Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

by
Evendale property owners who wanted to rent their properties had to obtain a permit by allowing the building commissioner to inspect the property or sign a sworn affirmation that the property complied with the code. The commissioner also could inspect structures if he suspected a violation. If the building was occupied, the commissioner was to present credentials and request entry. For unoccupied structures, the commissioner was to make a reasonable effort to locate the owner and ask to inspect. Should someone refuse entry, the commissioner could use “remedies provided by law.” Vonderhaar owns 13 rental properties, over half of Evendale's rental homes. Vonderhaar filed a purported class action under the Fourth Amendment, claiming the code authorized warrantless searches, and the Fifth Amendment, claiming the code required permit applicants to attest to compliance. The district court granted a preliminary injunction, concluding that the inspection procedures facially violated the Fourth Amendment. Evendale subsequently amended its code to allow owners applying for rental permits to “[p]rovide a written certification” from an architect or engineer attesting that a building meets Village standards and adding that when a commissioner suspects a violation, the commissioner may “seek a search warrant based on probable cause.” The Sixth Circuit vacated the injunction for lack of standing. The Village never relied on the code to conduct a warrantless search and the plaintiffs have no risk of impending injury. View "Vonderhaar v. Village of Evendale" on Justia Law

by
Henderson, a patient with Alzheimer’s disease at Watermark’s nursing home, wandered from her room unattended and died after drinking detergent that she found in a kitchen cabinet. Henderson’s estate filed a wrongful death suit against Watermark. Morrison provided kitchen services at the facility and its employees had been in the kitchen shortly before Henderson discovered the detergent, but Watermark did not implead Morrison and argued that Morrison’s employees had properly locked the cabinet before leaving. A jury awarded $5.08 million. Watermark did not appeal but settled with Henderson’s estate for $3.65 million. On a joint motion, the court dismissed the action with prejudice. Months later, Watermark sued Morrison for contractual indemnification and breach of contract. The district court dismissed, finding that issue preclusion barred both claims. The Sixth Circuit affirmed in part. While a judgment that is set aside upon settlement can be used for collateral-estoppel purposes in future litigation, only the contractual indemnification issue is barred. Under the parties’ contract, Watermark can prevail on its indemnification claim only by showing that the damages it seeks were not the result of its own negligence. It cannot do so; the jury determined that the damages were the result of Watermark’s negligence. The jury’s finding of negligence does not, however, preclude Watermark from going forward with its breach-of-contract claim, which does not rely on the indemnity provision of the parties’ contract. View "Watermark Senior Living Communities, Inc. v. Morrison Management Specialists, Inc." on Justia Law

by
In September 2016, the Governor of Tennessee convened a special session of the Tennessee General Assembly, concerning federal highway funding. During the session, a member of the House of Representatives moved to expel Durham. The House approved the motion 70 votes to two. It immediately expelled Durham. Durham may have qualified for lifetime health insurance if he had retired but because the House expelled him, the administrators stated that his government-health insurance would expire at the end of September. He also lost certain state-pension benefits. Durham sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging procedural due process violations, and requesting an order that the administrators pay his alleged benefits. The district court dismissed for lack of standing because the complaint alleged that the denial of his benefits was caused by the legislature’s expelling him, rather than by any act by the administrators. The Sixth Circuit reversed. Durham’s injury is fairly traceable to the administrators’ conduct: Durham alleges that he is not receiving benefits that the administrators should pay. That is sufficient to show standing. View "Durham v. Martin" on Justia Law

