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Law School Case Brief

Doran v. Petroleum Mgmt. Corp. - 576 F.2d 91 (5th Cir. 1978)

Rule:

The law of the case doctrine, unlike claim preclusion, applies only to issues that are decided, and does not include determination of all questions which are within the issues of the case and which, therefore, might have been decided.

Facts:

A limited partnership brought an action seeking to rescind a limited partnership entered into with oil companies on the grounds that it violated the Securities Act of 1933, and the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934. The limited partnership also alleged breach of contract and sought damages. Defendant oil companies pled the one-year statute of limitations. The trial court, however, denied all relief to the limited partnership, on the finding that the sale of the partnership interest was exempt as a private offering. The trial court decided that there had been no breach of the partnership agreement by overproduction of the wells. As of this time, the trial court had not ruled on the statute of limitations, either explicitly or by necessary implication. On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal of the Securities Acts claims and remanded to enable the trial court to make further findings on the question whether the defendant was entitled to the exemption. On remand, the trial court granted the oil companies's motion for summary judgment based on the one-year statute of limitations. The limited partnership appealed on the ground that the trial court failed to follow the mandate when it dismissed the action as time-barred.

Issue:

In a case involving a "law of the case" issue, did the District Court, on remand from the US Court of Appeals, fail to follow the appellate court's mandate?

Answer:

No

Conclusion:

On its second review of the case, the United States Court of Appeals explained that the principal issues were whether a "law of the case" was formulated in its first opinion as to the issues now being raised, and, if so, whether the trial court violated the Court's mandate in its subsequent proceedings. If if did not, the plaintiff-appellant limited partnership argued that the trial court erroneously decided the issues. The Court affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the oil companies, finding that the trial court's view of the Court's prior opinion and mandate--as well as the applicable law--to be correct. The remand permitted any resolution not inconsistent with the Court's earlier opinion. On the facts found by the trial court, the application of the statute of limitations to the alleged violation of the 1933 Securities Act was correct. The Court explained that its earlier denial of rehearing was not a determination of the statute of limitations issue; rather, it merely relegated the initial decision of that issue to the trial court. 

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