Justia U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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Plaintiff filed suit against Philip Morris under the Connecticut Product Liability Act, alleging that the company's Marlboro and Marlboro Lights cigarettes were negligently designed and caused his wife's death. After a jury found for Philip Morris, plaintiff appealed. The Second Circuit held that, although the district court misapplied the nonmutual offensive collateral estoppel standard, the error did not necessarily require vacatur of the judgment. Therefore, the court remanded and directed the district court to consider whether the application of nonmutual offensive collateral estoppel would be unfair. View "Bifolck v. Philip Morris USA Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs appealed the district court's dismissal of their state law claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and the district court's subsequent denial of a motion for reconsideration. Plaintiffs argued that, on de novo review, the entire record on appeal demonstrated that they were citizens of Florida – not New York – at the time they filed their suit, and therefore satisfied the complete diversity requirement of 28 U.S.C. 1332, establishing federal subject matter jurisdiction. The Second Circuit vacated the judgment of the district court so that plaintiffs may amend their complaint, holding that courts may freely permit jurisdictional amendments even at the appellate level. The court noted that the district court may also consider whether to impose costs on plaintiffs for their failure to provide all relevant evidence at the time of the order to show cause. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Van Buskirk v. The United Group of Companies, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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The Second Circuit held that the district court violated the mandate the court issued in a previous decision instructing it not to send the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) claims to trial, and that the district court violated the law of the case by finding that 650 Fifth Avenue Company is a foreign state under the FSIA. Without reaching the merits of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) claims, the court held that the district court abused its discretion by precluding two of defendants’ witnesses from testifying at trial. Finally, the court held that TRIA section 201 litigants lack the right to a jury trial in actions against a state sponsor of terrorism, including its agencies or instrumentalities. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for a new trial on section 201 claims. View "Havlish v. 650 Fifth Avenue Co." on Justia Law

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At issue in this civil forfeiture appeal was whether the district court erred by exercising subject matter jurisdiction over a foreign state's property or abused its discretion by rejecting defendants' statute‐of‐limitations defense sua sponte. The Second Circuit held that the district court had jurisdiction because the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) does not foreclose in rem civil‐forfeiture suits against a foreign state's property. In this case, however, the district court abused its discretion by sua sponte resolving the statute‐of‐limitations issue without providing defendants notice or an opportunity to defend themselves. Finally, an accompanying summary order considered and rejected defendants' additional challenges. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "United States v. Assa Co. Ltd." on Justia Law

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The United States filed a civil action seeking forfeiture of property owned by the claimant. The jury ultimately found for the government and the district court entered judgment ordering forfeiture of the claimants' property. The Second Circuit held that the district court abused its discretion by denying the claimants' motion for discovery on their statute-of-limitations defense and erroneously granted the government's motion for summary judgment on the timeliness issue; the district court erroneously denied claimants' motion to suppress by incorrectly concluding that the exclusionary rule's good‐faith exception forgave the warrant's defects and by applying the wrong legal standard for the inevitable‐discovery exception; and the district court abused its discretion in its orders forbidding the former Alavi board members from testifying at trial, allowing the government to play the videotaped Fifth Amendment invocations, and prohibiting the claimants from mounting their preferred defense. Accordingly, the court reversed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "In re 650 Fifth Avenue & Related Properties" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal of Sarah Palin's defamation complaint against The New York Times for failure to state a claim. The court held that the district court erred in relying on facts outside the pleadings to dismiss the complaint. The court also held that Palin's Proposed Amended Complaint plausibly stated a claim for defamation and may proceed to full discovery. In this case, a jury could plausibly find that The Times editor knew before publishing the editorial that it was false to claim that Palin or her political action committee were connected to the Loughner shooting that injured Representative Gabby Giffords; certain aspects of the drafting and publication process of the editorial at The Times permitted an inference of actual malice; and a reasonable reader could view the challenged statements as factual, namely that Palin, through her political action committee, was directly linked to the Loughner shooting. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Palin v. The New York Times Co." on Justia Law

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After appellant successfully litigated her claim to supplemental social security income, she challenged the district court's denial of her application for attorney's fees under 42 U.S.C. 406(b). The Second Circuit affirmed the denial of appellant's attorney's fee application as untimely, because she filed well beyond the 14 days prescribed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d)(2)(B). Assuming the court would entertain appellant's argument, it failed on the merits because she provided no factual basis to support a claim that it was reasonable to delay the filing of her section 406(b) application for more than six months after she received notice of the benefits calculation on remand. View "Sinkler v. Berryhill" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a purported class action against Xoom, alleging that the company breached a customer agreement by failing to set their electricity rates according to their actual or estimated supply costs. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim and denied plaintiffs' post-judgment request for leave to amend under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 59(e) and 60(b). The Second Circuit held that the district court failed to accept as true plausible allegations in the complaint and the proposed amended complaint (PAC). In this case, plaintiffs have alleged, with the support of the expert calculations included in the complaint and the PAC, that XOOM's rates showed significant upward deviations from the Market Supply Cost and continued to rise even when that cost fell. Therefore, these allegations were sufficient to state a claim for breach of contract. Furthermore, there was no support for the district court's suggestion that plaintiffs fabricated their calculations. Likewise, the district court erred in denying plaintiffs leave to amend their complaint, and the district court should have accepted the PAC, notwithstanding its presentation after judgment was entered. Accordingly, the court reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Mirkin v. XOOM Energy, LLC" on Justia Law

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Intervenors appealed the district court's order denying their respective motions to unseal filings in a defamation suit. The Second Circuit vacated the district court's order and held that the district court failed to conduct the requisite particularized review when ordering the sealing of the materials at issue. Nevertheless, the court recognized the potential damage to privacy and reputation that may accompany public disclosure of hard‐fought, sensitive litigation. Therefore, the court clarified the legal tools that district courts should use in safeguarding the integrity of their dockets. The court remanded for the district court to conduct a particularized review of the remaining sealed materials. View "Brown v. Maxwell" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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In an action alleging that her employer and union engaged in disability-based discrimination under New York state law, plaintiff appealed the district court's judgment denying her motion to remand to state court. The Second Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court properly denied plaintiff's motion for remand because all of her claims were preempted by section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act. Section 301 governs claims founded directly on rights created by collective bargaining agreements, and also claims substantially dependent on analysis of a collective bargaining agreement. In this case, plaintiff's claims against the hospital defendants and the union were preempted because they were substantially dependent upon analysis of the collective bargaining agreement. The court considered plaintiff's remaining arguments and concluded that they were meritless. Accordingly, the court dismissed the complaint. View "Whitehurst v. United Healthcare Workers East" on Justia Law