Thursday, February 17, 2011

Judge: Don’t remove Medicare lien dispute to federal court

Per Virginia Lawyers Weekly, February 17, 2011:

Federal courts are not the place to resolve disputes over personal injury settlements held up by a Medicare lien, a Roanoke federal judge has ruled.

In a Feb. 14 opinion, U.S. District Judge Samuel G. Wilson not only remanded a motion to enforce a personal injury settlement, he expressly retained jurisdiction to consider an award of sanctions for improper removal.

The decision marks the latest flare-up from the smoldering tension between insurance companies and personal injury lawyers as both sides seek to protect themselves from unexpected liability for Medicare liens.

In this case, Erie Insurance Exchange refused to pay a $45,000 settlement until Medicare provided final notice of the amount of reimbursement it sought for medical care for a woman injured in a 2008 Augusta County accident. Wilson’s decision leaves the decision on whether to force payment to a state circuit court judge.

The opinion is Hensley v. Marion, VLW 011-3-102.

Friday, February 04, 2011

E.D. Va. Dismisses Patent Infringement Claims under Twombly/Iqbal

Per Adiscov LLC v. Autonomy Corp. PLC (Smith, J.):

This court finds plaintiff’s conclusory allegations in the complaint neither give defendants notice of the substance of the suit against them, nor raise the right to relief above the speculative level.

This court is persuaded by the precedent in this district and from other district courts to consider the issue that plaintiff has not met its burden under Rule 8. First, plaintiff never identifies any particular products or services that are alleged to be infringing. Rather, with regard to each defendant, the complaint merely states, defendant manufactures, uses and sells “products and services’ that infringe plaintiff’s ‘760 patent, including “legal discovery software and services…”

Nowhere does the complaint further identify what legal discovery software or services are alleged to be infringing with regard to any defendant. Further, the complaint does not provide sufficient detail about the defendants and their products such that defendants would be on notice as to which products or services are the subject of the suit.

Moreover, plaintiff fails the plausibility test set forth in Iqbal. The court is left with a “sheer possibility” that one of defendants’ numerous products or serves infringes the ‘760 patent in one way or another.

Sixth Circuit Dismisses Case for Falling One Penny Short of 1332's Amount-in-Controversy Requirement

The Sixth Circuit has issued an opinion dismissing a case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because the amount in controversy was one penny short. The case is Freeland v. Liberty Mutual Fire Ins. Co., no. 10-3038 (6th Cir. Feb.4, 2011) and is available for download here.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

SCOTUS Issues Opinion in Ortiz v. Jordan

The Supreme Court decided Ortiz v. Jordan last week, a case in which it held that denials of summary judgment after a full trial on the merits may not be appealed. Here is an excerpt from the Syllabus of the case:

A party may not appeal a denial of summary judgment after a district court has conducted a full trial on the merits. A qualified immunity plea, not upheld at the summary judgment stage, may be pursued at trial, but at that stage, the plea must be evaluated in light of the character and quality of the evidence received in court. Ordinarily, orders denying summary judgment are interlocutory and do not qualify as “final decisions” subject to appeal under 28 U. S. C. §1291. Because a qualified immunity plea can spare an official not only from liability but from trial, this Court has recognized a limited exception to the categorization of summary judgment denials as non- appealable orders. Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U. S. 511, 525–526. The exception permits an immediate appeal when summary judgment is denied to a defendant who urges that qualified immunity shelters her from suit. Id., at 527. Such an immediate appeal is not available, however, when the district court determines that factual issues genu- inely in dispute preclude summary adjudication. Johnson v. Jones, 515 U. S. 304, 313. Here, Jordan and Bright sought no immediate appeal from the denial of their summary judgment motion. Nor did they avail themselves of Rule 50(b), which permits the entry of judg- ment, postverdict, for the verdict loser if the court finds the evidence legally insufficient to sustain the verdict. Absent such a motion, an appellate court is “powerless” to review the sufficiency of the evidence after trial. Unitherm Food Systems, Inc. v. Swift-Eckrich, Inc., 546 U. S. 394, 405. This Court need not address the officers’ argument that a qualified immunity plea raising a “purely legal” issue is pre- served for appeal by an unsuccessful summary judgment motion even if the plea is not reiterated in a Rule 50(b) motion. Cases fitting that bill typically involve disputes about the substance and clarity of pre- existing law. In this case, however, what was controverted was not the pre-existing law, but the facts that could render Jordan and Bright answerable under §1983, e.g., whether Jordan was adequately informed, after the first assault, of the assailant’s identity and of Ortiz’s fear of a further assault. Because the dispositive facts were disputed, the officers’ qualified immunity defenses did not present “ ‘neat abstract issues of law.’ ” Johnson, 515 U. S., at 317. To the ex- tent that Jordan and Bright urge Ortiz has not proved her case, they were, by their own account, obliged to raise that sufficiency-of-the- evidence issue by postverdict motion for judgment as a matter of law under Rule 50(b). They did not do so. The Sixth Circuit, therefore, had no warrant to upset the jury’s decision on their liability.