Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

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Theresa Driskell, with the help of an insurance agent, submitted applications for a life insurance policy and a disability income rider. When reviewing the application, the insurance company discovered Driskell was ineligible for the disability income rider. So it issued her a life insurance policy that varied from her application: a policy that did not provide disability income. Driskell received this policy and reviewed it. She did not reject or return it. Instead, she accepted the policy and began making premium payments. Nearly three years later, Driskell made a claim with the insurer for disability income. Because the policy did not include a disability income rider, the insurer denied her claim. Driskell sued the insurer, citing her expectation of disability income coverage. The insurer moved for summary judgment, which the trial judge denied. The Mississippi Supreme Court granted the insurer’s interlocutory appeal to decide if summary judgment was wrongly denied. After review, the Court determined it was clear the policy issued to Driskell and accepted by her did not include a disability income rider. Therefore, it reversed the denial of summary judgment and rendered a judgment in the insurer’s favor. View "Mutual of Omaha Insurance Co. v. Driskell" on Justia Law

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Appellants Eric Early and his election committee, Eric Early for Attorney General 2018 (collectively, Early), appealed the denial of their petition for writ of mandate to preclude respondent Xavier Becerra from running for Attorney General in 2018. Early contended that Becerra, appointed Attorney General by former Governor Brown in 2016, was not eligible for the office under Government Code section 12503. Becerra was an “inactive” member of the California State Bar from 1991 to the end of 2016. Government Code section 12503 provided: “No person shall be eligible to the office of Attorney General unless he shall have been admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the state for a period of at least five years immediately preceding his election or appointment to such office.” Early argues that an “inactive” attorney may not practice law in California and therefore is not “admitted to practice” under Government Code section 12503. The Court of Appeal disagreed, finding both active and inactive attorneys were members of the State Bar. The phrase “admitted to practice” referred to the event of admission to the bar and the status of being admitted, and did not require engagement in the “actual” or “active” practice of law. Becerra did not cease to be “admitted to practice” in California when he voluntarily changed his status to “inactive.” View "Early v. Becerra" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Robert Weimer, Jr., purchased real property in Carnelian Bay in 1993. He refinanced the mortgage in 2006 with a loan from defendant Bank of America, N.A. (BANA). After defaulting, plaintiff entered into a loan modification process with BANA. Subsequently, loan servicing was transferred, successively, to defendants Specialized Loan Servicing, LLC (SLS) and Nationstar Mortgage, LLC (Nationstar). According to plaintiff, BANA, SLS, and Nationstar successively each engaged in deliberate and negligent misconduct in the loan modification process. In 2014, BANA transferred beneficial interest in the loan to defendant U.S. Bank, N. A. (U.S. Bank), as trustee for the Certificateholders of Banc of America Funding Corporation Mortgage Pass Through Certificates Series 2007-7. Eventually, Nationstar, acting as U.S. Bank’s agent, recorded a notice of trustee’s sale and had an agent enter onto the property and change the locks. After plaintiff commenced this action, BANA, U.S. Bank, and Nationstar demurred to a first amended complaint. The trial court sustained the demurrer without leave to amend as to BANA, concluding that the action against it was time-barred. As to the other defendants, the court sustained the demurrer with leave to amend. Plaintiff filed a second amended complaint, asserting intentional and negligent misrepresentation, negligence, trespass to land, seeking declaratory relief, and asserting violations of the unfair competition law. U.S. Bank and Nationstar demurred, SLS separately demurred, and the trial court sustained the demurrers without leave to amend. On appeal, plaintiff contended the trial court erred in concluding that the action against BANA was time-barred because BANA’s actions were part of a civil conspiracy with the other defendants, and the timeliness of plaintiff’s action against BANA must be measured from the last overt act. Plaintiff further asserted the trial court erred in sustaining the demurrers to the second amended complaint because he sufficiently stated each cause of action. Furthermore, plaintiff asserted the trial court should have granted him leave to amend, however, he largely contended his complaint required no amendment. In the unpublished portion of its opinion, the Court of Appeal concluded that the action as asserted against BANA was indeed time-barred. The Court further concluded plaintiff sufficiently stated causes of action sounding in intentional and negligent misrepresentation and violations of the unfair competition law against the remaining defendants. In the published portion of its opinion, the Court concluded the remaining defendants had a duty of care and that plaintiff sufficiently stated a cause of action for negligence against them. Therefore, the Court reversed the judgments of dismissal as to U.S. Bank, SLS, and Nationstar and reversed the orders sustaining the demurrers as to the causes of action in the second amended complaint for intentional misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation, negligence, and violations of the unfair competition law. In all other respects, the judgments were affirmed. View "Weimer v. Nationstar Mortgage, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that a voluntary dismissal with prejudice generally conveys "prevailing party" status upon the defendant for purposes of an award of attorney fees and costs under Nev. Rev. Stat. 18.010(2) and Nev. Rev. Stat. 18.020, but district courts should consider the circumstances surrounding the voluntary dismissal with prejudice in determining whether the dismissal conveys prevailing party status. The Residences at MGM Grand - Tower A Owners' Association (the Association) was sued after it was discovered that a unit at The Signature at MGM Grand had mold damage. The Association requested dismissal from the case because it was not a proper party to the action. Eventually, the parties stipulated to dismiss the Association from the case with prejudice. Thereafter, the Association moved for attorney fees and costs. The Trust argued that the Association could not be considered a prevailing party because the case had not proceeded to judgment. The district court concluded that the Association was the prevailing party and awarded attorney fees and costs. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that under the facts of this case, the dismissal with prejudice was substantively a judgment on the merits, and therefore, the Association was a prevailing party for purposes of sections 18.010(2) and 18.020. View "145 East Harmon II Trust v. Residences at MGM Grand" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters (Convention) does not apply when parties have agreed to waive formal service of process in favor of a specified type of notification. Defendant, a company based in China, and Plaintiff entered into a contract providing that the parties would submit to the jurisdiction of California courts and to resolve disputes between them through California arbitration. The parties further agreed to provide notice and service of process to each other through Federal Express or a similar courier. Plaintiff later sought arbitration. Defendant neither responded nor appeared for the arbitration, and the arbitrator awarded Plaintiff $414,601,200. Defendant moved to set aside default judgment for insufficiency of service of process, arguing that Plaintiff's failure to comply with the Convention rendered the judgment confirming the arbitration award void. The motion was denied. The court of appeal reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Convention applies only when the law of the forum state requires formal service of process to be sent abroad; and (2) because the parties' contract constituted a waiver of formal service under California law in favor of an alternative form of notification, the Convention does not apply. View "Rockefeller Technology Investments (Asia VII) v. Changzhou SinoType Technology Co." on Justia Law

