Articles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

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Plaintiff filed suit against defendant in state court alleging breach of contract and legal malpractice. Defendant removed to federal court eleven months later and plaintiff did not object nor did he file a motion to remand. More than three months after removal, the district court sua sponte found the removal to be untimely and remanded the case back to state court. The Ninth Circuit held that it had jurisdiction to hear this appeal because this was one of the rare cases in which the court must decide the merits to decide jurisdiction; the district court exceeded its authority under 28 U.S.C. 1447(c) by remanding sua sponte based on a non-jurisdictional defect; and thus the panel vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "Corona-Contreras v. Gruel" on Justia Law

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Although 28 U.S.C. 1448 and Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(m) give plaintiffs additional time to effect service of process, these rules do not extend or revive a state statute of limitations that expired before removal. If the period of time for bringing an action expired under state law before the action was removed to federal court, a defendant can raise the state statute of limitations as an affirmative defense in federal court. Plaintiff filed suit against defendants, alleging federal civil rights and negligence claims after plaintiff was injured by a flash-bang grenade a deputy threw during the execution of a warrant at plaintiff's house. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's suit based on statute of limitations grounds. In this case, although section 1448 and Rule 4(m) allowed plaintiff to serve process on defendants after removal, these laws did not change the period of time for commencing an action under the state statute of limitations. The panel explained that, because the time for commencing the action expired before the case was removed to federal court, defendants were entitled to raise the state statute of limitations as an affirmative defense. View "Whidbee v. Pierce County" on Justia Law

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On remand from the United States Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's order denying enforcement of an administrative subpoena issued by the EEOC to McLane that was issued as part of an investigation of a sex discrimination claim filed by a former employee. The subpoena requested "pedigree information" for employees or prospective employees who took a physical capability strength test. The Ninth Circuit held that the district court abused its discretion by denying enforcement of the subpoena because the pedigree information was relevant to the investigation. Therefore, the panel vacated the district court's judgment and remanded for further proceedings. On remand, McLane is free to renew its argument that the EEOC's request for pedigree information is unduly burdensome, and the district court should also resolve whether producing a second category of evidence—the reasons test takers were terminated—would be unduly burdensome to McLane. View "EEOC V. McLane Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a would-be class-action against China Agritech and others, alleging violations of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (Resh Action). Plaintiffs in this case were unnamed plaintiffs in two earlier would-be class actions against many of the same defendants based on the same underlying events (Dean and Smyth Actions). Class action certification was denied in both cases. Determining that appellate jurisdiction was proper, the Ninth Circuit held that the would-be class action brought by the Resh plaintiffs was not time-barred. In this case, plaintiffs' individual claims were tolled under American Pipe & Construction Co v. Utah, 414 U.S. 538 (1974), and Crown, Cork & Seal Co. v. Parker, 462 U.S. 345 (1983), during the pendency of the Dean and Smyth Actions. The panel explained that so long as they can satisfy the criteria of FRCP 23, and can persuade the district court that comity or preclusion principles do not bar their action, they were entitled to bring their timely individual claims as named plaintiffs in a would-be class action. The panel held that permitting future class action named plaintiffs, who were unnamed class members in previously uncertified classes, to avail themselves of American Pipe tolling would advance the policy objectives that led the Supreme Court to permit tolling in the first place View "Resh v. China Agritech" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court's opinion in CRST Van Expedited Inc. v. E.E.O.C., 136 S. Ct. 1642, 1646 (2016), effectively overruled Branson v Nott's holding that when a defendant wins because the action is dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction he is never a prevailing party. In this case, Amphastar filed a qui tam action against Aventis under the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C 3730, alleging that Aventis obtained an illegal monopoly over the drug enoxaparin and then knowingly overcharged the United States. The district court dismissed the suit based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Ninth Circuit held that Amphastar's allegations were based on publicly disclosed information, and it lacked the direct and independent knowledge needed to be an original source. Therefore, the panel upheld the district court's judgment on the merits. However, the panel held that the district court erroneously concluded that it could not award attorneys' fees, because the FCA's fee-shifting provision contained an independent grant of subject matter jurisdiction and because a party who wins a lawsuit on a non-merits issue is a "prevailing party." The panel remanded for resolution of the attorneys' fees issue. View "Amphastar Pharmaceuticals v. Aventis Pharma" on Justia Law

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The court affirmed the denial of a motion to intervene in a False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729-3733, suit brought by the Government against Sprint because the movant did not meet the requirements in the four-part test set out in Sw. Ctr. for Biological Diversity v. Berg. John C. Prather had filed an earlier qui tam suit against Sprint and others, alleging the companies were defrauding federal and state governments. The Government elected not to intervene and the district court later dismissed Prather's suit for lack of jurisdiction. The Government then filed its own FCA suit against Sprint and the district court denied Prather's motion to intervene based on lack of standing. As a preliminary matter, the court agreed with the Fourth Circuit that the parties' settlement and dismissal of a case after the denial of a motion to intervene does not as a rule moot a putative-intervenor's appeal. Here, the Government's settlement agreement with Sprint and the dismissal of the underlying action did not moot this appeal. On the merits, Prather lacked a significantly protectable interest in this case, the statute's qui tam recovery provisions in section 3730(d) did not apply to relators jurisdictionally barred under section 3730(e)(4); and Prather cannot obtain a monetary bounty under the FCA on his jurisdictionally barred claims. View "United States v. Sprint Communications" on Justia Law

