Saturday, March 1, 2014
The Supreme Court, in Chadbourne & Parke LLC v. Troice, in an opinion by Justice Breyer, held that the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act of 1998 did not forbid "a class action in which the plaintiffs allege (1) that they 'purchase[d]' uncovered securities (certificates of deposit that are not traded on any national exchange), but (2) that the defendants falsely told the victims that the uncovered securities were backed by covered securities."
An analysis of the opinion is on SCOTUSblog here.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Today the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Walden v. Fiore. The case is a Bivens action against an officer involved in seizing cash that the plaintiffs were carrying through the Atlanta airport. Justice Thomas’s unanimous opinion begins: “This case asks us to decide whether a court in Nevada may exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant on the basis that he knew his allegedly tortious conduct in Georgia would delay the return of funds to plaintiffs with connections to Nevada.” The answer? No. From the final paragraph:
Well-established principles of personal jurisdiction are sufficient to decide this case. The proper focus of the “minimum contacts” inquiry in intentional-tort cases is “‘the relationship among the defendant, the forum, and the litigation.’” Calder, 465 U. S., at 788. And it is the defendant, not the plaintiff or third parties, who must create contacts with the forum State. In this case, the application of those principles is clear: Petitioner’s relevant conduct occurred entirely in Georgia, and the mere fact that his conduct affected plaintiffs with connections to the forum State does not suffice to authorize jurisdiction.
Here are some highlights from the opinion:
Plaintiffs filed class complaints against CarMax, alleging wage and hour violations. The trial court granted CarMax's motion to compel arbitration, and the California Court of Appeals reversed.
SCOTUS granted CarMax's petition for certiorari, vacated the judgment, and remanded the case for further consideration in light of American Express Co. v. Italian Colors Restaurant, 570 U.S. ___ (2013).
Monday, February 24, 2014
Today the Supreme Court denied certiorari in three cases that have come to be known as the “smelly washing machine” class actions. In all three, the lower court certified the class action, and the defendants—invoking Wal-Mart and Comcast—sought certiorari. The cases are:
- Whirlpool Corp. v. Glazer (S.Ct. No. 13-431), from the Sixth Circuit
- Sears Roebuck & Co v. Butler (S.Ct. No. 13-430), from the Seventh Circuit
- BSH Home Appliances Corp. v. Cobb (S.Ct. No. 13-138), from the Ninth Circuit (which did not issue an opinion but denied permission under Rule 23(f) to appeal the district court’s order granting class certification).
Saturday, February 22, 2014
Supplemental Jurisdiction Over State-Law Claim Proper Despite Plaintiff's Statement in Brief of "Dismissal" of Federal Claims
Plaintiff Thomas, a union member and an employee of U.S. Steel, was a team leader at a facility in Minnesota. He had an altercation with one of the employees under his supervision, and that employee reported the incident as harassment. At a fact-finding meeting held to determine what happened, the union representative attending the meeting made several allegedly defamatory comments about plaintiff, such as “[Thomas] has been verbally abusive to others for the past five years,” and plaintiff was thereafter removed from his position as team leader.
In his second amended complaint against the union and the union representative, plaintiff asserted federal labor-law claims and a state-law claim of defamation. The defendants moved for summary judgment on all of the claims. In his memorandum in opposition to the motion, plaintiff stated “the [Collective Bargaining Agreement] is not implicated in any of Plaintiff’s claims and as such [he is] dismissing all claims except the defamation claim . . .” The district court granted summary judgment.
On appeal, the Eighth Circuit sua sponte raised the question of whether the district court maintained subject matter jurisdiction to decide the defamation claim, after plaintiff stated he was dismissing the federal claims. The court held that the district court had jurisdiction: "we are not persuaded that an attempt to dismiss federal claims in a memorandum in opposition to a motion for summary judgment is the equivalent of filing an amended complaint because such act does not satisfy the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15. We therefore hold that because Thomas failed to follow Rule 15’s procedures and nothing in the district court’s order or the record suggests that leave to amend the complaint was granted, the federal claims were not withdrawn from the second amended complaint and remained before the district court until those claims were dismissed by the court in its order. . . . [T]the claims were merely abandoned for purposes of argument, not removed from the second amended complaint."
