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

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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Appellant is the owner of a rental house and property in Livingston, Montana (“Property”). Appellant purchased a Landlord Protection Policy (“Policy”) from Safeco Insurance Company (“Safeco”) to insure the Property. In 2017, a water main line leading into the house broke, saturating the area around and under the property with water. A few months later, soft spots developed on the floor of the house. An investigation determined that the soil under the foundation had contracted as a result of the water damage, causing the foundation slab to sag. Safeco informed Appellant that the damage to the Property was not covered under the Policy based on its Earth Movement and Water Damage exclusions, which are listed as excluded perils in the Policy’s ACC clause. The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of Safeco, finding that 1) the ACC clause barred coverage, 2) the Policy was not illusory or ambiguous, and 3) Safeco did not violate Montana’s Unfair Trade Practices Act when it denied Appellant coverage. Appellant appealed.   The Ninth Circuit certified the following questions to the Montana Supreme Court: 1) Whether an anti-concurrent cause (“ACC”) clause in an insurance policy applies to defeat insurance coverage despite Montana’s recognition of the efficient proximate cause (“EPC”) doctrine; and 2) Whether the relevant language in the general exclusions section on page 8 of the insurance policy in this case is an ACC clause that circumvents the application of the EPC doctrine. View "VIRGINIA WARD V. SAFECO INSURANCE COMPANY" on Justia Law

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Petitioner made an offer in compromise (OIC) to settle his outstanding tax liability. Under the Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act (TIPRA), Petitioner submitted a payment of twenty percent of the value of his OIC, acknowledging that this TIPRA payment would not be refunded if the OIC was not accepted. The Commissioner of Internal Revenue did not accept the OIC because the Commissioner concluded that ongoing audits of Petitioner's businesses made the overall amount of his tax liability uncertain. Petitioner then sought a refund of his TIPRA payment.   In a previous appeal, the Ninth Circuit held that the Internal Revenue Service did not abuse its discretion by returning the OIC, but vacated the Tax Court’s determination that the IRS had not abused its discretion in refusing to return the TIPRA payment. The Ninth Circuit remanded for the Tax Court to consider its refund jurisdiction in the first instance. On remand, the Tax Court held that it did not have jurisdiction.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the Tax Court’s decision because there is no specific statutory grant conferring jurisdiction to refund TIPRA payments. The panel explained that, as the Tax Court correctly noted, it is a court of limited jurisdiction, specifically granted by statute, with no authority to expand upon that statutory grant. View "MICHAEL BROWN V. CIR" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff is a paraplegic man, disability advocate, and serial litigant. Plaintiff cannot walk, so he uses a wheelchair to get around and drives a van that deploys a ramp from the passenger side. For Langer to park and exit his vehicle, a parking lot must have an accessible parking space with an adjacent access aisle. When Plaintiff comes across a place that he believes is not compliant with the ADA, he takes photos to document the condition of the premises and often sues. Plaintiff is a “serial” ADA litigant, a fact featured prominently at trial, and he has filed close to 2,000 ADA lawsuits in the thirty-two years since Congress enacted the ADA. Plaintiff sued the Defendants over the lack of accessible parking, bringing claims under Title III of the ADA and California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act. Defendants filed a trespass counterclaim against Plaintiff. The district court held a one-day bench trial and, at its conclusion, entered judgment for the Defendants.   The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s judgment. First, the panel held that Plaintiff had Article III standing to bring his claim for injunctive relief under Title III of the ADA. The panel held that to establish standing, a plaintiff suing a place of public accommodation must show actual knowledge of an access barrier or ADA violation and must show a sufficient likelihood of injury in the future. The panel also held that so-called “serial litigants” can have tester standing to sue for Title III violations because a plaintiff’s motive for going to a place of public accommodation is irrelevant to standing. View "CHRIS LANGER V. MILAN KISER, ET AL" on Justia Law

