Justia U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Civil Procedure
Vanessa Dundon v. Kyle Kirchmeier
This appeal arises from a protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline at the Backwater Bridge in Morton County, North Dakota. Police officers deployed water, tear gas, rubber bullets, and bean bags to disperse a crowd. Plaintiffs participated in the protest, and they were allegedly injured by the officers’ use of force. The protestors sued Morton County, the City of Mandan, Stutsman County, the law enforcement chiefs for those municipalities, and one hundred unnamed officers. The district court* granted summary judgment for Defendants. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that it was not clearly established in November 2016 that the officers’ use of force to disperse protestors violated a constitutional right under the Fourth Amendment. Thus, the need for training and supervision on dispersal of protestors was not so obvious that it can be characterized as deliberate indifference to the protestors’ rights to be free from unreasonable seizures. Further, the court explained that as with the municipalities, there is insufficient evidence here of deliberate indifference by supervisors where the alleged constitutional right was not clearly established. View "Vanessa Dundon v. Kyle Kirchmeier" on Justia Law
Tumey, LLP v. Mycroft AI, Inc.
Tod T. Tumey and Tumey, LLP (collectively, “Tumey”) commenced this action in 2021, alleging that Mycroft AI, Inc., engaged in harassment of Tumey, including through “online hacking, phishing, identity theft, and other cyberattacks.” In May 2021, Tumey contacted an M.L. to inquire about employing him as an expert witness in the case. Tumey emailed M.L. a copy of their Complaint against Mycroft, after which Tumey’s counsel and M.L. had a forty-to-sixty-minute conference call to discuss the nature of the case and potential expert work involved. Tumey never executed the engagement letter and did not retain M.L. Mycroft designated M.L. as their expert witness, and Tumey moved to disqualify the expert on grounds of a conflict of interest. The district court denied Tumey’s motion to disqualify M.L. Plaintiffs appealed the district court’s denial of their motion. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that in denying Plaintiff’s motion to disqualify the expert, the district court held that the facts “do not favor a finding that a confidential relationship existed” between Plaintiffs and the expert witness that would give rise to a conflict of interest. The court explained that the district court found that Tumey’s lack of concrete examples failed to show they shared confidential information with M.L. Similarly, the court found that Plaintiffs have failed to show the court that the district court clearly erred in finding that no conflict of interest existed. View "Tumey, LLP v. Mycroft AI, Inc." on Justia Law
Janice Washington v. City of St. Louis, Missouri
Plaintiff’s son spent several months at a medium-security facility in St. Louis called “the Workhouse.” None of the guards saw Plaintiff’s son receive or take fentanyl, the drug that killed him. Inmates tried to help by rubbing ice on him once he lost consciousness. Upon arriving a few minutes later, three Officers radioed for medical assistance. In the meantime, rather than try to resuscitate Plaintiff’s son themselves, they stood by and watched as two inmates tried to help him. When trained medical personnel finally arrived four minutes later, it was too late: they were unable to revive Plaintiff’s son, who died from an overdose. Surveillance footage captured some, but not all, of these events. Plaintiff’s mother sued the City of St. Louis, the three responding officers, and two supervisors for their deliberate indifference. The district court denied summary judgment to the responding officers. The Eighth Circuit vacated and remanded. The court held that the district court misstated the burden and relied on allegations from an unverified complaint to deny summary judgment. The court wrote that the district court erred in how it dealt with the gaps in the video footage. Instead of relying on other evidence to fill in the missing details, the findings mirrored what the plaintiff’s unverified complaint said. The court wrote that unsworn allegations are no substitute for evidence at summary judgment. The court explained that the district court tilted the scales too far in the Plaintiff’s favor by raising the summary-judgment burden on the officers and allowing unsworn allegations to rebut evidence. View "Janice Washington v. City of St. Louis, Missouri" on Justia Law
Breadeaux’s Pisa, LLC v. Beckman Bros. Ltd.