Having determined that the district court had subject matter jurisdiction, the court further concluded that the district court properly exercised supplemental jurisdiction over Thomas’s state-law defamation claim, “[g]iven the substantial amount of time and judicial resources expended in this case and the well-settled principles of state law concerning defamation."
On the merits of Thomas’s defamation claim, the court reversed the grant of summary judgment, finding genuine issues of material fact. Thomas v. United Steelworkers Local 1938, No. 12-3625 (8th Cir. Feb. 20, 2014).
Saturday, January 25, 2014
In my continuing efforts to make Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies somehow relevant to this blog, I can report that Kanye West has sued Odaycoins.com, Coinye-Exchange.com, Amazon.com, and others in federal district court in Manhattan (Case Number 1:14-cv-00250, filed January 14, 2014). The suit is for trademark infringement, unfair competition, and dilution and right of publicity violations, arising from Defendants' "initial public offering of a 'block' of cryptocurrency called, interchangeably, COINYE WEST, COINYE and COYE on their website . . . Although Defendants could have chosen any name for their cryptocurrency, they deliberately chose to trade upon the goodwill associated with Mr. West by adopting names that are admitted plays on his name." (Complaint, pp. 1-2.)
In a civil procedure move that our students will likely find interesting, Judge Analisa Torres entered this order:
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS' EX PARTE APPLICATION FOR PERMISSION TO USE EMAIL AS SERVICE OF PROCESS ON DEFENDANTS AND THIRD PARTIES: that Plaintiffs may serve all legal documents on defendants and third parties by email at email addresses that Plaintiffs ascertain to be valid and operational including, but not limited to the following email addresses: firstname.lastname@example.org; coinyewest@ gmail.com; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com. Such service shall constitute due and sufficient service and notice hereof.
The summonses were returned executed two days later.
Another update in the ongoing jurisdictional battles involving GlaxoSmithKline. Howard Bashman of How Appealing reports that the Third Circuit has allowed plaintiffs to appeal the lawfulness of GSK's diversity re-removals of state court Paxil personal injury cases more than one year after the cases were filed in state court.
Thursday, January 23, 2014
Last week the Supreme Court issued its decision in Daimler AG v. Bauman, a case covered earlier here and here and here. In many ways, the case resembles Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, last Term's decision on the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). The Daimler plaintiffs had brought claims under the ATS against Daimler—a German company headquartered in Stuttgart—for human rights and other violations committed by Daimler's Argentinian subsidiary during the "dirty war" of the 1970s and 1980s. The Supreme Court's decision in Daimler, however, is all about personal jurisdiction, and it is not limited to the ATS context.
The Ninth Circuit had held that Daimler was subject to general personal jurisdiction in California based on the activities of its American subsidiary, MBUSA. Because it involves general jurisdiction, Daimler is an important follow-up to the Court's 2011 decision in Goodyear Dunlop v. Brown. Writing for a unanimous Court in Goodyear, Justice Ginsburg explained that general jurisdiction over corporations is proper "when their affiliations with the State are so 'continuous and systematic' as to render them essentially at home in the forum State."
In Daimler, all nine Justices conclude that it would be unconstitutional for California to exercise general jurisdiction over Daimler. Justice Ginsburg again writes for the Court, although Justice Sotomayor writes a separate concurrence that disagrees with much of Justice Ginsburg's reasoning. Parts of the decision—and some of the areas of disagreement—are harder than usual to follow because the parties either conceded or forfeited a number of potentially important points during the course of the litigation [see p.15]. That said, the most significant parts of the Daimler decision address three issues:
(1) When can a subsidiary's activities in the forum state be attributed to the parent for purposes of general jurisdiction?
(2) More generally, when is a corporation subject to general jurisdiction under the Goodyear standard?
(3) What role (if any) do the so-called "reasonableness" factors play in the general jurisdiction context?