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The question presented in this case is whether Appellants, a cannabis entrepreneur and two cannabis businesses, have standing to bring claims arising pursuant to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), based on alleged harms to their cannabis business and related property. The district court granted Appellees’ motion to dismiss with prejudice, holding that Appellants lacked standing to bring their RICO claims. The court also dismissed Appellants’ Lanham Act claims on standing grounds as well as their state law claims, declining to exercise supplemental jurisdiction. Appellants appealed the district court’s order only as to their RICO claims.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal. The panel held that while Appellants had Article III standing, they lacked statutory standing under RICO. As to Article III standing, the panel held that Appellants satisfied the injury requirement, which requires a showing of an invasion of a legally protected interest because cannabis-related property interests are recognized under California law. Appellees argued that Appellants’ alleged injuries were not redressable because they related to a cannabis business, which was illegal under the Controlled Substances Act. The panel held that the fact that Appellants sought damages for economic harms related to cannabis was not relevant to whether a court could, theoretically, fashion a remedy to redress their injuries. Further, the panel held that Appellants lacked statutory standing to bring their claims under RICO Section 1964(c).  The panel concluded that the statutory purpose of RICO and the congressional intent animating its passage conflicted with the California laws recognizing a business and property interest in cannabis. View "FRANCINE SHULMAN, ET AL V. TODD KAPLAN, ET AL" on Justia Law

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The City of Costa Mesa (“City”) began amending its zoning code to reduce the number and concentration of sober living homes in its residential neighborhoods. Two of its new ordinances—Ordinances 14-13 and 15-11 (“Ordinances”)—made it unlawful to operate sober living homes without a permit. Appellants SoCal Recovery, LLC (“SoCal”) and RAW Recovery, LLC (“RAW”) (together, “Appellants”) operate sober living homes in Costa Mesa, California, for persons recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. Appellants alleged that two new City ordinances and the City’s enforcement practices discriminated against them on the basis of disability under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Granting the City’s motions for summary judgment, the district court found that Appellants did not establish that residents in their sober living homes were actually disabled, or that the City regarded their residents as disabled.   The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s summary judgment. The panel held that Appellants and other sober living home operators can satisfy the “actual disability” prong of the ADA, FHA, or FEHA on a collective basis by demonstrating that they serve or intend to serve individuals with actual disabilities; they need not provide individualized evidence of the actual disability of their residents. Rather, they can meet their burden by proffering admissible evidence that they have policies and procedures to ensure that they serve or will serve those with actual disabilities and that they adhere or will adhere to such policies and procedures. prong of the disability definition. View "SOCAL RECOVERY, LLC, ET AL V. CITY OF COSTA MESA, ET AL" on Justia Law

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The City of Seattle/Seattle City Light1 (“Seattle”) owns and operates the Gorge Dam, which is part of the Skagit River Hydroelectric Project (“Project”). Seattle operates the Project pursuant to a thirty-year license that was issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) in 1995. The Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe (“Tribe”) sued Seattle in Washington state court, alleging that Seattle’s operation of the Gorge Dam without fish passage facilities (“fishways”) violates certain federal and state laws. Seattle removed the case to federal court. The district court denied the Tribe’s motion to remand, finding that it had jurisdiction because the Tribe’s complaint raised substantial federal questions. The district court then granted Seattle’s motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under the Federal Power Act (“FPA”) and dismissed the complaint.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of the SaukSuiattle Indian Tribe’s motion to remand to state court and the district court’s dismissal. affirmed the district court’s order denying the Tribe’s motion to remand the action to state court. The panel held that the City properly removed the action to federal court under 28 U.S.C. Section 1441(a) because the Tribe’s right to relief depended on resolution of a substantial question of federal law. Applying a four-part test, the panel concluded that the Tribe’s complaint necessarily raised federal issues because it expressly invoked federal laws, and it was uncontested that the federal issues were disputed. The panel also affirmed the district court’s dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because the Tribe’s complaint was subject to section 313(b) of the Federal Power Act. View "SAUK-SUIATTLE INDIAN TRIBE V. CITY OF SEATTLE, ET AL" on Justia Law

