Legal News

Case Summaries

Contracts

[08/10] Airport Road Associates, LTD v. US
Reversing and remanding a case involving a group of limited partnerships seeking to exit a federal housing program through loan prepayment whose claims against the US were dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because the statute of limitations did not begin to run when a letter between the parties was determined to be a repudiation rather than a breach.

[08/07] Russell City Energy Company, LLC v. City of Hayward
Reversing an order sustaining a city's demurrer without leave to amend and dismissing a complaint to the extent that the order denied the plaintiff leave to amend in an action relating to an agreement between an energy company and a city whose terms may have violated the California Constitution because a quasi-contractual restitution claim would be permitted even if the Payments Clause at issue is unconstitutional.

[08/04] Ayala v. Dawson
Affirming the decision that an action for fraud and other claims relating to allegations that the plaintiff was not a tenant but rather an equitable title holder of a property they occupied pursuant to an oral agreement with the property owner that had previously been the subject of an unlawful detainer action was collaterally estopped from re-litigating the claims in the new case.

[08/02] Lee's Ford Dock, Inc. v. Secretary of the Army
Affirming the grant of summary judgment for the Army and dismissing the private party's claims for contract reformation and breach of contract in the case of a marina on land leased from the Army that was rendered unusable for a period of time while the Army reduced the water level of a lake to repair a dam.

[07/31] Baker v. Italian Maple Holdings, LLC
Reversing the trial court's order denying defendant's motion to compel arbitration in the case of a woman entered into a nursing facility who executed an arbitration agreement that included a 30-day cooling off period for rescission during which time she died because the fact of her death did not render the agreements unenforceable.

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Public Utilities

[06/29] Jacks v. City of Santa Barbara
In a case relating to a surcharge added to energy bills that the city claimed was a fee for the use of public services which taxpayers characterized as a tax imposed without voter approval the court affirmed the appellate decision reversing the trial court's grant of motion for judgment on the pleadings, but reversed the appellate court's order granting summary adjudication to the plaintiffs.

[06/13] Plantier v. Ramona Municipal Water Dist.
In a class action against a Water District challenging the method used by District to calculate wastewater service 'fees or charges' between about 2012 and 2014, the trial court's judgment in favor of defendant, holding that plaintiffs failed to exhaust their administrative remedies under article XIII D of the California Constitution, is reversed where: 1) plaintiffs' class action is not barred by their failure to exhaust the administrative remedies set forth in section 6 because plaintiffs' substantive challenge involving the method used by District to calculate its wastewater service fees or charges is outside the scope of the administrative remedies; and 2) under the facts of this case, those remedies are, in any event, inadequate.

[06/12] SolarCity Corp. v. Salt River Agricultural Improvement and Power Dist.
In an antitrust lawsuit alleging a power district had attempted to entrench its monopoly by setting prices that disfavored solar-power providers, defendant's appeal of the district court order denying its motion to dismiss the suit based on the state-action immunity doctrine, is dismissed for lack of jurisdiction where the collateral order doctrine does not allow an immediate appeal of an order denying a dismissal motion based on state-action immunity.

[04/21] California Pub. Utilities Comm'n v. Fed. Energy Reg. Comm'n
In a petition for review brought by various entities challenging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)'s calculation of certain refunds arising out of the California energy crisis in 2000 and 2001, the petition is: 1) granted in part where FERC acted arbitrarily or capriciously in allocating the refund only to net buyers and not to all market participants; and 2) denied in part as to the question of whether refunds should be netted hourly or a cross the entire refund period where FERC did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in its construction of tariffs.

[04/12] S. California Alliance of Publicly Owned Treatment Works v. US Environtmental Protection Agency
In a petition for review challenging an Objection Letter sent by the EPA regarding draft permits for water reclamation plants in El Monte and Pomona, California, the petition is dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction where neither 33 U.S.C. section 1369(b)(1)(E) nor (F) of the Clean Water Act provided the court with subject matter jurisdiction to review the Objection Letter.

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Dispute Resolution & Arbitration

[08/14] Hermes of Paris Inc. v. Swain
Affirming the district court's diversity jurisdiction in a discrimination and hostile work environment suit in which a plaintiff argued that the lack of complete diversity in the suit, because the plaintiff and the Hermes employee whose acts gave rise to the suit both resided in the same state, left the court without subject matter jurisdiction to compel arbitration, but the court cited precedent that established that requiring complete diversity would undermine the intent of the Federal Arbitration Act.

