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

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Childs leased military family housing at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, which was owned by SDFH, a public-private venture created by statute, in which the U.S. Navy is a minority LLC member. Lincoln managed the property. Childs reported water and mold problems to SDFH and Lincoln. The problems were not resolved. SDFH and Lincoln moved to dismiss Childs's subsequent lawsuit for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, arguing they were government contractors acting at the direction of the federal government, and therefore had derivative sovereign immunity. The district court denied their motion.The Ninth Circuit dismissed an appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction. The district court’s order was not immediately appealable under the collateral order doctrine, under which an order that does not terminate the litigation is nonetheless treated as final if it conclusively determines the disputed question, resolves an important issue completely separate from the merits of the action, and is effectively unreviewable on appeal from a final judgment. While the first two prongs were satisfied, the denial of derivative sovereign immunity was not effectively unreviewable on appeal from a final judgment because denying an immediate appeal would not imperil a substantial public interest. The public interest underlying derivative sovereign immunity is extending the federal government’s immunity from liability, in narrow circumstances, to government agents carrying out the federal government’s directions. That interest could be vindicated after trial. View "Childs v. San Diego Family Housing LLC" on Justia Law

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Through a bankruptcy proceeding, Bristol became the successor-in-interest to Haven, an accredited mental-health and substance-abuse treatment center that regularly serviced patients insured by Cigna. Bristol alleged that Cigna violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and state law by denying Haven’s claims for reimbursement for services provided. Haven was out-of-network for Cigna’s insureds. The district court dismissed Bristol’s ERISA claim, as an assignee of a healthcare provider, for lack of derivative standing, or lack of authority to bring a claim under ERISA, 29 U.S.C. 1132(a)(1)(B).The Ninth Circuit reversed. Under ERISA, a non-participant health provider cannot bring claims for benefits on its own behalf but must do so derivatively, relying on its patients’ assignments of their benefits claims. Other assignees also may have derivative standing if extending standing would align with the goal of ERISA. Refusing to allow derivative standing for Bristol would create serious perverse incentives that would undermine the goal of ERISA. Denying derivative standing to health care providers would harm participants or beneficiaries because it would discourage providers from becoming assignees and possibly from helping beneficiaries who were unable to pay up-front. View "Bristol SL Holdings, Inc. v. Cigna Health and Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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In 1982, Sanders was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Sanders’s attorney, Hoover, had never represented a capital defendant before and conducted a minimal penalty phase investigation. Sanders told Hoover that he viewed a life without parole (LWOP) sentence as unacceptable and that he did not want Hoover to present a penalty defense. Hoover presented no evidence and made no argument during the penalty phase.The Ninth Circuit reversed the denial of habeas relief and remanded for a penalty phase trial. Hoover performed deficiently by failing to perform even a rudimentary investigation into Sanders’s social history, failing to obtain reasonably available records, and failing to ensure that Sanders’s decision to forego a penalty phase defense was informed and knowing. Hoover failed to adequately advise Sanders about the penalty phase. There is a reasonable likelihood that Sanders would have changed his mind had Hoover informed and advised him about the penalty phase, and that there is a reasonable likelihood that at least one juror would have changed her mind and voted to impose an LWOP sentence. View "Sanders v. Davis" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs alleged that the bail schedule set by the San Francisco Superior Court, an arm of the state, violated their equal protection and due process rights, 42 U.S.C. 1983 because it failed to take into account pre-arraignment detainees’ inability to pay pre-set mandatory bail amounts. Following years of litigation, the district court enjoined the Sheriff, who had Eleventh Amendment immunity from damages, from enforcing the bail schedule and any other state determination that made the existence or duration of pre-trial detention dependent on the detainee’s ability to pay. The court then awarded a reduced lodestar amount of attorney’s fees ($1,950,000.00) to the class and held California responsible for payment.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the award, rejecting arguments that the state was not liable for fees because it was dismissed from the case on the ground of Eleventh Amendment immunity and did not otherwise participate in the litigation. Despite Eleventh Amendment immunity, the Sheriff could be sued in her capacity as a state official for injunctive relief, and the state could be assessed a reasonable attorney’s fee under 42 U.S.C. 1988. The state had the necessary notice and an opportunity to respond to claims that the official-capacity suit against the Sheriff could properly be treated as a suit against California. View "Buffin v. City & County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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After attempting without success to raise her concerns about unsafe medical practices with her employer (ENTA), Armstrong filed a complaint with the Nevada Occupational Safety and Health Administration (NOSHA). Armstrong alleges that ENTA retaliated against her, leading her to file a second complaint. When Armstrong withdrew her complaint before ENTA learned of it, fearing further retaliation, NOSHA notified ENTA about the complaint. More retaliation followed. When she filed a third whistleblowing complaint, NOSHA ended the investigation. ENTA fired Armstrong.The Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal of Armstrong’s 42 U.S.C. 1983 procedural due process claim. Although Armstrong was an at-will employee, Nevada's whistleblower protections can support a property interest in continued employment. Armstrong might be able to plausibly allege a relationship between Nevada officials and her termination sufficient to sustain a “direct participation” or “setting in motion” theory. Armstrong had a property right in the investigation of her complaint; she plausibly alleged that the process she received was essentially nonexistent. Armstrong did not sufficiently allege a substantive due process claim based on a liberty interest. Armstrong did not plausibly allege that the defendants’ actions entirely precluded Armstrong’s ability to work as a human resources professional elsewhere. The court erred in dismissing a negligent infliction of emotional distress claim. View "Armstrong v. Reynolds" on Justia Law

