Justia U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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Hamer underwent open-heart surgery using LivaNova’s 3T Heater-Cooler System. He developed an infection in the incision, which his physicians suspected stemmed from a non-tuberculosis mycobacterium (NTM). The hospital had experienced an outbreak of NTM infections in other patients who had undergone surgery using the 3T System. Hamer’s treatment team never isolated NTM from any of the swabs or cultures. Hamer, alleging that his treatment caused him lasting injuries, filed suit under the Louisiana Products Liability Act (LPLA) for failure to warn and inadequate design.Hamer’s case was transferred to Multidistrict Litigation case 2816, along with other cases alleging damages from the NTM infection caused by the 3T System. Case Management Order 15 (CMO 15) required plaintiffs to show “proof of NTM infection” through “positive bacterial culture results.” Hamer did not comply but opposed dismissal, claiming he had stated a prima facie claim under Louisiana law and sought remand.The Third Circuit reversed the dismissal. The court could have dismissed Hamer’s claims without prejudice, could have suggested remand, or could have dismissed Hamer’s claims with prejudice, if it found that Hamer had not stated a prima facie case under Louisiana law. .Under the LPLA, Hamer’s facts might state a prima facie case for defective design. Hamer’s allegations may diverge from those of other cases in MDL 2816 in which an NTM infection was verified but stating alternative theories of liability cannot justify foreclosing his claims. View "Hamer v. LivaNova Deutschland GMBH" on Justia Law

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The Appellants, with a $594,000 Small Business Administration loan, bought a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania property that became a pub. They executed a note, mortgage, and unconditional guarantees, providing that federal law would control the enforcement of the note and guarantees and that they could not invoke any state or local law to deny their obligations. The Appellants defaulted on the loan and sold the property. The SBA allowed the sale to proceed but declined to release the Appellants from their loan obligations, which were assigned to CBE for collection. The Appellants sued, citing the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. 1692, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), 15 U.S.C. 1681, and the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (UTPCPL). CBE sought sanctions under Federal Rules 11 and 37, arguing that the Appellants brought frivolous claims and disobeyed discovery orders. The Appellants filed an untimely brief opposing sanctions and summary judgment, which did not include the separate responsive statement of material facts required by Local Rule. The district court granted summary judgment and denied the sanctions motions, reasoning that neither FDCPA not UTPCPL applies to commercial debts and the Appellants identified no material facts supporting their other claims. The Third Circuit affirmed and granted CBE FRAP 38 damages. The Appellants filed a brief that was essentially a copy of the one filed in the district court. The substance of their appeal “is as frivolous as its form.” View "Conboy v. United States Small Business Administration" on Justia Law

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Motorized-wheelchair users filed a purported class action, alleging that Uber discriminated against individuals with mobility disabilities by not offering a “wheelchair accessible vehicle” (WAV) option in the Pittsburgh area, citing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12181. They argued that but for the unavailability of WAVs, Plaintiffs would download the Uber app and use its ridesharing service. Uber moved to compel arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. 3–4, contending that although Plaintiffs had never registered for an Uber account or accepted its Terms of Use, they were nevertheless bound by the mandatory arbitration clause of that agreement; Plaintiffs could not establish standing to sue in federal court unless they “step into the shoes” of actual Uber Rider App users.The Third Circuit affirmed an order denying Uber’s motion. Plaintiffs’ failure to download the Uber app, agree to the terms and perform the “futile gesture” of requesting a WAV ride did not prevent them from pleading an injury in fact. Plaintiffs’ disability discrimination claim did not rely on or concerncUber’s Terms of Use, but was based on the ADA. On interlocutory appeal from the denial of a motion to compel arbitration, appellate jurisdiction is confined to review of that order; the court has no independent obligation to review non-appealable orders, even jurisdictional ones concerning standing. View "O'Hanlon v. Uber Technologies Inc" on Justia Law

