A dispute about guaranty obligations related to the purchase of a blimp was removed to federal court. The district court granted a motion to compel arbitration, stayed the case, and administratively closed it. McCardell v. Regent Private Capital LLC, No. 12-31089 (June 7, 2013, unpublished). The Fifth Circuit reminded that administrative closure does not create a final judgment, and thus dismissed for lack of appellate jurisdiction over the interlocutory appeal.
Lowry Development LLC v. Groves & Assocs. Insurance involved a real estate developer who sued its insurer about coverage for wind damage, and alternatively, its insurance agent for negligence. No. 11-60670 (Aug. 3, 2012). The district court granted summary judgment for the developer against the insurer (thereby mooting the claim against the agent), which the Fifth Circuit reversed. Id. at 3. The developer then sought to reinstate its claim against the agent. The Court found that the agent’s dismissal was “based on an earlier judgment that has been reversed or vacated” and thus came within Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(5). The agent argued that the insurer should have taken a protective appeal at the time of the original dismissal, but the Court, “[a]cknowledging that [plaintiff’s Rule 60(b) motion looks like the protective appeal it failed to file,” found no abuse of discretion in the district court’s decision to grant the motion. Id. at 10.
In Stoffels v. SBC Communications, the Court addressed issues about whether a “retiree concession” program involving long-distance discounts should be regulated as a retirement plan under ERISA. No. 11-50148 (April 16, 2012). In the court below, a district judge held a trial and made fact findings, after which he recused himself. The second judge vacated those findings in light of a new and related Fifth Circuit opinion, Boos v. AT&T, 643 F.2d 127 (5th Cir. 2011). The Court found that Fed. R. Civ. P. 54 gave the judge authority to do so, that the “law of the case” doctrine did not constrain his authority, and that this case was not materiall different on the merits from Boos. Op. at 8-9.
The Court released a revised opinion in Barber v. Shinseki, in which the appellant sought review of a magistrate’s electronic order dismissing his case. The Court first observed that the appellant did not appear to have consented to final disposition of his case by a magistrate as opposed to the district judge. Op. at 3-4. The Court went on to note that “[t]he electronic order entered by the magistrate judge . . . does not appear on any document–electronic or otherwise–other than as merely a separate entry on the docket sheet,” and thus did not comply with the requirement of Fed. R. Civ. P. 58 that “every judgment shall be set forth on a separate document.” Op. at 4. The Court noted that certain exceptions to Rule 58 were not applicable. Op. at 4 n.2. (The opinion was revised to “remove language indicating that all judgments must be set forth on paper documents” and to note that an appropriate document “may be electronic.” Op. at 1.