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

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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Plaintiff, a Florida LLC, sued a Canadian company, Teck Resources Limited, alleging that it had illegally trafficked in property to which Plaintiff says it has a claim. The district court granted Teck’s motion, holding that Florida’s long-arm statute didn’t provide jurisdiction over Teck and, additionally, that Teck lacked the necessary connection to the United States to establish personal jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(k)(2).The Eleventh Circuit affirmed holding that courts should analyze personal jurisdiction under the Fifth Amendment using the same basic standards and tests that apply under the Fourteenth Amendment. The court wrote that applying the minimum-contacts test here is relatively straightforward. The court held that Teck doesn’t have contacts with the United States sufficient to establish either specific or general personal jurisdiction over it. Plaintiff’s suit doesn’t arise out of or relate to any of Teck’s ties with the United States. And because a relationship between the defendant’s conduct within the forum and the cause of action is necessary to exercise specific jurisdiction, the lack of any such relationship here dooms Plaintiff’s effort to establish specific personal jurisdiction over Teck. View "Herederos De Roberto Gomez Cabrera, LLC v. Teck Resources Limited" on Justia Law

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AFC Franchising is an Alabama LLC with its principal place of business in Shelby County, Alabama. Defendant is a resident of New York. Defendant signed a “Master Developer Agreement” with another company, Doctors Express Franchising, to develop urgent-care centers in New York and Connecticut.   After a series of acquisitions, AFC was assigned Doctors Express’s end of the bargain in 2013, and Defendant was notified of the assignment When the parties’ relationship soured, Purugganan threatened to sue AFC in either Connecticut or New York. AFC believed that the floating forum-selection clause required Defendant to sue in Alabama, where AFC had its principal place of business. It thus sought a declaratory judgment in Alabama state court (1) that the parties had to litigate their dispute in Alabama and (2) that AFC hadn’t breached the Master Developer Agreement.   The district court sided with Defendant on the personal jurisdiction issue. The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court’s decision and held that, in the circumstances presented, the clause is applicable and enforceable. The court explained that the court erred in dismissing for lack of personal jurisdiction. By voluntarily agreeing to an applicable and enforceable floating forum-selection clause, Defendant waived his right to contest personal jurisdiction in this dispute. Further, Defendant offers no reason why he might have consented to personal jurisdiction but not venue. View "AFC Franchising, LLC v. Danilo Purugganan" on Justia Law

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Miami Velvet operated as a swingers’ nightclub in Miami, Florida. The appellants, in this case, Yorkies and Mrs. Dorfman were Miami Velvet’s managers. Appellants appealed the district court’s final judgment, which awarded over 30 plaintiffs damages for false advertising and false endorsement under the Lanham Act, following the entry of summary judgment on liability and a jury award of damages. The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court’s judgment, set aside the jury’s award of damages to Appellants, and remanded for trial. The court explained that there was not enough evidence to support the entry of summary judgment. Here the advertisements with Plaintiffs’ images were created for and used by Velvet Lifestyles. But Plaintiffs did not just sue Velvet Lifestyles; they also sued Yorkies and Mrs. Dorfman. To prevail on their false advertising and false endorsement claims against Appellants, Plaintiffs had to show that Yorkies itself engaged in or participated in the prohibited conduct along with Velvet Lifestyles (direct liability) or that the corporate veil between Yorkies and Velvet Lifestyles should be pierced (indirect liability).Plaintiffs did not satisfy their burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether Yorkies and Mrs. Dorfman were responsible for the Lanham Act violations. Rather than making the necessary showing in their motion for summary judgment, Plaintiffs simply treated Velvet Lifestyles, Yorkies, and Mrs. Dorfman as one and the same. They exclusively discussed Defendants collectively in the argument section of their motion, presumably operating on the mistaken assumption that if Velvet Lifestyles was liable for violating the Act, so were Yorkies and Mrs. Dorfman. View "Jaime Faith Edmondson, et al. v. Velvet Lifestyles, LLC, et al." on Justia Law