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Brian Ehrhart died within days of contracting hantavirus near his Issaquah, Washington home in early 2017. His widow, Sandra Ehrhart, sued King County’s public health department, Swedish Medical Center, and an emergency room physician, arguing all three had negligently caused Brian's death. King County asserted public duty as an affirmative defense, arguing it was not liable for Brian’s death because it did not owe him any duty as an individual. Ehrhart moved for partial summary judgment asking the court to dismiss this defense and others. The trial court granted Ehrhart’s motion but conditioned its ruling on the jury finding particular facts. King County appealed, and the Washington Supreme Court accepted direct discretionary review. The issues presented were: (1) whether the trial court could properly grant summary judgment conditioned on the jury finding particular facts; and (2) whether the regulations governing King COunty's responsibility to issue health advisories created a duty owed to Brian individually as opposed to a non actionable duty owed to the public as a whole. The Supreme Court determined the trial court could not properly grant summary judgment conditioned on the jury finding particular facts; summary judgment was appropriate only when there were no genuine issues of material fact. The Court concluded King County did not owe an individualized duty to Brian, and no exception to the public duty doctrine applied in this case. The Supreme Court therefore reversed the trial court, and remanded for entry of judgment in favor of King County on its public duty doctrine defense. View "Ehrhart v. King County" on Justia Law

