Justia U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Civil Procedure
In re: Williams-Sonoma, Inc.
In the underlying action, plaintiff filed suit against Williams-Sonoma for damages after he allegedly suffered from the company's alleged misrepresentations about thread count on bedding he purchased. Before a class action was certified, the district court concluded that Kentucky law governed plaintiff's claims and that Kentucky consumer law prohibited class actions. The district court then granted plaintiff's request to obtain discovery from the company for the sole purpose of helping counsel's attempt to find a California purchaser of bedding from Williams-Sonoma who might be willing to sue. The Ninth Circuit granted Williams-Sonoma's petition for writ of mandamus and ordered the district court to vacate a pre-class-certification discovery order that directed Williams-Sonoma to produce a list of California customers who had purchased certain bedding products. Applying the Bauman v. U.S. Dist. Court, 557 F.2d 650, 656-661 (9th Cir. 1977), factors, the panel held that the district court clearly erred as a matter of law when it ordered the discovery in question. In this case, the first two Bauman factors weigh in favor of granting the petition, because Williams-Sonoma has no other adequate means to obtain relief at this time. Furthermore, before a direct appeal could be taken and heard, the disclosure and damage to its (and its customers') interests would be complete. The panel held that the balance of factors weighed in favor of granting the writ and vacated the district court's discovery order. View "In re: Williams-Sonoma, Inc." on Justia Law
United States ex rel. Alexander Volkhoff, LLC v. Janssen Pharmaceutica NV
Volkhoff appealed the district court's dismissal of the qui tam complaint filed by relator under the False Claims Act (FCA) and analogous state false claims laws. The Ninth Circuit dismissed Volkhoff's appeal based on lack of appellate jurisdiction, because Volkhoff was not a party to relator's complaint, and it was not clear from Volkhoff's notice of appeal, as required by Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 3(c), whether relator also sought to take an appeal. View "United States ex rel. Alexander Volkhoff, LLC v. Janssen Pharmaceutica NV" on Justia Law
Henson v. Fidelity National Financial Inc.
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of plaintiffs' Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(6) motion for relief from judgment in an action under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA). In Phelps v. Alameida, 569 F.3d 1120, 1135–40 (9th Cir. 2009), the panel set out the analysis that courts should employ to guide their discretion when evaluating the merits of a Rule 60(b)(6) motion that seeks relief from the dismissal of a habeas corpus petition on the ground of an intervening change in the law. In this case, plaintiffs sought relief from judgment based on an intervening change of law in Microsoft Corp. v. Baker, 137 S. Ct. 1702 (2017). The panel held that many of the Phelps factors were relevant to the Rule 60(b)(6) analysis in the present context, and reemphasized that courts must consider all of the relevant circumstances surrounding the specific motion before the court in order to ensure that justice be done in light of all the facts. In this case, the panel held that the district court's denial of plaintiffs' Rule 60(b)(6) motion rested upon an erroneous view of the law as to several significant factors, and thus the panel remanded with directions. View "Henson v. Fidelity National Financial Inc." on Justia Law
Silbaugh v. Chao
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of an action alleging that the FAA wrongfully terminated plaintiff. Plaintiff filed her action in the district court within the 30-day statutory limitations period, but she mistakenly named only the FAA and her former supervisor as defendants. Because plaintiff's action alleged claims of discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, she should have named the head of the executive agency to which the FAA belonged, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao. After the statute of limitations had expired, the FAA moved to dismiss and Secretary Chao then filed her own motion to dismiss. The Ninth Circuit held that plaintiff was entitled to relation back under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c)(2). The panel held that the district court adopted an overly technical interpretation of the term "process" as used in Rule 15(c)(2). Rather, the panel held that the notice-giving function of "process" under Rule 15(c)(2) was accomplished whether or not the summons accompanying the complaint was signed by the clerk of court. Furthermore, the requirements for relation back were met here where both the United States Attorney and the Attorney General were sufficiently notified of the action within Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(m)'s 90-day period. Accordingly, the panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Silbaugh v. Chao" on Justia Law
Board of Trustees of the Glazing Health and Welfare Trust v. Chambers
The en banc court dismissed an appeal from the district court's grant of summary judgment for plaintiffs in an action challenging Nevada Senate Bill 223. SB 223 amended state vicarious liability and lien collection laws to impose certain administrative requirements on labor union trusts when they pursue debt collection on behalf of union members. While this appeal was pending, the Nevada legislature repealed SB 223 and replaced it with SB 338, with the specific intent to avoid the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) preemption issues of SB 223. The en banc court joined other circuits and held that the repeal, amendment, or expiration of legislation creates a presumption that an action challenging the legislation is moot, unless there is a reasonable expectation that the legislature is likely to enact the same or substantially similar legislation in the future. Applying these principles in this case, the en banc court held that the action was moot where no live controversy remained. Accordingly, the en banc court remanded with instructions to vacate the judgment and dismiss the complaint. View "Board of Trustees of the Glazing Health and Welfare Trust v. Chambers" on Justia Law
Vazquez v. Jan-Pro Franchising International, Inc.
