Justia U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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In 1991, Congress prohibited almost all robocalls to cell phones and landlines, 47 U.S.C. 227(b)(1)(B). A 2015 amendment attempted to allow robocalls if they were made “solely to collect a debt owed to or guaranteed by the United States.” The Supreme Court, in AAPC, held the amendment was unconstitutional content discrimination but that the exception was severable from the rest of the restriction, leaving the general prohibition intact. In 2019-2020, Lindenbaum received two robocalls from Realgy advertising its electricity services. She sued, alleging violations of the robocall restriction. After the Supreme Court decided AAPC, the district court dismissed the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction reasoning that severability is a remedy that operates only prospectively, so the robocall restriction was unconstitutional and therefore “void” for the period the exception was on the books. Because it was “void,” the district court believed, it could not provide a basis for federal-question jurisdiction.The Sixth Circuit reversed. Because severance is not a remedy, it would have to be a legislative act in order to operate prospectively only. The Court recognized only that the Constitution had “automatically displace[d]” the government-debt-collector exception from the start, then interpreted what the statute has always meant in its absence. View "Lindenbaum v. Realgy, LLC" on Justia Law

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A drug manufacturer cannot distribute a drug in interstate commerce without obtaining the FDA’s approval for the uses listed on the drug’s official label, 21 U.S.C. 355(a). The Act does not prohibit doctors from prescribing FDA-approved drugs for “off-label” use but leaves the regulation of doctors to the states. Hydroxychloroquine is approved to treat malaria, lupus, and arthritis but not to treat COVID-19. In 2020, the FDA relied on then-available data and issued an Emergency Use Authorization, permitting hydroxychloroquine in the federal government’s strategic stockpile to be distributed to treat COVID-19 patients in limited circumstances.The Association, a nonprofit organization with physician members, sued, challenging restrictions barring use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 except for hospitalized patients. The Association alleged that these restrictions violated the implied equal-protection guarantee in the Fifth Amendment; violated the First Amendment right to associate by limiting access to medication useful for meeting in groups; and violated the Administrative Procedure Act. The Association alleged an injury to itself: it was considering canceling a conference purportedly due to the restrictions. It also invoked associational standing on behalf of its physician members who could not prescribe hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19.The district court held that none of these injuries plausibly pleaded the Association’s standing to challenge the Authorization. The court dismissed the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The Associaiton failed to plausibly plead that any member has been injured by the FDA’s actions. View "Association of American Physicians & Surgeons v. United States Food & Drug Administration" on Justia Law

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Anthem provides health insurance and hires nurses to review insurance claims. The company pays those nurses a salary but does not pay them overtime. Canaday, an Anthem nurse who lives in Tennessee, filed a proposed collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 206. claiming that the company misclassified her and others as exempt from the Act’s overtime pay provisions. A number of Anthem nurses in other states opted into the collective action.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the out-of-state plaintiffs on personal jurisdiction grounds. In an FLSA collective action, as in the mass action under California law, each opt-in plaintiff becomes a real party in interest, who must meet her burden for obtaining relief and satisfy the other requirements of party status. Anthem is based in Indiana, not Tennessee. General jurisdiction is not an option for out-of-state claims. Specific jurisdiction requires a connection between the forum and the specific claims at issue. The out-of-state plaintiffs have not brought claims arising out of or relating to Anthem’s conduct in Tennessee. View "Canaday v. The Anthem Companies, Inc." on Justia Law

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Attorney Conn represented Plaintiffs and thousands of others in seeking disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Conn bribed doctors to certify false applications and bribed an ALJ to approve those applications. After Conn’s scheme was uncovered, SSA identified more than 1,700 approved applications that it believed might have been the product of fraud. SSA redetermined and denied Plaintiffs’ applications,Several class actions challenged the SSA’s redetermination procedures. The Martin case was dismissed without a class having been certified because the named plaintiffs failed to exhaust their administrative remedies. The Hughes case was stayed before a class was certified. In the meantime, the Sixth Circuit held that the SSA’s redetermination procedures violated due process. Plaintiffs had 60 days to seek judicial review of the SSA’s decision, 42 U.S.C. 405(g). Each waited more than two years. As absent Hughes class members, they relied on the Supreme Court’s “American Pipe” doctrine under which filing a class action pauses the deadlines for members to file related individual actions. Once the district court remanded Hughes, plaintiffs filed their civil actions.The district courts dismissed the suits as untimely. The Sixth Circuit reversed in part. American Pipe tolling continues after a district court denies a motion for class certification solely as a matter of docket management, without deciding that certification is unwarranted. The outright dismissal of an uncertified class action ends American Pipe tolling and restarts class members’ statute-of-limitations clocks. View "Messer v. Commissioner of Social Security" on Justia Law

