Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
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In this case involving mesothelioma, the Fifth Circuit concluded that the multidistrict litigation (MDL) court engaged in improper weighing of the evidence on summary judgment relative to the survival action. Accordingly, the court reversed in part and remanded to the Louisiana district court. The court also considered it appropriate case management for the Louisiana district court to reconsider plaintiffs' motion for additional discovery. Finally, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the wrongful death claim, concluding that the district court properly determined that plaintiffs' wrongful death claims are time-barred. View "Williams v. Boeing Company" on Justia Law

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This case concerns three orders purporting to enforce a settlement between the parties in a commercial dispute: (1) an order declaring that Vikas breached the settlement; (2) an order striking Vikas's pleadings as a sanction; and (3) a summary judgment that Vikas had procured the settlement by fraud, causing $40 million in damages.The Fifth Circuit concluded that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to issue the summary judgment for fraud and thus the court vacated the order and denied as moot Vikas's related appeals. The court also vacated the sanctions order based on either lack of subject matter jurisdiction or an abuse of discretion standard. Finally, the court vacated the ruling that Vikas breached the settlement, concluding that the district judge ignored key provisions of the settlement and failed to support his judgment with relevant record evidence. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Vikas WSP, Ltd. v. Economy Mud Products Co." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit held that the district court erred in sealing and ordering redaction of voluminous documents related to litigation challenging Louisiana's abortion laws without a proper legal basis, and therefore vacated the district court's sealing orders. The sealed or redacted documents include a transcript of proceedings held in open court, a famous Pennsylvania grand jury report that is available as a book on www.amazon.com and that was adapted as a motion picture, an arrest report from a police department's public website, articles from The New York Times and Rolling Stone, and an obituary from a public website. The court concluded that the district court misapprehended the nature and extent of the public's right to judicial records; on remand, the district court shall not seal or order redaction of any publicly available documents or information; the district court also used the wrong legal standard for sealing documents; and the district court erred by failing to evaluate all of the documents individually. The court issued a limited remand for the district court to evaluate the sealing orders under the proper legal standard within 30 days of the issuance of this opinion. View "June Medical Services, LLC v. Phillips" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit granted defendants' motion for a stay of discovery in this class action lawsuit while the court reviews their appeal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(f). Boeing and Southwest were sued for allegedly conspiring to conceal design defects in Boeing's 737 MAX 8 aircraft and thus defrauding airline ticket purchasers. After considering the Nken factors, the court concluded that Boeing and Southwest have made a strong showing that the court is likely to reverse the class-certification decision because they raised substantial predominance questions regarding damages. Furthermore, defendants have also made a strong showing regarding irreparable harm; plaintiffs have not plausibly alleged that they or any other parties will be irreparably injured by delaying further discovery until the conclusion of the Rule 23(f) appeal; and the public interest supports staying district court proceedings to avoid potentially wasteful and unnecessary litigation costs where, as here, defendants have shown a substantial likelihood of success on appeal. View "Earl v. Boeing Company" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Walmart's action challenging the government's interpretation of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) as it applies to pharmacists who dispense prescription opioids. In this case, Walmart points to no rule, guidance, or other public document setting forth the positions it seeks to contest. The court concluded that, because Walmart identifies no agency action, as that term is used in the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), the suit is barred by sovereign immunity. Furthermore, even if the action was not barred by sovereign immunity, the court concluded that Walmart's failure to contradict a definite government position means that it has not demonstrated the existence of a ripe case or controversy, as required by Article III. Accordingly, the district court appropriately dismissed based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction. View "Walmart v. Department of Justice" on Justia Law

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This case, involving a dispute about the effect of provisions in the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act on the contraceptive mandate found in the Affordable Care Act, became moot with issuance of the Supreme Court's decision in Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania, 140 S. Ct. 2367 (2020).The Fifth Circuit concluded that plaintiffs no longer have a cognizable injury and the underlying dispute is moot. The court also concluded that Nevada did not cause the case to become moot; it was moot after the ruling in Little Sisters, and vacatur serves public interests in that it vacates a permanent injunction that Nevada never had proper opportunity to litigate the merits of before the district court; and, regardless, plaintiffs conceded Nevada was entitled to vacatur at oral argument. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded to the district court with instructions to dismiss as moot. View "DeOtte v. Nevada" on Justia Law

