South-Western Legal Studies in Business
SOUTH-WESTERN LEGAL STUDIES IN BUSINESS CASE UPDATES—COURT PROCEDURE
SW Legal's Case Updates is a SW Legal Studies service to provide briefs of the latest state and federal court cases. Review the summaries and, for cases of interest, select the case brief. If you cannot find a case of interest, return to Topic Index .
Title
Summary
Parties Do Not Have a Right to Call as Many Expert Witnesses as Desired
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that in a land valuation trial for the trial court to allow each party to call one expert witness, and refuse the request of one party to call two additional witnesses to address the same matter, was reasonable and within the discretion of the court.
(Updated November 2010)

Defendant Must Have Tie to Forum State for Court to Have Jurisdiction in Defamation Case
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that a federal district court, in order to have personal jurisdiction over defendant named in a defamation suit, must show that the matter took place in the state in which the court is located or that there is some other specific tie to that state.
(Updated October 2010)

BP Oil Spill Cases Centralized in One Court
Briefed Case

A judicial panel that rules on complex litigation determined the federal district court in eastern Louisiana would be the most appropriate location to centralize the scores of suits filed to date arising from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
(Updated October 2010)

Defendant’s Income Information Not Relevant if No Punitive Damages at Stake
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that a restaurant, being sued for serving too much alcohol to a driver who was involved in an accident, need not reveal information about its income. Since a criminal act by the drunk driver was the primary cause of the injury, the restaurant may be sued for compensatory damages only.
(Updated September 2010)

Libel via Website Creates Basis for Jurisdiction in State of Party Subject to Attack
Briefed Case

Missouri appeals court held that a business owner in Missouri, subject to attack on a website devoted to attacking the business, could sue the website owner for libel in state court in Missouri. The libel was directed at a Missouri resident doing business in Missouri and was read by people in Missouri, thereby establishing jurisdiction in Missouri.
(Updated September 2010)

Diversity Requirements Must Be Met for Class Action Suit to Be in Federal Court
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that for a federal court to have jurisdiction in a class action suit with parties from multiple states, at least one member of the class must claim an amount in controversy in excess of $75,000 or the class fails for purposes of federal jurisdiction.
(Updated September 2010)

Judgments May Be Registered for Enforcement in Multiple States
Briefed Case

Federal appeals court held that a judgment rendered in Hawaii in 1995 had expired in 2005 after its 10 year statute of limitations for enforcement, but since the judgment had been registered in Illinois in 1997, it could be enforced for ten years after that date of registration, in Texas and in other states.
(Updated June 2010)

Lebanese Bank Activity in U.S. Inadequate to Establish Jurisdiction in U.S. Court
Briefed Case

Federal court dismissed suits brought against Lebanese banks accused of providing financial services for a terrorist organization in Lebanon that assisted in that organization killing and injuring people in Israel. Federal and state requirements for long-arm jurisdiction were not met.
(Updated March 2010)

Class Action Certification Standards Met in Case Involving Automobile Defect
Briefed Case

Appeals court in Oklahoma held that the standards for class action: numerosity; typicality; commonality; and common questions of law and fact, were met in a case involving a defective bumper claim against VW covering Jettas made over a several year period.
(Updated February 2010)

Inclusion of Social Security Number in Court Filing Does not Violate Privacy Rights
Briefed Case

Appeals court affirmed that the exposure of a social security number in a document filed as part of litigation did not violate the right of the party whose number was exposed. The document was relevant to the litigation, so its filing is accorded absolute privilege.
(Updated February 2010)

High Attorney Fee for Small Recovery May Be Justified
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that an attorney fee much larger than the damages recovered can be justified. The court listed twelve factors to be considered in awarding attorney fees in suits where federal law allows the prevailing party to collect from the losing party.
(Updated November 2009)

State Does Not Recognize Claim of Third-Party Negligence for Spoliation of Evidence
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that the state of Arizona does not recognize a claim for negligent spoliation of evidence by a third party. Hence, when a hospital negligently lost material from a surgery needed as evidence in a malpractice case, the hospital could not be sued.
(Updated November 2009)

Computer Hard Drives May Be Searched for Evidence Only with Strict Controls
Briefed Case

Texas high court held that when a party demanded the right to have forensic experts copy a company’s hard drives in an effort to search for evidence, the imaging could be allowed only under stringent controls that protect proprietary information from exposure.
(Updated November 2009)

No Jurisdiction Based on Website and Sporadic Activity in a State
Briefed Case

Florida appeals court held that a foreign corporation could not sue a New York university in Florida court for an alleged tort. None of the activities occurred in Florida, and the university’s activities in Florida, including a website and alumni association, were not sufficient contact to form personal jurisdiction.
(Updated September 2009)

All Parts of Class Action Test Must Be Met for Removal to Federal Court
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that a federal district court properly refused to remove a class action suit from state court to federal court. Federal law allows removal if the amount in controversy exceeds $5 million. Defendant failed to show that much was likely to be at stake, so the suit will be heard in state court.
(Updated August 2009)

No Jurisdiction in U.S. over Foreign Firm for Injury Suffered by U.S. Citizen While Overseas
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that U.S. courts have no jurisdiction over a foreign corporation owned by Americans that advertises in the U.S., for injuries suffered by a client while on vacation at a resort owned by the corporation, when the client went on a fishing trip run by another foreign corporation.
(Updated August 2009)

Obvious Bias by Judge Means New Trial
Briefed Case

Mississippi high court tossed out the verdict by a judge in a case where the judge was shown to be very hostile to one party in the case, whom he ruled against. Such hostility meant there could not be a fair trial, a violation of federal and state due process. There would be a new trial before a different judge.
(Updated June 2009)

Failure to Provide Proper Service of Process Means Default Judgment Vacated
Briefed Case

