Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

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The issue on appeal was whether the trial court abused its discretion by relying on an attorney's controverted affidavit to prove bad faith litigation conduct and whether the trial court had before it sufficient evidence to support the trial court's award of attorney fees based on maintaining or defending an action in bad faith. The trial court concluded that Durant H.M.A.'s litigation conduct was "done in bad faith, was oppressive, vexatious and willful," and sanctioned Durant to pay Plaintiff's attorney fees and costs. The Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals reversed the trial court order in its entirety. The Oklahoma Supreme Court previously granted the petition for certiorari, and now vacated the COCA decision and reversed the trial court's granting of attorney fees and costs. "We recognize that the trial court was very familiar with this case which began in June of 2016, and eventually resulted in judgment entered in January of 2018. The trial court was in the best position to evaluate the demeanor and credibility of the parties and counsel over the course of one-and-a-half years. However, based upon the totality of the record, we find that the trial court had insufficient evidence to support an award of attorney fees as a sanction for bad faith litigation conduct and abused its discretion in finding that Durant's actions amounted to bad faith." View "Whittington v. Durant H.M.A." on Justia Law

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Daniel Cole, after a favorable appellate ruling vacating judgment against him, filed this action including claims for malicious prosecution action against Bank of America, N.A. (Bank) and its legal counsel, Shapiro & Cejda, LLC, Kirk J. Cejda, and Lesli J. Peterson (Attorneys). Cole alleged that Bank and Attorneys acted with malice and without probable cause when they filed a foreclosure action against him and obtained judgment for a loan modification agreement defendants knew he had not signed. Cole alleged that not only was the prior foreclosure action spurious; but Bank intentionally or recklessly hid the fact of a subsequent loan modification by Cole's former wife, until after judgment was obtained against him. He further alleged that Bank and Attorneys made false and misleading statements in their summary judgment motion when they withheld their knowledge of the loan modification and provided only a copy of the original note which Cole and his former wife had signed. Cole pointed out that Bank and Attorneys repeatedly misled him as well as the trial court to believe that there was only a single operative note. Cole stated that he prevailed on appeal and the trial court was directed to vacate the judgment against him. On the same day the trial court vacated judgment, Bank filed a dismissal without prejudice stating that "said defendant not being a necessary party herein." Cole claimed he was entitled to recover compensatory damages to include attorney fees, time missed from work, damage to his credit score, as well as emotional distress and punitive damages. A district court dismissed the claims for malicious prosecution; Cole appealed. The Oklahoma Supreme Court held that the original action was terminated in Cole's favor where (1) he succeeded on appeal in vacating judgment; (2) the law of the case established that foreclosure judgment against him was inherently defective; and (3) on remand, bank dismissed Cole from foreclosure action, then amended petition continuing the action against a different party. View "Cole v. Bank of America" on Justia Law

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Defendant violated her joint custody agreement with Petitioner by traveling from Switzerland to the United States with their then-12- year-old daughter, M.D., in July 2020. Petitioner filed a petition seeking M.D.’s return to Switzerland, pursuant to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (the Hague Convention). After an evidentiary hearing on the merits, the district court denied the petition based on the mature child defense, finding that M.D. was of sufficient age and maturity such that the court should take account of her views and that she objected to returning to Switzerland. Petitioner appealed.   The Eighth Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court and remanded the case with directions to grant the petition for the return of M.D. under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The court explained that it agreed with the district court that M.D. is an “innocent party” in this acrimonious dispute. But because M.D. did not express a particularized objection to returning to Switzerland, instead describing a preference—for a variety of understandable reasons—to remain in the United States, the district court’s finding that M.D.’s statements constituted an objection within the meaning of the mature child defense was clearly erroneous. View "Vladyslav Dubikovskyy v. Elena Goun" on Justia Law

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In the 1950s, DuPont began discharging C-8—a “forever” chemical that accumulates in the human body and the environment—into the Ohio River, landfills, and the air surrounding its West Virginia plant. By the 1960s, DuPont learned that C-8 is toxic to animals and, by the 1980s, that it is potentially a human carcinogen. DuPont’s discharges increased until 2000. Evidence subsequently confirmed that C-8 caused several diseases among those drinking the contaminated water. In a class action lawsuit, DuPont promised to treat the affected water and to fund a scientific process concerning the impact of C-8 exposure. A panel of scientists conducted an approximately seven-year epidemiological study of the blood samples and medical records of more than 69,000 affected community members, while the litigation was paused. The settlement limited the claims that could be brought against DuPont based on the study’s determination of which diseases prevalent in the communities were likely linked to C-8 exposure. The resulting cases were consolidated in multidistrict litigation. After two bellwether trials and a post-bellwether trial reached verdicts against DuPont, the parties settled the remaining cases.More class members filed suit when they became sick or discovered the connection between their diseases and C-8. In this case, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the application of collateral estoppel to specific issues that were unanimously resolved in the three prior jury trials, the exclusion of certain evidence based on the initial settlement agreement, and rejection of DuPont’s statute-of-limitations defense.. View "Abbott v. E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co." on Justia Law