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After a thirteen-year-old victim of human trafficking performed at a City of Miami Beach (“the City”) fully nude strip club, Club Madonna, Inc. (“the Club”), the City came down hard on the Club. It enacted two closely intertwined ordinances (collectively, “the Ordinance”) that required all nude strip clubs to follow a record-keeping and identification-checking regime in order to ensure that each individual performer is at least eighteen years old.   The district court ruled for the City at summary judgment on the Club’s first two claims, ruled for the Club on its federal preemption claim at summary judgment, and ruled for the City on the Club’s state law preemption claim at the motion-to-dismiss stage for failure to state a claim. The Club then appealed the court’s rulings and the City cross-appealed the district court’s ruling on the Club’s federal preemption claim.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed on all counts. First, although the Ordinance implicates the First Amendment because it singles out an industry that engages in expressive activity for special regulation, it satisfies intermediate scrutiny. Second, the Ordinance’s warrantless-search provision does not violate the Fourth Amendment because the adult entertainment industry is a closely regulated industry for Fourth Amendment purposes, and the warrantless-search provision satisfies the administrative-search exception because it can be narrowly read to avoid Fourth Amendment concerns. Third, the Ordinance’s employment-verification requirement is preempted by federal immigration law. And finally, the Club’s state law conflict preemption claim fails because there is no Florida law that cabins the City’s ability to levy fines against the Club for violating the Ordinance’s requirements. View "Club Madonna Inc. v. City of Miami Beach" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a complaint against GoDaddy.com, LLC (“GoDaddy”) in district court alleging that GoDaddy had violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (“TCPA”) when it allegedly called and texted Plaintiff solely to market its services and products through a prohibited automatic telephone dialing system. Her case was consolidated with two other cases.  Plaintiff and the plaintiffs in the two other related cases purported to bring a class action on behalf of similarly situated individuals. After negotiating with GoDaddy, the three plaintiffs submitted a proposed class settlement agreement to the District Court.   The District Court determined that “even though some of the included class members would not have a viable claim in the Eleventh Circuit, they do have a viable claim in their respective Circuit [because of a circuit split]. The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court’s approval of class certification and settlement. The court held that the class definition does not meet Article III standing requirements. The court explained that it has not received briefing on whether a single cellphone call is sufficient to meet the concrete injury requirement for Article III standing and TransUnion has clarified that courts must look to history to find a common-law analogue for statutory harms. Thus, the court concluded its best course is to vacate the class certification and settlement and remand in order to give the parties an opportunity to redefine the class with the benefit of TransUnion and its common-law analogue analysis. View "Susan Drazen v. Godaddy.com, LLC" on Justia Law

