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

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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Former President Donald J. Trump brought a civil action seeking an injunction against the government after it executed a search warrant at his Mar-a-Lago residence. He argues that a court-mandated special master review process is necessary because the government’s Privilege Review Team protocols were inadequate because various seized documents are protected by the executive or attorney-client privilege because he could have declassified documents or designated them as personal rather than presidential records, and—if all that fails—because the government’s appeal was procedurally deficient. The government disagrees with each contention.   At issue on appeal is whether the district court had the power to hear the case. The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court improperly exercised equitable jurisdiction in this case. For that reason, the court vacated the September 5 order on appeal and remanded with instructions for the district court to dismiss the underlying civil action. The court explained that it cannot write a rule that allows any subject of a search warrant to block government investigations after the execution of the warrant. Nor can it write a rule that allows only former presidents to do so. Either approach would be a radical reordering of the court’s caselaw limiting the federal courts’ involvement in criminal investigations. And both would violate bedrock separation-of-powers limitations. View "Donald J. Trump v. USA" on Justia Law

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The Trump administration announced that it would not suspend the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act (known as the “Helms-Burton Act”) for the first time since its enactment in 1996. Shortly after this announcement, the cause of action created by Title III of the Helms-Burton Act became fully effective in U.S. courts. Plaintiffs in this case Title III against several entities that own and operate travel websites, including Booking.com BV and Booking Holdings, Inc. (the Booking Entities), and Expedia Group, Inc., Hotels.com L.P., Hotels.com GP, and Orbitz, LLC (the Expedia Entities). Plaintiffs alleged that they are U.S. nationals and living heirs to separate beach-front properties nationalized by the Cuban government after the 1959 revolution According to the complaint, the Booking Entities and Expedia Entities trafficked in those properties on their travel booking websites.   The district court dismissed Plaintiffs’ Title III claims without leave to amend, ruling that it lacked personal jurisdiction over the defendants under the relevant provisions of Florida’s longarm statute. The Eleventh Circuit reversed and remanded. The court explained that based on the uncontroverted allegations in the complaint, the district court has specific personal jurisdiction over the Booking Entities and Expedia Entities pursuant to Fla. Stat. Section 48.193(1)(a)(2), and the exercise of such jurisdiction does not violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Plaintiffs also have plausibly alleged Article III standing. View "Mario Del Valle, et al. v. Trivago GMBH, et al." on Justia Law

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The controversy, in this case, is rooted in the propriety of a lawyer charging a wage earner a contingent attorney’s fee for prosecuting the wage earner’s Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) claims in a U.S. District Court. The wage earner paid the contingent fee and then sued his lawyer in Alabama state court to recover part of the fee. That court stayed the action so the wage earner and his lawyer could present the attorney’s fee controversy to the District Court that had presided over the FLSA case. The district court found the contingent fee excessive, ordered the lawyer to return the attorney’s fee, and dismissed the proceeding as moot.   The Eleventh Circuit dismissed the appeal and instructed the district court to vacate its order and deny the attorney’s and Plaintiff’s motions for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court explained that had Plaintiff’s Rule 60 motion sought actual Rule 60 relief, the district court would have had jurisdiction to entertain it because the district court had jurisdiction over the underlying FLSA and employment discrimination controversy. But Plaintiff did not ask for—and the District Court did not grant—the type of relief authorized by Rule 60. Doing anything more than reopening the matter that had previously been dismissed, which is all Rule 60 allows, required an independent jurisdictional basis. The district court did not have such an independent jurisdictional basis when it litigated the state court breach of contract action as if it had been brought under 28 U.S.C. Section 1332. View "Carlos Padilla v. Redmont Properties LLC, et al" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued her employer based on theories of (1) failure to accommodate in violation of the Rehabilitation Act; (2) retaliation in violation of the Rehabilitation Act; and (3) pregnancy discrimination under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act after she was terminated following her request for an accommodation related to unspecified "child-birth complications." The district court granted summary judgment for GOSA on all three claims.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, finding that as part of her initial burden to establish that a requested accommodation is reasonable under the Rehabilitation Act, an employee must put her employer on notice of the disability for which she seeks an accommodation and provide enough information to allow her employer to understand how the accommodation she requests would assist her. View "Nicole Owens v. State of Georgia, Governor's Office of Student Achievement" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff regularly used Roundup on his lawn for about 30 years until 2016. Around 2016, Plaintiff was diagnosed with malignant fibrous histiocytoma, which he believes was linked to the compound glyphosate, the main chemical ingredient in Roundup. Plaintiff filed suit against Monsanto, the manufacturer of Roundup. In his four-count complaint, Plaintiff alleged strict liability for a design defect under Georgia law (Count I); strict liability for failure to warn under Georgia law Count II); negligence under Georgia law (Count III); and breach of implied warranties under Georgia law (Count IV).   On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit was tasked with deciding whether the district court erred in concluding that Plaintiff’s failure to warn claim was preempted under Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Ac (FIFRA) because the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) had classified glyphosate as not likely to be carcinogenic to humans and approved the Roundup label. The Eleventh Circuit concluded it did and reversed the district court’s ruling. The court held that Plaintiff’s Georgia failure to warn claim is not preempted by the federal requirements under the FIFRA or the EPA actions pursuant to it. View "John D. Carson v. Monsanto Company" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the district court’s dismissal of his amended complaint against Carnival Corporation for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Plaintiff contended that the district court erred in finding that his amended complaint failed to allege sufficient facts in support of his negligence claims to show that Carnival was on notice of the alleged hazard.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that Plaintiff failed to include factual allegations that plausibly suggest Carnival had constructive notice of the dangerous condition. Therefore, Plaintiff failed to satisfy the pleading standard set forth in Iqbal and Twombly. While Plaintiff alleged facts that establish the possibility that Carnival had constructive notice of the hazardous substance on the staircase as to invite corrective measures, a claim only has facial plausibility when the plaintiff’s allegations allow “the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”   Furthermore, while Plaintiff alleged that there were crewmembers in the surrounding shops, he does not allege that there were any crewmembers in the immediate area of the glass staircase that could have observed or warned him of the hazard. Simply put, Plaintiff’s allegations do not cross the line from possibility to the plausibility of entitlement to relief. View "Donnie Holland v. Carnival Corporation" on Justia Law

