Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
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In this case heard by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, the plaintiff, Marketing Displays International (MDI), sued the defendant, Brianna Shaw, for allegedly violating her one-year non-compete agreement when she left MDI and began working for another company. The district court granted a preliminary injunction, preventing Shaw from working for her new employer for one year. Shaw appealed this decision in January 2023. However, due to several deadline extensions requested by both parties, the briefing did not finish until January 2024. By that time, the one-year period of the injunction had already expired, rendering the appeal moot.Shaw argued that the appeal was not moot as a ruling would impact her ability to recover any damages, including reputational harm caused by the injunction, and MDI's ability to recover attorney fees. The court disagreed, stating that Shaw could not collect damages until a final judgment is in her favor, and MDI's right to attorney fees did not depend on the validity of the preliminary injunction.Shaw also requested the court to vacate the moot portion of the preliminary injunction. However, the court refused, stating that the injunction would not have any preclusive effect on future litigation and that Shaw contributed to the appeal's mootness by requesting deadline extensions.Therefore, the appeal was dismissed as moot, and the case was remanded back to the lower court for further proceedings. View "Marketing Displays International v. Shaw" on Justia Law

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In a multi-district litigation involving diabetes drug saxagliptin, the plaintiffs claimed that the drug caused their heart failure. They presented a single expert to show the drug could cause heart failure. After a Daubert hearing and expert motions, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit found that the expert's testimony was unreliable due to methodological flaws and therefore excluded it. Subsequently, the district court granted summary judgment for the defendants, rejecting the plaintiffs' claim that other evidence created a genuine issue of material fact. The court also refused the plaintiffs' request for ninety days to find a replacement expert. On appeal, the plaintiffs challenged the district court's exclusion of their expert, its grant of summary judgment, and its refusal to give them more time to find another expert witness. The Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's decisions, stating that the plaintiffs' claims lacked merit. The court found that the expert's reliance on one study to the exclusion of all others was unreliable, that his use of animal data was unreliable due to his admitted lack of qualifications to analyze such studies, and that he did not reliably apply the Bradford Hill criteria - a scientific framework used to analyze whether an association between two variables is causal. The court also found that all jurisdictions require expert testimony to show general causation in complex medical cases such as this one. As the plaintiffs failed to identify a reliable general causation expert, the court granted summary judgment for the defendants. The court also found no good cause to grant the plaintiffs more time to find a replacement expert. View "In re Onglyza (Saxagliptin) and Kombiglyze (Saxagliptin and Metformin) Products Liability Litigation" on Justia Law

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In this case, Autumn Wind Lending, LLC (Autumn Wind) had lent money to Insight Terminal Solutions, LLC (Insight) under an agreement that Insight would not incur any further debt without Autumn Wind's consent. However, Insight defaulted on the loan and filed for bankruptcy, during which it was revealed that it had taken on additional debt from other parties, including John J. Siegel and three family enterprises. Autumn Wind, which had become the parent company of Insight, then filed a lawsuit against these parties, alleging fraud and tortious interference. The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit was asked to decide whether the doctrine of res judicata, which bars relitigation of a claim that has been adjudicated, prevented Autumn Wind from bringing these claims. The court held that the doctrine of res judicata did not bar Autumn Wind from bringing its claims. The court reasoned that the claims had not been "actually litigated" because they were dismissed by stipulation in the bankruptcy court, not decided on the merits. Furthermore, Autumn Wind could not have litigated these claims in the bankruptcy court because it was not a party to the bankruptcy proceedings. The court therefore reversed the district court's dismissal of Autumn Wind's claims and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Autumn Wind Lending, LLC v. Siegel" on Justia Law

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In August 2020, a joint federal task force between the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) and the Cincinnati Police Department (CPD) attempted to arrest Mason Meyer. While fleeing from CPD officers, Meyer crashed into a restaurant, killing Gayle and Raymond Laible and severely injuring Steven and Maribeth Klein. The Laibles’ estate and the Kleins filed a lawsuit alleging that three CPD officers were negligent in their execution of the high-speed car chase. The officers claimed they were federal employees and therefore immune from common-law tort actions due to their participation in the federal task force. The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held that CPD Sergeant Donald Scalf was a federal employee acting within the scope of his employment during the chase and therefore immune under the Westfall Act. However, it affirmed the district court's denial of immunity for Sergeant Timothy Lanter and Officer Brett Thomas, as they were not federal employees at the time of the incident. View "Laible v. Lanter" on Justia Law

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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed a district court decision in a medical malpractice case where the plaintiff's mother died in a nursing home. The plaintiff, Chappelle Gales, alleged that her mother died due to inadequate care provided by the nursing home, and she sought to support her claim with expert testimony. However, the district court excluded the testimony of the plaintiff's expert witness, Dr. Edwin Polverino, due to his unfamiliarity with local medical standards in Memphis, Tennessee where the nursing home is located. The district court subsequently granted summary judgment in favor of the nursing home, Allenbrooke Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, on the basis that without expert testimony, the plaintiff could not establish the essential elements of a state law medical malpractice claim.The Court of Appeals held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding the expert's testimony. According to Tennessee's Healthcare Liability Act, for a medical malpractice action, the plaintiff must establish the "recognized standard of acceptable professional practice" in the community where the defendant practices or in a similar community. However, the plaintiff's expert witness, who practiced in Virginia, admitted that he had not looked into the standard of care in Memphis. The court held that a national standard of care could not be substituted for a local standard of care under Tennessee law. The court further held that the plaintiff had failed to establish that the expert was familiar with the standard of care in a community similar to Memphis. As a result, without admissible medical expert testimony regarding the recognized standard of professional care in Memphis or a similar community, the nursing home was entitled to summary judgment. View "Gales v. Allenbrooke Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, LLC" on Justia Law