by
DEA ordered Miami-Luken, a registered controlled substances pharmaceutical wholesaler, to show cause why its registration should not be revoked, for failing to maintain effective controls against the diversion of oxycodone and hydrocodone and failing to disclose suspicious orders. At the company’s request, an ALJ issued a subpoena requiring DEA to produce various investigative records. DEA filed a notice declaring that it would not comply. Miami-Luken filed an emergency motion and the district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation to enforce the subpoena in part, eliminating one category of subpoenaed documents, narrowing another, and permitting DEA to provide “reasonably redacted versions.” DEA's Acting Administrator determined that the enforcement order, permitting the DEA to make reasonable redactions, also permitted DEA to review the validity of the subpoena itself, and found that the requested categories of documents were not “necessary to conduct” the hearing as would be required for disclosure under 21 C.F.R. 1316.52(d) and ordered the subpoena quashed. DEA obtained a stay of the order enforcing the subpoena pending further judicial review and moved for relief from judgment. Miami-Luken then petitioned the Sixth Circuit to review directly DEA’s order quashing the subpoena. Meanwhile, the district court denied DEA’s motion for relief from judgment, stating: Nothing in this Court’s Order permitted the DEA Administrator to set aside the subpoena. The Sixth Circuit denied Miami-Luken’s petition for lack of jurisdiction. The Administrator’s order was not a “final decision” under 21 U.S.C. 877. View "Miami-Luken, Inc. v. United States Drug Enforcement Administration" on Justia Law

by
Michigan’s Medicaid waiver program provides individuals with developmental disabilities community-based services. Washtenaw County changed its budgeting method in 2015. Notices sent to recipients acknowledged that recipients would have to pay service-providers less in order to maintain their approved hours of service. The Association, a nonprofit community organization assisting individuals with developmental disabilities, joined with three individual plaintiffs to filed suit, alleging due process violations and seeking a preliminary injunction. The Association’s CEO testified that 169 individuals, including the three named plaintiffs, had received notices and that the three were Association members. The district court concluded that the Association lacked associational standing because the 169 people for whom it claimed associational standing were not shown to be members; the named members, in their individual capacities, were not entitled to injunctive relief because they had appealed the reductions and received favorable decisions so “there can be no irreparable harm suffered by the named Plaintiffs as a result of the inadequate notice.” The Sixth Circuit affirmed, noting that “standing is not dispensed in gross.” An individual must demonstrate standing for each claim he seeks to press and for each form of relief sought; an association that relies upon an individual member for standing purposes must do the same. The Association has not shown that any named member had standing to seek fresh notices and hearing rights when it filed its complaint.. View "Waskul v. Washtenaw County Community Mental Health" on Justia Law

by
Detroit residents voted to allow the school district to increase property taxes “for operating expenses.“ In 2013, the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) announced its intent to capture some of that tax revenue to fund the construction of Little Caesars Arena for the Red Wings hockey team. In 2016, the DDA revised its plan to allow the Pistons basketball team to relocate to Arena. The Detroit Brownfield Redevelopment Authority (DBRA) agreed to contribute to the $56.5 million expenditure, including reimbursing construction costs that private developers had already advanced. The project is largely complete. Plaintiffs requested that the school board place on the November 2017 ballot a question asking voters to approve or disapprove of the agencies' use of tax revenue for the Pistons relocation. The board held a special meeting but did not put the question on the ballot. Plaintiffs filed suit. Count VIII sought a declaratory judgment that the board had authority to place the question on the ballot. Count IX sought a writ of mandamus ordering the board to place it on the ballot. The court dismissed Counts VIII and IX, noting that Plaintiffs could have filed suit in 2013. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Plaintiffs lack Article III standing. Failure to place Plaintiffs’ question on the ballot affects all Detroit voters equally; they raised only a generally available grievance about government. Michigan statutes do not give Detroit residents the right to void a Tax Increment Financing plan by public referendum, so a referendum would not redress Plaintiffs’ injury. View "Davis v. Detroit Public School Community District" on Justia Law

by
The DEA bars hospitals from hiring, as an employee with “access to controlled substances,” any doctor who “for cause” has surrendered his registration to handle those substances. The DEA enforced this regulation against Doctors McDonald and Woods, who had voluntarily surrendered their registrations while in addiction treatment. They later regained full registrations. The doctors sued to enjoin the DEA from enforcing the regulation against them in the future, arguing that it no longer applied to them once their registrations were restored. The parties settled. Their agreement provides that “[t]he DEA no longer interprets 21 C.F.R. 1301.76(a) as requiring . . . potential employers of doctors with unrestricted DEA registrations to seek waivers.” The Sixth Circuit denied the government’s motion to keep the agreement under seal, noting “a strong presumption in favor of openness as to court records.” The government did not identify information too sensitive to remain public. Public interest is particularly strong where the information pertains to an agency’s interpretation of a regulation. Other doctors would no doubt be interested. View "Woods v. United States Drug Enforcement Administration" on Justia Law

