Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

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The issue common to appeals consolidated for the Tenth Circuit's review centered on what are "waters of the United States." In April 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers tried to define the phrase through a regulation called the Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR). The State of Colorado swiftly challenged the NWPR in federal court, arguing the new rule, despite its name, did very little to protect waters of the United States and was both substantively and procedurally flawed. Before the NWPR took effect, Colorado asked the district court to enjoin the Agencies from implementing the rule pending a determination on the merits of the case. The district court obliged, issuing an order staying the effective date of the NWPR and preliminarily enjoining the Agencies to continue administering the Clean Water Act under the then-current regulations. The Tenth Circuit was asked whether the district court abused its discretion when it granted Colorado injunctive relief. To this, the Court responded in the affirmative: "Colorado asked for immediate relief but hasn’t shown it will suffer irreparable injury absent a preliminary injunction. Because that alone compels us to reverse, we do not consider the other preliminary injunction factors." View "State of Colorado v. EPA" on Justia Law

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Braden and Strong used the Tennessee state courts to resolve the dissolution of their business partnership. During that process, Strong believed she was the victim of legal malpractice. She hired the Parrish Law Firm to represent her in a lawsuit against her original attorney. Strong’s malpractice case was later dismissed when the Parrish Firm did not comply with discovery deadlines. Strong assigned some of her rights in the partnership dissolution action to the Parrish Firm for costs and expenses in the malpractice action. When the Parrish Firm sued to recover $116,316 under the assignment, Strong filed counterclaims, which were resolved in state court. A jury awarded Strong $2,293,878.70. The Tennessee Court of Appeals affirmed. The Firm filed suit in federal court, seeking a declaratory judgment, alleging that the Tennessee Court of Appeals judges made false statements in a judicial opinion violating its rights to a “fair trial” under the Due Process Clause and “to access justice” under the Equal Protection Clause. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit and directed the Firm and its counsel to show cause why sanctions should not be assessed. The suit is barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine; the complaint essentially sought another round of state appellate review. The complaint failed to present a justiciable case or controversy. Federal courts “are not in the business of pronouncing that past actions which have no demonstrable continuing effect were right or wrong.” View "Larry E. Parrish, P.C. v. Bennett" on Justia Law

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Shawna Tanner, the plaintiff below, appealed an adverse ruling on summary judgment. Tanner was approximately 35 weeks pregnant and in custody at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Bernalillo County, New Mexico when she went into the final stages of her pregnancy. Over the ensuing thirty hours, commencing with the point at which her water broke, Appellees—employees of a nationwide private medical contractor—ignored and minimized her symptoms, refused to transport her to a hospital, and failed to conduct even a cursory pelvic examination. Only minimal attention was given to her: water, Tylenol, and sanitary pads. After thirty hours of pain and trauma, Tanner gave birth to her son. The child was born with his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. He was not breathing. He had no pulse. This appeal considered whether full-time employees of a for-profit, multi-state corporation organized to provide contract medical care in detention facilities may assert a qualified immunity defense to shield themselves from 42 U.S.C. 1983 liability. The Tenth Circuit found neither historical justifications of special government immunity nor modern policy considerations supported the extension of a qualified immunity defense to Appellees. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Tanner v. McMurray" on Justia Law

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This case arose from the tragic death of 21-year-old Madison Jensen while in custody of the Duchesne County Jail. Jensen was arrested after her father alerted law enforcement to her drug use and possession of drug paraphernalia. Her estate brought this action for deprivation of civil rights under color of state law. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the county and qualified immunity to jail supervisors and staff, but denied qualified immunity to jail medical personnel, Defendants-Appellants (Nurse) Jana Clyde and Dr. Kennon Tubbs. The district court held that genuine issues of material fact precluded qualified immunity on the Estate’s claims of: (1) deliberate indifference to serious medical needs against Nurse Clyde; and (2) supervisory liability against Dr. Tubbs. The Tenth Circuit ultimately concluded that when an individual’s sole purpose was “to serve as a gatekeeper for other medical personnel,” and that person delays or refuses to fulfill the gatekeeper role, he may be liable for deliberate indifference. Clyde was the gatekeeper in this case, and she failed to fulfill that role when she chose to give Jensen Gatorade instead of calling Dr. Tubbs or PA Clark. Accordingly, Clyde was given sufficient notice that what she was doing violated Jensen’s rights to medical care. The Court affirmed as to Clyde and reversed as to Dr. Tubbs. View "Estate of Madison Jody Jensen v. Clyde" on Justia Law

