Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

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At issue before the Colorado Supreme Court in this matter was a trial court’s order denying immunity to Defendant New Century Hospice, Inc. and its subsidiaries, Defendants Legacy Hospice, LLC, d/b/a New Century Hospice of Denver, LLC, and Legacy Hospice of Colorado Springs, LLC (collectively, “New Century”). New Century argued it was entitled to immunity under four different statutes. Tana Edwards filed suit against New Century (her former employer) and Kathleen Johnson, the Director of Operations for New Century Castle Rock (collectively, “Defendants”). As part of her employment with New Century, Edwards provided in-home care to an elderly patient. In December 2019, Johnson began to suspect that Edwards was diverting pain medications from the patient. Defendants reported the suspected drug diversion to the Castle Rock Police Department and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (“CDPHE”). Defendants also lodged a complaint against Edwards’s nursing license with the Colorado Board of Nursing (“the Board”). After investigations, no criminal charges were filed and no formal disciplinary actions were taken against Edwards. Edwards subsequently brought this action against Defendants, alleging claims for negligent supervision and negligent hiring against New Century, as well as claims for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress against New Century and Johnson. Defendants moved for summary judgment. The trial court granted the motion as to Edwards’s claims for negligent hiring, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, finding that the claims were either time-barred or could not be proven. Three of the statutes New Century cited for its immunity claim, 12-20-402(1), C.R.S. (2022) (“the Professions Act”), 12-255-123(2), C.R.S. (2022) (“the Nurse Practice Act”), and 18-6.5-108(3), C.R.S. (2022) (“the Mandatory Reporter statute”), only authorized immunity for a “person.” Relying on the plain meaning of “person,” the Supreme Court held that New Century was not entitled to immunity under these three statutes because it was a corporation, not a person. The fourth statute, 18-8-115, C.R.S. (2022) (“the Duty to Report statute”), explicitly entitled corporations to immunity, but only if certain conditions were met. Applying the plain language of the statute, the Supreme Court held that New Century was not entitled to summary judgment on the issue of immunity under this statute because it did not carry its burden of demonstrating that all such conditions were met. View "In re Edwards v. New Century Hospice" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court affirming U-Nest Holdings, Inc.'s motion for relief from judgment in a 2019 federal court action under Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(6), holding that the district court did not err in its ruling.In 2021, U-Nest filed a case in the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island asserting that it had been fraudulently induced to enter into a prior state court settlement agreement that was embodied in a judgment entered in 2020 in a 2019 federal court action. The federal district court stayed the 2021 action to allow U-Nest to first file a motion for relief from judgment in the 2019 action. U-Nest then filed the motion for relief from judgment, which the district court denied. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in finding that U-Nest did not support its claim of fraud and/or of misrepresentation. View "U-Nest Holdings, Inc. v. Ascensus College Savings Recordkeeping Services, LLC" on Justia Law

