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

Articles Posted in Contracts
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Following an investigation, Rollins determined that Plaintiff- John Doe violated its sexual misconduct policy. Doe was able to graduate and receive his undergraduate degree but was not allowed to participate in commencement/graduation ceremonies. Rollins imposed a sanction of dismissal, resulting in permanent separation of Doe without the opportunity for readmission; privilege restrictions, including a prohibition on participating in alumni reunion events on or off campus; and a contact restriction as to Roe. Doe sued Rollins in federal court, asserting two claims under Title IX, 20 U.S.C. Section 1681—one for selective enforcement and one for erroneous outcome—and a third claim under Florida law for breach of contract. Following discovery, the district court excluded the opinions proffered by Doe’s expert as to Rollins’ purported gender bias. Then, on cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court (a) entered summary judgment in favor of Rollins on the Title IX claims and (b) entered partial summary judgment in favor of Doe on the breach of contract claim.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in precluding Doe’s expert from presenting opinions about Rollins’ purported gender bias and that it correctly granted summary judgment in favor of Rollins on Doe’s two Title IX claims. On the breach of contract claim, the court wrote that it cannot review Doe’s challenge to the district court’s partial denial of summary judgment because materiality is not a purely legal issue under Florida law and was later resolved by the jury. View "John Doe v. Rollins College" on Justia Law

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Two companies filed a lawsuit in federal court against two of their former employees, who had served in executive positions. The former executives responded by suing the companies in Florida state court. They later moved for summary judgment in the federal action. While that motion was pending, the companies moved for a voluntary dismissal without prejudice of their federal action, which the executives opposed. The district court granted the companies’ motion for voluntary dismissal, and it denied the executives’ request for attorney’s fees and costs incurred in defending the federal lawsuit to that point. On remand, the district court again granted the voluntary dismissal. The executives moved to alter or amend that judgment and be awarded fees and costs immediately, which the court denied. The executives appealed.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the district court sufficiently protected the executives from the prejudice of duplicative litigation by essentially inviting them to move for payment of their costs and fees if the companies ever refiled their federal lawsuit. The court adequately explained its reasoning for granting the dismissal without prejudice on that condition. In all aspects of the decision, the court acted within its discretion. View "Emergency Recovery, Inc., et al v. Bryan Hufnagle, et al" on Justia Law

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In January 2021, many customers of the online financial services company Robinhood were aggressively buying specific stocks known as “meme stocks” in a frenzy that generated widespread attention. Robinhood suddenly restricted its customers’ ability to buy these meme stocks (but not their ability to sell them). Some Robinhood customers who could not buy the restricted stocks brought this putative class action, seeking to represent both Robinhood customers and all other holders of the restricted meme stocks nationwide who sold the stocks during a certain period. As Robinhood customers, they allege that they lost money because Robinhood stopped them from acquiring an asset that would have continued to increase in value.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the claims. The court explained that Plaintiffs failed to state a claim. The court explained that its contract with Robinhood gives the company the specific right to restrict its customers’ ability to trade securities and to refuse to accept any of their transactions. Thus, the court wrote that because Robinhood had the right to do exactly what it did, Plaintiffs’ claims in agency and contract cannot stand. And under basic principles of tort law, Robinhood had no tort duty to avoid causing purely economic loss. View "Andrea Juncadella, et al v. Robinhood Financial LLC, et al" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against The University of Miami (Miami), alleging the school should refund a portion of the payments that she made for the Spring 2020 semester since she did not receive the expected benefit of in-person learning. Plaintiff marshaled a number of claims, including breach of express contract, breach of implied contract, and unjust enrichment. Miami filed a motion for summary judgment on each of Plaintiff’s claims, which the district court granted in full.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court explained that it is entirely valid for Plaintiff to take the position that Miami should have based its prorated refunds on a different day than it did. The problem, however, is that Plaintiff fails to present “more than a scintilla” of evidence to support her contention that Miami should have refunded 48% of the fees for the Spring 2020 semester. The court reasoned that an announcement extending spring break by itself does not support the contention that all fee-based facilities and services were suddenly unavailable to students such that Miami’s refund was inadequate. And while Plaintiff offers a report from an unsworn economist’s input as evidence, Plaintiff cannot rely on that report to show there is a genuine issue of material fact about this point. Unsworn reports may not be taken into account by a district court when it rules on a motion for summary judgment. View "Adelaide Dixon v. University of Miami" on Justia Law

