West Virginia Law School 1L Study Guide for Civil Procedure

Title: West Virginia Law School 1L Study Guide for Civil Procedure

I. Personal Jurisdiction

Personal jurisdiction refers to a court’s power to adjudicate matters and issue orders to a specific party. The landmark case for this concept is International Shoe Co. v. Washington (1945) which established the “Minimum Contacts” principle. The court held that a state may exercise jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant if the defendant has “minimum contacts” with the state such that the lawsuit does not offend “traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.”

II. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Subject matter jurisdiction is the court’s authority to hear a particular type of case. It is generally divided into two types: federal question jurisdiction (28 U.S.C. § 1331) and diversity jurisdiction (28 U.S.C. § 1332). The case of Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Allapattah Services, Inc. (2005) clarified that if at least one plaintiff can meet the amount in controversy for a diversity jurisdiction claim, the case can proceed in federal court.

III. Forum Non Conveniens

Forum non conveniens is the discretionary power of a court to decline jurisdiction when the convenience of the parties and the ends of justice would be better served if the action were brought in another forum. In Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno (1981), the Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s decision to dismiss on forum non conveniens grounds, weighing public and private interest factors.

IV. Pleadings

Pleadings are the formal statements of claims and defenses. They include complaint, answer, reply to a counterclaim, answer to a cross-claim, third-party complaint, and third-party answer. The case of Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly (2007) held that a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter to state a claim that is plausible on its face.

V. Joinder of Claims and Parties

Joinder rules permit a plaintiff to join multiple claims in one lawsuit, and multiple parties, whether plaintiffs or defendants, in one lawsuit. The seminal case for permissive joinder of parties is Mosley v. General Motors Corp. (1974) which held that plaintiffs could join if they assert any right to relief arising out of the same transaction or occurrence.

VI. Discovery

Discovery is the pre-trial process in which each party can obtain evidence from the other party. The case of Hickman v. Taylor (1947) established the work product doctrine, which shields certain materials prepared by an attorney in anticipation of litigation from discovery.

VII. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is a procedural device used in civil litigation to promptly and expeditiously dispose of a case without a trial. The case of Celotex Corp. v. Catrett (1986) held that a movant for summary judgment only needs to show that the opposing party has no real evidence to support its case to succeed.

VIII. Trial by Jury

The right to trial by jury in civil cases is protected by the Seventh Amendment. In the case of Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc. (1996), the court held that the interpretation of a patent is a question of law to be decided by the judge, not the jury.

IX. Appeal

An appeal is a legal process by which a higher court reviews the decision of a lower court. The case of Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins (1938) established the Erie Doctrine, which states that a federal court sitting in diversity applies state substantive law and federal procedural law.

X. Res Judicata and Collateral Estoppel

Res judicata, also known as claim preclusion, prevents a party from bringing a claim that has already been decided. Collateral estoppel, or issue preclusion, prevents re-litigation of issues already decided in a prior lawsuit. The case of Parklane Hosiery Co. v. Shore (1979) broadened the application of collateral estoppel.

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