Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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Kenneth Michaud submitted a Right-to-Know request to the Town of Campton Police Department, seeking certain records pertaining to him, his address, or any member of his household. The Town denied his request, asserting that it was an attempt to circumvent the discovery process in a separate litigation between the parties. Michaud then filed a lawsuit against the Town to gain access to the requested records. The Town reiterated its justification for the denial, and the court stayed the Right-to-Know suit until the separate litigation reached a resolution. After the resolution of the other litigation, the court ordered the Town to respond to Michaud's requests. The Town provided some documents, but Michaud filed a motion to compel, claiming that not all records were produced. The court denied the motion, finding that the Town had complied with the order and that the withheld records were either already in Michaud's possession or were exempted from disclosure.The Supreme Court of New Hampshire reversed the lower court's decision, ruling that the Town violated the Right-to-Know Law by categorically denying Michaud's request based on his motive and without first reviewing the records responsive to the request. The court concluded that the Town's initial response was not lawful and that the trial court erred in ruling that the Town's initial denial was lawful. The court also vacated the trial court's denial of Michaud's request for attorney’s fees and costs and remanded for further proceedings. The court held that to award attorney’s fees on remand, the trial court must find that the lawsuit was necessary to enforce compliance with the Right-to-Know Law and that the Town knew or should have known that its conduct violated the Right-to-Know Law. View "Michaud v. Town of Campton Police Department" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a dispute between Anthony Sam and Renee Kwan, who formed a limited liability company (LLC) and purchased a parking lot. Sam alleged that Kwan, without his knowledge, sold the lot for a significant profit, fabricated documents, and pocketed the money without giving him anything. Sam sued Kwan, her entities, the company providing title and escrow services for the sale, and the parking lot buyer. The trial court ruled against Sam, denying him any remedy.The trial court's decisions were largely unfavorable for Sam. It denied First American's motion for summary judgment but granted the Board's motion for summary judgment. The court also granted judgment on the pleadings to various defendants, including Fidelity, First American, Kwan, Vibrant, Asset, 600 LLC, and Holdings. The court sustained Fidelity's demurrer in part with leave to amend and in part without leave to amend. Sam appealed these decisions.The Court of Appeal of the State of California Second Appellate District Division Eight affirmed some of the trial court's rulings but reversed others. The appellate court reversed the denial of Sam's leave to amend his claims on behalf of 2013 LLC and remanded to permit Sam to bring these claims on behalf of the member entities. The court also reversed the remainder of the grants of judgment on the pleadings, except as to the breach of contract claims based on the operating agreements of 600 LLC and Holdings against 600 LLC and Holdings. The court affirmed the ruling that the breach of contract claims based on the operating agreements of 600 LLC and Holdings against 600 LLC and Holdings cannot be amended to state viable claims. The court reversed the sustaining of Fidelity's demurrer as to the civil conspiracy cause of action. Finally, the court reversed the grant of the Board's summary judgment motion. View "Sam v. Kwan" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a dispute between neighbors in a six-unit condominium building. Robert Dubac, the plaintiff, and Sandra Itkoff and Jonathan Diamond, the defendants, were owners of units in the same building. The defendants made several statements about Dubac, accusing him of various wrongdoings, including discrimination, self-dealing, acting in bad faith, racism, and harassment of their daughter. These statements were made through emails and oral communications to other residents of the building, the homeowners association, and an insurance carrier.The case was initially heard in the Superior Court of Los Angeles County. Dubac sued Itkoff and Diamond for defamation, infliction of emotional distress, interference with economic advantage, and civil harassment. In response, the defendants filed a special motion to strike under the anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) statute, arguing that their statements were made in connection with a public issue. The trial court denied most of the motion, ruling that the majority of the statements did not meet the first prong of the anti-SLAPP analysis, which required a showing that the statements were connected to a public issue.The case was then brought before the Court of Appeal of the State of California, Second Appellate District, Division Eight. The defendants appealed the trial court's refusal to strike the majority of Dubac's suit. The appellate court affirmed the trial court's decision, concluding that the dispute did not involve a public issue or an issue of public interest. The court reasoned that the dispute was essentially a private feud between neighbors and did not contribute to public discussion of public issues. The court also noted that the audience for the defendants' statements was small and confined to the building's residents and associated parties, further indicating that the matter was not of public interest. View "Dubac v. Itkoff" on Justia Law

