Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiff-respondent Carra Crouch was 13 years old when she was drugged and raped by a 30-year-old employee of the Trinity Christian Center of Santa Ana, Inc. (TCC). The assault took place while plaintiff was in Atlanta participating in a TCC-sponsored telethon. When Carra returned to California, she and her mother, Tawny Crouch, went to see Carra’s grandmother, Jan Crouch, who was a TCC officer and director and was responsible for overseeing the telethon. When Tawny explained to Jan what had happened to Carra in Atlanta, Jan flew into a tirade and yelled at Carra that she was stupid, it was really her fault, and she was the one who allowed it to happen. Based on Jan’s conduct, the jury awarded Carra $2 million in damages (later remitted to $900,000) against TCC on her cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED). The jury found that Jan was acting within her authority as an officer or director of TCC when she yelled at Carra. TCC appealed, challenging the judgment and the trial court’s orders overruling its demurrer to Carra’s first amended complaint and denying its motions for summary adjudication, nonsuit, a judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV), and a new trial. At each stage of the trial court proceedings, and again on appeal, TCC argued that Jan’s conduct was not extreme or outrageous but was just a grandmotherly scolding or irascible behavior. According to TCC, Carra endured nothing more than insults, petty indignities, and annoyances. The Court of Appeal concluded Jan’s behavior toward Carra was sufficiently extreme and outrageous to impose liability for IIED. “Yelling at 13-year-old girl who had been drugged and raped that she was stupid and she was at fault exceeds all possible bounds of decency.” The Court concluded the evidence was sufficient to support the jury’s finding Jan acted within the scope of her authority as an officer of TCC, and therefore, supported respondeat superior liability against TCC. View "Crouch v. Trinity Christian Center of Santa Ana, Inc." on Justia Law

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Ronny Sanders and his employer KKE, LLC, sought to transfer a wrongful-death case filed against them in Bibb County, Alabama to Chilton County, where the automobile accident giving rise to the case occurred. KKE was a trucking company with its principal place of business in Bibb County. In 2016, Sanders, a Bibb County resident, was driving a logging truck owned by KKE eastbound on U.S. Highway 82 in Chilton County when the truck collided with a westbound vehicle being driven by Destini Davis. Davis and her three passengers, Londyn Rivers, Tarlanda Davenport, and Makiyah Davenport, were killed in the collision. After the trial court denied Sanders and KKE's motion to transfer the action from Bibb County to Chilton County, they petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus, arguing that the transfer was required by section 6-3-21.1, Ala. Code 1975, the forum non conveniens statute. The Supreme Court concluded Sanders and KKE did not establish that Chilton County was a significantly more convenient forum than Bibb County or that Bibb County's connection to the action was weak. Because they did not establish a clear legal right to the transfer they seek, Sanders and KKE were not entitled to mandamus relief. View "Ex parte KKE, LLC" on Justia Law

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Five Star Credit Union ("Five Star") attempted for over a decade to collect a debt owed by William Elliott. Five Star obtained a judgment against Elliott in 2011, but he never paid. In 2017, Five Star sought to garnish Elliott's wages by filing a process of garnishment against Elliott's employer, The Elliott Law Group, P.A. ("ELG"), a law firm under Elliott's complete control. ELG opposed the process of garnishment. Following a hearing, the trial court found that the assertions in ELG's opposition were untrue and ordered that Elliott's income from ELG be garnished. Elliott and ELG appealed. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the appellants' arguments lacked merit, and affirmed the trial court. View "Elliott Law Firm Group, P.A. v. Five Star Credit Union" on Justia Law

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Antoinette Belle, as personal representative of the estate of Edith Mitchell, deceased, sued various health-care providers that treated Mitchell while she was hospitalized in April 2009. Belle eventually reached settlements with all of those health-care providers except two physicians. The trial court entered a summary judgment against Belle and in favor of the two physicians, bringing the medical-malpractice action to a close. Belle then filed a legal-malpractice case against four attorneys and three law firms that had represented her at varying times in the medical-malpractice action, alleging they had been negligent in representing her. Belle later brought an additional claim of fraudulent concealment. The attorneys and law firms denied the allegations against them, arguing that Belle's claims were untimely and that they had no factual or legal basis. The trial court agreed and entered judgments in favor of the attorneys and law firms. Belle appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed judgment in the attorneys and law firms. View "Belle v. Goldasich, Jr., et al." on Justia Law

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Dara Myelia Reed petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the Jefferson Circuit Court to vacate its order denying Reed's motion for a change of venue and to enter an order transferring the underlying action to the Marshall Circuit Court. In 2017, a vehicle driven by Reed collided with a vehicle driven by Judy Watwood, at or near the intersection of Gilliam Springs Road Northwest and U.S. Highway 231 in Marshall County. Reed was a resident of Jefferson County; Watwood was a resident of Cullman County. In 2018, Watwood sued Reed in the Jefferson Circuit Court, alleging negligence and wantonness and seeking damages for her accident-related injuries. Reed filed a motion for a change of venue under Alabama's forum non conveniens statute, requesting that the action be transferred to Marshall County in the interest of justice. Watwood filed a response in opposition to the motion for a change of venue. Following a hearing on the matter, the circuit court denied the motion. Reed then filed this petition. The Supreme Court determined the trial court should have granted Reed’s motion, and granted her petition. View "Ex parte Reed." on Justia Law

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Kate K. and Jaime S. were the de facto parents of L.M., who was placed in their foster care soon after birth. They challenged a juvenile court's order, made when L.M. was 10-months old, removing her from their care and placing her with Rita and John E. (the E.'s), who had previously adopted L.M.'s sister, V.E. The juvenile court had "an immensely difficult decision" to make in this case. As the court recognized, Kate and Jaime had provided L.M. excellent care for essentially her entire 10-month life. Yet, the E.'s are also "good people and excellent parents as well" and have adopted L.M.'s sister. L.M. thrives in both environments. The tipping point was the relationship between L.M. and V.E., who "hit it off immediately" and "simply love each other." The court found that it is in L.M.'s best interest to be removed from Kate and Jaime's care so that she may be placed with the E.'s. On appeal, Kate and Jaime claimed the juvenile court erred by applying the "wrong" legal standard: the court first had to determine if it was in L.M.'s best interest to be removed from their care, without regard to whether it was in L.M.'s best interest to be placed with the E.'s. Kate and Jaime further claimed that under this standard, focusing only on grounds for removal, the order had to be reversed because the juvenile court recognized that they provided excellent care and did nothing wrong. The Court of Appeal determined that, even assuming that Kate and Jaime were entitled to rights afforded to prospective adoptive parents, the juvenile court applied the correct legal standard, and it affirmed because the court's findings were supported by substantial evidence. View "In re L.M." on Justia Law

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The DeSoto County Board of Supervisors denied Standard Construction Company’s application for a condition use permit to mine sand and gravel. In September 2017, the circuit court, sitting as an appellate court, reversed the Board's decision. Eleven days later, DeSoto County filed a motion seeking rehearing under Mississippi Rule of Appellate Procedure 40. On December 22, 2017, the circuit court denied the motion. On January 3, 2018, DeSoto County filed a notice of appeal “from the final judgment entered in this case on September 29, 2017 and the denial of the Motion for Rehearing by order entered on December 22, 2017.” The Mississippi Court of Appeals dismissed DeSoto County’s entire appeal as untimely because the motion for rehearing did not toll the thirty-day time period for filing a notice of appeal under Mississippi Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a). While the Mississippi Supreme Court agreed the appeal of the September 29, 2017 order was untimely and should have been dismissed, DeSoto County timely appealed the circuit court’s order of December 22, 2017. Even though the appeal of the December order denying the motion for rehearing was timely, the Supreme Court held DeSoto County waived any argument that the circuit court abused its discretion in denying the motion. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s judgment. View "DeSoto County, Mississippi v. Standard Construction Company, Inc." on Justia Law

