Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
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Plaintiffs purchase KYB shock absorbers from KAC through “buying groups.” There is no arbitration provision in the buying group agreements nor in the invoices reflecting specific purchases between the plaintiffs and KAC. Beginning in 2016, the buying group agreements provided that the individual plaintiffs agreed to accept a rebate from KAC in exchange for servicing consumer warranty issues. The agreement requires the plaintiffs, in exchange for that allowance, to honor the terms of the KYB limited warranty, which mandates arbitration in accordance with American Arbitration Association Commercial Rule 7(1), which delegates to the arbitrator the power to determine his jurisdiction. The plaintiffs filed a putative class action, alleging anticompetitive activities in the auto parts industry. The defendants move to dismiss, citing the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. 1. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of the motion. Before referring a dispute to arbitration, the court must determine whether a valid arbitration agreement exists; if a valid agreement exists and delegates the arbitrability issue to the arbitrator, the court may not decide arbitrability. In this case, the parties did not form an agreement to arbitrate. The warranty’s arbitration provision applies only to original retail purchasers, a group that does not include the plaintiffs. View "VIP, Inc. v. KYB Corp." on Justia Law

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On November 8, 2019, the district court entered judgment dismissing Young’s prisoner civil-rights complaint. A notice of appeal was due to be filed by December 9. Young’s notice of appeal was dated December 17 and filed on December 30. Young claimed that he did not see the judgment until November 21, because “he was placed on dry cell protocol” on October 22, and was transferred on October 30, and placed in the prison’s psychiatric unit. An attached exhibit confirmed the transfer. Young stated that inmates in the psychiatric unit are not permitted to have property in their possession. The Sixth Circuit remanded for a determination of whether Young has shown excusable neglect or good cause to warrant an extension of time for filing a notice of appeal. Both 28 U.S.C. 2107(c) and Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a)(5) provide for an extension of time where the party seeking such an extension files a motion asking for more time. While no particular form of words is necessary, a simple notice of appeal does not suffice. However, district courts must liberally construe a document that could reasonably be interpreted as a motion for an extension of time. Young’s notice of appeal effectively reads as a motion for an extension of time to file and will be treated as such. View "Young v. Kenney" on Justia Law

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The Office of Personnel Management (OPM), manages the Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance Act (FEGLIA), 5 U.S.C. 8705(a). Absent a valid beneficiary selection, FEGLIA provides an order of precedence for the proceeds, starting with the policyholder's surviving spouse, followed by the policyholder's descendants. FEGLIA will not follow that order if a “court decree of divorce, annulment, or legal separation, or . . . any court order or court-approved property settlement agreement” “expressly provides” for payment to someone else. The decree, order, or agreement must be “received” by the policyholder’s “employing agency” or OPM before the policyholder’s death. At the time of his death, Miller worked at Tinker Air Force Base and maintained a MetLife policy. Coleman's 27-year marriage to Donna ended in divorce in 2011. Their property settlement agreement states that “[Donna] shall remain the beneficiary of the life insurance policy.” The court ordered Coleman to assign his FEGLI benefits to Donna. Upon Coleman’s death, his only child, Courtenay, was appointed administratrix of his estate. The Air Force informed Courtenay that the court order had not been filed with Coleman’s employing office. Courtenay was paid $172,000 in proceeds and sought a declaration that she is the rightful owner. Citing lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, the district court dismissed the suit. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, noting the lack of a substantial federal question. FEGLIA does not contain an express cause of action for Donna. There is no federal agency involved. View "Miller v. Bruenger" on Justia Law

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QAI sued P&G in federal court for breaking a contract with it in a racially discriminatory manner, 42 U.S.C. 1981. P&G had already sued QAI in Ohio state court over the same contractual dispute underlying QAI’s section 1981 claim; that litigation was still ongoing. P&G moved to dismiss QAI’s federal suit, arguing that its section 1981 claim was a compulsory counterclaim to the state litigation, Ohio Civ. R. 13(A). The district court dismissed QAI’s suit. The Sixth Circuit reversed. A federal court cannot enforce a state compulsory-counterclaim rule against a federal litigant outside the preclusion context, and because QAI’s claim is not yet precluded here (because the state court has not yet entered a final judgment), the district court lacked authority to base its judgment of dismissal on this ground. That this case implicates compulsory counterclaims does not alter the basic federalist principle that litigants are free to split their claims between state and federal court and “race to the first judgment,” even if that stratagem is ill-advised and inefficient. View "Quality Associates., Inc v. Procter & Gamble Distributing Center, LLC" on Justia Law

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More than a decade ago, the Bank began foreclosure proceedings against the Ackermans. In 2010, an Ohio court entered judgment in the Bank’s favor. The Ackermans have sought to thwart the foreclosure sale. They tried to remove their case to federal court. The district court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction and remanded their case to state court. The Sixth Circuit dismissed the Ackermans' appeal for lack of jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. 1447(d); Later, the Ackermans moved the district court to reconsider its remand order. The district court denied their motion, reasoning that it lacked jurisdiction to reconsider its order. The Sixth Circuit again dismissed an appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The court cited multiple cases that have construed section 1447(d) as precluding further reconsideration or review of a district court’s order remanding a case back to state court because a remand divests the district court of any further jurisdiction over the case. To review an order denying a motion to reconsider a remand order would “circumvent the jurisdiction-stripping function of section 1447(d).” View "The Bank of New York Mellon v. Ackerman" on Justia Law

