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

Articles Posted in Legal Ethics
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Plaintiff, the owner of TLDI, filed suit against MultiPlan and PHCS, alleging numerous causes of action, including those relevant to this appeal—breach of contract and a right to an award of attorneys' fees. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of attorneys' fees, concluding that the Network Agreement's indemnity clause does not permit recovery of attorneys' fees in this dispute between the contracting parties.However, the court reversed the district court's holding that plaintiff's conduct waived the contractual amendment-in-writing requirement, concluding that waiver and modification have been pleaded adequately. Furthermore, even assuming arguendo that Multiplan presented evidence sufficient to establish the presumption of receipt, plaintiffs countered with evidence that it was not received. Finally, the court concluded that alterations in position suffice as to consideration. In this case, the revised fee schedule together with the increased potential patient pool changed the obligations of both parties. View "Crutcher v. MultiPlan, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part in an action challenging the district court's award of attorney's fees and costs. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in setting the attorneys' rates or in excluding the managing partner's hours as unwarranted. However, the district court abused its discretion by excluding all hours related to plaintiff's three summary judgment motions and 1.6 hours for two oppositions: to a successful motion for extension of time to file the answer, and to a successful motion to continue the trial. Finally, the court need not appoint a new judge for remand where judicial rulings alone almost never constitute a valid basis for a bias or partiality motion, and judicial remarks that are critical or disapproving of, or even hostile to a party ordinarily do not support a bias or partiality challenge. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Burton v. Nilkanth Pizza Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's award of attorney's fees to plaintiffs in an action alleging violations of the McKinney-Vento Act (MVA), the Rehabilitation Act (RA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The court declined to take up an issue regarding whether the MVA provides a private right of action for students experiencing homelessness and their families for the first time on appeal. The court explained that the State never raised an argument in the district court that the students and their mothers lacked a cause of action or that they could not recover attorneys' fees for time spent pursuing the claim. The court also concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in making the State jointly and severally liable for the fees imposed against the district defendants. View "Scott C. v. Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's award of over $3 million in attorney fees and expenses to plaintiffs in a settlement involving Missouri's foster-care system. Plaintiffs filed suit on behalf of a group of foster children, alleging that Missouri did not have adequate procedures in place to guard against the overuse of psychotropic drugs. The court concluded that the district court properly placed the burden on plaintiffs to support the hours claimed. The district court then evaluated the billing records, attorney-by-attorney, and disregarded any entries that were excessive or vague, leaving no doubt that plaintiffs had failed to prove their entitlement to all the fees and expenses they had requested. The court also concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in setting the fee award and rejected defendants' contentions to reduce the award. View "M.B. v. Tidball" on Justia Law