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Ward received twice medical treatment at Stonecrest. Stonecrest hired NPAS, Inc. to collect Ward’s outstanding balances. NPAS first sent Ward a billing statement on October 3 related to his July hospital visit. The statement provided NPAS's full name and address at the top of the first page; the reverse side explained who it was. NPAS called Ward on October 24 and left a voice message: We are calling from NPAS on behalf of Stonecrest … Please return our call. On November 17, NPAS, sent a second billing statement. On December 27, NPAS left a second, identical, voice message. NPAS then returned his account to Stonecrest. Ward’s second account regarding his October hospital visit followed a similar process. On December 28, after retaining counsel, Ward sent a cease-and-desist letter to “NPAS Solutions, LLC,” an entity unrelated to NPAS, Inc. Ward stated at his deposition that NPAS, Inc.’s voice messages caused him to become confused as to which entity had called him.Ward filed suit under the Federal Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692e(11) alleging NPAS failed, in its voice messages, to identify itself as a debt collector and failed to identify the “true name” of its business. The Sixth Circuit held that the case should be dismissed because Ward lacks Article III standing. Ward does not automatically have standing simply because Congress authorizes a plaintiff to sue for failing to comply with the Act. The procedural injuries Ward asserts do not bear a close relationship to traditional harms. View "Ward v. National Patient Account Services Solutions, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs are three Ohioans who tried to get initiatives to decriminalize marijuana on local ballots. Soon after they filed their proposed initiatives for November 2020 ballots, Ohio declared a state of emergency because of COVID-19 and ordered Ohioans to stay at home. Ohio’s ballot-access laws require the submission of a petition with a minimum number of ink signatures witnessed by the petition’s circulator. Plaintiffs say the laws, as applied during the COVID-19 pandemic, made it too difficult for them to get any of their initiatives on 2020 ballots. They sought declaratory and injunctive relief but tied their requests for relief exclusively to the November 2020 election. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the case. The election has come and gone and, with it, the prospect that plaintiffs can get any of the relief they asked for. The case is moot. View "Thompson v. DeWine" on Justia Law

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Rowland brought claims arising from injuries she sustained while incarcerated. The district court entered partial summary judgment in favor of the defendants on Rowland’s 42 U.S.C. 1983 and punitive damages claims. After that judgment, by agreement of the parties, the court entered an order dismissing Rowland’s remaining state-law negligence claims without prejudice, so that Rowland could pursue an appeal on her federal claims. Civil Rule 54(b) permits a district court to enter final judgment “as to one or more, but fewer than all, claims or parties” when it determines, using a multi-factor analysis, that “there is no just reason for delay.”The Seventh Circuit concluded that it lacked jurisdiction over the appeal because the voluntary dismissal of Rowland’s remaining state-law claims did not create an appealable final order under 28 U.S.C. 1291, A litigant cannot circumvent the requirements of Rule 54(b) by the expedient of voluntarily dismissing her surviving claims in order to seek immediate appellate review of an adverse judgment on her resolved claims, with the intention of reinstating the dismissed claims should she obtain a favorable outcome on appeal. Such a dismissal does not create a final order under 28 U.S.C. 1291. View "Rowland v. Southern Health Partners, Inc" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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Kensu, a resident of the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC), was sentenced to life imprisonment for first-degree murder. He has filed several actions under 42 U.S.C. 1983 during his sentence; he won $325,002 after the jury found that five defendants had been “deliberately indifferent to his serious medical need[s].” Since then, Kensu has filed several more suits against MDOC and Corizon, a correctional health care contractor, including putative class actions, some of which remain pending.The complaint, in this case, had 808 numbered allegations plus additional sub-allegations, spanning 180 pages. Although his counsel failed to identify this case as related to any of his earlier actions (in violation of a local rule) the district court determined that it was a companion to Kensu v. Borgerding, and reassigned it. Finding his complaint too long and unclear, the district court dismissed, allowing Kensu to try again. His second effort was still too long and unclear. The district court explained the problems with Kensu’s complaint in more detail and gave him one last chance to amend it. Kensu made his complaint longer instead of reducing it to a plain statement of his grievance. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of his complaint with prejudice. View "Kensu v. Corizon, Inc." on Justia Law

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RLR owns land on the Little Pigeon River. Tract 1 had a private resort and parking spaces. Tract 2 had a duplex building. The city decided to build a pedestrian walkway along the River, going through both tracts, and filed a petition for condemnation of a permanent easement. The easement would make some of the parking spaces on Tract 1 unusable. The petition also sought temporary construction easements, including one on which the city would construct Tract 2 parking spaces to replace those lost on Tract 1. RLR argued that the compensation for the loss of the spaces was too low and that the plan of building parking spaces on Tract 2 was a private, rather than public, purpose. The court ruled in favor of the city, which took possession of the land and built the walkway, but never built the parking spots. Before valuation proceedings, RLR filed suit in federal court, alleging an unlawful taking under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments and 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court held that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine because the source of RLR’s injury was the state court’s order. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that the Supreme Court’s 2005 Exxon decision abrogated Sixth Circuit precedent applying Rooker-Feldman to interlocutory orders. The state-court order of possession counts as a judgment under Rooker-Feldman. View "RLR Investments, LLC v. City of Pigeon Forge" on Justia Law

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In 1998, Old Ben Coal Company conveyed its rights to the methane gas in various coal reserves to Illinois Methane. A “Delay Rental Obligation” required the owner of the coal estate to pay Methane rent while it mined coal in areas that Methane had not yet exploited. A deed, including the Delay Rental Obligation was recorded. A few years later, Old Ben filed for bankruptcy and purported to sell its coal interests “free and clear of any and all Encumbrances” to Alliance. Old Ben did not notify Methane before the bankruptcy sale but merely circulated notice by publication in several newspapers. Alliance later sought a permit to mine coal. Methane eventually sought to collect rent in Illinois state court. Alliance argued that Old Ben’s “free and clear” sale had extinguished Methane’s interest.The bankruptcy court held that Alliance was not entitled to an injunction. The district court and Sixth Circuit affirmed. The deed indicates that the Delay Rental Obligation runs with the land and binds successors; it “is not simply a personal financial obligation between” Old Ben and Methane. The covenant directly affects the value of the coal and methane estates. Methane was a known party with a known, present, and vested interest in real property, entitled to more than publication notice. View "Alliance WOR Properties, LLC v. Illinois Methane, LLC" on Justia Law