Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision to abstain from a suit arising out of the collapse of Thomas Petters' massive Ponzi scheme, because the case before the district court was duplicative of the case before the other federal court. While the district court appropriately invoked its discretion to abstain, the district court should have stayed the action rather than dismiss it. Accordingly, the court vacated the judgment dismissing the action and remanded for further proceedings. View "Ritchie Capital Management LLC v. BMO Harris Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant Christopher Klick was seriously injured after suffering carbon monoxide poisoning while aboard a friend’s fishing boat. An exhaust pipe had broken off at the spot where it connected with the engine. As a result, the engine had been expelling carbon monoxide gas into the engine compartment rather than through the exhaust pipe and out behind the boat. When the engine compartment hatch from within the wheelhouse was opened, carbon monoxide flowed up into the wheelhouse. Klick quickly lost consciousness and fell into the engine compartment. He awoke there several hours later, severely burned from lying on the engine. He also suffered brain damage from the carbon monoxide. The gas killed the boat’s two other occupants, but Klick survived. Klick sued the boat dealer in state court. The dealer had an insurance policy from Travelers Property Casualty Company of America that required Travelers to pay for liabilities resulting from bodily injury. The policy, however, had a pollution exclusion providing that the policy did not cover liability for injuries arising out of the release, dispersal, or migration of certain pollutants. Travelers sued in federal court, seeking a declaration that the policy did not cover liability for Klick’s injuries. The district court granted summary judgment for Travelers. We conclude that the pollution exclusion applies, and we therefore affirm. View "Travelers Property Casualty v. Klick" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant David Hosea sued two City of Saint Paul police officers following what he contended was an unlawful arrest and use of excessive force. Officers responded to a 911 hang-up call, and arrested appellant at the scene. The Officers’ motion for summary judgment was granted based on qualified immunity. On appeal, Hosea argued that the officers were not entitled to qualified immunity on his unlawful-arrest claim because the officers did not have arguable probable cause to arrest him for either obstruction of legal process or domestic assault. Also, Hosea argued that the officers were not entitled to qualified immunity on his excessive-force claim because he did not commit a crime in the officers’ presence, he did not pose a threat to the safety of the officers or others, he was not resisting arrest, the officers failed to identify themselves, and he started complying before the officers exerted force. After review of the trial court record, and finding no reversible error, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment. View "Hosea v. City of St. Paul" on Justia Law

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Clyde Carter, Jr. injured his shoulder and neck while working as a carman at BNSF Railway Company’s yard in Kansas City, Kansas. Carter immediately reported the injury to BNSF. The following year, he filed a Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) damage action, alleging that BNSF’s negligence caused his injury. BNSF’s discovery in defending the FELA lawsuit included a July 2009 deposition of Carter. In January 2012, as trial approached, a BNSF manager reviewed discovery materials provided by BNSF’s attorneys. He discovered discrepancies between Carter’s deposition testimony and information provided on his employment application and medical questionnaire submitted to BNSF in 2005. Thompson initiated a disciplinary investigation into potentially dishonest statements. Later, BNSF opened a second disciplinary investigation to determine if Carter signed a false statement that he arrived at work on time on February 5, 2012. The investigations culminated in two "on-property" evidentiary hearings, the conclusions of which found Carter committed dishonesty violations and recommended discipline in accordance with BNSF’s Policy for Employee Performance Accountability (PEPA). It was recommended Carter be terminated for dishonesty, a "stand alone" violation that could result in dismissal without regard to an employee's prior disciplinary history. Following termination, Carter filed an FRSA complaint with the Department of Labor, alleging that BNSF initiated the investigations leading to his dismissal in retaliation for Carter reporting the August 2007 work-related injury. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration dismissed Carter’s complaint, finding he committed the violations, and BNSF proved by clear and convincing evidence that "other employees who had not engaged in protected activity have been dismissed from service for dishonesty." Carter filed objections. After an evidentiary hearing, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) found that BNSF violated 49 U.S.C. 20109(a)(4) and awarded reinstatement, back pay, attorneys’ fees, and $50,000 punitive damages. BNSF filed an administrative appeal. The Secretary’s Administrative Review Board (ARB) affirmed the ALJ. BNSF appealed. The Eighth Circuit found the ALJ's reasoning was based on a flawed interpretation of the FRSA; though the Administrative Review Board did not rely on the ALJ's chain-of-events causation theory, it affirmed based on findings which were either non-existent or insufficient to support the Board's contributing factor and affirmative defense rulings. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded with instructions. View "BNSF Railway Co. v. LABR" on Justia Law