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
In Medtronic, Inc. v. Mirowski Family Ventures, LLC, Mirowski licensed its patents relating to implantable heart stimulators to Medtronic, which makes medical devices. Later, Mirowski notified Medtronic that it believed some of Medtronic's new products infringed Mirowski's patents.
Medtronic brought a declaratory judgment action in federal court in Delaware, claiming that its products did not infringe Mirowski's patents and that the patents were invalid. The district court held that Mirowski, as patentee, bore the burden of proving infringement, even though it was the defendant, and Mirowski lost after a bench trial.
The Federal Circuit reversed, holding that Medtronic, the declaratory judgment plaintiff, bore the burden of proving infringement.
The Supreme Court, in a unanimous opinion by Justice Breyer, reversed. First the Court addressed federal jurisdiction. An amicus argued that in a DJA, in order to determine whether the action arose under patent law under Section 1338(a), the court must look to the action that the DJ defendant (the patentee, Mirowski) could have brought in the absence of a DJA. That action, argued the amicus, would be a state-law claim for breach of the license agreement.
The Court agreed that when determining declaratory judgment jurisdiction, courts look to the "character of the threatened action" to see whether it would necessarily present a federal question. However, the Court held that the threatened action would arise under federal patent law, because if Medtronic stopped paying royalties, Mirowski could terminate the license agreement and sue for patent infringement.
Turning to the burden of proof issue, the Court reversed the Federal Circuit:
It is well established that the burden of proving infringement generally rests upon the patentee. . . . We have long considered "the operation of the Declaratory Judgment Act" to be only "procedural." . . . And we have held that "the burden of proof" is a "'substantive' aspect of a claim." . . .
Taken together these three legal propositions indicate that, in a licensee's declaratory judgment action, the burden of proving infringement should remain with the patentee.
Thanks to Professor Ira Nathenson for bringing this case (which perhaps only a Civil Procedure professor could love) to my attention.
Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Supreme Court: Appeal Time Starts Running on Merits Order Despite Pendency of Attorneys' Fees Motion
Here's one of those lawyer's procedural nightmares: an order you believe to be interlocutory actually turns out to be a final decision under 28 U.S.C. §1291, so that the 30-day appeal time has run before you've figured it out.
That's what happened in the third Supreme Court opinion on civil procedure issued this week, Ray Haluch Gravel Co. v. Central Pension Fund. Union-affiliated benefit funds (Respondent Funds) sued Petitioner Haluch, a landscape supply company, for unpaid contributions that the Funds claimed were required under a collective-bargaining agreement, ERISA, and the LMRA. The Funds also sought attorneys' and other fees under ERISA and the CBA itself.
After a bench trial, the district court entered judgment on June 17, 2011, ordering that the Funds were entitled to $26,897.41 in unpaid contributions, which was less than had been requested. The District Court did not rule on the Funds' separate motion for attorney's fees and other costs until July 25, 2011, when it awarded $34,688.15 in attorney's fees, which was about one-quarter of the amount requested.
On August 15, 2011, the Funds appealed from both orders. In the First Circuit, Haluch argued that the June 17 decision on the merits was a final decision under 28 U.S.C. §1291, so that the appeal from that decision, made more than 30 days later, was untimely. The Funds argued that there was no final decision until July 25, when the District Court rendered a decision on their request for attorney's fees and costs. Judge Selya agreed with the Funds, holding the appeal timely on all issues.
The Supreme Court, in a unanimous opinion by Justice Kennedy, reversed:
In Budinich v. Becton Dickinson & Co., 486 U.S. 196, 108 S.Ct. 1717, 100 L.Ed.2d 178 (1988), this Court held that a decision on the merits is a “final decision” under § 1291 even if the award or amount of attorney's fees for the litigation remains to be determined. The issue in this case is whether a different result obtains if the unresolved claim for attorney's fees is based on a contract rather than, or in addition to, a statute. The answer here, for purposes of § 1291 and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, is that the result is not different. Whether the claim for attorney's fees is based on a statute, a contract, or both, the pendency of a ruling on an award for fees and costs does not prevent, as a general rule, the merits judgment from becoming final for purposes of appeal.