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This petition for review returned to a long series of administrative cases arising out of the California energy crisis of 2000 and 2001 all centering on whether the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC” or “Commission”) acted arbitrarily or capriciously in calculating certain refunds. FERC that FERC had acted outside its jurisdiction when ordering governmental entities/non-public utilities to pay refunds, the Commission vacated each of its orders in the California refund proceeding to the extent that they ordered governmental entities/nonpublic utilities to pay refunds. In sum, although the tariffs were not specific, the Ninth Circuit could not concluded FERC acted arbitrarily or capriciously in its construction of the tariffs. View "California Pub. Util. Comm'n v. Federal Energy Reg. Comm'n" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the United States and former FBI agent Joe Gordwin after plaintiff was convicted of robbery and sentenced to twenty years in prison based on manufactured and coerced witness testimony. Plaintiff alleged thirteen causes of action and sought punitive damages. The district court granted the government's motion to dismiss, but dismissed all of plaintiff's claims, including those against Gordwin. Plaintiff then filed this notice of appeal (NOA), which included Gordwin and the United States in the caption, but did not otherwise identify Gordwin or the claims against him in the NOA. Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 3 lists the requirements for taking an appeal as of right in federal court. While no party raised an issue with plaintiff's NOA, the court sua sponte addressed the issue. Consistent with other circuits and the plain language of Rule 3(c)(1)(A), the court held that failing to name an appellee in an NOA is not a bar to an appeal. Therefore, any ambiguity about the identity of the appellees in plaintiff's NOA does not preclude the court's review of plaintiff's claims against Gordwin. The court rejected the literal interpretation of Rule 3(c)(1)(B), which stands in contrast to section 3(c)(1)(A), and applied a functional approach to plaintiff's case, concluding that his argument was more than sufficient to present the issue on appeal. Finally, the court concluded that the district court failed to distinguish between claims against the United States and claims against Gordwin when dismissing the case with prejudice. The court addressed the merits of plaintiff's other claims in a memorandum disposition filed concurrently with this opinion. The court reversed the judgment. View "West v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, twenty individuals who purchased first generation four stroke outboard motors (the Class Motors), filed suit against defendants, alleging that the Class Motors contained an inherent design defect that caused severe, premature corrosion in the motors’ dry exhaust system. Plaintiffs alleged that defendants knew of the defect prior to the sales of the Class Motors to plaintiffs, and that the defect posed an unreasonable safety hazard. On appeal, plaintiffs challenged the district court's grant of YMC's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and its grant of YMUS's fifth motion to dismiss plaintiffs' consumer fraud claims. The court concluded that the district court lacked general jurisdiction over YMC because YMC does not have sufficient contacts with California; plaintiffs failed to plead facts sufficient to make out a prima facie case that YMC and YMUS were alter egos; and even assuming that YMUS's contacts could be imputed to YMC, this does not, on its own, suffice to establish general jurisdiction. The court also concluded that the district court lacked specific jurisdiction over YMC because plaintiffs do not allege any actions that YMC "purposefully directed" at California. Even assuming that some standard of agency continued to be relevant to the existence of specific jurisdiction pursuant to Daimler AG v. Bauman, plaintiffs failed to make out a prima facie case for any such agency relationship. Finally, the court concluded that plaintiffs failed to plead a prima facie case of consumer fraud where, although plaintiffs adequately pleaded defendants' presale knowledge of the defect, plaintiffs failed to plead the existence of an unreasonable safety hazard. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Williams v. Yamaha Motor Corp." on Justia Law

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Defendants challenged the district court's grant of plaintiffs' motion to voluntarily dismiss their action without prejudice pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(2). Plaintiffs' claims stemmed from Richard Zanowick's exposure to asbestos, leading to terminal mesothelioma. Defendants claimed that the district court should have dismissed the action with prejudice due to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 25(a)(1). After Richard died, Rule 25(a)(1) required plaintiffs to file a motion to substitute a new party for Richard, and plaintiffs failed to do so. In the meantime, Richard's wife and her children filed a new suit in state court. After the Rule 25(a)(1) deadline had expired, plaintiffs moved to dismiss the federal action voluntarily without prejudice. The court concluded that Rule 25(a)(1) permitted the district court to allow a late substitution if requested, and it did not require the district court to dismiss the federal action with prejudice. The court reasoned that, based on the record before the district court, both decisions were well within the district court's ambit. Likewise, the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting the Rule 41(a)(2) motion for dismissal without prejudice. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Zanowick v. Baxter Healthcare" on Justia Law