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

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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Plaintiff filed a lawsuit in state court, alleging state law claims arising from SelectHealth’s administration of her deceased husband’s Medicare Advantage ("MA") plan and his death. SelectHealth removed the action to federal court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction.The court first considered whether Plaintiff’s claims must be exhausted through the Medicare Act’s administrative review scheme. The court concluded that Plaintiff’s claims were not subject to the SSA’s exhaustion requirement because the dispute was not whether Plaintiff’s husband received a favorable outcome from the internal benefits determination process but rather whether he should have received the services earlier.Next, the court held that Plaintiff’s claim that SelectHealth breached a duty to process her husband’s October 7, 2016 appeal was expressly preempted. The court reasoned that the Medicare Act preempted those claims, regardless of whether they would be inconsistent with federal regulations. The court also held that the Medicare Act also preempted Plaintiff’s claims based on SelectHealth’s alleged breach of duty to investigate properly her husband’s August 23, 2016 preauthorization request for consultation and testing at the Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona.The court concluded that a state law claim based on a duty to process claims for benefit in a timely manner is preempted by the Part C regulations that set forth the timeframes for initial determinations and reconsideration decisions. The court affirmed the district court’s summary judgment in favor of SelectHealth because the Medicare Act’s express preemption provision barred her claims. View "NAOMI AYLWARD V. SELECTHEALTH, INC." on Justia Law

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The en banc court filed an opinion affirming the district court’s order certifying three subclasses of direct tuna purchasers (“DPP”) who alleged that the suppliers violated federal and state antitrust laws. The circuit court agreed with the district court and held that the purchasers’ statistical regression model was capable of showing that a price-fixing conspiracy caused class-wide antitrust impact.Plaintiffs must prove by a preponderance of the evidence the facts necessary to carry the burden of establishing that the prerequisites of Rule 23 are satisfied. The court held that in making the determinations necessary to find that the prerequisites of Rule 23(b)(3) are satisfied, the district court may weigh conflicting expert testimony and resolve expert disputes. Further, the court found when individualized questions relate to the injury status of class members, Rule 23(b)(3) requires that the court determine whether individualized inquiries about such matters would predominate. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in certifying the class. Further, it held that the court did not err in determining that the evidence presented by the DPPs proved: (1) antitrust impact was capable of being established class-wide through common proof, and (2) that this common question predominated over individual questions. Finally, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining that the evidence presented by the “CFP” class of indirect purchasers of bulk-sized tuna products and the “EPP” class of individual end purchasers was capable of proving the element of antitrust impact. View "OLEAN WHOLESALE GROCERY CO-OP V. BUMBLE BEE FOODS LLC" on Justia Law

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After discovering apparent financial malfeasance by the plaintiff, then president of Local 1637, the Amalgamated Transit Union (“ATU”) imposed the trusteeship, thereby removing plaintiff and the other Local 1637 executive board members from office. Plaintiff filed a single-plaintiff action against ATU and several of its officers. Later, while that action was still pending, plaintiff filed a second, multiplaintiff action in which he and a majority of the other former executive board members of Local 1637 asserted related claims against ATU, the same ATU officers, and several other defendants.Because the claims against these defendants in the two cases otherwise involved the same causes of action and the same parties, the assertion of those claims in the second suit violated the doctrine of claim-splitting. The Ninth Circuit found that the district court correctly concluded that, with respect to the claims against ATU and its officers, the additional plaintiffs in the multi-plaintiff action were adequately represented by the plaintiff in the single plaintiff action. Because the claims against these defendants in the two cases otherwise involved the same causes of action and the same parties, the assertion of those claims in the second suit violated the doctrine of claim splitting. The circuit court affirmed the district court finding that the court properly dismissed the duplicative claims against the ATU Defendants in the multiplaintiff suit. View "JOSE MENDOZA, JR. V. AMALGAMATED TRANSIT UNION" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs brought Title IX claims for failure to provide equal treatment and benefits, failure to provide equal opportunities to male and female athletes, and retaliation against female athletes when they brought up Title IX compliance to high school administrators. The district court denied Plaintiff’s motion for class certification, finding that they failed to meet the numerosity requirement under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a).The Ninth Circuit reversed. Rule 23(a)(1) requires a party seeking class certification to prove that “the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable.” The proposed class of plaintiffs at the time of filing exceeded 300. Additionally, the district court failed to consider the future students who also fell within the class. To satisfy the numerosity element of Rule 23(a) Plaintiffs do not need to show that the joinder of all possible class members is impossible, only that it is impracticable. The court also found Plaintiffs’ other claims met Rule 23(a)’s requirements, remanding the case for the district court to determine whether Plaintiffs satisfied Rule 23(b). View "A. B. V. HAWAII STATE DEPT OF EDUC." on Justia Law