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A regulation promulgated under the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, 49 U.S.C. 30101, requires a tire dealer to help customers register their new tires with the manufacturer. The regulation prescribes three methods for tire dealers to help register a buyer’s tires. According to Thorne, Pep Boys failed to pursue any of the three when, or after, it sold her the tires. She sued on behalf of a class of Pep Boys customers who similarly received no tire registration assistance.The district court dismissed her complaint without leave to amend, holding that a dealer’s failure to help register a buyer’s tires in one of the three prescribed ways does not, by itself, create an injury-in-fact for purposes of Article III standing. The Third Circuit vacated and remanded for dismissal without prejudice. A district court has no jurisdiction to rule on the merits when a plaintiff lacks standing. Thorne’s benefit-of-the-bargain allegations do not support a viable theory of economic injury, and her product-defect argument ignores the statute’s defined terms. Unregistered tires are not worth less than Thorne paid and are not defective. Congress did not intend to give private attorneys general standing to redress the “injury” of unregistered tires. View "Thorne v. Pep Boys Manny Moe & Jack" on Justia Law

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PDX is a last-mile shipper of wholesale auto parts in New Jersey and other states. Depending on the volume and timing of its customers’ shipping needs, PDX hires “independent owner-operators” on an “as-needed” basis. PDX long classified these drivers as independent contractors. In 2012, after completing an audit of PDX for 2006-2009, the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development determined that PDX had misclassified its drivers, finding they were employees, not independent contractors. The Department reached the same conclusion in two subsequent audits and sought payment of unemployment compensation taxesPDX filed suit, contending New Jersey’s statutory scheme for classifying workers was preempted by the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 and was unconstitutional under the Interstate Commerce Clause. An action before the New Jersey Office of Administrative Law (OAL) was stayed at PDX’s request. SLS, also a last-mile shipper, was audited by the Department and was allowed to intervene in the lawsuit. The Department’s audit against SLS remains pending.The trial court dismissed the entire case as barred by the Younger abstention doctrine. The Third Circuit held that the trial court correctly dismissed PDX, but erred in dismissing SLS. PDX’s OAL action is an ongoing judicial proceeding in which New Jersey has a strong interest and PDX may raise any constitutional claims while SLS is not subject to an ongoing state judicial proceeding. View "PDX North Inc v. Commissioner New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development" on Justia Law

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DLJ brought a debt and foreclosure action against the Sheridans and the IRS. At the close of DLJ’s case-in-chief, the district court granted judgment in favor of DLJ under FRCP 52(c), concluding that DLJ satisfied all elements of its claim. The Third Circuit affirmed. Sheridan was “fully heard” prior to judgment. At the close of its case-in-chief, DLJ moved for judgment based on partial findings. Sheridan did not object to the consideration of the motion. The parties made their respective arguments as to whether DLJ met its burden of providing evidence sufficient to establish its debt and foreclosure claims and whether DLJ had standing. Sheridan could have only challenged the validity of the loan documents through cross-examination of DLJ’s witness, Holmes, which he was given the opportunity to do, or through his own testimony, to the extent he had any personal knowledge. Sheridan has not indicated what additional admissible evidence he intended to present to contest DLJ’s standing. The court heard and considered Sheridan’s arguments concerning the transfer of the note and the validity of the assignment. He was fully heard with regard to DLJ’s standing to foreclose. Sheridan’s original answer asserted boilerplate affirmative defenses, none of which contained any allegations of fraud or violations of the Truth in Lending Act; Sheridan’s motion to amend was untimely, and the late assertion of fraud would have prejudiced DLJ. View "DLJ Mortgage Capital, Inc. v. Sheridan" on Justia Law

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In a dispute concerning a construction company’s liability for contributions to the Benefits Fund, the Fund unilaterally scheduled arbitration. The company sought to enjoin arbitration, alleging fraud in the execution of the agreement it signed. The district court concluded that the court had the primary power to decide whether fraud in the execution vitiated the formation or existence of the contract containing the arbitration provision. The court enjoined arbitration pending resolution of factual issues that bear upon that claim.The Third Circuit affirmed. Under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. 4, questions about the “making of the agreement to arbitrate” are for the courts to decide unless the parties have clearly and unmistakably referred those issues to arbitration in a written contract whose formation is not in issue. Here, the formation of the contract containing the relevant arbitration provision is at issue. View "MZM Construction Co. Inc. v. NJ Building Laborers Statewide BenefitsFunds" on Justia Law

