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

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Blackburn, who has Crohn’s disease, was prescribed LIALDA, an anti-inflammatory drug specifically aimed at the gut. LIALDA is not FDA-approved to treat Crohn’s, but it is approved to treat ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s “sister” disease. Blackburn was subsequently diagnosed with advanced-stage kidney disease. Blackburn does not claim that Shire, LIALDA’s manufacturer failed to warn of the risk of kidney disease; he and his doctor knew that the drug might impair his kidney function. Blackburn contends that Shire should have more explicitly warned his doctor about how regularly to monitor his kidney function after prescribing LIALDA. He contends that, if LIALDA’s warning label had been better, his physician would have discovered the effect on his kidneys sooner and prevented his injury.The Eleventh Circuit identified two unsettled, dispositive questions of Alabama law, which it certified to the state’s highest court. May a pharmaceutical company’s duty to warn include a duty to provide instructions about how to mitigate warned-of risks? May a plaintiff establish that an improper warning caused his injuries by showing that his doctor would have adopted a different course of testing or mitigation, even though he would have prescribed the same drug? View "Blackburn v. Shire US Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for child pornography charges related to her two daughters. The court concluded that the district court did not violate defendant's constitutional right to present a defense by excluding expert testimony related to her intellectual disability where the proffered testimony was not key to any legally acceptable defense theory. The court also concluded that defendant's below-Guidelines sentence of 30 years in prison was substantively reasonable where the district court considered the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) factors, including the fact that defendant took about 500 images and videos of her two young children for her husband's sexual gratification. View "United States v. Litzky" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Defendants, members of the Plowshares Movement, appealed their convictions and sentences for conspiracy, destruction of property on a naval installation, depredation of government property, and trespass. Defendants' convictions stemmed from their actions illegally entering the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in St. Marys, Georgia to engage in religious protest of nuclear weapons.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendants' convictions and sentences, concluding that the district court did not err in denying defendants' motions to dismiss the indictment under the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA); the district court did not abuse its discretion or otherwise err in holding defendants jointly and severally liable for the full amount of restitution; any alleged error in failing to award Defendants Hennessy and Trotta reductions for acceptance of responsibility was harmless; the district court did not err in holding Hennessy accountable for the entire loss amount when imposing the USSG 2B1.1 enhancement; the district court did not err in failing to address Defendant Grady's RFRA-related sentencing argument; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in failing to give Grady's requested mistake-of-fact jury instruction. View "United States v. Grady" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of a police officer individually and the City of Miami Beach on plaintiff's claims of excessive force and state law battery. Plaintiff alleged that his arrest was effected and he was fully secured, not resisting, and not posing a threat when the officer gratuitously and forcibly struck him in his face.The court reviewed the evidence and videos in the light most favorable to plaintiff, and with the benefit of oral argument, concluding that the district court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of defendants. In this case, a reasonable jury could find that the officer used excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment when he entered the holding cell and forcibly struck plaintiff, who was then secure, not resisting, and not a safety threat to any officers. Furthermore, an objectively reasonable officer would have known at the time that it was clearly unlawful to gratuitously and forcibly strike an arrestee who was fully secured, not resisting, not posing a safety threat, and not attempting to flee. Likewise, summary judgment is not warranted on plaintiff's state law battery claims. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Johnson v. City of Miami Beach" on Justia Law

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Liver-transplant candidates and transplant hospitals challenged HHS's adoption of a new policy for allocating donated livers. In 2019, the Eleventh Circuit held that the plaintiffs had not shown a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of their claim that the Secretary failed to follow procedures under 42 C.F.R. 121.4(b) during the new liver-allocation policy's development. Section 121.4(b) does not require the Secretary to refer the new liver allocation policy to an Advisory Committee on Organ Transplantation or to publish the new policy in the Federal Register for public comment. The court remanded for the district court to consider the remaining Administrative Procedure Act and Fifth Amendment claims.The district court ordered limited discovery on remand. The defendants ultimately produced requested communications between its top-level personnel and outside policymakers that, according to the plaintiffs, exposed “bad faith and improper behavior.” The district court ultimately excluded the documents from the administrative record for the APA claim, while noting that the documents included “colorable evidence of animosity and even some measure of regional bias.” The hospitals moved to unseal the documents. In 2021, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed an order unsealing the documents. The documents here are “plainly judicial records” and the appellants have not shown good cause to keep them sealed. View "Callahan v. United Network for Organ Sharing" on Justia Law

