Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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Reading, a Pennsylvania not-for-profit health system, issued auction rate securities (ARSs) to finance capital projects. J.P. Morgan was the underwriter and broker-dealer. Reading claims that J.P. Morgan and others artificially propped up the ARS market through undisclosed support bidding; when they stopped in 2008, the market collapsed. Reading filed state law claims and demanded arbitration with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). The 2005 and 2007 broker-dealer agreements state “all actions and proceedings arising out of” the agreements or ARS transactions must be filed in the Southern District of New York. Reading filed a claim under FINRA Rule 12200, which requires a FINRA member (J.P. Morgan) to arbitrate any dispute at the customer’s request. J.P. Morgan refused, arguing that the forum-selection clauses in the 2005 and 2007 broker-dealer agreements constituted a waiver of Reading’s right to arbitrate under Rule 12200. The Third Circuit affirmed the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, which resolved the transfer dispute before the arbitrability dispute, declined to transfer the action, and required J.P. Morgan to submit to arbitration. Reading’s right to arbitrate is not contractual but arises out of a binding, regulatory rule, adopted by FINRA and approved by the SEC. Condoning an implicit waiver of Reading’s regulatory right to arbitrate would erode investors’ ability to use a cost-effective means of resolving allegations of misconduct and undermine FINRA’s ability to oversee and remedy such misconduct. View "Reading Health System v. Bear Stearns & Co., Inc." on Justia Law

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Ricketts petitioned the Third Circuit to review the BIA's denial of his motions to reopen his removal proceedings, arguing that he is actually a U.S. citizen. Finding that there were genuine issues of material fact as to his nationality, the court granted a joint motion and transferred the nationality dispute to the Eastern District of New York, where Ricketts resided at the relevant time (8 U.S.C. 1252(b)(5)(B)). After an evidentiary hearing, that court decided that the evidence overwhelmingly established that Ricketts is a Jamaican national who appropriated the identity of a U.S. citizen. Ricketts sought review by the Second Circuit. The district court transmitted the appeal to the Third Circuit. The government sought transfer the to the Second Circuit, requesting that the Third Circuit retain jurisdiction over Ricketts’s other consolidated petitions for review. The Third Circuit held that an appeal from a nationality determination following a transfer must be taken to the appellate court that typically hears appeals from the district court making the determination rather than to the appellate court that transferred the case to the district court in the first place. The statute indicates that Congress intended that hearings under section 1252(b)(5)(B) be treated as new proceedings separate from the underlying petitions for review. The Third Circuit held it lacked jurisdiction to entertain an appeal from a nationality determination made by the Eastern District of New York. View "Ricketts v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

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Disability rights advocates brought a proposed class action suit against Steak ’n Shake under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C 12101, alleging they have personally experienced difficulty ambulating in their wheelchairs through two sloped parking facilities. They sought to sue on behalf of all physically disabled individuals who may have experienced similar difficulties at Steak ’n Shake restaurants throughout the country. The district court certified the proposed class. The Third Circuit reversed and remanded, first holding that the plaintiffs have Article III standing to bring their claims in federal court. Although a mere procedural violation of the ADA does not qualify as an injury in fact under Article III, plaintiffs allege to have personally experienced concrete injuries as a result of ADA violations on at least two occasions. Plaintiffs sufficiently alleged that these injuries were caused by unlawful corporate policies that can be redressed with injunctive relief. However, the “extraordinarily broad class” certified by the district court violates the Rule 23(a)(1) requirement that the proposed class be “so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable” and Rule 23(a)(2)’s requirement that plaintiffs demonstrate that “there are questions of law or fact common to the class.” View "Mielo v. Steak N Shake Operations Inc." on Justia Law