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MyPillow, Inc. and Chief Executive Officer Michael Lindell (collectively, “Lindell”) appealed the district court’s denial of their motions for a preliminary injunction and for the return of property—Lindell’s cell phone that was seized by federal agents on September 13, 2022. The basis of Lindell’s action arises from an ongoing federal investigation into the individuals responsible for publishing forensic images of election software used in the 2020 election in Mesa County, Colorado. He argued on appeal that the federal investigation violates his First Amendment rights of freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of the press, and the right to petition for the redress of grievances. He also contended the search warrant for his phone violates the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against general warrants.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of Lindell’s motion for a preliminary injunction. The court reversed the district court’s decision not to exercise equitable jurisdiction over Lindell’s motion for the return of property as it relates to the continued retention of the cell phone itself and all its data. The court explained that it is unable to determine from the record whether the government can reasonably justify its continued refusal to return Lindell’s cell phone, which at this point was seized nearly a year ago, or the data on it, which is entirely unrelated to the offenses the government is investigating. Accordingly, the court remanded for the district court to hold a prompt hearing and balance the government’s interest in retaining Lindell’s cell phone and all its data against Lindell’s right to get the property back. View "Michael Lindell v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s (“the Department”) cited Grace at Fairview Lakes, LLC (“Grace”), a residential assisted living and memory care facility, for failing to provide a safe living environment for residents and for inadequate training in relation to COVID-19 infection control measures. Grace requested administrative review of the enforcement action, which was affirmed by a Department administrator. Grace then filed an administrative appeal challenging the action, which was affirmed by a hearing officer. Grace then filed a petition for judicial review to the district court. The district court denied all the relief sought by Grace. On appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court, Grace argued the district court erred because the hearing officer’s decision was not supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. The Supreme Court found no error in the district court’s decision because there was substantial evidence in the record to support the hearing officer’s order. View "Grace at Fairview Lakes, LLC v. IDHW" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the district court’s affirmance of the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) denial of his claim for disability insurance benefits (DIB) and supplemental security income (SSI) following the Appeals Council’s remand. He argued that the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) erred on remand by reconsidering a prior finding of Plaintiff’s residual functional capacity (RFC) after the prior decision had been vacated, in violation of the law-of-the-case doctrine and the mandate rule.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the mandate rule, which is “a specific application” of the law-of-the-case doctrine, binds a lower court to execute the mandate of the higher court without further examination or variance. The court wrote that even assuming the law-of-the-case doctrine and mandate rule apply, the ALJ was free to reconsider Plaintiff’s RFC because the 2018 Decision was vacated. The court reasoned that the district court order made no findings about how the ALJ erred in his determination on Plaintiff’s disability. Instead, the district court remanded the case on a motion from the Commissioner without making specific factual findings, including whether or not the ALJ properly determined Plaintiff’s RFC. As a result, the Appeals Council had no factual findings in the remand order from which it could deviate. Additionally, the Appeals Council explained that Plaintiff filed a new SSI claim in 2019, and it consolidated that claim with his initial claims, which stemmed from the same disabilities. The SSA regulations allow an ALJ to consider any issues relating to the claim, whether or not they were raised in earlier administrative proceedings. View "George Weidner, III v. Commissioner of Social Security" on Justia Law

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Litigation that had been ongoing for twenty years, went before the Mississippi Supreme Court for the third time. The direct appeal involved the West family-owned corporations, West Quality Food Services, Inc. (West Quality), and Coastal Express, Inc. (Coastal) (collectively, “West Entities”), and Deborah West (Debbie West), former wife of Charles Timothy West (Tim West). The major issue on direct appeal was whether the chancellor erred in his priority-of-liens analysis. On cross-appeal, which was brought by Tim West, the issue was whether the chancellor considered his claim for retroactive child support. While these issues were pending on appeal, Tim West filed a separate action to challenge the statute of limitations applicable to an underlying judgment and to writs of garnishment that had been entered against him. The chancellor determined that the statute of limitations had run and ordered that the judgment, the writs of garnishment, and the writs of execution be deemed null and void. Debbie West appealed, and the Supreme Court consolidated the two cases. Regarding the direct appeal, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s ruling and remanded for a determination of whether each of Tim West’s capital stock certificates were noted conspicuously with a bylaws restriction. If so, then the conspicuously noted stock certificate(s) should have priority over Debbie West’s valid equitable lien. If the stock certificate failed to conspicuously note the bylaws restriction on the stock certificate, then the 1994 equitable lien has priority over Tim West’s stock. Neither the Supreme Court nor the trial court addressed whether the penalty in Mississippi Code Section 13-3-129 was applicable in this case. As such, the Supreme Court remanded this issue for the chancellor to determine that question. As for the cross-appeal, the chancellor erred by failing to address Tim West’s retroactive child support claim. Thus, the Supreme Court remanded this issue for the chancellor to consider his claim in the first instance. Regarding the consolidated appeal, West v. West, No. 2022-CA-00147-SCT, the Supreme Court found that because Tim West engaged in claim splitting, the chancellor’s decision was reversed with orders to dismiss the case and reinstate the 2008 judgment, the writs of garnishment, and the writs of execution. View "West v. West, et al." on Justia Law

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EpicentRx, Inc. and several of its officers, employees, and affiliates (collectively, the defendants) challenged a trial court order denying their motion to dismiss plaintiff-shareholder EpiRx, L.P.’s (EpiRx) lawsuit on forum non conveniens grounds. The defendants sought dismissal of the case based on mandatory forum selection clauses in EpicentRx’s certificate of incorporation and bylaws, which designated the Delaware Court of Chancery as the exclusive forum to resolve shareholder disputes like the present case. The trial court declined to enforce the forum selection clauses after finding that litigants did not have a right to a civil jury trial in the Delaware Court of Chancery and, therefore, enforcement of the clauses would deprive EpiRx of its inviolate right to a jury trial in violation of California public policy. The California Court of Appeal agreed with the trial court that enforcement of the forum selection clauses in EpicentRx’s corporate documents would operate as an implied waiver of EpiRx’s right to a jury trial, thus the Court concluded the trial court properly declined to enforce the forum selection clauses at issue, and denied the defendants’ request for writ relief. View "EpicentRx, Inc. v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

