Friday, August 17, 2007

Interesting opinions from the Fourth Circuit

The most interesting opinion from the Fourth Circuit this week is unpublished, the case of Simo v. Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc., before the panel of Chief Judge Williams and Judges Traxler and Shedd.

The bottom line is that the Court upheld a $6 million-plus verdict against the defendant in a rollover case, and the legal issues are many and interesting. The plaintiff was in a car wreck near Spartanburg. He was an 18 year-old freshman soccer player at Furman. HIs injuries ended his prospects for a soccer career. One area among many of the disputed expert testimony was that the District Court allowed the testimony of a former soccer pro/soccer agent to explain that the plaintiff would have earned between $3 million and $10 million as a professional soccer player, but for the accident. The Court also concluded on the plaintiff's cross-appeal that it didn't have to decide whether the District Court erred in granting the defendant's motion for judgment as a matter of law on punitive damages, because the case could not be retried on punitives alone without retrying the whole case. On this latter point, Judge Shedd dissented, concluding that it would be appropriate to remand the case for retrial on punitive damages.

The Court in Palmer v. City National Bank, an opinion by Judge Gregory, joined by Judge Niemeyer and District Judge Norton, dealt with the complicated issues of appellate jurisdiction over a District Court order remanding a case to state court, and the continued viability and constitutionality of the doctrine of "derivative jurisdiction" as a limitation on the subject-matter jurisdiction of the federal courts in removed cases. And, the Court concluded that yes it had appellate jurisdiction, notwithstanding the limitations of 28 U.S.C. 1447, under the Waco exception to the non-appealability of remand orders, and that yes, the district court's jurisdiction was limited by the doctrine of derivative jurisdiction to that of the state trial court, and therefore it acted correctly in dismissing the third-party plaintiff's claim against the appellee federal agency.

Got that?

In Tidewater Finance Co. v. Williams, the panel of Judges Motz, Duncan, and Niemeyer each wrote an opinion. Judge Motz wrote for the majority, joined by Judge Duncan who wrote a separate concurring opinion, and Judge Niemeyer dissented, and the issue was the effect on Chapter 13 petitions on the mandatory period in between successive filing of Chapter 7 petitions. And, the frequent filer won the case, with Judge Duncan noting in her separate opinion that maybe Congress ought to fix this problem.

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