Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

by
Plaintiffs, most of whom are not California residents, sued BMS in California state court, alleging that the pharmaceutical company’s drug Plavix had damaged their health. BMS is incorporated in Delaware and headquartered in New York; it maintains substantial operations in New York and New Jersey. BMS engages in business activities in California and sells Plavix there, but did not develop, create a marketing strategy for, manufacture, label, package, or work on the regulatory approval for Plavix in California. The nonresident plaintiffs did not allege that they obtained Plavix from a California source, that they were injured in California, or that they were treated for their injuries in California. The California Superior Court found that it had general jurisdiction. The state supreme court found that BMS’s “wide-ranging” contacts with the state supported a finding of specific jurisdiction over the nonresident plaintiffs’ claims. The Supreme Court reversed. For general jurisdiction, the “paradigm forum” is an “individual’s domicile,” or, for corporations, “an equivalent place, one in which the corporation is fairly regarded as at home.” Specific jurisdiction requires the suit to “aris[e] out of or relat[e] to the defendant’s contacts with the forum.” The primary concern is the burden on the defendant. The California Supreme Court found specific jurisdiction without identifying any adequate link between the state and the nonresidents’ claims. It is not relevant that BMS conducted research in California on matters unrelated to Plavix. BMS’s decision to contract with a California company to distribute Plavix nationally does not provide a sufficient basis for personal jurisdiction. View "Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California" on Justia Law

by
The owners of Microsoft’s videogame console, Xbox 360, filed a putative class action alleging a design defect. The district court struck class allegations from the complaint. The Ninth Circuit denied permission to appeal that order under FRCP 23(f), which authorizes permissive interlocutory appeal of class certification orders. Instead of pursuing their individual claims, plaintiffs stipulated to a voluntary dismissal, then appealed, challenging only the interlocutory order striking their class allegations. The Ninth Circuit held it had jurisdiction to entertain the appeal under 28 U.S.C. 1291, applicable to “final decisions of the district courts,” and that the rationale for striking the class allegations was impermissible. The Supreme Court reversed. Federal courts of appeals lack jurisdiction under section 1291 to review an order denying class certification (or an order striking class allegations) after the named plaintiffs have voluntarily dismissed their claims with prejudice. Section 1291’s final-judgment rule preserves the proper balance between trial and appellate courts, minimizes the harassment and delay that would result from repeated interlocutory appeals, and promotes the efficient administration of justice. Under plaintiffs’ theory, plaintiffs alone could determine whether and when to appeal an adverse certification ruling, allowing indiscriminate appellate review of interlocutory orders. Plaintiffs in putative class actions cannot transform interlocutory orders into section 1291 final judgments simply by dismissing their claims with prejudice. Finality “is not a technical concept of temporal or physical termination.” View "Microsoft Corp. v. Baker" on Justia Law

by
Sherman paid $2.7 million for land in Chester, New York, then sought approval of his development plan. Years later, he filed a regulatory takings suit. Laroe moved to intervene under FRCP 24(a)(2), which requires a court to permit intervention by a litigant that “claims an interest related to the property or transaction that is the subject of the action, and is so situated that disposing of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede the movant’s ability to protect its interest, unless existing parties adequately represent that interest.” Laroe alleged that it had paid Sherman $2.5 million in relation to the project, that its resulting equitable interest would be impaired if it could not intervene, and that Sherman would not adequately represent its interest. A unanimous Supreme Court held that a litigant seeking to intervene as of right under Rule 24(a)(2) must meet Article III standing requirements if the intervenor seeks relief not requested by a plaintiff. To establish Article III standing, a plaintiff seeking compensatory relief must have suffered an injury-in-fact, that is fairly traceable to the defendant's challenged conduct, and that is likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision. An intervenor-of-right must demonstrate Article III standing when it seeks relief beyond that requested by the plaintiff. The Second Circuit must address, on remand, whether Laroe seeks different relief than Sherman. If Laroe wants only a money judgment of its own running directly against the town, then it seeks damages different from those sought by Sherman and must establish its own standing to intervene. View "Town of Chester v. Laroe Estates, Inc. " on Justia Law

