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

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
by
Plaintiff filed suit against NCL, alleging that its medical staff failed to diagnose and properly manage his status and failed to evacuate him from a cruise ship he was aboard. The district court granted NCL's motion for a directed verdict and the jury found NCL negligent, awarding non-economic damages, future medical expenses, and lost services.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed and concluded that the cruise-line medical negligence claims are cognizable in admiralty jurisdiction; the district court did not err by excluding testimony from plaintiff's expert economist and granting a directed verdict on loss earning capacity where the testimony was unreliable and plaintiff failed to prove the amount of his loss-earning-capacity damages; NCL is not entitled to a new trial where the district court correctly instructed the jury and sufficient evidence supported the verdict against NCL. View "Buland v. NCL (Bahamas) Ltd." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff, an inmate in a federal prison, filed suit against several corrections officers, the prison’s warden, and the United States, claiming that the officers restrained him, removed his clothes, and fondled his genitals and buttocks in violation of, among other things, the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The district court concluded that plaintiff failed to demonstrate that he suffered a physical injury as required by 28 U.S.C. 1346(b)(2).The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment, concluding that plaintiff's argument—that allegations amounting to "sexual contact," but not a "sexual act," necessarily constitute "physical injury" within the meaning of section 1346(b)(2)—defies the FTCA's language and structure. The court also concluded separately that Congress's inclusion of the term "sexual act" in the 2013 amendment to section 1346(b)(2) implies an intention to exclude the conduct of the sort that plaintiff has alleged—"sexual contact." Therefore, plaintiff has failed to satisfy section 1346(b)(2) and his claim does not fall into the category of cases with respect to which the government has waived its sovereign immunity under the FTCA. The court noted that it does not for a moment condone the corrections officers' alleged misconduct, but rather condemned it in the strongest possible terms. View "Johnson v. White" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
by
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

by
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint brought by plaintiff, alleging that the Hospital's delay in transferring his son constitutes a violation of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act. The court concluded that there is no provision of the Act suggesting that Congress intended to impose time restrictions with respect to a hospital’s decision to transfer a patient to another hospital. The court explained that the only time restriction in the statute relates not to the transfer decision, but rather to the screening and stabilization requirements. Therefore, plaintiff's claim that the Hospital unreasonably delayed the transfer of his son does not state a claim of violation of the Act. The court noted that plaintiff's claim is the kind of claim contemplated by state medical malpractice laws. Finally, the court rejected plaintiff's contention that the Hospital's delay in transferring the child violated the Act's requirement of an "appropriate transfer." View "Smith v. Crisp Regional Hospital, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's order denying Philip Morris's motion for a new trial or to reduce the punitive damages award in favor of Judith Berger, concluding that the punitive damages award is not unconstitutionally excessive and does not violate due process. In this case, a jury awarded Judith $6.25 million in compensatory damages and approximately $20.7 million in punitive damages for smoking-related injuries. The court concluded that Philip Morris's argument that the punitive damages award is unconstitutionally excessive is not barred by the court's decision in Cote I. The court also concluded that the punitive damages award is not unconstitutionally excessive in light of the degree of reprehensibility of Philip Morris's conduct; the ratio of the punitive damages award to the actual or potential harm suffered by Judith; and the difference between the punitive damages award and the civil penalties authorized or imposed in comparable cases. View "Cote v. Philip Morris USA, Inc." on Justia Law

by
In 2012, 41-year-old Karen Hubbard suffered a catastrophic stroke caused by a blood clot to her brain--a venous sinus thrombosis, a type of venous thromboembolism (VTE). She had been taking Beyaz, a birth control pill manufactured by Bayer. While she first received a prescription for Beyaz on December 27, 2011, Karen had been taking similar Bayer birth control products since 2001. The pills are associated with an increased risk of blood clots. The Beyaz warning label in place at the time of Karen’s Beyaz prescription warned of a risk of VTEs and summarized studies.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Bayer. Georgia’s learned intermediary doctrine controls this diversity jurisdiction case. That doctrine imposes on prescription drug manufacturers a duty to adequately warn physicians, rather than patients, of the risks their products pose. A plaintiff claiming a manufacturer’s warning was inadequate bears the burden of establishing that an improved warning would have caused her doctor not to prescribe her the drug in question. The Hubbards have not met this burden. The prescribing physician testified unambiguously that even with the benefit of the most up-to-date risk information about Beyaz, he considers his decision to prescribe Beyaz to Karen to be sound and appropriate. View "Hubbard v. Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals Inc." on Justia Law