Maine high court held it improper for a default judgment to be issued against an out-of-state defendant who had not been located. Publication of notice in a local newspaper in Maine was unlikely to reach defendant as he was presumed to be out of state.
(Updated June 2009)

State of Seller of Disputed Good via eBay Is Appropriate Venue for Litigation
Briefed Case

Idaho buyer bought a car over eBay from a seller in Indiana who delivered it to a shipping company in Indiana for delivery. When the buyer was unhappy with the car and refused to pay, the seller sued. Indiana appeals court held that Indiana courts had personal jurisdiction over the Idaho resident.
(Updated May 2009)

No Personal Jurisdiction in State of Buyer Over Seller via eBay
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that when a buyer of merchandise on eBay is in one state and the seller is in another state, the courts in the state of the buyer do not have personal jurisdiction over the seller in the event of a dispute about the deal.
(Updated April 2009)

Trial to Be Moved Due to Factors Favoring Alternative Venue
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that defendant’s request to change venue from one federal court to another would be granted since all factors favored the other location; there was no tie to the venue where the case was filed except that the plaintiff chose that court.
(Updated February 2009)

Illegible Signature on Certified Mail Not Evidence of Defendant’s Receipt of Summons
Briefed Case

Alabama appeals court held that the default judgment of a trial court in plaintiffs’ favor was void. The summons had not been sent to the registered business address of defendant and the signature on the receipt from delivery was illegible. That is inadequate evidence of proper service.
(Updated February 2009)

Privacy Interests Must Be Balanced in Search of Laptop for Evidence
Briefed Case

A party involved in a traffic accident, who claimed the other driver was using a laptop at the time of the accident, has the right to request tests of the laptop to check for usage, but the privacy interests of the laptop owner must be secured in the use of the laptop in the discovery process.
(Updated February 2009)

Running of Statute of Limitations May Be Tolled by Incapacity
Briefed Case

Washington high court held that the tolling of the statute of limitations may be halted due to the inability of the plaintiff to comprehend the matter involved. Whether the plaintiff was incapacitated is a factual matter that may be determined at trial.
(Updated January 2009)

Probate Court Does Not Have Jurisdiction Over Claims for Damages in Law
Briefed Case

Maine high court held that a suit filed for tort claims, which asked for damages in law, must be tried in district court, not in probate court. While the dispute was over probate of an estate, probate courts do not have jurisdiction over tort damage cases.
(Updated January 2009)

Equity Powers Do Not Include Forcing a Party to Buy Assets
Briefed Case

North Dakota high court held that in a dispute over the value of estate assets, it was not appropriate for the trial court to use equity powers to require one party to buy the other party’s share of the estate. The property could be sold to the public if the parties could not agree on division of the assets.
(Updated October 2008)

Once Evidence Shared with Prosecutors, Attorney-Client Privilege for the Evidence Lost
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that when a doctor allowed his attorney to share his patient records with prosecutors, a later claim of attorney-client privilege to protect the documents was invalid. Once the evidence was voluntarily shared, it cannot be pulled back.
(Updated October 2008)

Courts Have No Jurisdiction Over Cases Claiming Remote Possibility of Injury
Briefed Case

Texas high court held that the court had no jurisdiction over a proposed class action suit involving ten million affected parties who are alleged possible victims of a claimed product defect that has not shown harm to date. Such remote prospective cases will not be accepted.
(Updated July 2008)

Government Contractors Not Due Sovereign Immunity
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that a claim against a company that provided some law enforcement administrative services for a District Attorney could proceed as the company was not protected by sovereign immunity.
(Updated July 2008)

Things within Common Knowledge of Jurors Do Not Require Expert Testimony
Briefed Case

Utah high court held that things that are within the common knowledge of jurors do not need expert testimony to be proven at trial. While technical matters require such testimony, less sophisticated matters do not.
(Updated July 2008)

Novel Regulatory Issues Referred to Regulatory Agency for Resolution
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that a novel application of a regulation would require a plaintiff to file a complaint with the relevant regulatory agency for determination of the application of the regulatory scheme to the question involved, rather than allow the trial court to resolve a matter of regulatory importance.
(Updated June 2008)

Equity and Law Issues in Same Case May Be Tried Separately
Briefed Case

Nevada high court held that in a case that contained both matters of equity and of law, the trial court could split the matters and hold a bench trial on the equity issues and then later have a jury trial on the matters of law.
(Updated June 2008)

Trade Secret Need Not Be Revealed at Trial Unless Clearly Necessary
Briefed Case

Indiana high court applied a balancing test to a request for a defendant’s trade secret by a plaintiff. Since the plaintiff failed to clearly establish that information in the secret was necessary to make their argument, access would be denied.
(Updated June 2008)

Sovereign Immunity Must Be Clearly Waived
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that sovereign immunity must be clearly waived by the government for there to be a right to sue. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act does not discuss waiver of immunity, so there is no right to sue a government agency for alleged violation of the Act.
(Updated May 2008)

Trial Judge May Use Discretion to Order New Trial
Briefed Case

Ohio high court held that trial judges have the authority to use their discretion, given the totality of a trial, to order a verdict stricken in favor of a new trial. If the judge finds sufficient abuse in the trial process that likely tainted the verdict, a new trial is proper.
(Updated April 2008)

Physician Qualified to Be Expert Witness about Procedure by Nurse
Briefed Case

Nevada high court held that an emergency-room physician was qualified to give expert testimony about the standard of care that should have been provided by a nurse in an emergency room. The fact that the doctor was not a nurse did not mean he was not an authority on the care expected.
(Updated April 2008)

Improper Arguments in Court May Be Incurable
Briefed Case

Texas high court held that claims by plaintiffs’ attorney that defendants actions were like Nazi murders were not only improper but were incurable, meaning the verdict must be reversed and a new trial ordered.
(Updated February 2008)

Failure to Diligently Uncover Evidence Before Trial Prevents Later Complaint
Briefed Case

