Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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Objector-Appellant Dale Hefner appeals from the district court’s denial of his motion for settlement-related discovery, approval of the settlement agreement, and order regarding attorneys’ fees. This case concerns the settlement agreement and attorneys’ fees related to two separate shareholder derivative suits on behalf of SandRidge Energy Inc. (“SandRidge”) against its directors. The first of those actions was filed in federal district court in January 2013. The federal derivative suit alleged self-dealing, usurpation of corporate opportunities, and misappropriation by Tom Ward, SandRidge’s founding CEO, and entities affiliated with him. Hefner filed the second derivative suit was filed in Oklahoma state court in 2013. The director-defendants moved the state court to stay the action pending a resolution in the federal case, or in the alternative to dismiss the suit entirely. Hefner objected, and the state court stayed the action but denied the motion to dismiss. In 2014, the state court entered a stipulated and agreed to order granting SandRidge’s motion to stay. Then in 2015, the federal district court granted a preliminary approval of a partial settlement in the federal suit. Hefner (1) filed a contingent motion for attorneys’ fees and reimbursement of expenses, (2) objected to the settlement, and (3) requested additional settlement-related discovery. The district court denied Hefner’s motion for additional discovery and, after a hearing on the other matters, entered a final order and judgment approving the proposed partial settlement and denying the request for attorneys’ fees. While the appeal was pending before the Tenth Circuit, SandRidge filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. SandRidge gave notice of the bankruptcy court’s approval of the company’s plan of reorganization and filed a contemporaneous motion to dismiss the appeal as moot, contending that because company stock was cancelled as part of the bankruptcy, Hefner did not have standing to pursue a shareholder derivative claim; the relevant derivative claims were released and discharged as part of the reorganization, and the right to pursue derivative litigation vested in reorganized SandRidge. The Tenth Circuit agreed that Hefner's claims were moot, and finding no other reversible error, it appealed. View "Elliot v. Ward" on Justia Law

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Defendant Rural Water District No. 4, Douglas County, Kansas (“Douglas-4”) appealed a district court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff City of Eudora, Kansas (“Eudora”) in this declaratory judgment action. Douglas-4 and Eudora disputed which entity could provide water service to certain areas near Eudora (the “Service Area”). In 2002, Douglas-4 was the water service provider for the Service Area, but was running low on water. Douglas-4 decided to purchase water from an adjacent rural water district, “Johnson-6.” The project required laying new pipes and building additional pumping stations at an estimated cost of $1.25 million. To finance the project, Douglas-4 received initial approval for a $1.25 million loan from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) with a fixed rate and twenty-year term. That same year, Eudora annexed the Service Area. The annexation positioned Eudora to potentially assume Douglas-4’s water customers. Understanding that it was facing a potential loss of customers, Douglas-4’s governing board reduced its KDHE loan to $1 million and sought the remaining $250,000 from a private, USDA-guaranteed loan. Douglas-4 believed that such a loan would come with federal protection under 7 U.S.C. 1926(b), which prevented municipalities from assuming water customers while a USDA-guaranteed loan was in repayment. Douglas-4 eventually secured a USDA-guaranteed loan for $250,000 from First State Bank & Trust and proceeded with the Johnson-6 project. Both the KDHE loan and the USDA-guaranteed loan had twenty-year repayment terms, beginning in 2004 and ending in 2024. Between 2004 and 2007, Douglas-4 and Eudora entered into negotiations in an attempt to resolve the disputed Service Area, but the discussions were not successful. Douglas-4 filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas to prevent Eudora from taking its water customers. The jury returned a special verdict in favor of Douglas-4, concluding the loan guaranteed by the federal government was necessary, and Eudora appealed. Finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "City of Eudora v. Rural Water District No. 4" on Justia Law

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Defendant James Woods, a detective in the Cottonwood Heights Police Department, was informed by Utah’s Unified Fire Authority (“UFA”) that medications, including opioids and sedatives, were missing from several UFA ambulances. Detective Woods accessed a state database and searched the prescription drug records of 480 UFA employees in an effort to “develop suspect leads of those who have the appearance of Opioid dependencies.” Consistent with Utah law at the time, Woods did not obtain a search warrant before accessing the Database. Based on the information Woods obtained from the Database search, he developed suspicions about Plaintiffs Ryan Pyle and Marlon Jones. Neither Plaintiff, however, was ever prosecuted for the thefts from the ambulances. Plaintiffs brought separate lawsuits pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983, each challenging Defendants’ conduct as violative of the Fourth Amendment and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”). In both suits, the district court dismissed the claims against Defendant Woods, concluding Woods was entitled to qualified immunity because the law governing warrantless access to prescription drug information by law enforcement was not clearly established. The district court also dismissed the FCRA claims because Defendants’ actions fit within an exemption set out in the Act. In Jones’s suit, the district court dismissed the constitutional claims against the city of Cottonwood Heights with prejudice because Jones’s complaint failed to state a claim for municipal liability plausible on its face. In Pyle’s suit, the district court dismissed the constitutional claims against Cottonwood Heights without prejudice, concluding Pyle failed to notify the Utah Attorney General of those claims as required by Rule 5.1 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Pyle and Jones each appealed. Exercising jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1291, and finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s judgments. View "Pyle v. Woods" on Justia Law

