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

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
by
After a jury found that the manufacturer breached its duty to sell its products to certain customers exclusively through the distributor, the manufacturer appealed the denial of a directed verdict as to the status of two customers under the contract. The distributor cross-appealed a ruling that invalidated the contract's liquidated-damages clause and a ruling that prevented it from pursuing lost-profit damages.The Eleventh Circuit concluded that, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 6, the closure of the clerk's office renders the office inaccessible and tolls the filing deadline, which makes the motion timely. Therefore, the district court did not err in denying the manufacturer's Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50 motions. The court also concluded that the district court did not err when it ruled that the liquidated-damages clause was unenforceable because $2 million a breach was grossly disproportionate to the foreseeable actual damages, and the disproportionality amounts to an unenforceable penalty. The court further concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion by excluding lost-profit damages because Circuitronix failed to disclose its computation of those damages. View "Circuitronix, LLC v. Kinwong Electronic (Hong Kong) Co., Ltd." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit against Tugalo, his cousin and Tugalo President Thomas Gilmer, and Tugalo's directors in a 17-count complaint, alleging that Gilmer misappropriated corporate funds and that the company's board let it happen. The district court rejected plaintiff's substantive claims and declined to adjudicate three equitable claims.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's decisions to grant summary judgment to Tugalo on plaintiff's fraud claim for lack of evidence of justifiable reliance (and, separately, to deny plaintiff's motion to defer ruling on the fraud claim). The court also affirmed the district court's decision to deny plaintiff's request to amend his complaint after the pleading-amendment deadline. However, the court reversed the district court's decision to abstain under the Burford abstention doctrine from adjudicating plaintiff's judicial-dissolution count. In this case, there was, and is, no ongoing state administrative proceeding or, for that matter, even any preexisting action by a Georgia state court or executive official to dissolve Tugalo. The court remanded for consideration of that count along with his other two equitable counts. View "Deal v. Tugalo Gas Company, Inc." on Justia Law

by
In a case involving an alleged multi-billion-dollar conspiracy to defraud the Venezuelan state-owned oil company known as PDVSA, the Trust filed suit alleging that it had authority to do so as an assignee of PDVSA pursuant to a trust agreement which, through a choice-of-law clause, is governed by New York law. The district court adopted in part the report and recommendation of the magistrate judge and dismissed the action without prejudice under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for lack of Article III standing. The district court determined that the Trust did not properly authenticate the trust agreement and, even if the trust agreement were authenticated and admissible, it was void as champertous under New York law.The Eleventh Circuit assumed without deciding that the Trust made out a prima facie case of authenticity for the trust agreement at the Rule 12(b)(1) proceedings and that the district court erred by ruling that the trust agreement was inadmissible. The court concluded that, based on its review of the record, the district court may have erred procedurally in definitively resolving the question of champerty at the Rule 12(b)(1) stage because that question likely implicated the merits of the Trust's claims. However, the court concluded that the Trust does not make this procedural argument on appeal and therefore has abandoned any procedural obligations to the champerty ruling. On the merits, the court applied the champerty bar to the trust agreement under New York law in light of Justinian Capital SPC v. WestLB AG, 65 N.E.3d 1253, 1255 (N.Y. 2016), and concluded that the Trust's primary purpose in acquiring PDVSA's claims was to bring this action. Accordingly, the court affirmed the dismissal of the complaint. View "PDVSA US Litigation Trust v. Lukoil Pan Americas, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Three plaintiffs, seeking to represent a putative class of 3,000 nursing facility residents, filed a class action complaint against (MMI) and its president in Florida state court. After defendants removed to the district court, the district court removed back to state court under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA).The Eleventh Circuit reversed and remanded for further proceedings, concluding that the district court erred in finding that the evidence was sufficient to establish that two-thirds of the putative class were Florida citizens. The court explained that the studies, surveys, and census data that plaintiffs provided, which do not directly involve plaintiffs in this case, are not sufficient to establish that a certain percentage of the plaintiff class are citizens of Florida. The court agreed with the district court's conclusion that plaintiffs satisfied the "significant defendant" requirement in 28 U.S.C. 1332(d)(4)(A)(i)(II)(aa). Because the court found that plaintiffs failed to meet the local controversy exception's state citizenship requirement, however, the district court erred in remanding this matter to state court. Finally, to the extent that the remand order was based on the discretionary exception, the district court erred in failing to find that MMI is a primary defendant and not a Florida citizen. View "Smith v. Bokor" on Justia Law

by
After debtor voluntarily filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the bankruptcy court determined that he was transferring assets and defrauding creditors. The bankruptcy court removed him as the debtor-in-possession and appointed a trustee to administer the estate. Debtor appealed, arguing that the trustee's appointment violated his Thirteenth Amendment right to be free from "involuntary servitude"—because, he said, under the trustee's direction, all of his post-petition earnings would be put into the bankruptcy estate for the benefit of his creditors. The bankruptcy court dismissed debtor's Thirteenth Amendment claim as unripe, and the district court similarly held that debtor could not show an injury-in-fact sufficient to confer Article III standing.The Eleventh Circuit reversed and held that debtor's loss of authority and control over his estate, which he suffered as a result of his removal as the debtor-in-possession, constitutes an Article III-qualifying injury-in-fact that is both traceable to the bankruptcy court's appointment of the trustee and redressable by an order vacating that appointment. Therefore, debtor has standing to pursue his Thirteenth Amendment claim. The court left it to the district court on remand to consider the merits of debtor's arguments. View "Breland v. United States" on Justia Law

