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

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's order dismissing National Trust's federal declaratory judgment action without prejudice. Plaintiff filed a wrongful death action against Southern Heating and others in Alabama state court after his parents died from carbon monoxide poisoning. National Trust, Southern Heating's insurer, filed suit in federal court seeking a declaration that it has no duty to defend or indemnify Southern Heating because there is no coverage under its policy. The district court found that the Alabama state court action was parallel to the federal declaratory judgment action and that the non-exhaustive guideposts set out in Ameritas Variable Life Ins. Co. v. Roach, 411 F.3d 1328, 1331 (11th Cir. 2005), weighed in favor of not hearing National Trust's action.The court concluded that, when relevant, the degree of similarity between concurrent state and federal proceedings is a significant consideration in deciding whether to entertain an action under the Declaratory Judgment Act. In this case, the district court properly took into account that similarity in its consideration of the Ameritas guideposts. The court explained that the district court's perspective may not be the only way to view the two proceedings at issue, but it is a permissible way to look at them, and that is enough to constitute a reasonable exercise of discretion. View "National Trust Insurance Co. v. Southern Heating and Cooling Inc." on Justia Law

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After Jeffrey West died shortly after he was released from the prison where he was being held as a pre-trial detainee, West's estate filed suit under federal and Alabama law against Escambia County and the Escambia County Sheriff, as well as multiple fictitious defendants, initially identified only as prison guards, medical professionals, doctors, and nurses. In this case, West had a staph infection, and after inconsistent medical attention that did not address his underlying symptoms, he died from complications related to the infection. The district court ultimately entered an order pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(1)(A)(ii) and dismissed all claims with prejudice. After the Estate moved to reopen and the district court agreed, the district court found that it had jurisdiction over the Estate's claims because it could reopen the case under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(a) but granted summary judgment to defendants because the Estate's claims were time-barred.The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court's order purporting to reopen the case because the parties' filing of the stipulation of dismissal left the district court without jurisdiction over the Estate's claims pursuant to Rule 41(a)(1)(A)(ii). Furthermore, the district court could not reopen the case under Rule 60(a). View "Estate of Jeffrey West v. DeFrancisco" on Justia Law

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In 2012, LaTele, a Venezuelan television corporation, acting through its president, Fraiz, sued the American television network Telemundo, claiming that Telemundo infringed LaTele’s copyrighted telenovela. While the lawsuit was pending in Miami, a Venezuelan criminal court appointed a governmental board, “La Junta” to displace Fraiz and manage the affairs of LaTele. Fraiz asked the district court to determine that he was the proper representative of LaTele and that La Junta should be excluded from participating in the lawsuit. In 2018, the district court lifted its stay, removed Fraiz’s attorneys from participation in the case, and affirmed that La Junta’s attorney was counsel of record.The Eleventh Circuit dismissed an appeal after holding that it had jurisdiction to entertain the matter. Under the collateral order doctrine, the district court’s order can be treated as final for purposes of appeal. The order conclusively determined an important issue that was completely separate from the merits of the copyright claim, and would otherwise be unreviewable on appeal from a final judgment. However, La Junta and Telemundo challenged Fraiz’s standing to bring the appeal on behalf of LaTele. The district court correctly determined, based on its review of four foreign court orders, that La Junta has the lawful authority to manage the affairs of LaTele and this lawsuit. View "Latele Television, C.A. v. Telemundo Communications Group, LLC" on Justia Law

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Turner, a Wisconsin resident, filed a putative class action against Costa, an Italian cruise operator, and its American subsidiary, alleging that their negligence contributed to an outbreak of COVID-19 aboard the Costa Luminosa during his transatlantic voyage beginning on March 5, 2020. The Luminosa had evacuated a passenger, who subsequently died of COVID-19, from a cruise immediately preceding Turner’s cruise. Costa told passengers that the ship was safe. It did not hire any experts to verify that the ship had been sufficiently cleaned and allegedly failed to refuse boarding to individuals who had COVID-19 symptoms or had traveled to high-risk areas. On March 8, the Luminosa had docked to transport passengers with COVID-19 symptoms to the hospital but did not inform passengers of those circumstances, When passengers disembarked on March 19, 36 of the 75 passengers tested positive for COVID-19. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Turner’s complaint on forum non conveniens grounds. Turner's passage ticket contract included a forum selection clause requiring that all claims associated with his cruise be litigated in Genoa, Italy. Forum selection clauses are presumptively valid and enforceable; Turner failed to defeat the presumption by showing that the clause was induced by fraud or overreaching, that he would be deprived of his day in court because of inconvenience or unfairness, the chosen law would deprive him of a remedy or enforcement of the clause would contravene public policy.’ View "Turner v. Costa Crociere S.P.A." on Justia Law

