Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
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Brown’s company, TME, owned the House of Blues recording studio in Memphis and leased a studio to Falls. Hanover issued separate insurance policies to TME and Falls. Intruders vandalized and burgled the studio, and committed arson. Hanover made advance payments to TME and Falls, then discovered that Brown had submitted false receipts and had been the target of several similar arson incidents. Hanover sued Brown, TME, and Falls, seeking recovery of the prepaid funds and a declaratory judgment. A jury returned a verdict against Brown but found that Falls was entitled to recover the full insurance coverage. Hanover unsuccessfully moved to overturn that verdict because TME was named as an additional insured on Falls’s policy and his policy voided coverage if “you or any other insured” misrepresented a material fact. Meanwhile, Falls sought monetary damages and declaratory relief against Brown and TME in Tennessee state court.Hanover filed an interpleader complaint against Brown, TME, and Falls in federal court, requesting that the court find the insurance award void under Tennessee public policy or, alternatively, determine to whom Hanover should pay the award. The district court enjoined Falls’s state court action, citing the Anti-Injunction Act, 28 U.S.C. 2283, The Sixth Circuit reversed. The Act allows an injunction only for necessity, not simply for efficiency. Because the district court proceedings were not in rem, an injunction was not “necessary” to aid the district court’s jurisdiction. View "Hanover American Insurance Co. v. Tattooed Millionaire Entertainment, LLC" on Justia Law

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BDC lent $800,000 to a company owned by the Suggs, who personally guaranteed the loan and secured it with a $200,000 mortgage on their Shaker Heights home. Bank of America and MidFirst Bank held more senior mortgages on the home. The Suggs’ home suffered serious water damage from a burst pipe in 2014. State Farm insured the home for up to $352,130. State Farm denied their claim on the ground that the Suggs had failed to heat their home at a temperature required by their policy.The Suggs sued State Farm in an Ohio state court and sued all three lenders with mortgages on their home, explaining that these lenders “have an interest in the policy proceeds” because the policy entitled them to payment even if State Farm had a valid defense against the Suggs. BDC did not appear. After the case settled, the state court found that BDC had no right to the proceeds. BDC did not seek relief in the state court but filed a federal suit alleging that State Farm, its lawyers, and the Suggs’ lawyers colluded to defraud it. The district court dismissed the suit under Ohio’s claim-preclusion law. The SIxth Circuit affirmed. BDC cannot meet the demanding test required to attack the state court’s judgment in this collateral fashion. View "Business Development Corporation of South Carolina v. Rutter & Russin, LLC" on Justia Law

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Born in 1967, Carroll was raised by a single mother near Albert Barber's property. Albert’s younger sister was Arlene. Albert died in 1998. . In 2000, Arlene informed the Geauga County Probate Court that she had lost Albert’s will and possessed only an unsigned copy. She filed an application to probate the will. The court found that all interested parties were given appropriate notice and admitted the will. The court distributed most of the estate— land worth $232,000 and slightly over $30,000 in other assets—to Arlene under the will.Carroll claims that in 2018, Arlene told her that Albert was Carroll’s father. Carrol sued, claiming that Arlene submitted an invalid version of Albert’s will to an Ohio probate court and that she should have inherited Albert’s estate. The district court concluded that she lacked standing and that the probate exception to federal jurisdiction barred it from hearing her claims. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, citing her lack of standing. Carroll has not plausibly pleaded that the Barbers’ misconduct injured her, that they left her any worse off. Even given an opportunity to contest Albert’s will, Carroll would not have been eligible to contest Albert’s will under Ohio law when he died. View "Carroll v. Hill" on Justia Law

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NPF sued a franchisee, SY Dawgs, which operated a fast-pitch softball team in the National Pro Fastpitch League, alleging violation of a non-competition agreement. Two-and-a-half years of discovery disputes and repeated sanctions motions followed. The district court imposed sanctions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37 against NPF’s counsel for failure to produce documents and its engagement in other discovery abuses. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the award of sanctions against the individual attorneys who represented NPF, but vacated the award against their law firm. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37 does not allow for law-firm sanctions where, as here, the firm was not a party to the lawsuit. View "NPF Franchising, LLC v. SY Dawgs, LLC" on Justia Law

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Fox and others failed to pay some of their property taxes. The counties foreclosed on and sold their properties and kept all of the sale proceeds, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars beyond the taxes due. Fox filed this class action. While Fox’s class action was pending, the Michigan Supreme Court held that the counties’ practice violated the Michigan Constitution’s Takings Clause. The Michigan legislature then began crafting a statutory process for recovering the proceeds. ARI then began contacting potential plaintiffs about pursuing relief on their behalf. Meanwhile, the district court certified Fox’s class. ARI instructed the law firm it hired to opt-out ARI-represented claimants and pursue individual relief on their behalf. Fox believed that ARI was improperly soliciting class members.The district court ordered ARI to stop contacting class members and allow 32 class members to back out of their agreements with ARI. The Sixth Circuit affirmed in part. The district court has the authority to protect the class-action process and did not abuse its discretion when it acted to protect class members from ARI’s post-certification communications. While most of the order was justified, the district court abused its discretion by allowing class members who hired ARI before the class was certified to rescind their agreements. View "Fox v. Saginaw County," on Justia Law

