Court Opinion: 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion for July 25

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals

Editor’s Note: Law Week Colorado edits court opinion summaries for style and, when necessary, length.

Kyte v. Denver Health

Megan Kyte, a pro se litigant, appealed the district court’s dismissal of her complaint.

In her complaint, Kyte alleged she suffered adverse health effects from a COVID-19 booster shot administered by Denver Health. She alleged “medical negligence” because Denver Health “failed to obtain informed consent and improperly administered and prescribed a medication.” For this, she sought damages for her physical injury and emotional distress, as well as costs.

The district court didn’t address the merits of Kyte’s claim, instead dismissing her complaint for noncompliance with a court order. Specifically, the district court had permanently enjoined Kyte from filing new cases in the District of Colorado unless she was represented by a licensed attorney or she received the court’s permission to proceed pro se. Because she met neither condition, the district court dismissed the action without prejudice under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b).

On appeal, Kyte argued the district court ignored the merits of her claim against Denver Health, contending the court “never responded to [her] claim of medical negligence and mistreatme[nt].” But, according to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals opinion, she didn’t address the basis for the district court’s dismissal: her noncompliance with the court’s permanent injunction imposing filing restrictions.

The 10th Circuit reviewed for abuse of discretion, the opinion noted, citing the 10th Circuit’s decision in United States v. Nicholson. In its review, the appeals court construed Kyte’s pleadings liberally, but didn’t serve as her advocate, the opinion noted, citing the 10th Circuit’s decision in Hall v. Bellmon.

Federal district courts enjoy broad discretion to “regulate the activities of abusive litigants by imposing carefully tailored restrictions under the appropriate circumstances,” the opinion noted, citing the 10th Circuit’s decision in Cotner v. Hopkins

The 10th Circuit in this case explained the district court restricted Kyte’s filing privileges after observing, over the course of one year, it had dismissed almost a dozen of her lawsuits for pleading failures. And the district court noted she kept filing meritless claims despite repeated warnings her filings didn’t address important legal issues. 

Kyte didn’t contend the district court was wrong to enforce the filing restrictions. Her opening brief didn’t mention the issue. As a result, the 10th Circuit didn’t disturb the district court’s choice to conserve its own limited resources and to prevent frivolous suits. According to the opinion, the 10th Circuit saw no abuse of discretion in the district court’s enforcing its injunction against Kyte.

Kyte moved for permission to proceed in forma pauperis. The district court denied her request, finding any appeal wouldn’t be in good faith under 28 U.S.C. 1915(a)(3). The 10th Circuit could grant Kyte’s request to proceed in forma pauperis if she shows her inability to pay the required filing fees and her appeal is nonfrivolous, the opinion noted, citing the 10th Circuit’s decision in Rolland v. Primesource Staffing, L.L.C. Though she showed her inability to pay filing fees, she didn’t offer a nonfrivolous argument supporting her appeal, according to the 10th Circuit. The 10th Circuit denied Kyte’s motion to proceed in forma pauperis.

The 10th Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal without prejudice.

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