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

Articles Posted in Contracts
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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

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Plaintiff filed suit against ATS, a red light camera vendor, alleging three counts of unjust enrichment after ATS charged plaintiff a fee for processing his payment of a traffic ticket issued through an ATS red light photo enforcement system used in the City of North Miami Beach.The Eleventh Circuit certified the following questions to the Supreme Court of Florida: (1) Did ATS violate Florida law when it imposed a five percent fee on individuals who chose to pay their red light traffic ticket with a credit card? In particular: a. Does the challenged fee constitute a "commission from any revenue collected from violations detected through the use of a traffic infraction detector" under Fla. Stat. 316.0083(1)(b)(4)? b. Was the fee assessed under Chapter 318 and therefore subject to section 318.121's surcharge prohibition? c. Was ATS a "money transmitter" that was required to be licensed under Fla. Stat. 560.204(1)? (2) If there was a violation of a Florida statute, can that violation support a claim for unjust enrichment? In particular: a. Does plaintiff's unjust enrichment claim fail because the statutes at issue provide no private right of action? b. Does plaintiff's unjust enrichment claim fail because he received adequate consideration in exchange for the challenged fee when he took advantage of the privilege of using his credit card to pay the penalty? View "Pincus v. American Traffic Solutions, Inc." on Justia Law

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This appeal involves AC-USA's and Silikal's dispute over a shared trade secret consisting of the formula for 1061 SW, a flooring resin Silikal manufactured and sold (along with other flooring resins). AC-USA filed suit alleging that Silikal breached the agreement by selling 1061 SW without its written permission. A jury awarded AC-USA damages on each of its claims for common law breach of contract and for violation of the Georgia Trade Secrets Act of 1990 (GTSA) for misappropriation of the shared trade secret. The district court also awarded punitive damages on the misappropriation claim. The district court then denied Silikal's post-verdict motion for judgment as a matter of law on the misappropriation and contract claims, entering a final judgment for AC-USA for $5,861,415.The Eleventh Circuit rejected Silikal's argument that the district court lacked jurisdiction over its person, and thus affirmed the district court's denial of Silikal's motion to dismiss. However, the court concluded that AC-USA failed to prove its misappropriation claim because the evidence that Silikal misappropriated the trade secret is insufficient as a matter of law. Furthermore, AC-USA failed to prove that it sustained cognizable damages on its contract claim. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's judgment on the misappropriation claim and vacated the damages awarded on the contract claim. Finally, the court held that AC-USA is entitled to nominal damages and attorney's fees on its contract claim in a sum to be determined by the district court on remand. View "Acrylicon USA, LLC v. Silikal GMBH" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Neurocare and remanded in an action where Emory University seeks indemnification from Neurocare, whose technologists were found to be 60 percent at fault for the death of the deceased. The court explained that the term "affiliate" in Section 9.1 of the Sleep Diagnostic Services Agreement embodies the term's well-established common meaning, and that common meaning includes a superior, grandparent corporation. In light of Emory University's direct control and entire ownership of Wesley Woods's parent, which directly controls and owns Wesley Woods, the court concluded that Emory University is Wesley Woods's affiliate.The court applied Georgia case law and also concluded that the indemnification bar doctrine does not operate in the unique facts of this case. The court explained that the bar is a narrow exception to an otherwise proven claim for indemnification based in a string of Georgia cases, starting with GAF Corp. v. Tolar Constr. Co., 246 Ga. 411, 411, 271 S.E.2d 811, 812 (1980). The court read these cases as only applying to the scenario in which the underlying defense is a complete defense in that it would have defeated the underlying action—that is, the entire action and any liability arising therefrom for which the indemnitor would then be liable. Therefore, being a limited exception to indemnification, the court concluded that the bar does not extend to this case—a scenario in which, had the defense in question been asserted in the underlying action to protect Emory University, Neurocare's indemnification obligation would remain, and Neurocare would remain obligated to indemnify Wesley Woods. View "Emory University, Inc. v. Neurocare, Inc." on Justia Law

