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

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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The Orlans law firm, sent a letter on law-firm letterhead, stating that Wells Fargo had referred the Garland loan to Orlans for foreclosure but that “[w]hile the foreclosure process ha[d] begun,” “foreclosure prevention alternatives” might still be available if Garland contacted Wells Fargo. The letter explained how to contact Wells Fargo “to attempt to be reviewed for possible alternatives,” the signature was typed and said, “Orlans PC.”Garland says that the letter confused him because he was unsure if it was from an attorney and “raised [his] anxiety” by suggesting “that an attorney may have conducted an independent investigation and substantive legal review ... such that his prospects for avoiding foreclosure were diminished.” Garland alleges that Orlans sent a form of this letter to thousands of homeowners, without a meaningful review of the homeowners’ foreclosure files, so the communications deceptively implied they were from an attorney. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) prohibits misleading debt-collection communications that falsely imply they are from an attorney.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the purported class action for lack of jurisdiction. Garland lacks standing. That a statute purports to create a cause of action does not alone create standing. A plaintiff asserting a procedural claim must have suffered a concrete injury; bare allegations of confusion and anxiety do not qualify. Whether from an attorney or not, the letter said nothing implying Garland’s chance of avoiding foreclosure was “diminished.” View "Garland v. Orlans, PC" on Justia Law

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A class of end-payor purchasers sued (Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 26; Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1) manufacturers and suppliers, alleging that they conspired to fix prices of automotive anti-vibration rubber parts. The district court certified a nationwide settlement class comprising persons and entities who indirectly purchased anti-vibration rubber parts that were manufactured or sold by the defendants, excluding persons or entities who purchased parts directly or for resale.Before the court entered final judgments approving the "indirect purchaser" settlement, Plaintiffs filed a separate suit against the same defendants, in the same court, seeking damages under the Clayton Act on behalf of a putative class of “direct purchasers” of anti-vibration rubber parts. They alleged that they purchased parts “from an entity (Firestone retail shop) of which one of the Defendants (Bridgestone) is the ultimate parent”; Firestone is not a defendant in either lawsuit. Bridgestone is a defendant in both. The court entered final judgments in the end-payor lawsuit, enjoining all settlement class members from “commencing, prosecuting, or continuing . . . any and all claims” arising out of or relating to the released claims.Defendants moved to enjoin Plaintiffs from litigating their direct-purchaser lawsuit. The district court denied the motion, citing “Illinois Brick.” Under federal antitrust law, a private plaintiff generally must be a “direct purchaser” to have suffered injury and have standing to sue a manufacturer or supplier. In Illinois Brick, the Supreme Court recognized an exception, holding that an “indirect purchaser” might have standing if it purchased from an intermediary that was “owned or controlled” by the ultimate seller.The Sixth Circuit reversed. Regardless of whether Illinois Brick applies to plaintiffs’ underlying claims, plaintiffs fit within the class definition under the plain meaning of the settlement agreements. Their suit is therefore barred. View "In re: Automotive Parts Antitrust Litigation" on Justia Law

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After receiving a credit card receipt printed with the first six and last four digits of her credit card, Thomas sued TOMS for violating the “truncation requirement” of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 (FACTA), 15 U.S.C. 1681c(g), which prohibits anyone who accepts credit or debit cards for payment from printing more than the last five digits of a customer’s card number on the receipt, and offers actual and statutory damages.The district court dismissed, finding that the alleged violation did not result in harm sufficiently concrete for Article III standing purposes. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. FACTA reflects Congress’s concern with preventing identity theft, and its belief that truncating card numbers is the most effective means of doing so but a violation of the truncation requirement does not automatically cause an injury in fact. Thomas’s allegations do not establish an increased risk of identity theft; they do not show how, even if her receipt fell into the wrong hands, criminals would have a gateway to her personal and financial data, and she did not allege that the receipt was lost, stolen, or seen by a third party. View "Thomas v. TOMS King (Ohio), LLC" on Justia Law

