accordingly, the Court held that Section 262 did not prohibit sophisticated and informed stockholders, who were represented by counsel and had bargaining power, from voluntarily agreeing to waive their appraisal rights in exchange for valuable consideration. Further, the Court found the Court of Chancery did not abuse its discretion by awarding the petitioners equitable interest on the merger consideration; nor did the court abuse its discretion by declining to award Authentix pre-judgment interest under a fee-shifting provision. Accordingly, the Court of Chancery’s judgment was affirmed. View "Manti Holdings, LLC et al. v. Authentix Acquisition Company, Inc." on Justia Law
L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority v. Superior Court
The Court of Appeal granted MTA's petition for writ of mandate arising from a special proceeding it filed on March 8, 2021, to quash a search warrant. The court concluded, and counsel for respondent conceded, that a magistrate's decision to authorize a search warrant does not constitute a decision on a contested fact issue relating to the merits under Code of Civil Procedure section 170.6. The court explained that an application for a search warrant is an ex parte procedure and not a hearing for purposes of section 170.6; the relevant hearing is accordingly the hearing on the motion challenging the warrant; and MTA's challenge was timely filed prior to that hearing and should have been granted. View "L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority v. Superior Court" on Justia Law
In re Grand Jury
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's orders holding the Company and the Law Firm in contempt for failure to comply with grand jury subpoenas related to a criminal investigation, in a case in which the district court ruled that certain dual-purpose communications were not privileged because the "primary purpose" of the documents was to obtain tax advice, not legal advice. The panel concluded that the primary-purpose test governs in assessing attorney-client privilege for dual-purpose communications.The panel stated that district courts in its circuit have applied both the "primary purpose" and "because of" tests for attorney-client privilege claims for dual-purpose communications; the primary-purpose test applies to dual-purpose communications in the attorney-client privilege context; and the panel left open whether "a primary purpose test" should apply rather than "the primary purpose" test. The panel addressed remaining issues in a concurrently filed, sealed memorandum disposition. View "In re Grand Jury" on Justia Law
Dodson International Parts v. Williams International Company
Williams International Company LLC designed, manufactured, and serviced small jet engines. Dodson International Parts, Inc., sold new and used aircraft and aircraft parts. After purchasing two used jet engines that had been manufactured by Williams, Dodson contracted with Williams to inspect the engines and prepare an estimate of repair costs, intending to resell the repaired engines. Williams determined that the engines were so badly damaged that they could not be rendered fit for flying, but it refused to return one of the engines because Dodson had not paid its bill in full. Dodson sued Williams in federal court alleging federal antitrust and state-law tort claims. Williams moved to compel arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), relying on an arbitration clause on the original invoices. The district court granted the motion, and the arbitrator resolved all of Dodson’s claims in favor of Williams. Dodson then moved to reconsider the order compelling arbitration and to vacate the arbitrator’s award. The court denied both motions and, construing Williams’s opposition to the motion for vacatur as a request to confirm the award, confirmed the award. Dodson appealed, challenging the district court’s order compelling arbitration and its order confirming the award and denying the motions for reconsideration and vacatur. After review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed, holding: (1) the claims in Dodson’s federal-court complaint were encompassed by the arbitration clause; (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Dodson’s untimely motion to reconsider; and (3) that Dodson failed to establish any grounds for vacatur of the arbitrator’s award or for denial of confirmation of the award. View "Dodson International Parts v. Williams International Company" on Justia Law
Chase v. Andeavor Logistics, L.P.
In 2017, Andeavor agreed with the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation, known as the Three Affiliated Tribes, to renew the right-of-way over tribal lands, and to pay trespass damages for continued operation of an oil pipeline after expiration. Andeavor then began renewal negotiations with individual Indian landowners. In 2018, the Allottees filed a putative class action seeking compensatory and punitive damages for ongoing trespass and injunctive relief requiring Andeavor to dismantle the pipeline. The district court granted Andeavor's motion to dismiss, concluding that the Allottees failed to exhaust administrative remedies with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).The Eighth Circuit concluded that the case turns on issues sufficiently within the primary jurisdiction of the BIA to warrant a stay, rather than dismissal, to give the BIA opportunity to take further action. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's judgment and remanded for further proceedings. The court denied the Allottees' motion to dismiss Robin Fredericks as a plaintiff. View "Chase v. Andeavor Logistics, L.P." on Justia Law