Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
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In the 1950s, DuPont began discharging C-8—a “forever” chemical that accumulates in the human body and the environment—into the Ohio River, landfills, and the air surrounding its West Virginia plant. By the 1960s, DuPont learned that C-8 is toxic to animals and, by the 1980s, that it is potentially a human carcinogen. DuPont’s discharges increased until 2000. Evidence subsequently confirmed that C-8 caused several diseases among those drinking the contaminated water. In a class action lawsuit, DuPont promised to treat the affected water and to fund a scientific process concerning the impact of C-8 exposure. A panel of scientists conducted an approximately seven-year epidemiological study of the blood samples and medical records of more than 69,000 affected community members, while the litigation was paused. The settlement limited the claims that could be brought against DuPont based on the study’s determination of which diseases prevalent in the communities were likely linked to C-8 exposure. The resulting cases were consolidated in multidistrict litigation. After two bellwether trials and a post-bellwether trial reached verdicts against DuPont, the parties settled the remaining cases.More class members filed suit when they became sick or discovered the connection between their diseases and C-8. In this case, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the application of collateral estoppel to specific issues that were unanimously resolved in the three prior jury trials, the exclusion of certain evidence based on the initial settlement agreement, and rejection of DuPont’s statute-of-limitations defense.. View "Abbott v. E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co." on Justia Law

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In 2021, Tennessee enacted a statute that vaccination, masking, and quarantine decisions: “A local health entity or official, mayor, governmental entity, or school does not have the authority to quarantine a person or private business for purposes of COVID-19,” and “a school or a governing body of a school shall not require a person to wear a face mask while on school property” unless various conditions are met. Before seeking accommodation under its terms, eight minor students with disabilities filed suit, alleging that the legislation violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12101m Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 794, the Equal Protection Clause, and the Supremacy Clause. The district court granted a preliminary injunction with respect to sections of the Act concerning face coverings for schools and provisions that prohibit local health officials and schools from making quarantining decisions as they relate to public schools.While acknowledging that the case is moot, the Sixth Circuit dismissed it for lack of jurisdiction. The plaintiffs’ argument that they are injured because the Act categorically violates the ADA amounts to an overly generalized grievance. They do not seek redress for a completed violation of a legal right; they seek only prospective relief to protect against future violations. Their injuries are not fairly traceable to any defendant, so no remedy applicable to those defendants (be it an injunction or a declaration) would redress the alleged injuries. View "R. K. v. Lee" on Justia Law

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The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (within the Department of Transportation (DOT)) found that Polyweave had violated federal regulations and assessed a $14,460 civil penalty. While seeking judicial review of that civil-penalty order in the court of appeals, Polyweave filed suit in district court seeking injunctive and declaratory relief to prevent DOT from rescinding a regulation (Subpart D) that included requirements for enforcement actions taken by DOT administrations, such as the Polyweave enforcement proceeding. Polyweave argued that the DOT improperly rescinded Subpart D and alleges that it, therefore, incurred procedural injuries in the underlying enforcement proceeding.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The district court lacked jurisdiction over Polyweave’s claims because the court of appeals exclusive jurisdiction (49 U.S.C. 5127) over judicial review of the underlying agency order bars Polyweave from attempting to litigate the rescission of Subpart D in the district court. When Congress places judicial review of certain types of agency action in the court of appeals rather than the district court, this jurisdictional allocation cannot be circumvented by suing in the district court to challenge agency procedures used (or omitted) in the proceedings leading to such actions, at least where court-of-appeals jurisdiction provides a fully effective forum to address such arguments. The only plausible bases for asserting Article III injury in this case, which involves enforcement procedures, can be asserted in review of the agency action in which those procedures were applied. View "Polyweave Packaging, Inc. v. Buttigieg" on Justia Law

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Stanley filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, indicating there was no money owed to him, including “Claims against third parties, whether or not you have filed a lawsuit or made a demand for payment.” The question provided examples of possible claims: “Accidents, employment disputes, insurance claims, or rights to sue.” Stanley’s bankruptcy plan provided that there would be “no future modification of dividend to unsecured creditors below 100%.” Before and after filing for bankruptcy, Stanley had problems with his employment at FCA. Stanley claims FCA violated the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), resulting in the termination of his employment one week after his bankruptcy filing. The Union filed grievances on Stanley’s behalf—one before he filed for bankruptcy and one after. Both were withdrawn.Stanley filed an FMLA interference lawsuit several months after the approval of his bankruptcy case. In response to FCA’s settlement letter, which raised the issue of disclosure in bankruptcy, Stanley updated his bankruptcy asset disclosure to include: Employment terminated post-petition in violation of FMLA with “unknown” value. The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for FCA; judicial estoppel barred Stanley’s claim. Stanley had motives for concealing his employment suit although his bankruptcy plan did not provide for a discharge of his debts. Stanley’s creditors did not have a complete, accurate picture of Stanley’s assets when considering whether to object to his plan, 11 U.S.C. 1324. View "Stanley v. FCA US, LLC" on Justia Law

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FBI agents were searching for Davison when they approached King, who has a similar description. King attempted to flee. Officers used force to apprehend King. Bystanders called the police and began filming. Officers ordered them to delete their videos because they could reveal undercover FBI agents. King spent the weekend in jail. The district court found that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over King’s subsequent Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) claim, and granted the officers summary judgment based on qualified immunity. In 2019, the Sixth Circuit reversed.After the Supreme Court reversed, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court. Because the district court’s order “hinged” on whether King could establish the elements of an FTCA claim, the order was on the merits for purposes of the judgment bar, 28 U.S.C. 2676, which provides that a judgment under the FTCA is a complete bar to any action by the claimant, by reason of the same subject matter, against the employee of the government whose act or omission gave rise to the claim. The analysis did not change based on the fact that the elements of an FTCA claim also establish whether a district court has subject-matter jurisdiction over that claim. The Sixth Circuit held that the FTCA judgment bar applies to other claims brought in the same lawsuit. View "King v. United States" on Justia Law

