Justia Civil Procedure Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
The Lamar Company, LLC v. Mississippi Transportation Commission
Lamar filed suit in state court against MTC, challenging a Mississippi statute governing the height of roadside billboards. After MTC removed to federal court, the district court dismissed the suit because of Lamar's failure to exhaust administrative remedies. The Fifth Circuit reversed and, on remand, the district court granted partial summary judgment, holding that the statute was unambiguous in its restriction of all billboards to forty feet. After the district court entered final judgment, MTC moved to remand to state court.The Fifth Circuit held that there was no federal-question jurisdiction arising from Lamar's complaint at the time of removal. The court also held that MTC is not a citizen of Mississippi for diversity-jurisdiction purposes. In this case, MTC correctly identifies that subject matter jurisdiction is not present because it is the alter ego of the state and, under established doctrine, cannot be a citizen for diversity purposes. The court rejected Lamar's requests for costs, expenses, and fees -- based on MTC's late acknowledgment of error -- under 28 U.S.C. 1447(c); Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11(c); and the Mississippi Litigation Accountability Act. View "The Lamar Company, LLC v. Mississippi Transportation Commission" on Justia Law
Team Contractors, LLC v. Waypoint NOLA, LLC
Waypoint, the project owner, entered into a construction contract with Team Contractors, the general contractor, and entered into an architectural contract with HCA. HCA then retained KLG as the project's engineer. Team filed suit and subsequently prevailed against the engineers and architects for negligence, but not against the owner for breach of contract. After a finding that the initial verdict had an irreconcilable conflict, a second trial was held just on the breach of contract claim. The jury then reached a verdict for the general contractor, and the owner appealed.The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's judgment and remanded for the district court to reinstate the original verdict. The court held that if the answers to written questions require jurors to apply the instructed law to their fact-findings, thereby fully explaining who prevails on all claims against a single defendant, and if relevant, the amount of any monetary award, that is sufficient for a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 49(b) verdict. Though in this case the jurors were not given, as Rule 49(b) states, "forms for a general verdict" and also for answers to written questions, jurors applied their instructions on the law to their fact finding and found there had been no breach of contract. The court held that the result fully resolved the claim against Waypoint. The court stated that the general verdict is incomplete in Rule 49(b) terms, but it is sufficient. The court also held that Team waived any argument to have the verdict set aside. Finally, the court remanded for the district court to consider attorneys' fees. View "Team Contractors, LLC v. Waypoint NOLA, LLC" on Justia Law
Edwards v. 4JLJ, LLC
The Fifth Circuit treated appellees' Petition for Rehearing En Banc as a Petition for Panel Rehearing and granted it, withdrawing its prior opinion and substituting the following opinion.The Employees appealed the denial of their motions for judgment as a matter of law in their Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) action, and 4JLJ cross-appealed the sanctions and cost awards. The court dismissed the Employees' appeal based on lack of jurisdiction because the Employees did not timely file a notice of appeal. The court also lacked jurisdiction over 4JLJ's cross-appeal of the order imposing monetary sanctions, because 4JLJ's June 24, 2019, appeal was untimely with respect to the pre-judgment imposition of monetary sanctions. However, 4JLJ's June 24 appeal was timely with respect to the June 3 post-judgment order allocating costs. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion regarding cost allocation under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d) where the district court articulated its reasons in its order and based its decision on facts in the record suggesting that 4JLJ had engaged in evasive discovery practices. Accordingly, the court affirmed the cost allocation. View "Edwards v. 4JLJ, LLC" on Justia Law
Badgerow v. Walters
After a panel of arbitrators issued an arbitration award dismissing all of plaintiff's claims against Ameriprise and three of its franchise advisors, plaintiff then filed a petition in Louisiana state court to vacate that arbitration award, as to certain defendant parties. Defendants removed to state court; plaintiff moved to remand; and the district court held that it did have subject-matter jurisdiction over the petition to vacate and thus denied remand. The district court ruled on the removed petition to vacate, denying plaintiff's claims with prejudice. At issue in this appeal is the jurisdiction of the federal court over the petition to vacate.The Fifth Circuit affirmed and held that, applying the look-through analysis, the district court correctly found that the federal claim against Ameriprise in the FINRA arbitration proceeding meant that there was federal subject-matter jurisdiction over the removed petition to vacate the FINRA arbitration dismissal award. Therefore, the district court correctly denied plaintiff's motion to remand the action to vacate to Louisiana state court. View "Badgerow v. Walters" on Justia Law
Texas Democratic Party v. Hughs
Plaintiffs filed suit against the Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for allegedly imposing a voter-registration requirement that violates federal law. After the district court denied the Secretary's motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and (b)(6), the Secretary noticed an interlocutory appeal, and plaintiffs moved for summary affirmance or dismissal of the Secretary's appeal as frivolous.The Fifth Circuit held that the Secretary's appeal is not frivolous because it presents an important question that has not been resolved by the court: whether and to what extent the exception in Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123, 157 (1908), to sovereign immunity permits plaintiffs to sue the Secretary in an as-applied challenge to a law enforced by local officials. Accordingly, the court denied the motion for summary affirmance and the motion to dismiss the appeal as frivolous. View "Texas Democratic Party v. Hughs" on Justia Law
Colonial Oaks Assisted Living Lafayette, LLC v. Hannie Development, Inc.
