Justia U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Personal Injury
Taylor v. Mentor Worldwide, LLC
After plaintiff filed suit against Mentor and Mentor Corporation for compensatory and punitive damages for injuries she suffered as a result of the surgical implantation of a polypropylene mesh sling manufactured by Mentor to treat her stress urinary incontinence, a jury found Mentor liable and awarded $400,000 in compensatory and $4 million in punitive damages. The district court upheld the jury's verdict with respect to liability and compensatory damages, but concluded that the punitive damages award exceeded Florida's statutory cap, reducing the punitive damages award to $2 million. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, holding that the trial court acted well within the bounds of its discretion in allowing the jury to consider an expert's testimony relating to specific causation and Mentor was not entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The court also held that, in this case, which was focused on the physiological response to a design defect in a medical device, the dose-response relation was not implicated and there was no abuse of discretion in admitting the testimony. The court considered Mentor's remaining evidentiary challenges and held that the district court at no point exceeded the bounds of its discretion. Therefore, Mentor was not entitled to a new trial. Finally, the court affirmed the district court's reduction of the punitive damages award where evidence that Mentor knew of a high incidence of injury was not sufficient for finding a specific intent to harm. View "Taylor v. Mentor Worldwide, LLC" on Justia Law
Peoples Gas System v. Posen Construction, Inc.
The Eleventh Circuit certified a question of Florida substantive law to the Supreme Court of Florida: Whether a member-operator has a cause of action under Fla. Stat. 566.106(2)(a)–(c) to recover damages (or obtain indemnification) from an excavator for payments to a third party for personal injuries related to the excavator's alleged violation of the statute? View "Peoples Gas System v. Posen Construction, Inc." on Justia Law
K.T. v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd.
Plaintiff, a minor at the time, embarked on a Royal Caribbean cruise where, on the first night of the cruise, a group of adult male passengers bought her multiple alcoholic drinks and steered her to a cabin where they assaulted and gang raped her. Plaintiff filed suit alleging that Royal Caribbean was negligent in failing to warn passengers and prospective passengers of the danger of sexual assault on a cruise ship, and in failing to take action to prevent the physical assault, including the sexual assault, that plaintiff suffered. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. The Eleventh Circuit reversed and held that the complaint sufficiently alleged that because Royal Caribbean's crewmembers did nothing to prevent the large group of men from plying plaintiff with enough alcohol to incapacitate her and did nothing to stop those men from leading her away to a private cabin, Royal Caribbean breached the duty of ordinary care it owed her. Furthermore, but for Royal Caribbean's breach of its duties of care to plaintiff, she would not have been brutalized and gang raped. If the allegations are true, Royal Caribbean proximately caused the alleged injuries. Therefore, the complaint stated a negligence claim against Royal Caribbean. The court also held that the complaint sufficiently alleged that Royal Caribbean's failure to warn plaintiff and her parents of known dangers was a but-for cause of the harm plaintiff suffered. View "K.T. v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd." on Justia Law
Newcomb v. Spring Creek Cooler Inc.
After plaintiff was injured on the job as a truck driver while picking up a shipment of corn at Spring Creek's facility in Georgia, he and his wife filed suit against Spring Creek. The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Spring Creek, holding that the district court misapprehended controlling Georgia tort law which the court was Erie-bound to follow. In this case, the equal-or-superior-knowledge rule applied only to premises liability claims; the extent of plaintiff's prior knowledge of the hazard posed by the operation of the forklift, whatever that may have been, did not bar recovery from Spring Creek on the theory that it is liable for its employees' acts of negligence under the doctrine of respondeat superior; and, if that rule did not apply, the assumption-of-risk defense could not defeat plaintiff's negligence claim on summary judgment under Georgia law. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Newcomb v. Spring Creek Cooler Inc." on Justia Law
Showan v. Pressdee
Plaintiff appealed from her $330,000 jury verdict against Krispy Creme after an employee of Krispy Kreme rear-ended plaintiff while she was stopped at a red light. The Fourth Circuit affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in not providing a curative instruction regarding defendants' opening statements because the statements did not refer to evidence of any specific offers to settle or compromise. Furthermore, defendants were properly allowed to argue that medical charges were unreasonably high, and the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting testimony of defendants' medical-rate experts. The court declined to resolve the medical records dispute. The court held that the district court's statement that plaintiff's unit-of-time argument was "not allowable under the law" was incorrect because the district court has complete discretion to disallow the argument or to allow it subject to safeguards. The court affirmed the district court's grant of judgment as a matter of law regarding the claim for lost future wages. Finally, the court found no conflict between Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and O.C.G.A. 9-11-68(e), and held that plaintiff was entitled to a bifurcated hearing. View "Showan v. Pressdee" on Justia Law
Oak Grove Resources, LLC v. Director, OWCP
The Eleventh Circuit held that substantial evidence supported the ALJ's decision that one of the mining company's former miners was entitled to benefits under the Black Lung Benefits Act. In regard to the Act's automatic entitlement provision in 30 U.S.C. 932(l), the court held that "at the time of his or her death" modifies the adjective "eligible," such that survivors' entitlement to benefits depends on whether the miner was eligible before his or her death, not whether, by that time, the pertinent decisionmaker had formally determined the miner to be so. In this case, two surviving spouses qualified for survivor benefits under 932(l)'s automatic-entitlement provision because their husbands were eligible for benefits under the Act at the times of their respective deaths and despite the fact that the men were only thereafter formally determined to be eligible. View "Oak Grove Resources, LLC v. Director, OWCP" on Justia Law
Guevara v. NCL (Bahamas) Ltd.