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In this case, the parties consented to have their commercial dispute tried before a United States magistrate judge. But, allegedly unbeknownst to Defendant, the judge was longtime family friends with the lead trial lawyer for the plaintiff. Specifically, the lawyer had been a groomsman in the judge’s own wedding, and the judge officiated the wedding of the lawyer’s daughter three months before this lawsuit was filed. None of this information was disclosed to Defendant. After a twenty-day bench trial, the magistrate judge rendered judgment for the Plaintiff, awarding $124.5 million, including over $100 million in trebled damages. After the issuance of the judgment and award, Defendant learned about the undisclosed longstanding friendship and sought to have the magistrate-judge referral vacated. The district judge denied the request and denied discovery on the issue. Defendant appealed.   The Fifth Circuit vacated. The court concluded that the facts asserted here, if true, raise serious doubts about the validity of Defendant’s constitutionally essential consent to have its case tried by this magistrate judge. Further, the court explained remand was necessary because the facts were not sufficiently developed for the court to decide whether Defendant’s consent was validly given or whether vacatur of the referral was otherwise warranted. Accordingly, the court remanded for an evidentiary inquiry. View "I F G Port Hold v. Lake Charles Harbor" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs’ neighbor petitioned for a civil harassment restraining order against Plaintiffs and was granted a temporary restraining order. As a result of the TRO, Plaintiff was ordered to surrender his firearms to a California licensed firearms dealer. Certain California laws make it unlawful for any person subject to a “civil restraining order” issued by a California state court (including temporary restraining orders) to possess firearms or ammunition. Plaintiffs claim these laws violate the Second Amendment and the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution as applied to them. Though Plaintiffs were subject to civil restraining orders when they filed their suit, the orders against them have expired, and in January 2023, a California court denied the latest request to extend them.   The Ninth Circuit dismissed Plaintiffs’ action as moot. The panel rejected Plaintiffs’ argument that, although they were no longer subject to any firearm restrictions, the case fell within the “capable of repetition, yet evading review” exception to mootness. The panel noted that this doctrine is to be used sparingly, in exceptional situations, and generally only where (1) the challenged action is in its duration too short to be fully litigated prior to cessation or expiration, and (2) there is a reasonable expectation that the same complaining party will be subject to the same action again. The panel held that this case was moot because the relevant restraining orders have expired, a three-year-long restraining order is not too brief to be litigated on the merits, and there was no reasonable expectation that Plaintiffs will be subject to the same action again View "MIRANDA WALLINGFORD, ET AL V. ROBERT BONTA, ET AL" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff asserted that ZoomInfo did not obtain her permission or compensate her when it used her name and likeness in its online directory to promote its product, in violation of California’s Right of Publicity statute and her common-law privacy and intellectual property rights. ZoomInfo moved to strike the complaint under the California anti-SLAPP statute. In the district court, ZoomInfo moved to dismiss the complaint and to cut off the claims at the pleading stage. The district court denied the motion to dismiss and rejected ZoomInfo’s special motion to strike the complaint under California anti-SLAPP statute.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed. The panel held that it had appellate jurisdiction under the collateral order doctrine to review the denial of ZoomInfo’s anti-SLAPP motion. The panel also held that, at this stage, Martinez has plausibly pleaded that she suffered sufficient injury to establish constitutional standing to sue. The panel wrote that although the district court did not address the exemptions, Plaintiff’s case fell within the public interest exemption to the anti-SLAPP law. Plaintiff met the three conditions for the public interest exemption: Plaintiff requests all relief on behalf of the alleged class of which she is a member and does not seek any additional relief for herself; Plaintiff’s lawsuit seeks to enforce the public interest of the right to control one’s name and likeness; and private enforcement is necessary and disproportionately burdensome. View "KIM MARTINEZ V. ZOOMINFO TECHNOLOGIES, INC." on Justia Law