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Between 1853 and 1995, the Port Gamble Bay facility in Kitsap County, Washington operated as a sawmill and forest products manufacturing facility by Pope & Talbot and its corporate predecessors. Close to four decades after Puget Mill Co., predecessor to Pope & Talbot, began operating the sawmill, the legislature authorized the disposal of certain occupied state-owned aquatic lands, including the tidal lands within Port Gamble Bay. The Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issued the first lease for Pope & Talbot's use of the Port Gamble Bay submerged lands in 1974. In 1985, Pope & Talbot transferred 71,363 acres of its timberlands, timber, land development, and resort businesses in the State of Washington to Pope Resources, LP, which in turn leased the mill area to Pope & Talbot. Pope & Talbot ceased mill operations in 1995. Pope sought to develop their Port Gamble holdings for a large, high-density community with a marina. However, the Port Gamble site was contaminated, in part from the operation of sawmill buildings to saw logs for lumber, operation of chip barge loading facilities and a log-transfer facility, particulate sawmill emissions from wood and wood waste burning, in-water log rafting and storage, and creosote treated pilings placed throughout the bay to facilitate storage and transport of logs and wood products. After entering into a consent decree with the Washington Department of Ecology in 2013 for remediation of portions of the site exposed to hazardous substances, Pope/OPG filed a complaint in 2014 seeking a declaration that DNR was liable for natural resources damages and remedial costs, and for contribution of costs. The Superior Court granted summary judgment in favor of DNR in 2016. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that DNR was an "owner or operator" with potential liability under the Washington Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA). DNR appealed, and the Washington Supreme Court reversed, finding DNR was neither an "owner" nor an "operator" of the Port Gamble Bay facility for purposes of MTCA. View "Pope Res., LP v. Dep't of Nat. Res." on Justia Law

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In 2011, Dr. Parmar died, leaving an estate valued at more than $5 million. Plaintiff was appointed as executor of the estate. At the time of Parmar’s death, the estate was not subject to taxation under the Estate Tax Act, 35 ILCS 405/1. Two days after Parmar’s death, the state revived the tax for the estates of persons who died after December 31, 2010. Plaintiff filed the estate’s Illinois estate tax return and paid the tax liability. Plaintiff eventually filed a second amended return, claiming that the amendment to the Estate Tax Act did not apply to his mother’s estate and no tax was due, then filed a purported class action challenging the retroactivity and constitutionality of the Act. Plaintiff requested a declaration that the Estate Tax Act applies only to the estates of persons who died on or after the amendment’s effective date or that the Estate Tax Act is unconstitutional. The Illinois Supreme Court upheld the suit’s dismissal for lack of jurisdiction; because the complaint seeks a money judgment against the state, it is barred under the State Lawsuit Immunity Act (745 ILCS 5/1). The complaint must be filed in the Illinois Court of Claims. The damages that plaintiff seeks go beyond the exclusive purpose and limits of the Estate Tax Refund Fund and potentially subject the state to liability. Plaintiff could have filed suit in the circuit court under the Protest Moneys Act (30 ILCS 230/1). View "Parmar v. Madigan" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Steven and Jane Iliades brought a products-liability action against Dieffenbacher North America Inc., alleging negligence, gross negligence, and breach of warranty after plaintiff was injured by a rubber molding press defendant manufactured. Plaintiff was injured when he attempted to retrieve parts that had fallen to the floor inside the press by reaching behind the light curtain without first placing the press into manual mode. Because of plaintiff’s position behind the light curtain, the light curtain was not interrupted, the press resumed its automatic operation, and plaintiff was trapped between the two plates of the press. The trial court granted summary disposition to defendant, ruling that plaintiff had misused the press given the evidence that he had been trained not to reach into the press while it was in automatic mode, knew how to place the press into manual mode, knew that the light curtain was not meant to be used as an emergency stop switch, and knew that the press would automatically begin its cycle if the light curtain was no longer interrupted. The court further ruled that plaintiff’s misuse was not reasonably foreseeable because plaintiff had not presented any evidence that defendant could have foreseen that a trained press operator would crawl beyond a light curtain and partially inside a press to retrieve a part without first disengaging the press. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded in an unpublished per curiam opinion, holding that, regardless of whether plaintiff had misused the press, defendant could be held liable because plaintiff’s conduct was reasonably foreseeable. The Michigan Supreme Court determined that whether the misuse was reasonably foreseeable depended on whether defendant knew or should have known of the misuse, not on whether plaintiff was grossly negligent in operating the press. Because the majority of the Court of Appeals did not decide whether and how plaintiff misused the press, and because it did not apply the common-law meaning of reasonable foreseeability, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and remanded for reconsideration of summary judgment entered in defendant’s favor. View "Iliades v. Dieffenbacher North America, Inc." on Justia Law

