Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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Hildebrand was hired by the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office in 2005, after 15 years as an undercover Pittsburgh detective. He performed satisfactorily and without incident for four years. In 2009, he was assigned a new supervisor. From that time until his 2011 termination, Hildebrand alleges he was subject to several forms of age-based discrimination. In 2013, Hildebrand sued the DA’s Office for age discrimination under 29 U.S.C. 621 and constitutional violations under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming that the office had an established practice of targeting older detectives to force them out of their jobs. After appeals, Hildebrand’s remaining claim stagnated for three years until 2018, after the death of Hildebrand’s former supervisor, a key witness. The delay was caused by clerical error. The district court then dismissed for failure to prosecute (FRCP 41(b)). The Third Circuit vacated and remanded, finding that the district court failed to properly consider the “Poulis” factors. There was no evidence that Hildebrand was personally responsible for the delay; Hildebrand’s conduct was not delinquent at any other point. There is no evidence that the delay was part of any bad-faith tactic. While prejudice to the DA’s Office bears substantial weight in favor of dismissal, it is not dispositive of the appropriateness of imposing the harshest sanction; evidentiary or other sanctions may have been sufficient. View "Hildebrand v. Allegheny" on Justia Law

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In 2017, the League of Women Voters and Pennsylvania Democratic voters filed a state court lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania’s 2011 congressional districting map. They alleged that Republican lawmakers drew the map to entrench Republican power in Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation and disadvantage Democratic voters and that the Republican redistricting plan violated the Pennsylvania Constitution by burdening and disfavoring Democratic voters’ rights to free expression and association and by intentionally discriminating against Democratic voters. Five months later, State Senate President Pro Tempore Scarnati, a Republican lawmaker who sponsored the 2011 redistricting plan, removed the matter to federal court, contending federal jurisdiction existed because of a newly scheduled congressional election. The federal district court remanded the matter to state court, where the suit has since concluded with a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs. Citing 28 U.S.C. 1447(c), the federal court directed Senator Scarnati personally to pay $29,360 to plaintiffs for costs and fees incurred in the removal and remand proceedings. The Third Circuit ruled in favor of Scarnati, citing the Supreme Court’s directive that courts carefully adhere to the distinction between personal and official capacity suits, The court upheld a finding that the removal lacked an objectively reasonable basis. View "League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania v. Pennsylvania" on Justia Law

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In the mid-1980s, merchant mariners filed thousands of lawsuits in the Northern District of Ohio against shipowners, asserting that the mariners had been injured due to exposure to asbestos onboard ships. The District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ultimately presided over a nationwide asbestos products multidistrict litigation (MDL) and dismissed claims against numerous defendants for lack of personal jurisdiction. In a third appeal, the Third Circuit concluded that dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction was inappropriate. The shipowner-defendants timely moved for dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction in the Northern District of Ohio, after which they had to choose between waiving their personal jurisdiction defenses and remaining in the Northern District of Ohio, or submitting to transfer to a court where personal jurisdiction existed. By objecting to transfer, the defendants constructively opted to waive their personal jurisdiction defenses. The court noted that the shipowners also filed answers in the Northern District of Ohio after the parties expressly agreed that they could demonstrate a waiver of the defense by filing an answer. View "In re: Asbestos Products Liability Litigation (No. VI)" on Justia Law

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Robinson was told by her manager that “you either don’t know what you’re doing, or you have a disability, or [you’re] dyslexic.” Taking those words seriously, Robinson was tested for dyslexia. She submitted an evaluation that concluded that Robinson had symptoms consistent with dyslexia and requested accommodations. She was told that any diagnosis would not excuse her from performing her work in a satisfactory matter; she was advised to focus on improving her performance. Weeks later, she was fired. During the litigation, Robinson acknowledged that she could not prove she was dyslexic. She proceeded on a theory that she was perceived or regarded as dyslexic by her employer and was entitled to a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Third Circuit affirmed a judgment in favor of Robinson on her reasonable accommodation claim, finding that her employer had waived its argument under the 2008 ADA amendments. The Act now provides that employers “need not provide a reasonable accommodation . . . to an individual who meets the definition of disability in” 42 U.S.C. 12102(1)(C), which includes individuals who are “regarded as having” a physical or mental impairment. Despite the amendment, both parties proceeded under the “regarded as” case theory throughout the litigation. View "Robinson v. First State Community Action Agency" on Justia Law

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In 2013, Philadelphia police found drugs and a gun in an apartment that they thought was Randall’s. They arrested Randall. The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office charged him but dropped all the charges in August 2015. When he was arrested in Philadelphia, he was already on probation in New Jersey and Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Hearing about his arrest, both jurisdictions issued detainers for him. After dropping the charges, Pennsylvania released Randall into New Jersey’s custody. He remained in custody, first in New Jersey and then in Delaware County, until December 24, 2015. On December 26, 2017, Randall sued the Philadelphia Law Department and the police officers who had arrested him under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court dismissed Randall’s claims as time-barred. The Third Circuit affirmed, rejecting Randall’s “continuing-violation” argument. Section 1983 borrows the underlying state’s statute of limitations for personal-injury torts. In Pennsylvania, that period is two years. When a Section 1983 claim accrues is a matter of federal law, under which a malicious-prosecution claim accrues when criminal proceedings end in the plaintiff’s favor. For Randall, that happened in August 2015, so he had until August 2017 to file his suit unless something tolled the statute of limitations. The continuing-violation doctrine focuses on continuing acts, not continuing injury. No Philadelphia defendant detained Randall beyond August 2015. View "Randall v. Philadelphia Law Department" on Justia Law

