Justia U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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The Supreme Court's opinion in CRST Van Expedited Inc. v. E.E.O.C., 136 S. Ct. 1642, 1646 (2016), effectively overruled Branson v Nott's holding that when a defendant wins because the action is dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction he is never a prevailing party. In this case, Amphastar filed a qui tam action against Aventis under the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C 3730, alleging that Aventis obtained an illegal monopoly over the drug enoxaparin and then knowingly overcharged the United States. The district court dismissed the suit based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Ninth Circuit held that Amphastar's allegations were based on publicly disclosed information, and it lacked the direct and independent knowledge needed to be an original source. Therefore, the panel upheld the district court's judgment on the merits. However, the panel held that the district court erroneously concluded that it could not award attorneys' fees, because the FCA's fee-shifting provision contained an independent grant of subject matter jurisdiction and because a party who wins a lawsuit on a non-merits issue is a "prevailing party." The panel remanded for resolution of the attorneys' fees issue. View "Amphastar Pharmaceuticals v. Aventis Pharma" on Justia Law

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The court affirmed the denial of a motion to intervene in a False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729-3733, suit brought by the Government against Sprint because the movant did not meet the requirements in the four-part test set out in Sw. Ctr. for Biological Diversity v. Berg. John C. Prather had filed an earlier qui tam suit against Sprint and others, alleging the companies were defrauding federal and state governments. The Government elected not to intervene and the district court later dismissed Prather's suit for lack of jurisdiction. The Government then filed its own FCA suit against Sprint and the district court denied Prather's motion to intervene based on lack of standing. As a preliminary matter, the court agreed with the Fourth Circuit that the parties' settlement and dismissal of a case after the denial of a motion to intervene does not as a rule moot a putative-intervenor's appeal. Here, the Government's settlement agreement with Sprint and the dismissal of the underlying action did not moot this appeal. On the merits, Prather lacked a significantly protectable interest in this case, the statute's qui tam recovery provisions in section 3730(d) did not apply to relators jurisdictionally barred under section 3730(e)(4); and Prather cannot obtain a monetary bounty under the FCA on his jurisdictionally barred claims. View "United States v. Sprint Communications" on Justia Law

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This petition for review returned to a long series of administrative cases arising out of the California energy crisis of 2000 and 2001 all centering on whether the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC” or “Commission”) acted arbitrarily or capriciously in calculating certain refunds. FERC that FERC had acted outside its jurisdiction when ordering governmental entities/non-public utilities to pay refunds, the Commission vacated each of its orders in the California refund proceeding to the extent that they ordered governmental entities/nonpublic utilities to pay refunds. In sum, although the tariffs were not specific, the Ninth Circuit could not concluded FERC acted arbitrarily or capriciously in its construction of the tariffs. View "California Pub. Util. Comm'n v. Federal Energy Reg. Comm'n" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the United States and former FBI agent Joe Gordwin after plaintiff was convicted of robbery and sentenced to twenty years in prison based on manufactured and coerced witness testimony. Plaintiff alleged thirteen causes of action and sought punitive damages. The district court granted the government's motion to dismiss, but dismissed all of plaintiff's claims, including those against Gordwin. Plaintiff then filed this notice of appeal (NOA), which included Gordwin and the United States in the caption, but did not otherwise identify Gordwin or the claims against him in the NOA. Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 3 lists the requirements for taking an appeal as of right in federal court. While no party raised an issue with plaintiff's NOA, the court sua sponte addressed the issue. Consistent with other circuits and the plain language of Rule 3(c)(1)(A), the court held that failing to name an appellee in an NOA is not a bar to an appeal. Therefore, any ambiguity about the identity of the appellees in plaintiff's NOA does not preclude the court's review of plaintiff's claims against Gordwin. The court rejected the literal interpretation of Rule 3(c)(1)(B), which stands in contrast to section 3(c)(1)(A), and applied a functional approach to plaintiff's case, concluding that his argument was more than sufficient to present the issue on appeal. Finally, the court concluded that the district court failed to distinguish between claims against the United States and claims against Gordwin when dismissing the case with prejudice. The court addressed the merits of plaintiff's other claims in a memorandum disposition filed concurrently with this opinion. The court reversed the judgment. View "West v. United States" on Justia Law
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Plaintiffs, twenty individuals who purchased first generation four stroke outboard motors (the Class Motors), filed suit against defendants, alleging that the Class Motors contained an inherent design defect that caused severe, premature corrosion in the motors’ dry exhaust system. Plaintiffs alleged that defendants knew of the defect prior to the sales of the Class Motors to plaintiffs, and that the defect posed an unreasonable safety hazard. On appeal, plaintiffs challenged the district court's grant of YMC's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and its grant of YMUS's fifth motion to dismiss plaintiffs' consumer fraud claims. The court concluded that the district court lacked general jurisdiction over YMC because YMC does not have sufficient contacts with California; plaintiffs failed to plead facts sufficient to make out a prima facie case that YMC and YMUS were alter egos; and even assuming that YMUS's contacts could be imputed to YMC, this does not, on its own, suffice to establish general jurisdiction. The court also concluded that the district court lacked specific jurisdiction over YMC because plaintiffs do not allege any actions that YMC "purposefully directed" at California. Even assuming that some standard of agency continued to be relevant to the existence of specific jurisdiction pursuant to Daimler AG v. Bauman, plaintiffs failed to make out a prima facie case for any such agency relationship. Finally, the court concluded that plaintiffs failed to plead a prima facie case of consumer fraud where, although plaintiffs adequately pleaded defendants' presale knowledge of the defect, plaintiffs failed to plead the existence of an unreasonable safety hazard. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Williams v. Yamaha Motor Corp." on Justia Law