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Landlord sued in 2005, contending that Joliet had interfered with the way in which it set rents apartments under the mark-to-market program for rates at subsidized apartments and violated the Fair Housing Act (FHA), 42 U.S.C. 3601–31. While an appeal was pending, Joliet filed an eminent-domain suit, proposing to add the land to a public park. The Seventh Circuit held that a recipient of federal financing is not immune from the power of eminent domain. The condemnation trial ran for 18 calendar months; compensation was set at $15 million. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting the FHA claim. The district judge dismissed Landlord's original suit. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Landlord’s argument that the judge should have put the condemnation action on hold, reserving its FHA suit for a jury trial. The Seventh Circuit had directed it to resolve the condemnation suit first because Joliet professed concern about crime and deterioration at the property. Landlord was free to reserve the FHA claim for this suit, where it would have been entitled to a jury trial. Its FHA claim was resolved in a bench trial only because Landlord insisted on presenting it earlier. Landlord wanted the FHA to be treated as a defense to condemnation, and the district court acquiesced. That choice is responsible for the fact that a judge rather than a jury resolved the FHA claim. View "New West, L.P. v. City of Joliet" on Justia Law

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Huff worked for Securitas, which hires employees to work as security guards, and contracts with clients to provide guards for a particular location. Securitas typically provides long-term placements. After Huff resigned, he sued Securitas, alleging a representative cause of action under the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA, Lab. Code, 2698) and citing Labor Code sections 201 [requiring immediate payment of wages upon termination of employment]; 201.3(b) [requiring temporary services employers to pay wages weekly]; 202 [requiring payment of wages within 72 hours of resignation]; and 204 [failure to pay all wages due for work performed in a pay period]. The trial court held that Huff was not a temporary services employee under section 201.3(b)(1), and, therefore, could not show he was affected by a violation and had no standing to pursue penalties under PAGA on behalf of others. The court of appeal affirmed the subsequent grant of a new trial. Under PAGA an “aggrieved employee” can pursue penalties for Labor Code violations on behalf of others; the statute defines an aggrieved employee as having suffered “one or more of the alleged violations” of the Labor Code for which penalties are sought. Since Huff’s complaint alleged that another violation of the Labor Code (separate from the weekly pay requirement) affected him personally, the failure to establish a violation of the weekly pay requirement did not preclude his entire PAGA claim. View "Huff v. Securitas Security Services USA, Inc." on Justia Law

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This cross-appeal primarily concerned the amount of compensation owed to Petitioner-respondent Edward Sullivan as personal representative (PR) of Marion Kay's estate. Sullivan filed a petition to settle the estate and sought probate court approval for his commissions as PR together with fees and costs. In response, Respondents-petitioners Martha Brown and Mary Moses, cousins of the deceased and two of multiple beneficiaries under the will, challenged his compensation as excessive, and the probate court agreed, reducing Sullivan's commissions, disallowing certain fees and costs, and awarding attorney's fees to Brown and Moses. The circuit court affirmed, and both sides appealed. In a 2-1 opinion, the court of appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part. The South Carolina Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded to the probate court. The Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals' decision to uphold the award of $51,300 in commissions for Sullivan's services as personal representative and the determination that Brown and Moses were responsible for their own attorney's fees. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals' conclusion that Sullivan is not entitled to recover necessary expenses, including reasonable attorney's fees, incurred at the settlement hearing under section S.C. Code 62-3-720, and remanded this case back to the probate court for that determination. View "Kay v. Sullivan" on Justia Law

