Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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The plaintiff, who arbitrated a claim that arose under a federal statute, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (known as the Stored Communications Act), 18 U.S.C. 2701, sought to vacate or modify the arbitration award. The plaintiff filed a motion in the district court; for jurisdiction, he invoked 28 U.S.C. 1331 (federal-question jurisdiction) and 1332 (diversity jurisdiction). The Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. 10-11, which provides for the enforceability of arbitration agreements and specifies procedures for conducting arbitrations and enforcing arbitration awards, does not provide an independent jurisdictional basis for disputes under the Act. The Fourth Circuit vacated the dismissal of the action, stating that the better approach for determining subject-matter jurisdiction over section 10 and 11 motions is to look to the nature of the underlying claim in dispute, as is done with respect to section 4 petitions to compel arbitration. If the underlying claim is one that otherwise could be litigated in federal court, the motion can likewise be resolved in federal court. The district court had federal-question jurisdiction because the plaintiff’s underlying claim arose under federal law. View "McCormick v. America Online, Inc." on Justia Law

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Ott worked for Maryland’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS). In 2010, she learned that a pediatrician had molested her daughter, causing Ott to develop PTSD and severe anxiety. She took medical leave and transferred to a different location. Ott says that her co-worker harassed Ott about her daughter and Ott’s mental health for a year and that DPSCS ignored the harassment. Ott’s performance deteriorated. DPSCS forced her to resign in March 2014. While still employed, Ott filed an EEOC discrimination charge, which proceeded slowly; eventually, the agency found reasonable cause for Ott’s claims and referred them to the Department of Justice, which issued a right to sue notice in July 2016. Ott filed suit in October 2016, asserting claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of her Rehabilitation Act claims as untimely. Because the Rehabilitation Act does not contain a limitations period, courts borrow the time limit from the most analogous state law claim and have previously applied Maryland’s three-year general civil case limitation. After the Fourth Circuit last addressed the issue, Maryland amended its Fair Employment Practices Act (MFEPA) to align more closely with the Rehabilitation Act so that the MFEPA qualifies as the most analogous Maryland law. The MFEPA’s two-year statute of limitations applies and bars Ott’s claims. Ott did not meet the exacting standard for invoking the doctrine of equitable tolling. View "Ott v. Maryland Department of Public Safety" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims against defendant and Johns Hopkins for defendant's actions as an expert witness in administrative hearings for the Federal Black Lung Program. The court held that the Witness Litigation Privilege protected witnesses, such as defendant, who testify in judicial and quasi-judicial proceedings from later civil liability. In this case, the allegations made against defendant and his associates at Johns Hopkins fell squarely within the scope of the privilege. Furthermore, plaintiffs' claims were under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and RICO's civil cause of action manifests no intention to displace the privilege. View "Day v. Johns Hopkins Health System Corp." on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction of the Fund's action under the Tax Refund Statute, seeking to recover money paid to HHS as part of the Transitional Reinsurance Program of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. The court held that the statute applies only to taxes and other sums collected by the Internal Revenue Service under the Internal Revenue Code, and thus the Court of Federal Claims has exclusive jurisdiction over the Fund's action. View "Electrical Welfare Trust Fund v. United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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Plaintiffs filed suit challenging a mobile home park's policy requiring all occupants to provide documentation evidencing legal status in the United States to renew their leases as violating the Fair Housing Act (FHA). The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment for the mobile home park, holding that plaintiffs have made a prima facie case that the policy disparately impacted Latinos in violation of the FHA, satisfying step one of the disparate impact analysis, and that the district court therefore erred in concluding otherwise. The court also held that the district court seriously misconstrued the robust causality requirement described in Tex. Dep't of Housing & Cmty. Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc., 135 S. Ct. 2507, 2513 (2015), and erroneously rejected plaintiffs' prima facie claim that the policy disparately impacted Latinos. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Giron de Reyes v. Waples Mobile Home Park LP" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's order granting reconsideration, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b), of a predecessor district judge's order which had granted defendants' petition to substitute the United States as a party defendant under the Westfall Act. Judge Boyle had been assigned the case upon retirement of Judge Fox, and reconsidered his predecessor's order. The court held that Judge Boyle did not properly exercise his discretion to overturn Judge Fox's decision based upon the "clear error causing manifest injustice" exception. First Judge Boyle did not conclude that Judge Fox's decision inflicted clear error causing manifest injustice at all. Second, even if the court were to assume that Judge Boyle implicitly concluded that Judge Fox's decision amounted to clear error causing manifest injustice, it was an abuse of discretion to grant plaintiffs' renewed motion to reconsider on that basis. In this case, the ATF churning memorandum that was offered by plaintiffs as new evidence in support of their renewed motion for reconsideration was not a sufficient basis upon which to affirm Judge Boyle's order. View "U.S. Tobacco Cooperative Inc. v. Big South Wholesale of Virginia, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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These appeal arose from the dismissal of three consumer actions based on Virginia state law claims against Hyundai, regarding misrepresentations the company made regarding EPA estimated fuel economy for the Hyundai Elantra. The Western District of Virginia dismissed with prejudice the claims in all three actions, except one claim in the Gentry action. The Fourth Circuit dismissed the Gentry appeal for lack of jurisdiction because one claim remained pending before the district court. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the Adbul-Mumit and Abdurahman actions for failure to satisfy federal pleading standards. The court also affirmed the denial of plaintiffs' post-dismissal request for leave to amend their complaints in those actions. View "Adbul-Mumit v. Alexandria Hyundai, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit held that the political question doctrine barred an action brought by United States military personnel, civilian contractors, and surviving family members against KBR for injuries allegedly caused by KBR's waste management and water services across Iraq and Afghanistan. The court held that the action presented a political question because the military's control over KBR was plenary and actual under the first Taylor v. Kellogg, Brown & Root Servs., Inc., 658 F.3d 402, 408–409 (4th Cir. 2011), factor. The court need not reach the Federal Tort Claims Act preemption issue and thus affirmed in part and vacated in part. View "Metzgar v. KBR, Inc." on Justia Law

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Optometrists across the country noticed that Chase Amazon Visa credit card accounts had been fraudulently opened in their names, using correct social security numbers and birthdates. The victims discussed the thefts in Facebook groups dedicated to optometrists and determined that the only common source to which they had given their personal information was NBEO, where every graduating optometry student submits personal information to sit for board-certifying exams. NBEO released a Facebook statement that its “information systems [had] NOT been compromised.” Two days later, NBEO stated that it had decided to further investigate. Three weeks later, NBEO posted “a cryptic message stating its internal review was still ongoing.” NBEO advised the victims to “remain vigilant in checking their credit.” Victims filed suit under the Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. 1332(d)(2). The district court dismissed for lack of standing. The Fourth Circuit vacated. These plaintiffs allege that they have already suffered actual harm in the form of identity theft and credit card fraud; they have been concretely injured by the use or attempted use of their personal information to open credit card accounts without their knowledge or approval. There is no need to speculate on whether substantial harm will occur. The complaints contain allegations demonstrating that it is both plausible and likely that a breach of NBEO’s database resulted in the fraudulent use of the plaintiffs’ personal information. View "Hutton v. National Board of Examiners in Optometry, Inc." on Justia Law

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The district court held Early Education in contempt and awarded Rainbow School $60,000, plus attorney's fees and costs, after Early Education violated the terms of a consent judgment and permanent injunction. The Fourth Circuit affirmed and held that the district court did not clearly err in finding multiple violations of the injunction; Early Education's violations harmed the Rainbow School; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by awarding damages and attorney's fees and costs. The court dismissed Early Education's appeal from the order requiring it to undergo an audit based on lack of appellate jurisdiction. The court held that the question of whether Early Education should initially pay for an audit was neither inextricably linked nor a necessary precursor to the issues presented in the appeal from the district court's prior order, which made a determination of contempt and had nothing to do with paying for an audit. View "Rainbow School, Inc. v. Rainbow Early Education Holding LLC" on Justia Law