Appeals court refused to allow a new trial when a defendant provided evidence, after a trial, that it was told a witness was paid to testify and that the cause of an accident was not as claimed. Because defendant failed to diligently uncover the evidence before trial, it could not complain after.
(Updated February 2008)

Trial Court Must Provide Justification for Granting New Trial
Briefed Case

California high court held that it was improper for a trial judge to simply order a new trial when the losing party requested one, without providing a justification for the order based on evidence of the grounds for a new trial, in this case, jury misconduct.
(Updated October 2007)

Parents Lack Standing to Sue Alcoholic Beverage Makers
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that parents had no standing to sue the makers of alcoholic beverages for advertising their products and, thereby, encouraging children to buy such products. There was no showing of harm to their children and no possible remedy.
(Updated October 2007)

Foreign Corporation Need Not Have Authority to Do Business in State to Sue in State
Briefed Case

Maine high court held that a firm in interstate commerce from another state has the right to make use of state courts for litigation without any specific approval to do business in the state as a condition of using the state courts.
(Updated February 2007)

County in Which Accident Occurs Is Preferred Venue for Trial
Briefed Case

Indiana high court held that in cases of vehicle accidents, the county in which the accident occurred is the preferred venue for a trial results from the accident, rather than the home county of the plaintiff.
(Updated January 2007)

Absolute Judicial Immunity Has Very Few Exceptions
Briefed Case

Federal judge dismissed a suit against various state judges who were alleged to have violated constitutional rights of the plaintiff. Absolute judicial immunity applies whenever judges are acting in the official capacity of their office.
(Updated October 2006)

Statute of Limitations Blocks Malpractice Suit
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that a patient suing a health care provider had waited until after the statute of limitation expired to pursue the suit. Since she was aware of the alleged problem, there was no excuse for waiting so long to file, so the cause of action was lost.
(Updated July 2006)

Defective Expert Testimony Results in Reversal of Verdict
Briefed Case

Texas high court held that a jury verdict about tire failure caused by a production defect could not stand as it was based on unreliable expert testimony. The testimony was speculation as it was the opinion of the witness. There was no scientific evidence or theory to back up the conclusions of the witness.
(Updated July 2006)

Expert Witness Work Product Protected from Discovery
Briefed Case

Rhode Island high court held that the work product of an expert witness is protected from discovery the same as the work product of an attorney. Underlying factual materials used in analysis by the expert is subject to discovery.
(Updated April 2006)

Federal Courts May Have Diversity Jurisdiction in Unsolicited Fax Suits
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that while Congress granted state courts jurisdiction over suits that arise under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act for unsolicited faxes, that did not eliminate federal court jurisdiction in cases of diversity of citizenship.
(Updated April 2006)

Attorney Must Represent Corporation in Legal Proceedings
Briefed Case

North Dakota high court held that a corporation must be represented by an attorney in all legal proceedings in court. Actions undertaken by non-attorneys on behalf of the corporation are void..
(Updated March 2006)

Federal Judges Have Absolute Judicial Immunity
Briefed Case

Judge dismissed a suit filed against another judge claiming violation of constitutional rights by dismissing a suit. The court dismissed the complaint holding that federal judges have absolute judicial immunity.
(Updated February 2006)

Alleged Injury too Distant for Plaintiff to Have Standing to Sue
Briefed Case

Plaintiff sued fast food restaurant for violations of access rules for wheelchairs. Court dismissed suit since plaintiff lived almost 600 miles from the restaurant and was unlikely to be there again. The law requires imminent injury from violations.
(Updated February 2006)

Out-of-State Trust Created with In-State Interests Subject to State Court Jurisdiction
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that Illinois courts had jurisdiction over a Delaware trust that was originally created by Illinois residents to hold business interests in Illinois. Under the long-arm statute, the out-of-state trust was subject to Illinois court jurisdiction.
(Updated November 2005)

Without Proper Notice, Court Has No Jurisdiction over Party Not Notified
Briefed Case

Maine high court held that when service by mail does not conform to state standards, there has been no service to notify the party of the action and the court does not have personal jurisdiction over the party not served.
(Updated August 2005)