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Kamal visited various J. Crew store, making credit card purchases. Each time, Kamal “received an electronically printed receipt,” which he retained, that “display[ed] the first six digits of [his] 6 credit card number as well as the last four digits.” The first six digits identify the issuing bank and card type. The receipts also identified his card issuer, Discover, by name. Kamal does not allege anyone (other than the cashier) saw his receipts. His identity was not stolen nor was his credit card number misappropriated. The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Kamal’s purported class action under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 (FACTA), which prohibits anyone who accepts credit or debit cards as payment from printing more than the last five digits of a customer’s credit card number on the receipt, 15 U.S.C. 1681c(g), for lack of Article III standing. Absent a sufficient degree of risk, J. Crew’s alleged violation of FACTA is “a bare procedural violation.” View "Kamal v. J. Crew Group, Inc." on Justia Law

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In March 2015, the Boards of Penn State Hershey Medical Center and PinnacleHealth formally approved a plan to merge. They had announced the proposal a year earlier; the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) were already investigating the impact of the proposed merger. This joint probe resulted in the FTC filing an administrative complaint alleging that the merger violated Section 7 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 18. The FTC scheduled an administrative hearing for May 2016. The Commonwealth and the FTC jointly sued Hershey and Pinnacle under Section 16 of the Clayton Act, and Section 13(b) of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. 53(b) seeking a preliminary injunction. In September 2016, the Third CIrcuit reversed the district court and directed it to preliminarily enjoin the merger “pending the outcome of the FTC’s administrative adjudication.” Hershey and Pinnacle terminated their Agreement. The Commonwealth then moved for attorneys’ fees and costs, asserting that it “substantially prevailed” under Section 16 of the Clayton Act. The district court denied the motion, finding the Commonwealth had not “substantially prevailed” under Section 16. The Third Circuit affirmed, reasoning that it had ordered the injunction based on Section 13(b) of the FTC Act, not Section 16 of the Clayton Act. View "Federal Trade Commission v. Penn State Hershey Medical Center" on Justia Law

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T Mobile unsuccessfully applied to Wilmington’s Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) for permission to erect an antenna. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 allows a disappointed wireless service provider to seek review in a district court “within 30 days after” a zoning authority’s “final action,” 47 U.S.C. 332(c)(7)(B)(v), T Mobile filed suit. After the case had proceeded for over a year, the district court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction because the claim was not ripe; T Mobile filed its complaint before the ZBA released a written decision confirming an earlier oral rejection of the zoning application. T Mobile had not supplemented its complaint to include the ZBA’s written decision within 30 days of its issuance. The Third Circuit remanded the case. While only a written decision can serve as a locality’s final action when denying an application and the issuance of that writing is the government “act” ruled by the 30-day provision, that timing requirement is not jurisdictional. An untimely supplemental complaint can, by relating back, cure an initial complaint that was unripe. The district court had jurisdiction and should not have granted Wilmington’s motion for summary judgment. View "T Mobile Northeast LLC v. Wilmington" on Justia Law

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The district court certified a class of Citizens Bank mortgage loan officers from 10 different states who alleged that they were unlawfully denied overtime pay. In an interlocutory appeal, the Third Circuit reversed the class certification decision. The district court failed to “define the class or class claims” as mandated by Rule 23(c)(1)(B). The district court’s analysis did not support a definitive determination as to whether the plaintiffs’ representative evidence satisfied Rule 23’s commonality and preponderance requirements; nor did it support a conclusion regarding either the existence of a company-wide policy or Citizens’ knowledge of it. While the appellate court acknowledged its jurisdiction over class certification under Rule 23, it concluded that Rule 23 certification and collective action certification under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 216(b), are not sufficiently similar or otherwise “inextricably intertwined” to justify the exercise of pendent appellate jurisdiction. The court declined to consider the merits of the decision to certify a collective action under FLSA section 216(b). View "Reinig v. RBS Citizens NA" on Justia Law

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Carlson was co-lead counsel representing the plaintiffs in the CBNV litigation. He began working on the case while an associate with the SSEM firm and continued working on it after he left the firm. He entered into agreements with SSEM regarding how fees recovered in CBNV and other cases would be allocated. After the final order approving the CBNV class settlement and fee award, SSEM filed a state court breach of contract action against Carlson, alleging that he owed the firm part of his CBNV fees. Carlson moved the federal district court, which had handled the CNBV litigation, to stay the state case and confirm his fee award. That court exercised ancillary jurisdiction to stay the state case and granted Carlson’s motion, concluding that SSEM was not entitled to any portion of the Carlson's fee because a condition precedent had not occurred. The Third Circuit reversed. The district court erred in exercising ancillary jurisdiction over the state contract dispute because it did not retain jurisdiction over disputes arising from the allocation of fees, the state law contract claim is factually distinct from the federal CBNV claims, exercising ancillary jurisdiction was not necessary to resolve matters properly before it, and the court had no control over the funds SSEM seeks. View "In Re: Community Bank of Northern Virginia Mortgage Lending Practices Litigation" on Justia Law