Themes of Civil Procedure
Judicial Power is divided both horizontally (each state has its own system) and vertically (state and federal). CP attempts to keep them apart.
Upstream rules affect downstream choices and consequences. Expensive litigation weeds out bad lawsuits; easier upstream = more work downstream.
Tension between getting it done and getting it right. In some cases we tolerate/expect the “wrong” outcome, since getting it done outweighs the need for “right.” However, ignoring false positives/negatives is problematic at times.
Most cases don’t go to trial, but the system is always moving towards trial; provides an incentive to settle.
Most disputes aren’t legal, i.e. they never come to the attention of the legal system. In order for it to become a legal dispute: (1) Naming, identify something as a problem; (2) Blaming, identify the cause/source of the problem; (3) Claiming, finding a lawyer and beginning the necessary legal steps.
Secondary Turbulence occurs when a specific rule is a good idea, but causes some much dispute/turbulence that its “bad consequences” (most likely downstream) outweigh its utility.
Lawyers make it go! Lawsuits and decisions are made by individual lawyers and impact their clients (+/-).
Hawkins v. Masters Farms, Inc.
Question: Where is Mr. Creal (the decedent) a citizen of? Does the federal court have subject matter jurisdiction in this case?
Rule: A party’s domicile is that place in which the party has established a physical presence with the intent to remain there.
Application: Federal diversity jurisdiction exists only where the cases involves complete diversity of citizenship between the parties. Citizenship is established by the state in which a party is domiciled. In this case although Creal had some connection to the state of MO, the evidence demonstrated that Creal had intent to remain in KS and was therefore domiciled in that state (lived with wife and kids, moved belongings, paid rent and bought a house before his death). Thus, as a citizen of KS there is not complete diversity between the parties; the federal court does not have subject matter jurisdiction to hear the case.
Notes: The court upheld the defendants’ 12(b)(1) motion. Citizenship is established at the time the lawsuit is initiated.
Subject Matter Jurisdiction: Can the court hear this case? Can the case be brought in federal court, state court or both? (1) Federal question 28 U.S.C. § 1331; (2) diversity jurisdiction (see Art. III § II and 28 U.S.C. 1332(c) (2).
Personal Jurisdiction: Can this court enforce its orders over this defendant?
Venue: This is not a constitutional consideration. It is a result of statutes that attempt to place the litigation in a convenient forum. See 28 U.S.C. 1391.
All Three Must Be Met To Proceed With a Claim in Court.
Bridges v. Diesel Service Inc.
Before bringing a complaint under the ADA, all administrative remedies must be exhausted; Bridges failed to do so. Complaint was dismissed and Diesel moved for sanctions under Rule 11.
Question: Must a Court impose sanctions under Rule 11(c) for Rule 11(b) violations?
Rule: Rule 11 sanctions are for deterrence purposes and will be applied only in exceptional circumstances, i.e. claim is patently frivolous and substantive in nature.
Application: Plaintiff is in clear violation of Rule 11(b), since he did not demonstrate a competent level of research in this case. Although, Rule 11 sanctions have been imposed for failing to exhaust administrative remedies, they are not necessary in this case to deter future improper conduct by the attorney in this case.
Bell v. Novick Transfer Co.
Defendants moved case from state to district court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441 and 1446. Defendants then sought to dismiss the case pursuant to Rule12(b)(6), i.e. failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The argument is that the complaint does not allege any specific act of negligence.
a. Question: Is the declaration sufficient to survive a 12(b)(6) motion? Are Defendants entitled to a more definite statement pursuant to 12(e)?
b. Rule: Rule 8 requires only “as short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” If further information is needed to prepare a defense, such information should be obtained through discovery.
c. Application: Although states have more stringent pleading requirements, the declaration in this case meets Rule 8; it need not allege specific acts of negligence. The motion for a more definite statement is denied in this case, since it is not all that defective; any information it may need can be obtained during discovery. 12(e) motions are reserved for those situations when it is truly necessary for the party to frame a response.
Larson v. American Family Insurance Co.
Larsons initially retained a lawyer to sue American for failure to a pay a fire claim. The lawyer did not pursue the claim because at the time, he was trying to be hired by American for other matters. Larsons hired another attorney who filed a claim against American in state court. The case was removed to federal court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. After discovery, Larsons learned the initial lawyer was in talks with American while representing the Larsons. The Larsons now seek to amend their complaint to include the initial lawyer, which would destroy diversity, forcing a remand to the state court.
Question: Was the Larsons’ motion to amend filed timely (Rule 15(a)(2))? May all persons be joined as defendants if claims against them arise out of the same transaction or occurrence (Rule 20(a)(2))?
Rule: An amendment seeking to join file one month after complainant confirms the party’s involvement is filed timely under FRCP. All persons may be joined in one action if the claims arise out of the same transaction or occurrence as the other claims.
