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

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Plaintiff was taken hostage by a fleeing felon in rural Georgia. At the felon’s behest Plaintiff drove the truck toward seven officers gathered at the scene and showed no signs of stopping. As the logging truck struck the police vehicles lining the dirt road, several of the officers opened fire on the cab of the truck, even though they allegedly knew Plaintiff -- an innocent hostage -- was being forced to drive.   Plaintiff survived but was shot in his hand, his fingers, his hip, and his shoulder. He sued both Georgia State Patrol Lieutenants in their individual capacities (collectively, “Defendants”) for violating his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment Rights. The Defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that they were entitled to qualified immunity. The district court agreed and granted summary judgment because their actions were reasonable and, even if they were not, they did not violate any clearly established law.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the fleeing felon put Plaintiff, Defendants, and the public in grave and imminent danger. Police officers like Defendants may use deadly force to dispel a threat (and, here, an imminent one) of serious physical harm or death or to prevent the escape of a very dangerous suspect who threatens that harm. Defendants made the difficult, but altogether reasonable, a decision that the fleeing felon and the logging truck had to be stopped -- and, tragically, that meant stopping Plaintiff, too. View "Paul Donald Davis, et al. v. Paul Waller, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a commercial photographer, discovered infringing uses of his copyrighted images on the internet. Instead of pursuing the infringing parties, Plaintiff brought a lawsuit against Ice Portal, Inc. – now a division of Shiji (US), Inc. (“Shiji”) – which acts as an intermediary between the hotels that licensed Plaintiff’s photographs and online travel agents (“OTAs”) like Expedia and Travelocity.In optimizing the photographs for use by the OTAs, Shiji’s software allegedly removed certain copyright-related information that Plaintiff had embedded within the metadata of the photographs. Defendant claimed that Shiji, therefore, violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”).   The district court correctly granted summary judgment to Shiji because Plaintiff did not show an essential element of its claim – namely, that Shiji knew, or had reasonable grounds to know, that its actions would induce, enable, facilitate, or conceal a copyright infringement. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court held that Plaintiff did not meet its burden of coming forward with sufficient evidence demonstrating Section 1202(b)’s second scienter requirement, and judgment in Shiji’s favor was therefore appropriate. The court explained that the statute’s plain language requires some identifiable connection between the defendant’s actions and the infringement or the likelihood of infringement. To hold otherwise would create a standard under which the defendant would always know that its actions would “induce, enable, facilitate, or conceal” infringement because distributing protected images wrongly cleansed of CMI would always make infringement easier in some general sense. View "Victor Elias Photography, LLC v. Ice Portal, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a Florida LLC, sued a Canadian company, Teck Resources Limited, alleging that it had illegally trafficked in property to which Plaintiff says it has a claim. The district court granted Teck’s motion, holding that Florida’s long-arm statute didn’t provide jurisdiction over Teck and, additionally, that Teck lacked the necessary connection to the United States to establish personal jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(k)(2).The Eleventh Circuit affirmed holding that courts should analyze personal jurisdiction under the Fifth Amendment using the same basic standards and tests that apply under the Fourteenth Amendment. The court wrote that applying the minimum-contacts test here is relatively straightforward. The court held that Teck doesn’t have contacts with the United States sufficient to establish either specific or general personal jurisdiction over it. Plaintiff’s suit doesn’t arise out of or relate to any of Teck’s ties with the United States. And because a relationship between the defendant’s conduct within the forum and the cause of action is necessary to exercise specific jurisdiction, the lack of any such relationship here dooms Plaintiff’s effort to establish specific personal jurisdiction over Teck. View "Herederos De Roberto Gomez Cabrera, LLC v. Teck Resources Limited" on Justia Law

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AFC Franchising is an Alabama LLC with its principal place of business in Shelby County, Alabama. Defendant is a resident of New York. Defendant signed a “Master Developer Agreement” with another company, Doctors Express Franchising, to develop urgent-care centers in New York and Connecticut.   After a series of acquisitions, AFC was assigned Doctors Express’s end of the bargain in 2013, and Defendant was notified of the assignment When the parties’ relationship soured, Purugganan threatened to sue AFC in either Connecticut or New York. AFC believed that the floating forum-selection clause required Defendant to sue in Alabama, where AFC had its principal place of business. It thus sought a declaratory judgment in Alabama state court (1) that the parties had to litigate their dispute in Alabama and (2) that AFC hadn’t breached the Master Developer Agreement.   The district court sided with Defendant on the personal jurisdiction issue. The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court’s decision and held that, in the circumstances presented, the clause is applicable and enforceable. The court explained that the court erred in dismissing for lack of personal jurisdiction. By voluntarily agreeing to an applicable and enforceable floating forum-selection clause, Defendant waived his right to contest personal jurisdiction in this dispute. Further, Defendant offers no reason why he might have consented to personal jurisdiction but not venue. View "AFC Franchising, LLC v. Danilo Purugganan" on Justia Law

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Defendant filed various false liens against John Koskinen, the former Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, and Jacob Lew, the former Secretary of the Treasury. There is no dispute that Pate filed the false liens to retaliate against Lew and Koskinen for acts they performed as part of their official duties. Defendant filed the false liens after Lew and Koskinen had left their positions with the federal government.The Eleventh Circuit was therefore presented d with the following question: Does Section 1521 apply to false liens filed against former federal officers and employees for official actions they performed while in service with the federal government? The court concluded that the answer to this question is yes—the plain language of Section 1521 covers both current and former federal officers and employees. The court explained that a reading of the statute’s plain language—“any person assisting such an officer or employee in the performance of such duties or on account of that assistance”—does not suggest that its protection ends at some ascertainable point in time. Like the language regarding a federal officer or employee, the language regarding a person who lends assistance to a federal officer or employee has both a temporal qualification on liability. Thus, the court affirmed Defendant’s convictions predicated on violations of Section 1521. View "USA v. Timothy Jermaine Pate" on Justia Law

