Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

by
Political subdivisions of the State of Colorado challenged Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (“TABOR”) under the Colorado Enabling Act and the Supremacy Clause, contending that TABOR contradicted the Enabling Act’s requirement that Colorado maintain a “republican form of government.” TABOR allowed the people of Colorado to raise or prevent tax increases by popular vote, thereby limiting the power of Colorado’s legislative bodies to levy taxes. The issue currently before the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals was whether certain school districts, a special district board, and/or a county commission had standing to challenge TABOR. On a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1), the district court held that plaintiffs had Article III standing but that they lacked political subdivision standing and prudential standing. Accordingly, the court dismissed the complaint. The Tenth Circuit concluded that it could not properly reach its conclusions at this stage of litigation. Because the Court held the political subdivision plaintiffs were not barred by standing requirements, the district court was reversed. View "Kerr v. Hickenlooper" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit certified the following question to the Nevada Supreme Court: Is a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act claim a compulsory counterclaim in an action to collect the underlying debt under Rule 13 of the Nevada Rules of Civil Procedure? View "Cutts v. Richland Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law

by
In this tort action arising out of a fatal tour bus accident in Arizona, the Supreme Court held that the trial court did not err by declining to reconsider its prior choice of law ruling after an Indiana defendant was dismissed from this case. The parties in this case initially included plaintiffs from China and defendants from both Indiana and California. The trial court conducted the governmental interest test and concluded that Indiana law governed. Before trial, Plaintiffs accepted a settlement offer from the Indiana defendant. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the trial court should have reconsidered the initial choice of law ruling after the Indiana defendant was dismissed from the case. The court then applied the governmental interest test and concluded that California law governed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) given the importance of determining the choice of law early in a case, the circumstances in which trial courts are required to revisit a choice of law determination should be the exception and not the rule; and (2) the trial court in this case was not required to reconsider the prior choice of law ruling based on the Indiana defendant's settlement. View "Chen v. Los Angeles Truck Centers, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Ohio residents Craig Richards and his wife Gloria filed suit against defendants in the Delaware, claiming that Mr. Richards’ exposure to asbestos-containing products at home and in the workplace caused his mesothelioma. The parties agreed that Ohio law applied to this case. To make the causal link between Mr. Richards’ asbestos exposure and his disease, the Richards served an expert report relying on a cumulative exposure theory, meaning that every non-minimal exposure to asbestos attributable to each defendant combined to cause Mr. Richards’ injury. After the Richards served their expert report, the Ohio Supreme Court decided Schwartz v. Honeywell International, Inc. , 102 N.E.3d 477 (Ohio 2018). In Schwartz, the Ohio Supreme Court rejected an expert’s cumulative exposure theory for a number of reasons, including its inconsistency with an Ohio asbestos causation statute. The Richards’ attorneys became aware of the Schwartz decision during summary judgment briefing. Instead of asking for leave to serve a supplemental expert report based on another theory of causation, the Richards argued in opposition to summary judgment that the Ohio asbestos causation statute and the Schwartz decision did not require any expert report. According to the Richards, as long as there was factual evidence in the record showing, in the words of the Ohio statute, the manner, proximity, frequency, and length of exposure to asbestos, summary judgment should have been denied. The Superior Court disagreed and held that, to defeat summary judgment, the Richards had to still offer expert medical evidence of specific causation, meaning that the asbestos exposure attributable to each defendant caused Mr. Richards’ mesothelioma. The Superior Court also denied reargument and found untimely the Richards’ later attempt to supplement their expert report. The Richards appealed the Superior Court’s dismissal rulings, arguing that the court misinterpreted Ohio law, and should have granted them leave to supplement their expert report after the court’s summary judgment rulings. As the Delaware Supreme Court read the Ohio asbestos causation statute and Ohio Supreme Court precedent, neither the Ohio General Assembly nor the Court intended to abrogate the general rule in Ohio in toxic tort cases that a plaintiff must provide expert medical evidence “(1) that the toxin is capable of causing the medical condition or ailment (general causation), and (2) that the toxic substance in fact caused the claimant’s medical condition (specific causation).” Thus, the Supreme Court determined the Superior Court correctly concluded expert medical evidence on specific causation had to be offered by the Richards to avoid summary judgment. The Superior Court also did not abuse its discretion in denying reargument and the Richards’ request to supplement their expert report after the court’s summary judgment ruling. View "Richards v. Copes-Vulcan, Inc., et al." on Justia Law

by
Hymer imported vehicles into the U.S. from Canada. Customs classified them under Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) 8703.24.00, which applies a tariff of 2.5% to “motor vehicles principally designed for transporting persons.” Hymer filed a protest, arguing that the entries were entitled to duty-free treatment under HTSUS 9802.00.50 and North American Free Trade Agreement Article 307, “American Goods Returned,” as qualifying goods that reenter the U.S. customs territory after repairs or alterations in Canada or Mexico. Hymer requested that Customs “suspend action on th[e] protest” until the Court of International Trade (CIT) issued a decision in other cases (Pleasure-Way) addressing whether van-based motorhomes—similar to the Hymer vehicles —qualified for preferential tariff treatment. In Pleasure-Way, the Federal Circuit affirmed that HTSUS 9802.00.50 did not apply; the vehicles were liquidated at 2.5%. While Pleasure-Way was pending, a Customs Import Specialist checked “Approved” on Hymer’s Protest Form, which was sent to Hymer without a refund check or any explanations. Later, an Import Specialist updated Customs’ electronic system to reflect that the protest was suspended. Hymer sought an order directing Customs to reliquidate the entries of the vehicles under HTSUS 9802.00.50, asserting CIT jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1581(i)(1) and (i)(4), on grounds that Customs’ failure to provide a refund check constituted unlawfully withheld action under the Administrative Procedure Act. The Federal Circuit reversed CIT's judgment in favor of the government. CIT’s assertion of residual jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1581(i) was improper because a civil action for contesting the denial of protests could have been available under 28 U.S.C. 1581(a), and the remedy provided under 1581(a) is not manifestly inadequate. View "Erwin Hymer Group v. United States" on Justia Law

