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

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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The case involves the Government Employees Insurance Company (GEICO) and its affiliates, who sued several medical practices in separate actions in the District of New Jersey. GEICO alleged that the practices defrauded them of more than $10 million by abusing the personal injury protection (PIP) benefits offered by its auto policies. The practices allegedly filed exaggerated claims for medical services, billed medically unnecessary care, and engaged in illegal kickback schemes. GEICO's suits against the practices each included a claim under the New Jersey’s Insurance Fraud Prevention Act (IFPA).The practices sought arbitration of GEICO’s IFPA claim, arguing that a valid arbitration agreement covered the claim and that a different New Jersey insurance law allowed them to compel arbitration. However, each District Court disagreed, ruling instead that IFPA claims cannot be arbitrated. The practices appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.The Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower courts' decisions, holding that claims under the IFPA are arbitrable. The court found that GEICO's argument that the IFPA implicitly prohibits arbitration was not persuasive. The court also concluded that GEICO’s IFPA claims must be compelled to arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), as the claims fell under the scope of the arbitration agreement in GEICO's Precertification and Decision Point Review Plan. The court remanded the case with instructions to compel arbitration of GEICO’s IFPA claims against the practices. View "GEICO v. Caring Pain Management PC" on Justia Law

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The case involves a shareholder derivative action against Cognizant Technology Solutions Corporation and its board of directors. The plaintiffs, shareholders of Cognizant, alleged that the directors breached their fiduciary duties, engaged in corporate waste, and unjust enrichment. The allegations stemmed from a bribery scheme in India, where Cognizant employees allegedly paid bribes to secure construction-related permits and licenses. The plaintiffs claimed that the directors ignored red flags about the company's anti-corruption controls and concealed their concerns from shareholders.The case was initially dismissed by the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, which held that the plaintiffs failed to state with particularity the reasons why making a demand on the board of directors would have been futile. The plaintiffs appealed this decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.The Third Circuit, sitting en banc, reconsidered the standard of review for dismissals of shareholder derivative actions for failure to plead demand futility. The court decided to abandon its previous standard of review, which was for an abuse of discretion, and adopted a de novo standard of review. Applying this new standard, the court affirmed the District Court's dismissal of the case. The court found that the plaintiffs failed to show that a majority of the directors faced a substantial likelihood of liability or lacked independence, which would have excused the requirement to make a demand on the board. View "In re: COGNIZANT TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS CORPORATION DERIVATIVE LITIGATION" on Justia Law

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The case involves a long-standing trademark dispute between two charities, Kars 4 Kids, Inc. and America Can! Cars for Kids. Both organizations sell donated vehicles to fund children's education programs. In 2003, Texas-based America Can discovered a Kars 4 Kids advertisement in the Dallas Morning News and sent Kars 4 Kids a cease and desist letter, asserting America Can’s rights to the “Cars for Kids” mark in Texas. Kars 4 Kids, based in New Jersey, did not respond to the letter and continued to advertise in Texas.The case was first brought to the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey in 2014, where both parties alleged federal and state trademark infringement, unfair competition, and trademark dilution claims. A jury found that Kars 4 Kids infringed on America Can’s unregistered mark in Texas. The District Court awarded monetary and injunctive relief. However, the court's decision was appealed, and the case was remanded for the District Court to reexamine its conclusion that the doctrine of laches did not bar America Can’s claims.On remand, the District Court again concluded that laches did not bar relief. The court found that Kars 4 Kids’ advertising in Texas was not open and notorious enough to prompt America Can to act more quickly to protect its mark. The court also found that Kars 4 Kids was not prejudiced by America Can’s delay because Kars 4 Kids had assumed the risk of its advertising campaigns after receiving the 2003 cease and desist letter.The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit disagreed with the District Court's findings. The appellate court held that the District Court abused its discretion by not properly applying the presumption in favor of laches. The court found that America Can failed to establish that its delay in bringing suit was excusable and that Kars 4 Kids was not prejudiced as a result of that delay. Therefore, the court vacated the District Court's judgment granting monetary and injunctive relief and remanded with instructions to dismiss America Can’s claims with prejudice based on laches. The court also dismissed as moot America Can’s cross-appeal. View "Kars 4 Kids Inc v. America Can Cars For Kids" on Justia Law