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MSPA Claims 1 LLC—the assignee of a now-defunct Medicare Advantage Organization—sued Tower Hill Prime Insurance Company to recover a reimbursable payment. The district court granted Tower Hill’s motion for summary judgment because it determined that MSPA Claims 1’s suit was untimely.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court explained that because it is at least “plausible” that the term “accrues” in Section 1658(a) incorporates an occurrence rule—in fact, and setting presumptions aside, the court wrote that it thinks that’s the best interpretation—that is how the court interprets it. Therefore, MSPA Claims 1’s cause of action accrued in 2012 when MSPA Claims 1’s assignor, Florida Healthcare, paid D.L.’s medical bills and became entitled to reimbursement through the Medicare Secondary Payer Act. Because that was more than four years before MSPA Claims 1 filed suit in 2018, its suit is not timely under 28 U.S.C. Section 1658(a). View "MSPA Claims 1, LLC. v. Tower Hill Prime Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued to obtain two insurance benefits that she believes Hartford Insurance Company owes her: (1) long-term disability payments and (2) a waiver of life insurance premiums. Although it concedes that Plaintiff was covered by its policy, Hartford contends that she was ineligible for those benefits.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s order granting Hartford summary judgment, concluding that Hartford’s determinations were permissible. The court explained that Plaintiff was not entitled to disability payments because Hartford’s interpretation of the disability exclusion was reasonable, and its conflict of interest didn’t lead it to make an arbitrary or capricious decision. Likewise, Plaintiff was not entitled to a waiver of life insurance premiums because she wasn’t disabled within the meaning of Hartford’s life insurance policy. View "Carol H. Stewart v. Hartford Life and Accident Insurance Company" on Justia Law

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Defendant was indicted tried, convicted, and sentenced to 28 months imprisonment for her part in a broader scheme to defraud the federal government out of relief funds intended for farmers affected by drought and fire. She challenged both her conviction and her sentence. As to her conviction, she contends that the evidence preponderated against a guilty verdict such that the district court abused its discretion when it denied her motion for a new trial. As to her sentence, she asserts that her bottom-of-the-Guidelines term of imprisonment is substantively unreasonable.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it denied Defendant’s motion for a new trial. Neither did it abuse its discretion when it imposed a bottom-of-the-Guidelines sentence of 28 months’ imprisonment. The court explained that allowing the verdict to stand in the face of an arguable inconsistency—of which the jury was made aware, and which doesn’t bear on an element of the conviction—is not a miscarriage of justice. Further, the court reasoned that the weight of the evidence does not preponderate against a guilty verdict in this case. Finally, the court explained that Defendant never mentioned the Section 3553(a) factors or explains how the court committed reversible error when it considered them. Accordingly, she has failed to carry her burden of establishing that the sentence is unreasonable in the light of both the record and the factors in Section 3553(a). View "USA v. Danyel Michelle Witt" on Justia Law

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An Immigration Judge determined that Petitioner was ineligible for asylum and withholding of removal because she was convicted of a particularly serious crime and denied her application for protection under the Convention Against Torture (“CAT”), and the Board affirmed her decision without opinion. Petitioner raised three challenges to these proceedings: (1) that the Immigration Judge did not give reasoned consideration to all of the relevant evidence in determining that Petitioner had not met her burden of showing that she would more likely than not be tortured by, or with the acquiescence of, the Guyanese government if returned to Guyana, or that her conclusion was not supported by substantial evidence; (2) that the Immigration Judge erred in not making a separate determination that Petitioner posed a danger to the community, in addition to finding that she had committed a particularly serious crime; and (3) that the Immigration Judge erred in finding that Petitioner committed a particularly serious crime.   The Eleventh Circuit denied the Petitioner’s petition in part and dismissed in part. The court explained that while it agrees that the evidence Petitioner presented demonstrated pervasive and disturbing discrimination and harassment against the LGBT community in Guyana, the Immigration Judge’s determination that Petitioner had not established that it was more likely than not that she would be tortured by or with the acquiescence of the government if she returned to Guyana was supported by substantial evidence. Further, the court held that the INA “does not abate our power to review the decision that Petitioner was convicted of a particularly serious crime.” View "K.Y. v. U.S. Attorney General" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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Appellant, a citizen of the Dominican Republic, was a lawful resident of the United States when, in 1996, he was convicted for the attempted sale of cocaine under New York Penal Law Sec. 220.39(1). He was sentenced to five years' probation. In 2018, Appellant applied for naturalization with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service ("USCIS"). However, USCIS determined that Appellant's 1996 conviction qualified as an aggravated felony under 8 U.S.C. Sec. 1101(a)(43).Appellant unsuccessfully sought an administrative appeal of the USCIS decision and then brought this action in the district court. The district court affirmed and Appellant appealed to the Eleventh Circuit.On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed, finding that Appellant's 1996 conviction under Sec. 220.39(1) qualifies as an aggravated felony within the plain meaning of the Immigration and Nationality Act. View "Elvis Leonel Morfa Diaz v. Acting Secretary, Department of Homeland Security, et al." on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law