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

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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Plaintiff filed a maritime negligence action against Carnival on her daughter's behalf after her daughter, three years old at the time, either fell over or through a guard rail on one of Carnival's cruise ships. Plaintiff filed suit alleging that Carnival negligently created and maintained the guard rail, and failed to warn of the danger posed by the guard rail. The district court granted summary judgment to Carnival. The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court erred when it concluded that there was no genuine issue of material fact as to Carnival's notice of the alleged risk-creating condition because it failed to view the evidence in a light most favorable to plaintiff and to draw reasonable inferences in her favor. In this case, a witness testified that Carnival warned passengers not to climb up rails, try to sit on them, or try to get selfies or lean over them because accidents can happen and passengers have fallen off. The court also held that the district court erred when it resolved the failure-to-warn claim on a basis that Carnival did not raise, without providing plaintiff notice or an opportunity to respond. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Amy v. Carnival Corp." on Justia Law

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After plaintiff was injured while working as a longshoreman, he filed suit against Seaboard, seeking to hold them liable under the Longshore Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA). Plaintiff fell from a walkway on the upper deck of the ship where he was working and sustained serious injuries. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Seaboard on plaintiff's negligence claim, holding that the exposed walkway was an open and obvious hazard that plaintiff could have avoided with the exercise of reasonable care. Therefore, the district court properly dismissed plaintiff's claim. View "Troutman v. Seaboard Atlantic Ltd." on Justia Law

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After plaintiff tripped over the leg of a lounge chair while she was walking through a narrow pathway on a Carnival cruise ship, she filed suit alleging that Carnival negligently failed to maintain a safe walkway and failed to warn her of that dangerous condition. The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Carnival, holding that the district court, in concluding that the condition was open and obvious and that Carnival lacked notice, failed to draw all factual inferences in favor of plaintiff. Furthermore, even if the allegedly dangerous condition were open and obvious, that would only defeat the failure to warn claim, and would not bar the claim for negligently failing to maintain a safe walkway. Therefore, the court held that plaintiff presented evidence creating a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether Carnival negligently maintained an unsafe walkway. In this case, a reasonable jury could find that at least some chairs were in the lay-flat position and out of order, and thus conclude that Carnival negligently maintained an unsafe walkway that fell below industry standards. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Carroll v. Carnival Corp." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Tobacco Companies challenged the amount of damages a jury awarded to plaintiff for his intentional tort claims, and the sufficiency of the evidence to prove his fraudulent concealment and conspiracy to fraudulently conceal claims. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying the Tobacco Companies' motion for a new trial or remittitur, because the compensatory damages award was not excessive under Florida law. The court also held that the district court correctly denied the Tobacco Companies' motion for judgment as a matter of law on the constitutionality of the punitive damages award, because the award was not constitutional excessive. Finally, the court held that the district court did not err by allowing plaintiff's fraud-based claims to go to the jury. View "Kerrivan v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co." on Justia Law

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