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Universal Life Church Monastery permits anyone who feels called to become ordained as a minister—over the Internet, free of charge, in a matter of minutes. Tennessee law permits only those “regular” ministers—ministers whose ordination occurred “by a considered, deliberate, and responsible act”—“to solemnize the rite of matrimony.” Tenn. Code 36-3-301(a)(1)–(2). Since 2019, the law has explicitly clarified that “[p]ersons receiving online ordinations may not solemnize the rite.”Asserting that those restrictions violate the federal and Tennessee constitutions, ULC and its members sued several Tennessee officials, seeking an injunction and declaratory judgment. The officials claimed sovereign immunity and that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue. The district court entered a preliminary injunction against several defendants. The Sixth Circuit reversed in part. No plaintiff has standing to seek relief against Governor Lee, Attorney General Slatery, District Attorney General Helper, or County Clerks Crowell, Anderson, and Knowles. The plaintiffs have standing to sue District Attorneys General Dunaway, Pinkston, and Jones, and County Clerk Nabors. The court noted that county clerks have no discretion to inspect officiants’ credentials or to deny licenses on that basis; state law deems issuance of the licenses a ministerial duty. View "Universal Life Church Monastery Storehouse v. Nabors" on Justia Law

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Head Start is a federal program that funds early childhood education for low-income children and provides other resources and education to the children’s families. Michigan Head Start grantees challenged the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for Head Start program staff, contractors, and volunteers imposed by an interim final rule of the Department of Health and Human Services. The district court denied a preliminary injunction.The Sixth Circuit denied an injunction pending appeal. The plaintiffs have not shown that they will likely prevail on the merits. HHS likely did not violate the Administrative Procedure Act when it promulgated the vaccine requirement through an interim final rule instead of notice-and-comment rulemaking, 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B). That rule contains ample discussion of the evidence in support of a vaccine requirement and the justifications for the requirement, 86 Fed. Reg. 68,055-059. HHS likely has the statutory authority to issue a vaccine requirement for Head Start program staff, contractors, and volunteers under 42 U.S.C. 9836a(a)(1)(A), (E). The risk that unvaccinated staff members could transmit a deadly disease to Head Start children—who are ineligible for the COVID-19 vaccine due to their young age—is “a threat to the health” of the children. The court noted HHS’s history of regulating the health of Head Start children and staff. View "Livingston Educational Service Agency v. Becerra" on Justia Law

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In the Automotive Parts Antitrust multi-district litigation, a subset of consumers and businesses (End-Payor Plaintiffs), alleged that automotive-part manufacturers fixed prices in violation of antitrust laws and that they paid elevated prices for defendants’ parts or purchased or leased vehicles containing those parts. After eight years of motions, negotiations, approval hearings, and objections, the district court granted final approval to settlements between End-Payor Plaintiffs and defendants. The settlement agreements, the class notices, and plans of allocation for each settlement agreement defined the classes of plaintiffs to include consumers and businesses that bought or leased certain qualifying vehicles or paid to replace certain qualifying vehicle parts during designated time periods. The class definitions did not include insurers, assignees, or subrogees.FRS, a third-party company that manages and files claims for clients, later submitted claims on behalf of insurers that purchased or leased eligible vehicles for company use (Fleet Vehicles) and claims that are based on its clients’ claimed “subrogation rights” to class members’ claims. The district court denied FRS’s motion to intervene as untimely. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. FRS offers no legitimate excuse for failing to intervene after End-Payor Plaintiffs repeatedly expressed their adverse position; the district court alerted FRS to a deficient filing. End-Payor Plaintiffs would have suffered delay-related prejudice had the district court allowed intervention. View "Automotive Parts Antitrust Litig." on Justia Law

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Dorsa joined Miraca, which offers pathology services for healthcare providers. His employment agreement contained a binding arbitration clause. Dorsa claims that, during his employment, he observed Miraca giving monetary donations and free services to healthcare providers to induce pathology referrals, in violation of the AntiKickback Statute, the Stark Law, and the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729(a)(1). Dorsa lodged internal complaints. Dorsa claims that Miraca fabricated a sexual harassment complaint against him. Dorsa filed a qui tam action against Miraca in September 2013. Days later, Miraca fired Dorsa, citing workplace harassment. Dorsa added an FCA retaliation claim.The government investigated the FCA claims and, in 2018, intervened for purposes of settlement, under which Miraca agreed to pay $63.5 million to resolve FCA claims. Miraca moved to dismiss the remaining retaliation claim, citing the arbitration clause, Dorsa argued that the clause did not apply because his claim was independent from the employment agreement. Miraca then asserted that the court did not have the authority to decide a threshold question of arbitrability. The district court ruled in favor of Dorsa. Miraca later moved to stay the proceedings and compel arbitration. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of that motion. Miraca forfeited and waived its arguments about the district court’s authority to decide threshold questions of arbitrability and its ruling on the merits. Filing the motion to dismiss was inconsistent with Miraca’s later attempts to rely on the arbitration agreement. View "Dorsa v. Miraca Life Sciences, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Cintas “defined contribution” retirement plan has a “menu” of investment options in which each participant can invest. Each Plan participant maintains an individual account, the value of which is based on the amount contributed, market performance, and associated fees. Under the Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1102(a)(1), the Plan’s fiduciaries have the duty of loyalty—managing the plan for the best interests of its participants and beneficiaries—and a duty of prudence— managing the plan with the care and skill of a prudent person acting under like circumstances. Plaintiffs, two Plan participants, brought a putative class action, contending that Cintas breached both duties. Plaintiffs had entered into multiple employment agreements with Cintas; all contained similar arbitration provisions and a provision preventing class actions.The district court declined to compel arbitration, reasoning that the action was brought on behalf of the Plan, so that it was irrelevant that the two Plaintiffs had consented to arbitration through their employment agreements–the Plan itself did not consent. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The weight of authority and the nature of ERISA section 502(a)(2) claims suggest that these claims belong to the Plan, not to individual plaintiffs. The actions of Cintas and the other defendants do not support a conclusion that the plan has consented to arbitration. View "Hawkins v. Cintas Corp." on Justia Law