Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Business Law
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The case revolves around the death of Darius Caraway, who overdosed while serving a murder sentence at Whiteville Correctional Facility in Tennessee, operated by CoreCivic, Inc. Caraway's estate, represented by his mother, sued CoreCivic and three of its officials, alleging that they violated Caraway's Eighth Amendment rights by failing to protect him from overdosing. The estate argued that CoreCivic deliberately understaffed the facility, leading to inadequate screening of prison guard applicants, smuggling of illegal drugs, and lack of supervision, which allowed fentanyl to proliferate at Whiteville. The estate claimed that the defendants knew about this proliferation but did nothing about it, leading to Caraway's death by overdose.The United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee dismissed the estate’s complaint, stating that the claims were conclusory allegations of unconstitutional conduct devoid of well-pled factual support. The estate appealed this dismissal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court found that the estate failed to adequately allege that Caraway faced an objectively excessive risk of harm from unfettered access to drugs inside Whiteville. The court also found that the estate failed to sufficiently allege that the defendants knew of a drug problem at Whiteville or that they didn't reasonably respond to the alleged risk. The court concluded that the estate failed to meet the requirements of a failure-to-protect claim under the Eighth Amendment. The court also dismissed the estate's procedural claims, stating that the district court properly treated the motion as one to dismiss and that the estate had forfeited its argument about the district court's failure to issue a scheduling order. View "Caraway v. CoreCivic of Tennessee, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court of Iowa affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals and the District Court in favor of the City of Des Moines, in a case brought by Lime Lounge, LLC. Lime Lounge, a bar, challenged a city ordinance requiring it to obtain a conditional use permit (CUP) to operate. After receiving noise complaints, the City revoked Lime Lounge's CUP, which was upheld in a prior appeal. Lime Lounge then challenged the ordinance arguing it was preempted by Iowa Code, violated equal protection and spot zoning prohibitions. The trial court dismissed Lime Lounge's claims and this decision was affirmed by the Court of Appeals.The Supreme Court of Iowa found that the city's ordinance was not preempted by state law. Rather, it was a proper exercise of the city's zoning authority and did not create a separate local alcohol license. The Court also rejected Lime Lounge's equal protection claim, holding that the city had a legitimate purpose in imposing a CUP on specific businesses selling alcohol. Finally, the Court dismissed the claim of illegal spot zoning, as Lime Lounge failed to prove that the city had engaged in such activity. The Court thus affirmed the dismissal of Lime Lounge's challenge to the ordinance. View "Lime Lounge, Inc. v. City of Des Moines, Iowa" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around plaintiff Rynold Dwayne Jackson, who alleged malicious prosecution and unfair business practices after an altercation at a hotel lounge. Jackson was refused service on the basis of intoxication. Following a dispute, Jackson and the hotel's director of security, Mario Lara, had physical contact leading to Jackson's prosecution for battery. After being found not guilty, Jackson filed a civil complaint against Lara and DT Management, LLC, the company managing the hotel and lounge.Jackson alleged malicious prosecution against Lara, claiming the criminal prosecution was based on a false assault accusation. He also alleged DT Management violated the Unfair Competition Law by denying equal access, permitting discriminatory behavior by employees, and selectively deleting incident footage.The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, which the lower court granted. The court considered Jackson's failure to appear at the motion hearing as a submission on the tentative ruling. Jackson appealed this judgment.The Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District Division One, State of California, affirmed the lower court's judgment. They cited the interim adverse judgment rule, which establishes that a trial court judgment in favor of the plaintiff or prosecutor, unless obtained fraudulently, forms probable cause to bring the underlying action. The court found this rule applicable as Jackson's motion for acquittal in his criminal trial was denied, thus establishing probable cause for Lara's accusation.As for the unfair business practices claim, Jackson failed to substantiate his allegations with legal authority or argument, resulting in the dismissal of his claim. Furthermore, a new theory he proposed on appeal was disregarded as it was raised for the first time and not considered in the trial court. View "Jackson v. Lara" on Justia Law

