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    The Lawletter Blog

    Paul A. Ferrer

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    CIVIL PROCEDURE: Relief in Federal District Court from a Fraudulently Obtained Remand Order

    Posted by Paul A. Ferrer on Fri, Mar 11, 2016 @ 09:03 AM

    The Lawletter Vol 41, No 3

    Paul Ferrer, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

          In order to keep cases from ping-ponging between state and federal court, the federal removal statutes prohibit appellate review of remand orders. See In re La Providencia Dev. Corp., 406 F.2d 251, 252 (1st Cir. 1969) ("The action must not ricochet back and forth depending upon the most recent determination of a federal court."). In particular, 28 U.S.C. § 1447(d) provides that, with the exception of certain cases involving federal officers or civil rights, "[a]n order remanding a case to the State court from which it was removed is not reviewable on appeal or otherwise." 28 U.S.C. § 1447(d) (emphasis added). Does the "or otherwise" language prevent review by a district court of its own remand order under Rule 60(b)(3)? That was the question addressed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, sitting en banc, in Barlow v. Colgate Palmolive Co., 772 F.3d 1001 (4th Cir. 2014) (en banc).

         In Barlow, two individuals separately sued Colgate-Palmolive Company and other companies in Maryland state court, alleging that each of the defendants' products had exposed them to asbestos. Even though the plaintiffs joined in-state defendants, Colgate removed the two cases to federal court on the basis of diversity of citizenship. Colgate asserted that the in-state defendants had been fraudulently joined, pointing to discovery responses indicating that the plaintiffs did not intend to pursue a claim against any defendant other than Colgate. The plaintiffs then moved to remand the cases to state court. In their motions, the plaintiffs' counsel represented that there was some circumstantial evidence to suggest exposure to asbestos at the hands of the nondiverse defendants. Based on counsel's representations, the district court judges (Judges Nickerson and Quarles) remanded the cases to state court.

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    Topics: 4th Circuit, Paul A. Ferrer, civil procedure, Barlow v. Colgate Palmolive Co., remand order, federal removal statutes

    CONTRACTS: Agreements to Negotiate Distinguished from Agreements to Agree

    Posted by Paul A. Ferrer on Thu, Dec 3, 2015 @ 12:12 PM

    The Lawletter Vol 40 No 11

    Paul Ferrer—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

         Courts often give voice to the black-letter principle that a so-called "agreement to agree, where [material] terms are left to future negotiations, is unenforceable." In re Estate of Wyman, 8 N.Y.S.3d 493, 494 (App. Div. 2015). Some courts have concluded that an agreement to negotiate at a later date is an unenforceable agreement to agree. See, e.g., 77 Constr. Co. v. UXB Int'l, Inc., No. 7:13-CV-340, 2015 WL 926036, at *4 (W.D. Va. Mar. 4, 2015). But other courts have distinguished unenforceable agreements to agree from valid agreements to negotiate in good faith. See, e.g., Copeland v. Baskin Robbins, U.S.A., 117 Cal. Rptr. 2d 875 (Ct. App. 2002).

         In that case, Copeland negotiated with Baskin Robbins to buy an ice cream manufacturing plant. The purchase transaction was contingent on Baskin Robbins's agreeing to a "copacking" arrangement, by which Baskin Robbins would agree to buy the ice cream that Copeland manufactured at the plant. After several months of negotiations, Baskin Robbins sent Copeland a letter indicating that it would (1) sell Copeland the plant for $1.3 million, and (2) buy the ice cream manufactured at the plant for three years, "subject to a separate co-packing agreement and negotiated pricing." Id. at 878. Copeland indicated his agreement, after which the parties continued negotiating over the terms of the copacking agreement. Two months later, Baskin Robbins broke off the negotiations because due to recent business decisions, the copacking arrangement was no longer in alignment with its strategy. Copeland sued for breach of contract, but the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Baskin Robbins because the essential terms of the copacking deal were never agreed to.

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    Topics: contracts, Paul A. Ferrer, validity, agreement to agree, agreement to negotiate

    CIVIL PROCEDURE: Right to Appeal Dismissal of Case Consolidated for Pretrial Proceedings in Multidistrict Litigation

    Posted by Paul A. Ferrer on Fri, Aug 28, 2015 @ 12:08 PM

    The Lawletter Vol 40 No 7

    Paul Ferrer, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

         Federal law permits "civil actions involving one or more common questions of fact" that are pending in different districts to be transferred to any district for coordinated or consolidated pretrial proceedings by the judicial panel on multidistrict litigation ("MDL"). 28 U.S.C. § 1407(a). Another federal statute grants an unsuccessful litigant in a federal district court the right to take an appeal, as a matter of right, from a "final decision" of the district court. Id. § 1291. In Gelboim v. Bank of America Corp., 135 S. Ct. 897 (2015), the Supreme Court decided the question of whether the right to appeal secured by § 1291 is affected when a case is consolidated for MDL pretrial proceedings under § 1407.

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    Topics: Paul A. Ferrer, civil procedure, The Lawletter Vol 40 No 7

    ANTITRUST: Supreme Court Provides Guidance on Active-Supervision Prong of State-Action Immunity Test

    Posted by Paul A. Ferrer on Mon, May 11, 2015 @ 13:05 PM

    The Lawletter Vol 40 No 3

    Paul Ferrer, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

         The U.S. Supreme Court continues to refine the state-action immunity doctrine first formulated in Parker v. Brown, 317 U.S. 341 (1943). In Parker, relying on principles of federalism and state sovereignty, the Court refused to construe the Sherman Act, which prohibits contracts, combinations, or conspiracies in restraint of trade, see 15 U.S.C. § 1, as applying to the anticompetitive conduct of a state acting through its legislature. Rather, the Supreme Court ruled that the Sherman Act was intended to prohibit private restraints on trade, and it refused to infer an intent to "nullify a state's control over its officers and agents" in activities directed by the legislature. Parker, 317 U.S. at 351.

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    Topics: active supervision of nonsovereign actor, antitrust, state-action immunity

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