Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
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Plaintiff brought suit in state court against the officers for violation of his rights under the Fourth Amendment to the Federal Constitution and under Article I, Section 8 of the Iowa Constitution and for conspiracy to violate his federal and state constitutional rights. He also brought claims against the chief of police and the City of Des Moines for deliberate indifference under federal and state law. Defendants timely removed the suit to federal court. Plaintiff moved for summary judgment on all counts except for the number of damages; Defendants filed a cross-motion for summary judgment on the basis of federal qualified immunity and state immunity.   On appeal, Defendants argue that the district court erred in denying the individual officers qualified immunity on Plaintiff’s federal law claims, in denying the officers state immunity on his Iowa law claims, and in denying summary judgment to the City on his deliberate indifference claim.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court reasoned that even combined with the fact that the stop occurred in an area known for criminal activity as well as a momentary display of nervousness on the part of a passenger, there is not enough here to justify the stop. The officers argue that there is no clearly established right to drive with a nervous passenger through a high-crime neighborhood with a temporary tag.  These facts, in isolation, do not support a conclusion that Plaintiff’s vehicle was connected to unlawful activity in general, much less to the specific kind of unlawful activity for which the officers pulled him over. View "Jared Clinton v. Ryan Garrett" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Courthouse News is a national “news service that reports on civil litigation in state and federal courts throughout the country.” When Missouri switched to an e-filing system, same-day access became the exception, not the rule. Newly filed petitions remain unavailable until court staff processes them, which can sometimes take “a week or more.” Courthouse News sued the Circuit Clerk for St. Louis County and the Missouri State Courts Administrator, alleging First Amendment violations. In their motion to dismiss Defendants asked the district court to either abstain under Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), or rule that Courthouse News’s complaint failed to state a First Amendment claim. The district court decided to abstain and never ruled on the merits.   At issue on appeal is: First, does sovereign immunity protect state-court officials who run an e-filing system that delays public access to newly filed civil petitions? Second, should federal courts abstain from hearing this type of case anyway? The Eighth Circuit reversed concluding that the answer to both is no. The court explained that the case-at-issue does not resemble the classic Younger situation: a litigant runs to federal court to cut off an impending or actual state-court proceeding that is unlikely to go well. Here, the dispute about who gets to see newly filed petitions and when, and neither is the subject of any pending state-court proceeding. The court reasoned that if Courthouse News eventually prevails on its constitutional claim, declaratory relief would mitigate this concern to some degree by giving Missouri courts “the widest latitude in the ‘dispatch of [their] own internal affairs.’” View "Courthouse News Service v. Joan Gilmer" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued I.C. System, Inc. (ICS) under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) for violating 15 U.S.C. Section 1692c(b), which prohibits a debt collector from contacting a third party about the collection of a debt without the prior consent of the consumer. The district court granted ICS’s motion for judgment on the pleadings, finding that Plaintiff, a non-consumer, lacked standing to bring a cause of action under Section 1692c(b).   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that it joined the other circuits that have considered this issue in concluding that non-consumers cannot bring a claim under Section 1692c(b). The court further concluded that there was no abuse of discretion because Plaintiff failed to follow the applicable rules, including Eastern District of Missouri Local Rule 4.01(A). Further, the court wrote that Plaintiff confuses Article III standing, which implicates subject matter jurisdiction and is undisputed here, and statutory standing. Thus, because Plaintiff only alleged a violation of Section 1692c(b) and the district court correctly determined that Section 1692c(b) does not provide Plaintiff standing to sue, judgment as a matter of law was appropriate. View "Andrew Magdy v. I.C. System, Inc." on Justia Law