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K.I., a minor who lives in Durham, North Carolina, was diagnosed with a variety of learning and psycho-social disorders. Dissatisfied with her school’s response to her request for special education services, K.I. and her mother J.I. asked for and received a hearing under North Carolina’s administrative procedures. Because they disagreed with the hearing decision, K.I. and J.I. tried to appeal it administratively. But their appeal was not considered because K.I. and J.I. did not follow North Carolina’s rules for filing appeals. K.I. and J.I. sued in federal court under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (the “IDEA”). The district court found that K.I. and J.I.’s failure to properly appeal under North Carolina’s administrative rules meant that they had not exhausted their administrative remedies. So, it dismissed the federal action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. K.I. and J.I.’s appeal of that decision.   The Fourth Circuit affirmed. The court held that it agreed with the district court because K.I. and J.I. did not challenge the court’s ruling on the ADA and Section 504 claims; the issue is waived. Second, the court found that the district court correctly analyzed these claims. Both the ADA and Section 504 claims sought relief due to the alleged failure of Durham Public Schools and the State Board to provide a FAPE to K.I. Thus, under Fry, the IDEA’s exhaustion requirement applied to those claims. The court also affirmed the district court in dismissing the ADA and Section 504 claims. View "K.I. v. Durham Public Schools Board" on Justia Law

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Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. owns and operates numerous local television stations. Nexstar acquired KOIN-TV, a local television station in Portland, Oregon, from LIN Television Corporation (LIN). When it acquired KOIN-TV, Nexstar adopted the CBA between Local 51 and LIN. A union representative, began asking employees to sign a petition in support of the union, but a Nexstar manager allegedly interfered with her activities by interrupting her and telling her not to talk about the union or to hand out union bulletins.   Based on a finding that the Regional Director was likely to succeed on the merits of the complaint and applying an inference of likely irreparable harm, the district court granted a preliminary injunction. An administrative law judge ruled in favor of the Regional Director, finding that Nexstar had violated Section 8(a)(1) and (5) of the NLRA. The Board affirmed the ALJ decision and ordered relief for the union. The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court’s order granting a petition of the Regional Director of the National Labor Relations Board (“Board”) for preliminary injunctive relief.   The panel held that a Section 10(j) injunction proceeding is the type of case that is inherently limited in duration because the controversy over the injunction exists only until the Board issues its final merits decision. The panel concluded that the Section 10(j) injunction met the first prong. The panel held that the Section 10(j) injunction also met the exception’s second prong, because there was a reasonable expectation that the complaining party, Nexstar, will be subject to a petition for a Section 10(j) injunction in the future. View "RONALD HOOKS V. NEXSTAR BROADCASTING, INC." on Justia Law

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After Clifford Bufford, an employee of Borbet Alabama, Inc., injured his left arm in a workplace accident, he sued seven of his co-employees claiming that his injury was the result of their willful conduct. The co-employees sought summary judgment, arguing that they were immune from suit under Alabama's Workers' Compensation Act ("the Act") because, they said, there was no evidence to support Bufford's claims. Bufford voluntarily dismissed his claims against all the defendants except the petitioner, maintenance supervisor Jeffrey Varoff. The circuit court then denied Varoff's motion for summary judgment. He petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the trial court to enter judgment in his favor on the basis of the immunity afforded by the Act. We grant the petition and issue the writ. The Supreme Court concurred there was not evidence in the trial court record that would support a finding that Varoff had engaged in willful conduct as that term was described in § 25-5-11(c). The Court held Varoff was immune from liability under § 25-5- 53. Accordingly, the trial court erred by denying Varoff's motion for summary judgment. His petition was therefore granted, and the trial court directed to vacate its order denying Varoff's motion. View "Ex parte Jeffrey Varoff." on Justia Law