by
In this "Engle progeny" case, where Florida-resident smokers sought recovery from tobacco companies for cigarette-related injuries, the Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's denial of defendants' motion for judgment in accordance with the verdict. Plaintiff brought an individual Phase III suit on behalf of her deceased husband, seeking the benefit of the Phase I jury's findings, arguing that her husband was a member of the original class based on two medical conditions.The court concluded that plaintiff's husband had no medical condition that both was caused by cigarette addiction and manifested on or before the class cut-off date. Therefore, plaintiff's husband was not an Engle class member, and nothing in the Florida Supreme Court's treatment of Angie Della Vecchia, one of the three representative plaintiffs, requires the court to conclude otherwise. Furthermore, because plaintiff's husband was not a class member, Florida courts would not give preclusive effect to the Engle Phase I findings in this case. Neither did the court under the Full Faith and Credit Act. Without the preclusive effect of the Phase I findings, plaintiff failed to prove essential elements of her claims. In this case, plaintiff failed to demonstrate that the tobacco-company defendants acted tortiously, relying only on the Phase I findings. View "Harris v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed a wrongful death action alleging that PAE failed to properly service and maintain the F-16 that her husband was flying when it crashed into the Gulf of Mexico. The district court granted summary judgment for PAE.The Eleventh Circuit agreed with the district court that the Death on the High Seas Act does not require a maritime nexus and that the Act applies whenever a death occurs on the high seas. The court held that the Act governs plaintiff's action; the Act provides plaintiff's exclusive remedy; and the Act preempts plaintiff's breach-of-warranty and breach-of-contract claims. The court also held that PAE is entitled to protection pursuant to the government-contractor defense. In this case, plaintiff failed to produce evidence sufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact that PAE violated government procedures. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of PAE. View "LaCourse v. Defense Support Services LLC" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit against FEG for negligent product design after his arm was amputated when it came into contact with the unguarded blade of one of FEG's commercial meat saws, the Hobart Model 6614. Plaintiff was working as the meat-market manager at a supermarket at the time he sustained his injuries. A jury awarded plaintiff and his wife $4,050,000.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's evidentiary determinations, holding that the district court did not abuse its broad discretion in rejecting FEG's Daubert challenge to the testimony of plaintiff's expert regarding inadequate testing. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that allowing the jury to consider the expert's supplemental affidavit was harmless. The court further held that there was sufficient evidence introduced at trial to satisfy Florida's risk utility test and the evidence was sufficient to uphold a verdict of negligent design. Furthermore, the evidence introduced at trial was sufficient to support a finding that FEG's saw failed the consumer expectations test. Although it may have been error for the district court not to issue FEG's requested Florida state-of-the-art instruction, the court held that it was not reversible error. Finally, the district court did not abuse its broad discretion by admitting summaries of OSHA reports of fatalities and catastrophes. View "Crawford v. ITW Food Equipment Group, LLC" on Justia Law

by
After a bus owned by First Transit struck a vehicle occupied by plaintiffs, they filed a claim for damages against First Transit, alleging that the driver of First Transit's vehicle was negligent and that First Transit was responsible for the their injuries. First Transit admitted liability and the jury awarded damages to both plaintiffs.The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court's order denying First Transit's motion for a new trial, holding that when a party moving for a new trial based on a juror's nondisclosure during voir dire makes a prima facie showing that the juror may not have been impartial and thus was plausibly challengeable for cause, the district court must hold an evidentiary hearing prior to ruling on the motion for a new trial in order to adequately investigate the alleged juror misconduct. In this case, First Transit presented the district court with "clear, strong, substantial, and incontrovertible evidence that a specific, nonspeculative impropriety" occurred—namely, court documents that, on their face, showed that two jurors gave dishonest and misleading responses on their juror questionnaires and on voir dire. The court concluded that the district court's failure to conduct an evidentiary hearing constituted an abuse of discretion and remanded for an evidentiary hearing on the question of juror impartiality. View "Torres v. First Transit, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury