Justia U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiff filed suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), alleging that various medical professionals working for the VA breached their legal duty to exercise ordinary medical care and negligently failed to diagnose his throat cancer and immediately treat it. The district court dismissed plaintiff's complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, concluding that judicial review of his claims was precluded by the Veterans' Judicial Review Act (VJRA).The Eleventh Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in pat, concluding that the district court did lack jurisdiction over some of plaintiff's claims but that it had jurisdiction over his tort claims alleging medical negligence or malpractice. To the extent that plaintiff alleges that any delay in his receipt of needed medical care was a result of the VA's failure to timely approve and/or authorize his care or payments therefore, the district court could not review those allegations without second-guessing a decision by the VA necessary to a benefits determination—when to grant the requested benefit. As for plaintiff's allegations related to the VA's failure to follow its own policies, procedures, and protocols, if the district court lacks jurisdiction to review the VA's approval, authorization, and scheduling decisions, it must also lack jurisdiction to determine whether the VA followed its own internal procedures in making those decisions. However, plaintiff's medical negligence and malpractice claims do not require the district court to decide whether plaintiff was entitled to benefits nor do they require the court to revisit any decision made by the Secretary in the course of making benefits determinations. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Smith v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of Coral Ridge's complaint alleging a defamation claim against SPLC and a religious discrimination claim against Amazon. Coral Ridge alleged that SPLC is an Alabama-based nonprofit organization that publishes a "Hate Map,"—a list of entities the organization has characterized as hate groups—on its website. After Coral Ridge applied to be an eligible charity for the AmazonSmile program, Amazon denied its application because Coral Ridge is listed on the Hate Map as being anti-LGBTQ.The court found that Coral Ridge has not adequately alleged a state law defamation claim and that its proposed interpretation of Title II would violate the First Amendment. The court concluded that the district court correctly dismissed the defamation claim on the ground that Coral Ridge did not sufficiently plead actual malice. The court explained that Coral Ridge did not sufficiently plead facts that give rise to a reasonable inference that SPLC actually entertained serious doubts as to the veracity of its hate group definition and that definition's application to Coral Ridge, or that SPLC was highly aware that the definition and its application was probably false. The court also concluded that the district court correctly found that Coral Ridge's interpretation of Title II would violate the First Amendment by essentially forcing Amazon to donate to organizations it does not support. In this case, Coral Ridge's proposed interpretation of Title II would infringe on Amazon's First Amendment right to engage in expressive conduct and would not further Title II's purpose. View "Coral Ridge Ministries Media, Inc. v. Amazon.com, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this maritime negligence case involving a "cruise to nowhere," plaintiff filed a class action complaint against Royal Caribbean, on behalf of other similarly situated cruise ship passengers, alleging several tort theories, including negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Plaintiff alleged that Royal Caribbean canceled her cruise because of Hurricane Harvey and offered refunds only on the day the cruise ship was set to sail. Because the ticket contracts provided that no refunds would be given for passenger cancelations within 14 days of the voyage, and because Royal Caribbean repeatedly told passengers that they would lose their entire payments for the cruise if they canceled, the plaintiffs claimed that they were forced to travel to Galveston and nearby areas (like Houston) as Hurricane Harvey approached. Therefore, plaintiff alleged that, while in Texas, they were forced to endure hurricane-force conditions, and suffered physical and emotional injuries.The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and remanded for further proceedings. The court concluded that the district court committed two errors in ruling that diversity jurisdiction was lacking in this case, and each one provides an independent basis for reversal. First, the district court failed to give the plaintiffs notice of its intent to sua sponte address the matter of diversity jurisdiction. Second, putting aside the aggregation of damages issue, the district court failed to consider whether any individual plaintiff had satisfied the $75,000 amount-in-controversy requirement. On remand, the district court should also consider whether there is maritime jurisdiction. Because of the uncertainty over jurisdiction, the court did not address the class action waiver or the claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress. View "McIntosh v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd." on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for sex trafficking three women, two of whom were minors when he recruited them. The district court sentenced defendant to more than five terms of life imprisonment and ordered that he pay restitution to his victims, returning the years of their prostitution earnings that he pocketed. The court concluded that defendant's convictions for his horrific crimes were supported by the evidence, the restitution was both correctly calculated and lawfully imposed, and the sentence was reasonable. View "United States v. Williams" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. 