Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

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Almost two years into active litigation, defendants moved to compel arbitration of this class action brought on behalf of persons who employed the services of PMZ to buy or sell a residence. The court of appeal affirmed the denial of the motion. A motion to compel arbitration is properly denied when the moving party has waived its right to do so, Civ. Proc. Code, 1281.2(a). The California Supreme Court has identified relevant factors: whether the party’s actions are inconsistent with the right to arbitrate; whether the litigation machinery has been substantially invoked and the parties were well into preparation of a lawsuit before the party notified the opposing party of an intent to arbitrate; whether a party either requested arbitration close to the trial date or delayed for a long period before seeking a stay; whether a defendant seeking arbitration filed a counterclaim without asking for a stay; whether important intervening steps [e.g., taking advantage of judicial discovery procedures not available in arbitration] had taken place; and whether the delay affected, misled, or prejudiced the opposing party. The trial court properly applied the factors; its determination that defendants’ delay of nearly two years constituted an unreasonably long period of time, and defendants’ explanation for their delay was unavailing, is “copiously supported by the evidence.” View "Spracher v. Paul M. Zagaris, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Department of Justice filed suit against the State of Florida, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and 28 C.F.R. 35.130(d). The Department alleged that Florida was failing to meet its obligations under Title II by unnecessarily institutionalizing hundreds of children with disabilities in nursing facilities. The Department also alleged that Florida's Medicaid policies and practices placed other children who have "medically complex" conditions, or who are "medically fragile," at risk of unnecessary institutionalization. The Eleventh Circuit held that the Attorney General has a cause of action to enforce Title II of the ADA. The court held that when Congress chose to designate the "remedies, procedures, and rights" in section 505 of the Rehabilitation Act, which in turn adopted Title VI, as the enforcement provision for Title II of the ADA, Congress created a system of federal enforcement. The court also held that the express statutory language in Title II adopts federal statutes that use a remedial structure based on investigation of complaints, compliance reviews, negotiation to achieve voluntary compliance, and ultimately enforcement through "any other means authorized by law" in the event of noncompliance. Therefore, courts have routinely concluded that Congress's decision to utilize the same enforcement mechanism for Title II as the Rehabilitation Act, and therefore Title VI, demonstrates that the Attorney General has the authority to act "by any other means authorized by law" to enforce Title II, including initiating a civil action. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's judgment and remanded. View "United States v. State of Florida" on Justia Law

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In 1965, in Memphis, Tennessee, Plaintiffs wrote the song Ain’t That a Lot of Love and registered it with the U.S.Copyright Office. The following year, in London, England, brothers Mervyn and Steve Winwood, members of the Spencer Davis Group, wrote the song Gimme Some Lovin’, which was also registered with the Copyright Office. "Ain’t" fell flat. "Gimme" reached the second spot in the U.K. and the seventh spot in the U.S. Fifty-one years later, Plaintiffs sued the Winwoods for copyright infringement, 17 U.S.C. 504, claiming the Winwoods lifted the bass line from Ain’t That a Lot of Love. The defendants claimed no one in the Group had heard the song before writing Gimme Some Lovin’. Plaintiffs argued that the Group could have copied the bass line during a 21-day window between "Ain’t That’s" debut and the commercial release of Gimme. The court ruled that documents Plaintiffs sought to rely on to show direct evidence of copying were inadmissible under the rule against hearsay and that Mervyn did not have enough of a connection with Tennessee to exercise jurisdiction over him. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Plaintiffs presented no admissible evidence that created a genuine issue of material fact over whether Winwood copied "Ain’t That." Exercising jurisdiction over Mervyn would conflict with due process because he has not purposely availed himself of the privilege of acting in Tennessee. View "Parker v. Winwood" on Justia Law

