Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

by
Rotkiske accumulated credit card debt in 2003-2005, which his bank referred to Klemm for collection. Klemm sued for payment in March 2008 and attempted service at an address where Rotkiske no longer lived but withdrew its suit when it was unable to locate him. Klemm tried again in January 2009, refiling its suit and attempting service at the same address. Unbeknownst to Rotkiske, somebody at that residence accepted service on his behalf. Klemm obtained a default judgment. Rotkiske discovered the judgment when he applied for a mortgage in September 2014. In June 2015, Rotkiske sued under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. 1692 . The district court dismissed the suit as untimely, rejecting Rotkiske’s argument that the Act’s statute of limitations incorporates a discovery rule which “delays the beginning of a limitations period until the plaintiff knew of or should have known of his injury.” The text at issue reads: An action to enforce any liability created by this subchapter may be brought . . . within one year from the date on which the violation occurs, section 1692k(d). The Third Circuit affirmed, based on the statutory text. Congress’s explicit choice of an occurrence rule implicitly excludes a discovery rule. View "Rotkiske v. Klemm" on Justia Law

by
Little Sisters of the Poor, a Roman Catholic congregation serving the elderly poor of all backgrounds, operates homes for the elderly, all of which adhere to the same religious beliefs. A religious nonprofit corporation that operates a Little Sisters home in Pittsburgh sought to intervene in litigation challenging regulations promulgated under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, 42 U.S.C. 300gg-13(a)(4). That litigation was instituted by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, challenging interim final rules, providing for “religious” and “moral “ exemptions to the Act's "contraceptive mandate" for “entities, and individuals, with sincerely held religious beliefs objecting to contraceptive or sterilization coverage,” including “for-profit entities that are not closely-held.” The Third Circuit reversed the denial of their motion. Little Sisters’ interest in the regulations is neither novel nor isolated; it has been involved in Affordable Care Act litigation for years. Little Sisters’ interest in preserving the religious exemption is concrete and capable of definition; the relationships among the organization's various homes indicate a unique interest compared to other religious objectors who might wish to intervene. Those interests are significantly protectable. Little Sisters have demonstrated that they may be “practically disadvantaged by the disposition of the action” and have established that their interests are not adequately represented by the federal government. View "Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. President United States" on Justia Law

by
GBForefront, a limited partnership, sued FMG, an LLC, alleging diversity jurisdiction (28 U.S.C. 1332) because GBForefront’s general partner was an LLC whose sole member was a “resident” of Pennsylvania; none of FMG’s members were Pennsylvania residents. Years later, GBForefront accepted an offer of judgment. The district court entered judgment. Problems arose with satisfaction of the judgment; the parties submitted a joint motion to amend the judgment to effectuate a new agreement, which the court granted. GBForefront soon alleged default and moved for entry of a consent judgment under the new agreement. Defendants then cross-moved to dismiss the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, claiming that GBForefront had not adequately pled the citizenship of FMG and that complete diversity was lacking when the lawsuit was filed. The Supreme Court then issued its opinion in Americold Realty, dealing with the citizenship of trusts. The district court then dismissed, finding that the membership of GBForefront included trusts whose beneficiaries were New Jersey citizens and FMG also had a member who was a New Jersey citizen. Abrogating its own precedent, the Third Circuit vacated, concluding that the citizenship of a traditional trust is based only on the citizenship of its trustee. The court remanded with instructions to determine whether the trusts are of the traditional or business variety and whether there is diversity jurisdiction. View "GBForefront LP v. Forefront Management Group LLC" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs sued on behalf of a proposed nationwide class of individuals who “owned, own, or acquired” structures on which Owens Corning's "Oakridge" fiberglass asphalt roofing shingles roofing shingles are or have been installed since 1986, claiming that the shingles were “plagued by design flaws that result in cracking, curling and degranulation” and “will eventually fail, causing property damage, and costing consumers substantial removal and replacement costs.” The district court rejected the suit on summary judgment, finding that the claims had been discharged in bankruptcy. The Third Circuit partially reversed. After the case was remanded, others filed similar suits in district courts in other states, which were transferred for consolidation. Plaintiffs proposed two classes: property owners from four states, asserting various state-law claims, and a nationwide class seeking a ruling regarding the legal standard governing whether Owens Corning can use a bankruptcy discharge defense. The Third Circuit affirmed the denial of class certification. The Nationwide Class cannot satisfy Rule 23(a)’s commonality requirement because the only common question it poses can be answered only by an advisory opinion, which is forbidden by Article III. The Four-State Class cannot satisfy Rule 23(b)(3)’s predominance requirement. Plaintiffs did not allege a defect common to the class that might be proved by classwide evidence. View "Gonzalez v. Owens Corning" on Justia Law