[08/02] Esparza v. KS Industries, L.P.
Affirming an order denying the motion to compel arbitration insofar as it denies arbitration of the Private Attorneys General Act representative claims seeking civil penalties that are paid to the Labor and Workforce Development Agency and directing additional proceedings to determine the plaintiff's intent regarding their pursuit of other claims in the case of a former employee alleging employment violations.

[07/31] Baker v. Italian Maple Holdings, LLC
Reversing the trial court's order denying defendant's motion to compel arbitration in the case of a woman entered into a nursing facility who executed an arbitration agreement that included a 30-day cooling off period for rescission during which time she died because the fact of her death did not render the agreements unenforceable.

[07/31] Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc. v. The Superior Court of Los Angeles County
Issuing a preemptory writ of mandate directing the trial court to vacate a judgment confirming an arbitration panel's award and entering a new order dismissing a petition to vacate the award because the award was not an award for which the court held jurisdiction to confirm.

[07/21] Odeon Capital Group LLC v. Ackerman
Affirming the denial of a petition to vacate an arbitration award where the petitioning party alleged perjury by the respondent and misconduct on the part of the arbitrator because the court held that where an award is fraudulently procured the petitioner must demonstrate that the fraud was material to the award and reversing the district court's denial of attorney's fees incurred in defending the arbitration award pursuant to New York law.

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Patent

[08/10] AIA America, Inc. v. Avid Radiopharmaceuticals
Affirming the award of attorney's fees to the defendants because the Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial does not apply to attorney's fees under the Patent Act and the district court did not err n making factual findings not foreclosed by the jury's verdict on standing and the plaintiff's due process rights were not violated.

[08/10] Amgen Inc. v. Hospira Inc.
Dismissing an appeal and denying a writ of mandamus in the case of an appeal from a district court order denying the plaintiff's motion to compel discovery in a patent infringement case because there was no jurisdiction over the district court's order under the collateral order doctrine and the plaintiff failed to meet the requirements for a mandamus claim.

[08/09] Romag Fasteners, Inc. v. Fossil, Inc.
Vacating and remanding a case where the district court granted attorney's fees under the Patent Act and the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA), but not under the Lanham Act because the incorrect standard for determining the availability of attorney's fees under the Lanham Act was applied.

[08/07] Personal Audio LLC v. Electronic Frontier Foundation
Affirming a US Patent Trial and Appeal Board determination of unpatentability in the case of a podcasting system because the modifications were trivial and had been disclosed by CNN/Compton.

[08/04] Home Housewares, LLC v. Whirlpool Corp.
Reversing a US Patent and Trademark Office Patent Trial and Appeal Board decision that a blender patent assigned to Whirlpool was not anticipated in prior art in the Wulf patent and relied upon expert statements that were plainly inconsistent with the record.

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Communications Law

[08/09] Jones v. Royal Administration Services, Inc.
Affirming the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendant in an action under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) because they could not be held vicariously liable under the TCPA for calls made by telemarketers who were independent contractors and therefore not the defendant's agents as defined by federal common law.

[08/02] Villa v. Maricopa County
Affirming the dismissal of a putative class action against a county, applying a different analysis than the district court, in a case alleging wiretapping statute violations, because the plaintiff lacked standing for a class action suit and that the law enforcement officials involved were protected from damage judgments because they were acting in good faith.

[07/13] Council Tree Investors Inc. v. FCC
Denying a petition to review an FCC order allowing the limitation of bidding credits available to 'designated entities' in the bidding process for electromagnetic spectrum licenses since the decision was not arbitrary, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise contrary to the law.

[07/03] Daubert v. NRA Group LLC
Affirming the summary judgment for the claimant in a Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) claim and reversing the loss at trail of a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) claim in a case where an injured person was pursued by a radiology company's collection agency that revealed his private information in the course of collecting $25 owed for x-rays.

[06/22] Reyes v. Lincoln Automotive Fin. Servs.
In a case involving the Telephone Consumer Protection Act in which an auto dealer continued to call the plaintiff after he revoked his consent to be called after defaulting on his lease obligations the court determined that while the plaintiff introduced sufficient evidence of their revocation of consent, the TCPA does not permit a consumer to revoke its consent to be called when the consent forms part of a bargained-for exchange, and affirmed the lower court's grant of summary judgment.

