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

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Twenty-three Michigan landowners filed suit in the Western District of Michigan, seeking damages in excess of $10,000 for the claimed taking of their land for use as a public recreation trail, alleging: a declaratory judgment claim, a Fifth Amendment claim for just compensation under the Little Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. 1346 and a Fifth Amendment claim for just compensation under 28 U.S.C. 1331. The district court determined that the Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. 1491, and the Little Tucker Act, “vested the Court of Federal Claims with exclusive jurisdiction to hear all claims against the United States founded upon the Constitution where the amount in controversy exceeds $10,000.” The court found no constitutional infirmity in this statutory framework, although the Tucker Act prevents the landowners from filing their claims for damages exceeding $10,000 in an Article III court, and litigants bringing claims in the Court of Federal Claims or in the district court under the Little Tucker Act are deprived of a jury trial. Because the landowners had failed to demonstrate that the Acts were unconstitutional, they had no basis for a declaratory judgment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. View "Brott v. United States" on Justia Law

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After the city began using the Flint River as its water source in 2014, residents complained that the water was discolored and foul-smelling. There were reports of skin rashes, hair loss, and vomiting after drinking and bathing in the water. Many children were found to have high levels of lead in their blood stream. In 2016, plaintiffs filed this putative class action in Michigan state court, claiming negligence, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, and unjust enrichment. The defendants include several entities related to the city's expert water consultants. A defendant removed the case to district court under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (CAFA), 28 U.S.C. 1332(d), asserting that the amount in controversy exceeded $5 million, the putative class comprised at least 100 members, and there was the minimal diversity of citizenship required by CAFA. The district court remanded, citing the local controversy exception, under which a district court must decline to exercise CAFA jurisdiction. The Sixth Circuit reversed, finding that the exception did not apply because other class actions had been filed in the previous three years, asserting the same or similar factual allegations against the defendants. View "Davenport v. Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2014-2015, Schmückle, a German citizen living in Germany, served as MAG Group’s CEO and managing director of MAG Germany. In 2015, MAG Holdings and MAG US sued (in Michigan) for breach of fiduciary duty, professional negligence, waste of corporate assets, unjust enrichment, and tortious interference under Michigan law. In response to a challenge to jurisdiction, plaintiffs alleged that Schmückle “transacted business” within Michigan and that his “actions and activities led to consequences” in Michigan. Plaintiffs asserted that: Schmückle was responsible for “worldwide operations,” including MAG US; they (Michigan residents) reported directly to Schmückle by email and phone; Schmückle was involved in determining the Michigan facility's operations, budgets, work flow, and sales priorities; he charged MAG US an annual fee, used to pay part of his salary and expenses; he reallocated work from the “consistently profitable” Michigan facility to the “less-profitable” MAG Germany operations and negatively affected the profitability of MAG US in Michigan; and he told MAG US leaders to prepare to transfer $10 million to MAG Germany. Schmückle allegedly visited Michigan twice as CEO, maintains a residence in Oregon, and sits on the boards of U.S.-based three companies. The district court, without holding an evidentiary hearing, dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction. The Sixth Circuit reversed, stating that the record did not overcome the presumption that exercising personal jurisdiction over Schmückle in Michigan was reasonable. View "MAG IAS Holdings, Inc. v. Schmückle" on Justia Law

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Appellees brought a collection action against Lyshe and served Lyshe with discovery requests. They did not send a separate electronic copy, but instructed Lyshe to contact them if he wanted an electronic copy. Requests for admission required that Lyshe verify his responses, included a blank notary block, and provided that any matter would be deemed admitted unless Lyshe made a sworn statement in compliance with the Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure. Lyshe sued, alleging violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) by failing to provide electronic discovery without prompting and requiring that the responses to the requests for admission be sworn and notarized. The district court concluded that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction and dismissed the case, reasoning that Lyshe did not plead any injury in connection with the alleged violations of the state rules. Appellees did not violate the Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure by offering to send electronic copies of the discovery only upon Lyshe’s request. Regarding alleged errors in the requests for admissions, the court reasoned that Lyshe failed to allege that he was misled or felt compelled to make a sworn verification or that he even responded to the requests. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, agreeing that Lyshe did not suffer any concrete harm. View "Lyshe v. Levy" on Justia Law

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The developer sought rezoning for a Rockford condominium project. Objectors filed a protest, triggering the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act's special approval procedure, which requires a super majority vote by the city council. The proposal failed; three of the council’s five members voted to approve rezoning. The developer sued, alleging due process violations and regulatory taking. The district court denied Objectors’ motion to intervene. The parties reached a settlement in mediation. The city council approved the settlement by a simple majority; the district court entered a consent judgment that ordered the property rezoned and the Planned Unit Development Agreement approved, dismissing the case. Objectors filed a state court suit, claiming that the city had circumvented the Act and its zoning ordinances and seeking a preliminary injunction. The city and developer returned to federal court, seeking to enjoin the state court from granting a preliminary injunction and to enjoin Objectors from otherwise seeking to invalidate the prior federal consent judgment under the All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. 1651, and the Anti-Injunction Act, 28 U.S.C. 2283. The court ruled that it lacked jurisdiction to enjoin the state-court proceeding. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, citing the broad prohibition on such action under the Anti-Injunction Act and concluding that the “relitigation exception” did not apply because the state court issue was never raised in the prior federal proceeding and because Objectors lacked the requisite connection to that litigation to be bound by the consent judgment. View "202 N. Monroe, LLC v. Sower" on Justia Law