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Secretary of Defense Austin directed that all members of the armed forces be vaccinated against COVID-19. Air Force guidelines allow affected service members to seek exemptions on medical, administrative, and religious grounds. As of May 2022, the Department had denied 8,869 requests for religious exemptions, while granting only 85–all to service members who were separately eligible for an administrative exemption (apparently near the end of their service term). Plaintiffs claimed that the Department’s “systematic” denial of requests for religious exemptions violated the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act and the First Amendment and sought certification of a class of some 10,000 affected service members. Air Force chaplains confirmed that the vaccination mandate substantially burdened sincerely-held religious beliefs. Typically the objections concerned the use of aborted fetal cells in the development of the vaccines. The commanding officers for two plaintiffs recommended that their requests for exemptions be granted, on the ground that less-restrictive means (like masking or social distancing) could satisfy the Air Force’s operational interests. The Department denied those requests.The court entered an injunction, barring the Department from “taking any disciplinary or separation measures” against the named plaintiffs during the pendency of their lawsuit and certified a class. The Sixth Circuit denied the Department’s motion for an emergency stay but expedited the appeal. The Department has not made a strong showing that it “is likely to succeed on the merits” of its appeal of the class-wide injunction. View "Doster v. Kendall" on Justia Law

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Until their 2017 terminations, the Plaintiffs were employed by Pontiac Hospital. They filed separate EEOC charges, alleging race, gender, and religious discrimination, and retaliation, under Title VII. After EEOC issued “Right to Sue” letters, neither Plaintiff filed a Title VII suit. They initiated a qui tam action (False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729), alleging that Pontiac rendered unnecessary patient procedures to inflate its Medicare and Medicaid payments. The government obtained extensions for its investigation and, after about 30 months, declined to intervene.The district court unsealed the complaint on October 26, which began the 90-day period for service. The Plaintiffs did not seek the issuance of a summons but filed an amended complaint, then sent the amended complaint, without a summons, via certified mail to the Defendants on January 22, 2021 (within the 90-day period). There was no confirmation that the Defendants received it; the Plaintiffs obtained the issuance of a summons on March 4. Service occurred on March 15. The district court dismissed. The Plaintiffs failed to establish good cause for their delay; the court declined to grant a discretionary extension of time. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The district court applied a five-factor analysis and reasonably concluded that, although the statute of limitations would bar the Plaintiffs from refiling their claims, the remaining factors weighed in favor of the Defendants. View "United States v. Oakland Physicians Medical Center, LLC" on Justia Law

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Hackers compromised customer-payment information at several Wendy’s franchisee restaurants. Shareholders took legal action against Wendy’s directors and officers on the corporation’s behalf to remedy any wrongdoing that might have allowed the breach to occur. Three shareholder derivative legal efforts ensued—two actions and one pre-suit demand—leading to a series of mediation sessions. Two derivative actions (filed by Graham and Caracci) were consolidated and resulted in a settlement, which the district court approved after appointing one of the settling shareholder’s attorneys as the lead counsel. Those decisions drew unsuccessful objections from Caracci, who had not participated in the latest settlement discussions. No other shareholder objected. Caracci appealed decisions made by the district court, which together had the effect of dramatically reducing Caracci’s entitlement to an attorney’s fees award.The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The court acted within the bounds of its wide discretion to manage shareholder litigation in its appointment of a lead counsel, its approval of the settlement, and its interlocutory orders on discovery and the mediation privilege. View "Graham v. Peltz" on Justia Law

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The Sixth Circuit vacated the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendant, a Canadian resident, in this lawsuit brought under 28 U.S.C. 1332(a)(2), holding that remand was required for the district court to decide the issue of subject matter jurisdiction in the first place.Plaintiff, Akno 1010 Market Street St. Louis Missouri, LLC, sued Defendant in federal district court, asserting diversity jurisdiction but stating only that it was "organized under the laws of Michigan." Although Plaintiff did not adequately allege its own citizenship the district court decided the case on the merits. The Sixth Circuit vacated the district court's judgment, holding that further fact-finding was required on the issue of whether the district court had subject matter jurisdiction to hear this dispute. View "Akno 1010 Market Street St. Louis Missouri LLC v. Pourtaghi" on Justia Law

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Capital, a New York LLC with its principal place of business in New York, sued Peters, an Indiana corporation with its principal place of business in Indiana, for breach of contract and received a judgment by confession in New York state court. Peter then brought suit in the Southern District of Ohio, alleging that Capital and its Operations Manager, a resident of Florida. engaged in a scheme that violated RICO, 18 U.S.C. 1962. The Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal for lack of jurisdiction, adopting the “forum state approach.” Service over out-of-district defendants is governed by 18 U.S.C. 1965(b), which provides that if “other parties residing in any other district be brought before the court, the court may cause such parties to be summoned, and process for that purpose may be served in any judicial district.” Section 1965 in its entirety “does not provide for nationwide personal jurisdiction over every defendant in every civil RICO case, no matter where the defendant is found.” Section 1965(a) grants personal jurisdiction over an initial defendant to the district court for the district in which that person resides, has an agent, or transacts his affairs; nationwide jurisdiction hinges on whether at least one defendant has minimum contacts with the forum state. Peters did not assert sufficient facts to establish that the court had personal jurisdiction over either defendant and did not specifically allege how the claims arose from conduct within Ohio. View "Peters Broadcast Engineering, Inc. v. 24 Capital, LLC" on Justia Law