Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the district court's judgment sustaining CIT's demurrer without leave to amend based on res judicata. The court explained that appellant's present lawsuit involves the same primary right as three prior lawsuits that she brought against CIT, and plaintiff lost on the merits in all three prior lawsuits: one in the Los Angeles County Superior Court and two in the United States District Court. The court further explained that the prior adverse decisions by three trial and two appellate courts were not advisory opinions suggesting how appellant should proceed in the future. The court concluded that, pursuant to the doctrine of res judicata, the decisions constitute final judgments on the merits precluding further litigation against respondent concerning the same primary right. The court noted that, although the present appeal is frivolous, it will not order sanctions to be imposed on appellant. However, the court cautioned appellant that further attempts to litigate the subject matter of this lawsuit will result in sanctions. View "Colebrook v. CIT Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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IRS Notice 2016–66 requires taxpayers and “material advisors” to report information about "micro-captive" insurance agreements. The consequences for non-compliance include civil tax penalties and criminal prosecution. Before the first reporting deadline, CIC challenged the Notice as invalid under the Administrative Procedure Act and sought injunctive relief. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the action, citing the Anti-Injunction Act, 26 U.S.C. 7421(a), which generally requires those contesting a tax’s validity to pay the tax before filing a legal challenge.A unanimous Supreme Court reversed. A suit to enjoin Notice 2016–66 does not trigger the Anti-Injunction Act even though a violation may result in a tax penalty; it is not an action to restrain the “assessment or collection” of a tax, even if the information will help the IRS collect future tax revenue. CIC seeks to set aside the Notice itself, not the tax penalty that may follow its breach. CIC stands nowhere near the cusp of tax liability. The presence of criminal penalties forces CIC to bring an action in this form, with the requested relief framed in this manner. To disobey the Notice and pay the resulting penalty before suing for a refund would risk criminal punishment. Allowing CIC’s suit to proceed will not open the floodgates to pre-enforcement tax litigation. Because the IRS chose to address its concern about micro-captive agreements by imposing a reporting requirement rather than a tax, suits to enjoin that requirement are outside the Anti-Injunction Act. View "CIC Services., LLC v. Internal Revenue Service" on Justia Law

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Baltimore sued energy companies in Maryland state court, alleging that they concealed the environmental impacts of the fossil fuels they promoted. The companies removed the case to federal court invoking, among other grounds, the federal officer removal statute, 28 U.S.C. 1442. The district court remanded. Although an order remanding a case to state court is ordinarily unreviewable on appeal, appellate review is available for orders “remanding a case to the State court from which it was removed pursuant to section 1442 or 1443,” 28 U.S.C. 1447(d) The Fourth Circuit concluded the provision authorized appellate review only for the part of a remand order deciding the section 1442 or 1443 removal ground and that it lacked jurisdiction to review the rejection of the other removal grounds.The Supreme Court vacated and remanded. The ordinary meaning of section 1447(d)’s text permits appellate review of the district court’s entire remand order when a defendant relies on section 1442 or 1443 as a ground for removal. It makes no difference that the defendants removed the case “pursuant to” multiple federal statutes. Section 1447(d) contains no language limiting appellate review to cases removed solely under 1442 or 1443. The Court focused on the statute’s use of the word “order.” Allowing full appellate review may actually help expedite some cases. Baltimore’s contention that this reading of 1447(d) will invite defendants to frivolously add 1442 or 1443 to their other grounds for removal has already been addressed by other statutes and rules, which provide for sanctions. View "BP p.l.c. v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Vermont Supreme Court’s review centered on whether emails on a university’s server, sent between a professor and third-party entities, concerning the work of those entities, qualified as “public records” subject to public inspection. U.S. Right to Know (USRTK) appealed a superior court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the University of Vermont (UVM) after the court held that the emails USRTK requested from UVM were not public records. After review, the Supreme Court agreed that the emails at issue were not public records and accordingly affirmed. View "U.S. Right to Know v. University of Vermont" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Michael O’Shea hired attorney Susan Lindenberg to represent him in a child support action. After O’Shea’s ex-wife was awarded what he believed to be an excessive amount of child support, he filed this action, alleging Lindenberg should have retained a forensic accountant. The case went to trial and the jury concluded, in a special verdict, that Lindenberg owed a professional duty of care that she breached. The jury was unable to agree, however, on whether the breach of duty caused him damage, and the judge declared a mistrial. Lindenberg moved for a directed verdict on the grounds that the evidence presented at trial did not support a finding of causation, specifically, that without the alleged malpractice, O’Shea would have received a better result. The trial court agreed and directed a verdict in Lindenberg’s favor. After review, the Court of Appeal found O’Shea failed to present sufficient testimony on the issue of causation, and therefore affirmed the directed verdict. View "O'Shea v. Lindenberg" on Justia Law