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Petitioner and her daughter were removed in absentia by the Immigration Judge ("IJ"). Petitioner sought relief, citing non-receipt of the hearing notice. The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed the IJ's decision.The Ninth Circuit reversed the Board of Immigration Appeals' decision to remove Petitioner and her daughter in absentia, finding that the IJ should have determined the credibility of Petitioner's claims of non-receipt of her hearing notice in light of all the circumstantial and corroborating evidence in the record. Under 8 U.S.C. Sec. 1229a(b)(5)(C)(ii), an in absentia order may be rescinded upon a motion to reopen if the alien demonstrates non-receipt of the notice statutorily required for removal hearings. The Ninth Circuit found that there was circumstantial evidence supporting Petitioner's claim that she did not receive the hearing notice. View "IDANIA PEREZ-PORTILLO, ET AL V. MERRICK GARLAND" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, a class of children, appearing through their guardians ad litem, filed a lawsuit against Google LLC and others, alleging that Google used persistent identifiers to collect data and track their online behavior surreptitiously and without their consent in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”). They pled only state law claims arising under the constitutional, statutory, and common law of California, Colorado, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Tennessee, but also allege Google’s activities violate COPPA. The district court held that the “core allegations” in the third amended complaint were squarely covered, and preempted, by COPPA.   The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal on preemption grounds. The panel considered the question of whether COPPA preempts state law claims based on underlying conduct that also violates COPPA’s regulations. The Supreme Court has identified three different types of preemption—express, conflict, and field. First, express preemption is a question of statutory construction. The panel concluded that COPPA’s preemption clause does not bar state-law causes of action that are parallel to, or proscribe, the same conduct forbidden by, COPPA. Accordingly, express preemption does not apply to the plaintiff class’s claims. Second, even if express preemption is not applicable, preemptive intent may be inferred through conflict preemption principles. The panel held that although express and conflict preemption are analytically distinct inquiries, they effectively collapse into one when the preemption clause uses the term “inconsistent.” For the same reasons that the panel concluded there was no express preemption, the panel concluded that conflict preemption did not bar Plaintiffs’ claims. View "CARA JONES, ET AL V. GOOGLE LLC, ET AL" on Justia Law

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Coinbase, Inc., an online cryptocurrency exchange, appeals the district court’s order denying its motion to compel arbitration in a diversity suit brought by Plaintiff and three other Coinbase users (collectively “Plaintiffs”) who opted into Coinbase’s Dogecoin Sweepstakes in June 2021.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s order denying Coinbase, Inc.’s motion to compel arbitration in a diversity suit. The panel held that the “scope” of an arbitration clause concerns how widely it applies, not whether it has been superseded by a subsequent agreement. The district court therefore correctly ruled that the issue of whether the forum selection clause in the Sweepstakes’ Official Rules superseded the arbitration clause in the User Agreement was not delegated to the arbitrator, but rather was for the court to decide.   Further, the court wrote that the district court correctly ruled that because the User Agreement and the Official Rules conflict on the question whether the parties’ dispute must be resolved by an arbitrator or by a California court, the Official Rules’ forum selection clause supersedes the User Agreement’s arbitration clause. View "DAVID SUSKI, ET AL V. COINBASE, INC., ET AL" on Justia Law

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Appellants J.K. and Mr. Electric (jointly “Mr. Electric”) challenged the district court’s grant of summary judgment in this 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 action in favor of Defendants-Appellees, and the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (together “the Department”). Two Mr. Electric employees provided the Department with copious amounts of Mr. Electric’s data, particularly printouts of cell site location information that provided GPS coordinates for company vehicles which showed all movement of electricians in the field. The Department used the data to write citations and assess administrative fines against Mr. Electric for violations of Washington’s electrical code stemming from improper supervision of journeymen electricians in Clark County.   Appellants argued that Carpenter v. United States, 138 S. Ct. 2206 (2018), and Wilson v. United States, 13 F.4th 961 (9th Cir. 2021), foreclosed the Department’s use of Appellants’ location information because, when read together, the cases extinguished the applicability of the private search exception to the Fourth Amendment to location information.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment for Appellees. The panel noted that although Carpenter held that the third-party doctrine does not apply as an exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement when the government seeks cell site location information, the private search exception is an altogether separate exception to the Fourth Amendment. View "JAMES KLEISER, ET AL V. BENJAMIN CHAVEZ, ET AL" on Justia Law