Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Erie Hypos--Section A

After the jump are the problems we are going to work through to show how the Erie/Hanna framework operates. For tomorrow (Wednesday), prepare ## 1-3. We will work through the rest on Friday and Monday.

For each problem, consider:
  1) What law applies and why
  2) What countervailing federal rules/statutes might apply
  3) How the issue would be raised, argued, and resolved procedurally in the trial court
  4) How the court will resolve the dispute.

With respect to any state laws given in the hypo, try to figure out what the underlying policies of those laws might be (i.e., what the state is hoping to accomplish by having such a law). So, for example, why do we have statutes of limitations? With respect to possibly applicable federal laws/rules, if they are ones we have already learned in this class, I have not identified them in the hypo; you have to figure out what federal statutes/rules might be in play (consider this a pleading review). If the federal law/rule is new (or fake), I have identified it in the hypo. Needless to say, you will need your rule book in class.


1) A sues X in federal court on a state-law claim for fraud. The complaint described the defendant's fraudulent conduct in detail. It alleges that the defendant knew his statements were false, although it does not offer detailed fact showing how and when the defendant knew they were false.

State Rule of Civil Procedure 1.9(b) provides that, in pleading fraud, a party must "describe with particularity the circumstances constituting fraud and state with particularity facts giving rise to an inference that the defendant acted with the requisite state of mind."

2) A sues X in federal court for medical malpractice. Practice in the district is to use juries of 6 in civil cases. State law provides that "a valid verdict in a case for medical malpractice can only be rendered by a unanimous jury of twelve citizens." Jury selection is about to begin before trial--how many jurors should the court seat? See FRCP 48.

3) A sues X in federal court, seeking to enforce a non-compete clause and asking the court to enjoin X from working for A's competitor.

In federal court, a plaintiff can get an injunction when: 1) it succeeds on the merits of its claim; 2) it has no adequate remedy at law; 3) it will suffer irreparable harm without the injunction; and 4) the burden to the plaintiff without the injunction is greater than the burden to the defendant if the injunction is granted. See FRCP 65.

A state statute provides that injunctions are not available for non-compete clauses; a plaintiff may obtain a declaration that the defendant is violating the non-compete and damages.

4) A sues X in federal court for medical malpractice by filing a complaint with the district court. State law requires that plaintiffs bringing a claim for professional malpractice must file, along with the complaint, a Certificate of Merit (COM); this is a signed affidavit by a licensed and expert professional in that area, declaring that there are good grounds for the lawsuit. Any complaint not accompanied by a COM shall be dismissed.

5) A sues X in federal court for defamation. The state has a statute designed to prevent Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation ("SLAPP" suits). SLAPP suits are lawsuits against citizens for speaking out on matters of public import, designed to deter citizens from engaging in public debates and discussions. Under the SLAPP statute, a defendant may file a Special Motion to Strike a SLAPP Suit; the motion must be granted unless the plaintiff can show, through pleadings and evidence, a "high probability that the plaintiff will prevail on the claim."

6) A sues X in federal court for negligence arising from a car accident. The lawsuit is filed on March 31, 2016; the accident occurred on April 1, 2012. State law provides that negligence claims are subject to a two-year limitations period. Congress has enacted § 1659, which provides that "A civil action may not be commenced in a court of the United States later than 4 years after the cause of action accrues."

7) Same as # 6, except the federal limitations period comes not from § 1659, but from recently enacted FRCP 4.5.

8) Under state law, an action "commences" (and the limitations period is tolled--that is, the clock stops running) when the summons and complaint are served on the defendant. If service occurs beyond 60 days from the date of filing and after the statute of limitations has expired, the claim is untimely. But if service occurs within 60 days of filing and filing occurs within the imitations period, the action will be deemed commenced on the date of (timely) filing, even if service occurs outside the limitations period, making the claim timely. The limitations period is two years.

A sues X for products liability. A was injured on August 22, 2013; the complaint is filed on August 19, 2015; service occurs on December 1, 2015.

9) A and X agreed to work together to submit a bid for a government contract; they signed a "Teaming Agreement" that divided duties between them, but reflected an agreement that whoever won the contract would hire the other as a subcontractor. X submitted a bid and was identified as the "primary contractor;" when it was awarded the bid, it refused to subcontract A, as per the Teaming Agreement. (Note that the facts of this case should be familiar).

A sues X for breach of contract. Under state law, an "agreement to agree" is not enforceable.