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Johnson, who is hearing-impaired, filed two lawsuits against gas station owners, asserting failure to provide closed captioning or a similar capability that would allow him to comprehend the television media features on gasoline pumps, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12101, (ADA) and the Florida Civil Rights Act. Johnson had filed 26 other identical cases against gas station owners located throughout Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Dinin represented Johnson in each case.The district court found that Johnson and Dinin were running an illicit joint enterprise, consisting of filing frivolous claims, knowingly misrepresenting the time they counted as billable, making misrepresentations to the court, and improperly sharing attorney’s fees. The court imposed sanctions, including monetary penalties, community service, and an injunction prohibiting them from filing future ADA claims without approval. The Eleventh Circuit dismissed an appeal by Dinin, who lacked standing because he has not shown how he has suffered an injury in fact. The court affirmed as to Johnson, In the majority of his cases, Johnson did not seek injunctive relief fixing the accessibility problem, but only sought payment of legal fees which he split with his lawyer. Johnson never stopped filing claims for damages under Florida law, although he knew them to be objectively frivolous since he had not exhausted his administrative remedies. View "Johnson v. 27th Avenue Caraf, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and two of his children filed a 30-count pro se complaint in federal district court asserting a wide variety of constitutional, statutory, and tort claims against 18 named defendants. The district court dismissed the entire complaint on Rooker-Feldman grounds.The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal of the complaint, concluding that the court's own review of the complaint shows that several of the claims plaintiffs raised do not fall within that doctrine's narrow bounds. The court clarified that Rooker-Feldman is a limited doctrine that applies only when litigants try to appeal state court losses in the lower federal courts. In this case, the district court erred by dismissing plaintiffs' complaint in one fell swoop without considering whether each individual claim sought "review and rejection" of a state court judgment. The court also concluded that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine does not apply to three federal claims plaintiffs raised before this court, seeking damages for issues collateral to a state court judgment rather than relief from that judgment itself. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Behr v. Campbell" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, owners and operators of greyhound-racing businesses, filed suit against the Florida Attorney General, seeking a declaration that a newly enacted state law prohibiting gambling on greyhound racing is unlawful and an injunction to prevent her from enforcing it. The district court dismissed the complaint without prejudice based on lack of standing.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint, holding that plaintiff's alleged injuries are not traceable to any conduct of the Attorney General—either in enforcing or threatening to enforce the law or otherwise—and that plaintiffs' injuries would not be redressable by relief from this court. Therefore, plaintiffs lack Article III standing to bring their claims against the Florida Attorney General. View "Support Working Animals, Inc. v. Governor of Florida" on Justia Law

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In this maritime negligence case involving a "cruise to nowhere," plaintiff filed a class action complaint against Royal Caribbean, on behalf of other similarly situated cruise ship passengers, alleging several tort theories, including negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Plaintiff alleged that Royal Caribbean canceled her cruise because of Hurricane Harvey and offered refunds only on the day the cruise ship was set to sail. Because the ticket contracts provided that no refunds would be given for passenger cancelations within 14 days of the voyage, and because Royal Caribbean repeatedly told passengers that they would lose their entire payments for the cruise if they canceled, the plaintiffs claimed that they were forced to travel to Galveston and nearby areas (like Houston) as Hurricane Harvey approached. Therefore, plaintiff alleged that, while in Texas, they were forced to endure hurricane-force conditions, and suffered physical and emotional injuries.The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and remanded for further proceedings. The court concluded that the district court committed two errors in ruling that diversity jurisdiction was lacking in this case, and each one provides an independent basis for reversal. First, the district court failed to give the plaintiffs notice of its intent to sua sponte address the matter of diversity jurisdiction. Second, putting aside the aggregation of damages issue, the district court failed to consider whether any individual plaintiff had satisfied the $75,000 amount-in-controversy requirement. On remand, the district court should also consider whether there is maritime jurisdiction. Because of the uncertainty over jurisdiction, the court did not address the class action waiver or the claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress. View "McIntosh v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd." on Justia Law

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The en banc court held that interlocutory appeals may not be taken under the collateral order doctrine from the denials of so-called "state-action immunity" under Parker v. Brown, 317 U.S. 341, 350-52 (1943), and its progeny. The court concluded that, insofar as the reviewability condition of the collateral order doctrine is concerned, Commuter Transp. Sys., Inc. v. Hillsborough Cnty. Aviation Auth., 801 F.2d 1286, 1289-90 (11th Cir. 1986), wrongly equated a Parker defense with an immunity from suit. Therefore, the en banc court dismissed this appeal by the members of the Georgia Board of Dentistry for lack of appellate jurisdiction. View "SmileDirectClub, LLC v. Battle" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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Puchalski, a Wisconsin citizen, took a cruise aboard an RCL ship. While the ship was docked in Juneau, Alaska, he experienced shortness of breath and went to the ship’s infirmary. The ship’s physician prescribed medications. Puchalski returned to his quarters, then collapsed. He was taken to a hospital and died days later. Puchalski’s estate sued RCL, a Liberian corporation headquartered in Florida, alleging negligent medical care and treatment. Florida law would have authorized non-pecuniary damages for loss of companionship and mental pain and suffering. Wisconsin law would not. The parties agreed to address the issue only if a damages award made it necessary. A jury awarded $3,384,073.22 in damages, $3,360,000 of which represented non-pecuniary losses. The district court denied RCL’s Motion for Remittitur, finding that Florida law governed damages.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. General maritime law does not allow non-pecuniary damages for wrongful death, but the Supreme Court has held that state law may supplement general maritime law for damages in suits for deaths that occur within state territorial waters. In determining that Florida law applied, the court applied the “Lauritzen” factors: the place of the wrongful act, domiciles of the injured and of the defendant, place of contract, law of the forum, and location of the defendant’s base of operations. Wisconsin’s interests would not be served by applying Wisconsin law to this case. Applying Florida law, however, would further Florida’s interests in wrongful death suits involving its domiciliaries. View "Goodloe v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, LTD." on Justia Law