Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal with prejudice as to relators and without prejudice as to the Government in an action under the False Claims Act (FCA). The court held that the district court did not err by dismissing the Government without prejudice when relators sought to abandon their claims. The court explained that relators acted on purely private interests and the Government, even one that chose not to intervene, should not be bound by that decision, because it was powerless to vindicate the public's interests in other actions that may have a stronger basis or a relator more able to shoulder the burdens of litigation. The court rejected United's remaining claims regarding relators' voluntary dismissal and held that the district court did not abuse its discretion. View "United States ex rel. Vaughn v. United Biologics, LLC" on Justia Law

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After a marine accident that resulted in damages estimated to exceed $60 million, Valero, Shell and Motiva asked the court to resolve whether the excess insurers of one of the involved vessels may limit their liability to that of the insured vessel. The district court held that the Protection and Indemnity policy covering the vessel has a Crown Zellerbach clause thereby permitting the excess insurers to limit their liability to that of the insured vessel. The Fifth Circuit dismissed the appeal based on lack of appellate jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1292(a)(3), holding that the district court's Order and Reasons failed to determine the rights and liabilities of the parties. The court found no compelling reason to distinguish between a district court's determination of a contractual entitlement rather than statutory entitlement to limit liability. The court joined the Eleventh Circuit in holding that neither decision was reviewable on appeal under section 1292(a)(3). View "SCF Waxler Marine, LLC v. Aris T M/V" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a pro se 42 U.S.C. 1983 action against prison officials, alleging that he was denied access to rehabilitative programs and services, including sex offender treatment. The district court dismissed the suit and plaintiff filed a motion for reconsideration. The magistrate judge then sua sponte deemed plaintiff's motion withdrawn, and plaintiff subsequently appealed the district court's dismissal of the suit. The Fifth Circuit held that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the case and thus could not reach the merits. The court considered defendant's motion for reconsideration still pending before the district court because the magistrate judge's withdrawal of the motion was ultra vires and without legal consequence. Therefore, plaintiff's motion for reconsideration remained pending in the district court. The panel held the appeal in abbeyance and issued a limited remand to allow the district court to rule on plaintiff's motion. View "Lawson v. Stephens" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of defendant's motion for judgment as a matter of law under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50. In this action asserting breach of contract, the court held that, assuming without deciding that the motion did not sufficiently apprise plaintiff of deficiencies in proof and that the district court therefore erred in granting defendant's Rule 50 motion, under a de novo standard of review, plaintiff failed to establish that the error was harmless. In this case, plaintiff could not have presented legally sufficient evidence to support his claim for breach of contract. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its exceedingly wide discretion by denying plaintiff's motion for a continuance. View "Kelso v. Butler" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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Defendant moved to rescind a settlement from a lawsuit about golf carts and to vacate the dismissal under state contract law. The Fifth Circuit held that the district court did not have jurisdiction to resolve the motion on state law terms because the parties' unconditional dismissal deprived it of subject matter jurisdiction. The court explained that, to reopen this case, defendant must lean on Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 60(b), but that Rule 60(b)'s six grounds to relieve a party from a final judgment, order, or proceeding were unavailable to defendant. View "National City Golf Finance v. Scott" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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Would-be plaintiff–intervenors filed a motion to intervene after the district court had already entered a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(1) stipulated dismissal of plaintiffs' claims. When the district court held that it lacked jurisdiction to consider the motion, it did not have the benefit of Sommers v. Bank of American, N.A., which rejected the suggestion that intervention was always improper after a case has been dismissed. The Fifth Circuit held that, because Sommers was controlling in this case, the district court has jurisdiction to consider the would-be intervenors' motion. The court agreed with Wal-Mart that, if jurisdiction was found to exist, the court should remand for consideration of Rule 24's basic requirements. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's order denying intervention on jurisdictional grounds and remanded for further proceedings. View "Odle v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' claims against defendant as premature. Plaintiffs alleged that Eisner, seeking to maintain its relationship with Leveraged and some related funds, participated in a scheme to trick plaintiffs into waiving their redemption rights. Louisiana has established a public accountant review panel to review claims against certified public accountants and accounting firms, and plaintiffs conceded that they did not seek panel review before filing suit. The court held that the district court dismissed plaintiffs' suit as premature because they failed to seek pre-suit review by the Louisiana public accountant review panel pursuant to Louisiana Revised Statutes 37:105. Accordingly, the court remanded for the district court to decide in the first instance whether defendants were entitled to dismissal with prejudice. View "Firefighters' Retirement System v. EisnerAmper, LLP" on Justia Law

