Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
by
In a May 2022 final rule, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved a revision to Colorado’s State Implementation Plan (SIP) certifying Colorado’s existing, EPA-approved Nonattainment New Source Review (NNSR) permit program regulating new or modified major stationary sources of air pollution in the Denver Metro-North Front Range area met the requirements for attaining the 2015 National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone. The Center for Biological Diversity challenged the final rule on procedural and substantive grounds. Procedurally, the Center argued the EPA violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) by failing to include the state regulations that comprised Colorado’s permit program in the rulemaking docket during the public-comment period. And substantively, the Center argued the EPA acted contrary to law when it approved Colorado’s SIP revision because Colorado’s permit program excluded all “temporary emissions” and “emissions from internal combustion engines on any vehicle” in determining whether a new or modified stationary source was “major” and therefore subject to the permit process. The Tenth Circuit found the EPA’s notice of proposed rulemaking was adequate under the APA, but agreed with the Center that the EPA acted contrary to law in allowing Colorado to exclude all temporary emissions under its permit program. The Court found the federal regulation the EPA relied on in approving this exclusion plainly did not authorize such an exclusion. But the Center identified no similar problem with the EPA allowing Colorado to exclude emissions from internal combustion engines on any vehicle. The Court therefore granted the Center’s petition in part, vacated a portion of the EPA’s final rule, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Center for Biological Diversity v. EPA, et al." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff-appellee Mark Wilson claimed his former employer, Schlumberger Technology Corporation, violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by classifying him as exempt from overtime pay for hours worked beyond the 40-hour workweek. At trial, the jury agreed with Wilson and awarded him nearly $40,000 in overtime backpay. After review, the Tenth Circuit concluded the district court should not have instructed the jury to determine whether Wilson’s salary was exempt under regulations guiding the application of the FLSA. "That was a legal issue for the court to determine." Because the instruction caused the jury to find in Wilson’s favor, the Court vacated the judgment and remanded for a new trial. View "Wilson v. Schlumberger Technology" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff-appellee Gary Waetzig filed an age discrimination lawsuit against his former employer, Halliburton Energy Services, Inc. Because he was contractually bound to arbitrate his claim, he voluntarily dismissed his suit without prejudice under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a) and filed for arbitration. The arbitrator sided with Halliburton. Dissatisfied with the outcome, Waetzig returned to federal court. But instead of filing a new lawsuit challenging arbitration, he moved to reopen his age discrimination case and vacate the arbitration award. Relying on Rule 60(b), the district court concluded it had jurisdiction to consider Waetzig’s motion, reopened the case, and vacated the award. The Tenth Circuit found the district court erred: the district court could not reopen the case under Rule 60(b) after it had been voluntarily dismissed without prejudice. Under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 41(a) and 60(b), a court cannot set aside a voluntary dismissal without prejudice because it is not a final judgment, order, or proceeding. View "Waetzig v. Halliburton Energy Services" on Justia Law

by
Husband Steven McAnulty was married twice: once to Plaintiff Elizabeth McAnulty, and once to Defendant Melanie McAnulty. Husband's first marriage ended in divorce; the second ended with his death. Husband’s only life-insurance policy (the Policy) named Defendant as the beneficiary. But the Missouri divorce decree between Plaintiff and Husband required Husband to procure and maintain a $100,000 life-insurance policy with Plaintiff listed as sole beneficiary until his maintenance obligation to her was lawfully terminated (which never happened). Plaintiff sued Defendant and the issuer of the Policy, Standard Insurance Company (Standard), claiming unjust enrichment and seeking the imposition on her behalf of a constructive trust on $100,000 of the insurance proceeds. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. Plaintiff appealed. By stipulation of the parties, Standard was dismissed with respect to this appeal. The only question to be resolved was whether Plaintiff stated a claim. Resolving that issue required the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals to predict whether the Colorado Supreme Court would endorse Illustration 26 in Comment g to § 48 of the Restatement (Third) of Restitution and Unjust Enrichment (Am. L. Inst. 2011) (the Restatement (Third)), which would recognize a cause of action in essentially the same circumstances. Because the Tenth Circuit predicted the Colorado Supreme Court would endorse Illustration 26, the Court held Plaintiff has stated a claim of unjust enrichment, and accordingly reversed the previous dismissal of her case. View "McAnulty v. McAnulty, et al." on Justia Law

by
In April 2012, Plaintiff-Appellee Brandon Barrick filed a qui tam action against his then-employer, Defendant-Appellant Parker-Migliorini International LLC (PMI). Barrick alleged violations of the False Claims Act (FCA) and amended his complaint to include a claim that PMI unlawfully retaliated against him under the FCA. PMI was a meat exporting company based in Utah. While working for PMI, Barrick noticed two practices he believed were illegal. The first was the “Japan Triangle”: PMI exported beef to Costa Rica to a company which repackaged it, then sent it to Japan (Japan had been concerned about mad cow disease from U.S. beef). The second was the “LSW Channel”: PMI informed the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) it was shipping beef to Moldova on a shipping certificate, but sent it to Hong Kong. Then, according to Barrick, PMI smuggled the beef into China (China was not then accepting U.S. beef). Barrick brought his concerns to Steve Johnson, PMI’s CFO, at least three times, telling Johnson that he was not comfortable with the practices. By October, the FBI raided PMI's office. Barrick was terminated from PMI in November 2012, as part of a company-wide reduction in force (RIF). PMI claimed the RIF was needed because in addition to the FBI raid, problems with exports and bank lines of credit put a financial strain on the company. Nine employees were terminated as part of the RIF. PMI claims it did not learn about Barrick’s cooperation with the FBI until October 2014, when the DOJ notified PMI of this qui tam action. A jury found that PMI retaliated against Barrick for his engagement in protected activity under the FCA when it terminated his employment. On appeal, PMI argued the district court improperly denied its motion for judgment as a matter of law (JMOL). In the alternative, PMI argued the Tenth Circuit court should order a new trial based on either the district court’s erroneous admission of evidence or an erroneous jury instruction. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed on all issues. View "Barrick v. Parker-Migliorini International" on Justia Law