After plaintiff slipped and fell as he stepped down from a landing located on the outer deck of a cruise ship operated by NCL, he filed suit alleging that NCL negligently failed to warn passengers of the step down, and negligent failed to maintain and inspect the lighting in the area. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed in part and held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in striking a portion of the expert's First Supplemental Report and the entirety of the Second Supplemental Report. However, the court held that plaintiff raised a genuine issue of material fact regarding NCL's prior notice of the dangerous condition posed by the step down. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded the district court's ruling regarding the failure to warn claim. Finally, the court affirmed as to the negligent maintenance claim and held that the district court did not err in concluding that plaintiff failed to create a triable issue of fact on whether NCL had notice of the allegedly dangerous condition posed by the unilluminated lightbulb. View "Guevara v. NCL (Bahamas) Ltd." on Justia Law
Caron v. NCL (Bahamas), Ltd.
Plaintiff filed suit against NCL, the owner and operator of a cruise ship, alleging negligence claims after he fell down an emergency-exit hatch in an area designated for crew members only. The Eleventh Circuit held that plaintiff as a Canadian citizen and NCL as a Bermuda company, with its principal place of business in Florida, did not support the exercise of jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1332(a)(2). However, the district court validly exercised admiralty jurisdiction over the case under section 1333(1). On the merits, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claim that the cruise line was negligent in over-serving him alcohol, holding that the claim was time-barred and the claim did not relate back. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on plaintiff's claim that the cruise line was negligent for letting him fall down the hatch where NCL's uncontroverted record showed that no injuries similar to plaintiff's had been reported on any of NCL's ships in the last five years, and plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence of negligence on the part of NCL's crew. View "Caron v. NCL (Bahamas), Ltd." on Justia Law
Cote v. Philip Morris USA, Inc.
The 1994 “Engle” Florida class action against major cigarette manufacturers, was decertified, but “Phase I findings” concerning the defendants’ conduct may be used in individual suits. Berger sued Philip Morris for smoking-related injuries. A jury awarded Berger compensatory and punitive damages. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the denial of Philip Morris’s motions for a new trial based on improper closing argument, and for judgment as a matter of law on all claims based on due process and preemption principles. Eleventh Circuit precedent holds, categorically, that use of Phase I findings to establish Engle-progeny tort claims is constitutionally permissible. The court reversed judgment as a matter of law, in favor of Philip Morris, on intentional tort claims and remanded for the entry of judgment in Plaintiff’s favor on fraudulent concealment and conspiracy to fraudulently conceal claims and for reinstatement of the punitive damages award. Engle-progeny concealment claims arise from a sustained effort to hide the truth about the health hazards of smoking. Florida courts hold that Engle-progeny plaintiffs are not required to show reliance on a specific statement. Berger’s testimony that peer pressure influenced her decision to start smoking and that she chose her cigarette brand based on personal preferences did little to rebut the reasonable inference that Philip Morris’s disinformation campaign confused her about the health hazards of smoking; a reasonable juror could have concluded that if she had known the whole truth about smoking, she would have quit. View "Cote v. Philip Morris USA, Inc." on Justia Law
Searcy v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
Plaintiff filed suit against defendants for unintentional and intentional torts arising from the death of her mother. Plaintiff alleged that her mother's illnesses were caused by her addiction to cigarettes manufactured by defendants. The jury found for plaintiff and defendants appealed. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment and rejected defendants' due process arguments because, consistent with precedent, the use of the Engle findings to establish the conduct elements of the progeny plaintiffs' tort claims was a constitutionally permissible application of res judicata. The court rejected defendants' contention that their Seventh Amendment rights were violated because the court concluded that the jury was not asked or required to reexamine the Engle findings. The court also rejected defendants' contention that the damages award should have been apportioned based on the mother's comparative fault, because the district court neither misinterpreted nor misapplied Florida law and plaintiff did not waive her statutory right to full, unapportioned damages. View "Searcy v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co." on Justia Law