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This appeal stemmed from a dispute between Jaguar and Autobahn concerning chargebacks of around $300,000 in incentive payments the distributor had made to the dealer. The Board of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles declared the chargebacks invalid, and Jaguar exercised its statutory right of review in the state appellate court. During the pending of the appeal, Autobahn filed suit for damages based on the Board's findings, claiming violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA) and breach of contract. The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Autobahn and remanded, holding that Autobahn's antecedent failure to exhaust divested the district court of power to decide the claim when it did. View "Autobahn Imports, L.P. v. Jaguar Land Rover North America" on Justia Law

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Davis filed a complaint with the Fort Bend County Human Resources Department alleging that a director had sexually harassed and assaulted her. An investigation led to the director’s resignation. According to Davis, her supervisor retaliated because the director was a personal friend of Davis's supervisor. Davis informed her supervisor that she could not work one specific Sunday because she had a "commitment” to attend a special church service. Her supervisor did not approve the absence. Davis attended the service and did not report to work. Fort Bend terminated her employment. Davis filed a charge with the Texas Workforce Commission then filed suit under Title VII. The Fifth Circuit affirmed summary judgment on her retaliation claim but reversed on her religious discrimination claim, finding genuine disputes of material fact as to whether Davis held a bona fide religious belief that she needed to attend the service and Fort Bend would have suffered an undue hardship in accommodating Davis’s religious observance. The Supreme Court denied Fort Bend’s petition for certiorari. On remand, Fort Bend argued—for the first time— that Davis had failed to exhaust her administrative remedies. Holding that administrative exhaustion is a jurisdictional prerequisite in Title VII cases, the district court found Davis’s contention that Fort Bend had waived this argument “irrelevant.” The Fifth Circuit again reversed. Title VII’s administrative exhaustion requirement is not a jurisdictional bar but rather a prudential prerequisite and Fort Bend forfeited the argument. View "Davis v. Fort Bend County" on Justia Law

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McCall resigned from Shaw and later became the CEO of Allied, Shaw’s direct competitor. Shaw sued, citing noncompete and nonsolicitation agreements in McCall’s employment contract. Those agreements call for arbitration and state that the employer may seek injunctive relief without waiving the right to arbitrate. The state court issued a Joint Protective Order. Aptim acquired the rights to McCall’s employment agreement but withdrew a subsequent motion for substitution in the suit. Aptim filed a demand for arbitration with the American Arbitration Association. Shaw filed an amended petition, deleting its request for damages, and a motion to dismiss the amended petition with prejudice. McCall filed an opposition, an answer, a counterclaim, a petition for declaratory judgment, a motion to consolidate, and a motion for constructive contempt against Aptim for demanding arbitration in violation of the protective order, though Aptim was not then a party to the case. Aptim, without Shaw, sued in federal court to compel arbitration and to stay the state-court proceeding. Before the federal court ruled, the state court issued an order joining Aptim in the state-court action, retroactively effective, finding that Aptim and Shaw had waived their arbitration rights. The federal district court then ordered arbitration and stayed the state-court action. The Fifth Circuit affirmed, finding that the factors weighed against abstention because the case does not involve jurisdiction over a thing and federal law provides the rules of decision on the merits and strongly favors arbitration. View "Aptim Corp. v. McCall" on Justia Law