by
Paladino, a New Jersey State Prison inmate, filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 civil rights action against prison employees alleging a number of constitutional claims. The district court granted summary judgment on many of his claims, finding that he failed to exhaust administrative remedies, as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995. The Third Circuit affirmed with respect to most of Paladino’s claims but vacated with respect to Paladino’s excessive force claim based on an alleged 2010 assault, finding a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether he exhausted that claim because there was a conflict between the prison’s records and Paladino’s deposition testimony. Some type of notice and an opportunity to respond are needed before a district court elects to decide factual disputes regarding exhaustion. View "Paladino v. Newsome" on Justia Law

by
The Sauter Estate filed a complaint in the Southern District of New York against Citigroup, Banamex and Banamex U.S.A., seeking information pertaining to Sauter’s accounts. The Estate's amended complaint added Grupo as a defendant and added a claim for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act Infractions, 18 U.S.C. 1961-1968. After defendants moved to dismiss, the Estate filed a notice of voluntary withdrawal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(1)(A)(i). The defendants unsuccessfully moved to vacate that notice and to dismiss with prejudice and requested sanctions under 28 U.S.C. 1927 and the court’s “inherent powers to impose sanctions as a deterrent against continued vexatious litigation." The court noted that the Federal Rules provide safeguards in case the plaintiff commences a second action, including ordering plaintiff to pay all of defendants’ costs and fees in the dismissed action, Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(a)(1)(B)(d). The Estate subsequently filed a complaint in the Delaware District Court, naming only Citigroup. Citigroup moved for costs, including attorneys’ fees, under Rule 41(d). The district court granted the motion for costs but concluded that because the plain language of Rule 41(d) does not provide for an award of attorneys’ fees. The Third Circuit affirmed. Attorneys’ fees may only be awarded as “costs” under Rule 41(d) when the substantive statute under which the lawsuit was filed defines costs to include attorneys’ fees; no such statute is involved here. View "Garza v. Citigroup Inc" on Justia Law

by
The Sauter Estate filed a complaint in the Southern District of New York against Citigroup, Banamex and Banamex U.S.A., seeking information pertaining to Sauter’s accounts. The Estate's amended complaint added Grupo as a defendant and added a claim for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act Infractions, 18 U.S.C. 1961-1968. After defendants moved to dismiss, the Estate filed a notice of voluntary withdrawal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(1)(A)(i). The defendants unsuccessfully moved to vacate that notice and to dismiss with prejudice and requested sanctions under 28 U.S.C. 1927 and the court’s “inherent powers to impose sanctions as a deterrent against continued vexatious litigation." The court noted that the Federal Rules provide safeguards in case the plaintiff commences a second action, including ordering plaintiff to pay all of defendants’ costs and fees in the dismissed action, Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(a)(1)(B)(d). The Estate subsequently filed a complaint in the Delaware District Court, naming only Citigroup. Citigroup moved for costs, including attorneys’ fees, under Rule 41(d). The district court granted the motion for costs but concluded that because the plain language of Rule 41(d) does not provide for an award of attorneys’ fees. The Third Circuit affirmed. Attorneys’ fees may only be awarded as “costs” under Rule 41(d) when the substantive statute under which the lawsuit was filed defines costs to include attorneys’ fees; no such statute is involved here. View "Garza v. Citigroup Inc" on Justia Law