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The case involves a dispute over a parcel of land within the Rio Grande National Forest in Colorado, owned by Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture (LMJV). The land, obtained through a land exchange with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) in 1987, was intended for development into a ski resort village. However, access to the parcel was hindered due to a gravel road managed by the USFS that was unusable by vehicles in the winter.In 2007, LMJV invoked the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), claiming it required the USFS to grant access to inholdings within USFS land. The USFS initially proposed a second land exchange with LMJV to secure access to Highway 160. However, this proposal was challenged by several conservation groups under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), alleging violations of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In 2017, the district court vacated the USFS decision and remanded to the agency.The USFS then considered a new alternative in the form of a right-of-way easement to LMJV across USFS land between the Parcel and Highway 160. The USFS consulted with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to secure a new biological opinion (BiOp) and incidental take statement (ITS) for the proposed action in 2018. The USFS then issued a final Record of Decision (ROD) in 2019, approving the easement.The conservation groups challenged this latest ROD under NEPA, the ESA, and ANILCA. The district court vacated and remanded under the law of the case doctrine, concluding that it was bound by the reasoning of the district court’s 2017 order. The Agencies appealed the district court’s decision vacating the 2018 BiOp and 2019 ROD.The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit vacated the district court’s order and affirmed the Agencies’ decisions. The court concluded that it had jurisdiction over the matter under the practical finality rule, and that the Conservation Groups had standing. The court held that the district court incorrectly applied the law of the case doctrine because the Agencies considered a different alternative when issuing the 2019 ROD. The court also concluded that ANILCA requires the USFS to grant access to the LMJV Parcel. The court determined that even if the Conservation Groups could show error under NEPA, they had not shown that any alleged error was harmful. Finally, the court held that the Conservation Groups failed to successfully challenge the 2018 BiOp under the ESA, and that the Agencies correctly allowed the ITS to cover not only the proposed easement, but also LMJV’s proposed development. View "Rocky Mountain Wild v. Dallas" on Justia Law

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This case involves a dispute between a homeowner and a citizens association over a parcel of undeveloped land. The parcel was divided into two sections by a stone wall. The homeowner claimed adverse possession over the entire parcel, but in an amended complaint, treated the two sections as distinct parcels acquired at different times and on different grounds. The homeowner moved for summary judgment on the claim to the smaller section, which the circuit court granted. A different judge presided over the bench trial on the homeowner’s claim to the larger section. When the homeowner finished his case-in-chief, the citizens association moved for judgment. The trial court granted the citizens association’s motion and entered judgment for it on the homeowner’s claims, including the claim to the smaller section that had been resolved in the homeowner’s favor on summary judgment.The trial court's decision was appealed to the Appellate Court of Maryland which affirmed the trial court’s disposition of the homeowner’s claims to both the smaller and larger sections. The homeowner then petitioned for certiorari to the Supreme Court of Maryland.The Supreme Court of Maryland held that the circuit court abused its discretion by implicitly vacating the summary judgment entered in the homeowner’s favor on his claim to the smaller section and then entering judgment for the citizens association on that claim. The court also held that the Appellate Court erred in conditionally reinstating the Association’s counterclaim for a prescriptive easement. The case was remanded for further proceedings consistent with the opinion. View "Riley v. Venice Beach Citizens Ass'n" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a dispute between Sharon Ann Koch, a member of the Buffalo Trail Ranch subdivision, and Melissa R. Gray, who was purchasing a tract in the subdivision. Koch, along with other members and the developer of the subdivision, Rocky Mountain Timberlands, Inc. (RMT), sued Gray for allegedly violating the subdivision's restrictive covenants by placing garbage, junk, and other prohibited items on her property. The covenants, filed by RMT in 2008, also required the formation of a road maintenance association, which was never established.The District Court of Albany County dismissed all claims against Gray, applying the contractual "first to breach" doctrine. The court reasoned that RMT, by failing to form the road maintenance association, was the first to breach the covenants. Therefore, it was impossible to hold Gray to the covenants. Koch appealed this decision, arguing that she had no contractual relationship with Gray, and thus the "first to breach" doctrine should not apply to her claim.The Supreme Court of Wyoming agreed with Koch. It found that the "first to breach" doctrine, which is based on a contractual relationship, could not be applied as there was no contract between Koch and Gray. The court also rejected the lower court's conclusion that RMT's breach of the covenants rendered them inapplicable to Gray. The court found no legal basis for applying the "first to breach" doctrine to a third party's enforcement of covenants. Consequently, the Supreme Court reversed the lower court's decision and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Koch v. Gray" on Justia Law

