Justia U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Injury Law
Mezerhane v. Republica Bolivariana De Venezuela
Plaintiff, a successful Venezuelan entrepreneur, filed an international human rights law complaint against Venezuela and two Venezuelan governmental entities, alleging that the Venezuelan government committed various torts and statutory violations against him. The district court dismissed the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. 1605(a)(3). The court concluded that, under the domestic takings rule, no violation of international law occurred for the purposes of the FSIA where the alleged takings affected a foreign country's own national and took place on that country's soil. Further, the act of state doctrine provides an additional basis to dismiss the claims. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Mezerhane v. Republica Bolivariana De Venezuela" on Justia Law
Colbert v. United States
Plaintiffs filed suit against the United States, Attorney Kandis Martine, and Budget Rent-A-Car after plaintiffs were injured in a car accident caused by Martine. Martine, while driving a rental car to an adoption hearing, drove down the wrong direction on a one-way street and caused the accident. On appeal, the United States challenged the district court's partial summary judgment ruling that, under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 1346 et seq., and under a self-determination contract entered into between the Department of Interior, BIA, and the Navajo Nation Tribe, Martine was "deemed" an employee of the BIA and afforded the full protection and coverage of the FTCA. The court concluded that the district court's decision concerning subject matter jurisdiction is consistent with the Indian Self Determination and Education Assistance Act, 25 U.S.C. 450 et seq., statutory scheme; the terms of the self-determination contract; and the record evidence. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Colbert v. United States" on Justia Law
Graham v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
In 1996, a Florida District Court of Appeal approved certification of a class-action lawsuit originating in the Circuit Court of Dade County that encompassed an estimated 700,000 Floridians who brought state-law damages claims against the major American tobacco companies for medical conditions, including cancer, "caused by their addiction to cigarettes that contain nicotine." The Florida Supreme Court then decertified the class but held that the jury findings would nonetheless have "res judicata effect" in cases thereafter brought against one or more of the tobacco companies by a former class member. Here, a member of that now-decertified class, successfully advanced strict-liability and negligence claims that trace their roots to the pre-decertified class' jury findings. Over the defendants' objection, the District Court instructed the jury that "you must apply certain findings made by the [class action] court and they must carry the same weight they would have if you had listened to all the evidence and made those findings yourselves." When the jury found in favor of the plaintiff on both claims, the defendants renewed their motion for a judgment as a matter of law, contending, among other things, that federal law preempted the jury’s imposition of tort liability as based on the class-action jury findings. The District Court denied the motion, and the defendants appealed. The Eleventh Circuit reversed: "the State of Florida may ordinarily enforce duties on cigarette manufacturers in a bid to protect the health, safety, and welfare of its citizens. But it may not enforce a duty, as it has through the [class-action] jury findings, premised on the theory that all cigarettes are inherently defective and that every cigarette sale is an inherently negligent act. So our holding is narrow indeed: it is only these specific, sweeping bases for state tort liability that we conclude frustrate the full purposes and objectives of Congress. As a result, [plaintiff's class-action]-progeny strict-liability and negligence claims are preempted, and we must reverse the District Court’s denial of judgment as a matter of law." View "Graham v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co." on Justia Law
Zelaya v. United States
The plaintiffs in this case, Carlos Zelaya and George Glantz, were victims of one of the largest Ponzi schemes in American history: the Ponzi scheme orchestrated by R. Allen Stanford. Plaintiffs were taken by surprise, yet, according to Plaintiffs, the federal agency entrusted with the duty of trying to prevent, or at least reveal, Ponzi schemes was not all that surprised. To the contrary, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”), had been alerted over a decade before that Stanford was likely running a Ponzi operation. According to Plaintiffs, notwithstanding its knowledge of Stanford’s likely nefarious dealings, the SEC dithered for twelve years, "content not to call out Stanford and protect future investors from his fraud." And though the SEC eventually took action in 2009, many people lost most of their investments. Pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act, Plaintiffs sued the United States in federal court, alleging that the SEC had acted negligently. The federal government moved to dismiss, arguing that it enjoyed sovereign immunity from the lawsuit. The district court agreed, and dismissed Plaintiffs’ case. Plaintiffs appealed that dismissal to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. In reviewing the district court’s dismissal, the Court reached no conclusions as to the SEC’s conduct, or whether the latter’s actions deserved Plaintiffs’ condemnation. The Court did, however, conclude that the United States was shielded from liability for the SEC’s alleged negligence in this case. The Court therefore affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the Plaintiffs’ complaint. View "Zelaya v. United States" on Justia Law
Morales v. Zenith Ins. Co.