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Stewart, a co-owner of RRL and president of its subsidiary, IHT, formed a potential competitor. She was removed from the presidency, then launched a smear campaign against her replacement. RRL's other members voted to buy out her ownership interest. Stewart refused to sell her membership units. RRL sued. Stewart counterclaimed. As part of the buyout, RRL cut off Stewart’s health- and life insurance benefits. Stewart alleged that she remained an active member of RRL and was entitled to those benefits. An arbitration panel sided with RRL on all issues and ordered Stewart to sell her membership units and to release all claims against RRL and its affiliates “from the beginning of the world” to that day. The state court affirmed.During the arbitration, Stewart and her son filed this lawsuit, claiming that IHT violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. 1161–1163. The district court dismissed the complaint with prejudice on alternative grounds: Stewart had released all her claims and res judicata barred her from relitigating her removal from RRL and discontinued benefits. On appeal, the Stewarts challenged only whether Stewart released all of her claims. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The Stewarts forfeited any right to challenge the res judicata ruling. Even if Stewart’s claims were not released, the res judicata conclusion would still stand. The Stewarts needed to win two arguments for reversal of the dismissal. View "Stewart v. IHT Insurance Agency Group, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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Kentucky Governor Beshear’s COVID-19 response included a “Mass Gathering Order” that prevented groups of more than 10 people from assembling for purposes including community, civic, public, leisure, faith-based, or sporting events; parades; concerts; festivals; conventions; fundraisers; and similar activities.” Locations permitted to operate normally included airports, bus and train stations, medical facilities, libraries, shopping centers, or "other spaces where persons may be in transit” and “typical office environments, factories, or retail or grocery stores.” The ban on faith-based gatherings was enjoined in previous litigation.Plaintiffs alleged that the Order, facially and as applied, violated their First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly. While Governor Beshear threatened the plaintiffs with prosecution for holding a mass gathering at the state capitol to express their opposition to his COVID-19-related restrictions, he welcomed a large group of Black Lives Matter protestors to the capitol and addressed those protestors, despite their violation of the Order. The district court preliminarily enjoined the Order's enforcement. Governor Beshear withdrew the Order. The Sixth Circuit held that the withdrawal rendered the appeal moot. To the extent that the plaintiffs claim that a threat of prosecution for their past violations keeps the case alive, the court remanded for the district court to determine whether further relief is proper. View "Ramsek v. Beshear" on Justia Law

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Braden and Strong used the Tennessee state courts to resolve the dissolution of their business partnership. During that process, Strong believed she was the victim of legal malpractice. She hired the Parrish Law Firm to represent her in a lawsuit against her original attorney. Strong’s malpractice case was later dismissed when the Parrish Firm did not comply with discovery deadlines. Strong assigned some of her rights in the partnership dissolution action to the Parrish Firm for costs and expenses in the malpractice action. When the Parrish Firm sued to recover $116,316 under the assignment, Strong filed counterclaims, which were resolved in state court. A jury awarded Strong $2,293,878.70. The Tennessee Court of Appeals affirmed. The Firm filed suit in federal court, seeking a declaratory judgment, alleging that the Tennessee Court of Appeals judges made false statements in a judicial opinion violating its rights to a “fair trial” under the Due Process Clause and “to access justice” under the Equal Protection Clause. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit and directed the Firm and its counsel to show cause why sanctions should not be assessed. The suit is barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine; the complaint essentially sought another round of state appellate review. The complaint failed to present a justiciable case or controversy. Federal courts “are not in the business of pronouncing that past actions which have no demonstrable continuing effect were right or wrong.” View "Larry E. Parrish, P.C. v. Bennett" on Justia Law

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High school students from Kentucky received widespread attention for their conduct at the Lincoln Memorial during the 2019 March for Life rally. An incident occurred after the march between Covington Catholic students, including the plaintiffs, and others, including “a self-described Native American Elder.” In the wake of negative coverage and critical posts on social media, the students sued several media defendants and people who had engaged in online commentary about the incident, alleging civil harassment, harassing communications, menacing, and terroristic threatening.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the cases against Twitter users Chandrasekhar, a doctor who lives in New Jersey, and Griffin, a comedian who lives in California, for lack of personal jurisdiction. The court rejected an argument that filing a notice of appearance automatically waives the personal jurisdiction defense; precedent that seemingly implied such a rule involved the defendant’s extensive participation in the litigation. Griffin had not filed any responsive pleading that omitted the defense, nor had she “participated in any other way that would lead plaintiffs to conclude that [she] would not assert the defense.” The defendants’ conduct is plainly outside the scope of the Kentucky long-arm statute since neither Griffin nor Chandrasekhar committed any act “in [the] Commonwealth” of Kentucky under KRS 454.210(2)(a)(3). View "Doe v. Griffin" on Justia Law