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The case involves Benito R. Chavez, a Vietnam War veteran who sought service connection for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). After being diagnosed with chronic, moderately severe PTSD, he was granted a 100 percent disability evaluation by the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA). However, after a subsequent medical examination, his disability rating was reduced to 50 percent, and later increased to 70 percent, as it was determined that his condition did not result in total occupational impairment. Chavez disagreed with this decision and appealed to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, which upheld the reduction.Chavez then appealed to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, arguing that the Board's decision should be reversed and his 100 percent rating reinstated. The Veterans Court agreed that the Board may have improperly relied on evidence developed after the rating reduction, but instead of reversing the Board’s decision, it remanded the case back to the Board for further examination.Chavez appealed this decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, arguing that the Veterans Court should have reversed the Board’s decision rather than remanding the case. The government contended that the Federal Circuit lacked jurisdiction over Chavez's appeal. The Federal Circuit rejected the government's jurisdictional argument but affirmed the decision of the Veterans Court on the merits. The Federal Circuit held that the Veterans Court was fully entitled to remand the case to the Board for clarification, and therefore, the decision of the Veterans Court was affirmed. View "Chavez v. McDonough" on Justia Law

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The case involves William and Mary Goche, LLC; Global Assets, LLC; and Joseph Goche (collectively “Goche”), who own land in three different drainage districts in Kossuth County. The Kossuth County Board of Supervisors administers these districts. Goche alleged that the board of supervisors administered the districts in a way that specifically caused him harm. He brought a suit against the board of supervisors, current and former supervisors, and engineering firm Bolton & Menk, Inc., asserting claims for breach of fiduciary duty and seeking punitive damages for the defendants’ alleged breaches.The defendants moved to dismiss the claims, arguing that they owed no fiduciary duty to Goche as an individual landowner within the drainage districts. The district court granted the motions, leading to Goche's appeal. However, in the appeal, Goche abandoned his breach of fiduciary duty claims and instead contended that he is entitled to proceed against the defendants on a standalone cause of action for punitive damages.The Supreme Court of Iowa disagreed with Goche's argument. The court clarified that punitive damages are a form of damages available to a plaintiff incidental to a recognized cause of action and not a freestanding cause of action. The court also noted that Goche conceded that the defendants owed him no fiduciary duty in the administration of the drainage districts or in providing engineering services to the districts. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court, dismissing Goche's claims. View "William and Mary Goche, LLC v. Kossuth County Board of Supervisors in their capacity as Trustees of Drainage Districts 4, 18, and 80" on Justia Law

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The case involves an appeal against a county court's decision to appoint a permanent guardian for Patrick W., an individual deemed incapacitated due to a stroke. The appellant, Patrick W., argued that the court erred in admitting a neuropsychological report as evidence over his hearsay objection and that without this report, the evidence was insufficient to prove his incapacitation.Previously, Adult Protective Services (APS) had opened an investigation into Patrick's medical needs and financial management. Concerned about Patrick's vulnerability to financial exploitation, self-neglect, and undue influence, APS contacted an attorney to inquire about establishing a guardianship. Becky Stamp was identified as a potential guardian. The county court appointed Stamp as Patrick's temporary guardian, and later, Patrick's cousin, Terry Crandall, was substituted as the temporary guardian. The court also ordered Patrick to undergo a neuropsychological evaluation.At the guardianship hearing, the county court received several exhibits into evidence and heard testimony from six witnesses, including Patrick. The court found clear and convincing evidence that Patrick was incapacitated and appointed Crandall as his permanent guardian.The Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed the county court's decision. It held that the neuropsychological report was admissible in evidence under Nebraska Revised Statute § 30-4204, as it was a medical report obtained by the guardian ad litem regarding the person for whom she was appointed. The court also found sufficient evidence to support the county court's finding that Patrick was incapacitated and that a full guardianship was the least restrictive alternative to provide for his continuing care. View "In re Guardianship of Patrick W." on Justia Law

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The State of Alabama initiated 14 separate actions against various businesses, nonprofit organizations, property owners, and municipalities, alleging that they were responsible for the operation of illegal gambling activities. The State sought permanent injunctive relief on public-nuisance grounds. The Birmingham Division of the Jefferson Circuit Court issued temporary restraining orders (TROs) in each case and later transferred the actions to the Bessemer Division of the same court, extending the TROs in the process.Upon receiving the transferred cases, the Bessemer Division concluded that the Birmingham Division lacked jurisdiction to issue the TROs. As a result, the Bessemer Division dissolved the TROs and dismissed the actions. The State appealed these decisions, leading to the consolidation of the appeals.The Supreme Court of Alabama found that the Bessemer Division had erred in its conclusion. The court clarified that the Birmingham Division did have jurisdiction over the actions and had correctly transferred them to the Bessemer Division, which was the proper venue. The court explained that the Bessemer Division's dismissal of the actions was erroneous and that the correct course of action would have been to proceed with the cases.The Supreme Court of Alabama reversed the Bessemer Division's judgments and remanded the actions for further proceedings. The court instructed the Bessemer Division to conduct a hearing regarding the State's motions for preliminary injunctions at the earliest possible time. View "State of Alabama v. Jay's Charity Bingo" on Justia Law