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

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the denial of social security disability benefits to plaintiff. The court rejected plaintiff's claim that the ALJ erred in finding that plaintiff was not disabled because the ALJ failed to appropriately consider the VA's determination that plaintiff was unable to work due to a disability and thus entitled to veterans' benefits. Rather, the court held that the ALJ's decisions demonstrates that he considered the VA's determination. The court also held that substantial evidence, including recent medical records that postdate the VA's decision, supported the ALJ's rejection of the VA's disability decision as determinative of whether plaintiff was disabled for Social Security purposes. View "Noble v. Commissioner of Social Security" on Justia Law

Posted in: Public Benefits
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After injuring her foot on a rug while onboard a Carnival ship, plaintiff filed suit against Carnival in both state and federal court, seeking damages for the injuries she allegedly suffered onboard the ship. In this case, plaintiff entered into a contract with Carnival that contained a forum-selection clause. Under the forum-selection clause's plain language, when jurisdiction for a claim could lie in federal district court, federal court is the only option for a plaintiff. The court held that plaintiff's claim for negligence at sea falls well within the walls of the federal court's admiralty jurisdiction. Even without explicitly invoking admiralty jurisdiction, the court held that plaintiff's complaint is subject to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(h)'s provision rendering her claim an admiralty or maritime claim. View "DeRoy v. Carnival Corp." on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for conspiracy to commit access device fraud, access device fraud, and aggravated identity theft. Defendant's conviction stemmed from his involvement, with his brother, in fraudulently using identities to collect unemployment benefits and to intercept preloaded debit cards he and his brother had requested while posing as residents on his brother's mail delivery route. Defendant raised numerous claims of error on appeal. The court rejected defendant's challenges to the admissibility of the images derived from surveillance video taken by PNC Bank ATMs on three fronts; the district court did not abuse its discretion by improperly limiting defendant's ability to present a full and fair defense; there was no error in admitting the lay identification testimony; there was no error in admitting defendant's booking photograph; and there was no cumulative error. View "United States v. Clotaire" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit sua sponte vacated its previous opinion and substituted the following option. The court affirmed the denial of habeas relief to petitioner, rejecting petitioner's claims of ineffective assistance of counsel and that he is intellectually disabled and therefore ineligible for the death penalty. The court held that the state court did not unreasonably determine that petitioner failed to establish objectively incompetent performance by his counsel during the penalty phase of his trial for failing to present mitigation evidence. Even if petitioner had demonstrated that counsel's performance was deficient, he failed to demonstrate prejudice. The court also held that the state court did not unreasonably determine the facts or unreasonably apply Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002), with respect to the intellectual component of intellectual disability; the record supports the state court's conclusion that petitioner does not have substantial deficits in adaptive behaviors; and the ample record of petitioner's childhood does not point to intellectual disability before age 18. View "Jenkins v. Commissioner, Alabama Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction of twenty counts of health care fraud. Defendant's convictions stemmed from his involvement in a fraud scheme conducted through his ophthalmology office that resulted in a loss of nearly $7 million. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by not allowing defendant's expert to testify, under Daubert and Federal Rule of Evidence 702, about the use of subthreshold micropulse photostimulation as a treatment for wet age-related macular degeneration. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting rebuttal evidence showing that defendant billed Medicare for performing services on a patient's blind left eye. Even if the district court erred in partially limiting defendant's surrebuttal evidence, and that error violated the Sixth Amendment, the court held that it was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Finally, the court vacated defendant's sentence on each count and remanded the case for the limited purpose of letting the district court modify defendant's sentence structure to bring it in line with USSG 5G1.2(d). View "United States v. Ming Pon" on Justia Law

