Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
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Through a bankruptcy proceeding, Bristol became the successor-in-interest to Haven, an accredited mental-health and substance-abuse treatment center that regularly serviced patients insured by Cigna. Bristol alleged that Cigna violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and state law by denying Haven’s claims for reimbursement for services provided. Haven was out-of-network for Cigna’s insureds. The district court dismissed Bristol’s ERISA claim, as an assignee of a healthcare provider, for lack of derivative standing, or lack of authority to bring a claim under ERISA, 29 U.S.C. 1132(a)(1)(B).The Ninth Circuit reversed. Under ERISA, a non-participant health provider cannot bring claims for benefits on its own behalf but must do so derivatively, relying on its patients’ assignments of their benefits claims. Other assignees also may have derivative standing if extending standing would align with the goal of ERISA. Refusing to allow derivative standing for Bristol would create serious perverse incentives that would undermine the goal of ERISA. Denying derivative standing to health care providers would harm participants or beneficiaries because it would discourage providers from becoming assignees and possibly from helping beneficiaries who were unable to pay up-front. View "Bristol SL Holdings, Inc. v. Cigna Health and Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Childs leased military family housing at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, which was owned by SDFH, a public-private venture created by statute, in which the U.S. Navy is a minority LLC member. Lincoln managed the property. Childs reported water and mold problems to SDFH and Lincoln. The problems were not resolved. SDFH and Lincoln moved to dismiss Childs's subsequent lawsuit for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, arguing they were government contractors acting at the direction of the federal government, and therefore had derivative sovereign immunity. The district court denied their motion.The Ninth Circuit dismissed an appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction. The district court’s order was not immediately appealable under the collateral order doctrine, under which an order that does not terminate the litigation is nonetheless treated as final if it conclusively determines the disputed question, resolves an important issue completely separate from the merits of the action, and is effectively unreviewable on appeal from a final judgment. While the first two prongs were satisfied, the denial of derivative sovereign immunity was not effectively unreviewable on appeal from a final judgment because denying an immediate appeal would not imperil a substantial public interest. The public interest underlying derivative sovereign immunity is extending the federal government’s immunity from liability, in narrow circumstances, to government agents carrying out the federal government’s directions. That interest could be vindicated after trial. View "Childs v. San Diego Family Housing LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs purchased a 2006 aircraft from an unidentified individual in 2016. In 2017, the plane was forced to make an emergency crash landing. The aircraft suffered significant structural damage and the complete loss of its engine, but no one was killed in the crash. Various actors were involved in the manufacture and maintenance of the aircraft, including Continental, which manufactured and shipped the engine to Columbia in Oregon, where it was installed. Cessna acquired assets from Columbia but did not assume Continental’s liabilities apart from express, written aircraft warranties still in effect at the time of acquisition. In 2014, Cessna became a subsidiary of Textron.Plaintiffs filed suit in Arizona, where the crash occurred. The case was removed to federal court. Four of the 15 original defendants—including Continental and Textron—were dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction, finding that Plaintiffs had failed to show “that any of the moving Defendants are meaningfully connected to Arizona in such a way that renders them subject to this Court’s exercise of personal jurisdiction.” The Ninth Circuit affirmed, noting that the Plaintiffs have conceded that Arizona does not have general jurisdiction over either Defendant. Plaintiffs also failed to establish a prima facie case of specific jurisdiction over either Defendant, failing to establish that Defendants had sufficient minimum contacts with Arizona that are related to Plaintiffs’ claims. Plaintiffs’ reasons for seeking jurisdictional discovery with regard to Defendants’ contacts with Arizona were properly deemed insufficient. View "LNS Enterprises, LLC v. Continental Motors, Inc." on Justia Law