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When Jimenez-Sandoval was apprehended upon entry into the United States, an immigration officer interviewed her and prepared a Record of Deportable Alien, indicating that Jimenez-Sandoval was 20 years old. Immigration officers released her on her own recognizance and served her with an Order to Show Cause (OSC) and a Notice of Hearing. Jimenez-Sandoval failed to appear at her hearing; she was ordered deported in absentia. Almost 20 years later, Jimenez-Sandoval filed a motion to reopen, seeking to set aside the order on the basis that the agency did not comply with the notice requirements for minors. Jimenez-Sandoval provided a copy of her birth certificate, which indicated that she was 17 years old when apprehended. The IJ denied her motion. The BIA dismissed her appeal.The Ninth Circuit denied Jimenez-Sandoval’s petition for review. Jimenez-Sandoval was released on her own recognizance presumably based on the immigration officers’ belief that she was not a minor. There was no adult present to assume responsibility for ensuring her appearance at future proceedings, so the requirement of notice to an adult was not triggered. View "Jimenez-Sandoval v. Garland" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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Plaintiffs purchased a 2006 aircraft from an unidentified individual in 2016. In 2017, the plane was forced to make an emergency crash landing. The aircraft suffered significant structural damage and the complete loss of its engine, but no one was killed in the crash. Various actors were involved in the manufacture and maintenance of the aircraft, including Continental, which manufactured and shipped the engine to Columbia in Oregon, where it was installed. Cessna acquired assets from Columbia but did not assume Continental’s liabilities apart from express, written aircraft warranties still in effect at the time of acquisition. In 2014, Cessna became a subsidiary of Textron.Plaintiffs filed suit in Arizona, where the crash occurred. The case was removed to federal court. Four of the 15 original defendants—including Continental and Textron—were dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction, finding that Plaintiffs had failed to show “that any of the moving Defendants are meaningfully connected to Arizona in such a way that renders them subject to this Court’s exercise of personal jurisdiction.” The Ninth Circuit affirmed, noting that the Plaintiffs have conceded that Arizona does not have general jurisdiction over either Defendant. Plaintiffs also failed to establish a prima facie case of specific jurisdiction over either Defendant, failing to establish that Defendants had sufficient minimum contacts with Arizona that are related to Plaintiffs’ claims. Plaintiffs’ reasons for seeking jurisdictional discovery with regard to Defendants’ contacts with Arizona were properly deemed insufficient. View "LNS Enterprises, LLC v. Continental Motors, Inc." on Justia Law

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Crofts requested that the School District evaluate her daughter, A.S., for special-education services after she received an outside evaluation indicating that A.S. might have dyslexia. The District evaluated A.S. under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1401(30). enumerated “specific learning disability” category, which encompasses conditions like dyslexia. It determined that she was eligible for services in reading and writing and created an individualized education plan (IEP) targeting A.S.’s deficiencies in those areas. Crofts argued that the District should have evaluated A.S. specifically for dyslexia and used her preferred teaching method for dyslexia, and that it improperly denied her request for an independent educational evaluation.A Washington State ALJ found that the District did not violate the IDEA. The district court and Ninth Circuit affirmed. The ALJ properly discounted expert witness testimony. The District satisfied the IDEA by evaluating A.S. under the “specific learning disability” category and did not violate its obligation to evaluate the student in “all areas of suspected disability” when it did not formally evaluate her for dyslexia. The District’s IEPs were reasonably calculated to help the student progress; the District did not deny a FAPE by failing to use the parents’ preferred teaching method. View "Crofts v. Issaquah School District" on Justia Law

Posted in: Education Law
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Ngo purchased a BMW. The dealership financed Ngo’s purchase; the purchase agreement contained an arbitration clause. As a result of alleged defects with the car, Ngo sued BMW, the manufacturer, which was not a signatory to the purchase agreement. BMW moved to compel arbitration. The district court granted the motion, finding BMW to be a third-party beneficiary.The Ninth Circuit reversed. Under California law, a nonsignatory is a third-party beneficiary only to a contract made expressly for its benefit. Any benefit that BMW might receive from the clause was peripheral and indirect because it was predicated on the decisions of others to arbitrate. The purchase agreement was drafted with the primary "motivating purpose" of securing benefits for the contracting parties; third parties were not the purposeful beneficiaries of that undertaking. Nothing in the contract evinced any intention that the arbitration clause should apply to BMW. The parties easily could have indicated that the contract was intended to benefit BMW but did not do so. The court declined to apply equitable estoppel to compel arbitration. Ngo did not allege any “concerted misconduct.” BMW was mistaken that, under the Song-Beverley and Magnuson-Moss Warranty Acts, Ngo’s claims were inextricably intertwined with the terms of the purchase agreement. View "Ngo v. BMW of North America, LLC" on Justia Law

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A 12-year-old girl called 911 to report that her mother's boyfriend, Cortesluna, was threatening her and her family with a chainsaw and that they were hiding from him in a bedroom that he was trying to enter. Cortesluna subsequently brought 42 U.S.C. 1983 excessive force claims concerning his arrest.In 2020, the Ninth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of officer Leon. Even taking Cortesluna's version of the facts as true, a reasonable jury would find that Leon's acts were objectively reasonable in the circumstances. Leon faced an immediate threat; Cortesluna had a knife in his pocket and had lowered his hands towards the knife when the first shot came from the beanbag shotgun; his hands remained near the knife in his pocket at the time of the second beanbag shot. The court found that there was a genuine issue of fact as to whether the force that officer Rivas-Villegas used when he kneeled on Cortesluna's back was excessive. Officer Kensic lacked any realistic opportunity to intercede or to stop the excessive force.On remand from the U.S. Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the federal claims against Rivas-Villegas and remanded for consideration of the other elements of a Monell claim. With respect to state-law claims relating to Rivas-Villegas’s conduct, and other remaining claims, including against other defendants, the 2020 opinion remains intact. View "Cortesluna v. Leon" on Justia Law