Courts Have Limited Jurisdiction over Matters of Religious Disputes
Briefed Case
Georgia high court held that a trial court was wrong to grant injunctive relief to complaining members of a church by ordering an election to determine who would be pastor of the church. The court had no subject matter jurisdiction over such a religious matter.
(Updated June 2005)
Sale of Dogs in Oklahoma to Illinois Resident Creates Illinois Court Jurisdiction over Dispute
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a resident of Illinois who traveled to Oklahoma to buy dogs from a breeder could sue in Illinois courts as the courts have personal jurisdiction. The Oklahoma breeder had an active commercial website to sell the dogs and used the phone and mail to discuss sales.
(Updated April 2005)
Substantial Interest Test May Determine Outcome of Choice of Law Question
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that Virginia law would govern a negligent injury death suit involving a Washington, D.C. resident and a California company, for an injury and death that occurred in Virginia. Under the substantial interest test, Virginia had the most interests, so the federal court in D.C. would apply that law to resolve the matter.
(Updated November 2004)
Arnold's Case against Ohio Car Dealer in California Terminated for Lack of Jurisdiction
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that actor/governor Arnold Schwarzenegger did not show that an Ohio car dealer, accused of infringement of his right of publicity by using his photo in ads in Ohio, had sufficient minimum contacts in California for the courts there to have jurisdiction over the matter.
(Updated October 2004)
Service of Process Must Be Shown to Be Proper for Trial to Proceed
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a trial verdict for the plaintiff could not stand because when the defendant challenged the adequacy of service of process, competent evidence was not provided to show that service had met state law requirements.
(Updated October 2004)
Nevada Casino's Efforts to Attract California Patrons Gives California Courts Jurisdiction
Briefed Case
Appeals courts held that California courts have personal jurisdiction over Nevada hotels and casinos sued by a California resident. The casinos direct advertising efforts at California residents and accept their business, so the state of California has a significant interest in their business dealings.
(Updated April 2004)
Settlements of Related Matters May Not Be Used As Evidence at Trial
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that it was improper for a trial court to allow evidence of the amount of a settlement between the plaintiff and a party that had originally been named a defendant to the case in question. Settlement agreements are not to be part of the trial record.
(Updated February 2004)
Television Program Seen Across State Lines Did Not Create Jurisdiction
Briefed Case
A Missouri resident, responding to a television interview with a doctor in Kansas, went to Kansas for treatment from the doctor that resulted in a malpractice suit. Missouri appeals court held that Missouri courts did not have personal jurisdiction over the doctor since he did not provide service in Missouri.
(Updated February 2004)
Substantial Evidence, Not All Possible Evidence, Needed for Suit to Proceed
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that while some evidence relevant to a suit, which could affect the final outcome, may have been destroyed, sufficient evidence was presented to allow the plaintiffs' claims to proceed. Consequently, the suit should not be dismissed.
(Updated October 2003)
Stare Decisis Does Not Prevent Antiquated Rules From Being Abandoned
Briefed Case
Maryland appeals court held that the old rule that a spouse could not sue another spouse in tort, except in very limited cases, was antiquated and not in compliance with current social norms. As such, the old rule is abandoned. Stare decisis is wise policy, but does not mean that rules can never be changed.
(Updated October 2003)
Once Dismissed for Lack of Jurisdiction, A Matter is Res Judicata
Briefed Case
A party who has a case dismissed from state court for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and who lost on appeal, cannot later return to the same state court system with new claims on the same matter. The initial decision was res judicata; the state court system does not have jurisdiction.
(Updated October 2003)
To Remove Case from State to Federal Court, Federal Law Must Be Clearly Involved
Briefed Case
Federal court ordered a case remanded to state court since all claims of plaintiffs were based on state law. Defendant had no strong legal argument for removal to federal court, so would cover the attorney fees and costs incurred by plaintiffs in contesting the removal action.
(Updated July 2003)
Trial Moved to State Where Accident Occurred Since Most Witnesses in That State
Briefed Case
Alabama high court held that a wrongful death action filed in Alabama state court against an automobile maker for injuries sustained in an accident in Florida, should be moved to Florida on the basis of forum non conveniens since almost all witnesses were in Florida.
(Updated July 2003)
Failure of Plaintiff to Preserve Key Evidence Provides Grounds for Dismissal
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld summary judgment in favor of Ford where plaintiff contended his injuries were due to a defective airbag in his Ford. Plaintiff allowed the vehicle to be destroyed rather than be preserved for trial. That was grounds for the trial court to debar all evidence about the airbag and dismiss the suit.
(Updated July 2003)
Collateral-Source Rule Regarding Damages Does Not Apply to Recovery from Sources Beyond Wrongdoer
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a trial court properly reduced a damage award by the amount received by the plaintiff from the defendant’s insurance company for damages suffered due to the defendant’s negligence. Since the insurer acted on behalf of the defendant, the insurance payment reduces the damages due from the defendant.
(Updated June 2003)
Injunction Against Competition by Former Employee Requires Evidence of Irreparable Injury
Briefed Case
Alabama high court held that when a company requests a preliminary injunction against a former employee, who is alleged to be in violation of a covenant not to compete, the employer must show that there is a possibility of imminent and irreparable injury.
(Updated June 2003)
Collateral Estoppel Rule Prevents Re-litigation of Case
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a driver, who lost his case against another driver regarding fault in an accident, could not then re-litigate the same matter in a new action against his insurance company. Collateral estoppel prevents fully litigated matters from being re-litigated.
(Updated May 2003)
Judges Have Absolute Immunity Against Suit for Damages for Official Actions
Briefed Case
A district court dismissed a suit against a bankruptcy judge and a district judge for conspiracy to help attorneys defraud a person in bankruptcy proceedings out of a large payment. The court held that there is absolute immunity against such suit; complaints about judicial misconduct are subject to specific review procedures.
(Updated April 2003)
Plaintiff's Destruction of Evidence Does Not Mean Dismissal of Product Liability Suit
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that when a plaintiff in a product liability case destroys the critical evidence in bad faith, while the trial court may dismiss the suit, it is not required to do so and may then limit testimony to the more limited evidence that is available.
(Updated April 2003)
Court Has Jurisdiction Over Property Located in State Needed to Enforce Judgment from Other state
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that courts in the state have jurisdiction over property owned by a foreign corporation that is located within the state. That property may be attached by the court to help enforce a valid judgment against the corporation from another state.
(Updated March 2003)
Physician's History of Drug Abuse Is Subject to Discovery in Malpractice Suit
Briefed Case
Appeals court affirmed that a physician being sued for malpractice that resulted in serious injury was required to provide information about his background of drug and alcohol abuse. Such information is not protected by the privilege of physician-patient communication.