2254 brought by petitioner, alleging that the district court erred when it held that he was not prejudiced by his attorney's failure to object to the introduction of hearsay evidence and it erred when it denied his Confrontation Clause claim.The court agreed with the district court that the conclusion of the Rule 3.850 state court that petitioner could not show prejudice under the Strickland standard was neither an unreasonable application of Supreme Court precedent nor an unreasonable determination of the facts. Undertaking the section 2254(d)(2) inquiry first, and applying that deferential standard of review, the court cannot conclude that the Rule 3.850 court's statement that the witness identified petitioner as the perpetrator was an unreasonable determination of fact in light of the evidence presented in state court. In regard to the Confrontation Clause claim, the court could not conclude that petitioner has met his burden under Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 103, 135 S. Ct. 770, 786-87 (2011), to show that there was no reasonable basis for the state court to deny relief. Finally, the court rejected claims of cumulative error, because the court could not conclude that petitioner can satisfy his burden of avoiding the preemptive effect of the state court decisions and of establishing prejudice. View "Tarleton v. Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's imposition of an Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) sentencing enhancement to defendant's sentence after he pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. The court concluded that the district court did not err in considering the prosecutor's factual proffer from defendant's state plea colloquy concerning the dates of his prior offenses when conducting the ACCA's different-occasions inquiry because defendant implicitly confirmed the factual basis for his plea. In this case, the district court did not err in relying on the prosecutor's factual proffer in defendant's plea colloquy to find by a preponderance of the evidence that the three qualifying prior convictions for Alabama assault occurred on three separate, distinct occasions. The court also concluded that defendant is not entitled to relief on his Rehaif-based challenge where he cannot establish that the error affected his substantial rights for purposes of plain error review. View "United States v. Dudley" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Association sought to recover for the damage caused by Hurricane Irma from its insurer, Rockhill. After Rockhill denied coverage and the parties went to trial before a jury, the Association received a little over $2.6 million—a fraction of the $16 million it initially asked for. Both parties appealed, Rockhill challenged the final judgment entered in favor of the Association, and the Association challenged the damages award.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, concluding that it need not discuss the merits of Rockhill's summary judgment challenge because the court's precedent clearly bars review of an order denying summary judgment after a full trial and judgment on the merits. In regard to the three remaining issues on appeal, the court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion by striking Rockhill's expert; the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying Rockhill's Daubert motion; and Rockhill did not preserve its challenge to the denial of its motion for judgment as a matter of law.In regard to the Association's cross-appeal, the court concluded that the evidence is sufficient to support the jury's preexisting damage finding. The court also concluded that Rockhill's failure to comply with Florida Statute 627.701(2) does not render the hurricane deductible unenforceable. View "St. Louis Condominium Association, Inc. v. Rockhill Insurance Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law
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The en banc court held that interlocutory appeals may not be taken under the collateral order doctrine from the denials of so-called "state-action immunity" under Parker v. Brown, 317 U.S. 341, 350-52 (1943), and its progeny. The court concluded that, insofar as the reviewability condition of the collateral order doctrine is concerned, Commuter Transp. Sys., Inc. v. Hillsborough Cnty. Aviation Auth., 801 F.2d 1286, 1289-90 (11th Cir. 1986), wrongly equated a Parker defense with an immunity from suit. Therefore, the en banc court dismissed this appeal by the members of the Georgia Board of Dentistry for lack of appellate jurisdiction. View "SmileDirectClub, LLC v. Battle" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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The Eleventh Circuit held that sexual harassment—both hostile housing environment and quid pro quo sexual harassment—is actionable under the Fair Housing Act of 1968, provided the plaintiff demonstrates that she would not have been harassed but for her sex.In this case, plaintiff filed suit against the property manager and the property's owner, alleging sexual harassment claims under the Act and state law. The district court found no guidance from the court on this question and therefore dismissed the complaint based on the ground that plaintiff's claims were not actionable under the Act. The court vacated the district court's order dismissing plaintiff's complaint and remanded for reconsideration. View "Fox v. Gaines" on Justia Law

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Spencer sued Sheriff Benison under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that Benison violated his Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by ordering him to remove cones and vehicles that were preventing Spencer’s neighbor from completing construction that Spencer claimed encroached on his property. The district court found that Benison acted outside the scope of his discretionary authority and was not entitled to qualified immunity on Spencer’s individual capacity claims and that Spencer had presented adequate evidence of a constitutional violation to sustain his section 1983 claims against Benison in both his individual and official capacities.The Eleventh Circuit reversed. Benison was acting within the scope of his discretionary authority when he ordered Spencer to remove the cones and vehicles. It was a legitimate job-related function for Benison, an Alabama sheriff, to seek the removal of cones and vehicles for the purposes of achieving public safety, given that traffic was backing up and customers were unable to access a business. Benison properly carried out his duties by verbally commanding Spencer to remove the cones and vehicles and by threatening arrest should he fail to comply. Spencer failed to present adequate evidence of a constitutional violation; he did not demonstrate that Benison’s actions caused him to be deprived of a constitutionally-protected property interest. View "Spencer v. Benison" on Justia Law