Justia U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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Plaintiffs filed suit against Hardee's after their six-year-old son was electrocuted by an exposed, electrified wire at one of defendant's restaurants and died. Hardee's moved for dismissal based on the doctrine of forum non conveniens, which the district court granted.The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal, concluding that, although its sister circuits take varying approaches to timeliness, under either approach, Hardee's filed a motion that was sufficiently untimely to warrant reversal. In this case, for 18 months, Hardee's knew the essential facts supporting its motion to dismiss. The court explained that the assertion that Missouri is an inconvenient forum for Hardee's rings hollow because of its long delay in filing its motion to dismiss based on forum non conveniens. The court concluded that, under these facts, the motion should have been filed earlier than 18 months after plaintiffs filed their complaint and earlier than the end of the discovery period prior to trial. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Hersh v. CKE Restaurants Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit granted the petition for writ of mandamus directing the district court to reinstate petitioner's demand for a jury trial. In this case, the United States filed suit against petitioner and her ex-husband seeking an avoidance of allegedly fraudulent transfers of funds, claiming that petitioner received assets from her spouse through a "sham divorce." The court concluded that petitioner has no other adequate means to attain the relief desired; petitioner has a clear and indisputable right to a jury trial; and the remedy sought is at least partially legal. Accordingly, the court directed the district court to reinstate petitioner's demand for a jury trial. View "In re: Lorraine Brazile" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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After plaintiff purchased licenses for RCI non-thermal, pulverizing, and drying system technology (PAD), he alleged that the capabilities of the PAD System were misrepresented to him. Two federal law suits were filed, one in Iowa and one in Missouri.In this consolidated appeal, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the Iowa judgment, rejecting RCI's argument that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law because the jury awarded no compensatory damages. The court concluded that punitive damages were recoverable under Iowa law because the jury necessarily found that plaintiff suffered actual damages when it found fraudulent misrepresentation. Furthermore, the jury could award punitive damages without an award of compensatory damages, and the punitive award was not unconstitutionally excessive. The court also concluded that plaintiff is not entitled to equitable relief and the district court neither erred or abused its discretion as to plaintiff's equitable counterclaims. Finally, the court found that the method used and reasons given by the district court for the reduction in costs were well within its discretion, and the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding attorney fees.The court remanded the Missouri judgment for further proceedings, concluding that the district court erred by applying federal law, rather than Iowa law, to determine whether plaintiff's claim was precluded. The district court also erred by determining that Missouri law on the economic loss doctrine would bar plaintiff's misrepresentation claims. The court also noted that plaintiff's conspiracy claim should be reinstated and the district court's attorneys' fee award to Resource as the prevailing party is set aside. View "Dunne v. Resource Converting, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, Arkansas prisoners who are or were on death row for capital murder convictions, filed suit alleging that Arkansas's method of execution violated the Eighth Amendment. In an effort to obtain the necessary information about the existence of known and available alternatives that would significantly reduce a substantial risk of severe pain, they served subpoenas on several state correctional departments, including the NDCS. After the NDCS objected, the district court determined that the Eleventh Amendment did not categorically bar the subpoena. NDCS appealed. While the appeal was pending, the Arkansas district court dismissed the inmates' suit and the Nebraska Supreme Court ordered public disclosure of the documents.The Eighth Circuit held that this case has been rendered moot where there is no effective relief that the court could grant because the materials at issue are already public. The court explained that requiring the return or destruction of the subpoenaed documents would provide no effective relief, and the court declined to do either. Finally, no exception to the mootness doctrine is applicable here. View "McGehee v. Nebraska Department of Correctional Services" on Justia Law