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Defendants challenged the district court's grant of plaintiffs' motion to voluntarily dismiss their action without prejudice pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(2). Plaintiffs' claims stemmed from Richard Zanowick's exposure to asbestos, leading to terminal mesothelioma. Defendants claimed that the district court should have dismissed the action with prejudice due to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 25(a)(1). After Richard died, Rule 25(a)(1) required plaintiffs to file a motion to substitute a new party for Richard, and plaintiffs failed to do so. In the meantime, Richard's wife and her children filed a new suit in state court. After the Rule 25(a)(1) deadline had expired, plaintiffs moved to dismiss the federal action voluntarily without prejudice. The court concluded that Rule 25(a)(1) permitted the district court to allow a late substitution if requested, and it did not require the district court to dismiss the federal action with prejudice. The court reasoned that, based on the record before the district court, both decisions were well within the district court's ambit. Likewise, the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting the Rule 41(a)(2) motion for dismissal without prejudice. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Zanowick v. Baxter Healthcare" on Justia Law
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DWA, a political subdivision of the State of California, charges businesses and residences in Riverside County a variety of fees and taxes in order to recoup its costs and expenses. Parties subject to DWA's charges include non-Indians who lease lands from the Tribe within the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation. DWA filed suit against the Department, challenging Interior's promulgation of 25 C.F.R. 162.017. Section 162.017 addresses the taxes applied to approved leases on Indian land to third parties. The court agreed with Interior and concluded that the regulation does not purport to change existing law, and therefore it does not operate to preempt DWA's charges. Consequently, DWA lacks standing to challenge the regulation. Finally, the court lacked jurisdiction to issue a declaratory judgment that DWA's charges would survive a preemption challenge under White Mountain Apache Tribe v. Bracker where the dispute between DWA and Interior was over. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Desert Water Agency v. Department of the Interior" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging First and Sixth Amendment claims arising from jail employees opening legal mail outside plaintiff's presence. The district court dismissed the claims. The court clarified that, under Nordstrom v. Ryan, prisoners have a Sixth Amendment right to be present when legal mail related to a criminal matter is inspected; plaintiff alleged sufficient facts to state a claim for improper opening of his incoming legal mail on November 9, 2012 and March 12, 2013; the remaining counts were properly dismissed because plaintiff failed to allege that the mail was properly marked as legal mail; and the district court erred in dismissing plaintiff's First Amendment claim in a concurrently filed opinion, Hayes v. Idaho Correctional Center. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Mangiaracina v. Penzone" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff is a doctor who used to work at the public hospital on Saipan. Plaintiff filed suit against the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and one of its agencies, alleging that the Commonwealth and the public corporation that runs the hospital, wrongfully denied him privileges at the hospital. The district court, pursuant to Fleming v. Department of Public Safety, denied defendants' motion to dismiss the contract and tort claims on the basis of sovereign immunity. In Fleming, the court held that the Commonwealth does not enjoy sovereign immunity in federal court with respect to claims brought under federal law. The court held that Fleming does not control the outcome of this case where Fleming held only that the Commonwealth waived its sovereign immunity with respect to suits in federal court arising under federal law. The court agreed with the suggestion in Fleming that the Commonwealth retained its sovereign immunity with respect to claims arising under Commonwealth law. Therefore, the court held that the Commonwealth may not be sued without its consent on claims arising under its own laws. The court reversed and remanded for the district court to grant defendants' motion to dismiss the claims at issue. View "Ramsey v. Muna" on Justia Law

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In 2000, WRS filed suit against Plaza Entertainment and its directors. Plaza cross-claimed, and the district court eventually granted summary judgment for WRS. The district court then granted Defendant Herklotz's motion to sever his state law cross claim and transferred it to the California district court, where it was later dismissed under Federal Civil Rule 12(b)(6). The court explained that a severed action must have an independent jurisdictional basis. Where, as in this case, the claims were stripped of their jurisdictional predicate through severance, they lose their federal hook and must stand on their own. Therefore, the court concluded that the Pennsylvania court lacked jurisdiction to enter the transfer order, and the California court lacked jurisdiction to take the case. The court reasoned that the appropriate course of action would have been either to deny the motion to sever and retain jurisdiction over the supplemental state law claims, or to decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1367(c)(3) and dismiss the crossclaim, thus permitting Herklotz to seek relief in state court. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded. View "Herklotz v. Parkinson" on Justia Law
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