by
This case arose out of an inquest convened to investigate an incident in which police fatally shot a suspected bank robber after a standoff near Montpelier High School in Vermont. The day after the shooting, the State applied to open the inquest. The same day, the State served a subpoena on WCAX-TV, a station of appellant Gray Television, Inc., requiring that the station produce all of its unedited video recordings of the incident. Appellant moved to quash the subpoena, citing 12 V.S.A. 1615, a statute enacted in 2017 that protected journalists from compelled disclosure of information. At the beginning of the court’s hearing on the motion, the State requested that the proceedings be closed, arguing that inquests were secret, investigatory proceedings. The trial court agreed and excluded the public from the evidentiary portion of the hearing on the State’s motion. On February 16, 2018, following the hearing, the court issued a written decision granting the motion to quash. This was the first court decision interpreting section 1615 since its enactment. On its own initiative, and in light of its ruling excluding the public from the evidentiary portion of the hearing on the State’s motion, the trial court noted, “[i]nasmuch as this is an ongoing inquest this decision shall remain under seal, as shall the entire inquest file, and shall not be available to the public unless and until the inquest has concluded with indictments or informations.” The pivotal question presented for the Vermont Supreme Court's review in this case was whether a trial-court order granting a motion to quash a subpoena issued in the context of an inquest was categorically exempt from public disclosure. The Supreme Court held the order was a public record presumptively subject to disclosure under the Rules for Public Access to Court Records, and concluded that there was no basis for sealing the record in this case. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s denial of appellant Gray Television, Inc.’s motion to unseal the order. View "In re VSP-TK / 1-16-18 Shooting (Gray Television, Inc., Appellant)" on Justia Law

by
Illinois inmate Donelson was moved to Stateville, where a prison nurse screened him for medical issues. Donelson is asthmatic and stated that he needed a new inhaler. The nurse responded that he could get one from a doctor. Donelson had to wait 16 days to see a doctor but apparently could have gone to the commissary at any time for an inhaler. Donelson received an inhaler 20 days after arriving at Stateville. He sued, 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging violations of the Eighth Amendment (deliberate indifference to his asthma) and the First Amendment (delaying his care to retaliate for prior lawsuits). During discovery, the court encountered several problems: Donelson’s conflict with his recruited lawyer and that lawyer’s withdrawal; Donelson’s false assertion that Wexford refused to respond to his document requests; and Donelson’s obstructive behavior during his deposition. Donelson professed not to understand simple questions, no matter how often rephrased, then refused to answer. Donelson accused opposing counsel of bringing contraband (an inhaler) into Stateville. The judge described Donelson’s responses as “evasive and argumentative,” then ruled that dismissal with prejudice and an award of costs was a proper sanction. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, finding the sanction reasonable. Donelson acted willfully and in bad faith; the dismissal was proportional and appropriate given Donelson’s grossly unacceptable conduct, the need to convey the seriousness of his violations, the obvious insufficiency of any warning, and his inability to pay any meaningful monetary sanction. View "Donelson v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The First Circuit affirmed the district court's entry of judgment in favor of Defendants on Plaintiff's complaint alleging medical malpractice and negligence against a hospital and several other healthcare providers, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion by excluding an expert witness as a sanction for Plaintiff's noncompliance with a scheduling order. After Defendants answered the complaint the district court entered a scheduling order setting a deadline for the disclosure of Plaintiff's expert reports. More than a year after the deadline the district court had set for the disclosure of Plaintiff's experts' reports, Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiff's potential expert witness. The district court granted the motion to exclude. Thereafter, the court granted summary judgment for Defendants on the ground that Plaintiff could not prevail without admissible expert testimony. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the court below did not abuse its discretion in excluding the potential expert witness as an expert witness. View "Gonzalez-Rivera v. Centro Medico del Turabo, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Eighth Circuit dismissed TEI's appeal of the district court's order remanding the case to state court based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court dismissed the appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction, because the court could not review the merits of the remand order, colorably characterized as based on a lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and it must stand whether erroneous or not. View "Vasseur v. TEI Construction Services, Inc." on Justia Law

by
After the Association filed suit alleging that the District's school funding practices inadequately fund charter schools, the district court rejected the Association's claims. The DC Circuit did not reach the merits of the Association's claims, holding that the district court lacked jurisdiction over the claims. In this case, none of the Association's claims under the School Reform Act, Home Rule Act, and Constitution arose under federal law within the meaning of the federal question statute. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's judgment and remanded for dismissal of the complaint for want of jurisdiction. View "D.C. Association of Chartered Public Schools v. District of Columbia" on Justia Law