(Updated February 2003)
Documents Sealed During Discovery May Remain Sealed Unless Compelling Public Interest Requires Publication
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that information provided by a defendant under a protective order would remain sealed after the case was settled. While there is a general right of public access to court documents, if the parties have agreed to seal certain information during discovery, the right of access is limited unless there is a compelling public interest, which was not shown in this case.
(Updated February 2003)
California Law Governs Tort Claim of Nebraska Resident Alleging Injury Suffered in California Hotel
Briefed Case
Nebraska high court held that a Nebraska resident, who was stuck by a needle in a hotel room in California and feared contracting AIDS, and later sued the hotel in Nebraska state court, would have California law applied to the case in Nebraska court as that state has the most interest in the matter.
(Updated February 2003)
Expert Testimony by Qualified Expert May Conflict with Other Testimony
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a qualified expert witness may give testimony that conflicts with other expert testimony, so long as the testimony is within the area of qualified expertise. The fact that experts disagree is not a reason to exclude testimony.
(Updated February 2003)
Expert Witness Not Required to Prove Injury Observable to Average Person
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that in a slip-and-fall case, in which injuries were claimed, the plaintiff need not have expert testimony to establish the injuries she may have suffered that would be observable by an average person. She would need expert testimony to establish claimed permanent damage.
(Updated January 2003)
Time Deadlines for Filing Appeals Strictly Enforced
Briefed Case
The Maine high court held that by state law, notice of appeal of court decisions must be filed within 21 days of the trial court decision. There are no exceptions, even if the clerk of the court forgot to mail the parties to the litigation a copy of the court's judgment.
(Updated January 2003)
Verdict Overturned Due to Misconduct by Counsel and Judge at Trial
Briefed Case
Appeals court overturned a verdict for more than $20 million against an employer for sexual orientation discrimination against an employee. The employee's counsel made inflammatory statements about the defendant and was allowed to introduce improper testimony at trial. The damages bear no rational relationship to the alleged injury.
(Updated November 2002)
Federal Procedure Set by Congress Must Be Followed Prior to State Litigation
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that administrative procedures set by Congress must be followed properly by a plaintiff before litigation may proceed. If procedures are not followed within the statute of limitations, the right to litigate is lost.
(Updated November 2002)
Judges May Not Communicate with Third Parties About a Case Without Party Participation
Briefed Case
The Florida high court admonished a judge for violating the Code of Judicial Conduct by consulting with an outside expert about a case without having both parties present during the communication.
(Updated July 2002)
In Diversity Action, Federal Rules of Forum Non Conveniens May Hold
Briefed Case
In litigation filed by residents of California and Washington in Florida state court against an Italian company with a Florida office, diversity moves the case to federal court, which applies federal procedural law concerning forum non conveniens to determine where the trial will be held, using Florida substantive law to determine the merits of the case.
(Updated July 2002)
Statute of Limitations for Fraud Begins to Run When Fraud Discovered, Not Started
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that the four-year statute of limitations for a suit for fraud begins to run when the fraud victim learns of the fraud. The fraud began in 1990, but was not discovered until 1998, which is the date that the statute of limitations to begin to run.
(Updated March 2002)
Expert Testimony Must Be Based on Scientific Data or Principles
Briefed Case
Appeals court affirmed the dismissal of a suit against the makers of Viagra by users who contended that their heart attacks were cause by the drug. Since there was no clinical evidence of such causation, expert testimony on the causation must be based on accepted principles. Lacking that, the evidence is excluded and the case fails.
(Updated March 2002)
Intrastate Dispute With No Federal Question Pleaded Must Remain in State Court
Briefed Case
Federal appeals court held that an antitrust suit filed in state court that involved two parties from the same state was subject to state court jurisdiction and could not be removed to federal court. Federal antitrust law does not preempt state antitrust law, so the plaintiff's choice of state court stands.
(Updated February 2002)
Court Will Not Allow Video That Claims to Recreate Automobile Accident
Briefed Case
Trial court held that a video prepared by a vehicle manufacturer in a case against the company for fatal injury caused by an exploding gas tank could not be shown as a demonstration video to the jury because it did not accurately recreate all conditions of the accident. Consequently, it could mislead the jury.
(Updated February 2002)
Unclean Hands Estop a Party from Litigation
Briefed Case
The owner of a corporation fraudulently transferred his stock to evade litigation. Years later, he wanted to assert ownership of the stock under a rule of equity. The high court of Montana held that he was estopped from appearing in court on the matter under the unclean hands doctrine.
(Updated February 2002)
Jurisdiction and Venue Proper in Home State of Plaintiff
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a Nevada resident properly established jurisdiction and venue in federal court in Nevada in a suit filed against a Utah business for violating federal credit law. While the Utah firm did not enter Nevada, its actions were directed at residents of Nevada.
(Updated January 1, 2002)
One Phone Call Not Enough to Establish Minimum Contact Needed for Jurisdiction in State
Briefed Case
Appeals court affirmed that a Wisconsin company could not sue a New Jersey company in state court in Wisconsin due to non-payment for equipment bought through a New Jersey distributor of the Wisconsin company. The only contact the New Jersey buyer had with the Wisconsin supplier was one phone call. That is not enough to satisfy the minimum contact requirement.
(Updated December 1, 2001)
Objection to Scientific Evidence Rejected Despite Failure to Conduct Frye Hearing at Trial
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a trial court did not commit an error by failing to conduct a Frye hearing regarding the competence of the science on which an expert presented testimony at trial. Since the expert's testimony was clearly based on standard science, failure to conduct a Frye hearing did not affect the outcome of the case.
(Updated December 1, 2001)
Statute of Limitations Runs from Date of Anticipatory Breach or of Actual Breach
Briefed Case
Nevada high court held that the statute of limitations for breach of contract cases begins to toll either on the date one party asserts that anticipatory breach has occurred or on the date that the actual breach occurred because the other party failed to perform. Plaintiff may choose either date.
(Updated November 1, 2001)
Court Must Strike Testimony at Trial Inconsistent with Testimony in Interrogatories
Briefed Case
Appeals court ordered a new trial in a medical malpractice suit where expert testimony on behalf of defendants at the trial differed from opinions expressed by the expert in interrogatories provided before the trial. Such inconsistent testimony must be stricken.
(Updated September 1, 2001)
Choice of Law Points to State with Most Interests in a Matter Involving Two States
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that, in a choice of law conflict for a diversity suit filed in federal court in Arkansas, the court should apply Louisiana law to resolve the case. The plaintiff was from Louisiana, the defendant did business in Louisiana, and the injury occurred in Louisiana. The fact that the defendant is headquartered in Arkansas does not outweigh the other factors.