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Bank of Hope sued Ryu for embezzling money from its customers. As the case went on, Ryu began sending letters to the Bank’s shareholders, alleging that the Bank’s claims were baseless and were ruining his reputation. He hoped that the letters would pressure the Bank to settle. The Bank asked the magistrate judge to ban Ryu from contacting its shareholders. The district court affirmed the magistrate’s order imposing that ban. The Third Circuit vacated. The district court marshaled no evidence that this restriction on speech was needed to protect this trial’s fairness and integrity and it considered no less-restrictive alternatives. Courts have inherent power to keep their proceedings fair and orderly. They can use that power to order the parties before them not to talk with each other, the press, and the public. The First Amendment, however, requires an explanation of why restricting speech advances a substantial government interest, consider less-restrictive alternatives, and requires that the court ensure that any restriction does not sweep too broadly. View "Bank of Hope v. Chon" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a class action in state court against Massage Envy, alleging that the company violated the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (MMPA) when advertisements for its one hour massage session failed to disclose that the session included ten minutes to undress, dress, and consult with the therapist. Massage Envy removed the case to district court under the Class Action Fairness Act. The Eighth Circuit held that the district court misapplied controlling Supreme Court and Eighth Circuit CAFA precedents. The court held that the district court erred when it evaluated the MMPA violations alleged in plaintiffs' second amended petition and remanded the class action to state court because "it is more likely that a reasonable fact finder would not award several million dollars in punitive damages." In this case, the district court's consideration went to the merits of plaintiffs' claims. The court held that plaintiffs' allegation that they were entitled to punitive damages in an unstated amount raised the amount in controversy to more than $5 million, whether or not they ultimately prove they were entitled to the punitive damages they claimed. Finally, the court also held that when Massage Envy investigated and filed a notice of removal based on the results of its own amount-in-controversy investigation, the notice was not untimely. Therefore, the court granted the petition for permission to appeal, reversed the July 2019 order of remand, denied plaintiffs' motion for remand, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Pirozzi v. Massage Envy Franchising" on Justia Law

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The Elliotts were defendants in six civil fraud actions based on an international investment scheme through which they fraudulently induced hundreds of individuals and organizations to invest in Dominican Republic resorts. The actions were coordinated for discovery but remained separate for trial. Criminal charges were brought against the defendants based essentially on the same facts. Elliott reached a plea deal with respect to some issues. In most of the civil actions, there was no stipulation regarding the five-year statutory period to bring an action to trial (Code of Civil Procedure section 583.310); despite being served with the summons and complaint, the Elliotts had not answered, In May 2015, Elliott filed an answer in the two matters under appeal. The trial court lost jurisdiction over one matter for 17 months, during an appeal. Elliott engaged in multiple delaying strategies. Plaintiffs reached settlements with other defendants. In August 2016, weeks before trial was to begin, Elliott first (unsuccessfully) raised the issue of dismissal under section 583.310. In both cases, the trial court awarded the plaintiffs damages, with no appearance from the Elliotts. The court of appeal affirmed the denial of Elliott’s motion to dismiss for want of prosecution within the five-year statutory period and, alternatively, for a stay of proceedings pending resolution of his criminal case. Notwithstanding plaintiffs’ failure to secure a default judgment, there were extenuating circumstances: the undisputed complexity of the cases and the Elliotts’ reluctance to engage in resolution efforts. The court properly allowed Elliott’s civil trials to go forward, with the understanding that he could object on Fifth Amendment grounds to any questioning. View "In re: Alpha Media Resort Investment Cases" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal of Pfizer's claim against the United States for overpayment interest on its delayed tax refund. The court held that jurisdiction of Pfizer's claim for overpayment lies exclusively with the United States Court of Federal Claims. The court explained that overpayment interest is a straightforward claim against the federal government that was covered by the Tucker Act. Accordingly, the court transferred the case to the Court of Federal Claims. View "Pfizer Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Reed Doyle witnessed an incident involving Burlington Police Department (BPD) officers in a public park. Shortly thereafter, plaintiff submitted a citizen’s complaint form to the BPD to voice concerns about alleged officer misconduct and unreasonable use of force during the incident. Plaintiff subsequently requested to inspect body camera footage, among other records, related to the incident. The BPD denied his request. After filing a complaint in the civil division against the BPD, plaintiff moved for a partial judgment on the pleadings. He argued that the BPD violated the Public Records Act when charged a fee for costs that would be incurred by complying with his request. The trial court denied plaintiff’s motion. The Vermont Supreme Court determined that based on the plain language of the Act, the BPD could not charge for staff time spent in complying with requests to inspect public records. Accordingly, the Court reversed. View "Doyle v. City of Burlington Police Department" on Justia Law

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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