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After Enerplus mistakenly overpaid mineral royalties to defendant and demanded repayment, defendant filed suit in tribal court. Enerplus then filed suit in federal court, seeking the return of the excess funds and a declaration that the tribal court lacked jurisdiction over the dispute. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision to preliminarily enjoin defendant from proceeding with his case in tribal court. In this case, the contracting parties agreed that any disputes arising under the settlement agreement would be resolved in federal district court. Therefore, defendant could not bring suit arising from or related to the settlement agreement in the tribal court based on the forum selection clause. The court rejected defendant's bare assertion that Enerplus lacked standing to enforce the forum selection clause. View "Enerplus Resources (USA) Corp. v. Wilkinson" on Justia Law

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Jeannie Vanette Hill Thomas appealed the district court's denial of her motion to intervene in Connie Jean Smith's class action against appellees, based on her interest in adequacy of representation by the class representative and class counsel. The Eighth Circuit held that the district court's determination on this question was final, and the district court's rationale for denying the motion was inadequate. Accordingly, the court remanded for further consideration. The court dismissed for lack of jurisdiction the portion of Thomas's appeal that was based on her interest in the adequacy of notice and opt-out procedures for the class. View "Smith v. SEECO, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit found no violation of Fed. R. Civ. P. 11 or abuse of the judicial process in this consolidated appeal involving parties in a putative action. The court held that counsel did not violate Rule 41 in stipulating to the dismissal of the action and counsel had at least a colorable legal argument that the district court’s approval was not needed under Rule 23(e) to voluntarily dismiss the claims of the putative class. Therefore, the district court abused its discretion in finding that counsel acted with an improper purpose under Rule 11 and abused the judicial process by stipulating to the dismissal of the federal action for the purpose of seeking a more favorable forum and avoiding an adverse decision. Consequently, the district court also abused its discretion in imposing sanctions upon plaintiffs' counsel for the purported violation. The court reversed the district court's orders and remanded for further proceedings. View "Castleberry v. USAA" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Inter-State, seeking damages from injuries that he sustained when an Inter-State vehicle hit his pickup truck and trailer in Missouri. A jury awarded plaintiff $4.5 damages. The Eighth Circuit affirmed and held that the district court had subject matter jurisdiction because the parties were completely diverse. The court upheld the award and denied remittitur because, with both economic and non-economic damages included in the general award, the total was not monstrous, shocking, or grossly excessive. View "Eckerberg v. Inter-State Studio, etc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against CitiMortgage in state court, seeking an order setting aside the deed from a foreclosure sale and enforcing a modified loan. Freddie Mac intervened. The district court held that plaintiff's claims were all time-barred by the applicable five-year statute of limitations and subsequently entered summary judgment to CitiMortgage. The Eighth Circuit reversed and held that the statute of limitations on plaintiff's claims only started running when a reasonable person would have been put on notice that an injury and substantial damages may have occurred and would have undertaken to ascertain the extent of the damages. In this case, by all indications, until plaintiff tried to sell the house, everything seemed to be in order with the title underlying his mortgage. View "White v. CitiMortgage, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit challenging the Forest Service's determination that an 85-fold increase in predicted drilling in the Ozark–St. Francis National Forests did not require a "correction, supplement, or revision" to the original environmental analysis. The Eighth Circuit dismissed the suit based on lack of jurisdiction, holding that plaintiffs failed to identify any particular member who stands to be harmed by the government action it challenges, and that plaintiffs lack a concrete interest in this dispute. View "Ozark Society v. United States Forest Service" on Justia Law