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
The Supreme Court has issued Mississippi ex rel. Hood v. AU Optronics Corp.
Justice Sotomayor wrote the opinion for a unanimous Court.
From the reporter's syllabus:
Petitioner Mississippi sued respondent liquid crystal display (LCD) manufacturers in state court,alleging violations of state law and seeking, inter alia, restitution for LCD purchases made by itself and its citizens. Respondents sought to remove the case to federal court. The District Court held that the suit qualified as a mass action under §1332(d)(11)(B)(i), but remanded the suit to state court on the ground that it fell within CAFA’s“general public” exception, §1332(d)(11)(B)(ii)(III). The Fifth Circuit reversed, agreeing with the District Court that the suit was a massaction but finding the general public exception inapplicable.
Held: Because Mississippi is the only named plaintiff, this suit does not constitute a mass action under CAFA.
The Supreme Court has issued Daimler AG v. Bauman.
Justice Ginsburg wrote the opinion for 8 justices. Justice Sotomayor concurred.
The Court held that Daimler, a foreign corporation, is not amenable to general jurisdiction in California for injuries allegedly caused by conduct that took place entirely outside the United States.
Friday, January 10, 2014
The Eighth Circuit allowed a remittitur of damages in a personal injury case but otherwise upheld the plaintiff's verdict in Tedder v. American Railcar Industries, Inc., No. 13-1063 (8th Cir. Jan. 9, 2014).
Plaintiff's back was injured when a golf cart struck a table he was sitting on. Defendant conceded negligence but disputed causation, pointing to plaintiff's earlier back injuries.
The jury awarded plaintiff over $2 million, twice what his lawyer suggested. The trial court remitted the award but otherwise denied defendant's motion for a new trial:
Sitting through the trial, one thing became very obvious: the jury disliked defense counsel. Lead counsel, who hailed from St. Louis, Missouri [the case was tried in Jonesboro, Arkansas], was extremely abrasive to everyone in the courtroom. During the trial, a number of the jurors turned away when defense counsel addressed the witnesses and some routinely “rolled their eyes” when counsel spoke. While there is no doubt that the jury had sufficient evidence to find ARI liable, it is clear that the verdict was meant not only to compensate Tedder for his injuries, but also to send a message to defense counsel that their behavior was unacceptable.
The Eighth Circuit affirmed:
[T]here would be an inherent unfairness in subjecting Tedder to a new trial based solely on the abrasive behavior of ARI’s counsel. We have previously held that a civil litigant may not seek a new trial based on the alleged deficiency of his own counsel. Glick v. Henderson, 855 F.2d 536, 541 (8th Cir. 1988) (“[The] remedy for any ineffective assistance of counsel [in a civil case] is a suit against [the party’s] attorney for malpractice, not a new trial . . . .”). That principle applies with equal force here, where the grant of a new trial to the offending party would deprive its blameless adversary of a well-won victory. While these circumstances are perhaps not as prejudicial as those in Hale, where a new trial would have been the fourth between the parties, we should also remember who the plaintiff in this case is. Tedder is not a corporation with perpetual life and an army of in-house litigators; he is an aging, disabled man who has spent the last four years of his life in litigation. To scuttle Tedder’s victory on the merits solely because of his adversary’s deficiencies would severely prejudice him for reasons that he, along with many others, would find hard to fathom. Thus, we conclude that the district court did not err in denying the motion for new trial.
Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Flurry of Legal Wrangling Follows Third Circuit's Holding that GSK is Delaware Citizen for Diversity Purposes
Back in June, we reported that the Third Circuit held that a ten-by-ten foot subleased office made Delaware the principal place of business of a GlaxoSmithKline holding company, and thus upheld diversity jurisdiction over a personal injury action. GSK removed several other cases following the ruling. Howard Bashman, who writes the "How Appealing" blog, says that the Third Circuit's ruling "resulted in an intra-circuit split among district judges in diversity cases that GSK has sought to re-remove outside of the one-year limit found in the 2011 version of 28 U.S.C. 1446(b)." Mr. Bashman's coverage of the follow-up legal battles is reported here and here.