Plaintiff filed a breach of contract claim against Zenith after Santana Morales, Jr. was crushed to death by a palm tree while working as a landscaper for Lawns. The Florida Supreme Court answered the following certified questions in the affirmative: (1) Does the estate have standing to bring its breach of contract claim against Zenith under the employer liability policy? (2) If so, does the provision in the employer liability policy which excludes from coverage "any obligation imposed by workers' compensation... law" operate to exclude coverage of the estate's claim against Zenith for the tort judgment? and (3) If the estate's claim is not barred by the workers' compensation exclusion, does the release in the workers' compensation settlement agreement otherwise prohibit the estate's collection of the tort judgment? The court concluded that, given the Florida Supreme Court's resolution of the certified issues, the district court correctly determined that the workers' compensation exclusion in Part II of the policy barred Zenith's coverage of the tort judgment against Lawns. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Zenith. View "Morales v. Zenith Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Franza v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd.
Plaintiff filed suit against Royal Caribbean for maritime negligence after her elderly father fell and hit his head while on one of Royal Caribbean's cruise vessels. Plaintiff's father died a week after the injury. Plaintiff alleged that Royal Caribbean is vicariously liable for the negligence of two of its employees, the onboard nurse and doctor, under an actual agency or apparent agency theory. The court concluded that the allegations in plaintiff's complaint plausibly support holding Royal Caribbean vicariously liable for the medical negligence of its onboard nurse and doctor. The court declined to adopt the Barbetta rule, which immunizes a shipowner from respondent superior liability whenever a ship's employees render negligent medical care to its passengers. The court found that the complaint in this cause plausibly establishes a claim against Royal Caribbean under the doctrine of actual agency, as well as the principles of apparent agency. Because plaintiff adequately pled all the elements of both actual and apparent agency, the court held that plaintiff may press her claims under either or both theories. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Franza v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd." on Justia Law
Bryant, et al. v. United States
Plaintiffs filed suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 2671-2680, against the United States, alleging that they experienced various health problems after being exposed to toxic substances in the drinking water while living at Camp Lejeune, a military base in North Carolina. The United States argued that the North Carolina statute of repose, N.C. Gen. Stat. 1-52(16), precluded plaintiffs from bringing the case. The district court disagreed and certified two questions for interlocutory appeal. The court held that the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), 42 U.S.C. 9568, does not preempt North Carolina's statute of repose. The court also held that North Carolina's statute of repose applies to plaintiffs' claims and does not contain an exception for latent diseases. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Bryant, et al. v. United States" on Justia Law
Aycock v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
Following a jury verdict awarding compensatory damages to plaintiff, Reynolds appealed the final judgment. Plaintiff was awarded compensatory damages based on the loss of support and services, loss of companionship and protection, and her mental pain and suffering, as a result of her husband's lung cancer and death, the legal cause of which was attributed to his addiction to smoking cigarettes manufactured by Reynolds. The court concluded that the district court erred in granting plaintiff's motion in limine to exclude evidence of the deceased's alcohol abuse as it related to his death under Rule 403 where the evidence was highly probative and did not cause a high amount of unfair prejudice. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for a new trial. View "Aycock v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co." on Justia Law
Stansell, et al. v. Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia, (FARC), et al.
After victims of a terrorist kidnapping in Colombia (plaintiffs) received a nine-figure default judgment against their captor (FARC), they attempted to collect through a series of ex parte garnishments and executions against third parties with purported illicit ties to the captor. Third-party claimants appealed the various orders granting plaintiffs' motions seeking to collect on their judgment using claimants' assets and denying the motions filed by claimants seeking relief. The court concluded that plaintiffs should have provided formal notice of the garnishment and execution proceedings to the owners of the property, as Florida law provides; the district court incorrectly concluded that no process was due to the owners of the property here; ultimately, claimants bear their share of the blame for either sitting on their rights to challenge the allegations against them or simply failing to rebut the changes; and, therefore, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court with the exception of the turnover judgment against Brunello Ltd.'s account. View "Stansell, et al. v. Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia, (FARC), et al." on Justia Law
Adams, et al. v. Laboratory Corp. of America
Plaintiff and her husband filed suit against LabCorp, alleging that its cytotechnicians were negligent in failing to identify abnormalities in plaintiff's Pap smears and that this negligence caused a delay in her cancer diagnosis. The district court granted LabCorp's motion to exclude plaintiff's expert's testimony based on its conclusion that her methodology did not meet the reliability requirements under Federal Rule of Evidence 702. The district court then granted LabCorp's motion for summary judgment. The court concluded, however, that the expert was qualified to testify about cytotechnologists' standard of care, her methodology was reliable, and her testimony would assist the trier of fact. Therefore, the district court abused its discretion in excluding her testimony. The court reversed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings.View "Adams, et al. v. Laboratory Corp. of America" on Justia Law
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