Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

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In 2015, plaintiffs sued 88 school districts and the California Department of Education, seeking relief for alleged violations of Education Code section 51210(g). That law requires no less than 200 minutes of physical education instruction every 10 school days for pupils in first through sixth grades. In 2017, five of the districts sought to have the court issue a writ of mandamus against them, granting the relief sought in the petition. The superior court granted the motion. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting arguments that it was error for the trial court to enter the judgments without an evidentiary proceeding; that the allegations did not preclude writ relief beyond the limited relief contained in the judgments (injunctive relief); and the trial court should have allowed amendment of the petition to state a cause of action for declaratory relief. The plaintiffs unsuccessfully argued that a writ of mandate was an inadequate remedy because it cannot compel the school districts’ employees to comply with the PE mandate and that no writ could issue unless the Districts admit noncompliance with the PE mandate. View "Cal200, Inc., v. Apple Valley Unified School District" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Jackie Raymond alleged, among other things, that Idaho State Police (“ISP”), Payette County, and Deputy Sloan (collectively “defendants”) tortiously interfered with a prospective civil action. The defendants moved for dismissal of this claim, arguing Idaho did not recognize the tort, and even if it did, Raymond lacked standing and her claims were too speculative to establish causation. The district court agreed with defendants, holding that: (1) Idaho had not recognized the tort as an independent cause of action; (2) it would not acknowledge the tort; and (3) the facts were too speculative to establish such a claim. Raymond appealed and requested the Idaho Supreme Court to formally adopt a new tort for intentional interference with a prospective civil action by spoliation of evidence by a third party. The Supreme Court found that Idaho courts already recognized the cause of action, but took the opportunity to state this conclusion explicitly. The Court therefore reversed. View "Raymond v. Idaho State Police" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, an abortion clinic and two of its doctors, brought a cumulative-effects challenge to Louisiana's laws regulating abortion, arguing that the provisions taken as a whole were unconstitutional, even if the individual provisions were not. The district court denied Louisiana's motion to dismiss, but certified its order for interlocutory appeal under 28 U.S.C. 1292(b). The district court then rescinded its certification so that plaintiffs could amend their complaint. The district court again denied Louisiana's motion to dismiss. Louisiana subsequently petitioned the Fifth Circuit for mandamus relief. Although the district court's failure to consider the state's jurisdictional challenges and the inadequacy of a later appeal support issuance of the writ, the court nonetheless exercised its discretion not to issue it at this time. In this case, it was not clear from the district court's order how it would resolve the state's jurisdictional challenge, and much of the state's argument in its mandamus petition went beyond jurisdiction. Therefore, the court elected to allow the district court to consider the state's jurisdictional challenges in the first instance. View "In re: Rebekah Gee" on Justia Law

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On May 24, the district court entered an opinion with language that the judge believed would serve as a preliminary injunction. MillerCoors’s appeal was docketed but the district court did not comply with Fed.R.Civ.P. 65(d)(1)(C), which requires every injunction to be set forth without referring to any other document. On September 4, while appeal was pending, the district court entered another opinion stating that it was “modifying” the May 24 decision; it did not follow Fed.R.Civ.P. 62.1 procedures for modifying an order that is before the court of appeals, nor did it discuss the rule that only one court at a time has jurisdiction. The court still did not comply with Rule 65(d) nor did it modify the injunction under Rule 62(d). Anheuser-Busch appealed. On September 6, the court modified the September 4 modification, without discussing its jurisdiction. It did not rely on Rule 62(d), did not follow the Rule 62.1 procedure, and did not comply with Rule 65(d). The Seventh Circuit ordered a limited remand with instructions to enter the injunction on a document separate from the opinions. Although the court’s intent to afford enforceable equitable relief is sufficiently clear to provide appellate jurisdiction despite the noncompliance with Rule 65(d), enforcing that Rule is important. The district court may be able to avoid the potential jurisdictional problems that its modifications of the initial order have created. View "MillerCoors LLC v. Anheuser-Busch Companies, LLC" on Justia Law

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SAI Montgomery BCH, LLC, d/b/a Classic Cadillac and Andrew Harper, general manager for Cadillac appealed a trial court order denying their motions to compel arbitration. The matter arose over a lease agreement. Customers made two lease payments before the car they lease was seized by law enforcement, and the lessees arrested for theft of property. A grand jury ultimately refused to return an indictment, and the lessees sued the Cadillac dealership and its general manager for malicious prosecution, slander, defamation and conversion, amongst other things. Because the Alabama Supreme Court concluded the trial court was without jurisdiction to enter the order appealed from, it dismissed the appeal. View "SAI Montgomery BCH, LLC v. Williams" on Justia Law