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Oil & Gas

[07/19] In Re SemCrude L.P.
Affirming a summary judgment for downstream purchasers of oil in a Chapter 11 case where the downstream purchasers took measures to protect themselves against the company's insolvency while oil producers failed to do so, holding that the precautions taken by the downstream purchasers did not entitle the oil producers to the full repayment received by the downstream purchasers.

[07/03] Tustin Field Gas Food Inc. v. Mid Century Insurance Company
Affirming the trial court's ruling that the splitting of an improperly installed fiberglass sheath on a gas station's underground gasoline storage tank after 16 years did not constitute a collapse as defined by the law and was not entitled to coverage under an insurance policy that failed to define collapse.

[06/13] Autoridad de Energia Electrica v. Vitol SA Services, LLC
In a suit brought under a Puerto Rico 'Law 458', which prohibits government instrumentalities and public corporations from awarding bids or contracts to persons (including juridical persons) who have been convicted of 'crimes that constitute fraud, embezzlement or misappropriation of public funds listed in section 928b of this title,' P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 3, section 928, the district court's judgment remanding the case to the Commonwealth Puerto Rico Court of First Instance is affirmed where the forum selection clauses at issue were enforceable, and that the unanimity requirement of 28 U.S.C. section 1446(b)(2)(A) therefore could not be satisfied.

[06/12] SolarCity Corp. v. Salt River Agricultural Improvement and Power Dist.
In an antitrust lawsuit alleging a power district had attempted to entrench its monopoly by setting prices that disfavored solar-power providers, defendant's appeal of the district court order denying its motion to dismiss the suit based on the state-action immunity doctrine, is dismissed for lack of jurisdiction where the collateral order doctrine does not allow an immediate appeal of an order denying a dismissal motion based on state-action immunity.

[06/12] In re Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE) Products Liability Litigation
In consolidated multi-district litigation arising from contamination of groundwater in Orange County, California from various oil companies' use of the gasoline additive MTBE, the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants on res judicata grounds as a consequence of earlier consent judgments entered in California state court resolving similar suits against defendants brought by the Orange County District Attorney, is vacated and remanded where the record does not sufficiently establish that the Orange County District Attorney and the Orange County Water District-plaintiff were in privity.

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Securities Law

[08/14] US v. Olson
Affirming the 60-month sentence, the top of the guideline for the conviction, and $23 million order of restitution in a securities and tax fraud prosecution of an unlicensed trader because the sentence was not unreasonable.

[07/28] In Re Quality Systems, Inc.
Remanding a case in which a Miami retirement trust obtained the stock of a company and later complained of false statements that the district court found to be puffery, forward looking, appropriately cautioned, without knowledge of their falsity, or protected by the safe harbor provision of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act but the panel found that many of these exceptions did not apply in the given situation.

[07/13] Pasternak v. Shrader
Affirming the dismissal and denial of leave to amend a wide range of claims filed by retired officers of a company complaining that they had been insufficiently compensated in connection with the sale of a company's division, but vacating the judgment to permit one plaintiff leave to amend to add their securities-fraud claims since the denial of this request was premised on waiver by release, which the court held was unenforceable under the Securities Exchange Act.

[07/06] In re Petrobras Securities
Affirming the district court's ruling that a class of securities litigants was entitled to the presumption of reliance, but vacating and remanding a set of class definitions that failed to verify the domesticity of individual over-the-counter transactions on globally traded notes.

[06/26] California Public Employees? Retirement System v. ANZ Securities, Inc.
In a case where members of a securities class-action opted out of a settlement and filed an untimely claim of their own, it was held that the timely filing of the original class-action suit did not toll the statute of limitations for the subsequent claim.

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Administrative Law

[08/07] Diamond Sawblades Manufacturers Coalition v. US
Affirming the Court of International Trade's decision affirming a Department of Commerce ruling in the administrative review of an earlier anti-dumping order, the court held that no error occurred in the determination that a Chinese saw blade manufacturer was seeking to sell their products at less than fair market value in the United States.

[07/18] In Re Pesticide Action Network North America
Denying a motion for further mandamus relief filed by the Pesticide Action Network and Natural Resources Defense Council alleging that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) denial of the Council's administrative petition to revoke all food tolerances and cancel all registration of a pesticide called chlorpyifos was inadequate because the EPA had complied with previous orders by issuing a final response to the petition and because substantive objections to the denial must be made through the proper administrative process.