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A putative class action against Roadrunner on behalf of all of Roadrunner’s California current and former hourly workers, alleged violations of California wage and hour laws. Roadrunner removed the case to federal court, invoking the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), 28 U.S.C. 1711. The district court found that Roadrunner failed to establish the requisite $5 million minimum amount in controversy, and remanded the case to state court.The Ninth Circuit reversed The district court erred in imposing a presumption against CAFA jurisdiction, imposing “an inappropriate demand of certitude from Roadrunner.” Because the plaintiff contested removal, Roadrunner was required to show the amount in controversy by a preponderance of the evidence. Roadrunner offered substantial evidence and identified assumptions to support its valuation of each claim. The district court erred in assigning a $0 value to five claims where it disagreed with Roadrunner’s calculations. Nothing in CAFA or caselaw “compels such a draconian response when the district court disagrees with a single assumption underlying the claim valuation.” The CAFA amount in controversy requirement was met; using the lowest hourly wage rate identified by the court, the minimum wage claim was reasonably valued at $4.5 million, plus the $2.1 million for two claims accepted by the district court. View "Jauregui v. Roadrunner Transportation Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2020, the Ninth Circuit vacated the EPA’s conditional registrations for three dicamba-based herbicides as violating the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), 7 U.S.C. 136n(b). The court found that the EPA substantially understated risks that it acknowledged and failed entirely to acknowledge other risks. In a subsequent petition, seeking attorneys’ fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act, 28 U.S.C. 2412(d)(1)(A), the plaintiffs in the underlying action argued that their requested attorneys’ fees should be calculated based on the market rates in San Francisco, where their petition for review was calendared for oral argument. Only one of their four attorneys is located in San Francisco. The other three are located in Portland.The Ninth Circuit disagreed. Where, as here, attorneys’ fees are incurred in connection with a petition for review in a court of appeals under FIFRA, the presumptive relevant community for calculating market rates is the legal community where counsel are located and where they do the bulk of their work. View "National Family Farm Coalition v. United States Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order denying transfer under 28 U.S.C. 1404(a) and affirmed the grant of partial summary judgment to DePuy and Plaintiff Waber. Waber was hired by HOC and signed an employment contract with HOC's parent company, Stryker, which included restrictive one-year non-compete clause and forum-selection and choice-of-law clauses requiring adjudication of contract disputes in New Jersey.The panel concluded that, as the actual employer that participated in the proceedings to enforce its parent corporation’s forum-selection clause, HOC has a right to appeal the adverse decision of the district court on that issue. Furthermore, HOC properly became a party to this litigation in the district court case, albeit after the district court denied the motion to transfer. Accordingly, the panel has jurisdiction to hear HOC's appeal under 28 U.S.C. 1201. The panel held that the state law applicable here, Cal. Labor Code 925(b), which grants employees the option to void a forum-selection clause under a limited set of circumstances, determined the threshold question of whether Waber's contract contained a valid forum-selection clause. In this case, Waber satisfied all the prerequisites of section 925 and effectively voided the forum-selection clause under section 925(b). Finally, HOC presents no persuasive reason for the panel to overturn the district court's ruling of partial summary judgment in favor of DePuy and Waber that the forum-selection, non-compete and non-solicitation clauses were void under California law. View "DePuy Synthes Sales, Inc. v. Howmedica Osteonics Corp." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's decision reversing the bankruptcy court's order allowing creditor's claim in the bankruptcy proceedings of Rejuvi, a chapter 11 debtor. Creditor seeks recognition and enforcement of a default money judgment for personal injuries against Rejuvi granted by an Australian district court. The panel held that Rejuvi waived any objection to personal jurisdiction by voluntarily appearing in the South Australian district court when it sought relief from the default judgment. Accordingly, the panel remanded to the district court for further proceedings. The panel granted creditor's motion to take judicial notice of Rules 230 and 242 of the 2006 Civil Rules of the District Court of South Australia. View "Corso v. Rejuvi Laboratory, Inc." on Justia Law

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A fire swept through a cabin in the Idaho wilderness. Nobody was at home, and neither residents, neighbors, nor first responders saw the cabin catch fire. The owners claimed that the fire was caused by a negligent employee of Middlefork, the homeowners’ association. An expert report prepared by fire investigator Koster hypothesized that an open-flame pilot light at the cabin ignited combustible vapors from an excessive oil stain that had been applied to the wooden deck the previous day.The district court excluded Koster’s testimony as speculative, uncertain, and contradicted by multiple eyewitness accounts. The Ninth Circuit reversed, stating that the district court improperly assumed a fact-finding role. Although a court may screen an expert opinion for reliability and may reject testimony that is wholly speculative, it may not weigh the expert’s conclusions or assume a fact-finding role. In its opinion, the district court took issue only with the expert’s ultimate conclusions. In its findings, the district court disregarded much of the expert’s scientific analysis, weighed the evidence on record, and demanded corroboration – fact-finding steps that exceeded the court’s gatekeeping role. View "Elosu v. Middlefork Ranch, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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Relatives of Saldana, who died from COVID-19 at Glenhaven nursing home, sued Glenhaven in California state court, alleging state-law causes of action. Glenhaven removed the case to federal court. The Ninth Circuit affirmed a remand to state court,The district court lacked jurisdiction under the federal officer removal statute, 28 U.S.C. 1442, because Glenhaven did not act under a federal officer or agency’s directions when it complied with mandatory directives from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Department of Health and Human Services.The claims were not completely preempted by the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act, which provides immunity from suit when the HHS Secretary determines that a threat to health constitutes a public health emergency, but provides an exception for an exclusive federal cause of action for willful misconduct. A March 2020 declaration under the Act provided "liability immunity for activities related to medical countermeasures against COVID-19.” The Act does not displace non-willful misconduct claims related to the public health emergency, nor did it provide substitute causes of action. The federal scheme was not so comprehensive that it entirely supplanted state law claims.The district court did not have jurisdiction under the embedded federal question doctrine, which applies if a federal issue is necessarily raised, actually disputed, substantial, and capable of resolution in federal court without disrupting the federal-state balance approved by Congress. View "Saldana v. Glenhaven Healthcare LLC" on Justia Law