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This interlocutory appeal concerned a contract dispute about the provision of food services at the Fort Riley Army base in Kansas. The Department of the Army (Army) contracts with outside vendors for food preparation and related supporting services for its cafeteria dining facilities at Fort Riley. Since 2006, the State of Kansas, through the Kansas Department for Children and Families (Kansas), successfully bid under the RSA on those food preparation and related services contracts at Fort Riley. Kansas’s most recent contract awarded under the RSA was scheduled to expire in February 2016. As that date approached, the Army determined that its next dining contract at Fort Riley would be for supporting services only. The Army therefore decided that it need not solicit bids under the RSA and it approached another vendor directly, as permitted by the JWOD. Kansas took exception to the Army’s decision because it eliminated Kansas’s ability to bid on the contract. So Kansas initiated arbitration proceedings under the RSA’s dispute resolution provisions. And upon learning that the Army intended to contract with the other vendor despite the commencement of arbitration proceedings, Kansas sued in federal court, seeking to preliminarily enjoin the Army from executing the JWOD contract pending arbitration. The root of the dispute was the intersection of two federal statutes that both address the procurement of food services at federal facilities: (1) the Randolph-Sheppard Vending Facility Act of 1936 (RSA), and (2) the Javits Wagner O’Day Act (JWOD). The parties disagreed as to which of these statutes governed the award of the Fort Riley food services contract. And due to events that have occurred since this action was filed, the parties also disputed whether this appeal was rendered moot. The Tenth Circuit concluded that the issue raised by this appeal fell within an exception to the mootness doctrine for matters capable of repetition yet evading review. Because an arbitration panel has since issued its decision thereby dissolving the injunction at issue in this appeal, the Court declined to address whether the district court correctly granted the injunction. View "Kansas Department for Children v. SourceAmerica" on Justia Law

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First Western Capital Management (“FWCM”), and its parent company First Western Financial, Inc. (collectively, “First Western”), sought a preliminary injunction against former employee Kenneth Malamed for misappropriating trade secrets. In 2008, FWCM acquired Financial Management Advisors, LLC (“FMA”), an investment firm Malamed founded in 1985 primarily to serve high net worth individuals and entities such as trusts and foundations. After selling FMA, Malamed worked for FWCM from 2008 until FWCM terminated him on September 1, 2016. In early 2016, a committee of FWCM directors began discussing the possibility of selling FWCM to another company. Although Malamed was not involved in these discussions, he learned about the potential sale and, in a meeting with other FWCM officers, expressed his displeasure with the buyer under consideration. Following the meeting, Malamed emailed his assistant asking her to print three copies of his client book, which contained the names and contact information for approximately 5,000 FWCM contacts. Of these contacts, 331 were current FWCM clients and roughly half of those had been clients of FMA before First Western acquired it. The printout also contained spreadsheets that included, among other information, client names, the total market value of their holdings under management, and the fees being charged by FWCM. On September 1, 2016, shortly after Malamed’s employment contract expired, First Western fired him. That same day, First Western served him with a complaint it had filed in federal court a month earlier, alleging misappropriation of trade secrets under the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 (“DTSA”), and the Colorado Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“CUTSA”), breach of employment contract, and breach of fiduciary duty. First Western moved for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to prevent Malamed from soliciting FWCM’s clients. The district court excused First Western from demonstrating irreparable harm (one of the four elements a party seeking injunctive relief is typically required to prove) and granted the injunction. As applied here, the Tenth Circuit determined that if First Western could not show irreparable harm, it cannot obtain injunctive relief. The district court should not have entered the preliminary injunction here. View "First Western Capital v. Malamed" on Justia Law