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A class of end-payor purchasers sued (Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 26; Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1) manufacturers and suppliers, alleging that they conspired to fix prices of automotive anti-vibration rubber parts. The district court certified a nationwide settlement class comprising persons and entities who indirectly purchased anti-vibration rubber parts that were manufactured or sold by the defendants, excluding persons or entities who purchased parts directly or for resale.Before the court entered final judgments approving the "indirect purchaser" settlement, Plaintiffs filed a separate suit against the same defendants, in the same court, seeking damages under the Clayton Act on behalf of a putative class of “direct purchasers” of anti-vibration rubber parts. They alleged that they purchased parts “from an entity (Firestone retail shop) of which one of the Defendants (Bridgestone) is the ultimate parent”; Firestone is not a defendant in either lawsuit. Bridgestone is a defendant in both. The court entered final judgments in the end-payor lawsuit, enjoining all settlement class members from “commencing, prosecuting, or continuing . . . any and all claims” arising out of or relating to the released claims.Defendants moved to enjoin Plaintiffs from litigating their direct-purchaser lawsuit. The district court denied the motion, citing “Illinois Brick.” Under federal antitrust law, a private plaintiff generally must be a “direct purchaser” to have suffered injury and have standing to sue a manufacturer or supplier. In Illinois Brick, the Supreme Court recognized an exception, holding that an “indirect purchaser” might have standing if it purchased from an intermediary that was “owned or controlled” by the ultimate seller.The Sixth Circuit reversed. Regardless of whether Illinois Brick applies to plaintiffs’ underlying claims, plaintiffs fit within the class definition under the plain meaning of the settlement agreements. Their suit is therefore barred. View "In re: Automotive Parts Antitrust Litigation" on Justia Law

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Medicredit sent Markakos a letter seeking to collect $1,830.56 on behalf of a creditor identified as “Northwest Community 2NDS” for medical services. Markakos’s lawyer sent Medicredit a letter disputing the debt (because the medical services were allegedly inadequate). Medicredit then sent a response that listed a different amount owed: $407.00. Markakos sued Medicredit for allegedly violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692g(a)(1)–(2), by sending letters to her that stated inconsistent debt amounts and that unclearly identified her creditor as “Northwest Community 2NDS”—which is not the name of any legal entity in Illinois.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the case without prejudice. Markakos lacks standing to sue Medicredit under the Act because she did not allege that the deficient information harmed her in any way. She admits that she properly disputed her debt and never overpaid. Markakos’s only other alleged injury is that she was confused and aggravated by Medicredit’s letter. Winning or losing this suit would not change Markakos’s prospects; if Markakos lost, she would continue disputing her debt based on the inadequacy of the services and if she won, she would do the same. Not a penny would change hands, and no word or deed would be rescinded. View "Markakos v. Medicredit, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Thomas Standish was injured when his right ski struck a six-and-a-half-foot stump covered with freshly fallen snow skiing in an ungroomed area at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. stump covered with freshly fallen snow. Standish and his wife brought a negligence lawsuit against Jackson Hole to recover for his injuries. Jackson Hole moved for summary judgment, contending the Wyoming Recreation Safety Act (WRSA) limited Jackson Hole’s liability because Standish’s injury was a result of an “inherent risk” of alpine skiing. The district court granted summary judgment, finding that a tree stump covered by fresh snow was an inherent risk of skiing for which the WRSA precluded liability. To this, the Tenth Circuit agreed and affirmed the district court’s conclusion. View "Standish v. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort" on Justia Law

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Kevin Johnson, APLC, Kevin Johnson, and Jeanne MacKinnon (collectively, the attorney defendants) filed a petition for writ of mandate and complaint on behalf of their clients Christian Clews (Christian), Barbara Clews (Barbara), and Clews Land & Livestock, LLC (CLL) (collectively, Clews Horse Ranch) challenging a decision of the City of San Diego (City) to approve the construction of a private secondary school adjacent to the Clews’ commercial horse ranch. The petition asserted the City’s approval of the project and adoption of a mitigated negative declaration for the project violated the California Environmental Quality Act, the San Diego Municipal Code, and the City’s land use plan. The trial court denied relief and, in Clews Land and Livestock, LLC v. City of San Diego, 19 Cal.App.5th 161 (2017), the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment. Jan Dunning, Cal Coast Academy RE Holdings, LLC, and North County Center for Educational Development, Inc. (collectively, Cal Coast), the developers of the project and real parties in interest in the CEQA Litigation, then filed this lawsuit against Clews Horse Ranch and the attorney defendants for malicious prosecution. Cal Coast asserted the defendants lacked probable cause and acted with malice when they pursued the CEQA Litigation. The attorney defendants filed a special motion to strike Cal Coast’s complaint under the anti-SLAPP statute, to which the Clews Horse Ranch joined. The trial court denied the motion after finding that Cal Coast established a probability of prevailing on its malicious prosecution claim. Clews Horse Ranch and the attorney defendants appealed the order denying the anti-SLAPP motion. The Court of Appeal concluded Cal Coast established a probability of prevailing on its malicious prosecution claim against Clews Horse Ranch, but not against the attorney defendants. Therefore, the Court affirmed the order denying the anti-SLAPP motion as to Clews Horse Ranch, and reversed the order denying the anti- SLAPP motion as to the attorney defendants. View "Dunning v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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Rudy Alarcon filed a petition for writ of mandate seeking to invalidate hearing officer Robert Bergeson’s decision upholding the City of Calexico’s (City) termination of Alarcon’s employment as a City police officer. The City filed a petition for writ of mandate challenging Bergeson’s decision to award Alarcon back pay based on his finding that the City failed to provide Alarcon with sufficient predisciplinary notice of allegations that Alarcon had been dishonest during the investigation that led to his termination. The trial court consolidated the petitions and issued a written ruling that denied both petitions. As to Alarcon’s petition, the trial court determined that Alarcon had not met his burden to establish the charges against him were barred by the applicable statute of limitations. The trial court also found that the weight of the evidence demonstrated that Alarcon had “used force” and “discourteous language” during the arrest that led to his termination. With respect to the City’s petition, the trial court determined that “the hearing officer’s lengthy finding that the dishonesty charges were not properly noticed does not rise to the level of an abuse of discretion.” After review, the Court of Appeal found no reversible error in the trial court’s judgment with respect to Alarcon; the Court determined the City’s cross- appeal was untimely and should have been dismissed. View "City of Calexico v. Bergeson" on Justia Law