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In a dispute between Ultra Bond, Inc., and its owner, Richard Campfield (collectively "Ultra Bond"), and Safelite Group, Inc. and its affiliates (collectively "Safelite"), both parties operate in the vehicle glass repair and replacement industry. Ultra Bond alleges that Safelite violated the Lanham Act by falsely advertising that windshield cracks longer than six inches could not be safely repaired and instead required replacement of the entire windshield. Safelite counterclaims that Ultra Bond stole trade secrets from Safelite in violation of state and federal law.The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that the district court was incorrect to grant summary judgment to Safelite on Ultra Bond’s Lanham Act claim. The court held that there was sufficient evidence to suggest that Safelite's allegedly false statements may have caused economic injury to Ultra Bond, and this issue should go to a jury.The court also affirmed the district court's decision that Safelite's claims for conversion, civil conspiracy, and tortious interference with contract were preempted by the Ohio Uniform Trade Secrets Act (OUTSA). However, the court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Ultra Bond on Safelite’s claim under OUTSA, ruling that Safelite's claim was not time-barred and should be evaluated further in the lower court.Finally, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Ultra Bond on Safelite's unfair competition claim, finding that Safelite hadn't provided enough evidence to support its claim that Ultra Bond's statements were false or that they had led to a diversion of customers from Safelite to Ultra Bond. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Campfield v. Safelite Group, Inc." on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Brian Behovitz's motion to intervene in a class action lawsuit initiated by Frederick Grainger, Jr. against Ottawa County, Michigan, and other Michigan counties. Grainger alleged that the counties unlawfully retained the full proceeds from foreclosure auctions of homes, even when the proceeds exceeded the homeowners' unpaid property taxes. The district court denied class certification because Grainger's individual claims were barred by the statute of limitations, making him unfit to serve as a class representative. Behovitz, who had a similar experience with another county, sought to intervene as a new putative class representative. His motion was denied by the district court, and he appealed.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial, finding that Behovitz failed to establish the necessary factors for intervention as of right under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24(a). Specifically, he failed to show a substantial legal interest in the subject matter of the case or that his ability to protect his interest may be impaired without intervention. The court also concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Behovitz’s permissive intervention. It noted that Behovitz likely does not have an interest in class certification, and his interest in opposing a settlement in a similar litigation was not a proper reason for intervention in this case. View "Grainger v. Ottawa County, Mich." on Justia Law

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In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision that the motion to intervene by Local Roots Cannabis Company (Local Roots) was moot due to a settlement between the plaintiffs, Liberty Wellness, LLC and Jonathan Moses, and the defendant, the City of Perry, Michigan. The litigation arose after the City refused to implement a voter-approved marijuana facility licensing scheme, which the plaintiffs sought to compel through a declaratory relief action. While the litigation was pending, Local Roots, which received a license under the City's alternative licensing regime, moved to intervene. However, before the court ruled on the intervention motion, the plaintiffs and the City settled their dispute and dismissed the case, causing the court to deem the intervention motion moot. Local Roots appealed, arguing that the stipulation of dismissal was invalid because it did not consent to it and that its intervention motion was not moot because the lower court retained jurisdiction to enforce the settlement agreement. The appeals court held that Local Roots did not become a party under Rule 41 until the district court granted its motion to intervene and that it did not need to sign the stipulation for it to be effective, confirming the validity of the stipulation of dismissal. Furthermore, the court clarified that the dismissal of the case mooted Local Roots' motion to intervene as the lower court only retained jurisdiction to enforce the settlement agreement and not to reopen the whole case. View "Moses v. City of Perry, Mich." on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit considered whether a debtor who successfully defended a motion to dismiss her bankruptcy petition filed by the United States Trustee was entitled to attorneys' fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA). The debtor, Megan Teter, had filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy due to nearly $100,000 in debt. The United States Trustee filed a motion to dismiss her petition, alleging that Teter was abusing the bankruptcy system. Teter successfully defended this motion and sought attorneys' fees from the Trustee under the EAJA. The bankruptcy court denied her request, with the district court affirming this decision. The Court of Appeals also affirmed these decisions. The Court held that Teter's defense against the Trustee's motion to dismiss did not constitute a "civil action" under the EAJA and as such, she was not entitled to attorneys' fees. The Court also expressed doubt that the EAJA applies in bankruptcy proceedings when a debtor successfully defends a motion to dismiss filed by the Trustee. The Court did not, however, make a definitive ruling on this matter. View "Teter v. Baumgart" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-Appellant Joseph Brent Mattingly, an employee of R.J. Corman Railroad Services, LLC (“Corman Services”), suffered injuries while repairing a bridge owned and operated by Memphis Line Railroad (“Memphis Line”). Mattingly filed a lawsuit seeking recovery under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (“FELA”), which covers employees of common carriers by railroad. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, ruling that Mattingly was not employed by a common carrier, a prerequisite for FELA coverage.On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision. The appellate court rejected Mattingly’s argument that Corman Services, his employer, was a common carrier because it was part of a “unitary” railroad system managed by Corman Group. The court held that Corman Services' bridge repair and construction services did not provide an inextricable function for Memphis Line’s common carrier services and thus, did not qualify as a common carrier under FELA. The court further rejected Mattingly’s assertion that he was a “subservant” of a common carrier. The court found that Mattingly failed to demonstrate that Memphis Line, a common carrier, controlled or had the right to control the daily operations of Corman Services, as required to establish a master-servant relationship under common law.The court also held that Mattingly's claims regarding discovery issues were unpreserved for appeal, as he did not adequately inform the district court of his need for discovery in compliance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(d). View "Mattingly v. R.J. Corman R.R. Grp., LLC" on Justia Law