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After being hit by an under-insured motorist, Plaintiff experienced worsening symptoms from his Parkinson’s disease. His condition eventually deteriorated to the point that he could no longer work as a doctor. Plaintiff sued Encompass Insurance for $500,000, the maximum available under his automobile policy. The state trial court granted summary judgment to Plaintiff, concluding that Encompass failed to refute that Plaintiff lost at least $500,000 in earning capacity because of the accident. On removal, a federal district court held that it was unable to vacate that judgment.   The Eighth Circuit reversed and remanded. The court interpreted Encompass’s notice of appeal as challenging the Arkansas court’s ruling, as merged into the final judgment of the district court, and held that it constituted an appeal of a “final decision of a district court of the United States” under 28 U.S.C. Section 1291.   The court also rejected the district court’s conclusion that a federal court lacks jurisdiction to vacate the state court’s summary judgment order. The court explained that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine has no application to a properly removed case where, as here, there is no attack on a separate and final state-court judgment. Finally, the court held that the Arkansas court erred by granting summary judgment. The conflict between expert witnesses created a genuine dispute of material fact, so summary judgment was improper. View "Paul Wills v. Encompass Insurance Company" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was severely injured in a crash while he was driving a Peterbilt semi-truck. He sued the truck’s manufacturer, PACCAR, Inc. (PACCAR), alleging that the truck’s defective design caused his injuries. A jury returned a verdict in PACCAR’s favor. His estate appeals, arguing that the district court committed several evidentiary errors at trial.The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court held, 1.) Plaintiff's expert's second report was untimely under the discovery orders in the case, and the district court did not abuse its discretion by excluding it; 2.) the district court did not abuse its discretion by concluding that plaintiff had failed to show the good cause required under Fed. R. Civ. P. 16(b)(4) to modify the scheduling order after the court declared a mistrial; 3.) Plaintiff failed to preserve his challenge to Defendant's "state-of-the-art" defense.Applying plain error review to Plaintiff's challenge to Defendant's "state-of-the-art" defense, the court held the district court did not plainly err in admitting the testimony as the witnesses were testifying based on their extensive industry experience, and noted that Iowa law permits industry custom as evidence of the state of the art. View "Elizabeth Zick v. Paccar, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs appealed the district court’s denial of their motion to remand and adverse grant of summary judgment in this diversity action arising out of a slip-and-fall on Ameristar Casino Kansas City, LLC’s property.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court found that the district court properly applied the Massachusetts Rule and granted Ameristar’s motion for summary judgment. There is no dispute that the patch of ice on which Plaintiff slipped and fell had accumulated naturally on the walkway outside the casino’s entrance. There was no dispute that the accumulation was attributable to weather conditions general to the community. Plaintiffs point to no evidence, for example, that the ice on the walkway was an isolated condition unique to Ameristar’s property, rather than the result of weather affecting the entire Kansas City area. Thus, because Ameristar took no steps to remove or treat the ice that accumulated where Plaintiff fell, the district court properly found that Ameristar assumed no duty of care.   Further, Plaintiffs point to no Missouri case where a property owner has been found to have assumed a duty by agreement under similar circumstances. The court wrote that in essence, the Plaintiffs’ implied-agreement theory is an attempt to hold Ameristar liable based on the alleged existence of a company snow-and-ice-removal policy, but Missouri courts do not recognize such an exception to the Massachusetts Rule. View "James Cleek v. Ameristar Casino KC, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”) claims against several parties after a family-help ranch was sold to a corporate entity against his knowledge.In 1961, Plaintiff’s father and grandfather formed the Healy Ranch Partnership (“HRP”). In 1986, Plaintiff’s grandmother transferred her partnership interest to Plaintiff in exchange for him assuming the partnership’s debt and making certain payments to her. In 1994, Plaintiff’s mother formed a South Dakota corporation, Healy Ranch, Inc. (“HRI”). She filed articles of incorporation authorizing HRI to issue 1,000,000 shares of common stock with a par value of one dollar per share. The articles of incorporation stated that the “corporation will not commence business until consideration of the value of at least Five Thousand Dollars has been received for the issuance of shares.” That same year, Plaintiff’s mother and her lawyer caused HRI to issue nearly 300,000 shares without consideration. In 1995, Plaintiff’s mother conveyed all of the partnership’s real-property interest in the ranch to HRI, including both her 50 percent share as well as Plaintiff’s 50 percent share. In 2000, Plaintiff’s mother sold one-third of her shares of HRI to Plaintiff and one-third to each of his two brothers. In Healy I, the court dismissed Plaintiff’s actions.Plaintiff then filed this RICO action; which the court dismissed because it ran afoul of res judicata and the four-year statute of limitations for RICO claims. View "Bret Healy v. Albert Fox" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff commenced an action n against two credit reporting agencies (“CRAs”), Experian Information Solutions, Inc. (“Experian”) and Trans Union, LLC (“Trans Union”), for alleged violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state plausible claims.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that Plaintiff’s complaint is too thin to raise a plausible entitlement to relief. The FCRA is not a strict liability statute. Here, Plaintiff’s complaint presents a bare legal conclusion that Experian and Trans Union employed unreasonable reporting procedures. There are no allegations that the CRAs knew or should have known about systemic problems. The court explained that the FCRA requires reasonable—not perfect—procedures. That Plaintiff’s credit reports may have contained inaccurate information is not in itself sufficient for the imposition of liability. View "Anders Rydholm v. Experian Information Solutions" on Justia Law

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Three Anoka County residents sued a school district and teachers’ union about their union leave and reimbursement plan, alleging constitutional and statutory violations. The district court dismissed the case for lack of standing. The residents appealed.   The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court’s judgment. The court explained that pleading jurisdiction requires only “a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court’s jurisdiction,” while pleading the merits requires not just “a short and plain statement of the claim,” but one that “show[s] that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Here, the residents adequately alleged they are school district taxpayers and identified a “municipal action” contributing to their injury. Specifically, the school district spends tax revenues on the allegedly illegal action because the collective-bargaining agreement requires it to provide up to 100 days of paid leave, and the union does not fully reimburse that expense. Since the district court did not address the preliminary injunction factors, the common approach is to remand for the district court to conduct the full analysis in the first instance. View "Don Huizenga v. ISD No. 11" on Justia Law

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The district court granted Perficient, Inc.’s motion for summary judgment against Defendants. It awarded nominal damages and attorney’s fees to Perficient, but its orders did not quantify the amount of the award. Defendants appeal. Perficient filed a motion to dismiss for lack of appellate jurisdiction, arguing that the orders from which Defendants appealed are not final.The Eighth Circuit granted Perficient’s motion and dismissed it for lack of jurisdiction finding that Defendants’ appeal was not taken from a final, appealable order and was therefore ineffective to confer appellate jurisdiction upon the court. The court explained that Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a)(2) cannot save the prematurely filed notice of appeal here. The rule applies “only when a district court announces a decision that would be appealable if immediately followed by the entry of judgment” and does not save a premature appeal “from a clearly interlocutory decision—such as a discovery ruling or a sanction order under Rule 11. View "Perficient v. Thomas Munley" on Justia Law