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Affordable Bio Feedstock, Inc., and Affordable Bio Feedstock of Port Charlotte, LLC, (collectively “ABF”) appealed the District Court’s summary judgment denying their claim for reimbursement of “protest payments” made to the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) after the IRS claw-backed an alternative fuel tax credit it had previously given ABF. In support of its position, ABF argued that federal courts may order the Government to pay plaintiffs money from the Federal Treasury based solely on equitable principles.  At issue on appeal is whether any court may order that fund be appropriated from the Federal Treasury based on equitable estoppel without specific authorization from Congress.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, holding that the Supreme Court foreclosed ABF’s arguments 32 years ago in Office of Personnel Management v. Richmond, 496 U.S. 414, 110 S. Ct. 2465 (1990), when it held that “payments of money from the Federal Treasury are limited to those authorized by statute.”  Here, ABF sought only to recover the money it already paid to the IRS. The only relevant fact is that this money is currently within the Federal Treasury, and so the IRS would have to withdraw money from the Federal Treasury to pay any adverse equitable judgments. Under Richmond, ABF has waived any argument that its activities qualified it for the alternative fuel tax credit under Section 6426 and points to no other statute(s) as a potential basis for recovery. View "Affordable Bio Feedstock, Inc., et al v. USA" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff received MemoryGel Silicone Gel Breast Implants made by Mentor Worldwide, LLC. After one of her implants ruptured, she sued Mentor pro se, alleging negligence and negligence per se, strict liability failure to warn, and strict liability manufacturing defect. The district court dismissed her complaint without prejudice and later dismissed her amended complaint with prejudice as preempted and foreclosed by Florida law.   Plaintiff appealed the district court’s dismissal of the manufacturing defect claims in Counts I and III of her initial complaint. The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court’s ruling and held that Plaintiff’s manufacturing defect claims are sufficiently pleaded to survive a motion to dismiss.   The court explained that construing her pro se pleadings liberally, Plaintiff’s manufacturing defect claims are sufficiently pleaded to survive Mentor’s motion to dismiss. She plausibly alleged that Mentor violated a duty it owed to her, not the government. Specifically, she alleged that the implants’ manufacturing process differed from the specifications agreed to by the FDA and that Mentor used materials that differed from those approved by the FDA, violating both state law and the device-specific regulatory controls the FDA approved under 21 C.F.R. Section 820.30. These allegations are enough to state a plausible claim against Mentor under Rule 12(b)(6), and the district court erred by holding otherwise. View "Lalitha E. Jacob, MD v. Mentor Worldwide, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs sued the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia or FARC) and related parties under the Anti-Terrorism Act, 18 U.S.C. Section 2333. They based their claims on the FARC’s commission of offenses like kidnapping and murder in Colombia.   Plaintiffs obtained a default judgment against Defendants and based on their submissions the district court awarded them significant damages. After obtaining that judgment, Plaintiffs sought to attach the assets of third parties blocked by the Office of Foreign Assets Control. The final judgment entered by the clerk described the monetary awards to each of the plaintiffs (including the trebled portions) as “compensatory damages.”   Plaintiffs instituted garnishment proceedings in district court to attach the assets of Defendant and several limited liability companies he owns or controls. Plaintiffs filed a motion, in this case, asking the district court to amend the final judgment by removing the references to “compensatory damages.” They argued that the clerk of court erred in characterizing the trebled amounts of the awards as “compensatory damages” when the court itself had not described them in that way.   The district court denied the Rule 60(a) motion in a written order. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial. The court explained that Rule 60(a) provides that a court may correct a clerical mistake or a mistake arising from oversight or omission whenever one is found in a judgment, order, or other parts of the record. Here, the court saw no abuse of discretion (or clear error) when the district court found that the intent was for the entire $318 million to be deemed compensatory. View "Keith Stansell, et al v. Samark Jose Lopez Bello, et al" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff regularly used Roundup on his lawn for about 30 years. Plaintiff was diagnosed with malignant fibrous histiocytoma, which he believes was linked to the main chemical ingredient in Roundup. Plaintiff filed against Monsanto, the manufacturer of Roundup®. In his four-count complaint, he 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). The district court granted Defendant’s motion, thereby eliminating Counts I and III from the Complaint. Plaintiff timely appealed the district court’s judgment on the pleadings as to Count II.   The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court’s ruling and remanded. The court held that Plaintiff’s failure to warn claim is not preempted by the federal requirements under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (“FIFRA”) or the Environmental Protection Agency’s (“EPA”) actions pursuant to it. The court explained that sometimes IFRA or the EPA’s actions pursuant to FIFRA may preempt state law. But only federal action with the force of law has the capacity to preempt state law. Here, the problem for Monsanto is that the EPA’s registration process is not sufficiently formal to carry with it the force of law under Mead. Further, Monsanto cannot wave the “formality” wand on EPA actions to accomplish compliance with the Mead standard. None of them are the product of “notice-and-comment rulemaking” or “formal adjudication.” Nor do the EPA letters Monsanto points to “bespeak the legislative type of activity that would naturally bind” Monsanto. View "John D. Carson v. Monsanto Company" on Justia Law

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Several years ago, law firm Lueder, Larkin & Hunter represented the Pine Grove Homeowners Association in lawsuits seeking to collect delinquent fees from homeowners. One homeowner settled, and eventually Pine Grove voluntarily dismissed the other two suits. The homeowners then sued Lueder, Larkin & Hunter, arguing in state court that the law firm’s actions violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”). The firm removed the cases to federal court, where they were consolidated before a magistrate judge. After reviewing the complaints, the firm became convinced that the FDCPA claims filed against it were “unsubstantiated and frivolous”—meaning that the homeowners’ attorney had committed sanctionable conduct. The firm served the homeowners’ counsel with draft motions for Rule 11 sanctions.   The law firm appealed the denial of sanctions, and the homeowners appealed the summary judgment decision. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment and vacated its denial of the Rule 11 motions. The court explained that it has long held that Rule 11 motions “are not barred if filed after a dismissal order, or after entry of judgment,” though it is apparently necessary to clarify that point in light of later cases. The homeowners claim that a later case, Walker, changed the Eleventh Circuit’s law. The court, looking at the relevant cases together, held that the reconciled rule follows: If a party fulfills the safe harbor requirement by serving a Rule 11 sanctions motion at least 21 days before final judgment, then she may file that motion after the judgment is entered and Lueder, Larkin & Hunter satisfied this rule. View "Wilbur Huggins v. Lueder, Larkin & Hunter, LLC" on Justia Law