by
The Chapter 7 trustee for the bankruptcy estates of Atherotech Inc. and Atherotech Holdings, appeals the dismissal of his complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction. After removal from Alabama state court, the district court applied the doctrine of derivative jurisdiction articulated in Lambert Run Coal Co. v. Baltimore & O.R. Co., 258 U.S. 377, 382 (1922), and ruled that because the state court did not have personal jurisdiction over defendants under Alabama's long-arm statute, it too lacked personal jurisdiction. The district court concluded that the trustee could not rely on Bankruptcy Rule 7004(d) (which looks to a defendant's national contacts and permits nationwide service of process) to establish personal jurisdiction. The district court also denied as futile the trustee's motion to transfer the case.The Eleventh Circuit reversed and concluded that the trustee did not waive his right to appeal the district court's dismissal of MidCap for lack of personal jurisdiction by failing to name MidCap in the amended complaint because amendment would have been futile. Under the circumstances of this case, the trustee did not waive his right to appeal the district court's dismissal of Mid Cap from the original complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction.The court also concluded that the doctrine of derivative jurisdiction does not apply to removed cases in which the state court lacked personal jurisdiction over the defendants. The court explained that the district court could exercise jurisdiction following removal notwithstanding the state court's lack of personal jurisdiction over defendants under Alabama's long-arm statute. The court reasoned that the district court could look to Bankruptcy Rule 7004(d) to decide whether personal jurisdiction existed. Furthermore, the district court could consider the trustee's alternative request for a transfer to the Southern District of New York pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1406 even if there was no personal jurisdiction over defendants under Alabama's long-arm statute. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Reynolds v. Behrman Capital IV L.P." on Justia Law

by
At issue in this appeal is whether the district court abused its discretion when it applied the fugitive disentitlement doctrine to dismiss plaintiff's action against defendant, the father of her two daughters. In this case, plaintiff left the United States against the orders of a Florida family court and could be arrested by Florida officials if she were to return to Florida. Plaintiff filed suit attacking the proceedings of the family court while remaining outside its jurisdiction.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment, concluding that the district court did not abuse its discretion by applying the fugitive disentitlement doctrine to dismiss plaintiff's lawsuit. The court explained that because plaintiff remains a fugitive, her lawsuit collaterally attacks the very proceedings from which she absconded, and dismissal prevents her from using the judicial process only when it benefits her. The court denied as moot the motion to dismiss the appeal, the motion to strike part of the reply brief, and the motion to strike the appendix to the reply brief. View "Vibe Ener v. Martin" on Justia Law

by
Petitioner filed suit alleging that, after she filed for bankruptcy, Wells Fargo violated the automatic bankruptcy stay by continuing with foreclosure proceedings against her in the Florida state courts. Furthermore, Wells Fargo and the state courts acted contrary to federal law governing removal by continuing with the same state court proceedings after petitioner sought to remove the state case to the bankruptcy court. Petitioner filed a petition for a writ under the All Writs Act in the district court, seeking an order declaring that certain actions of the state courts were void and granting her damages against Wells Fargo and its counsel.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's complaint, finding that this case is not the kind of case in which an order under the Act could properly be issued because there is no underlying proceeding over which the district court has jurisdiction and the integrity of which the district court would be in an appropriate position to protect by making such an order. In this case, dismissal was proper because the Act does not empower the district court to issue the order sought by the petition. View "Rohe v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

by
Two groups of patients who deposited tissue in a stem-cell bank appealed the district court's denial of their respective motions to intervene under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24 in an action between the corporation running the bank and the FDA. The district court concluded that the motions were premature and denied them without prejudice. The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court's order was not a final decision within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. 1291, and thus the court lacked jurisdiction to consider the patients' appeal. View "Aitken v. US Stem Cell Clinic, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
by
Plaintiff filed suit against PDQ, a restaurant he patroned, after a data breach that exposed PDQ customers' personal financial information. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal without prejudice and held that plaintiff did not have standing to sue based on the theory that he and a proposed class of PDQ customers are now exposed to a substantial risk of future identity theft. The court explained that plaintiff failed to allege either that the data breach placed him in a "substantial risk" of future identity theft or that identity theft was "certainly impending." The court stated that evidence of a mere data breach does not, standing alone, satisfy the requirements of Article III standing, and thus plaintiff does not have standing here based on an "increased risk" of identity theft. In the alternative, the court held that plaintiff has not suffered actual, present injuries in his efforts to mitigate the risk of identity theft caused by the data breach. View "I Tan Tsao v. Captiva MVP Restaurant Partners, LLC" on Justia Law