(Updated September 1, 2001)
Fraud on the Court Overturns Trial Verdict
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a challenge to a trial result, five years after the trial, could be heard because it involved a claim of fraud on the court that involved attorneys for the defendant who paid an expert witness to give perjured testimony and hid relevant documents. Such fraud does not face a time limit to challenges after the trial.
(Updated August 1, 2001)
Injured Metallica Fan in One State May Not Intervene in Injured Metallica Fan Litigation in Other State
Briefed Case
Appeals court affirmed that a court has the right to seal the discovery material from litigation that was settled. A fan injured at a Metallica concert in Ohio settled his case. A fan injured at a Metallica concert in Indiana, and suing Metallica, had no right to have access to the Ohio records.
(Updated August 1, 2001)
Economist Had No Expertise To Testify About Physical Capacity to Work
Briefed Case
South Dakota high court held that the expert testimony of an economist, hired by the plaintiff to assess his reduction in lifetime earnings due to injuries suffered in an accident, should not have been admitted into evidence since the economist made judgments about physical work capacity that were beyond his expertise.
(Updated August 1, 2001)
Punitive Damage Claims Cannot Be Aggregated to Establish Diversity Jurisdiction
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a class action suit filed for relatively small damages, but that requested punitive damages so as to allow the amount in controversy to exceed $75,000 in order to obtain diversity jurisdiction in federal court, was not permissible under Georgia law. The suit would be heard in state court.
(Updated May 1, 2001)
Evidence Admitted by Plaintiff in First Action That Was Dropped Are Not Relevant in Second Action
Briefed Case
The Arkansas high court held that matters a plaintiff was deemed to have admitted in his first action against defendants, because of his failure to respond in a timely manner to requests for information, were not relevant when the plaintiff dropped the first action and then re-filed a second action against the same parties.
(Updated May 1, 2001)
Defendant in Civil Sexual Harassment Suit May Be Compelled to Provide DNA Sample
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld a trial court order that a supervisor accused of sexual harassment be compelled to provide a DNA sample so that it could be compared to a semen specimen the plaintiff contends was from her supervisor from a sexual assault at work. The plaintiff's rights outweigh the minimal intrusion on the defendant.
(Updated May 1, 2001)
Attorney Who Improperly Blocks Deposition Is Subject to Sanction
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld a trial court order of money sanctions against a defendant's attorney who improperly instructed an employee of the defendant not to answer questions at a deposition. Unless information is privileged, there is no right to prevent discovery of information relevant to the case.
(Updated May 1, 2001)
When Expert Testimony Rejected, Plaintiff May Also Lose Chance for Another Trial
Briefed Case
The Supreme Court held that when the testimony of an expert witness is rejected as incompetent that judgment may be directed for the defendant and no new trial allowed. If the expert testimony that is rejected is the key to the plaintiff's case, then no new trial need be an option.
(Updated April 1, 2001)
Arkansas Choice of Law Rules Dictate Arkansas Law to Control Wrongful Death Suit
Briefed Case
Federal court held that Arkansas Choice of Law rules would govern a suit filed by heirs of a person killed in a plane crash in Arkansas. While the deceased and the heirs are from California, Arkansas law dictates that its interests in resolving tort matters that occur within the state mean that Arkansas law will be applied.
(Updated March 1, 2001)
Juries Can Sort Out Conflicts in Expert Testimony
Briefed Case
Court rejected a party's motion to strike the expert testimony of a physician whose conclusions conflicted with those of the other party's physician because the expert based his conclusions on a review of the records, not an examination in person. Experts often rely only on documents, not first hand review, and juries may sort out the conflicting testimony.
(Updated February 1, 2001)
Late Appeal Is No Appeal
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld the dismissal of an appeal that arrived at the court four days after the deadline for the appeal to be filed. The fact that the appeal was mailed a day before the deadline is not relevant since court rules require appeals to be filed with the clerk within 30 days.
(Updated February 1, 2001)
Corporations Need Not Have Attorney Represent Them in Small Claims Courts
Briefed Case
The Kansas high court held that under the Small Claims Procedure Act, unlike in other courts, a corporation may be represented by an employee in small claims court; they need not hire an attorney to represent them in such courts.
(Updated February 1, 2001)
Golf Pro Qualifies as Expert Witness on Duty of Care of Golfers
Briefed Case
South Dakota high court held that a golf pro, who taught golf, was qualified to serve as an expert witness concerning the duty of care of golfers to watch out for each other when swinging their clubs. He could not comment on negligence, but could give an opinion as to whether the matter was an accident or showed carelessness.
(Updated January 1, 2001)
Summary Judgment May Not Be Used in Small Claims Cases
Briefed Case
Supreme court of Oklahoma held that small claims cases may not use summary judgment or other legal motions that usually require the assistance of a lawyer. The purpose of the proceedings is for them to move quickly, without lawyers or the other legal trappings of normal court procedure.
(Updated December 1, 2000)
Plaintiff Has Right to Show Expert Video Deposition Taken by Defendant
Briefed Case
High court of Delaware ordered a new trial in a case where the trial judge would not allow the plaintiff to show a videotaped deposition of the medical expert witness hired by the defendant hospital and physician in a malpractice case. While the defendants could drop the witness, once the plaintiff had listed that witness before the trial, they had the right to use that testimony.
(Updated November 1, 2000)
British Company that Owned American Company Not Subject to Court Jurisdiction
Briefed Case
Trial court dismissed a suit brought against a British tobacco company that owns an American tobacco company. The government sued the British company to recover medical costs associated with tobacco products. Since the British company did no business in the U.S., it was not subject to jurisdiction.
(Updated November 1, 2000)
Statute of Limitations Tolled While Defendant Out-of-State on Vacation
Briefed Case
The Ohio high court held that the two-year statute of limitations for personal injury actions was tolled while the defendant was out-of-state on vacation. This is not a burden on interstate commerce, which would be the case for business defendants who are out-of-state on business.
(Updated November 1, 2000)
Federal Criminal Case Does Not Create Federal Jurisdiction for Related Civil Action
Briefed Case
Appeals court vacated a judgment by a federal court awarding restitution to a bank that was defrauded by its president. The federal court had no jurisdiction over that state law matter. The fact that the president was convicted in federal court of violating federal bank law did not create federal jurisdiction over the civil case.
(Updated September 1, 2000)
Party to Litigation May Protect Identity if Fear of Harm from Publicity Is Sufficient
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that foreign workers in various garment factories, who claimed they suffered from numerous labor abuses, could proceed anonymously because they demonstrated real fear of harm to themselves or to their family if their identities were revealed. Their security overcame the normal right of the public to know the details of court proceedings.
(Updated September 1, 2000)
Appeals Court May Direct Verdict as Matter of Law
Briefed Case
Supreme Court held that a court of appeals may direct a judgment as a matter of law for the losing party when it determines that evidence was improperly admitted at trial and that the remaining evidence, properly admitted, is insufficient to present a case.