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Continental Casualty Company and Valley Forge Insurance Company (collectively, “the insurers”) and Winder Laboratories, LLC and Steven Pressman (collectively, “the insureds”) appeal and cross-appeal from the district court’s judgment in this insurance coverage dispute. In short, the parties’ insurance agreements required the insurers to defend the insureds against certain third party lawsuits. After being sued by non-party Concordia Pharmaceuticals Inc., S.A.R.L. (“Concordia”), the insureds sought coverage under the policies. The insurers agreed to defend the insureds against Concordia, subject to a reservation of rights, including the right to seek reimbursement of defense costs incurred for claims not covered by the policies. The insurance agreements themselves, however, did not provide for reimbursement.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. First, the court agreed that the insurers did not have a duty to defend the insureds in the underlying action. To supplement this analysis, the court held that the duty to defend was extinguished when the district court’s ruling was issued. Second, the court agreed that the insurers do not have a right to reimbursement because the reservation of rights letters did not create a new contract, the insurers’ unjust enrichment argument is untenable, and the court wrote that it does not believe the Supreme Court of Georgia would upend the State’s insurance law framework by establishing a right to reimbursement for an insurer who has no contractual right to recoupment. View "Continental Casualty Company, et al v. Winder Laboratories, LLC, et al" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose out of an insurance dispute between Plaintiff and Safeco Insurance Company of Illinois. After an accident in which her vehicle suffered substantial damage, Plaintiff made a claim under her Safeco-issued insurance policy for the damage. Safeco declared her vehicle a total loss and paid her what it deemed to be the actual cash value of her vehicle. The district court granted summary judgment to Safeco.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court explained that as proof that a policyholder is reasonably likely to need to incur dealer fees, Plaintiff pointed to the facts that (1) she incurred dealer fees in purchasing both the Lexus that was totaled and her Subaru replacement vehicle, (2) approximately 50-70% of Safeco policyholders are likely to purchase a vehicle from a dealer, and (3) approximately 85-95% of dealerships charge dealer fees. These facts, viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, do not give rise to a genuine dispute of material fact. Plaintiff’s three data points show a reasonable likelihood that a policyholder will incur dealer fees if she chooses to purchase her replacement vehicle from a dealer. And they show that a policyholder is reasonably likely to purchase a replacement vehicle from a dealer. But they do not show that a policyholder is reasonably likely to need to purchase a replacement vehicle from a dealer. Plaintiff has failed as a matter of law to satisfy the Mills standard; therefore, the district court correctly awarded Safeco summary judgment on this issue. View "Gina Signor v. Safeco Insurance Company of Illinois" on Justia Law

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The case arose following an insurance dispute between Travelers Property Casualty Company of America (“Travelers”) and Ocean Reef Charters LLC (“Ocean Reef”), a Florida Limited Liability Company. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court granted summary judgment for Travelers, agreeing with it that federal law applied and that Ocean Reef, therefore, forfeited its insurance coverage. On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit reversed, holding that under Wilburn Boat Co. v. Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co., Florida law applied. At issue is whether, under Florida’s anti-technical statute, the insurance company must prove that the breach of the Captain Warranty “contribute[d] to” the specific accident. Further, in meeting its burden of proof under Florida law, Travelers needed to introduce expert testimony in its case-in-chief about what would have been different if Ocean Reef had complied with the applicable warranties.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed on remand. The court held Travelers offered no expert witness— such as a licensed captain competent to speak to the issue—to prove that the lack of a full-time captain and crew played a role in the destruction of the yacht during Irma. The court explained that the Captain—whom Travelers did not disclose as an expert witness—could not provide his opinion on what would have happened to the My Lady if a licensed, professional captain were employed full-time. He could discuss the weather forecasts he observed. But those facts would leave the jury to speculate about what a captain would have done differently to avoid the storm under the specific circumstances of this case. View "Travelers Property Casualty Company of America v. Ocean Reef Charters LLC" on Justia Law