by
Panico, a New Jersey resident, incurred substantial debt on an MBNA credit card, which qualifie as “debt” under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692a(5). MBNA assigned the rights to the debt to PRA, a debt collector. PRA’s collection efforts failed. In 2014, more than three but fewer than six years after the cause of action accrued, PRA sued. New Jersey’s statute of limitations barred collection ofsuch debts after six years; Delaware’s statute proscribed collection of such debts after three years. The credit agreement provided for application of “the laws of ... Delaware, without regard to its conflict of laws principles, and by any applicable federal laws.” PRA agreed to a stipulated dismissal. In 2015, Panico filed a putative class action under the FDCPA, arguing that PRA had sought to collect on a time-barred debt. The district court granted PRA summary judgment, finding that a Delaware tolling statute prevented the Delaware statute of limitations from running as to a party residing outside that state during the credit relationship, default, collections attempts, and ensuing litigation. The Third Circuit reversed. Delaware’s tolling statute has been interpreted as abrogating its statute of limitations only as to defendants not otherwise subject to service of process; it was not intended to export the state’s tolling statute into out-of-state forums and to substantially limit the application of the Delaware statute of limitations. View "Panico v. Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC" on Justia Law

by
In 2014, Super Bowl XLVIII was held at New Jersey's MetLife Stadium. Finkelman alleges that the NFL has a policy of withholding 99% of Super Bowl tickets from the general public; 75% of the withheld tickets are split among NFL teams and 25% of tickets are for companies, broadcast networks, media sponsors, the host committee, and other “league insiders.” The 1% of tickets for public purchase are sold through a lottery system. A person has to enter by the deadline, be selected as a winner, and choose to actually purchase a ticket. Finkelman purchased tickets on the secondary market for $2,000 per ticket, although these tickets had a face value of $800 each. He did not enter the lottery to seek tickets offered at face value but filed a putative class action under New Jersey’s Ticket Law, N.J. Stat. 56:8-35.1: It shall be an unlawful practice for a person, who has access to tickets to an event prior to the tickets’ release for sale to the general public, to withhold those tickets from sale to the general public in an amount exceeding 5% of all available seating. The Third Circuit concluded that Finkelman had standing based on the plausible economic facts he pleaded, but deferred action on the merits pending decision by the Supreme Court of New Jersey on a pending petition for certification of questions of state law. View "Finkelman v. National Football League" on Justia Law

by
Wellman, a Butler Area high school, freshman suffered head injuries while playing flag football in a physical education class, during football practice, and during a game. Despite a concussion diagnosis and requests from Wellman’s mother and doctor, the school refused to provide any accommodation. A CT scan revealed post-concussive syndrome. The school was unresponsive. Wellman received homebound instruction through his sophomore year. The school denied Wellman an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). For junior year, he enrolled in private school, from which he graduated. Wellman filed a due process complaint with the Pennsylvania Department of Education. In a settlement, Wellman released the District from all claims which could have been pursued under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400; the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); or any other statute. Wellman then filed suit under the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 794, the ADA, 42 U.S.C. 12132, and 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging equal protection violations. The Third Circuit remanded for dismissal with prejudice, citing the Supreme Court’s 2017 "Fry" opinion, which requires that courts consider the “gravamen” of the complaint to determine whether a plaintiff seeks relief for denial of the IDEA’s core guarantee of a free and appropriate education (FAPE); if so, then the plaintiff must exhaust his IDEA administrative remedies. Wellman released all claims based on the denial of a FAPE and has no claims to exhaust. View "Wellman v. Butler Area School District" on Justia Law