by
In the 1970s, federal district courts began ordering disgorgement in Securities and Exchange Commission enforcement proceedings. The Commission may also seek monetary civil penalties; 28 U.S.C. 2462 establishes a five-year limitations period for “an action, suit or proceeding for the enforcement of any civil fine, penalty, or forfeiture.” In 2009, the Commission brought an enforcement action against Kokesh for concealing the misappropriation of $34.9 million from business development companies, seeking monetary civil penalties, disgorgement, and an injunction. A jury found that Kokesh’s actions violated securities laws. The district court determined that section 2462’s limitations period applied to the monetary civil penalties but did not apply to the $34.9 million disgorgement judgment. The Tenth Circuit affirmed. A unanimous Supreme Court reversed. SEC disgorgement operates as a penalty under section 2462. It is imposed by the courts as a consequence for violating public laws, i.e., a violation committed against the United States rather than an aggrieved individual, and is imposed for punitive purposes. SEC disgorgement is often not compensatory. Disgorged profits are paid to the courts, which have discretion to determine how the money will be distributed. When an individual is made to pay a noncompensatory sanction to the government as a consequence of a legal violation, the payment is a penalty. Although disgorgement may sometimes serve compensatory goals, “sanctions frequently serve more than one purpose.” View "Kokesh v. Securities and Exchange Commission" on Justia Law

by
Based on alleged work-related injuries, Nelson, a North Dakota resident, and Tyrrell, the administrator of a South Dakota estate, brought Federal Employers’ Liability Act, 45 U.S.C. 51, suits against BNSF Railroad. Neither injury occurred in Montana. Neither incorporated nor headquartered there, BNSF maintains less than five percent of its workforce and about six percent of its total track mileage in Montana. The Montana Supreme Court held that Montana courts could exercise general personal jurisdiction over BNSF because the railroad “d[id] business” in the state within the meaning of 45 U.S.C. 56. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed. Section 56 does not address personal jurisdiction over railroads but is only a venue prescription. The Montana courts’ exercise of personal jurisdiction did not comport with the Due Process Clause. Only the propriety of general personal jurisdiction was at issue because neither plaintiff alleged injury from work in or related to Montana. A state court may exercise general jurisdiction over out-of-state corporations when their “affiliations with the State are so ‘continuous and systematic’ as to render them essentially at home in the forum State.” The “paradigm” forums in which a corporate defendant is “at home” are its place of incorporation and its principal place of business. In an “exceptional case,” a corporate defendant’s operations in another forum “may be so substantial and of such a nature as to render the corporation at home in that State,” but that constraint does not vary with the type of claim asserted or business enterprise sued. View "BNSF Railroad Co. v. Tyrrell" on Justia Law

by
The patent venue statute, 28 U.S.C. 1400(b), provides that “[a]ny civil action for patent infringement may be brought in the judicial district where the defendant resides, or where the defendant has committed acts of infringement and has a regular and established place of business.” In its 1957 “Fourco” decision, the Supreme Court concluded that for purposes of section 1400(b) a domestic corporation “resides” only in its state of incorporation, rejecting the argument that section 1400(b) incorporates the broader definition of corporate “residence” contained in the general venue statute, 28 U.S.C. 1391(c). Congress has not amended section 1400(b) since Fourco. Kraft filed a patent infringement suit in the District of Delaware against TC, a competitor, organized under Indiana law and headquartered in Indiana. TC ships the allegedly infringing products into Delaware. Reversing the district court and Federal Circuit, the Supreme Court held that, ss applied to domestic corporations, “reside[nce]” in section 1400(b) refers only to the state of incorporation. Section 1400(b) was enacted as a "stand alone" statute. Amendments to section 1391 did not modify the meaning of 1400(b) as interpreted by Fourco. View "TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC" on Justia Law

by
Water Splash sued Menon, a former employee, in Texas state court. Because Menon resided in Canada, Water Splash obtained permission to effect service by mail. Menon declined to answer or enter an appearance. The trial court issued a default judgment. Menon argued that service by mail was impermissible under the Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil and Commercial Matters (Hague Service Convention). Vacating a Texas Court of Appeals decision in Menon’s favor, the Supreme Court held that the Convention does not prohibit service of process by mail. Article 10(a) uses the term “judicial documents” and the ordinary meaning of the word “send” is broad enough to cover the transmission of any judicial documents. The Convention’s drafting history strongly suggests that the drafters understood that service by postal channels was permissible; in the half-century since the Convention was adopted, the Executive Branch has consistently maintained that it allows service by mail. Other Convention signatories have consistently adopted that view. That Article 10(a) encompasses service by mail does not mean that it affirmatively authorizes such service; service by mail is permissible if the receiving state has not objected to service by mail and if such service is authorized under other applicable laws. View "Water Splash, Inc. v. Menon" on Justia Law