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In 2002, GTL, a mutual reserve company that underwrites insurance policies, engaged Platinum to market its insurance products. After a customer sued both parties, GTL terminated the marketing agreement. In 2015, the lawsuit settled. GTL sued Platinum for breaching the marketing agreement. In 2017, in arbitration, GTL and Platinum entered a settlement agreement, resolving all the claims that had and could have been brought in that litigation and providing for “reasonably proportionate” attorneys fees to the prevailing party in any future litigation. Weeks before the parties executed the 2017 settlement, another customer sued GTL in Missouri. After the 2017 settlement agreement took effect, GTL filed a third-party complaint against Platinum in that Missouri lawsuit, claiming that Platinum breached the marketing agreement by failing to ensure its contractors’ compliance with regulations, GTL's guidelines, and requirements for advertising its insurance products, and GTL's Code of Ethical Market Conduct.Platinum sued GTL in federal court, arguing that the Missouri third-party complaint mirrored claims resolved by the 2017 settlement agreement and was therefore barred. The district court granted Platinum summary judgment and awarded $108,445.10 in attorneys fees (150% of the underlying damages award). The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The 2017 agreement bars the third-party complaint and the award of attorneys fees is “reasonably proportionate” to the underlying damages. View "Platinum Supplemental Insurance, Inc. v. Guarantee Trust Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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McNary worked as a “gland manager” and miners’ representative at Alcoa’s Point Comfort, Texas Bayer Alumina Plant. On January 8, 2014, while performing his daily safety rounds, McNary observed hot slurry spewing out of a valve, indicating a malfunction. Concerned about miner safety, McNary arranged for the plant’s environmental health and safety manager to be notified. His supervisor, Emig, had also asked for the manager’s assistance. This led to a heated exchange that ended with Emig threatening McNary with removal. Emig claimed that McNary spoke in a way that suggested he intended to challenge Emig’s authority rather than discharge his duties as a miners’ representative. McNary was neither disciplined nor terminated.Two weeks later, McNary filed a complaint against Alcoa with the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), alleging discrimination under the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act, which declined to pursue charges, McNary filed a complaint, 30 U.S.C. 815(c)(3), seeking a posting at the plant of a notice of violation of the Act and an order requiring management training. Meanwhile, McNary was laid off when Alcoa temporarily stopped production of alumina at Point Comfort; Alcoa subsequently permanently closed the plant. The D.C. Circuit ordered the dismissal of McNary’s suit. McNary fails to show that a court can redress his injury; he does not have Article III standing. View "McNary v. Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Krainewood Shores Association, Inc. and Black Cat Island Civic Association appealed a superior court decision granting defendants' Town of Moultonborough (Town) and TYBX3, LLC motion to dismiss. In 2018, TYBX3 sought to develop a vacant lot into condominium storage units for the purpose of storing large “toys,” such as boats, snowmobiles, and motorcycles. The Town’s planning board approved the application in May 2019. Plaintiffs appealed the planning board's decision, and defendants moved to dismiss, arguing the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear the complaint as not timely filed. Specifically, the defendants argued that the plaintiffs missed the 30-day deadline imposed by RSA 677:15, I, to file an appeal of a planning board’s decision. To this, the trial court concurred and granted the motion. On appeal, the plaintiffs argue that the trial court erred in granting defendants’ motion to dismiss, and erred in denying plaintiffs’ motion to amend their complaint. Because the trial court did not decide whether to allow plaintiffs to amend their complaint, the New Hampshire Supreme Court vacated the order denying plaintiffs’ motion to amend, and remanded for the trial court to decide, in the first instance, whether plaintiffs’ amended complaint could proceed. The Court expressed no opinion as to the parties’ arguments regarding whether plaintiffs’ amended complaint would cure the jurisdictional defect. View "Krainewood Shores Association, Inc. v. Town of Moultonborough" on Justia Law