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After Marvin Crowder died, Fidelity disbursed his plan benefits to his sister as his designated beneficiary. Plaintiff, Marvin's ex-wife, filed suit under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), alleging claims of wrongful denial of benefits and breach of fiduciary duty. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's ERISA claims, holding that the Plan Administrator correctly interpreted the Plan and that, after her divorce, plaintiff had no entitlement to her ex-husband's benefits under the Plan's terms. Because plaintiff was not a "beneficiary" under Section 14.03 of the Plan, she failed to state a plausible claim for wrongly denied benefits. Likewise, plaintiff's claims for breach of fiduciary duty failed because she was not a "beneficiary" under the Plan and defendants owed no ERISA-imposed duties to her. Furthermore, plaintiff also lacked statutory authorization to bring a claim for equitable relief based on defendants' alleged breach of their fiduciary duties. View "Crowder v. The Delta Air Line, Inc. Family-Care Savings Plan" on Justia Law

Posted in: ERISA
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Plaintiff sought declaratory and injunctive relief to prevent the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (FAHCA) from recovering beyond that portion of her settlement specifically designated by the settling parties as compensation for her past medical expenses. The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of plaintiff. As a preliminary matter, the court held that the parties' unilateral allocation does not bind FAHCA. On the merits, the court held that federal medicaid law does not preempt FAHCA's practice of seeking reimbursement from portions of a settlement that represent all medical expenses. The court also held that federal law does not preempt Florida's method of allocating the share of a personal injury settlement from which it is entitled to seek reimbursement: its formula of half the settlement after 25 percent attorney's fees, combined with the procedure in which a recipient may challenge that allocation in an administrative hearing by clear and convincing evidence. View "Gallardo v. Mayhew" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for attempting to export 303 Ubiquiti NanoStation M2 Network Modems to Cuba without a license. Although the court agreed with defendant that the government was required to prove he knew of the facts that made the NanoStations subject to prohibitions on export to Cuba without a license, the court held that the jury instructions the district court gave correctly explained the level of knowledge required to convict, and the evidence admitted at trial established defendant's knowledge beyond a reasonable doubt. The court held that the evidence was sufficient to establish that defendant took a substantial step towards exporting the NanoStations in violation of the law. Finally, the court held that the district court did not err in applying the two-level sentencing enhancement for obstruction of justice. View "United States v. Singer" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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In these separate appeals, the Eleventh Circuit held that defendants adjudicated guilty before but sentenced after the effective date of the First Step Act of 2018 may not qualify for relief under the amended statutory safety-valve provision. The court explained that the First Step Act states that its amendment of the statutory safety-valve provision "shall apply only to a conviction entered on or after the date of [its] enactment" on December 21, 2018. In this case, defendants had their convictions entered when the district court accepted their pleas of guilty before December 21, 2018, and thus they are ineligible for relief from the statutory mandatory-minimum sentence under the amended statutory safety-valve provision. The court also held that any error in the district court's denial of Defendant Castro's sentence for his minor role was harmless. View "United States v. Eulogio Ramiro Yoza Tigua" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Plaintiff, a shareholder, filed a putative class action complaint against magicJack and eight individuals who were magicJack current or former directors. Plaintiff alleged that magicJack issued two proxy statements that contained material misrepresentations. The district court dismissed plaintiff's lawsuit because his claims were derivative in nature and he failed to plead that he made a demand on magicJack or that doing so would have been futile. The Eleventh Circuit held that federal courts should look to state law to decide the issue of whether a claim brought under a federal statute is direct or derivative. In this case, because magicJack is incorporated under the laws of Israel, Israeli law controls the court's analysis. However, even if the court applied Florida law, the result would be the same because the two bodies of law are consistent. The court held that plaintiff's claims are derivative in nature because he failed to allege that he suffered damages independent of the damages that magicJack (and all of its shareholders) suffered. Furthermore, plaintiff failed to plead that he personally suffered a special injury, distinct from that experienced by magicJack or its other shareholders. Finally, any recovery sought in the Second Amended Complaint would necessarily be for the benefit of magicJack and its shareholders. View "Freedman v. MajicJack Vocaltec Ltd." on Justia Law