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Adorers, a religious order of Roman Catholic women, owns land in Columbia, Pennsylvania affected by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) decision under the Natural Gas Act, to issue a certificate of public convenience and necessity to Transco, authorizing construction of a roughly 200-mile-long pipeline. Adorers claim that their deeply-held religious beliefs require that they care for the land in a manner that protects and preserves the Earth as God’s creation. Despite receiving notice of the proposed project, Adorers never raised this objection before FERC. More than five months after FERC granted the certificate, Adorers filed suit under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000bb-1. The district court dismissed, citing the Act: If FERC issues a certificate following the requisite hearing, any aggrieved person may seek judicial review in the D.C. Circuit or the circuit wherein the natural gas company is located or has its principal place of business. Before seeking judicial review, that party must, within 30 days of the issuance of the certificate, apply for rehearing before FERC. Anyone who fails to first seek a rehearing is barred from seeking judicial review, 15 U.S.C. 717r(a). The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal. A RFRA cause of action, invoking a court’s general federal question jurisdiction, does not abrogate or provide an exception to a specific jurisdictional provision prescribing a particular procedure for judicial review of an agency’s action. View "Adorers of Blood of Christ v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commisson" on Justia Law

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On January 6, 2016, in Newark, New Jersey, there was a collision between a car driven by Sconiers and a vehicle owned by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). About two weeks later, Sconiers submitted an administrative tort claim form to USPS seeking damages for injuries that she claimed she suffered in the accident. By letter dated July 14, 2016, addressed to Sconiers’s counsel, USPS denied her claim. The letter, citing the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) 28 U.S.C. 2401(b), informed Sconiers that if she was dissatisfied with the denial, she “may file suit in a United States District Court no later than six (6) months after the date the Postal Service mails the notice of that final action.” Sconiers filed suit eight months later. The district court found that Sconiers’s complaint was filed beyond the FTCA’s six-month statute of limitations and determined that she had not identified any extraordinary circumstance that justified equitable tolling of the deadline. The Third Circuit affirmed. Although the statute of limitations requires filing within two years, 28 U.S.C. §2401(b), the FTCA additionally requires claimants to file their claims within six months of an agency’s written denial. View "Sconiers v. United States" on Justia Law

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Walsh, a New Jersey citizen, filed a putative class action in New Jersey Superior Court, alleging that class members purchased home security equipment and monitoring service from defendants and signed contracts that defendants prepared which contained illegal provisions relating to fees due on cancellation. Walsh cited New Jersey consumer protection laws. Defenders, an Indiana corporation, removed the case invoking Class Action Fairness Act diversity jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. 1332(d)(2), (d)(2)(A), (d)(5)(B). Walsh sought remand, arguing that ADT’s presence in the case triggered CAFA’s local controversy exception under which a district court must decline jurisdiction if the controversy is uniquely connected to the state in which the plaintiff originally filed: ADT is a citizen of New Jersey; ADT’s conduct forms a significant basis for the claims asserted; and Walsh sought significant relief from ADT. The court agreed that ADT, though a Delaware LLC, had New Jersey citizenship, but denied the motion, stating that ADT “appears to have no actual interest in the outcome” because it had transferred its liabilities. On reconsideration, the court reversed, citing evidence that ADT entered into the subject contracts with 35.3% of the putative class, and created the challenged standardized provisions. The Third Circuit affirmed remand of the case. ADT has an interest in the litigation; the court correctly took into account its citizenship. Because of ADT’s role concerning the allegedly illegal provisions, and because over a third of the class members entered into contracts directly with ADT, ADT’s conduct forms a significant basis for the claims. View "Walsh v. Defenders, Inc." on Justia Law

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Rotkiske accumulated credit card debt in 2003-2005, which his bank referred to Klemm for collection. Klemm sued for payment in March 2008 and attempted service at an address where Rotkiske no longer lived but withdrew its suit when it was unable to locate him. Klemm tried again in January 2009, refiling its suit and attempting service at the same address. Unbeknownst to Rotkiske, somebody at that residence accepted service on his behalf. Klemm obtained a default judgment. Rotkiske discovered the judgment when he applied for a mortgage in September 2014. In June 2015, Rotkiske sued under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. 1692 . The district court dismissed the suit as untimely, rejecting Rotkiske’s argument that the Act’s statute of limitations incorporates a discovery rule which “delays the beginning of a limitations period until the plaintiff knew of or should have known of his injury.” The text at issue reads: An action to enforce any liability created by this subchapter may be brought . . . within one year from the date on which the violation occurs, section 1692k(d). The Third Circuit affirmed, based on the statutory text. Congress’s explicit choice of an occurrence rule implicitly excludes a discovery rule. View "Rotkiske v. Klemm" on Justia Law