(Updated June 1, 2000)
Expert Witness May Testify Only on Matters Related to His Expertise
Briefed Case
Trial judge granted a motion to strike certain expert testimony. The judge held that testimony that went beyond the particular areas of expertise of the witness would not be allowed. Witness could only testify on matters for which he was qualified.
(Updated April 1, 2000)
Corporation Does Not Become State Citizen Merely By Complying with State Law
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld the verdict of federal trial court in a case involving property condemned for taking by Union Pacific Railroad under Arkansas law. Usage of the statute does not, by itself, make the railroad an Arkansas citizen, thereby forcing the dispute with an Arkansas citizen into state court.
(Updated March 1, 2000)
Trial Court Should Hold Hearing To Assess Expert Evidence Before Dismissal
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that under the Daubert standard, while a trial court may exclude expert testimony as incompetent, when the outcome of a trial rests on that issue, the court must hold a hearing to address the competence of the evidence, rather than simply exclude it and end the proceedings.
(Updated February 1, 2000)
Legal Communications from Germany to Texas Client Establishes Texas Jurisdiction
Briefed Case
Federal appeals court held that a German attorney, who visited a Texas client once in Texas, and then did legal work for two years for the client in Texas, corresponding by phone, letters and faxes, was subject to personal jurisdiction in Texas when sued by the client for fraud and other claims arising from the legal work performed.
(Updated February 1, 2000)
Class Action Suit Against Cigarette Makers Not Allowed
Briefed Case
Trial court refused to allow a suit against cigarette makers to be certified as a class action on behalf of an estimated 65,000 people in New York suffering from significant health damage due to smoking. There are too many issues to be determined on an individual basis for there to be a class action.
(Updated December 1, 1999)
Supreme Court Throws Out Class Action Settlement in Asbestos Case
Briefed Case
The high court rejected a class action settlement agreed to by an asbestos maker and plaintiffs' attorneys. The court held that the trial court did not show that there were no other funds available or that all claims and conflicts among the plaintiffs had been reasonably addressed in the final settlement approved by the court.
(Updated October 1, 1999)
Trial Court Improperly Admitted Incompetent Expert Testimony
Briefed Case
Appeals court vacated a verdict against a physician and hospital for their alleged negligence at the birth of a child. The court found that the district court abused its discretion by improperly admitting the testimony of plaintiff's expert, who lacked knowledge of the medical literature regarding the key issue in the case.
(Updated October 1, 1999)
Daubert Rule Allows Trial Judges to Review All Expert Testimony for Reliability
Briefed Case
Supreme Court clarified that the Daubert rule, stating that trial judges are gatekeepers who may prevent dubious scientific from being introduced at trial, extends to all expert testimony. This flexible standard gives trial courts substantial discretion to admit or exclude expert testimony.
(Updated June 1, 1999)
Premature Deliberations by Jury May Affect Fundamental Fairness
Briefed Case
South Carolina high court held that premature deliberations by a jury might affect "fundamental fairness" such that the trial court may tailor an appropriate response after reviewing the matter, which could include a new trial or special instructions to the jury.
(Updated May 1, 1999)
Diversity of Citizenship May Be Based Purely on State of Incorporation
Briefed Case
A now non-operational corporation could maintain diversity of citizenship based on its state of incorporation being different from the other party to the litigation, who resided in the state in which the corporation used to have its sole place of doing business.
(Updated April 1, 1999)
Request for Dismissal with Prejudice Is Final Resolution
Briefed Case
After suit was moved from state to federal court, plaintiff requested dismissal with prejudice, which was granted. Plaintiff then appealed dismissal. Appeals court held it had no jurisdiction to hear an appeal of such a dismissal as there was no longer a case or controversy.
(Updated April 1, 1999)
Failure to Disclose Evidence in Timely Fashion Justifies Dismissal
Briefed Case
Product liability suit properly dismissed by trial court when plaintiff failed to produce competent expert testimony within the deadline set by the court to establish a prima facie case. Since expert report was filed two months late, trial court properly dismissed suit.
(Updated April 1, 1999)
Federal Court Has No Jurisdiction In Suit to Interpret State Law
Briefed Case
Bank filed a preemptive claim to have a state banking statute declared unenforceable as in conflict with federal banking law. Because the state statute had not been interpreted as to the possible source of conflict, the appeals court held that federal district court did not have jurisdiction to hear the matter, which should be litigated at the state level prior to such action.
(Updated March 1, 1999)
Trial Court Must Follow Appeals Court Instruction
Briefed Case
Upon reversal by supreme court and remand to trial court, the trial court allowed parties to enter new pleading, which trial court granted. On second appeal to supreme court, it held that a trial court must follow the remand order and may not allow new pleadings.
(Updated March 1, 1999)
Each Plaintiff in Diversity Class Action Must Have $75,000 at Stake
Briefed Case
Tenth Circuit upheld dismissal for lack of jurisdiction of suit by various sugar beet growers who claimed that sugar processor had cheated them. Only one grower asserted losses of at least $75,000. The sum claimed by each grower could not be added together to meet the amount-in-controversy requirement.
(Updated March 1, 1999)
Dismissal with Prejudice Is Not Res Judicata
Briefed Case
Texas high court reversed holdings that dismissal with prejudice, in breach of contract action, pursuant to pre-trial settlement by parties was res judicata as to contract issues that arose later when one party claimed the settlement had not been fulfilled.
(Updated January 1, 1999)
Federal Court Cannot Reduce Good-Faith Claim to Destroy Federal Diversity
Briefed Case
Appeals court reversed decision of trial court to grant summary judgement to defendant on several counts, thereby reducing the amount in controversy to less than the minimum specified in the diversity statute, and, therefore dismissed the entire action. Good-faith claim must be heard.
(Updated January 1, 1999)
Arrival of Plaintiff After Start Time of Trial Grounds for Dismissal of Suit
Briefed Case
Tenant contesting eviction from public housing for drug violation demanded jury trial. When she failed to appear at the scheduled start time, after counsel had been warned the previous day when she failed to show, defendant was awarded judgment. Tenant's appearance a few minutes later held lack of due diligence. Decision of trial judge upheld by appeals court.
(Updated October 19, 1998)
No Jurisdiction Exists Over Party Who Died Before Cause of Action Arose
Briefed Case
Party filed tort liability suit against property owner for incident that occurred after death of would-be defendant. Court held that it could not have jurisdiction over such defendant and dismissed suit.
(Updated October 19, 1998)
Arizona Courts Have Interest in Accident That Occurred in Tennessee
Briefed Case
Suit by California resident in Arizona court against Arizona resident for injuries suffered in car accident in Tennessee allowed to proceed. The Tennessee residents involved in the accident were not parties to the litigation, so Arizona courts could hear the matter.
(Updated October 5, 1998)
Passive Business Ownership Not Sufficient Grounds for Jurisdiction
Briefed Case
French hotel company that owns large minority interest in U.S. motel chain could not be subject to jurisdiction in suit by motel employee against motel chain. The French company played no active role in managing the U.S. company, so it did not subject itself to personal jurisdiction.
(Updated May 29, 1998)
 