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The Santa Cruz Operation, Inc. (Santa Cruz) entered into a business arrangement with International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) to develop a new operating system that would run on a more advanced processor manufactured by Intel Corporation (Intel). The parties signed an agreement memorializing this relationship, calling it “Project Monterey.” Another technology company, The SCO Group, Inc. (SCO), then acquired Santa Cruz’s intellectual property assets and filed this lawsuit for IBM’s alleged misconduct during and immediately after Project Monterey. SCO accused IBM of stealing and improperly using source code developed as part of the Project to strengthen its own operating system, thereby committing the tort of unfair competition by means of misappropriation. The district court awarded summary judgment to IBM on this claim based on the independent tort doctrine, which barred a separate tort action where there was no violation of a duty independent of a party’s contractual obligations. SCO also accused IBM of disclosing Santa Cruz’s proprietary materials to the computer programming community for inclusion in its Linux open-source operating system. In a separate order, finding insufficient evidence of actionable interference by IBM, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of IBM on these tortious interference claims. Finally, after the deadline for amended pleadings in this case, SCO sought leave to add a new claim for copyright infringement based on the allegedly stolen source code from Project Monterey. SCO claimed it had only discovered the essential facts to support this claim in IBM’s most recent discovery disclosures. The district court rejected SCO’s proposed amendment for failure to show good cause. SCO appealed. After review, the Tenth Circuit reversed the district court’s order awarding IBM summary judgment on the misappropriation claim, and affirmed as to all other issues. View "SCO Group v. IBM" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Greggory Owings sustained an on-the-job injury, for which he received long-term disability benefits by defendant United of Omaha Life Insurance Company (United), under the terms of a group insurance policy issued by United to Owings’ employer. Owings disagreed with, and attempted without success to administratively challenge, the amount of his disability benefits. He then filed suit against United in Kansas state court, but United removed the action to federal district court, asserting that the federal courts had original jurisdiction over the action because the policy was governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). The district court ultimately granted summary judgment in favor of United. Owings appealed. The Tenth Circuit concluded after review of this matter that United was arbitrary and capricious in determining the date that Owings became disabled and, in turn, in calculating the amount of his disability benefits. Consequently, the Court reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of United and remanded with directions to enter summary judgment in favor of Owings. View "Owings v. United of Omaha Life" on Justia Law

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HCG Platinum, LLC ("HCG") and Preferred Product Placement Corporation (“PPPC”) entered into a Marketing Agreement under which PPPC agreed to place HCG products into specified retailers in exchange for a percentage of the proceeds. Shortly thereafter, HCG filed the underlying breach-of-contract action against PPPC, seeking compensatory damages for PPPC’s alleged breaches and a declaratory judgment that HCG properly terminated the Marketing Agreement on account of these breaches. PPPC counterclaimed for breach of contract and asserted third-party contract claims against individuals and entities associated with HCG. Prior to trial, HCG moved to preclude PPPC from presenting evidence of damages, asserting that PPPC’s initial (and never supplemented) disclosures provided an insufficient description and computation of PPPC’s damages theory. Finding PPPC’s initial disclosures insufficient and its request to compel discovery untimely, the district court excluded the damages evidence from PPPC’s disclosures. Exclusion of that evidence, in turn, necessarily barred PPPC from pursuing its counterclaims, and the district court subsequently entered judgment against PPPC on that basis. PPPC appealed, arguing that the district court abused its discretion by imposing a discovery sanction that carried the force of dismissal, despite the fact that its discovery shortcomings resulted in only minimal and curable prejudice to HCG. After review, the Tenth Circuit reversed the district court’s judgment in favor of HCG on PPPC’s counterclaims ​and remanded for the district court to reconsider the exclusion of PPPC’s damages evidence under an analysis that considers, among other things, the availability of lesser sanctions. View "HCG Platinum v. Right Way Nutrition" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff David Speed filed a petition asserting a putative class action against defendant JMA Energy Company, LLC. He alleged that JMA had willfully violated an Oklahoma statute that required payment of interest on delayed payment of revenue from oil and gas production. He further asserted that JMA fraudulently concealed from mineral-interest owners that it owed interest due under the statute, intending to pay only those who requested interest. JMA removed the case to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma, asserting that the district court had jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA - 28 U.S.C. 1332(d)). After conducting jurisdictional discovery, Speed filed an amended motion to remand the case to state court. The district court granted this motion, relying on an exception to CAFA that permitted a district court to decline to exercise jurisdiction over a class action meeting certain citizenship prerequisites “in the interests of justice and looking at the totality of the circumstances,” based on its consideration of six enumerated factors. On appeal JMA challenged the district court’s remand order. Because the district court properly considered the statutory factors and did not abuse its discretion by remanding to state court, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Speed v. JMA Energy Company" on Justia Law

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Eryetha Mayberry was abused by two certified nursing assistants while in the care of Quail Creek Nursing Home, operated by Westlake Nursing Home Limited Partnership and Westlake Management Company (collectively “Quail Creek” or “Westlake”). Plaintiffs, Mrs. Mayberry’s three daughters, filed suit against Westlake under Oklahoma law for negligence, negligence per se, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. After a trial, the jury found for plaintiffs and against Westlake on the claims of negligence and negligence per se, and made a special finding that Westlake had acted with reckless disregard for the rights of others. The jury awarded $1.2 million in compensatory damages and $10,000 in punitive damages. Westlake appealed, but finding no reversible error in the trial court’s decision, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Racher v. Westlake Nursing" on Justia Law