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At issue before the South Carolina Supreme Court in this appeal was a question of whether Appellant Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce (Chamber) was subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) due to its receipt and expenditure of certain funds designated for promoting tourism ("accommodation tax funds"). The Chamber's receipt and expenditure of these funds was pursuant to, and governed by, the Accommodations Tax (A-Tax) statute and Proviso 39.2 of the Appropriation Act for Budget Year 2012–2013. Respondent DomainsNewMedia.com, LLC (Domains) filed a declaratory judgment action, seeking a declaration and corresponding injunctive relief on the basis that the Chamber's receipt of these funds renders the Chamber a "public body" pursuant to FOIA, thus subjecting the Chamber to all of FOIA's requirements. The Chamber countered that FOIA did not apply, for the receipt, expenditure, and reporting requirements concerning these funds were governed by the more specific A-Tax statute and Proviso 39.2. The trial court held that the Chamber was a public body and, thus, was subject to FOIA's provisions. The Supreme Court, however, reversed, holding as a matter of discerning legislative intent, that the General Assembly did not intend the Chamber to be considered a public body for purposes of FOIA as a result of its receipt and expenditure of these specific funds. View "DomainsNewMedia.com v. Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce" on Justia Law

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Overland, Inc., filed this lawsuit against Lara Nance, Bank of America, SunTrust Banks, and other defendants seeking damages arising out of Nance's embezzlement of $1,282,000 from the Land Rover dealership Overland operated in the city of Greenville. Nance pled guilty in federal court to wire fraud for stealing the money and was sentenced to 46 months in prison. Overland's theory of liability against Bank of America and SunTrust was that allowing Nance to deposit forged checks into fraudulent accounts she created breached duties the banks owed to Overland. The banks made motions for summary judgment on the ground they owed no duty to Overland, who was not a customer of either bank. The circuit court granted the motions for summary judgment, stating, "Overland [was] unable to demonstrate that [the banks] owed it any duty . . . ." The circuit court denied Overland's Rule 59(e) motion. Overland filed a notice of appeal, which the court of appeals dismissed in an unpublished opinion. Though the South Carolina Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment, the Supreme Court emphasized that a trial court does not have the power to alter or amend a final order if more than ten days passes and no Rule 59(e) motion has been served, nor does a trial court have any power to grant the moving party an extension of time in which to file a Rule 59(e) motion. The failure to serve a Rule 59(e) motion within ten days of receipt of notice of entry of the order converts the order into a final judgment, and the aggrieved party's only recourse is to file a notice of intent to appeal. View "Overland v. Nance" on Justia Law

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Lujan had a Chase credit card account, governed by an agreement with a provision stating “federal law and the law of Delaware” govern the agreement and a provision for attorney’s fees. When Lujan’s account had an unpaid balance in 2007, Chase assigned its claim to interim assignees. In 2011, PCC filed suit, alleging a debt of $8,831.90. PCC Vice President Shields verified the complaint. Lujan cross-complained against PCC, Shields, and interim assignees seeking damages under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S. C. 1692, and the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices. The court granted Lujan summary judgment as to PCC, applying Delaware’s three-year statute of limitations. On the cross-complaint, the court granted the other defendants summary judgment, finding that none met the statutory definition of a debt collector. The judgment is silent om statutory damages, leaving Lujan with only “attorney fees and costs" as provided by statute. The court awarded Lujan $140,550.51 in fees against PCC but denied the other defendants fees because the cross-complaint was not an action “on a contract” under Civil Code 1717. The appeals court affirmed Lujan’s summary judgment against PCC, Lujan’s award of attorney’s fees, and the interim assignees’ summary judgment and denial of fees. The court reversed summary judgment in favor of Shields and PCC’s attorney. View "Professional Collection Consultants v. Lujan" on Justia Law

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Prolite Building Supply bought Ply Gem windows, which it resold to Wisconsin builders. Some homeowners were not satisfied with the windows, which admitted air even when closed. Contractors stopped buying from Prolite, which stopped paying Ply Gem. Prolite and homeowners sued. Ply Gem removed the action to federal court and counter-claimed against Prolite for unpaid bills. Additional parties intervened. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Prolite. The court vacated the judgment on the homeowners’ claims for remand to state court. The service agreement between Prolite and Ply Gem requires Prolite to repair the Ply Gem windows in exchange for a discount and needed parts. There was no breach of that agreement. The homeowners’ claims can be resolved under supplemental jurisdiction only if they “are so related to claims in the action within such original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or controversy,” 28 U.S.C. 1367(a). The language of the window warranties received by the homeowners and the service agreement did not overlap. Prolite complained that Ply Gem did not do enough to ensure that its customers (the builders) remained willing to purchase Ply Gem windows. The homeowners just wanted to stop drafts and moisture. The nature of the work done differed. View "ProLite Building Supply, LLC v. Ply Gem Windows" on Justia Law