After Buyers purchased two care facilities from Sellers, Buyers filed suit alleging that Sellers made fraudulent or, at best, negligent misrepresentations in the parties' sale agreements. Buyers also brought claims against Sellers' representatives in their individual capacities.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of Buyers' claims with prejudice for failure to state a claim. The court held that the district court properly dismissed Buyers' non-fraud claims for negligent misrepresentation and breach of contractual representations and warranties because these claims were subject to arbitration. In regard to the remaining claims, the court held that Buyers have not adequately pleaded a misrepresentation with respect to both facilities and thus they failed to meet the particularity requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(b). Therefore, because there was no misrepresentation, there was no fraud. View "Colonial Oaks Assisted Living Lafayette, LLC v. Hannie Development, Inc." on Justia Law
Defense Distributed v. Grewal
Plaintiffs filed suit challenging the efforts of New Jersey's Attorney General and others to thwart plaintiffs' distribution of materials related to the 3D printing of firearms, alleging infringement of plaintiffs' First Amendment rights and state law claims. The district court granted the Attorney General's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, relying on Stroman Realty, Inc. v. Wercinski, 513 F.3d 476 (5th Cir. 2008).The Fifth Circuit held that the Attorney General has established sufficient minimum contacts with Texas to subject him to the jurisdiction of Texas' courts. The court held that Stroman is distinguishable from this case in at least two key respects: first, many of plaintiffs' claims are based on the Attorney General's cease-and-desist letter; and second, the Attorney General's assertion of legal authority is much broader than the public official in Stroman. Furthermore, the Attorney General failed to timely raise arguments regarding whether judgment in plaintiffs favor would offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. The court applied the principles discussed in Wien Air Alaska, Inc. v. Brandt, 195 F.3d 208 (5th Cir. 1999), and Calder v. Jones, 465 U.S. 783, 104 S. Ct. 1482 (1984), and held that jurisdiction over the Attorney General is proper. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Defense Distributed v. Grewal" on Justia Law
Zimmerman v. City of Austin
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiff's request for attorneys' fees incurred at trial and during the first appeal to this court. This appeal arose from a bench trial where plaintiff, a former Austin city councilman, prevailed on some but not all of his First Amendment claims against the City of Austin.As a preliminary matter, the court held that the district court's ancillary enforcement jurisdiction covered the "collateral issue" of plaintiff's attorney fee request. On the merits, the court held that the district court did not err in denying plaintiff's fee request because plaintiff waived his right to request fees incurred at trial. Even if the district court had discretion to excuse the delay in filing, no error occurred by failing to exercise the discretion. Furthermore, the district court did not err when it denied plaintiff's request for fees incurred on appeal where he made no request within the 14-day time period after the district court entered its initial judgment, and there also was no new judgment entered following a reversal or remand from this court. View "Zimmerman v. City of Austin" on Justia Law
The Parish of Plaquemines v. Chevron USA, Inc.
A group of Louisiana Parishes filed suit in state court seeking relief from various oil companies under the Louisiana State and Local Coastal Resources Management Act of 1978 (SLCRMA), alleging that the oil companies were liable for acts they committed during World War II. For a second time, the oil companies sought to remove all forty-two cases to federal court, contending that an expert report makes clear for the first time that they are being sued for activities they took during World War II while acting under the authority of a federal wartime agency and making the case removable under the federal officer removal statute, 28 U.S.C. 1442. The oil companies also contend that the report demonstrates that the Parishes' claims implicate federal question jurisdiction. Both the Eastern and Western Districts of Louisiana granted the Parishes' motion to remand the cases to state court.The Fifth Circuit affirmed, holding that the remand was appropriate because the companies filed their notices of removal too late. The court held that the information disclosed in the expert report did not provide new information previously unavailable to the companies, warranting removal. Rather, the report simply repeated information from a 1980 Louisiana Coastal Resources Program Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) that the Parishes filed before the oil companies' first removal attempt in 2013; the FEIS discusses many of the specific wells involved in this litigation by referring to their unique serial numbers; and those serial numbers refer to wells the companies drilled before or during World War II. View "The Parish of Plaquemines v. Chevron USA, Inc." on Justia Law
Hinkley v. Envoy Air, Inc.
Plaintiffs filed suit against Envoy in state court, alleging both disparate treatment and disparate impact based on age, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). On appeal, plaintiffs contend that the district court for the northern district erred: by sua sponte transferring this action to the western district instead of remanding it to state court; and, if remand was not required, by dismissing their Texas Labor Code claim with prejudice pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) instead of without prejudice pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) (lack of jurisdiction).The Fifth Circuit rejected both claims and held that removal to the incorrect judicial district is procedural error and does not divest the district court of jurisdiction over a removed action. Accordingly, plaintiffs' challenge to the district court for the northern district's transfer pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1631 is moot, given the district court for the western district's transfer back to the northern district. The court also held that Texas Labor Code 21.202's 180-day filing requirement is mandatory but not jurisdictional. In light of this analysis, the court held that the district court, after concluding that plaintiffs failed to plausibly allege exhaustion of their mandatory administrative remedies, did not err by dismissing pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Furthermore, the district court did not err by dismissing with prejudice. View "Hinkley v. Envoy Air, Inc." on Justia Law