The Ninth Circuit certified a question to the California Supreme Court in a separate published order. In this opinion, the panel reestablished the remaining holdings from the now-withdrawn opinion Vazquez v. Jan-Pro Int’l, Inc., 2019 WL 3271969 (9th Cir. Jul. 22, 2019). The panel held that the doctrines of res judicata and law of the case did not bar plaintiffs from contending that they are employees under the ABC test in Dynamex Operations West Inc. v. Superior Court, 416 P.3d 1 (Cal. 2018). The panel rejected plaintiffs' contention that a retroactive application of Dynamex would violate their federal due process rights. View "Vazquez v. Jan-Pro Franchising International, Inc." on Justia Law
Cerner Middle East Limited v. iCapital, LLC
Cerner filed suit against defendant and iCapital in state court, seeking to enforce an arbitration award against property in Oregon owned by defendants. After removal, the district court dismissed the action. While this appeal was pending, the Court of Appeal of Paris, a court with jurisdiction over defendant, confirmed the arbitration panel's conclusion that defendant was subject to the panel's jurisdiction. The Ninth Circuit held that the French court's decision was entitled to recognition under the principles of international comity and thus the elements of quasi in rem jurisdiction were present. The panel held that Cerner possessed a valid judgment against defendant, who owns property in Oregon, and thus the panel reversed the district court's dismissal of the action for lack of personal jurisdiction. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Cerner Middle East Limited v. iCapital, LLC" on Justia Law
Riggs v. Airbus Helicopters, Inc.
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order granting motions to remand to state court. AHI contended that it properly removed this case to federal court under 28 U.S.C. 1442(a)(1). Plaintiffs had filed suit in state court against the helicopter owners, the Hecker Defendants, and the manufacturer, AHI, after John Udall died in a helicopter crash while touring the Grand Canyon. The panel held that the district court committed no error in finding that AHI was not "acting under" a federal officer by virtue of becoming an FAA-certified Designation holder with authority to issue Supplemental Certificates. In this case, AHI inspected and certified its aircraft pursuant to FAA regulations and federal law and could not make any structural or design changes without the consent of the FAA. The panel joined the Seventh Circuit in concluding that an aircraft manufacturer does not act under a federal officer when it exercises designated authority to certify compliance with governing federal regulations. View "Riggs v. Airbus Helicopters, Inc." on Justia Law
Husayn v. United States
Petitioner and his attorney filed an ex parte application for discovery pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1782, which permits certain domestic discovery for use in foreign proceedings. The district court quashed the subpoenas after concluding that not all the discovery sought was subject to the state secrets privilege. Although the Ninth Circuit agreed with the district court that certain information requested was not privileged because it was not a state secret that would pose an exceptionally grave risk to national security and that the government's assertion of the state secrets privilege was valid over much of the information requested, the panel held that the district court erred in quashing the subpoenas in toto rather than attempting to disentangle nonprivileged from privileged information. In this case, the underlying proceeding was a limited discovery request that could be managed by the district court. Accordingly, the panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Husayn v. United States" on Justia Law
Kaffaga v. The Estate of Thomas Steinbeck
This appeal stemmed from the parties' longstanding dispute over the literary works of John Steinbeck. In this case, a federal jury in Los Angeles unanimously awarded plaintiff, as executrix of Elaine's estate (Elaine was the widow of Steinbeck), compensatory damages for slander of title, breach of contract, and tortious interference with economic advantage, and punitive damages against defendants. Determining that it had jurisdiction, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the orders granting summary judgment and striking defendants' defenses to tortious interference on grounds of collateral estoppel. Furthermore, the panel explained that it follows that the district court's decisions to exclude evidence related to defendants' different understanding of the agreement at issue or the validity of the prior court decisions were not abuses of discretion. The panel affirmed the compensatory damages award, holding that the record contained substantial evidence to support the awards on each cause of action independently. Furthermore, the compensatory damages were not speculative. The panel held that there was more than ample evidence of defendants' malice in the record to support the jury's verdict, thus triggering entitlement to punitive damages. However, the panel vacated and remanded with instructions to dismiss the punitive damages claims against Gail, Steinbeck's daughter-in-law, based on lack of meaningful evidence of Gail's financial condition and her ability to pay. View "Kaffaga v. The Estate of Thomas Steinbeck" on Justia Law