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

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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Plaintiff brought a diversity suit against his former stepfather, Defendant, alleging that Defendant owed him a fiduciary duty to disclose the existence of certain Settlement Funds arising from the wrongful death of Plaintiff’s biological father. The Eleventh Circuit previously certified three questions to the Supreme Court of Georgia regarding breach of fiduciary duty for failure to disclose a claim.
The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Defendant on the failure to disclose claim and remanded the matter for further proceedings. The court explained that the district court should only have granted Defendant summary judgment if there was no genuine dispute as to any material fact regarding the tort claim and Defendant was entitled to judgment as a matter of law, viewing all evidence and making all inferences in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. Here, a reasonable jury could find the following facts at trial:4 (1) Plaintiff and Defendant were in a confidential or fiduciary relationship such that, under Georgia law, the statute of limitations could be tolled, and a claim for breach of fiduciary duty could be supported; (2) at the time Plaintiff turned 18, at least $50,000 of the Settlement Funds remained in the Charles Schwab account; (3) Plaintiff had a right to take control of the Settlement Funds when he turned 18; (4) Defendant had a duty to disclose the existence of the Settlement Funds and turn over control of those funds to Plaintiff when he turned 18; (5) Defendant failed to do so, and (6) Plaintiff would have taken control of the funds when he turned 18. View "Elkin King v. Forrest King, Jr." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed (“Walmart”) in her “slip and fall” negligence suit under Georgia law. On appeal, Plaintiff argued that the district court erred in (1) analyzing her slip and fall claim under a premises liability theory instead of an active negligence theory and (2) denying her spoliation of evidence claim and related sanctions request.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court wrote that Plaintiff failed to cite any binding authority under Georgia law supporting an active negligence theory in a slip and fall case. And the persuasive value of the non-binding cases she cites is limited because they have either been rejected by the Georgia courts as a basis for active negligence in the slip and fall context or are fully distinguishable. More importantly, the allegations in her complaint clearly involve a condition of the premises. Plaintiff alleged that she was shopping at Walmart when “she slipped and fell from liquid that was on the floor” and that Walmart “had a duty to inspect the Premises to discover dangerous and hazardous conditions . . . and to either eliminate such . . . conditions or to warn its invitees.” Thus, the district court did not err in analyzing her claim under the framework of traditional premises liability. View "Adriana Mendez v. Wal-Mart Stores East, LP" on Justia Law

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This is an appeal from a district court order approving a class-action settlement that purports to provide injunctive relief and up to $8 million in monetary relief to a class of individuals (the “Class”) who purchased one or more “brain performance supplements” manufactured and sold by Defendants Reckitt Benckiser LLC and RB Health (US) LLC (together, “RB”) under the brand name “Neuriva.” Five Plaintiffs (together, the “Named Plaintiffs”) who had previously purchased Neuriva brought a putative class action, alleging that RB used false and misleading statements to give consumers the impression that Neuriva and its “active ingredients” had been clinically tested and proven to improve brain function. The parties promptly agreed to a global settlement (the “Settlement” or “Settlement Agreement”) that sought to resolve the claims of all Plaintiffs and absent Class members. The current appeal involves one unnamed Class member, an attorney and frequent class-action objector, who objected in district court and subsequently appealed the district court’s approval order.   The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court’s order and remanded. The court concluded that the Named Plaintiffs lack standing to pursue their claims for injunctive relief. The court explained that Plaintiffs seeking injunctive relief must establish that they are likely to suffer an injury that is “actual or imminent,” not “conjectural or hypothetical.” But none of the Named Plaintiffs allege that they plan to purchase any of the Neuriva Products again. The district court, therefore, lacked jurisdiction to award injunctive relief to the Named Plaintiffs or absent Class members, and its approval of the Settlement Agreement was an abuse of discretion. View "David Williams, et al v. Reckitt Benckiser LLC, et al" on Justia Law

