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

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's 62-month sentence for conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine, and possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine. The court upheld the district court's application of a firearms enhancement under USSG 2D1.1(b)(1). In this case, the government has met its burden by producing evidence that the rifle was present at the site of the drug possession charge. Furthermore, defendant failed to meet his burden to negate the nexus presented by the government. Therefore, the court concluded that the district court's factual findings related to the firearms enhancement were not clearly erroneous, and the district court did not err in applying the enhancement. View "United States v. Montenegro" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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After plaintiff was attacked by his cellmate, he filed suit against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) and five prison employees under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388, 91 S. Ct. 1999 (1971). Plaintiff alleged that prison officials negligently assigned the cellmate to plaintiff's cell and that their conduct also violated his Eighth Amendment rights.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's FTCA claim against the United States based on the discretionary function exception to the FTCA's waiver of sovereign immunity. The court explained that inmate-classification and housing-placement decisions fall squarely within the discretionary function exception. The court also affirmed the district court's dismissal without prejudice of plaintiff's Bivens claim against the prison employees for failure to exhaust his administrative remedies. View "Shivers v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit reversed and remanded the denial of social security disability benefits to plaintiff, who stated that he was no longer able to work due to various psychiatric conditions, which included chronic depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. The court held that the SSA's denial of plaintiff's application for disability benefits was not supported by substantial evidence where the ALJ did not articulate adequate reasons for discounting evidence of plaintiff's mental illness, which provided support for a finding of disability. In this case, the ALJ gave little or no weight to three pieces of evidence in the record indicating that plaintiff's mental illness prevents him from maintaining a job: (1) the opinions of plaintiff's treating psychiatrist, (2) the opinions of a consulting psychologist who examined plaintiff at the request of the SSA, and (3) plaintiff's own testimony as to the severity of his symptoms. View "Simon v. Commissioner, Social Security Administration" on Justia Law

Posted in: Public Benefits
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Plaintiff, who seeks to knock down his beachfront mansion and to build a new one, filed suit against the town, claiming that the criteria the town's architectural review commission used to deny his building permit violated his First Amendment free speech rights and his Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process and equal protection. In this case, plaintiff wants to knock down his "traditional" beachfront mansion and to build a new one, almost twice its size, in the midcentury modern style. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the town.The Eleventh Circuit concluded that summary judgment was not granted too early and affirmed on the First Amendment claim because there was no great likelihood that some sort of message would be understood by those who viewed plaintiff's new beachfront mansion. The court also affirmed the district court's summary judgment on the Fourteenth Amendment claims because the commission's criteria were not unconstitutionally vague and plaintiff has not presented evidence that the commission applied its criteria differently for him than for other similarly situated mansion-builders. View "Burns v. Town of Palm Beach" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal without prejudice of plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. 1983 action against the State of Georgia, the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC), and about 42 correctional officials.The court agreed with its sister circuits that a plaintiff's duplicative complaint is an abuse of the judicial process and is properly dismissed without prejudice as malicious under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). The court explained that, given plaintiff knowingly filed the third complaint at issue here containing claims duplicative of claims he had already asserted in two other pending civil actions, and in light of his history as a prolific serial filer, the district court did not abuse its discretion by dismissing this third complaint without prejudice as malicious under 28 U.S.C. 1915A(b)(1). The court also concluded that the district court did not err in alternatively dismissing plaintiff's complaint as barred by the three strikes provision of the PLRA where the complaint as a whole does not sufficiently allege that plaintiff was under imminent danger of serious physical injury. View "Daker v. Ward" on Justia Law

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After DLM licensed its private jet booking website to Fly Victor in exchange for Fly Victor's agreement to invest in increasing traffic to the site and to share booking revenues with DLM, DLM filed suit against Fly Victor alleging that its directors and officers violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) by defrauding DLM of the site revenues and laundering these ill-gotten gains through closely held firms.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the case based on lack of personal jurisdiction and because the revenue sharing agreement's selection clauses mandated litigation of the dispute in an English court. The court explained that, for a statutory basis for personal jurisdiction, DLM relies only on a RICO provision that allows for service of process in any United States judicial district. However, the court concluded that this statute cannot provide personal jurisdiction because DLM did not serve any party within the United States. Rather, DLM only attempted service on defendants in a London office building. Furthermore, the court concluded that the forum selection clauses are enforceable, plainly apply to DLM's claims, and require dismissal in favor of an English forum. View "Don't Look Media LLC v. Fly Victor Limited" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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This appeal arose out of the 2017 data privacy breach of Equifax and its affiliates. Plaintiffs and Equifax eventually settled their dispute, the district court approved the settlement, certified the settlement class, awarded attorney's fees and expenses, and approved incentive awards for the class representatives. Several of the objectors appealed.After establishing jurisdiction, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's rulings in full, with the exception of the incentive awards for the class representatives, which the court reversed and remanded. In this case, after awarding attorney's fees and expenses to plaintiffs' counsel, the district court approved incentive awards for the class representatives in order to compensate them for their services and the risks they incurred on behalf of the class. However, in Johnson v. NPAS Sols., LLC, 975 F.3d 1244, 1260 (11th Cir. 2020), a panel of this court held that incentive awards for class representatives are prohibited. On remand, the court instructed the district court to vacate the incentive award and to otherwise leave the settlement agreement intact. View "Shiyang Huang v. Equifax Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Class Action
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The FDA filed suit against the Clinic, alleging that the Clinic's stem cell procedure violates the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act. The Clinic offers a procedure, which purportedly treats all kinds of chronic conditions, in which they remove fat tissue from a patient, isolate the portion containing stem cells, and inject that portion back into the patient. The district court granted summary judgment for the FDA and enjoined the Clinic from offering its procedure until it can demonstrate to the FDA that its stem cell therapy is safe and effective.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, concluding that the Clinic's stem cell procedure does not fall within the "same surgical procedure" exception or the "361 HCT/P" exception to regulation under the FDCA. The procedure does not fall within the same surgical procedure exception because the biological material implanted into the patient is not the same as that removed. Furthermore, the procedure does not fall within the 361 HCT/P exception because the Clinic intends the stem cells to perform functions after the procedure beyond the basic functions the stem cells performed prior to the procedure. View "United States v. US Stem Cell Clinic, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit concluded that, under Florida law, the policy exclusion barring coverage for claims arising out of an invasion of privacy unambiguously excludes coverage for claims alleging violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA) in which the complaint repeatedly alleges that defendants invaded the privacy of plaintiffs. The court explained that the invasion of privacy exclusion barred coverage for the class action here because the class complaint specifically alleged that iCan intentionally invaded the class members' privacy and sought recovery for those invasions. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Liberty. View "Horn v. Liberty Insurance Underwriters, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's decision denying petitioner's applications for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). The court concluded that substantial evidence supported the BIA's finding that petitioner failed to establish a nexus between the identity of her nuclear family and her asserted persecution. The court explained that petitioner is ineligible for asylum and withholding of removal because the gang that targeted her family did so only as a means to the end of obtaining funds, not because of any animus against her family. Furthermore, petitioner is ineligible for CAT relief because she has not established that any harm she will suffer if returned to her home country will come with at least the acquiescence of a government official. View "Sanchez-Castro v. U.S. Attorney General" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law