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Jathursan, a citizen of Sri Lanka, entered the U.S. without inspection in 2018. He was apprehended and expressed a fear of returning to Sri Lanka. After a credible fear interview, DHS determined that Jathursan had a credible fear of persecution in Sri Lanka. Jathursan applied for asylum, withholding of removal, and Convention Against Torture (CAT) protection. Jathursan cited his Tamil race and/or ethnicity, his imputed political opinion as a supporter of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), his imputed membership in the LTTE through his brother, and his status as a Tamil failed asylum seeker.The BIA upheld the immigration judge’s findings that Jathursan failed to establish past persecution on account of a protected ground, a well-founded fear of future persecution on account of a protected ground, or that he would more likely than not be tortured if he returned to Sri Lanka. The Eleventh Circuit vacated and remanded for further consideration of his asylum and withholding-of-removal claims based on his fear of future persecution as a Tamil failed asylum seeker and the denial of relief under CAT. The court rejected his claims for asylum and withholding of removal based on past persecution; substantial evidence supported the BIA’s denial of relief on that ground. View "Jathursan v. United States Attorney General" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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In 1999, Kristina drugged her sons and put them, and herself, in a running car in a closed garage. Matthew died; Adam and Kristina survived. Kristina was convicted of second-degree murder and remained in prison until 2016. In 1999, Kristina had State Farm automobile and homeowners insurance policies. In 2001, Matthew’s estate, Adam, and their father (the Rotells) sued Kristina for wrongful death and bodily injury.Kristina tendered her defense to State Farm, which filed state court declaratory judgment actions, seeking determinations that her policies did not cover the incident. The Rotells allege that State Farm rejected a settlement offer even though Kristina wished to accept it. The state court then held that the policies did not cover the incident. State Farm withdrew from the wrongful-death lawsuit. The state court entered a default judgment against Kristina; a jury entered a $505 million verdict. Kristina was insolvent, so the Rotells petitioned for involuntary Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The bankruptcy court entered an order subjecting Kristina’s assets (claims against State Farm for bad faith and malpractice) to its control and appointed Carapella as trustee. The verdict is Kristina’s only liability. Carapella sued State Farm in Florida state court. State Farm then sought to intervene, post-judgment, in the wrongful-death action and moved to vacate the judgment, arguing that the Rotells’ fifth amended complaint was untimely and that the default judgment was void.The district court and the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the denial of the motion. The Bankruptcy Code’s “automatic stay” provision, 11 U.S.C. 362(a), precluded State Farm’s motion to intervene. View "State Farm Florida Insurance Co. v. Carapella" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff was convicted of felony obstruction of a law enforcement officer in a Georgia state court, he brought suit against the individual defendants under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging excessive force under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as state law claims.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants on all federal claims and declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the pendent state claims. In regard to plaintiff's excessive force claim against the civilian bystander that assisted the police in subduing plaintiff, the court held that a civilian's rendering of brief, ad hoc assistance to a law enforcement officer is not state action, absent proof of a conspiracy to violate the constitutional rights of another. In regard to Deputy Thacker, the court applied the Graham factors and concluded that the deputy did not use excessive force where plaintiff suffered only de minimus injuries that were entirely consistent with a routine takedown. In regard to Deputy Brantley, the court again applied the Graham factors and concluded that the taser was not clearly excessive under the circumstances where two crimes were at issue by the time the taser was deployed: plaintiff had an outstanding warrant for his arrest, and he had already begun his active and loud obstruction of the arrest. In regard to Sheriff Johnson, the court concluded that plaintiff failed to demonstrate that he was disabled within the meaning of the Rehabilitation Act. View "Charles v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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Anderson, the lead plaintiff in a putative class action against her life insurance provider, Wilco, alleged that in 2011-2016, the company breached the terms of her universal life insurance policy by increasing her monthly rate for impermissible reasons. Her policy provides for a “guaranteed maximum monthly cost of insurance rate” and a “current monthly cost of insurance rate.” The guaranteed rate is calculated “based on” Anderson’s “age, sex, and premium class.” The current rate, by contrast, “will be determined by the Company” but cannot exceed the guaranteed rate. As a typical universal life insurance policy, Anderson’s policy was a hybrid investment vehicle and life insurance policy. As her policy aged, Wilco began to increase Anderson’s current rate sharply; her policy’s accumulation value (essentially the investment earnings from which Anderson could cover her monthly payments) was wiped out, and Anderson failed to make the monthly payments out-of-pocket. Her policy lapsed, and Anderson sued.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of her complaint. The policy gave Wilco discretion to set Anderson’s current rate as long as that rate was less than the guaranteed rate and unambiguously gave Wilco discretion to set Anderson’s current monthly rate. View "Anderson v. Wilco Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Jackson was traveling in his wheelchair along a street near the Louisville Embassy Suites Hotel when he was hit by a hotel valet driver. He suffered severe injuries. Jackson sued, in Kentucky state court, several entities connected to the hotel, including Le Centre, the owner of the hotel property. Le Centre had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection before the suit was filed; its reorganization disclosure statement explained that Le Centre’s Chapter 11 plan included the release not only of Le Centre but also of related non-debtor parties. Jackson's attorney received an amended version of the disclosure statement and a copy of the plan. Le Centre did not serve Jackson with a specific form of notice required by the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, however.After the approved Chapter 11 plan went into effect, Le Centre and two other released entities moved to dismiss in the state court action as barred by the confirmation order. Jackson sought to proceed nominally against these entities to reach their insurers. The bankruptcy court denied this request. The district court and Eleventh Circuit affirmed. Jackson received sufficient notice to satisfy due process and the bankruptcy court did not abuse its discretion by ruling that Jackson could not pursue the nominal claims. View "Jackson v. Le Centre on Fourth, LLC" on Justia Law