by
Ceska zbrojovka Defence SE (“CZ Czech”) was a firearms manufacturer based in the Czech Republic. To do business in the United States, it had several subsidiaries, including CZ USA, CZ Czech’s Kansas-based subsidiary. Vista Outdoor, Inc. was a Minnesota company that designed, manufactured, and marketed outdoor recreation and shooting products. In November 2018, Vista and CZ Czech entered into an expense reimbursement agreement covering CZ Czech’s potential acquisition of a Vista firearm brand. Under the contract, Vista was obligated to reimburse CZ Czech for certain reasonable expenses in connection with its evaluation and negotiation of the proposed transaction. Even though the sale was not consummated, Vista refused CZ Czech’s subsequent reimbursement demands. CZ USA, not CZ Czech, filed a federal diversity action in the District of Kansas against Vista for breach of contract. The "twist" was that there was no contract between CZ USA and Vista, nor was CZ USA a beneficiary of the contract. CZ Czech, soon realizing the mistake, attempted to amend the complaint under Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and substitute itself as the party-plaintiff. The district court declined, finding that the original complaint controlled and that CZ USA, as a non-party to the contract, lacked standing to sue, meaning the court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over the dispute. To this, the Tenth Circuit concurred and affirmed: the district court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction and correctly dismissed the lawsuit. View "Ceska Zbrojovka Defence SE ("CZ") v. Vista Outdoor" on Justia Law

by
This appeal centered on claims for securities fraud against Spirit AeroSystems, Inc., and four of its executives. Spirit produced components for jetliners, including Boeing’s 737 MAX. But Boeing stopped producing the 737 MAX, and Spirit’s sales tumbled. At about the same time, Spirit acknowledged an unexpected loss from inadequate accounting controls. After learning about Spirit’s downturn in sales and the inadequacies in accounting controls, some investors sued Spirit and four executives for securities fraud. The district court dismissed the suit, and the investors appealed. "For claims involving securities fraud, pleaders bear a stiff burden when alleging scienter." In the Tenth Circuit's view, the investors did not satisfy that burden, so it affirmed the dismissal. View "Meitav Dash Provident Funds and Pension Ltd., et al. v. Spirit AeroSystems Holdings, et al." on Justia Law

by
For decades, Johns Manville Corp. ("JM") was the sole domestic manufacturer and supplier of calcium silicate (or “calsil”), a substance used to make thermal pipe insulation. In March 2018, Chase Manufacturing, Inc. (doing business as Thermal Pipe Shields, Inc., or "TPS") challenged JM’s monopoly status by entering the calsil market with a superior and less expensive product. JM responded by threatening distributors that it would not sell to them if they bought TPS’s competing calsil. By August 2021, more than three years after TPS’s market entry, JM retained over 97% of the domestic calsil market. TPS sued under the Sherman Act, alleging that JM had unlawfully: (1) maintained its monopoly; and (2) tied the availability of its insulation products to distributors’ not buying TPS’s calsil. The district court granted summary judgment for JM. Though the Tenth Circuit affirmed some of the district court’s rulings, it held that the district court erred in finding no genuine issues of material fact on whether JM unlawfully maintained its monopoly after TPS’s market entry. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Chase Manufacturing v. Johns Manville Corporation" on Justia Law

by
This case involved Wyoming’s plan to regulate emissions from powerplants within its borders that produce pollutants that contribute to regional haze, reducing visibility in and the aesthetics to national parks and wilderness areas. Wyoming produced a state implementation plan (SIP) in 2011. In a 2014 final rule, the EPA approved the SIP in part (as to Naughton) and disapproved it in part (as to Wyodak). Through a federal implementation plan (FIP), the EPA also substituted its determination of the proper technology to install at Wyodak, replacing Wyoming’s SIP. Wyoming and PacifiCorp petitioned for review, arguing the SIP should be entirely approved and claiming the EPA failed to grant Wyoming the deference required by federal law when it disapproved the Wyodak portion. Several conservation groups also challenged the rule, arguing the Naughton 1 and 2 portion should have been disapproved because the EPA failed to require the best available technology to reduce regional haze in a timely manner. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals granted the petition as to Wyodak and vacated that portion of the final rule. The Court found the EPA erred in evaluating the Wyodak portion of the SIP because it treated non-binding agency guidelines as mandatory in violation of the Clean Air Act. The Court remanded that part of the final rule to the agency for further review. But because the EPA properly approved Wyoming’s determination of the best technology for Naughton, the Court denied the petition as to those units and upheld that portion of the final rule. View "Wyoming v. EPA, et al." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs David P. and his daughter L.P. sought to recover health care benefits under a medical plan David P. obtained through his employer. The district court awarded Plaintiffs benefits, determining that the manner in which Defendants processed Plaintiffs’ claims for coverage violated ERISA. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed: Defendants’ deficient claims processing circumvented the dialogue ERISA mandates between plan participants claiming benefits and the plan administrators processing those benefits claims. The Court disagreed, however, with the district court as to the appropriate remedy for the violations of ERISA’s claims-processing requirements at issue here. "Rather than outright granting Plaintiffs their claimed benefits, we conclude, instead, that Plaintiffs’ claims for benefits should be remanded to Defendants for proper consideration." The case was remanded to the district court with directions to remand Plaintiffs’ benefits claims to Defendants. View "P., et al. v. United Healthcare Insurance, et al." on Justia Law