Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
by
In 1955-1976, WPC, a manufacturer of industrial valves, bought primary and excess level liability insurance policies from OneBeacon’s predecessor. In 2001, asbestos lawsuits started coming against WPC. OneBeacon began its defense. The parties reached an impasse over several issues.WPC sought declaratory relief in Ohio state court concerning OneBeacon’s obligations. WPC also sued OneBeacon in federal court, alleging breach of contract. OneBeacon unsuccessfully moved to dismiss or stay the case. The district court rejected OneBeacon’s argument that the federal and state proceedings were parallel. WPC amended its state complaint, adding breach of contract claims. The state court held that OneBeacon had not committed the alleged breaches. OneBeacon again moved to dismiss WPC’s federal lawsuit, arguing that the state court’s ruling precluded WPC’s federal claims. The court acknowledged that the state court judgment likely satisfied the elements of claim preclusion, but declined to dismiss. The court stayed the case, noting that WPC’s amended state court complaint made the state and federal proceedings parallel. After OneBeacon filed its federal notice of appeal, the Ohio Court of Appeals reversed in part, finding that OneBeacon breached some of the policies. Pennsylvania subsequently liquidated OneBeacon and stayed all litigation.The Sixth Circuit reversed, first holding that exercising appellate jurisdiction here will in no way “hinder [the] operation” of Pennsylvania’s claims process and priority scheme. Claim preclusion bars the federal suit. View "William Powell Co. v. National Indemnity Co." on Justia Law

by
Prevent, a group of European companies that specializes in turning around distressed automotive parts suppliers, organized an effort to halt supplies of their parts to obtain better terms from Volkswagen, based in Germany. Volkswagen responded by not doing business with the affiliated companies. Begun in 2016, this litigation initially involved claims of unfair business practices and anticompetitive behavior under German and European law and was handled by German courts. Volkswagen prevailed in most of the suits.In 2019 two members of Prevent, Eastern, based in the Netherlands, and Prevent's American subsidiary sued Volkswagen and its American subsidiary in Michigan, alleging that the carmaker unfairly prevented them from acquiring distressed automotive-parts manufacturers. The district court dismissed the complaint, citing forum non conveniens. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Germany is an adequate forum to hear this case. It appears that a Germany-based antitrust lawsuit would reach more conduct and more injuries than an American suit. German and Portuguese are the languages of the relevant documents. Local interest in the dispute, the location of the injury, the fullness of the court’s docket, preference for trying cases in the place of the governing law, hesitance to apply foreign law, and desire to avoid conflict-of-law problems, predict an American court’s potential “administrative and legal problems” with trying the case. View "Prevent USA Corp. v. Volkswagen AG" on Justia Law

by
In 2008, FTS technicians filed suit alleging that they were unlawfully deprived of overtime compensation for the prior three years. The district court authorized a collective action; 293 technicians opted in to the collective action. In 2011, a jury returned verdicts of liability and determined the average number of unrecorded hours worked per week by each testifying technician. Based on those findings, the court applied a 1.5 multiplier for calculating uncompensated overtime, calculated damages for all technicians in the collective action, and entered a judgment. The Sixth Circuit upheld the certification of the case as a collective action and the jury’s verdicts but held that the district court erred in applying a 1.5 multiplier, and in failing to calculate the hourly rates to reflect the actual hours Plaintiffs worked.After a remand from the Supreme Court, FTS sought to raise new issues that were unrelated to the recalculation of the hourly rate and correcting the multiplier. The district court barred FTS from raising most of those arguments, recalculated damages, and entered judgment. The court also substantially granted Plaintiffs’ counsel’s petition for attorney’s fees. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The district court was constrained on remand to the specific issues; its mandate rule barred FTS and from raising arguments on judicial estoppel, aggregate judgment, and sufficiency of the evidence. View "Monroe v. FTS USA, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Card was diagnosed with “chronic lymphocytic leukemia,” which can cause fatigue. Card alleges her worsening fatigue left her unable to perform her job as a night-shift nurse. She applied for disability benefits under an Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) plan administered by Principal, which denied her requests for short-term, long-term, and total disability benefits. Card sued. The district court granted Principal summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit reversed and remanded the case to Principal for further proceedings. Principal granted Card short-term disability benefits but requested additional information for her other claims. Card then filed motions in the district court, seeking attorney’s fees and asking the court to reopen the case because Principal had not reached a benefits decision for her other claims within the 45 days allegedly required by ERISA . The district court issued a “virtual order” on its docket, denying the motions for lack of jurisdiction.The Sixth Circuit first held that it had jurisdiction to review that order then vacated and remanded to the district court. A district court retains jurisdiction over a beneficiary’s ERISA suit during the remand. "As in every other ERISA case in this procedural posture," the prior decision remanded to the district for it to retain jurisdiction while Principal engaged in the new benefits determination. View "Card v. Principal Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law