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Environmental groups filed suit, alleging that the federal government unlawfully issued oil and gas leases on federal land. The district court stayed vacatur of the lease sales pending appeal. Two weeks later, Chesapeake, an independent producer of oil and natural gas, moved to intervene as a defendant, noting that it had already spent more than $19.7 million to acquire, explore, and develop its leases.The Ninth Circuit reversed the denial of the motion. Chesapeake was entitled to intervention as of right under FRCP 24(a). Chesapeake has a significantly protectable interest that could be impaired by the disposition of this action, its intervention motion was timely, and its interests will not be adequately represented by existing parties. The court noted the stage of the proceedings at which Chesapeake sought to intervene; potential prejudice to other parties; and the reason for and length of the delay. The likelihood that additional parties and arguments might make the resolution of the case more difficult was a poor reason to deny intervention. Although Chesapeake moved to intervene more than two years after the start of the litigation, its motion came just three months after it discovered that its leases were involved in the litigation, and just two weeks after the district court stayed vacatur of the lease sales. Chesapeake made sufficiently colorable arguments that another intervenor would not make all of Chesapeake’s proposed arguments. View "Western Watersheds Project v. Haaland" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial, as untimely, Volkswagen's motion to intervene in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) suit regarding millions of VW's documents. This case stems from the so-called "Dieselgate" emissions scandal.The panel considered whether VW's motion to intervene as of right was timely and applied the timeliness factors, concluding that the short delay and reasons for the delay weigh in favor of timeliness, rather than against it. Furthermore, the court identified no prejudice stemming from the timing of VW's motion and the district court failed to adequately explain why a motion to intervene filed at this stage was unreasonably late. Therefore, the panel held that VW's motion to intervene was timely. The panel also concluded that VW has also met all the requirements to intervene as of right under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24(a). Accordingly, the court ordered the district court on remand to grant the motion and permit the immediate intervention of VW into these proceedings. View "Kalbers v. United States Department of Justice" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's orders denying defendants' motion to set aside a default judgment and awarding attorney fees to plaintiffs in an action concerning governance of Newtok Village, a federally recognized Alaskan Native tribe. The panel held that subject matter jurisdiction has not been shown where plaintiffs' claims as pleaded simply do not arise under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States. Nor is a substantial question of federal law present. The panel concluded that the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDEAA), which confers jurisdiction on federal district courts to hear disputes regarding self-determination contracts, applies only to suits by Indian tribes or tribal organizations against the United States, and does not authorize an action by a tribe against tribal members. The panel explained that, as currently framed, this case does not arise under federal law and must therefore be dismissed without prejudice to permit amendment under a proper basis of federal jurisdiction. Furthermore, the district court did not have the power to award plaintiffs its attorney fees in the first instance. View "Newtok Village v. Patrick" on Justia Law

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Arroyo, who uses a wheelchair for mobility, sued the owner of a California liquor store under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12181, and California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act. The district court granted Arroyo summary judgment on his ADA claim. Any violation of the ADA is automatically a violation of the Unruh Act, CAL. CIV. CODE 51(f), but the district court concluded that “compelling reasons” existed under 28 U.S.C. 1367(c)(4) to decline supplemental jurisdiction and dismiss Arroyo’s Unruh Act claim. Recent changes in California law had made it more difficult to file Unruh Act claims in state court, resulting in a wholesale shifting of such cases to the federal courts.The Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded. The extraordinary situation created by the unique confluence of California rules involved here, which has led to systemic changes in where such cases are filed, presents “exceptional circumstances” that authorize consideration, on a case-by-case basis, of whether the “‘principles of economy, convenience, fairness, and comity which underlie the pendent jurisdiction doctrine’” warrant declining supplemental jurisdiction. However, because the district court effectively completed its adjudication of this entire case—including the Unruh Act claim—before it considered the question of supplemental jurisdiction, the interests in judicial economy, convenience, comity, and fairness at that point all overwhelmingly favored retaining jurisdiction and entering the foreordained judgment on the Unruh Act claim. View "Arroyo v. Rosas" on Justia Law