Friday, December 6, 2013
Okay, I've succombed to bitcoin madness. A search today of the ALLCASES library in the Westlaw database yielded three cases with the word "Bitcoin" in them. The only one of any recency was the following.
In Entrepreneur Media, Inc. v. Smith, No. 2:10–mc–55–JAM–EFB (E.D. Cal. Nov. 26, 2013), a judgment creditor/plaintiff moved to compel the production of documents sought in aid of enforcement of its judgment against the judgment debtor/defendant. The document request included, "Any and all books, letters, papers, files, or documents . . . which show any wire transfer, electronic distribution and/or transmission of funds, purchase of debit cards, acquisition and use of any online digital banking services, such as Bitcoin, and/or any and all other papers which show any account in YOUR name, and moreover, any account by any entity, including any digital entity, for the TIME PERIOD." Without addressing any issue that might have been presented by the inclusion of Bitcoin transactions in the document request, the court granted the motion to compel this particular request (although it denied the motion as to other requests).
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Today the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Atlantic Marine Constr. Co. v. United States Dist. Court for Western Dist. of Tex. (No. 12-929), which considers the proper procedural vehicle for enforcing a contractual forum-selection clause when the plaintiff files in a federal district that violates that clause. A few highlights from the opinion by Justice Alito:
- Motions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(3) and 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a) are not appropriate in this situation. A forum-selection clause does not make a venue “improper” for purposes of Rule 12(b)(3) or “wrong” for purposes of § 1406(a). [See pp. 4-8]
- A motion to transfer under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) is appropriate in this situation. Section 1404(a) “provides a mechanism for enforcement of forum-selection clauses that point to a particular federal district.” [p.9]
- “[T]he appropriate way to enforce a forum-selection clause pointing to a state or foreign forum is through the doctrine of forum non conveniens.” [pp.9-10]
- It remains an open question whether a forum-selection clause could be enforced through other vehicles, such as a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. This possibility had been urged by Professor Stephen Sachs in amicus brief, but the Court did not address it because the parties themselves did not raise it. Justice Alito adds: “Even if a defendant could use Rule 12(b)(6) to enforce a forum-selection clause, that would not change our conclusions that § 1406(a) and Rule 12(b)(3) are not proper mechanisms to enforce a forum-selection clause and that §1404(a) and the forum non conveniens doctrine provide appropriate enforcement mechanisms.” [p.11]
The opinion then addresses how a court should decide a § 1404(a) motion to enforce a forum-selection clause. Justice Alito writes:
“When the parties have agreed to a valid forum-selection clause, a district court should ordinarily transfer the case to the forum specified in that clause.5 Only under extraordinary circumstances unrelated to the convenience of the parties should a §1404(a) motion be denied.” [p.11]
(Footnote 5 makes clear that the Court’s analysis “presupposes a contractually valid forum-selection clause,” which leaves open the possibility that such a clause could be challenged as contractually invalid.) Justice Alito then explains: “The presence of a valid forum-selection clause requires district courts to adjust their usual §1404(a) analysis in three ways.” [p.12] They are:
- “First, the plaintiff ’s choice of forum merits no weight. Rather, as the party defying the forum-selection clause, the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that transfer to the forum for which the parties bargained is unwarranted.” [p.13]
- “Second, a court evaluating a defendant’s § 1404(a) motion to transfer based on a forum-selection clause should not consider arguments about the parties’ private interests…. As a consequence, a district court may consider arguments about public-interest factors only.” [pp.13-14]
- “Third, when a party bound by a forum-selection clause flouts its contractual obligation and files suit in a different forum, a § 1404(a) transfer of venue will not carry with it the original venue’s choice-of-law rules.” [p.14]
Footnote 8 states that “the same standards should apply to should apply to motions to dismiss for forum non conveniens in cases involving valid forum-selection clauses pointing to state or foreign forums.”