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This case arose from an ongoing dispute about whether plaintiffs had a contractual obligation to provide PS Finance with certain payments that plaintiffs received on behalf of a client.The Eighth Circuit held that the district court properly dismissed the claims against PS Finance based on the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. In this case, plaintiffs brought these claims in Arkansas after the New York court already ruled that whether plaintiffs owe money to PS Finance is a matter subject to arbitration. The court explained that, by proceeding with the claims in the district court, plaintiffs necessarily asked the federal court to review and reject the New York court's ruling that claims concerning amounts owed under the contract must be resolved in arbitration. View "Parker Law Firm v. The Travelers Indemnity Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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Aspen agreed to pay FBR, an investment banking firm, 1.25 percent of the aggregate consideration paid to Aspen’s shareholders in the event of an acquisition or merger. Markel subsequently became the parent of Aspen and agreed to pay Aspen shareholders $135,700,000 in cash plus additional compensation based on the future value of Aspen’s business. FBR provided a fairness opinion and received 1.25 percent of the cash consideration. Aspen shareholders obtained “contingent value rights” to the additional compensation (CVR Holders) and challenged Markel’s valuation of the CVRs. The Delaware District Court has not yet issued a valuation opinion. FBR indicated its intent to claim 1.25 percent of the additional compensation.The CVR Holders sought a declaratory judgment that FBR is not entitled to further payment. FBR removed to the District of Nebraska, which dismissed the action because the CVR Holders failed to establish Article III standing. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. While the Holders' contract-based claims to a share of the additional compensation may be a legally protected interest, they have not suffered an injury that is concrete and particularized and actual or imminent. The final amount of the additional compensation has not been determined; no payments have been made. The Holders' only injury in fact is not fairly attributable to FBR asserting a competing claim, and cannot be redressed at this time by the judicial decision they seek. The additional compensation will be paid by Markel, a non-party. View "Yeransian v. B. Riley & Co., LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against various officials of an Arkansas jail, where he had been held as a pretrial detainee. After he was transferred to a facility in Texas, some of the defendants moved to stay the case. Although the case had already entered discovery, a magistrate judge granted the stay. Plaintiff then filed an objection to the motion to stay and a motion for relief from the magistrate order. The district court never acted on the motions, referred back to the magistrate judge, who then denied relief.The Eighth Circuit dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction, holding that the court does not have jurisdiction to hear a direct appeal of a magistrate judge's order on a nondispositive pretrial matter. In this case, without a decision of a district court, this court lacked jurisdiction to proceed any further. View "Devine v. Walker" on Justia Law

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After the school districts sought modification of existing desegregation consent decrees to allow their exemption from Arkansas's Public School Choice Act, Ark. Code. Ann. 6–18–1906, the district court granted the motions and modified the consent decrees to explicitly limit the transfer of students between school districts. The Department appealed, alleging that the modification imposed an impermissible interdistrict remedy.The Eighth Circuit affirmed, holding that there was a substantial change in Arkansas law after the consent decrees were enacted and the district court's modification was not an impermissible interdistrict remedy. The court explained that the district court did not abuse its discretion in considering and crediting evidence of white flight when it determined that a substantial change in circumstances had occurred warranting modification of the consent decrees. Furthermore, based on the court's review of the record and the large degree of deference given to the district court, the court could not find that the district court abused its discretion in modifying the consent decrees. View "United States v. Arkansas Department of Education" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Allied Pilots in state court for conversion and unjust enrichment, arguing that he was entitled to keep his whole profit sharing payment rather than give some of it to the union for "dues." The union removed to federal court, contending that plaintiff's claims are preempted by the Railway Labor Act (RLA). The district court held that state law claims fell away due to preemption and the federal claims did not survive summary judgment.The Eighth Circuit reversed and held that the district court erred by relying on the complete-preemption doctrine, finding that the RLA wholly displaced plaintiff's state law claims. In this case, the RLA does not require disputes between an employee and a union to be heard by an adjustment board, so there is no federal cause of action at all, much less an exclusive one. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's judgment and instructed the district court, on remand, to return this case to state court. View "Krakowski v. Allied Pilots Ass'n" on Justia Law

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An August 14, 2019 subpoena duces tecum ordered the IDPS to appear before the court's grand jury and provide documents relating to the investigation of an ISP officer for misconduct or use of excessive force. IDPS complied with five of the listed document categories but filed a motion to quash categories 3 and 4, which seek any and all records relating to the investigation of Officer John Doe for misconduct and any and all records relating to complaints made against Officer John Doe.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's order denying IDPS's motion to quash and rejected IDPS's assertion that quashing the subpoena is needed to protect the Fifth Amendment rights of IDPS employees who participated in internal investigations; the procedural protections established by Kastigar v. U.S., 406 U.S. 401 (1972), and Garrity v. New Jersey, 385 U.S. 493 (1967), provide sufficient protection from the improper use of compelled statements; the Fifth Amendment allows the government to prosecute using evidence from legitimate independent sources; and the district court did not abuse its Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 17(c)(2) discretion in deciding that IDPS failed to meet its substantial burden to show that compliance with the challenged portions of the grand jury subpoena would be "unreasonable or oppressive" when balanced against the interests of the government in enforcing the subpoena. View "In Re: Grand Jury Subpoena Dated August 14, 2019" on Justia Law