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Courtyard Manor Homeowners' Association, Inc. ("Courtyard Manor") appealed dismissal of its complaint against the City of Pelham. In August 2018, Courtyard Manor filed a complaint against the City after the City failed to conduct a hearing or otherwise to respond to Courtyard Manor's petition, filed with the City in September 2017, seeking to be deannexed from the City's municipal limits. Courtyard Manor averred in its complaint the City had agreed to apply its deannexation criteria to the matter, that the City had a duty to set the matter for a hearing, and the City had de facto denied the petition by failing to take any action on it. Courtyard Manor requested that the circuit court conduct a hearing on the petition and enter an order deannexing Courtyard Manor from the City. Alternatively, Courtyard Manor requested that the circuit court order the Pelham City Council to hold a hearing on the petition and to report its decision to the circuit court. The City moved the circuit court to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The City argued that, in deciding whether to deannex property, a municipal governing body acted in a legislative capacity, a municipal governing body has discretion to determine if and when to deannex property, the governing body's discretion in determining if and when to deannex property was not subject to interference by the courts, the City's governing body had not determined the corporate limits of the City should have been reduced in the manner requested by Courtyard Manor, and that the City had no duty to hold a hearing on Courtyard Manor's petition. The circuit court granted the City's motion to dismiss. Finding no reversible error, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed dismissal. View "Courtyard Manor Homeowners' Association, Inc. v. City of Pelham" on Justia Law

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Rapper Jayceon Taylor, also called “The Game,” starred in a VH1 television show called She’s Got Game. While filming in Chicago in 2015, Taylor took contestant Rainey on an off-camera date at a bar. Taylor sexually assaulted her by repeatedly lifting her skirt, grabbing her bare buttocks and vagina, and “juggling” her breasts in front of a large crowd as Rainey tried to break away. Rainey sued Taylor for sexual battery. Taylor evaded process, trolled Rainey on social media, dodged a settlement conference, and did not appear at trial. The judge denied his attorney's request for a continuance, dismissing Taylor’s proffered “dental emergency” excuse as an elaborate ruse. The judge instructed the jurors that they could infer from Taylor’s absence that his testimony would have been unfavorable to him. The jury awarded Rainey $1.13 million in compensatory damages and $6 million in punitive damages. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. District judges have wide discretion to manage their proceedings and resolve evidentiary issues. The rulings at issue lie well within that discretion. “Taylor has only himself to blame for the missing-witness instruction, which was plainly justified.” The verdict is well supported by the evidence; the compensatory award is not excessive under Illinois law, and the punitive award survives constitutional scrutiny. View "Rainey v. Taylor" on Justia Law

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U.S. Continental Marketing Inc. (USCM), a manufacturing company that made shoe care products, relied on temporary employees for much of its workforce and contracts for employees' services with Ameritemps, Inc. Elvia Velasco Jimenez worked for USCM as either a direct or temporary employee for five years before her employment was terminated. At that point, she was performing a supervisory role as a line lead in USCM's production department, overseeing as many as thirty colleagues, including both temporary and direct employees of USCM. Jimenez's supervisor was a direct USCM employee. Jimenez asserted claims under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) against USCM. Jimenez's claims required a threshold showing that USCM was her employer. Disputing that assertion at trial, USCM framed the inquiry as a contest of relative influence between the direct and contracting employers, asking the jury during closing arguments, "Did [USCM] have control over plaintiff more than the temp agency?" The jury agreed with USCM and returned a special verdict finding that USCM was not Jimenez's employer. Jimenez moved for a new trial, unsuccessfully, and judgment was entered in favor of USCM. On appeal, Jimenez argued there was insufficient evidence to support the special verdict finding and asked the Court of Appeal to reverse the judgment. The Court determined the undisputed evidence demonstrated USCM exercised considerable direction and control over Jimenez under the terms, conditions, and privileges of her employment. And although the parties contested the characterization of Jimenez's termination, the appropriate inquiry in the temporary-staffing context was whether the contracting employer terminated the employee's services for the contracting employer (which USCM did), not whether the contracting employer terminated her employment with her direct employer (which USCM did not do). Accordingly, without expressing any opinion as to the ultimate merit of Jimenez's claims, the Court reversed judgment as to three claims and. The matter was remanded for a new trial at which the jury should be instructed that USCM was Jimenez's employer. View "Jimenez v. U.S. Continental Marketing, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendants appealed the trial court's denial of a motion under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16, the anti-SLAPP statute, in a driveway dispute easement action brought by Starview Property. The Court of Appeal reversed, holding that an anti-SLAPP motion may be brought within 60 days of service of an amended complaint if the amended complaint pleads new causes of action that could not have been the target of a prior anti-SLAPP motion, or adds new allegations that make previously pleaded causes of action subject to an anti-SLAPP motion. In this case, Starview's three newly pled causes of action in its amended complaint plainly could not have been the target of a prior motion, even if they arose from protected activity alleged in the original complaint. Therefore, the trial court erred by dismissing defendants' motion as untimely. View "Starview Property, LLC v. Lee" on Justia Law

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Michael Weaver, a former City of Everett firefighter, contracted melanoma. He filed a temporary disability claim, which the Washington Department of Labor & Industries (Department) denied, finding the melanoma was not work related. The melanoma spread to Weaver's brain, for which he filed a permanent disability claim. The Department denied it as precluded by the denial of the temporary disability claim. The issue his case presented for the Washington Supreme Court's review centered on whether the doctrines of collateral estoppel and res judicata properly precluded Weaver's permanent disability claim. The Court found collateral estoppel did not apply because the doctrine would work an injustice in this situation, given that Weaver did not have sufficient incentive to fully and vigorously litigate the temporary disability claim in light of the disparity of relief between the two claims. Likewise, the Court held that res judicata did not apply because the two claims did not share identical subject matter, given that the permanent disability claim did not exist at the time of the temporary disability claim. View "Weaver v. City of Everett" on Justia Law