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Imperium, a non-diverse defendant, should not have been dismissed with prejudice in this insurance coverage dispute. The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal and remanded for dismissal without prejudice. In this case, the district court did not abuse its discretion in reviewing the notice of removal for improper joinder; the district court did not abuse its discretion in deciding to pierce the pleadings and conduct a summary inquiry in order to analyze the relevance and meaning of the insurance policy; and the district court was correct to hold that Imperium was improperly joined where there was no plausible state cause of action against the joined defendant. The court concluded that when a district court determines that a nondiverse party has been improperly joined to defeat diversity, that party must be dismissed without prejudice. View "Ticer v. Imperium Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Texas and Wyoming both regulate the use of indemnity agreements in their oilfields. Wyoming, concerned that indemnification disincentivizes safety, forbids oilfield indemnity agreements. Wyo. Stat. 30-1-131. Texas, concerned that large oil companies will use their leverage to demand indemnity from independent operators, also disfavors the agreements but does not ban them; it allows indemnification in limited situations including when the indemnity is mutual and backed by insurance. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. 127.003, 127.005.Cannon, a Wyoming oil-and-gas exploration company, and Texas-based KLX entered into a “Master Equipment Rental Agreement,” providing that Texas law governs the agreement and that the parties must “protect, defend, [and] indemnify” each other against losses involving injuries sustained by the other’s employees, regardless of who is at fault “to the maximum extent permitted by applicable law.” Most of the work performed under the contract occurred in Wyoming with none in Texas. Indemnity was sought for a Wyoming lawsuit filed by a Wyoming resident injured in a Wyoming oilfield operated by a Wyoming business.The Fifth Circuit held that Wyoming law prevails and that the indemnity provision in the Agreement is unenforceable. Wyoming has a more significant relationship to the parties and a materially greater interest in applying its policy; its anti-indemnity policy is “fundamental.” View "Cannon Oil & Gas Well Services, Inc. v. KLX Energy Services, L.L.C." on Justia Law

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Dean filed a Chapter 7 voluntary petition. The trustee for the estate did not have sufficient unencumbered funds to retain counsel to pursue claims for the estate. Reticulum, a creditor, agreed to fund the trustee’s litigation in exchange for a share of any of litigation proceeds. The bankruptcy court approved the agreement. The district court affirmed. Dean appealed, contending that the agreement undermined the statutory ranking system for distribution of the estate’s property by allowing Reticulum to move ahead of other creditors.The Fifth Circuit dismissed the appeal for lack of standing. Bankruptcy standing may be addressed even when it was not raised below. The court employed the “person aggrieved” test, a “more exacting standard than traditional constitutional standing.” The appellant must show that he is “directly, adversely, and financially impacted by” the exact order being appealed as opposed to the proceedings more generally. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the debtor-out-of-possession typically has no concrete interest in how the bankruptcy court divides up the estate. A debtor may retain bankruptcy standing by showing that defeat of the order on appeal would affect his bankruptcy discharge. The approval of the litigation funding agreement did not affect whether Dean’s debts will be discharged. View "Dean v. Seidel" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's refusal to vacate a second default judgment against the Elephant Group. The court concluded that the district court had jurisdiction over the Elephant Group, and that the Elephant Group failed to present a meritorious defense, as opposed to mere legal conclusions.In this case, Tango Marine, a Grecian corporation, filed suit in district court against the Elephant Group, two Nigerian businesses, seeking maritime attachment and garnishment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Supplemental Rule B. Tango Marine subsequently sought entry of default, which the clerk entered. When no motion for default judgment appeared before the district court, the district court ordered Tango Marine to file its motion for default judgment or explain its failure. Tango Marine then filed its motion for default judgment and the Elephant Group participated in the suit by filing a motion for extension of time and to have the default set aside. With the initial default set aside, the Elephant Group filed a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b). In response, Tango Marine filed an amended complaint and a response opposing the motion to dismiss. The Elephant Group responded only to this response to the motion to dismiss and never filed an answer to the amended complaint. Tango Marine ultimately asked the clerk for a second entry of default due to the Elephant Group's failure to answer the amended complaint, which the clerk granted. View "Tango Marine, S.A. v. Elephant Group, Ltd." on Justia Law