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White County parents formed the Association for Accurate Standards in Education (AASE) to oppose another group advocating for removal of a social studies textbook that includes discussion of Islam. Eight part-time volunteers comprise AASE. It does not have a separate bank account and does not keep regular records. Five or six people have donated to AASE. No individual donation has exceeded $200; total donations have not reached $500. Seats on the Board of Education were up for election in 2016. AASE parents wanted to support and oppose candidates through AASE. They did not want AASE to make direct campaign contributions, but wanted AASE to spend less than $250 on independent expenditures, including yard signs, stickers, and brochures. They learned that the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance had fined Williamson Strong, an unincorporated group that disseminates information about candidates and issues in Williamson County, $5,000 for failing to certify a treasurer or file financial disclosure statements under Tenn. Code 2-10-102(12)(A), which defines a political campaign committee as: A combination of two or more individuals . . . to support or oppose any candidate. They sued the Registry’s officials in their official capacities under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming that the Act violates their First Amendment, equal protection, and due process rights. The district court stayed the case pending the outcome of the state administrative proceedings in the Williamson Strong case. The Sixth Circuit reversed. Abstention was improper in this case, in light of the Act’s alleged chilling effects. View "Jones v. Coleman" on Justia Law

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Waldman defrauded Stone more than a decade ago. In Waldman’s first appeal, the Sixth Circuit found ample evidence that Waldman and attorney Atherton defrauded Stone, but vacated the judgment on grounds unrelated to the merits. The district court entered a new judgment, awarding Stone over $1 million in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages. The Sixth Circuit again affirmed that defendants committed fraud, but reduced Stone’s compensatory damages to $650,776, vacated the determination of joint and several liability, and remanded for the limited purpose of apportioning liability. The district court found defendants each 50% responsible for Stone’s damages and reduced the punitive damages to $1.2 million to retain the 2:1 ratio of punitive to compensatory damages. In Waldman’s third appeal, the Sixth Circuit granted Stone’s request for $4,157.50 in sanctions (his attorney’s fees in the third appeal). Waldman’s arguments concerning the award of punitive damages and the ratio were “patently beyond the scope of our limited remand and therefore out of bounds in this appeal” and had been waived; they were legally frivolous. Waldman’s arguments concerning apportionment of responsibility essentially argued, for a third time, that he did not commit fraud, and were also frivolous. His argument that Stone bore some fault for his damages because he should have uncovered Waldman’s fraud sooner was plainly meritless. View "Waldman v. Stone" on Justia Law

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Hopkins died in a nursing home. Her estate sued the nursing home, Preferred Care, which asked a federal court to enforce the arbitration provision in Hopkins’ admissions agreement. The district court compelled arbitration, enjoined Hopkins from proceeding in the Kentucky state court action, and stayed the federal case until arbitration concluded. The Sixth Circuit dismissed an appeal as prohibited by the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. 16(a). The Act permits review of orders that interfere with arbitration, such as those “refusing” stays of federal proceedings in favor of arbitration and those “denying” petitions to enforce arbitration agreements, as well as interlocutory orders “granting, continuing, or modifying an injunction against an arbitration,” but prohibits appeals from other interlocutory orders that favor arbitration, such as those “granting” stays in favor of arbitration, “directing” or “compelling” arbitration, or “refusing” to enjoin an arbitration. View "Preferred Care of Delaware, Inc. v. Estate of Hopkins" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and Henry married in 1987 and divorced in 1993. The Divorce Judgment granted Plaintiff one-half of the pension benefits Henry had accrued during the marriage, with full rights of survivorship. Henry was forbidden from choosing a payment option that would deprive Plaintiff of these benefits. Henry worked for Chrysler from 1965 to 1992, and began receiving retirement benefits in 1994, under a “Lifetime Annuity Without Surviving Spouse” option, in violation of the Judgment. Plaintiff’s attorney submitted the Judgment to the Plan administrator, who stated that the Judgment lacked information required by 29 U.S.C. 1056(d)(3)(C) to qualify as a “qualified domestic relations order,” so it could not override ERISA’s anti-alienation provision. Plaintiff did not contact the Plan again until after Henry had died in 2007. The Plan denied her benefits request, noting “the participant does not have a remaining benefit to be assigned.” For six years, Plaintiff unsuccessfully attempted to have the Plan qualify the Judgment. The Plan noted that changing the type of benefit was impermissible under plan the rules. In 2014, plaintiff obtained a nunc pro tunc order, correcting the Judgment. The Plan again denied benefits. Plaintiff filed suit under ERISA. The district court granted Plaintiff summary judgment, reasoning that, to the extent Plaintiff’s claim was based on the 2014, denial of benefits based on the Nunc Pro Tunc Order, it was timely and that the Order relates back to 1993. The Sixth Circuit reversed, finding the claim untimely. View "Patterson v. Chrysler Group, LLC" on Justia Law

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Death-row inmates challenged Ohio’s protocols for lethal injunction. In 2014, Ohio amended Ohio Revised Code 149.43, creating sections 2949.221 and 2949.222, to prohibit the release of information identifying the manufacturer or supplier of drugs for use in Ohio’s lethal-injection protocol. The district court granted defendants a protective order to prevent the release of any information in their possession that could identify the sources of Ohio’s lethal-injection drugs. Plaintiffs sought a modification that would permit limited disclosures to counsel only under the designation “attorney’s eyes only.” The district court denied the motion, noting that “disclosure of identities subjects the disclosed persons or entities to suit” and that “confidential information has appeared in the media.” The parties notified the court that Ohio plans to move forward with scheduled executions, starting in January 2017. Defendants represented that they intend to use a new three-drug protocol, mirroring the Oklahoma protocol approbated by the Supreme Court in 2015. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the protective order. Defendants established good cause for protection from certain discovery. The protective order does not prevent plaintiffs from prosecuting their claims. View "Fears v. Kasich" on Justia Law