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This diversity action brought by plaintiffs involves a dispute concerning a sinkhole that emerged near the decades-long salt-mining activities of one of the defendants. The district court approved the settlement and defendant appealed.The Fifth Circuit concluded that the settlement agreement leaves plaintiffs with claims against Texas Brine for post-sinkhole damages, and it affects Texas Brine's ability to seek indemnification and contribution from the pre-2012 Insurers for those claims. The court explained that such a settlement is certainly proper if Texas Brine did not have any right to indemnification or contribution from the pre-2012 Insurers for post-sinkhole damages. The court applied Louisiana law and concluded that Texas Brine has failed to meet its burden to show that the post-sinkhole claims were covered under the 2011 Zurich policy. Therefore, Texas Brine has failed to show plain legal prejudice from the settlement agreement, and that it has a right to contribution or indemnification from the pre-2012 Insurers for the post-sinkhole claims. The court concluded that the settlement thus did not affect any such right and Texas Brine lacks standing as a non-party to object to the settlement. Accordingly, the court dismissed the appeal. View "LeBlanc v. Texas Brine Co., LLC" on Justia Law

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In this case involving litigation over milk price regulation in Puerto Rico the First Circuit vacated the judgment of the district court granting ORIL's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim and remanded to the district court with instructions to return the case to the Puerto Rico Court of First Instance, holding that the district court lacked federal subject matter jurisdiction over this dispute.Industria Lechera de Puerto Rico, Inc. (Indulac) filed a challenge to the 2017 price order issued by the Milk Industry Regulation Administration for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in the Puerto Rico Court of First Instance, arguing that ORIL had failed to comply with certain procedural administrative requirements before issuing the order. ORIL filed a notice of removal, asserting federal jurisdiction based on 28 U.S.C. 1331 and 1441(a) and (c). The district court found that it had jurisdiction and then granted ORIL's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment, holding that federal courts lacked jurisdiction over this matter. View "Industria Lechera de Puerto Rico, Inc. v. Flores" on Justia Law

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Dr. Arunachalam sued multiple defendants alleging patent infringement and Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. 1962, violations. The case was assigned to Judge Andrews. Arunachalam added defendants, including Judge Andrews, and moved for the judge's recusal. The court referred the matter to Chief Judge Stark. Arunachalam then moved to recuse Stark, who denied that motion and dismissed Judge Andrews as a defendant. Judge Andrews denied Arunachalam’s motion to recuse and dismissed several counts, explaining that “[p]atent infringement is not a crime,” and not a RICO predicate. Arunachalam unsuccessfully moved to vacate the dismissal and, again, to recuse Andrews. A motion for leave to amend was denied as violating local rules, “in bad faith.” Only the infringement claims remained. Meanwhile, the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) found the claims at issue unpatentable. After the appeals period expired, Arunachalam opposed a motion to dismiss, arguing that “the lawless misconduct and ... fraud by the PTAB and the Federal Circuit . . . voids their rulings.”In a motion for sanctions, the defendants noted that Arunachalam had re-asserted her RICO claim in another district court. The court awarded attorneys’ fees for “defending against a baseless racketeering lawsuit,” but did not rule on the specific amounts. Arunachalam continued to file motions and questions that required responses, including requests that Judge Andrews and “attorneys of record” produce their oaths of office, “foreign registration statements,” and “bond” and “insurance information.” The Federal Circuit affirmed awards totaling about $150,000, and denial of Arunachalam’s “frivolous” motions. Arunachalam’s “abusive” litigation conduct warranted monetary sanctions and her later-filed motions were baseless and untimely. View "Arunachalam v. International Business Machines Corp." on Justia Law