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SE Property Holdings, LLC (“SEPH”) obtained a deficiency judgment against Neverve LLC (“Neverve”) after Neverve defaulted on loans secured by a mortgage on its property. Following this judgment, Neverve received the proceeds from an unrelated settlement. But Neverve transferred those proceeds to attorneys representing Neverve’s principal in payment of attorney’s fees relating to the principal’s personal bankruptcy proceedings. SEPH then sued Neverve based on Neverve’s allegedly fraudulent transfer of those settlement proceeds. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Neverve, finding that the Florida Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act’s (“FUFTA”) “catch-all” provision did not allow for (1) an award of money damages against the transferor, (2) punitive damages, or (3) attorney’s fees. The court also granted summary judgment in favor of Neverve on SEPH’s equitable lien claim, as Neverve no longer possessed the settlement proceeds at issue.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court held that based on the narrow interpretation of FUFTA in Freeman v. First Union National Bank, 865 So. 2d 1272 (Fla. 2004), the court believes the Florida Supreme Court would determine that FUFTA’s catch-all provision does not allow for an award of money damages against the transferor, an award of punitive damages, or an award of attorney’s fees. Thus, the district court was correct in granting summary judgment in favor of Neverve on SEPH’s FUFTA claims. And the court concluded that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of Neverve on SEPH’s equitable lien claim. View "SE Property Holdings, LLC v. Neverve LLC" on Justia Law

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Defendant and his spouse maintained a car insurance policy (the “Policy”) with State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company. While the Policy was in force, Defendant’s wife was involved in an accident in which she was struck and injured by an uninsured driver of an electric motorized scooter. Defendants made a claim for her injuries under the Policy’s Uninsured Motor Vehicle (“UM”) coverage. State Farm denied the claim on the ground that under the Policy, the scooter was neither a “motor vehicle” nor an “uninsured motor vehicle,” which the Policy defined as a “land motor vehicle.” State Farm sued Defendants, seeking a declaratory judgment that the Policy provided no coverage. Both parties moved for summary judgment. The district court denied Defendant’s motion, granting summary judgment in part to State Farm.   Defendants argued that because the Policy defines “uninsured motor vehicle” as a “land motor vehicle,” the plain and ordinary meaning of the term “land motor vehicle” dictates the scope of the Policy, and under the plain and ordinary meaning of the term, the scooter is a covered uninsured motor vehicle. The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to State Farm. The court concluded that the Policy defines “uninsured motor vehicle” more broadly than Florida insurance law requires. Because an insurer can provide more UM coverage than the law requires, we decline to disregard the Policy’s broader definition of uninsured motor vehicle in favor of a more limited statutory definition of motor vehicle. View "State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company v. Anna Bevilacqua Spangler, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff slipped in a Wal-Mart, fell to the ground, and injured her back and shoulder. While lying on the floor, she saw the culprit: a squished grape, accompanied by juice, a track mark, and footprints. No witnesses saw the grape before her fall, and a video in the record does not offer a clear picture of when the grape might have landed there. Plaintiff sued Wal-Mart Stores East, LP, for her injuries. The district court granted summary judgment in Wal-Mart’s favor, determining that there was no genuine dispute of material fact that Wal-Mart had actual or constructive knowledge of the grape before the accident, as required by Florida law.   The Eleventh Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that there is a genuine dispute of material fact about Wal-Mart’s constructive knowledge. The court explained that here, Plaintiff unambiguously testified that there was a track mark and footprints through the grape. Thus, this case falls cleanly into the set of Florida cases that require a jury to decide whether the substance sat on the floor long enough to establish constructive notice. The court found that though a jury might eventually decide that the footprints belonged to Plaintiff, “an equally compelling inference from the dirty appearance of the [grape] is that it had gone undetected on the floor for a sufficient period of time to place [Wal-Mart] on constructive notice. View "Vanessa Sutton v. Wal-Mart Stores East, LP" on Justia Law

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S.D. lost control of his van while driving on a divided highway in Pasco County, Florida. The van jumped the center median and landed directly on top of an oncoming car driven by Plaintiff. Plaintiff was seriously injured in the resulting wreck. S.D.’s insurer, USAA General Indemnity Company, immediately began investigating. But despite learning that Plaintiff had suffered grievous injuries so that his damages would almost surely exceed S.D.’s $10,000 policy limit, and despite determining that S.D. was solely at fault for the accident, USAA delayed initiating settlement negotiations for over a month. Then, USAA failed to confirm for Plaintiff’s attorney that S.D. lacked additional insurance coverage with which to satisfy a judgment. Plaintiff then commenced this action to hold USAA responsible for the judgment, bringing a single claim for bad faith under Florida common law. USAA moved for summary judgment, arguing that no reasonable jury could find that its conduct amounted to bad faith.   The Eleventh Circuit reversed and remanded. The court held that the district court improvidently granted summary judgment to USAA. Material issues of fact as to bad faith and causation remain in dispute, and Plaintiff is entitled to have a jury resolve them. The court explained had USAA complied with its “duty to initiate settlement negotiations” sooner or provided Plaintiff’s attorney with a coverage affidavit before Plaintiff filed suit, the case may have settled before rising costs changed the calculus. View "Daniel Ilias v. USAA General Indemnity Company" on Justia Law

