Articles Posted in U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals

by
THI of New Mexico at Hobbs Center, LLC and THI of New Mexico, LLC (collectively THI) operate a nursing home in Hobbs, New Mexico. When Lillie Mae Patton's husband was admitted into the home, he entered into an arbitration agreement that required the parties to arbitrate any dispute arising out of his care at the home except claims relating to guardianship proceedings, collection or eviction actions by THI, or disputes of less than $2,500. After Mr. Patton died, Mrs. Patton sued THI for negligence and misrepresentation. THI then filed a complaint to compel arbitration of the claims. The district court initially ruled that the arbitration agreement was not unconscionable and ordered arbitration. Under New Mexico law a compulsory-arbitration provision in a contract may be unconscionable, and therefore unenforceable, if it applies only, or primarily, to claims that just one party to the contract is likely to bring. The question before the Tenth Circuit was whether the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) preempted the state law for contracts governed by the FAA. The Court held that New Mexico law was preempted in this case and the arbitration clause should have been enforced. View "THI of New Mexico at Hobbs v. Patton" on Justia Law

by
The district court permitted the government to foreclose on federal tax liens on a ski cabin titled in the name of the D.E. Brown Family Trust, whose beneficiaries were Douglas Brown's wife and children. The taxes were owed by Douglas Brown (Brown) and his wife, not the trust, but the court found that the Browns were the beneficial owners of the cabin because Brown had a purchase-money resulting trust (PMRT) arising from his having purchased the cabin and then conveyed it to the Family Trust. The trustee of the Family Trust, Robert Tingey, appealed. He argued: (1) that the government waived its claim that the Browns held the beneficial interest in the cabin; and (2) that the district court erroneously concluded that a PMRT arose under Utah law. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit concluded that the government did not intentionally relinquish its claim to the cabin, and the evidence supported the district court's determination that Brown intended the trust to hold the cabin for his benefit. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "United States v. Tingey" on Justia Law

by
This case arose from the death of a minor child, 23-month-old Brooklyn Coons (BIC) at the hands of her father's girlfriend. Plaintiffs-Appellants, Larry and Mary Crosetto and the Estate of BIC, filed an action alleging that a social worker, Defendant-Appellee Linda Gillen, created the danger that resulted in the death of their granddaughter and denied them their rights to familial association. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Ms. Gillen, and declined to hear a supplemental state law claim. On appeal, Plaintiffs argued that qualified immunity was unwarranted on their state danger-creation and familial association claims. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit agreed that qualified immunity was not appropriate on the state danger-creation claim given genuine issues of material fact. Thus the Court reversed in part. The Court affirmed summary judgement on the familial association claims. View "The Estate of B.I.C., et al v. Gillen" on Justia Law

by
At issue in this interlocutory appeal was the scope of the special relationship doctrine and whether it would apply to the facts alleged to expose two human services employees to potential individual liability for the death of a seven-year-old child in foster care. After their son Chandler died while in the care of Jon Phillips and Sarah Berry, Chandler's biological parents, Christina Grafner and Joshua Norris, and Melissa R. Schwartz, personal representative and administrator of Chandler’s estate, filed suit against two county human services departments and two employees alleging, among other things, a 42 U.S.C. 1983 claim for violation of Chandler's substantive due process rights. The two employees, Defendants-Appellants Margaret Booker and Mary Peagler, appealed denial of their Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss on the basis of qualified immunity. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit concluded that the district court correctly determined that plaintiffs sufficiently pled facts, when taken as true, showed Booker and Peagler plausibly violated Chandler's substantive due process right to be reasonably safe while in foster care, which right was clearly established at the time. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the district court. View "Schwartz, et al v. Booker, et al" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff Donna Morris brought a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action for unlawful arrest and excessive force on behalf of her deceased husband, William Morris III, against Defendants Officer Jaime Noe and the City of Sapulpa, Oklahoma. She alleged Defendants violated her husband's rights when Noe forceably arrested him and caused him injury. Defendant Noe moved for summary judgment based on qualified immunity, and the district court denied his motion. Defendant Noe then appealed. Finding that Mr. Morris "posed no threat to Noe or others," and that the officer had reason to believe Mr. Morris was "at most, a misdemeanant," the Tenth Circuit held Defendant was not entitled to qualified to immunity on either of Plaintiff's claims. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the trial court. View "Morris v. Noe" on Justia Law

by
Defendant-Appellant, The Siebel Living Trust Dated 7/27/93 (Trust), appealed a district court’s order denying the Trust’s motion to recover its attorney fees and costs pursuant to a real estate sales contract with Plaintiff-Appellee Michael J. Ward (Ward). In addressing the question of whether the Trust or Ward was the "prevailing party" (and thereby entitled to recover reasonable fees and costs under the contract), the Tenth Circuit followed Colorado law to review the competing claims of the parties to the contract. Although Ward recovered the commission he sought, he did not recover against the Trust. The Trust was successful defending itself from Ward's claims brought against it and, therefore, as between Ward and the Trust, the Trust prevailed. The Tenth Circuit reversed the district court and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Ward v. Siebel Living Trust" on Justia Law