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This appeal concerns the district court’s sua sponte dismissal of Plaintiff’s amended complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted under 28 U.S.C. Section 1915A—the early screening provision of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”). Plaintiff contends that the district court erred in designating him a “prisoner” under the PLRA at the time he filed his pro se complaint and that the district court further erred in ordering him to pay a filing fee before the district court.   The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court’s ruling. The court held that the district court erred in applying the PLRA to Plaintiff’s action because Plaintiff, as a civil detainee in ICE custody, was not a “prisoner” under the PLRA when he filed his action. Thus, Plaintiff’s complaint must be viewed by the district court in the first instance and outside of the context of the PLRA on remand. Moreover, as Plaintiff was not a “prisoner” for purposes of the PLRA at the time that he filed this action, on remand, the court directed the district court to return the filing fees paid by Plaintiff pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 1915(b)(1). Further, regarding Plaintiff’s motion before this Court seeking a return of the appellate filing fees paid pursuant to the PLRA, that motion is granted and the Clerk is directed to refund to Plaintiff the appellate filing fees paid by him to pursue this appeal. View "Lyncoln Danglar v. State of Georgia, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff a female employee of Wakulla County (“the County”), worked for the County’s building department. Plaintiff filed a lawsuit in federal district court for, among other claims, the County’s violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In the present case, Plaintiff filed a five-count complaint against the defense attorneys for the County. The defense attorneys and their law firms filed several motions to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The district court dismissed the complaint, explaining that Plaintiff’s alleged facts did not demonstrate that the defense attorneys for the County had engaged in a conspiracy that met the elements of 42 U.S.C. Section 1985(2).   Plaintiff’s complaint suggested that the defense attorneys filed the complaint for the “sole benefit of their client rather than for their own personal benefit.” Alternatively, Plaintiff points to the fact that the County defense attorneys had been aware of Plaintiff’s recordings for many months and only reported her recordings to law enforcement when they learned that Plaintiff “insist[ed] on her right to testify in federal court about the recordings and present them as evidence” in the sexual harassment case.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court explained that per Farese, it is Plaintiff’s burden to allege facts that establish that the County defense attorneys were acting outside the scope of their representation when they told law enforcement about Plaintiff’s recordings. Here, Plaintiff but in no way suggests that the defense attorneys were acting outside the scope of their representation, thus her Section 1985(2) claims were properly dismissed. View "Tracey M. Chance v. Ariel Cook, et al" on Justia Law

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The Defendant, Evanston Insurance Company (“Evanston”), appeals the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff Westchester General Hospital, Inc. (“Westchester”), challenging the district court’s holding that Evanston must defend Westchester in its ongoing litigation against Jane and John Doe (the “Does”). After the Does sued Westchester for negligence based on a violent incident that occurred at Westchester’s facility, Westchester sought coverage from Evanston, its insurer, under Westchester’s “Specified Medical Professions Insurance Policy” (“the Policy”). Evanston refused to provide complete coverage. So, Westchester sued Evanston, seeking a declaratory judgment that Evanston must defend it in its ongoing litigation against the Does. After the case was removed to federal court, a district court judge in the Southern District of Florida granted partial summary judgment in favor of Westchester, and Evanston appealed.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed finding that the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Westchester was proper because none of the relevant exclusions invoked by Evanston bars coverage for the Does’ claims against Westchester. The court explained that neither the Bodily Injury Exclusion nor the Professional Services Exclusion bars coverage for Westchester’s lawsuit against the Does. Evanston owes Westchester a duty to defend the hospital in its litigation against the Does under the GL Coverage Part. And because the court concluded that Evanston owes Westchester a duty to defend under the GL Coverage Part, the court held that the Umbrella Policy also applies. View "Westchester General Hospital, Inc. v. Evanston Insurance Company" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff alleged that Preferred Collection had disclosed information about his debt to a third party—the mail vendor—in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Following the revised opinion, the full Eleventh Circuit voted to take the case en banc. The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court’s order and remanded with instructions to dismiss the case without prejudice. The court held that Plaintiff did not have standing, thus the district court lacked jurisdiction to consider his claim.   The court explained that Plaintiff is simply no worse off because Preferred Collection delegated the task of populating data into a form letter to a mail vendor; the public is not aware of his debt (at least, not because of Preferred Collection’s disclosure to its vendor). Nor is it clear, or even likely, that even a single person at the mail vendor knew about the debt or had any reason—good, bad, or otherwise— to disclose it to the public if they did. Given the obvious differences between these facts and the traditional tort of public disclosure, the court found that no concrete harm was suffered here. View "Richard Hunstein v. Preferred Collection and Management Services, Inc." on Justia Law