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McClain sued Hanna and Hanna’s two law firms under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692, and an analogous Michigan statute, Mich. Comp. Laws 445.251, asserting both individual and class claims. Within a week, Hanna offered McClain a settlement under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 68. That settlement allowed judgment to be entered in McClain’s favor “as to all counts” of his complaint and gave McClain his full damages (both actual and statutory) plus his litigation costs and reasonable attorney’s fees. Four days later, McClain accepted the settlement offer but simultaneously filed a “placeholder” motion for class certification, apparently to preempt a mootness ruling. Even so, the district court found the class claims to be moot and dismissed both the individual and class claims. McClain noted that the settlement called for judgment in his favor; the court entered an amended judgment “for Plaintiff Theodore McClain as to all counts in Plaintiff’s complaint[.]” The Sixth Circuit affirmed, declining to address mootness because the judgment did not declare any of the claims moot. Parties may not challenge a judgment to which they have consented. McClain waived his right to pursue the class claims. View "McClain v. Hanna" on Justia Law

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The plaintiffs sued, alleging that, in future elections, the defendants (various officials) will burden their right to vote, dilute their votes, and disenfranchise them in violation of the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses. The plaintiffs cited election administration problems: election workers are poorly trained, sometimes distributing the wrong ballots, sometimes recording the wrong address when registering a voter; failure to recertify the voting machines; failure to follow fair protocols for uploading votes; the use of digital voting machines, vulnerable to hacking and cyberattacks, that do not produce a paper record of each voter’s choices. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The complaint’s allegations with respect to injury all reference prior system vulnerabilities, previous equipment malfunctions, and past election mistakes; nearly all of the allegations of past harm stem from human error rather than errors caused by the voting machines or hacking. Fear that individual mistakes will recur, generally speaking, does not create a cognizable imminent risk of harm. The plaintiffs do not allege that Shelby County election officials always make these mistakes or that the government entities ordered the election workers to make such mistakes. The plaintiffs have not plausibly shown that there is a substantial risk of vote flipping. Without imminent harm, the individual plaintiffs have no standing to sue. The plaintiffs allege only policies that add risk to the ever-present possibility that an election worker will make a mistake. View "Shelby Advocates for Valid Elections v. Hargett" on Justia Law

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Van Hoven, a Michigan attorney, defaulted on a credit card debt. The Buckles law firm, collecting the debt, won a state court lawsuit. Van Hoven did not pay. Buckles filed four requests for writs of garnishment. Van Hoven says those requests violated the Michigan Court Rules by including the costs of the request ($15 filing fee) in the amount due and, in later requests, adding the costs of prior failed garnishments. Van Hoven filed a class-action lawsuit under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which prohibits debt collectors from making false statements in their dunning demands, 15 U.S.C. 1692e. Years later, after “Stalingrad litigation” tactics, discovery sanctions, and professional misconduct allegations, Van Hoven won. The court awarded 168 class members $3,662 in damages. Van Hoven’s attorneys won $186,680 in attorney’s fees. The Sixth Circuit vacated. When Buckles asked for all total costs, including those of any garnishment request to date, it did not make a “false, deceptive, or misleading representation.” It was a reasonable request at the time and likely reflected the best interpretation of the Michigan Rules. The court remanded for determinations of whether Buckles made “bona fide” mistakes of fact in including certain costs of prior failed garnishments and whether its procedure for preventing such mistakes suffices. In some instances, Buckles included the costs of garnishments that failed because the garnishee did not hold any property subject to garnishment or was not the debtor’s employer. View "Van Hoven v. Buckles & Buckles, P.L.C." on Justia Law

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Saginaw County has nearly 200,000 residents. A single company, Mobile Medical, has provided the county’s ambulance services since 2009. The county guaranteed Mobile the exclusive right to operate within its borders; Mobile pledged to serve all eight of Saginaw County’s cities and incorporated villages and its 27 rural townships. In 2011, STAT, a competing ambulance company, entered the Saginaw market, providing patient-transport services for an insurer as part of a contract that covered six Michigan counties. A municipality, dissatisfied with Mobile’s response times and fees, hired STAT. When Saginaw County proposed to extend Mobilel’s contract in 2013, STAT objected, arguing that the arrangement violated state law, federal antitrust law, and the Fourteenth Amendment. The county approved Mobile's new contract and enacted an ordinance that codified the exclusivity arrangement but never enforced the ordinance. STAT continued to insist that Michigan law permitted it to offer ambulance services. Saginaw County sought a federal declaratory judgment that Michigan law authorizes the exclusive contract and that it does not violate federal antitrust laws or the U.S. Constitution by prohibiting STAT from operating in the county. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the claim for lack of jurisdiction. The county failed to establish an actual or imminent injury. Federal courts have the power to tell parties what the law is, not what it might be in potential enforcement actions. View "Saginaw County. v. STAT Emergency Medical Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2010, Hueso was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment for drug crimes. In 2013, Hueso unsuccessfully moved to vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255. His second unsuccessful petition, in 2018, argued that his state convictions were not “felony drug offenses” and that his mandatory minimum should have been 10 years. A 2019 Ninth Circuit case subsequently undercut the substantive portion of the district court’s denial of relief. Hueso filed another petition. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 permits a second 2255 motion only if there is new evidence of innocence or a new rule of constitutional law from the Supreme Court. Prisoners seeking relief under 28 U.S.C. 2241 must show that section 2255 is “inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of [their] detention.” Hueso argued that prisoners barred from filing a second 2255 motion may seek habeas relief under section 2241 based on new circuit court decisions. The Fourth Circuit has accepted that position. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of relief. Hueso’s cited circuit court cases do not render a 2255 motion “inadequate or ineffective” within the meaning of section 2255(e); the two circuit decisions cannot establish section 2255’s inadequacy and his cited Supreme Court decision issued when his direct appeal was pending, so he could have cited it in the ordinary course. View "Hueso v. Barnhart" on Justia Law