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Residents of the Royal Palm Village Mobile Home Park in Haines City, Florida, sued the Park’s owners in federal court. The residents alleged that the owners had engaged in fraud by, among other things, illegally passing on costs to the residents, embellishing lot descriptions to justify increased rents, and falsely promising to upgrade roads and other common areas. The residents filed an amended complaint alleging violations of a slightly different collection of state and federal statutes: four counts under both the federal and Florida RICO statutes—as well as one under the ADA. The owners moved to dismiss. The district court dismissed the amended complaint for essentially the same reasons that it had dismissed the initial complaint. The owners now appeal the district court’s rejection of their fee requests pertaining to the first and second amended complaints. Those complaints, the owners argue, were also “to enforce” the FMHA because the residents predicated the RICO claims in those complaints on violations of the FMHA.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling. The court explained that here the alleged FMHA violations set out in the residents’ amended complaints were not independent legal claims, but rather components of other claims (e.g., the RICO claims). The amended complaints did not seek any relief under the FMHA. Nor did they request compliance with the FMHA. Those complaints, therefore, were not “proceeding[s] to enforce provisions” of the FMHA. The district court correctly denied fees to the owners as to those complaints under Section 723.068. View "Royal Palm Village Residents, Inc., et al v. Monica Slider, et al" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff alleged that toxic chemicals used during the carpet manufacturing process have been allowed to seep into the rivers that supply drinking water to communities near Dalton, including Rome, Georgia and the rest of Floyd County. On behalf of himself and a proposed class of water subscribers and ratepayers, he sued Dalton Utilities, a municipal corporation that operates Dalton’s wastewater treatment system, for violating the Clean Water Act and for creating a public nuisance. His lawsuit claims that Dalton Utilities has caused the City of Rome’s domestic water supply to be contaminated with dangerously high levels of toxic chemicals.   The question before the Eleventh Circuit was whether Dalton Utilities is entitled to municipal immunity from Plaintiff’s nuisance abatement (injunctive relief) claim. The Eleventh Circuit denied Plaintiff’s motion to dismiss Dalton Utilities’ appeal for lack of jurisdiction. However, the court affirmed district court’s order denying Dalton Utilities’ motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s nuisance abatement claim on municipal immunity grounds. The court explained that at oral argument counsel for Dalton Utilities conceded that if Phillips is still good law, Plaintiff has properly alleged a Phillips kind of nuisance claim for personal injury. The court agreed and held that municipal immunity does not shield Dalton Utilities from Plaintiff’s nuisance abatement claim. View "Jarrod Johnson v. Water, Light, and Sinking Fund Commission of City of Dalton" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff regularly used Roundup on his lawn for about 30 years until 2016. Around 2016, Plaintiff was diagnosed with malignant fibrous histiocytoma, which he believes was linked to the compound glyphosate, the main chemical ingredient in Roundup. Plaintiff filed suit against Monsanto, the manufacturer of Roundup. In his four-count complaint, Plaintiff alleged strict liability for a design defect under Georgia law (Count I); strict liability for failure to warn under Georgia law Count II); negligence under Georgia law (Count III); and breach of implied warranties under Georgia law (Count IV).   On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit was tasked with deciding whether the district court erred in concluding that Plaintiff’s failure to warn claim was preempted under Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Ac (FIFRA) because the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) had classified glyphosate as not likely to be carcinogenic to humans and approved the Roundup label. The Eleventh Circuit concluded it did and reversed the district court’s ruling. The court held that Plaintiff’s Georgia failure to warn claim is not preempted by the federal requirements under the FIFRA or the EPA actions pursuant to it. View "John D. Carson v. Monsanto Company" on Justia Law