[07/13] Connors v. US
Affirming that the Aviation and Transport Security Act grants the TSA administrator unreviewable discretion in the termination and employment of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees and that district courts lack subject matter jurisdiction to review termination provisions under the Administrative Procedure Act.

[07/06] Knick v. Township of Scott
Affirming the dismissal of a case involving Fourth and Fifth Amendment claims against a township that enacted a law requiring that owners of private cemeteries open themselves to the public during daylight hours and permit government officials to enter property in search of cemeteries because no violation of the appellant's constitutional rights had yet occurred and she failed to exhaust state remedies prior to commencing litigation.

[06/28] PETA v. USDA
Affirming the district court's grant of judgment on the pleadings in a case where PETA challenged the license renewal process for animal exhibitors promulgated by the USDA, which allowed the renewal of licenses despite licensee's noncompliance with the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), because the AWA does not directly address license renewal but does expressly authorize the USDA to promulgate and implement its own renewal standards.

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Family Law

[08/04] In Re The Marriage of Garcia
Affirming the support order issued in connection with a nullity of marriage action because the prior court order in an action for dissolution of marriage dismissed for failure to establish a valid marriage did not trigger the doctrine of res judicata because the actions involve different primary rights and the putative spouse order is not a final order.

[08/03] In Re L.L.
Reversing a court order finding a former convict to be the third parent of a child because there was no evidence of a preexisting relationship between the putative father and child and ordering a weighing of the competing claims of the competing fathers to determine who will receive court recognition.

[08/03] Blackledge v. Blackledge
Affirming the determination that the child of a German resident that was relocated to the United States was not abducted in violation of the Hague Convention because the record reflected the parents' shared intent for the child to move with a settled purpose.

[08/02] In Re Travis C.
Affirming a juvenile court's jurisdictional findings and dismissing a DCFS motion and cross-appeal because jurisdiction had been properly established and the court had established substantial evidence to support its decision.

[07/27] In Re The Marriage of Ashlyne and Vikash Kumar
Reversing a trial court ruling that an immigrant spouse was not entitled to support pursuant to the affidavit of support submitted by her spouse and that such a claim has no duty to mitigate damages.

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Probate Trusts

[07/14] Lazar v. Charles Schwab Co. Inc.
Affirming the plaintiff's standing to bring a constitutional challenge under the Contracts Clause in the case of a divorced individual's attempts to claim the retirement fund of their ex following his death but affirming the claim's dismissal, application of Arizona's revocation-on-divorce statute, the holding that this statute was not preempted, the dismissal of a Contracts Clause challenge, and the transfer of the case to Arizona.

[06/30] Irvin v. Contra Costa County Employees' Retirement Ass'n
Reversing the trial court's affirmation of the Contra Costa County Employees' Retirement Association Board of Retirement's denial of surviving spouse benefits because the entry of a judgment of legal separation did not terminate a marriage and the term

[06/01] Raymond Loubier Irrevocable Trust v. Noella Loubier
In an inheritance dispute pertaining to the assets of the deceased, as conveyed to various revocable and irrevocable trusts in the deceased's name and that of his wife, the district court's dismissal of the complaint based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction is vacated and remanded where, because the plaintiff trusts are traditional common law fiduciary agreements, and, further, because they are not separate juridical entities under the relevant state law of Florida, the citizenship of their trustees controls a diversity determination.

[05/09] Higgins v. Higgins
In a trust case in which a wife agreed to hold funds in trust for her husband's elderly stepmother, and after her husband's death, the wife changed the form of the accounts and used the funds for her own purpose, the trial court's judgment in favor of wife-defendant under Code of Civil Procedure section 631.8 is reversed where, despite the form of the bank accounts, when clear and convincing evidence shows funds were transferred to an account owner to hold in an irrevocable trust for a third party beneficiary and the trustee repudiates the trust, a constructive trust may be imposed on the funds for the beneficiary's estate to prevent unjust enrichment.

[05/08] US v. Cardaci
In an action involving the Government's attempts to collect unpaid taxes assessed against a homeowner, seeking a judicial sale of the home, the district court's judgment, that a forced sale would be inequitable and order that the homeowner make monthly rent payments to the Government instead, is: 1) affirmed as to the district court?s authority to consider whether the property should be subject to a forced sale; but 2) vacated and remanded for recalculation of the ownership interests in the property and reconsideration of the equitable factors weighing for and against a sale.