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The case involves Suzy Martin, the owner and president of Smart Elevators Co., a certified minority- and woman-owned elevator service and repair company. The company, which historically did most of its business with the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago, saw its customer base change after a whistleblower complaint alleged that Martin and her company engaged in a bribery and kickback scheme with a University of Illinois Chicago employee. This led to an investigation by the Office of the Executive Inspector General for the Agencies of the Illinois Governor (OEIG), which concluded that Martin, Smart Elevators, and the University employee had engaged in a kickback scheme that violated Illinois ethics law and University policy and recommended that the University sever ties with Martin and her company.As a result of the report, the State and City ceased doing business with Martin and Smart Elevators, causing the company to lose millions in preexisting and potential contracts. Martin sued several State and City entities and officials under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, bringing “stigma-plus” procedural due process claims under the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court dismissed her amended complaint with prejudice.Upon appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court concluded that Martin's occupation was operating an elevator service and repair business, not just providing those services specifically to the State or City. The court also found that despite the loss of State and City contracts, Martin had not been denied her liberty to pursue her occupation as she remained the owner and operator of Smart Elevators, which continued to operate and even managed to secure a contract with the Department of Justice in 2021. As such, the court found no violation of Martin's occupational liberty rights. View "Martin v. Haling" on Justia Law

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The case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit involved Allen Thomas Bloodworth, II, a business owner who operated two towing businesses in Kansas City. Bloodworth alleged that the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners and fourteen officers of the Kansas City Police Department conspired to stop him from running his businesses and shut down his ability to conduct business in Kansas City. He brought 17 state and federal claims, including defamation, tortious interference with contract and business expectancy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent hiring, training, supervision, or retention. He also alleged Fourth Amendment violations for an unlawful warrant search and seizure of his residence and business, the shooting of his dog during the search, and the seizure of business records.The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. On appeal, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the ruling. The appellate court concluded that Bloodworth failed to link the specific conduct of individual defendants to the alleged constitutional violations, and his claims were based on general assertions mostly. It also ruled that Bloodworth failed to establish that the defendants' conduct was extreme and outrageous to support his claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The court further found that Bloodworth failed to establish a constitutional violation resulting from the official policy, unlawful practice, custom, or failure to properly train, retain, supervise, or discipline the police officers. Therefore, there was no basis for municipal liability against the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners. View "Bloodworth v. Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners" on Justia Law

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The Township solicited bids for the demolition of former hospital buildings. ICC, a Detroit-based minority-owned company, submitted the lowest bid. AAI, a white-owned business submitted the second-lowest bid, with a difference between the bids of almost $1 million. The Township hired a consulting company (F&V) to vet the bidders and manage the project. F&V conducted interviews with both companies and provided a checklist with comments about both companies to the Township. ICC alleges that F&V made several factual errors about both companies, including that AAI had no contracting violations and that ICC had such violations; that ICC had no relevant experience, that AAI had relevant experience, and that AAI was not on a federal contracting exclusion list. F&V recommended that AAI receive the contract. The Township awarded AAI the contract. ICC filed a complaint, alleging violations of the U.S. Constitution, federal statutes, and Michigan law.The district court dismissed the case, finding that ICC failed to state a claim under either 42 U.S.C. 1981 or 42 U.S.C. 1983 by failing to allege the racial composition of its ownership and lacked standing to assert its constitutional claims and that F&V was not a state actor. The Sixth Circuit reversed in part. ICC had standing to bring its claims, and sufficiently pleaded a section 1981 claim against F&V. The other federal claims were properly dismissed. View "Inner City Contracting LLC v. Charter Township of Northville" on Justia Law

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TASER International, Inc., obtained an injunction against “Phazzer [Electronics] and its officers, agents, servants, employees, and attorneys; and any other persons who are in active concert or participation with Phazzer Electronics or its officers, agents, servants, employees, or attorneys” (the “2017 injunction”). The injunction prohibited Phazzer Electronics from distributing or causing to be distributed certain stun guns and accompanying cartridges that infringed on TASER’s intellectual property. At the time of the TASER-Phazzer Electronics litigation, Steven Abboud controlled Phazzer Electronics, and Phazzer Electronics employed, among others, Defendant. In 2018, after the district court found Abboud in contempt for violating the 2017 injunction, Abboud and Defendant went to work for other entities with “Phazzer” in their names. Based on that activity, the district court found Defendant (and others) in contempt of the 2017 injunction. At issue on appeal is whether the 2017 injunction extended broadly enough to bind Defendant and prohibit her conduct under the theories of liability that the government has pressed and the district court decided   The Eleventh Circuit vacated Defendant’s conviction. The court concluded that the record cannot sustain Defendant’s conviction.  The court explained that the district court did not make factual findings about whether Defendant was a key employee. Nor did it determine whether she so controlled Phazzer Electronics and the litigation that resulted in the 2017 injunction that it would be fair to say she had her day in court on that injunction. View "USA v. Diana Robinson" on Justia Law