The Court ultimately reverses the Fifth Circuit, but it remands for further proceedings: “Although no public-interest factors that might support the denial of Atlantic Marine’s motion to transfer are apparent on the record before us, we remand the case for the courts below to decide that question.” [p.17]
Monday, December 2, 2013
See how the Supreme Court of Tennessee addresses these issues in Cooper v. Glasser, __ S.W.3d __, 2013 WL 6174469 (Tenn. Nov. 26, 2013). The opinion is here. It begins:
Monday, November 18, 2013
Earlier this month we covered Chief Justice Roberts’ statement in Marek v. Lane, a case challenging a class action settlement that included cy pres remedies. In his statement, Chief Justice Roberts agreed with the decision to deny certiorari but raised a number of concerns about cy pres remedies, concluding that “[i]n a suitable case, this Court may need to clarify the limits on the use of such remedies.”
Today, Justice Alito issued a similar statement “respecting the denial of the petition for writ of certiorari” in another case involving a class action settlement: Martin v. Blessing (No. 13-169). You can find his six-page statement in today’s order list, beginning on page 13 of the pdf file. It begins:
The petition in this case challenges a highly unusual practice followed by one District Court Judge in assessing the adequacy of counsel in class actions. This judge insists that class counsel “ensure that the lawyers staffed on the case fairly reflect the class composition in terms of relevant race and gender metrics.” App. to Pet. for Cert. 35a. The uniqueness of this practice weighs against review by this Court, but the meaning of the Court’s denial of the petition should not be misunderstood.
The judge is U.S. District Judge Harold Baer of the Southern District of New York, and Justice Alito writes that “[b]ased on the materials now before us, I am hard-pressed to see any ground on which Judge Baer’s practice can be defended.” [p.3]
Friday, November 15, 2013
1. Whether this Court should overrule or substantially modify the holding of Basic Inc. v. Levinson, 485 U.S. 224 (1988), to the extent that it recognizes a presumption of classwide reliance derived from the fraud-on-the-market theory.
2. Whether, in a case where the plaintiff invokes the presumption of reliance to seek class certification, the defendant may rebut the presumption and prevent class certification by introducing evidence that the alleged misrepresentations did not distort the market price of its stock.
Links to the cert-stage briefing and the Fifth Circuit’s opinion below available are at SCOTUSblog. If the name of this case sounds familiar, it’s been up to the Supreme Court before. In 2011, the Court unanimously decided that the plaintiff was not required to prove loss causation at the class-certification phase. But at the end of the opinion, Chief Justice Roberts alluded to the issues the Court will now confront:
Because we conclude the Court of Appeals erred by requiring EPJ Fund to prove loss causation at the certification stage, we need not, and do not, address any other question about Basic, its presumption, or how and when it may be rebutted. To the extent Halliburton has preserved any further arguments against class certification, they may be addressed in the first instance by the Court of Appeals on remand.
Thursday, November 14, 2013
Following the Supreme Court's reversal of certification of an antitrust class in Comcast Corp. v. Behrend, 133 S. Ct. 1426 (2013), the district court in the case has allowed plaintiffs to present another motion for certification of a narrower class. Glaberson v. Comcast Corp., No. 03-6604 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 13, 2013).
The court rejected Comcast's argument that the rule of mandate prevented the court from considering another motion for class certification, holding:
The Supreme Court reversed our prior certification order because the Plaintiffs’ proffered evidence on antitrust impact was not limited to the overbuilding theory, and thus failed the predominance requirement in Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(3). Importantly, the Supreme Court did not decide as a matter of law that class-wide proof could never be established. Rather, the Supreme Court’s opinion clearly contemplates that a damages model that measured only the antitrust impact of the overbuilding theory, and also plausibly showed that the extent of overbuilding, absent deterrence would have been the same in all counties, or that the extent was irrelevant to any effect upon Comcast’s ability to charge supra-competitive prices, could be common evidence. Comcast Corp., 133 S. Ct. at 1435 n.6. Under the Third Circuit’s law of mandate, Plaintiffs’ ability to certify a significantly narrowed class based on a more limited antitrust impact model that satisfies Footnote 6 is a “matter left open by the mandate,” since it was not decided by the Supreme Court in the first appeal and deemed finally settled.