Breadeaux’s Pisa, LLC (“Breadeaux”) initiated this action against its franchisee, Beckman Bros. Ltd. (“Main Street Pizza”), in federal court seeking a preliminary injunction, a permanent injunction, and a declaratory judgment. After litigating its preliminary injunction, mediating, and participating in discovery proceedings, Breadeaux filed a demand for arbitration in which it sought to relitigate its preliminary injunction and avoid the court’s adverse discovery rulings. Breadeaux then moved to stay all proceedings pending completion of arbitration. The district court denied Breadeaux’s motion. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that Section 3’s stay provision is mandatory when “the issue involved in such suit or proceeding is referable to arbitration” under a valid arbitration agreement. 9 U.S.C. Section 3. The court wrote that it is unpersuaded by Breadeaux’s assertion that the only reasonable reading of the arbitration provision in the Agreement is that all claims or disputes, besides Breadeaux’s equitable claims, must be arbitrated. Additionally, Breadeaux elected to enforce the Agreement by judicial process, not through mediation and arbitration. Under these circumstances, Breadeaux’s claims are not referable. View "Breadeaux's Pisa, LLC v. Beckman Bros. Ltd." on Justia Law
Adrianna Beckler v. Rent Recovery Solutions, LLC
Debt collector Rent Recovery Solutions (“RRS”) called Plaintiff to collect an alleged $900 debt to her former landlord. In June, without sending the relevant documents to Plaintiff, RRS reported her debt to TransUnion, a credit reporting agency, failing to tell TransUnion that the debt was disputed. Plaintiff commenced this action against RRS, alleging that it violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”). Plaintiff requested an award of $18,810 in attorneys’ fees for work by two attorneys and a paralegal. RRS challenged the fees requested by both attorneys, who submitted sworn declarations and detailed billing records. The district court, applying the lodestar method of calculating an attorney fee award, found that the attorneys’ claimed hourly rates were reasonable, but the hours expended on the case were excessive. The court reduced the claimed attorney hours by fifty percent, exclusive of paralegal work, and awarded Plaintiff $9,480 in attorneys’ fees. Plaintiff’s attorneys accused the district court of departing from the lodestar calculation by imposing a “cap” that violates FDCPA policies and deprives counsel of full compensation for bringing consumer enforcement actions under this complex federal statute. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the district court followed the lodestar method, reducing the award based on its determination of the number of attorney hours reasonably expended on litigation. There is a “strong presumption” that the lodestar method represents a reasonable fee. The court wrote that the district court did not abuse its substantial discretion in finding that fifty hours was unreasonable for such a claim. View "Adrianna Beckler v. Rent Recovery Solutions, LLC" on Justia Law
Stephanie Gasca v. Anne Precythe
Parolees sued the Missouri Department of Corrections (MDOC), claiming that its parole revocation system violated the Due Process Clause. Recognizing the system’s flaws, MDOC rewrote its policies and consented to summary judgment. Later, MDOC moved to dismiss for failure to join a required party—the Missouri Public Defender Commission (Commission). The district court denied MDOC’s motion and held a hearing to determine whether MDOC’s revised policies satisfied due process. Finding additional problems, the district court issued a remedy order instructing MDOC to make changes. The Eighth Circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. The court explained that the state must hold a revocation hearing “within a reasonable time after the parolee is taken into custody.” The court wrote that MDOC has a policy requiring a revocation hearing within 30 days, but it does not always follow that policy. The district court ordered MDOC to follow its 30-day policy. The court wrote that because it has held that longer delays may be reasonable in some cases, the remedy is not tailored to the violation and was an abuse of discretion. View "Stephanie Gasca v. Anne Precythe" on Justia Law
Parents Defending Education v. LinnMar Community School Dist., et al
Parents Defending Education, an association of parents, brought this action to challenge a policy adopted by the Linn Mar Community School District in Iowa. The disputed policy is entitled “Administrative Regulations Regarding Transgender and Students Nonconforming to Gender Role Stereotypes.” The policy sets forth regulations for the District that “address the needs of transgender students, gender-expansive students, nonbinary, gender nonconforming students, and students questioning their gender to ensure a safe, affirming, and healthy school environment where every student can learn effectively.” The parents who seek to participate in this case are anonymous; the pleadings identify them by a letter of the alphabet. The district court determined that Parents Defending failed to establish Article III standing because the organization did not show injury, causation, or redressability on its claims. The Eighth Circuit dismissed the appeal in part as moot and reversed on one claim. The court concluded that at least Parent G has alleged an injury in fact sufficient to confer Article III standing. Parent G asserts that her son wants to “state his belief that biological sex is immutable.” Because of the policy, however, Parent G states that her son remains silent in school “when gender identity topics arise” to avoid violating the policy. This student’s proposed activity “concerns political speech” and is “arguably affected with a constitutional interest.” Thus, Parent G has standing to bring a claim challenging the policy based on the First Amendment. Therefore, Parents Defending has standing as an association to pursue the claim on behalf of a member. View "Parents Defending Education v. LinnMar Community School Dist., et al" on Justia Law