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Little Sisters of the Poor, a Roman Catholic congregation serving the elderly poor of all backgrounds, operates homes for the elderly, all of which adhere to the same religious beliefs. A religious nonprofit corporation that operates a Little Sisters home in Pittsburgh sought to intervene in litigation challenging regulations promulgated under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, 42 U.S.C. 300gg-13(a)(4). That litigation was instituted by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, challenging interim final rules, providing for “religious” and “moral “ exemptions to the Act's "contraceptive mandate" for “entities, and individuals, with sincerely held religious beliefs objecting to contraceptive or sterilization coverage,” including “for-profit entities that are not closely-held.” The Third Circuit reversed the denial of their motion. Little Sisters’ interest in the regulations is neither novel nor isolated; it has been involved in Affordable Care Act litigation for years. Little Sisters’ interest in preserving the religious exemption is concrete and capable of definition; the relationships among the organization's various homes indicate a unique interest compared to other religious objectors who might wish to intervene. Those interests are significantly protectable. Little Sisters have demonstrated that they may be “practically disadvantaged by the disposition of the action” and have established that their interests are not adequately represented by the federal government. View "Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. President United States" on Justia Law

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GBForefront, a limited partnership, sued FMG, an LLC, alleging diversity jurisdiction (28 U.S.C. 1332) because GBForefront’s general partner was an LLC whose sole member was a “resident” of Pennsylvania; none of FMG’s members were Pennsylvania residents. Years later, GBForefront accepted an offer of judgment. The district court entered judgment. Problems arose with satisfaction of the judgment; the parties submitted a joint motion to amend the judgment to effectuate a new agreement, which the court granted. GBForefront soon alleged default and moved for entry of a consent judgment under the new agreement. Defendants then cross-moved to dismiss the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, claiming that GBForefront had not adequately pled the citizenship of FMG and that complete diversity was lacking when the lawsuit was filed. The Supreme Court then issued its opinion in Americold Realty, dealing with the citizenship of trusts. The district court then dismissed, finding that the membership of GBForefront included trusts whose beneficiaries were New Jersey citizens and FMG also had a member who was a New Jersey citizen. Abrogating its own precedent, the Third Circuit vacated, concluding that the citizenship of a traditional trust is based only on the citizenship of its trustee. The court remanded with instructions to determine whether the trusts are of the traditional or business variety and whether there is diversity jurisdiction. View "GBForefront LP v. Forefront Management Group LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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Plaintiffs sued on behalf of a proposed nationwide class of individuals who “owned, own, or acquired” structures on which Owens Corning's "Oakridge" fiberglass asphalt roofing shingles roofing shingles are or have been installed since 1986, claiming that the shingles were “plagued by design flaws that result in cracking, curling and degranulation” and “will eventually fail, causing property damage, and costing consumers substantial removal and replacement costs.” The district court rejected the suit on summary judgment, finding that the claims had been discharged in bankruptcy. The Third Circuit partially reversed. After the case was remanded, others filed similar suits in district courts in other states, which were transferred for consolidation. Plaintiffs proposed two classes: property owners from four states, asserting various state-law claims, and a nationwide class seeking a ruling regarding the legal standard governing whether Owens Corning can use a bankruptcy discharge defense. The Third Circuit affirmed the denial of class certification. The Nationwide Class cannot satisfy Rule 23(a)’s commonality requirement because the only common question it poses can be answered only by an advisory opinion, which is forbidden by Article III. The Four-State Class cannot satisfy Rule 23(b)(3)’s predominance requirement. Plaintiffs did not allege a defect common to the class that might be proved by classwide evidence. View "Gonzalez v. Owens Corning" on Justia Law