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The EEOC concluded, under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), that the Army had unlawfully discriminated against Plaskett when it failed to rehire him for a civilian position, awarded Plaskett reinstatement and backpay, and ordered the Army to pay him sanctions based on the Army’s failure to comply with discovery obligations during administrative proceedings. The Army refused to pay the sanctions award, citing sovereign immunity. Although the Army agreed to hire Plaskett and paid him backpay, Plaskett claimed that the Army owed him additional backpay and filed suit, arguing that the Army’s nondiscretionary duty to pay these sums was enforceable under the Mandamus Act, 28 U.S.C. 1361, and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 706(1).The Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the action for lack of jurisdiction. Regardless of whether the claim was viewed under the Mandamus Act or under the APA, Plaskett was required to plead that the Army had a clear, certain, and mandatory duty. The claim to additional backpay rested on an EEOC decision that, on its face. expressed uncertainty as to what amount of additional backpay might be due. The complaint failed to plead sufficient facts to show that a certain amount of additional backpay was now clearly owed. The ADEA did not include a sufficient waiver of the government’s immunity against monetary litigation sanctions with respect to the sanctions award. View "Plaskett v. Wormuth" on Justia Law

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In 2004-2005, the government filed forfeiture actions against a Credit Suisse account, owned by a corporation organized by Kim’s sister . The government alleged the $15 million account included proceeds of fraudulent activities involving Kim’s control of Optional. The district court ordered the seizure of the Account. The putative owners (Kim Claimants) contested the forfeiture. Optional, no longer under Kim's control, and DAS, an alleged victim of Kim's fraud, filed competing claims.In 2011, after years of parallel litigation, the Swiss Attorney General’s Office unfroze the Account and ordered the bank to wire $12.6 million to DAS, which filed a “Notice of Withdrawal of Claims” in the forfeiture proceeding. The court ordered that no party disturb money remaining in the Credit Suisse accounts and requested that the government investigate how the transfer to DAS was accomplished. The court declined to hold DAS in contempt, concluded that it “cannot compel DAS to surrender the funds,” then granted DAS’s opposed motion to be dismissed from the forfeiture proceedings.Optional, the sole remaining claimant, submitted a 2013 proposed final judgment, which the district court adopted. Five years later, Optional sought to hold DAS in contempt for allegedly violating that judgment because DAS failed to surrender the money transferred in 2011; the 2013 judgment had awarded Optional all funds in the Account as of August 2005. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of the contempt motion. The 2013 judgment did not require DAS to turn over $12.6 million to Optional. At the 2013 trial, the court did not have before it, and did not undertake to decide, the competing claims to the transferred money. In awarding Optional “all funds” the district court unmistakably was referring only to the remaining funds. View "Optional Capital, Inc. v. DAS Corp." on Justia Law

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.In 2010, the district court invalidated California’s Proposition 8, which prohibited same-sex marriage. Judge Walker recorded the trial. When Proposition 8 Proponents objected, he stated that the recording was not going to be used for public broadcasting or televising. The recordings were offered to the parties for use in their closing arguments and were later entered into the record under seal. In 2011, the Chief Judge ordered the recordings to be unsealed. The Ninth Circuit reversed, citing Judge Walker’s specific assurances and local Rule 79-5(f), which provides that any document filed under seal in a civil case shall be open to the public 10 years from the date the case was closed unless good cause could be shown to extend the seal.In 2020, Proponents asked the district court to extend the seal. The district court declined, noting that Proponents failed to submit any evidence that any Proponent or witness wanted the recordings to remain under seal or feared retaliation or harassment if the recordings were released.The Ninth Circuit dismissed an appeal. Proponents failed to establish a particularized and concrete injury sufficient to constitute “injury in fact” for purposes of jurisdiction. Even a “promise” made by a judge to litigants in the course of litigation is not an enforceable contract. The court rejected contentions that the unsealing would result in a “palpable injustice” or would harm future litigants’ ability to rely on judicial “promises.” Neither alleged injury was sufficiently concrete and particularized to establish Article III standing. View "Perry v. Hollingsworth" on Justia Law