Michael Lindell v. United States
MyPillow, Inc. and Chief Executive Officer Michael Lindell (collectively, “Lindell”) appealed the district court’s denial of their motions for a preliminary injunction and for the return of property—Lindell’s cell phone that was seized by federal agents on September 13, 2022. The basis of Lindell’s action arises from an ongoing federal investigation into the individuals responsible for publishing forensic images of election software used in the 2020 election in Mesa County, Colorado. He argued on appeal that the federal investigation violates his First Amendment rights of freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of the press, and the right to petition for the redress of grievances. He also contended the search warrant for his phone violates the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against general warrants. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of Lindell’s motion for a preliminary injunction. The court reversed the district court’s decision not to exercise equitable jurisdiction over Lindell’s motion for the return of property as it relates to the continued retention of the cell phone itself and all its data. The court explained that it is unable to determine from the record whether the government can reasonably justify its continued refusal to return Lindell’s cell phone, which at this point was seized nearly a year ago, or the data on it, which is entirely unrelated to the offenses the government is investigating. Accordingly, the court remanded for the district court to hold a prompt hearing and balance the government’s interest in retaining Lindell’s cell phone and all its data against Lindell’s right to get the property back. View "Michael Lindell v. United States" on Justia Law
United States ex rel. Kenneth Kraemer v. United Dairies, L.L.P.
Kenneth Kraemer and Kraemer Farms, LLC (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) commenced this qui tam action under the False Claims Act (“FCA”), against United Dairies, other dairy farms, and their partners and agents (“Defendants”) alleging that they knowingly filed false crop insurance claims. Plaintiffs’ FCA Complaint alleged that Defendants (1) fraudulently obtained crop insurance payments by falsely reporting a silage-use-only variety of corn as grain and using that false statement to obtain the payments, and (2) were unjustly enriched by receiving the payments. The district court held that Defendants submitted materially false claims but denied Plaintiffs FCA relief because they failed to prove that Defendants knowingly defrauded the United States. However, the court found that certain Defendants had been unjustly enriched and awarded damages to the United States. The United States then filed a post-trial motion urging the district court to vacate or amend its judgment because Plaintiffs do not have standing to seek common law unjust enrichment relief on behalf of the United States. The district court granted the motion and vacated its judgment for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the dismissal of Plaintiffs’ FCA claims must be affirmed even if Plaintiffs are correct that the district court erred in ruling that any violations were not knowing. The court wrote that because it concludes that Defendants in submitting Acreage Reporting Forms supporting their crop insurance applications did not submit materially false claims for crop insurance payments, Plaintiffs contention -the district court applied the wrong legal standard in denying FCA relief on other grounds is of no moment. View "United States ex rel. Kenneth Kraemer v. United Dairies, L.L.P." on Justia Law
Elijah Wells v. Creighton Preparatory School
Creighton Preparatory School expelled Plaintiff after he made lewd remarks about a teacher. Plaintiff sued Creighton under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 on the theory that the school had discriminated against him by failing to perform an “adequate and impartial investigation.” The district court granted Creighton’s motion to dismiss. It first dismissed the Title IX claim because Plaintiff had failed to “allege [that] his sex played any part in the disciplinary process at all.” Then, with the federal question gone, it declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s breach-of-contract claim.The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that Plaintiff does not allege that Creighton faced external pressure to punish male students, much less gave in by expelling him. The court reasoned that without an allegation of that kind, the complaint fails to plausibly allege the sort of “causal connection between the flawed outcome and gender bias” required to make an erroneous outcome theory work.Further, the court wrote that treating men and women differently can support an inference of sex discrimination, but it requires identifying a similarly situated member of the opposite sex who has been “treated more favorably.” For Plaintiff, he had to find “a female accused of sexual harassment” who received better treatment. There are no female students at Creighton, an all-boys school, let alone any who have faced sexual-misconduct allegations. The court explained that to the extent that Plaintiff argues that believing them over him raises an inference of discrimination, there is nothing alleged that the school did so because of his sex. View "Elijah Wells v. Creighton Preparatory School" on Justia Law