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NuVasive, Inc. manufactures medical products and equipment to treat spinal diseases. In central Florida, NuVasive sold its products through an exclusive distribution agreement with Absolute Medical, LLC. Under the agreement, Absolute Medical employed independent-contractor sales representatives who marketed and sold NuVasive’s products to doctors and medical practices in the region. NuVasive sued Absolute Medical, Soufleris, AMS, and two of Absolute Medical’s sales representatives who began working for AMS for breaching the exclusive. The district court enforced a dispute resolution clause in the agreement, ordering NuVasive and Absolute Medical to arbitrate NuVasive’s breach-of-contract claim seeking money damages. Absolute Medical, Soufleris, AMS, and the sales representatives appealed the district court’s order granting NuVasive’s motion to vacate the arbitration panel’s final award.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court held that the district court did not err by equitably tolling the three-month filing deadline and considering NuVasive’s motion as timely. The court explained that the district court’s findings of fact were not clearly erroneous, and they supported the district court’s conclusion that NuVasive satisfied both prongs of the equitable tolling analysis. Defendants’ conduct presented extraordinary circumstances, and NuVasive was diligent once it learned that there was reason to pursue vacatur. Further, the court held that the district court did not err by vacating the final award. The district court correctly concluded that the fraud was materially related to that issue. Finally, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by declining to direct a rehearing by the arbitration panel. View "Nuvasive, Inc. v. Absolute Medical, LLC, et al." on Justia Law

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Over the course of twenty-two months, Plaintiff-—a childhood victim of lead poisoning—assigned his rights to nearly one million dollars in structured settlement payments to factoring companies for pennies on the dollar. Through six transfer agreements that he lacked the capacity to understand, Plaintiff relinquished his rights to monthly payments with a total aggregate value of $959,834.42 spread over the course of about twenty-six years for a series of immediate lump-sum cash payments that amounted to $268,130. Plaintiff sued Transamerica Annuity Service Corporation and Transamerica Life Insurance Company (collectively, “Transamerica”), the entities that issued and funded his periodic payments before he assigned them. Plaintiff asserted two claims against Transamerica: one for breach of contract under New York law and the other for exploitation of a vulnerable adult under Florida’s Adult Protective Services Act (“FAPSA”), Florida Statute Section 415.1111.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court explained that Plaintiff’s FAPSA claim fails under the plain language of the statute. In his operative complaint, Plaintiff does not allege that Transamerica intended to deprive him of the use of his funds. Instead, Plaintiff asserts that Transamerica “allowed” (or “facilitated”) his exploitation by the factoring companies, which resulted in an unauthorized taking of his assets. Based on the facts that Plaintiff pleaded, Transamerica’s actions simply do not amount to “exploitation,” as that term is defined in FAPSA. Because Plaintiff has failed to state a violation of FAPSA, the court affirmed the district court’s with-prejudice dismissal of his FAPSA claim. View "Lujerio Cordero v. Transamerica Annuity Service, et al" on Justia Law

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At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Amazon.com, Inc. (“Amazon”) stopped providing “Rapid Delivery”1 to Amazon Prime (“Prime”) subscribers. Because Prime subscribers were not notified of the suspension and continued to pay full price for their memberships, Plaintiff and others brought a putative class action against Amazon alleging breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, violation of the Washington Consumer Protection Act (“WCPA”), and unjust enrichment. The district court granted Amazon’s motion to dismiss the First Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim with prejudice because it found that Amazon did not have a duty to provide unqualified Rapid Delivery to Prime subscribers.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court first wrote that it is allowed to use its “experience and common sense” to acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic even though it was not included as a factual allegation in the First Amended Complaint. The court dispensed with this argument because Amazon’s prioritization of essential goods during the COVID-19 pandemic obviously did not harm the public interest. Further, the court explained that Plaintiffs specifically incorporated the terms of their contract with Amazon as part of their unjust enrichment count. So, while Plaintiffs may plead breach of contract and unjust enrichment in the alternative, they have not done so. Instead, Plaintiffs pleaded a contractual relationship as part of their unjust enrichment claim, and that contractual relationship defeats their unjust enrichment claim under Washington law. View "Andrez Marquez, et al v. Amazon.com, Inc." on Justia Law