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Immigration Law

[08/14] US v. Lefsih
Vacating a conviction for immigration fraud because the district court's repeated interjections expressing skepticism of the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program and its negative impression of individuals who participate in the program were improper judicial intervention and the Algerian defendant was denied the opportunity for a fair and impartial trial as a result.

[08/09] Mejia v. Sessions
Dismissing a petition for the review of the denial of an asylum application by a Peruvian national because they had no jurisdiction to hear a previously entered removal order, but could affirm that an alien subject to a reinstated removal order is barred from applying for asylum.

[08/09] Boggala v. Sessions
Denying the petition for review of the order of the Board of Immigration Appeals finding an Indian national lawful permanent resident removable and inadmissible due to a North Carolina deferred prosecution for solicitation of a child by computer to commit a sex act because the individual's factual stipulations in the course of the prosecution were sufficient to establish his guilt.

[08/07] DLS Precision Fab LLC v. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Granting a petition for review on a single charge that was past the statute of limitations and denying review as to 503 other violations because the petitioner was not entitled to good faith defenses in the case of a company accused of 504 violations of federal employment authorization verification requirements.

[08/03] Ildefonso-Candelario v. Attorney General of the United States
Granting a petition for the review of a Board of Immigration Appeals determination that an a Mexican national was ineligible for cancellation of removal on account of a prior conviction for a crime involving moral turpitude and remanding for further proceedings because the conviction for obstructing the administration of law or other governmental function encompasses acts that are not morally turpitudinous.

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Copyright

[06/20] Douglas Jordan--Benel v. Universal City Studios, Inc.
In the appeal of a breach of contract and copyright infringement case involving the movie 'The Purge,' the district court's denial of defendant's anti-SLAPP motion to strike a state law claim for breach of implied-in-fact contract, is affirmed where the breach of contract claim did not arise from an act in furtherance of the right of free speech since the claim was based on defendants' failure to pay for the plaintiff's idea, not the creation, production, distribution, or content of the films.

[04/07] Mavrix Photographs, LLC. v LiveJournal, Inc.
In a copyright dispute arising out of photographs posted online on defendant's social media website, the district court's summary judgment that defendant was entitled protected by the safe harbor of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is reversed where: 1) the safe harbor set forth in 17 U.S.C. section 512(c) would apply if the photographs were posted at the direction of users; 2) defendant posted the photographs after a team of volunteer moderators, led by an employee of the defendant, reviewed and approved them; 3) the common law of agency applied to the defendant's safe harbor defense; and 4) there were genuine factual disputes regarding whether the moderators were the defendant's agents.

[04/05] Maloney v. T3Media, Inc.
In an brought by former student-athlete plaintiffs, alleging that defendant exploited their likenesses commercially by selling non-exclusive licenses permitting consumers to download photographs from the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Photo Library for non-commercial use, the district court's order granting defendant's special motion to strike and dismissing plaintiffs' claims without leave to amend is affirmed where: 1) the federal Copyright Act preempts the plaintiffs' publicity-right claims and the derivative UCL claim; and 2) in light of that holding, plaintiffs' cannot demonstrate a reasonable probability of prevailing on their challenged claims.

[04/03] Uni Colors, Inc. v. Urban Outfitters, Inc.
In a copyright infringement case involving fabric designs, the district court's summary judgment in favor of plaintiff on the issue of infringement is affirmed where the district court did not err in: 1) its application of the subjective 'intrinsic test'; and 2) concluding, on summary judgment, that the plaintiff had validly registered a fabric design as part of a collection.

[03/22] Star Athletica, L. L. C. v. Varsity Brands, Inc.
In a copyright infringement suit brought by a company that owns 200 copyright registrations for two-dimensional designs--consisting of various lines, chevrons, and colorful shapes--appearing on the surface of cheerleading uniforms that they design, make, and sell, against a competitor who also markets cheerleading uniforms, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals' decision finding the copyrights eligible for protection under 17 U.S.C. section 101, concluding that the graphics could be 'identified separately' and were 'capable of existing independently' of the uniforms, is affirmed where a feature incorporated into the design of a useful article is eligible for copyright protection only if the feature (1) can be perceived as a two- or three-dimensional work of art separate from the useful article, and (2) would qualify as a protectable pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work--either on its own or fixed in some other tangible medium of expression--if it were imagined separately from the useful article into which it is incorporated. That test is satisfied here.

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