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The case involves Sherry and David Lewis, who sued their auto insurer, GEICO, for allegedly breaching their insurance contract when their car was totaled. The Lewises claimed that GEICO undercompensated them by applying a "condition adjustment" that artificially reduced its valuation of their car and by failing to reimburse them for taxes and fees necessary to replace the car. They sought to certify a class of similarly underpaid insureds for each instance of underpayment.The District Court certified both classes under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. GEICO appealed the decision, challenging the certification of the classes.The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the order certifying the class for the taxes-and-fees claim. However, the court found that the Lewises lacked standing to bring the condition-adjustment claim as they failed to show that GEICO caused them concrete harm when it applied the condition adjustment. Therefore, the court vacated the District Court’s order in part and remanded with instructions to dismiss the condition-adjustment claim.Regarding the taxes-and-fees claim, the court found that the Lewises met the requirements for standing as they alleged financial harm stemming from GEICO's pre-2020 practice of declining to pay taxes and fees to lessee insureds. The court also found that the class was ascertainable, meeting the requirements for class certification. View "Lewis v. GEICO" on Justia Law

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The case involves the Government Employees Insurance Company (GEICO) and its affiliates, who sued several medical practices in separate actions in the District of New Jersey. GEICO alleged that the practices defrauded them of more than $10 million by abusing the personal injury protection (PIP) benefits offered by its auto policies. The practices filed exaggerated claims for medical services, billed medically unnecessary care, and engaged in illegal kickback schemes. GEICO's suits against the practices each included a claim under the New Jersey’s Insurance Fraud Prevention Act (IFPA).The practices sought arbitration of GEICO’s IFPA claim, arguing that a valid arbitration agreement covered the claim and that a different New Jersey insurance law allowed them to compel arbitration. However, each District Court disagreed, ruling instead that IFPA claims cannot be arbitrated. The practices appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.The Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower courts' decisions and compelled arbitration. The court found that the IFPA does not implicitly prohibit arbitration. The court also found that the IFPA claims before them should be compelled to arbitration under a different New Jersey law. Furthermore, the court concluded that GEICO’s IFPA claims must be compelled to arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). The court held that the arbitration agreement in the Plan covers the IFPA claims and therefore, must compel arbitration. The court also addressed practice-specific issues in the Mount Prospect and Precision Spine appeals. The court concluded that the District Court should not have granted GEICO leave to amend its complaint in the Mount Prospect case. In the Precision Spine case, the court held that the District Court abused its discretion by denying Precision Spine’s motion sua sponte because it was addressed to the unamended complaint. View "GEICO v. Mount Prospect Chiropractic Center PA" on Justia Law

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A group of power providers contested orders from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that permitted a new auction rule to retroactively apply to a pending auction. The petitioners argued that this violated the filed rate doctrine, which forbids retroactive rates. The auction, administered by the PJM Interconnection LLC (PJM), aimed to ensure reliable electric supply at competitive prices. PJM halted the auction, seeking FERC's permission to amend certain auction parameters it had already posted, which, if left uncorrected, might have led to a high clearing price for a specific region. FERC approved the amendment and allowed it to apply to the halted auction, which the petitioners challenged. The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit agreed with the petitioners, stating that the amendment was retroactive as it altered the legal consequence attached to PJM's past action in the auction. The court granted the petitions and vacated the portion of FERC's orders that allowed the amendment to apply to the auction in question. View "NRG Power Marketing v. FERC" on Justia Law

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A dispute arose over Pennsylvania's rule requiring mail-in and absentee voters to date the return envelope carrying their ballot. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania had ruled this requirement mandatory and declared that undated or incorrectly dated ballots were invalid under state law. The case centered on whether federal law, specifically Section 10101(a)(2)(B) of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, mandated that these non-compliant ballots be counted. This provision prohibits the denial of the right to vote due to an immaterial error or omission on paperwork related to voting.The District Court granted summary judgment for the plaintiffs, declaring that rejecting timely received mail ballots due to missing or incorrect dates violated the federal provision. They reasoned that the date requirement was immaterial, as it played no role in determining a vote's timeliness.However, the appellate court reversed this decision. The court held that the federal provision only applies when the state is determining who may vote, not how a qualified voter must cast their ballot. They found that the provision does not apply to rules, like the date requirement, that govern how a qualified voter must cast their ballot for it to be counted. The court concluded that a contrary approach could not be reconciled with the text and historic backdrop of the statute. Therefore, the court ruled that the federal provision does not override Pennsylvania's date requirement for casting a mail-in ballot. The case was remanded for further consideration of the plaintiffs' pending equal protection claim. View "Pennsylvania State Conference of NAACP Branches v. Northampton County Board of Elections" on Justia Law