by
A case falls within the scope of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. 1604, “expropriation exception” and may be pursued against a foreign state in U.S. federal courts only if the property in which the party claims to hold rights was indeed “property taken in violation of international law.” The Supreme Court held that the exception should not be evaluated under the “nonfrivolous-argument standard” and remanded to the District of Columbia Circuit. The case was filed by a wholly-owned Venezuelan subsidiary and its American parent company that supplied oil rigs to entities that were part of the Venezuelan Government, claiming that Venezuela had unlawfully expropriated the subsidiary’s rigs by nationalizing them. A court should decide the foreign sovereign’s immunity defense at the threshold of the action, resolving any factual disputes as near to the outset of the case as is reasonably possible. The expropriation exception grants jurisdiction only where there is a legally valid claim that a certain kind of right is at issue (property rights) and that the relevant property was taken in a certain way (in violation of international law). Simply making a nonfrivolous argument to that effect is not sufficient. View "Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela v. Helmerich & Payne Int’l Drilling Co." on Justia Law

by
The Haegers sued Goodyear, alleging that the failure of a Goodyear G159 tire caused their motorhome to swerve and flip over. After years of contentious discovery, marked by Goodyear’s slow response to repeated requests for internal G159 test results, the parties settled. Months later, the Haegers’ lawyer learned that, in another lawsuit involving the G159, Goodyear had disclosed test results indicating that the tire got unusually hot at highway speeds. Goodyear conceded withholding the information. The district court exercised its inherent power to sanction bad-faith behavior to award the Haegers $2.7 million—their legal fees and costs since the moment, early in the litigation, of Goodyear’s first dishonest discovery response. The court held that in cases of egregious behavior, a court can award all attorney’s fees incurred in a case, without any need to find a causal link between the expenses and the sanctionable conduct. The court made a contingent award of $2 million, to take effect if the Ninth Circuit reversed the larger award, deducting fees related to other defendants and to proving medical damages. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the $2.7 million award. The Supreme Court reversed. When a federal court exercises its inherent authority to sanction bad-faith conduct by ordering a litigant to pay the other side’s legal fees, the award is limited to fees that the innocent party would not have incurred but for the bad faith. The sanction must be compensatory, not punitive. The Haegers did not show that this litigation would have settled as soon as Goodyear divulged the heat-test results and cannot demonstrate that Goodyear’s non-disclosure so permeated the suit as to make that misconduct a but-for cause of every subsequent legal expense. View "Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. v. Haeger" on Justia Law

by
Ochoa worked in a physically demanding job for McLane, which requires new employees in such positions and those returning from medical leave to take a physical evaluation. When Ochoa returned from three months of maternity leave, she failed the evaluation three times and was fired. She filed a sex discrimination charge under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The Equal Employment Opportunity (EEOC) began an investigation, but McLane declined its request for names, Social Security numbers, addresses, and telephone numbers of employees asked to take the evaluation. After the EEOC expanded the investigation’s scope, it issued subpoenas under 42 U.S.C. 2000e–9, requesting information relating to its new investigation. The district judge declined to enforce the subpoenas. The Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that the lower court erred in finding the information irrelevant. The Supreme Court vacated. A district court’s decision whether to enforce or quash an EEOC subpoena should be reviewed for abuse of discretion, not de novo. The Court noted “the longstanding practice of the courts of appeals," to review a district court’s decision to enforce or quash an administrative subpoena for abuse of discretion. In most cases, the enforcement decision will turn either on whether the evidence sought is relevant to the specific charge or whether the subpoena is unduly burdensome under the circumstances. Both tasks are well suited to a district judge’s expertise. Deferential review “streamline[s] the litigation process by freeing appellate courts from the duty of reweighing evidence and reconsidering facts already weighed and considered by the district court,” something particularly important in a proceeding designed only to facilitate the EEOC’s investigation. Not every decision touching on the Fourth Amendment is subject to searching review. View "McLane Co. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission" on Justia Law