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In 1993, Tazu left his native Bangladesh, entered the U.S. without inspection, and applied for asylum based on political persecution. Eight years later, an IJ denied that application. Tazu appealed to the BIA, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. In 2003, the BIA denied his appeal, giving him 30 days to depart. Nearly six years later, he was detained for removal. An attempt at removal failed. His passport had expired; the airline would not let him board the plane. A passport would not likely be issued quickly. In 2009, Tazu was granted supervised release. He complied with the terms of his release, held a job, paid taxes, and raised his children. Seeking a provisional waiver, in 2017, his son, a U.S. citizen, filed Form I-130, which was approved. Tazu did not immediately take the next step, a Form I212. In 2019, the government got Tazu’s renewed passport and re-detained him for removal. He sought habeas relief in New Jersey, filed his Form I-212, and moved to reopen his removal proceedings based on ineffective assistance of counsel. He lost on every front.The Third Circuit ordered the dismissal of the habeas petition; 8 U.S.C. 1252(g) strips courts of jurisdiction to review any “decision or action by the Attorney General to ... execute removal orders.” Section 1252(b)(9) makes a petition for review—not a habeas petition—the exclusive way to challenge a removal action and funnels Tazu’s claims to the Second Circuit. Tazu has a petition for review pending in the Second Circuit. He can stay with his family while that litigation is pending,. View "Tazu v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

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The SEC investigated Gentile for his role in a penny-stock manipulation scheme in 2007-08 and civilly sued Gentile, who was indicted for securities fraud violations. The criminal prosecution was dismissed as untimely. The SEC separately investigated securities transactions through an unregistered broker-dealer in violation of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934, 15 U.S.C. 78o(a): Traders Café, a day-trading firm, maintained an account with Gentile’s Bahamian broker-dealer, which was not registered in the U.S. The SEC issued a Formal Order of Investigation into Café in 2013. Without issuing a new Formal Order, the SEC informed Gentile that he was a target in that investigation.The SEC subpoenaed Gentile for testimony. He refused to comply. The SEC did not seek enforcement against Gentile but subpoenaed Gentile’s attorney and an entity affiliated with Gentile’s Bahamian broker-dealer, which also refused to comply. The SEC commenced enforcement actions against those entities. Gentile unsuccessfully moved to intervene; the Florida district court ordered compliance. Gentile filed suit in New Jersey, seeking a declaration that the Café investigation was unlawful, requesting the quashing of the subpoenas, and seeking an injunction to prevent the SEC from using the fruits of that investigation against him.The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The APA’s waiver of sovereign immunity, 5 U.S.C. 702, includes an exception for “agency action committed to agency discretion by law,” section 701(a)(2); sovereign immunity prevents judicial review of the Formal Order of Investigation. View "Gentile v. Securities and Exchange Commission" on Justia Law

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Two doctors and a former pharmaceutical sales representative formed a partnership, JKJ, to sue several pharmaceutical companies as a qui tam relator under the False Claims Act with respect to the marketing of the anti-clotting drug, Plavix. When one of them left the partnership and was replaced, that change amounted to forming a new partnership. The defendant’s moved to dismiss because the Act’s first-to-file bar stops a new “person” from “interven[ing] or bring[ing] a related action based on the [same] facts,” 31 U.S.C. 3730(b)(5).The Third Circuit vacated the dismissal, after noting responses by the Delaware Supreme Court to certified questions indicating that the two partnerships were distinct. The verb “intervene” means to inject oneself between two existing parties, as under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24. The new partnership did not do that but instead came in as the relator. The district court ruling was based mainly on a dictum from a Supreme Court case on a very different issue and never considered the issue here. The Act’s plain text bars only intervention or bringing a related suit. View "In Re: Plavix Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation" on Justia Law