Trial Courts Have a Duty to Review Punitive Damages for Excessiveness
Briefed Case
Jury awarded buyer of defective car, alleged to be in good condition by the dealer, $210,000 in punitive damages. Appeals court held that under federal and state law the trial court had a duty to review punitives for possible excessiveness. The amount may have been allowed by the judge, but a rationale must be given.
(Updated May 29, 1998)
Willful Nelgect of Attorney Imputed to Client
Briefed Case
Default judgement entered against businessman after a year of no response to charges filed by the SEC for securities violation upheld. Defendant's attorney engaged in willful neglect, but that neglect is imputed to the client who makes no effort to follow the disposition of the case.
(Updated 4-6-98)
For Diversity Jurisdiction, Counterclaims Included in Amount in Controversy
Briefed Case
In diversity jurisdiction suit, plaintiff's claim was for less than $50,000. Request by defendant for the court to dismiss the case based on inadequate amount in controversy fails because defendant counterclaimed for more than $50,000.
(Updated 2-3-98)
Trial Courts Have Great Leeway in Allowing Scientific Evidence
Briefed Case
Supreme Court upheld the decision of a district court judge to exclude expert testimony that the court found to be unreliable. The court held that trial courts have great leeway as "gatekeepers" of expert testimony.
(Updated 1-16-98)
Settlement of Suit Cannot Be Agreement to Agree
Briefed Case
Parties asserted to judge that they had reached a settlement before trial, the terms of which were read into the record. Prior to judgment entry, the parties began to disagree about the terms. Ohio Supreme Court held that no settlement existed, the trial court must hear the matter.
(Updated 11-14-97)
Clock Ticks Longer in Disputes Over Written Contracts
Briefed Case
Contractor sued architects for breach of contract for problems with work provided. Suit was filed more than two years after project was completed. Architect's assertion that the general two year statute of limitations precluded the suit was rejected in favor of a six year statute of limitation that applies to economic damages in disputes arising from written contracts.
(Updated 10-3-97)
Back to the Beginning: Defendants and Plaintiffs Both Fail to Navigate the Vagaries of Diversity Jurisdictional Issues
Briefed Case
In state court both defendants and plaintiffs improperly drafted pleadings which caused Court of Appeals to vacate lower court decision for lack of jurisdiction, not expiration of the statue of limitations.
(Updated 9-12-97)
Joint Venture Previous Partnership Defeats Diversity in Federal Court Briefed Case
When a contractual dispute arises between a joint venture/plaintiff and defendant, diversity of citizenship must exist between all partners of the joint venture and defendant at the time of contract, not filing, in order to invoke the jurisdiction of the federal court.
(Updated 9-12-97)
Jurors Intimidation Does Not Result in Reversal for Criminal Conviction
Briefed Case
Court of Appeals affirmed motion to vacate verdict on issue of juror intimidation because the influence emanated from within the jury and not from outside sources.
(Updated 9-12-97)
Plaintiff's Free Speech Claim Against Arizona "Mooted"
Briefed Case
Supreme Court vacated district court finding that the Arizona constitution declaring English the official language is unconstitutional because state employee/plaintiff's claim became moot after leaving her job with the State of Arizona.
(Updated 9-12-97)
Stalker Suit For Judicial Bias Dismissed
Briefed Case
Municipal court judge who help plaintiffs amend complaint in criminal suit deemed a judicial act, not judicial bias; therefore subsequent defendant suit against judge for violation of civil rights dismissed because of absolute judicial immunity.
(Updated 9-12-97)

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