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

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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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

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Firearm interest organizations, together with one of their members, challenged the New Jersey Attorney General’s efforts to prevent unregistered and unlicensed persons from distributing computer programs that can be used to make firearms with a three-dimensional (3D) printer. The same claims by some of the same plaintiffs were already pending in Texas. The plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction in New Jersey, but the district court stayed the proceedings until the Texas action was resolved and dismissed the injunction motion.The Third Circuit dismissed an appeal. The stay and dismissal orders are not appealable. The orders here do not have the “practical effect of refusing an injunction.” The court removed the motion from its docket pending the stay, without prejudice, and did not substantively deny the request for an injunction or dismiss the claims. The stay does not impose “serious, perhaps irreparable consequence[s].” The court noted that the federal government and several state attorneys general are still preventing the dissemination of the files at issue; a stay that delays consideration of a request for injunctive relief is of no consequence because, even if the district court considered granted an injunction, that injunction would not alleviate the alleged censorship. View "Defense Distributed v. Attorney General New Jersey" on Justia Law

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Premier sued UPMC under the federal antitrust and state unfair competition laws. Several months after the deadline the district court set in a scheduling order, Premier learned, in a deposition, about an illegal bid-rigging agreement with another party. Premier moved to amend its complaint and add a party, citing the liberal standard of Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Court denied the motion, reasoning that because the deadline had passed, Rule 16(b)(4) required Premier to show good cause.The Third Circuit affirmed. Rule 16(b)(4) applies once a scheduling-order deadline has passed, and Premier did not show good cause. The district court had noted Premier failed “to even discuss due diligence, relying instead on Rule 15(a).” View "Premier Comp Solutions LLC v. UPMC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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Two counties sued Sherwin-Williams in state court, seeking abatement of the public nuisance caused by lead-based paint. Anticipating suits by other counties, Sherwin-Williams sued in federal court under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Sherwin-Williams claimed that “[i]t is likely that the fee agreement between [Delaware County] and the outside trial lawyers [is] or will be substantively similar to an agreement struck by the same attorneys and Lehigh County to pursue what appears to be identical litigation” and that “the Count[y] ha[s] effectively and impermissibly delegated [its] exercise of police power to the private trial attorneys” by vesting the prosecutorial function in someone who has a financial interest in using the government’s police power to hold a defendant liable. The complaint pleaded a First Amendment violation, citing the company’s membership in trade associations, Sherwin-Williams’ purported petitioning of federal, state, and local governments, and its commercial speech. The complaint also argued that the public nuisance theory would seek to impose liability “that is grossly disproportionate,” arbitrary, retroactive, vague, and “after an unexplainable, prejudicial, and extraordinarily long delay, in violation of the Due Process Clause.”The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. Sherwin-Williams failed to plead an injury in fact or a ripe case or controversy because the alleged harms hinged on the County actually filing suit. View "Sherwin Williams Co. v. County of Delaware" on Justia Law