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Defendant-petitioner Sunset Digital Communications, Inc. ("Sunset") sought a writ of mandamus to direct an Alabama circuit court vacate its order denying a motion to dismiss the complaint filed by plaintiffs Point Broadband, LLC ("Point Broadband"), and Point Broadband Fiber Holding, LLC ("PBFH") (collectively, "plaintiffs"). In 2018, Sunset and Sunset Fiber, LLC, entered into a "First Amended and Restated Asset Purchase Agreement" ("the APA") with PBFH, which was then known as Sunset Digital Holding, LLC. In 2021, plaintiffs filed a complaint against Sunset seeking a judgment declaring that PBFH was not liable for certain unpaid taxes and penalties; that PBFH did not owe defense or indemnity obligations to Sunset relating to those unpaid taxes; that PBFH did not owe legal fees in connection with any audits or other investigations relating to Sunset's tax liability; and that Sunset owed PBFH defense and indemnity obligations in the event a third party sought to bring a claim or attempted to collect any unpaid taxes from PBFH. Sunset moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b), Ala. R. Civ. P., in which it alleged, among other things, that the APA included a mandatory outbound-forum selection clause that "requires the parties to submit exclusively to the jurisdiction of the United States federal courts or the Virginia state courts located in Bristol, Virginia." In its order denying the motion to dismiss, the trial court stated, in pertinent part: "At issue is if the language ('may') creates a mandatory forum selection clause or clause that consents to jurisdiction. Language such as 'shall' or 'must' would be used in cases where the clause was to be considered mandatory. As this is a consent to jurisdiction clause and not a mandatory one, Alabama Courts have held that imperative language such as 'shall' or 'must' are required to find that the clause is a mandatory one. However, the word 'may' results in language that is much more permissive or rather a 'consent to jurisdiction' clause." Sunset argued the trial court erroneously found that the forum-selection clause in the APA was permissive rather than mandatory. Specifically, it asserted that the trial court "wholly ignored the 'exclusive jurisdiction' language of the forum selection clause." To this the Alabama Supreme Court concurred, granted the writ and directed the trial court to vacate its February 2022 order denying Sunset's motion to dismiss. View "Ex parte Sunset Digital Communications, Inc." on Justia Law

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Milton Turner died on July 25, 2018. On September 20, 2018, Mildred Williamson petitioned for letters of administration of Turner's estate in the probate court. In her petition, Williamson asserted that Turner had died intestate and that Williamson was Turner's only surviving heir. In 2019, Williamson, individually and in her capacity as the personal representative of Turner's estate, entered into a contract agreeing to sell to Matthew Drinkard and Jefferson Dolbare ("the purchasers") real property belonging to the estate for $880,650. The real-estate sales contract specified that the closing of the sale was to occur on or before May 31, 2019. On February 7, 2019, Williamson, individually and in her capacity as personal representative of Turner's estate, executed a deed conveying other real property that was part of Turner's estate to Marcus Hester. On February 13, 2019, Callway Sargent, alleging to be an heir of Turner's, filed a claim of heirship in Turner's estate. Sargent also moved for injunctive relief in which he acknowledged the February 7, 2019, deed, but asserted that Williamson had agreed to sell and had conveyed real property belonging to Turner's estate without the approval of the probate court, and requested that the probate court enjoin "Williamson from engaging in any further administration of [Turner's] estate until so ordered by [the probate court]." Williamson petitioned to have the case removed fro probate to the circuit court. From February 28, 2019, to March 18, 2019, a number of individuals came forward, all claiming to be Turner's heirs. Williamson moved to have the circuit court approve the pending property sales. Williamson and the purchasers did not close on the sale of the property that was the subject of their real-estate sales contract by May 31, 2019, as required by the contract. Some of the purported heirs petitioned the circuit court to stay or vacate the order approving the purchasers contact until matters regarding the heirs was resolved. Drinkard and Dolbare filed a motion to intervene in the proceedings regarding the administration of Turner's estate, but the circuit court denied the motion. The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's denial of the purchasers' motion to intervene in the administration of Turner's estate. View "Drinkard, et al. v. Perry, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, the developer of a solar electric generation facility and the owner of the project site, appealed the dismissal of their complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief against the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR). Plaintiffs sought a ruling that two guidance documents and a plant-classification system created by ANR were unlawful and therefore could not be relied upon by ANR or the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in determining whether to issue a certificate of public good for a proposed facility under 30 V.S.A. § 248. The civil division granted ANR’s motion to dismiss plaintiffs’ claims, concluding that the guidance documents and classification system were not rules and did not have the force of law, and that the proper forum to challenge the policies was in the PUC proceeding. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Otter Creek Solar, LLC, et al. v. Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, et al." on Justia Law