Application: It was not until discovery was provided that the Larsons learned of the lawyer’s involvement with American, and thus, would be prejudiced if they were not able to amend their complaint. In regards to the joinder claim, although the duties of the defendants may be different, the alleged breaches arise out of the same occurrences or transactions. It would be inefficient for the parties to have two different trials in this case.
Three Primary Restrictions (Rule 26(b)(2), (c))
Relevance: The evidence must relate to a claim or a defense in the case.
Privileged: The evidence cannot be privileged, i.e. self-incrimination, doctor-patient relationship
Rule 26(c): Even if relevant and unprivileged that evidence may nevertheless be undiscoverable if its potential for “annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense” outweighs its value.
Butler v. Rigsby
The parties were involved in automobile accident, and Butler sued Rigsby. AMG and MHC treated the plaintiffs in this case. Defendants now seek to look at the relationship between plaintiff, his lawyer and the doctors who treated plaintiff (concerned about an auto-fraud ring). In discovery Rigsby seeks a number of documents from the medical providers, including but not limited to, lists of patients referred to them by plaintiff’s lawyer and other specific personal-injury lawyers. The medical providers seek a protective order pursuant to Rule 26(c) on the grounds that the information requested is privileged (Rule 26(b)(1)) and the burden/expense of discovery outweighs its likely benefit (Rule 26(b)(2)(C)(i),(iii)).
Question: Can the doctor-patient privilege protect certain information from discovery when such information is both relevant and not unduly burdensome?
Rule: A legal privilege can be used to protect information under Rule 26.
Application: Legal privileges can protect information that is both relevant and not unduly burdensome. In addition, discovery can be limited when it’s unreasonably cumulative or duplicative or its burden outweighs its potential value. Evidence of a “special relationship” between the attorney and an expert witness (medical providers) is relevant, to show bias, and is discoverable if it is not overly burdensome (which it’s not in this case). Finally, the list of all current and past patients is protected by Louisiana’s healthcare pr
othole was the proximate cause). Rush won. In a second lawsuit Rush sought to recover for his personal injuries. The trial court found that because negligence had been determined in the prior adjudication they were binding (issue preclusion); jury awarded sum for Rush. City now appeals the verdict of the second judgment (claim preclusion).
Question: Can more than one cause of action for damages (personal and property) that were the result of one act (tort) be maintained by a plaintiff?
Rule: A single tort can be the basis of but one action. When the injuries are the result of the same wrongful act only a single cause of action arises; the different injuries are simply separate items of damages.
Application: Negligence on the part of the city constitutes one wrongful act and can thus be the basis of only one cause of action. Thus, Rush’s initial claim for property damage bars his subsequent claim for personal injury Injuries to both person and property resulting from the same wrongful act, are separate items of damage, “plaintiff may maintain only one action to enforce his rights existing at the time such action is commenced.”
28 U.S.C. § 1291: “The court of appeals . . . shall have jurisdiction of appeals from all final decisions of the district courts . . . .” In the negative, courts of appeals do not have jurisdiction over an effort to appeal from an order that is not a “final decision.”
Final Judgment Defined: one which ends the litigation on the merits and leaves nothing to do but execute the judgment.
Example: Dismissal for want of subject-matter jurisdiction and grants of summary judgment or 12(b)(6) motions are final judgments. Interlocutory orders and denials of summary judgment are not final judgments pursuant to § 1291.
See Also Rule 60(b): Grounds for relief from Final Judgment.
Apex Hosiery, Co. v. Leader:
Leader appeals from an order of the Court pursuant to Rule 34 (discovery).
Question: Can a party appeal a federal court order to product documents?
Rule: Orders that are interlocutory are not appealable, unless when disobedience results in order to punish for contempt. Only orders that have the effect of ending the case in favor one or the other party are appealable.
Application: This order pursuant to Rule 34 is interlocutory in nature and cannot be appealed. This order does not have the effect of ending the case.
Personal – right not to have a dispute settled where s/he is not. Can the Court render judgment against this party (This right can be waived.)
Subject – about the nature of the court system and whether “this” court can hear “this” case
Jurisdiction and Constitutional Provisions
Article III§ 2: Authorizes the establishment of the federal court system and § 2 sets the limits of federal judicial authority. The Federal Courts cannot exceed these boundaries and Congress has the power to restrict the scope of federal judicial authority (monetary minimum for cases brought in diversity).
Article IV§ 1: “Full Faith and Credit Clause:” valid judgments of one state must be respected by other states, i.e. the state rendering judgment must have had jurisdiction to do so.
Due Process Clause of the 5th and 14th: No “state shall deprive any person of life, liberty or property without the due process of law.”