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The Moore family, individually or in trust, has owned and maintained the 108-acre Hiram, Ohio property since 1813. They have operated a small airport on the Property since 1948. Around 1951, the Township enacted a zoning resolution that zoned the Property as Rural-Residential and classified the airport as a nonconforming use, permitted to continue so long as the use is not abandoned for two years. The airport remained active in varying degrees but its use for ultralight aircraft and hang gliders started recently, and prompted nuisance complaints from neighbors. In 2016, Township officials told Moore that he needed a certificate of nonconforming use to continue the airport’s operations.The Board of Zoning Appeals voted to grant Moore a certificate but imposed several conditions. The Portage County Common Pleas Court modified the conditions. The Ohio Court of Appeals affirmed.While his state court appeal was pending, Moore filed a federal suit, alleging violations of his procedural and substantive due process rights and his equal protection rights under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Sixth Circuit affirmed that the suit was barred by principles of claim preclusion. There was a prior final, valid decision on the merits by a court of competent jurisdiction; this action involves the same parties; this action raises claims that were or could have been litigated in the Ohio action; and this suit arose out of the transaction or occurrence that was the subject matter of the Ohio action. View "Moore v. Hiram Township" on Justia Law

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At a Michigan gun show, Turaani attempted to buy a gun. When the dealer ran Turaani’s name through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, he received a “delay” response, requiring the dealer to wait three days before completing the sale. The next day, FBI agent Chambers visited the dealer to see what information Turaani had provided and explained that “we have a problem with the company” Turaani “keeps.”. He showed photographs of Turaani with another person of apparent Middle Eastern descent, whom the dealer did not recognize. Days later, Turaani contacted the dealer, who reported the visit from the FBI. While he “technically could sell the gun,” the dealer stated that he was “no longer comfortable doing so.” Turaani sued the FBI's Director, Chambers, and the director of the Terrorist Screening Database, citing the Privacy Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, the stigma-plus doctrine, and 42 U.S.C. 1981.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the case for lack of standing. Turaani focused on his “right to obtain a weapon” and the direct and indirect injuries that flowed from the dealer’s decision not to sell him one but the dealer’s decision not to sell the gun was an independent choice that the government did not require. Turaani failed to show that his injury was traceable to the FBI’s actions. There was no coercion; making an inquiry, and passing along ambiguous information, “is a distant cry from forcing action.” View "Turaani v. Wray" on Justia Law

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After plaintiffs filed suit against Ocwen Loan Servicing and Deutsche Bank to prevent the lenders from foreclosing on their home, the district court granted summary judgment to Ocwen and Deutsche Bank. The lenders filed a motion to dismiss the appeal based on lack of jurisdiction. Plaintiffs then sought an injunction to prevent Deutsche Bank and Ocwen from taking possession of their home. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the lenders. Plaintiffs, through their counsel, appealed by placing a paper notice of appeal and a cashier's check for the filing fee into the drop box provided by the district court.The Sixth Circuit held that plaintiffs met the 30-day filing deadline to file a notice of appeal and denied the lenders' motion to dismiss. In this case, the lenders do not dispute that counsel for plaintiffs placed the notice of appeal into the district court's drop box on September 11, and the lenders cannot dispute that the drop box served as an acceptable way to deliver documents to the court. The court explained that a court's drop box serves as an invitation to file court documents, precluding a court from treating its use by a party as a trespass or a non-event. Furthermore, the lenders' contention that plaintiffs missed the September 11 filing deadline because they did not file electronically until September 14 is foreclosed by precedent. View "Pierce v. Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure