Justia U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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Dr. Kevin Donahue was walking home one night when he saw a woman outside his neighbor’s house. Dr. Donahue thought she was trespassing, and he got into a heated conversation with her. They approached two police officers, Officer Shaun Wihongi and Officer Shawn Bennett, who were investigating an incident a few houses away. The officers questioned them separately. The woman told Officer Wihongi her name was “Amy LaRose,” which later turned out to be untraceable. She claimed Dr. Donahue was drunk and had insulted her. Dr. Donahue refused to provide his name but admitted he had been drinking and said the woman had hit him. The officers eventually arrested and handcuffed Dr. Donahue. Dr. Donahue sued Officer Wihongi, the Salt Lake City Police Department (“SLCPD”), and Salt Lake City Corporation (“SLC”). He alleged Officer Wihongi violated his Fourth Amendment rights by: (1) arresting him without probable cause; (2) using excessive force during the arrest; and (3) detaining him for too long. Officer Wihongi moved for summary judgment. The district court granted the motion on all three claims and dismissed the case. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court. View "Donahue v. Wihongi" on Justia Law

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While driving a car insured by Arizona Automobile Insurance Company, Marlena Whicker rear-ended a taxi and injured its passenger, Georgiana Chavez. Chavez sued Whicker in Colorado state court and won a default judgment when neither Whicker nor Arizona entered a defense. Whicker, unable to satisfy the judgment from the lawsuit, assigned her rights against Arizona to Chavez, who then filed this diversity suit against Arizona in federal court for failure to defend Whicker in the underlying state court action. Her theory was that Arizona had a duty to defend Whicker under Colorado law because Arizona knew that she was a driver covered under its policy. The district court disagreed with Chavez and granted Arizona’s motion to dismiss. The Tenth Circuit determined that under Colorado law, Arizona was only required to defend Whicker if Chavez’s complaint plausibly alleged Whicker was insured under the Arizona policy. It therefore reached the same conclusion as the district court and, affirmed its dismissal of Chavez’s case. View "Chavez v. Arizona Automobile Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Elizabeth Frost died in an accidental house fire. At the time, ADT provided security monitoring services to the premises. During the fire, ADT received several alerts through its monitoring system. Although ADT attempted to call Frost and the back-up number listed on her account, it did not get through. After several such attempts, ADT cleared the alerts without contacting emergency services. The administrator of Frost’s estate and her minor heir, M.F., sued ADT. The central theme of the complaint was that ADT’s failure to notify emergency services contradicted representations on its website that it would do so, and that failure wrongfully caused or contributed to Frost’s death. The district court dismissed the complaint, holding the one-year suit limitation provision in the contract between ADT and Frost barred the claims and that Claimants failed to state a claim with respect to certain counts. Because the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals found the contract between Frost and ADT provided an enforceable suit-limitation provision that barred the claims at issue, it affirmed dismissal. View "Frost v. ADT" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Alonso Martinez-Perez sought review of a final Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) order that dismissed his appeal, holding that neither the BIA nor the Immigration Court had jurisdiction to grant Petitioner’s application for cancellation of removal. Petitioner was a native and citizen of Mexico. He entered the United States in 2001, without being inspected and admitted or paroled. On April 9, 2009, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) charged him as removable from the United States pursuant to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) as an alien present in the United States without being admitted or paroled. Immigration officials served Petitioner with a notice to appear, which did not include a date and time for his hearing. One week later, Petitioner received notice of the date and time of his hearing in a separate document. Petitioner, through counsel, admitted the allegations contained in the notice to appear and conceded the charge of removability. The Immigration Judge found Petitioner removable. The Tenth Circuit found the Supreme Court held that a notice to appear that omits the removal proceeding’s time or place does not stop the alien’s accrual of continuous presence in the United States for purposes of cancellation of removal. The requirements of a notice to appear were claim-processing rules; the Court thus concluded the Immigration Court had authority to adjudicate issues pertaining to Petitioner’s removal even though Petitioner’s notice to appear lacked time-and-date information. With respect to issues raised regarding the BIA’s or Immigration Judge’s jurisdiction to grant Petitioner’s application in the absence of establishing a qualifying relative at the time of hearing: the Tenth Circuit concluded that for the BIA to conclude that neither it nor the Immigration Court had jurisdiction to grant Petitioner’s application was error. Moreover, before the BIA, Petitioner alleged and described what he contended was an improper delay on the part of the Immigration Court. Given this case’s procedural history, which is undisputed, the Tenth Circuit concluded it was within the BIA’s jurisdiction to interpret the applicable statutes in a way that would not penalize Petitioner for the Immigration Court’s delay. Because the BIA erred in holding that it lacked jurisdiction to grant Petitioner’s application and, in turn, failed to exercise its interpretive authority, the Court remanded. View "Martinez-Perez v. Barr" on Justia Law

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Katherine Morgan, as wrongful death representative of her husband, David Morgan, brought direct negligence liability claims against Baker Hughes Incorporated (“Baker Hughes”) for the acts of its subsidiary, Baker Petrolite Incorporated (“Baker Petrolite”). In 2012, David Morgan was crushed to death by a heavy chemical tote while operating a forklift at his place of employment, a warehouse in Casper, Wyoming. There have been two trials in this case. At the close of Morgan’s evidence in the first trial, Baker Hughes moved for judgment as a matter of law. The district court granted Baker Hughes’ motion. We reversed on appeal, holding that Morgan had presented sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to conclude that Baker Hughes was liable for David Morgan’s death In so doing, we interpreted Wyoming law on the liability of parent corporations for the acts of their subsidiaries. After the second trial, Morgan moved for judgment as a matter of law. The district court denied the motion, and the jury returned a verdict in favor of Baker Hughes. However, before submitting the case to the jury, the court rejected Morgan’s proposed jury instructions and overruled her objections to the court’s instructions. Morgan timely appealed these decisions and moved to certify the controlling question to the Wyoming Supreme Court. The Tenth Circuit concluded that Wyoming law on this issue was consistent with the Restatement (Second) of Torts section 414 and its commentary. Accordingly, the Court held that the district court correctly instructed the jury with respect to the relevant legal standard and did not err in making various decisions Morgan challenges on appeal. View "Morgan v. Baker Hughes" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether a federal court sitting in Oklahoma had specific jurisdiction over Dr. Scott Jolly, a dentist and Arkansas resident, and his Limited Liability practice, Jolly Dental Group, LLC. Dental Dynamics, LLC argued that three isolated business transactions and an allegedly fraudulent contract were sufficient to establish federal court jurisdiction over its breach of contract and fraud claims. The Tenth Circuit disagreed, finding Jolly Dental's contacts with Oklahoma were "too random, fortuitous, and attenuated" to establish personal jurisdiction there. With respect to Denta; Dynamics' fraud claim, the Court concluded Dental Dynamics failed to show conduct sufficiently targeted to Oklahoma to establish personal jurisdiction there. View "Dental Dynamics v. Jolly Dental Group" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-Appellant Luzetta Murphy-Sims appealed after a jury ruled in favor of Defendant-Appellee Owners Insurance Company (Owners) on her complaint against Owners' insured stemming from a car accident. The insured was at fault; Murphy-Sims maintained that she suffered extensive injuries, and consequently incurred significant medical costs, as a result of the accident. In February 2014, she sent Owners a letter demanding settlement claiming $41,000 in medical expenses. Owners timely replied with a request for more information. When Murphy-Sims failed to reply, Owners sent two additional follow-up requests. Finally, in June 2014, Murphy-Sims provided Owners with some of the requested information. It did not offer a settlement payment in response. In July 2014, Murphy-Sims sued the insured. The parties agreed roughly three weeks later to enter into a Nunn agreement, which bound the matter over to binding arbitration. The arbitrator awarded Murphy-Sims approximately $1.3 million and judgment was entered against the insured. Pursuant to the agreement, Murphy-Sims did not execute on the judgment. In March 2016, Murphy-Sims, standing in the insured's shoes as permitted under the Nunn agreement, filed the underlying lawsuit against Owners in state district court, claiming Owners breached its contract with Switzer and had done so in bad faith. Owners removed the suit to federal court and the case proceeded to trial. The jury ultimately found that Owners did not breach its contract with the insured, thereby declining to award $1.3 million in damages to Murphy-Sims. The jury did not reach the bad faith claim having been instructed that it need not be reached in the absence of a breach of contract. After review of Murphy-Sims arguments on appeal, the Tenth Circuit determined the district curt committed no reversible error, and affirmed its judgment. View "Murphy-Sims v. Owners Insurance Company" on Justia Law

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Japanese national Takeshi Ogawa brought a Hague Convention action against his former wife, South Korean national Kyong Kang, alleging that she wrongfully removed their twin daughters from Japan to the United States in violation of his rights of custody and seeking an order requiring the twins to return to Japan. The district court disagreed and denied Ogawa’s petition, concluding that: (1) the twins’ removal to the United States did not violate Ogawa’s rights of custody, and alternatively, (2) even if their removal was wrongful, the twins objected to returning to Japan. Ogawa appealed. After review, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals determined Ogawa failed to make a prima facie showing that he had any rights of custody as the Convention defined them. Accordingly, it affirmed the district court’s order. View "Ogawa v. Kang" on Justia Law

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Among its reforms, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) required private health insurers to provide coverage for individuals regardless of their gender or health status, including preexisting conditions. Congress anticipated these reforms might hamper the ability of insurers to predict health care costs and to price health insurance premiums as more individuals sought health insurance. To spread the risk of enrolling people who might need more health care than others, Congress established a risk adjustment program for the individual and small group health insurance markets. Congress tasked the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) with designing and implementing this risk adjustment program with the states. HHS developed a formula to calculate how much each insurer would be charged or paid in each state. The formula relied on the “statewide average premium” to calculate charges and payments. Plaintiff-Appellee New Mexico Health Connections (“NMHC”), an insurer that was required to pay charges under the program, sued the HHS Defendants-Appellants under the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”), alleging that HHS’s use of the statewide average premium to calculate charges and payments in New Mexico from 2014 through 2018 was arbitrary and capricious. The district court granted summary judgment to NMHC, holding that HHS violated the APA by failing to explain why the agency chose to use the statewide average premium in its program. It remanded to the agency and vacated the 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 rules that implemented the program. After the district court denied HHS’s motion to alter or amend judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e), HHS appealed. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals: (1) determined NMHC’s claims regarding the 2017 and 2018 rules were moot, so the matter was remanded to the district court to vacate its judgment on those claims and dismiss them as moot; (2) reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to NMHC as to the 2014, 2015, and 2016 rules because it determined HHS acted reasonably in explaining why it used the statewide average premium in the formula. Because the Court reversed the district court on its summary judgment ruling in favor of NMHC, it did not address the denial of HHS’s Rule 59(e) motion. View "New Mexico Health Connections v. HHS" on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal was Mountain Dude’s claims brought under Utah’s Fraudulent Transfer Act (“UFTA”). Mountain Dudes was the creditor to Split Rock, Inc. (“SRI”). Mountain Dudes obtained a $1.75 million judgment against SRI as the result of a dispute over a home Mountain Dudes purchased from SRI. At the same time of the Mountain Dude/SRI dispute, a land developer in St. George, Utah went over $50 million in debt during the 2008 recession. SRI transferred all of its remaining assets to a newly formed business, Split Rock Holdings, LLC (“SR Holdings”). Though the transaction occurred between two entities, many of the same individuals were involved on both sides of that deal. Mountain Dudes, as SRI’s creditor, had hoped to levy periodic payments that SR Holdings agreed to make to SRI on a $2.7 million obligation. Before any such payments were due, however, SRI and SR Holdings modified the original Sale of Asset Agreement. Ultimately, SR Holdings paid SRI a total of $188,000 under the Modification’s terms. Over approximately the same time period, SR Holdings disbursed $1.1 million to three of the individual Defendants—Platt, Bylund and Manning. Mountain Dudes filed suit relating to the Modification pursuant to the UFTA. Resolution of this appeal turned primarily on a procedural matter involving how the sufficiency of evidence presented at a civil jury trial could be challenged. The Tenth Circuit determined the district court deprived Mountain Dudes LLC of that opportunity. Instead, after the jury was unable to reach a verdict on Mountain Dudes’ UFTA claims, the district court invoked Rule 50(b) to grant Defendants judgment as a matter of law on grounds the court raised sua sponte after the jury deadlocked. That, the Tenth Circuit held, It therefore reversed the judgment the district court entered sua sponte in Defendants’ favor. However, the Court affirmed the district court’s other rulings rejecting the grounds the various parties did raise seeking judgment as a matter of law. View "Mountain Dudes v. Split Rock Holdings" on Justia Law