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M&M Realty entered into a contract with the William Mazzoni Trust in 2011 for the purchase of a plot of land in Boynton Beach, Florida. M&M subsequently filed suit seeking specific performance of the land sale contract and damages from the Mazzoni Trust, as well as damages from William Mazzoni, as co-trustee and agent of the Trust, for tortious interference with the land sale contract.The Eleventh Circuit held that M&M failed to make out a prima facie claim for specific performance or for damages for breach of contract because M&M did not provide evidence that it was ready, willing, and able to perform under the contract -- specifically, that it had the necessary funds to make the purchase. The court also held that William Mazzoni, as a co-trustee of the Defendant trust and signatory as its agent on the contract, is not liable for tortious interference. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment granting summary judgment in favor of William Mazzoni and the Mazzoni Trust. View "M & M Realty Partners at Hagen Ranch, LLC v. Mazzoni" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the University and others alleging that the parties' collective bargaining agreements' (CBA) "Conflict of Interest/Outside Activities" policy was unconstitutionally vague, that his termination breached the CBA, and that the University had used his insubordination as a pretext for First Amendment retaliation. Plaintiff's action stemmed from the University's termination of plaintiff after he attracted national news media attention for publicly questioning whether the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting had in fact occurred.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's summary judgment rulings and its denial of plaintiff's post-trial motions for judgment as a matter of law and for a new trial. The court held that the district court correctly concluded that plaintiff's failure to exhaust the CBA's mandatory grievance-and-arbitration procedures barred his claim that the University breached the CBA by firing him. Although the court affirmed the district court on the constitutional claims, the court applied a different analysis. Without deciding the issue, the court assumed for the purposes of this appeal that plaintiff could constitutionally challenge the Policy on vagueness grounds. The court held that plaintiff's vagueness challenge failed on the merits, and his facial and as-applied First Amendment challenges to the Policy's reporting requirement failed. Furthermore, plaintiff's challenge to the Policy's conflict-of-interest provision failed on the merits. Because plaintiff's constitutional challenges failed, his declaratory judgment claim based on the same grounds also failed. Finally, the court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding the Faculty Senate meeting transcript. View "Tracy v. Florida Atlantic University Board of Trustees" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit held that section 685.300(i)(1) defines the term "borrower defense claim" to include—rather than exclude—breach-of-contract and misrepresentation claims—and, accordingly, that section 685.300(f) prohibits Grand Canyon from enforcing its pre-dispute arbitration agreement with respect to plaintiff's claims here. In this case, Grand Canyon urges a reading of section 685.300 that would not only (1) exclude bread-and-butter breach-of-contract and misrepresentation claims—the claims that complaining borrowers are most likely to bring—but also (2) include non-contract and non-misrepresentation claims only if reduced to judgment, thereby rendering that aspect of the borrower-defense-claim protection meaningless. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's decision to the contrary. View "Young v. Grand Canyon University, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Dish Networks in plaintiff's action for breach of contract and violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Plaintiff alleges that Dish negligently and willfully violated the FCRA by requesting and obtaining a consumer report from a consumer reporting agency after an identity thief fraudulently submitted some of plaintiff's personal information to Dish. Plaintiff also alleges that Dish's actions violated a settlement agreement that the parties signed after a similar incident occurred several years ago involving the same parties.The court held that Dish had a "legitimate business purpose" under the FCRA when it obtained plaintiff's consumer report. The court also held that Dish did not violate the settlement agreement where the district court correctly found that plaintiff's claim failed to establish the breach element. View "Domante v. Dish Networks, LLC" on Justia Law

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Pruitt is a healthcare provider and Caradigm is in the business of delivering software solutions to healthcare providers. Caradigm filed suit against Pruitt for breach of contract, alleging that Pruitt had anticipatorily breached the parties' contract, entitling Caradigm to the contract's full value, plus interest and attorney's fees. On summary judgment, the district court decided that Pruitt had anticipatorily breached the contract and that Caradigm was thus entitled to the full value of the deal. After a four-day trial, a jury awarded Caradigm $11 million.The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court did not reversibly err in most of the ways that Pruitt claimed, and thus affirmed the awards of contract damages and fees, as well as the determination that Caradigm is entitled to recover interest on the damages award. However, the court held that the district court erred by compounding the interest, and vacated that award and remanded for the district court to calculate interest in simple terms. View "Caradigm USA LLC v. Pruithealth, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts
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In 2018, TVPX filed an amended class action complaint in the Eastern District of Virginia against Genworth, alleging that Genworth violated the terms of one of its life insurance policies by imposing inflated "cost of insurance" (COI) charges on its insureds. Genworth brought this action in district court seeking to enjoin TVPX's Virginia lawsuit, arguing that TVPX's claims were barred by a 2004 agreement settling a prior class action about the same life insurance policies. The district court then granted Genworth's motion to enjoin TVPX's Virginia action, finding that TVPX's complaint was barred by the doctrine of res judicata.The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's order enjoining TVPX's Virginia lawsuit. Although the primary right and duty at issue in TVPX's complaint were also at issue in the settlement, the court held that the record does not support the district court's finding that Genworth's "cost of insurance" (COI) practices remain unchanged since the settlement. The court remanded to the district court for limited discovery on whether Genworth has in any way changed how it calculates and charges COI since the settlement. Finally, the court held that, when read in its entirety, the Pre-Settlement Policy Administration does not constitute a preservation of rights, but instead clarifies that Genworth may continue administering its policies in the same manner that it did before the settlement. View "Genworth Life and Annuity Insurance Co. v. TVPX ARS, Inc." on Justia Law