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

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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Plaintiffs, current and former alien detainees, filed a class action under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) and Georgia law, alleging that CoreCivic, a private contractor which owns and operates the Stewart Detention Center, coerces alien detainees to perform labor at the detention center by, inter alia, the use or threatened use of serious harm, criminal prosecution, solitary confinement, and the withholding of basic necessities. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of CoreCivic's motion to dismiss the complaint and held that the TVPA applies to private for-profit contractors operating federal immigration detention facilities. Specifically, the court held that, under the plain language of the statute, the TVPA covers the conduct of private contractors operating federal immigration detention facilities; the TVPA does not bar private contractors from operating the sort of voluntary work programs generally authorized under federal law for aliens held in immigration detention facilities; but private contractors that operate such work programs are not categorically excluded from the TVPA and may be liable if they knowingly obtain or procure the labor or services of a program participant through the illegal coercive means explicitly listed in the TVPA. View "Barrientos v. CoreCivic, Inc." on Justia Law

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Of two people injured in a car wreck in April 2012, one was a Medicare beneficiary who received her benefits from an MAO-Florida Healthcare Plus, which later assigned its claims to appellant MSPA Claims 1, LLC. The other party involved in the accident was insured by appellee Kingsway Amigo Insurance. The Medicare beneficiary obtained medical treatment for her accident-related injuries between April 29, 2012 and July 26, 2012, and Florida Healthcare made $21,965 in payments on her behalf. On March 28, 2013, the beneficiary settled a personal-injury claim with Kingsway and received a $6,667 settlement payment. The issue this case presented for the Eleventh Circuit’s review centered on the timeliness requirement with which the government had to comply as a prerequisite to filing suit to seek reimbursements that it made on behalf of the Medicare beneficiary, and whether filing suit beyond a statutory three-year period beginning on the date on which medical services were rendered was fatal to the government’s claim. The district court held that MSPA’s claim was stale because it didn’t comply with what the court (somewhat confusingly) called “the three-year limitation requirement.” The Eleventh Circuit disagreed and reversed. “The Medicare Secondary Payer Act’s private cause of action, and our cases interpreting it lead us to conclude that the Act’s claims-filing provision, doesn’t erect a separate bar that private plaintiffs must overcome in order to sue. A closer look at the claims-filing provision’s text and the Act’s structure confirms that conclusion. Accordingly, the district court erred in granting Kingsway’s motion for judgment on the pleadings.” View "MSPA Claims 1, LLC v. Kingsway Amigo Insurance Company" on Justia Law

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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

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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

Posted in: Personal Injury
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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

Posted in: Personal Injury
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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

Posted in: Personal Injury
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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

Posted in: Personal Injury
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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

Posted in: Personal Injury
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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

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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