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Daniel Shope filed suit against Dr. Timothy Chen, alleging Chen “medically aided and contributed” to Shope’s opioid drug dependency by prescribing Shope Hydrocodone-Acetaminophen and Tramadol after he was hospitalized for an opioid overdose. In his complaint, Shope admitted that a separate doctor was the “initial tort feasor [sic]” and that Chen had exacerbated Shope’s injuries. Chen was the only defendant in the original complaint. Chen immediately moved to transfer venue to Madison County because Chen only practiced in Madison County, where he saw Shope. On the same day Chen filed his motion to transfer venue, Shope filed an amended complaint adding Mississippi Baptist Hospital (Baptist). Baptist moved for dismissal based on Shope’s failure to provide presuit notice. In response, Shope argued that notice was provided to Baptist when he provided notice to one of its doctors, Chen. Alternatively, Shope moved to stay the case for thirty days in an attempt to cure his failure to give presuit notice. Later, Shope filed a motion for leave to amend his complaint “to resolve excusable neglect [Miss. R. Civ. P.] 6(b) defects” that would “dispose of all of Defendants’ motions. After hearing all pending motions, the trial judge denied Chen’s motion to transfer venue and motion to strike Shope’s affidavit, granted Baptist Hospital’s motion to dismiss, and dismissed without prejudice Shope’s amended complaint. Chen petitioned this Court for interlocutory review of the trial judge’s denial of his motion to transfer and motion to strike Shope’s affidavit. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found the trial court abused its discretion in denying both motions, that the trial court’s order should have been reversed, and that this case should have been remanded with instructions to transfer venue to the County Court of Madison County. View "Chen v. Shope" on Justia Law

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Carol Dalon died in the care of Ocean Springs Health and Rehabilitation Center (OSHRC). As administrator of her estate, Carol’s son Emile Dalon, sued the center for wrongful death, alleging OSHRC and its employees negligently caused Carol’s death. The circuit court granted the defendants’ motion to compel arbitration, and Emile appealed. The Mississippi Supreme Court found Emile presented no evidence he lacked the opportunity to study the arbitration agreement and to inquire about its terms. Emile did not argue he was time pressured when signing the agreement. Additionally, the arbitration agreement explained that Emile had the right to seek legal counsel concerning the arbitration agreement. If Emile had concerns or questions about the arbitration agreement, he could have asked the facility, researched the question on his own, or hired an attorney to assist him. Emile argues he was forced to sign the arbitration agreement in order to get his mother the care she needed. The Court found this claim meritless, concluding Emile entered into the arbitration agreement knowingly and voluntarily. Therefore, the trial court made no reversible error in granting a motion to compel arbitration. View "Dalon v. MS HUD Ocean Springs LLC" on Justia Law

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On August 14, 2017, Susan Franciere and her dog were attacked by another dog in Mandan. Two days later, she went to the Mandan Police Department, asserted her rights under Article I, section 25 of the North Dakota Constitution, and requested a copy of the police report on the incident under the open records law. On August 17, 2017, she called the police department and was informed the dog was undergoing a 10-day rabies quarantine. On August 18, 2017, Franciere sent a letter to the chief of police requesting the police report. On August 22, 2017, she received a phone call from a police lieutenant who told her she would not receive the report because the case was still active and no information would be released until the case was closed. In September 2017, she contacted the city attorney about the incident. In October, she filed suit in another attempt to get the records. On November 1, 2017, Franciere received a redacted version of the report. On January 13, 2018, she received an unredacted report. She appealed when her case was dismissed as moot, because Franciere eventually received the records she requested. The district court specifically declined to rule on the City’s motion to dismiss the proceedings for insufficient service of process and lack of personal jurisdiction. The North Dakota Supreme Court determined that because a determination of subject matter and personal jurisdiction had to precede any dismissal with prejudice, the court was required to resolve the motion to dismiss for insufficiency of service and lack of personal jurisdiction before dismissing the claims with prejudice on the grounds that they were moot. The judgment was vacated and the matter remanded for a ruling on the City's motion to dismiss. View "Franciere v. City of Mandan" on Justia Law