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This case involves a dispute between Jennifer Zuch and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) over the allocation of estimated tax payments and the subsequent application of those payments to pay off her tax liability. Zuch argued that the IRS erroneously applied $50,000 in estimated tax payments, which she and her then-husband had made, to her ex-husband's tax liability instead of hers. As the dispute was litigated over several years, the IRS withheld tax refunds owed to Zuch and applied them to her alleged unpaid balance, thereby satisfying it in full. The IRS then moved to dismiss the Tax Court proceeding, arguing the case was moot since there was no more tax to be paid. The Tax Court granted the motion.In appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit vacated the Tax Court's dismissal and remanded the matter back to the Tax Court. The appellate court found that Zuch's claim was not moot, even though the IRS had satisfied her tax liability by applying her tax refunds to it. The court held that the IRS cannot unilaterally moot a case by withdrawing its proposed collection action, especially when the Tax Court has already obtained jurisdiction of a liability challenge. The court also found that a taxpayer's challenge to the tax liability at issue in an action under § 6330(c)(2)(B) of the Internal Revenue Code cannot be rendered moot by the unilateral action of the IRS. The court concluded that the Tax Court retained jurisdiction to review Zuch's liability and to determine whether she is entitled to receive credit for any amount of the estimated tax payments at issue. View "Zuch v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue" on Justia Law

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In a case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, the plaintiff, Troy Moore, Sr., a prisoner, sued Correctional Officer Saajida Walton under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that she violated his Eighth Amendment rights. The claim was based on an incident where a toilet in Moore’s prison cell exploded and Walton refused to let him out of his cell to clean up for over eight hours. Moore originally filed the complaint under a misspelled version of Walton’s name. The correct spelling was not provided until after the statute of limitations for his claim had expired. The District Court granted summary judgment to Walton based on the statute of limitations.The Circuit Court held that the District Court misapplied the relation back analysis under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c)(1)(C) by failing to consider the period for service provided by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(m). It held that Rule 15(c)(1)(C)’s reference to “the period provided by Rule 4(m)” includes any extensions for service granted under Rule 4(m) for good cause. The case was remanded to the District Court to determine whether Walton received notice of the action by a certain date and, if so, whether Moore could demonstrate the absence of prejudice—the final element necessary to satisfy the relation back inquiry. If all these conditions were met, the District Court would then need to consider the merits of Moore’s Eighth Amendment claim. View "Moore v. Walton" on Justia Law

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The case in question is a petition for a writ of mandamus filed by Abbott Laboratories, Abbvie Inc., Abbvie Products LLC, Unimed Pharmaceuticals LLC, and Besins Healthcare, Inc. These petitioners were involved in a patent and antitrust lawsuit concerning the drug AndroGel 1%. They sought a writ of mandamus after a district judge ruled that the application of the crime-fraud exception to the attorney-client privilege justified an order compelling the production of certain documents. The Petitioners claimed those documents were privileged.The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit denied their petition. The court reasoned that the petitioners failed to meet the high standard for granting a petition for writ of mandamus. Specifically, they failed to show a clear and indisputable abuse of discretion or error of law, a lack of an alternate avenue for adequate relief, and a likelihood of irreparable injury.The court also found that the district court did not err in its interpretation of the crime-fraud exception to the attorney-client privilege as it applies to sham litigation. The court held that sham litigation, which involves a client’s intentional “misuse” of the legal process for an “improper purpose,” can trigger the crime-fraud exception. The court also rejected the argument that a "reliance" requirement must be applied in this context. View "In re: Abbott Laboratories" on Justia Law