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Liapes filed a class action against Facebook, alleging it does not provide women and older people equal access to insurance ads. The Unruh Civil Rights Act prohibits businesses from discriminating against people with protected characteristics (Civ. Code 51, 51.5, 52(a)). Liapes alleged Facebook requires all advertisers to choose the age and gender of users who will receive ads; companies offering insurance products routinely tell it to not send their ads to women or older people. She further alleged Facebook’s ad-delivery algorithm discriminates against women and older people.The trial court dismissed, finding Facebook’s tools neutral on their face and concluding that Facebook was immune under the Communications Decency Act, 47 U.S.C. 230. The court of appeal reversed. Liapes has stated an Unruh Act claim. Facebook, a business establishment, does not dispute women and older people were categorically excluded from receiving various insurance ads. Facebook, not the advertisers, classifies users based on their age and gender via the algorithm. The complaint also stated a claim under an aiding and abetting theory of liability An interactive computer service provider only has immunity if it is not also the content provider. That advertisers are the content providers does not preclude Facebook from also being a content provider by helping develop at least part of the information at issue. View "Liapes v. Facebook, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Dominick Martin and Rusty Rendon filed suit under the Unruh Civil Rights Act for disability discrimination, contending that one of Thi E-Commerce’s Web sites discriminated against the blind by being incompatible with screen reading software. Plaintiffs contended the court erred by concluding that a Web site was not a place of public accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (incorporated into the Unruh Act). Although this was an issue that has split the federal courts (and California Courts of Appeal), the appellate court here concluded the ADA unambiguously applied only to physical places. Moreover, even if the Court found ambiguity and decided the issue on the basis of legislative history and public policy, it would still conclude that the ADA did not apply to Web sites. Plaintiffs alternatively contended they stated a cause of action against Thi E-Commerce on a theory of intentional discrimination. To this, the Court of Appeal concluded the allegations of the complaint did not state a claim under that theory either and affirmed the judgment. View "Martin v. THI E-Commerce, LLC" on Justia Law

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In April 2012, Plaintiff-Appellee Brandon Barrick filed a qui tam action against his then-employer, Defendant-Appellant Parker-Migliorini International LLC (PMI). Barrick alleged violations of the False Claims Act (FCA) and amended his complaint to include a claim that PMI unlawfully retaliated against him under the FCA. PMI was a meat exporting company based in Utah. While working for PMI, Barrick noticed two practices he believed were illegal. The first was the “Japan Triangle”: PMI exported beef to Costa Rica to a company which repackaged it, then sent it to Japan (Japan had been concerned about mad cow disease from U.S. beef). The second was the “LSW Channel”: PMI informed the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) it was shipping beef to Moldova on a shipping certificate, but sent it to Hong Kong. Then, according to Barrick, PMI smuggled the beef into China (China was not then accepting U.S. beef). Barrick brought his concerns to Steve Johnson, PMI’s CFO, at least three times, telling Johnson that he was not comfortable with the practices. By October, the FBI raided PMI's office. Barrick was terminated from PMI in November 2012, as part of a company-wide reduction in force (RIF). PMI claimed the RIF was needed because in addition to the FBI raid, problems with exports and bank lines of credit put a financial strain on the company. Nine employees were terminated as part of the RIF. PMI claims it did not learn about Barrick’s cooperation with the FBI until October 2014, when the DOJ notified PMI of this qui tam action. A jury found that PMI retaliated against Barrick for his engagement in protected activity under the FCA when it terminated his employment. On appeal, PMI argued the district court improperly denied its motion for judgment as a matter of law (JMOL). In the alternative, PMI argued the Tenth Circuit court should order a new trial based on either the district court’s erroneous admission of evidence or an erroneous jury instruction. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed on all issues. View "Barrick v. Parker-Migliorini International" on Justia Law