by
Lakeside, a Michigan corporation, fabricates stone countertops in Michigan. Cambria a Minnesota LLC, is a nationwide manufacturer of countertop products. Lakeside buys “solid surface products” from manufacturers like Cambria. In 2011, the two companies executed a Business Partner Agreement (BPA) including a Credit Agreement, a Security Agreement, Order Terms and Conditions, Lifetime Limited Warranty, and a Business Operating Requirements Manual Acknowledgment Form. The BPA’s choice-of-law provision and forum-selection clause, in a single paragraph, state: This agreement shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the State of Minnesota. Any proceeding involving this Agreement and/or any claims or disputes relating to the agreements and transactions between the parties shall be in the ... State of Minnesota. Pursuant to the BPA, Lakeside opened a fabrication facility in 2017. Discussions about Lakeside becoming Cambria’s sole Michigan fabricator led to Lakeside terminating the relationship.Lakeside filed suit in the Western District of Michigan, alleging breach of contract, violations of the Michigan Franchise Investment Law (MFIL), UCC violations, and promissory estoppel. The Sixth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the suit, finding the forum-selection clause unenforceable. MFIL’s prohibition on forum-selection clauses is a strong Michigan public policy and enforcing the forum-selection clause here would clearly contravene that policy. The MFIL claim is not Lakeside’s only claim, and the choice-of-law provision may be applied, as appropriate, to claims within its scope. View "Lakeside Surfaces, Inc. v. Cambria Co., LLC" on Justia Law

by
ZF appealed an order granting limited discovery to Luxshare under 28 U.S.C. 1782. Luxshare plans to use the discovery in the parties’ international arbitration. ZF sought a stay pending appeal, citing the Supreme Court’s grant of certiorari in Servotronics (2021), and its own pending motion before the Supreme Court to grant an immediate appeal on the same issues raised in Servotronics.The Sixth Circuit first held that there was an appealable order; the district court’s decision whether to order discovery conclusively resolves the subject matter of the underlying proceeding. Orders under section 1782, including on motions to quash subpoenas, are final, appealable orders under 28 U.S.C. 1291. The court then denied a stay after considering the likelihood of success on the merits, the likelihood of irreparable injury absent a stay, whether issuance of the stay would substantially injure other interested parties, and where the public interest lies. The Supreme Court has since dismissed Servotronics and ZF failed to show that the minimal and nonconfidential discovery would constitute irreparable harm. View "Luxshare, Ltd. v. ZF Automotive US, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The 1954 Atomic Energy Act allowed private construction, ownership, and operation of commercial nuclear power reactors for energy production. The 1957 Price-Anderson Act created a system of private insurance, government indemnification, and limited liability for federal licensees, 42 U.S.C. 2012(i). In 1988, in response to the Three Mile Island accident, federal district courts were given original and removal jurisdiction over both “extraordinary nuclear occurrences” and any public liability action arising out of or resulting from a nuclear incident; any suit asserting public liability was deemed to arise under 42 U.S.C. 2210, with the substantive rules for decision derived from state law, unless inconsistent with section 2210.The Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant enriched uranium for the nuclear weapons program and later to fuel commercial nuclear reactors. Plaintiffs lived near the plant, and claim that the plant was portrayed as safe while it discharged radioactive material that caused (and continues to cause) them harm.Plaintiffs, seeking to represent a class, filed suit in state court asserting claims under Ohio law. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the removal of the case on the grounds that the complaint, although it did not assert a federal claim, nonetheless raised a federal question under the Price-Anderson Act, and affirmed the subsequent dismissal. The Act preempted plaintiffs’ state law claims and the plaintiffs did not assert a claim under the Act but asserted that their “claims do not fall within the scope of the Price-Anderson Act.” View "Matthews v. Centrus Energy Corp." on Justia Law