by
Cathedral Buffet, an Ohio for-profit corporation, does not generate a profit. Its sole shareholder is Grace Cathedral, a 501(c)(3) non-profit religious organization, which subsidizes the restaurant. The restaurant separated its workers into “employees” and “volunteers.” Volunteers performed many of the same tasks as employees, who received an hourly wage. Reverend Angley recruited volunteers from the pulpit on Sundays, suggesting that members who repeatedly refused to volunteer were at risk an unforgivable sin. The Department of Labor (DOL) filed suit; the district court held that Buffet’s religious affiliation did not exempt it from Fair Labor Standards Act. The Sixth Circuit reversed. To be considered an employee under the FLSA, a worker must first expect to receive compensation; Buffet volunteers had no such expectation. Buffet then sought “prevailing party” costs and attorney’s fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), 28 U.S.C. 2412, arguing that the DOL’s position throughout the litigation was not substantially justified. The Sixth Circuit declined to address the issue: “in the usual case in which fees are sought for the entire litigation, the determination of whether the government was ‘substantially justified’ . . . is for the district court” because that court “may have insights not conveyed by the record.” Buffet did not wish to argue before the district court, which adopted the DOL’s position, but that is not a legitimate reason to forgo judicial economy. The district court is better-equipped to determine the fees, if any, that should be awarded for work at that level. View "Acosta v. Cathedral Buffet, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Giese claimed that HNRC paid royalties derived from coal mining into an escrow account. After buying the property on which the mining occurred, Giese sued, asserting a right to the escrowed royalties. Lexington Coal disputed Giese’s claim, arguing it purchased all cash and accounts of HNRC and HNRC’s parent company during a bankruptcy case involving those entities. Lexington had been a defendant in an interpleader action before the Bankruptcy Court to determine the rightful owner of the funds at issue. Giese’s state court action was removed to the Bankruptcy Court, which declined to abstain from adjudicating two counts of Giese’s Kentucky state court complaint and dismissed his complaint. The Bankruptcy Appellate Panel affirmed. Giese’s claims were inextricably intertwined with the bankruptcy case and would not exist but for the bankruptcy, so the Bankruptcy Court was right to adjudicate them. Sending two claims (breach of contract and royalty claims) to a court that cannot, under any circumstance, adjudicate the other related claims, would pose a great risk to important policy concerns. Upholding the dismissal, the court stated that an order confirming a plan of reorganization constitutes a final judgment in a bankruptcy proceeding, and res judicata bars relitigation of any issues that could have been raised during the confirmation proceeding. View "In re HNRC Dissolution Co." on Justia Law

by
Three-and-a-half years ago, a Kentucky state court issued a judgment in plaintiffs’ favor against class-action plaintiffs’ attorney Chesley for $42 million. Since then, the plaintiffs have been trying to collect on that judgment. Chesley has successfully evaded them with the help of his confidantes. In the process, five lawyers have been disbarred; two have been put in jail. Chesley has managed to transfer most of his assets elsewhere, rendering himself judgment-proof and forcing the plaintiffs to file the fraudulent conveyance action underlying this appeal. While that fraudulent conveyance action was pending, Chesley initiated an Ohio state probate court action. He claims the action was started for legitimate purposes—to pay off his law firm’s creditors in a judicially-supervised forum. The district court disagreed. Sensing Chesley was using the probate action to continue to conceal his assets, it issued a preliminary injunction freezing those assets. In the time since the injunction was entered (and this appeal was filed), that probate action was dismissed and declared fraudulent. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the preliminary injunction, which is worded broadly enough to remain effective despite the probate action’s dismissal, and is still adequately supported by the record evidence and is still necessary. View "McGirr v. Rehme" on Justia Law