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After plaintiffs filed a class action against defendants under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Arkansas Minimum Wage Act (AMWA), plaintiffs negotiated a settlement agreement with Welspun for the wage claim and attorneys' fees. However, the district court did not approve the settlement because it determined that the claim and fees were not separately negotiated. When the parties presented the district court with only the wage-claim portion of the settlement, the district court approved it. The district court subsequently partially granted plaintiffs' motion for an award of attorneys' fees and costs, awarding $1.00 in fees. Alternatively, the district court noted that it would award $25,000 in fees if $1.00 was improper.The Eighth Circuit concluded that the district court did not clearly err when it denied the parties' joint motion for approval of the settlement based on its conclusion that the FLSA claims and the attorneys' fees were not separately negotiated. However, because the record contains no lodestar calculation, the court vacated the award of attorneys' fees. In this case, plaintiffs' claim was not frivolous or groundless, and it is unlikely that a $1.00 attorneys' fee is reasonable. Furthermore, the court cannot conduct a meaningful review of the district court's alternative award. The court declined to reassign the case and remanded for further proceedings. View "Vines v. Welspun Pipes Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's award of $283,609.15 in attorneys' fees to Manning in this action arising out of a contract dispute between Kinder, a general contractor, and Manning, a subcontractor.The court concluded that the district court properly applied Arkansas state law to decide the matter because the issue of attorneys' fees is a procedural matter governed by Arkansas law. The court also concluded that the subcontract's silence as to Manning's ability to recover attorneys' fees as the prevailing party does not operate as a waiver of its right to recover such fees under Ark. Code Ann.16-22-308. The court further concluded that because the requested attorneys' fees were incurred by Manning, Manning's recovery of such attorneys' fees is not prohibited under Ark. Code Ann. 23-79-208. View "Randy Kinder Excavating, Inc. v. JA Manning Construction Company, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Union, Welfare Plan, and Pension Plan filed suit against Anderson Excavating, requesting that the district court order Anderson Excavating to pay the contributions it allegedly owes to the Welfare Plan and Pension Plan, along with interest, liquidated damages, and attorneys' fees and costs. The district court found Anderson Excavating liable to plaintiffs for delinquent contributions and entered judgment in favor of plaintiffs. Anderson Excavating appealed, and the Eighth Circuit concluded that the district court legally erred in applying the alter-ego doctrine to justify an award of unpaid contributions for an alleged employee's work.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment on remand, concluding that the district court did not err in calculating the prejudgment interest at the rate set by the Delinquent Policy and Procedure document adopted by the Plan Trustees as part of the trust agreement, which Anderson had agreed to; the district court properly calculated the amount of liquidated damages, which was based on the amount of prejudgment interest; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding attorneys' fees. View "Marshall v. Anderson Excavating & Wrecking Co." on Justia Law

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In 2018, plaintiffs filed suit against Missouri under Section 5 of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. Plaintiffs ultimately obtained a preliminary injunction requiring Missouri to send voter registration forms to thousands of Missouri citizens and to make certain changes to its voter registration procedures in time for the 2018 midterm elections. In 2019, the parties entered into a settlement agreement that resolved all remaining issues except for attorney's fees. The district court noted that Missouri did not dispute plaintiffs' status as the prevailing party, and therefore granted plaintiffs' motion for attorney's fees a few months later and awarded plaintiffs $1,143,627.96 in fees and $27,484.15 in litigation expenses.The Eighth Circuit affirmed, concluding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that plaintiffs reasonably expended 3,251.38 hours on this matter. The court also concluded that the district court sufficiently considered the Johnson factors in determining the reasonableness of the lodestar amount and did not abuse its discretion. View "League of Women Voters of Missouri v. Ashcroft" on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics
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After the parties resolved a dispute involving a challenge by Native American residents of North Dakota to portions of the States elections statutes with a consent decree, the district court granted plaintiffs' motions for attorney's fees.The Eighth Circuit affirmed, concluding that, although plaintiffs' motion was untimely under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54, plaintiffs' failure to meet the filing deadline was the result of excusable neglect. In this case, there is no evidence that plaintiffs acted in bad faith; there are defensible reasons for their delay; and the Secretary could have factored the uncertainty in the law into his decision whether to appeal the injunction. View "Spirit Lake Tribe v. Jaeger" on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to HHW and DKH in an action brought by plaintiff, alleging professional malpractice and negligence. The court concluded that the district court did not err in ruling that the "Q" deduction did not apply to the estate return in January 2013, and DKH was not professionally negligent in failing to claim the deduction. Furthermore, the district court did not err in ruling that a certified public accountant was not negligent in failing to wait to file the return until the amendment was enacted.The court also concluded that the district court properly granted summary judgment on plaintiff's legal malpractice claim; the district court did not abuse its discretion in failing to sua sponte extend discovery deadlines to allow plaintiff to submit another expert affidavit; and the district court properly granted summary judgment on the aiding and abetting claim, as well as the RICO claim. Finally, the district court did not err in ruling that questions -- regarding whether an individual, who was not a party in this case, breached a fiduciary duty and whether the district court should declare specific rental rates -- were not at issue and denying summary judgment. View "Schreier v. Drealan Kvilhaug Hoefker & Co." on Justia Law