by
In 1991, Congress prohibited almost all robocalls to cell phones and landlines, 47 U.S.C. 227(b)(1)(B). A 2015 amendment attempted to allow robocalls if they were made “solely to collect a debt owed to or guaranteed by the United States.” The Supreme Court, in AAPC, held the amendment was unconstitutional content discrimination but that the exception was severable from the rest of the restriction, leaving the general prohibition intact. In 2019-2020, Lindenbaum received two robocalls from Realgy advertising its electricity services. She sued, alleging violations of the robocall restriction. After the Supreme Court decided AAPC, the district court dismissed the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction reasoning that severability is a remedy that operates only prospectively, so the robocall restriction was unconstitutional and therefore “void” for the period the exception was on the books. Because it was “void,” the district court believed, it could not provide a basis for federal-question jurisdiction.The Sixth Circuit reversed. Because severance is not a remedy, it would have to be a legislative act in order to operate prospectively only. The Court recognized only that the Constitution had “automatically displace[d]” the government-debt-collector exception from the start, then interpreted what the statute has always meant in its absence. View "Lindenbaum v. Realgy, LLC" on Justia Law

by
A drug manufacturer cannot distribute a drug in interstate commerce without obtaining the FDA’s approval for the uses listed on the drug’s official label, 21 U.S.C. 355(a). The Act does not prohibit doctors from prescribing FDA-approved drugs for “off-label” use but leaves the regulation of doctors to the states. Hydroxychloroquine is approved to treat malaria, lupus, and arthritis but not to treat COVID-19. In 2020, the FDA relied on then-available data and issued an Emergency Use Authorization, permitting hydroxychloroquine in the federal government’s strategic stockpile to be distributed to treat COVID-19 patients in limited circumstances.The Association, a nonprofit organization with physician members, sued, challenging restrictions barring use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 except for hospitalized patients. The Association alleged that these restrictions violated the implied equal-protection guarantee in the Fifth Amendment; violated the First Amendment right to associate by limiting access to medication useful for meeting in groups; and violated the Administrative Procedure Act. The Association alleged an injury to itself: it was considering canceling a conference purportedly due to the restrictions. It also invoked associational standing on behalf of its physician members who could not prescribe hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19.The district court held that none of these injuries plausibly pleaded the Association’s standing to challenge the Authorization. The court dismissed the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The Associaiton failed to plausibly plead that any member has been injured by the FDA’s actions. View "Association of American Physicians & Surgeons v. United States Food & Drug Administration" on Justia Law

by
Anthem provides health insurance and hires nurses to review insurance claims. The company pays those nurses a salary but does not pay them overtime. Canaday, an Anthem nurse who lives in Tennessee, filed a proposed collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 206. claiming that the company misclassified her and others as exempt from the Act’s overtime pay provisions. A number of Anthem nurses in other states opted into the collective action.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the out-of-state plaintiffs on personal jurisdiction grounds. In an FLSA collective action, as in the mass action under California law, each opt-in plaintiff becomes a real party in interest, who must meet her burden for obtaining relief and satisfy the other requirements of party status. Anthem is based in Indiana, not Tennessee. General jurisdiction is not an option for out-of-state claims. Specific jurisdiction requires a connection between the forum and the specific claims at issue. The out-of-state plaintiffs have not brought claims arising out of or relating to Anthem’s conduct in Tennessee. View "Canaday v. The Anthem Companies, Inc." on Justia Law