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The Crims, acting on behalf of their son, Collin, filed a medical malpractice claim, alleging that Dietrich failed to obtain informed consent to perform a natural birth despite possible risks associated with Collin’s large size, and negligently delivered Collin, causing him injuries. Finding that the Crims failed to present expert testimony that a reasonable patient would have pursued a different form of treatment, the circuit court granted a directed verdict on the issue of informed consent. The jury returned a defense verdict on professional negligence. The Crims did not file any post-trial motions. On appeal, the Crims referred to the directed verdict. The appellate court remanded. On remand, Dietrich moved to exclude any evidence relating to negligent delivery. The circuit court certified the question: “Whether the ruling ... reversing the judgment and remanding this case for a new trial requires a trial de novo on all claims.” The appellate court answered yes, stating that it had issued a general remand without specific instructions. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed; 735 ILCS 5/2-1202 requires a litigant to file a post-trial motion in order to challenge the jury’s verdict even when the circuit court enters a partial directed verdict as to other issues. The failure to file such a motion deprived the circuit court of an opportunity to correct any trial errors involving the verdict and undermined any notion of fairness on appeal. The Crims failed to preserve any challenge to the jury’s verdict for appellate review. The appellate court could not remand the matter on an issue never raised. View "Crim v. Dietrich" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' suit against the HSPCA, as well as Texas county and state officials, for unlawful search and seizure under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The court held that the district court correctly concluded that the statute of limitations barred plaintiffs' claims against defendants. Plaintiffs alleged that the seizure of their horses occurred on June 24, 2015, and thus they had to bring their claim no later than June 26, 2017. However, in this case, plaintiffs first filed suit after that date. Even accepting plaintiffs' claim that the seizure was only finalized when the justice court divested them of ownership, the court held that the record makes clear that the justice court issued its order on July 8, 2015 and their claims would still be time-barred. View "Hoffman v. Houston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals" on Justia Law

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Audrie, the Potts’ daughter, was sexually assaulted while unconscious from intoxication. Her assailants distributed intimate photographs of her. Audrie committed suicide. The Potts, as the registered successors-in-interest to “deceased personality” rights for Audrie under Civil Code 3344.1, authorized the use of Audrie’s name and likeness in a documentary. The Potts sued Lazarin under section 3344.1, claiming that Lazarin (who claims to be Audrie’s biological father) had used Audrie’s name and likeness "for the purpose of advertising services” without their consent. Lazarin admitted that he had displayed Audrie’s photograph “to change the law regarding parental rights” but argued that he had not acted to promote “goods or services.” The Potts submitted evidence that Lazarin solicited donations for a suicide prevention group, using Audrie’s name and photograph. Lazarin brought an unsuccessful special motion to strike the complaint under Code of Civil Procedure 425.16. The court of appeal reversed. Lazarin made a prima facie showing that the Potts’ suit was based on his “written or oral statement or writing made in a place open to the public or a public forum in connection with an issue of public interest.” The Potts failed to establish that there was a “probability” that they would “prevail” on their Civil Code section 3344.1 suit; they did not show that Lazarin “misappropriate[ed] the economic value generated by [Audrie’s] fame through the merchandising” of her name or likeness. View "Pott v. Lazarin" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Steven Kientz spent many years as a "dual status" technician with the Kansas Army National Guard, where he worked as a mechanic on electronic measurement equipment. Plaintiff’s position required him to simultaneously serve as a member of the National Guard, a second job with separate pay and separate responsibilities. In retirement, Plaintiff receives a monthly pension payment under the Civil Service Retirement System based on his service as a dual status technician. Plaintiff also receives Social Security retirement benefits based on contributions he made to the Social Security system from his separate pay as a National Guard member. The issue this case presented for the Tenth Circuit's review centered on whether a dual status service technician’s civil service pension was “based wholly on service as a member of a uniformed service” under 42 U.S.C. 415(a)(7)(A). After review, the Court concluded Plaintiff's civil service pension is not “wholly” based on service as a member of a uniformed service, and his pension payments were therefore subject to the Windfall Elimination Provision ("WEP"). Plaintiff’s dual status technician work was at least partially distinct from the performance of his military duties. And Plaintiff received separate compensation and separate pensions for his performance of those distinct roles. The Court concurred with the district court and Social Security Administration that Plaintiff's Social Security retirement benefits were subject to the WEP. View "Kientz v. Commissioner, SSA" on Justia Law