Justia U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries
In Re: Blue Cross Blue Shield Antitrust Litigation
Subscribers who bought health insurance filed a class action against Blue Cross, alleging that it violated the Sherman Antitrust Act by restricting the member plans’ ability to compete. At issue is whether the district court abused its discretion in approving a settlement agreement for a multi-district antitrust class action against the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and its member plans. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the self-funded claimants were represented by their own counsel and class representatives in the settlement negotiations and received some compensation from the settlement. Although the settlement agreement’s allocation is facially unequal, it is not facially unfair. Further, the court held that the record supports the conclusion that the self-funded claimants and the fully insured claimants had at least potentially adverse interests. The district court did not abuse its discretion in dividing them into subclasses. Moreover, the court found that the district court also correctly applied the percentage-ofthe-fund doctrine. View "In Re: Blue Cross Blue Shield Antitrust Litigation" on Justia Law
Ricardo Sanchez, et al. v. Discount Rock & Sand, Inc.
This case stems from a car accident that claimed the lives of four young women. The women’s estates sued the driver who rear-ended their car, for negligence. And the estates sued the driver’s employer, Discount Rock & Sand, Inc., for negligently entrusting the company’s truck to the driver and for vicarious liability for Blanco’s negligent driving. The district court ordered the dismissal of the claim against the driver. The remaining claims against Discount Rock went to trial, and the jury found the company liable and awarded nearly $12 million in damages to the estates. Discount Rock appealed the judgment. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that although the stipulation did not comply with rule 41(a)(1)(A)(ii), the district court’s order dismissing the claim against the driver satisfied rule 41(a)(2)—which allows a district court to dismiss an action by court order at a plaintiff’s request. And on the merits, the court concluded that: (1) Discount Rock was not entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the negligent entrustment claim; (2) any error in instructing the jury on the rear-end-collision presumption was harmless; and (3) there was no reversible error in publishing the demonstrative aid. The court explained that there was sufficient evidence for the jury to find that Discount Rock negligently entrusted the driver with the modified truck. And even though the district court erred in instructing the jury on Florida’s rebuttable presumption that a rear-ending driver was negligent, that error wasn’t “to the prejudice of” Discount Rock because Discount Rock failed to produce evidence rebutting the presumption. View "Ricardo Sanchez, et al. v. Discount Rock & Sand, Inc." on Justia Law
Kameron Butler v. Charlene Smith
Defendant, a school resource officer, took issue with Plaintiff’s plan for managing her son’s afternoons and eventually sought and obtained arrest warrants for first- and second-degree child cruelty—felonies that are punishable by mandatory prison terms. Plaintiff was arrested, charged with both crimes and spent four days in jail before posting bond. All charges were eventually dismissed. Plaintiff sued Defendant for malicious prosecution under both federal and state law. The district court granted Defendant summary judgment on the ground that she had probable cause to believe that Plaintiff had engaged in both first and second-degree child cruelty. The Eleventh Circuit reversed. The court, applying the summary-judgment standard, the court that, taken together (1) the facts that Defendant included in the affidavits that she filed in support of the arrest warrants and (2) the material facts that she knew but omitted from those affidavits do not support even arguable probable cause to believe that Plaintiff committed first- or second-degree child cruelty under Georgia law. Accordingly, the court held that Defendant is not entitled to qualified immunity. Further, the court held that Plaintiff presented a genuine dispute about whether Defendant acted with “malice.” Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, Defendant had a close relationship with Plaintiff’s son, she felt disrespected by Plaintiff, she sought the arrest warrants very soon thereafter, seemingly without substantial additional investigation, and she inexplicably omitted material exculpatory information from her affidavits. Collectively, those facts give rise to a reasonable inference that Defendant didn’t just make a mistake. View "Kameron Butler v. Charlene Smith" on Justia Law
Wayne Lee v. USA
Plaintiff’s CPA failed to file Plaintiff’s tax returns for three consecutive years: 2014 through 2016. In 2019, the IRS assessed Plaintiff with over seventy thousand dollars in penalties for violating Section 6651(a) of the Internal Revenue Code and barred him from applying his 2014 overpayment to taxes owed for 2015 and 2016. Plaintiff sued, arguing that his failure to file was due to reasonable cause. He also sought a refund of the penalties. The district court granted summary judgment for the government, concluding that United States v. Boyle foreclosed Plaintiff’s claims. Plaintiff appealed. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court explained that if Plaintiff’s CPA had failed to file paper tax returns, there would be no question that Boyle would have precluded a reasonable cause defense and a refund. However, the court explained that no circuit court has yet applied Boyle to e-filed tax returns. The court decided that Boyle’s bright line rule applies to e-filed returns. Thus, the court concluded that Plaintiff’s reliance on his CPA does not constitute “reasonable cause” under Section 6651(a)(1). View "Wayne Lee v. USA" on Justia Law
Positano Place at Naples I Condominium Association, Inc. v. Empire Indemnity Insurance Company
These appeals are about a pending insurance contract dispute between Positano Place at Naples I Condominium Association, Inc., and Empire Indemnity Insurance Company, which issued an insurance policy (the “Policy”) to Positano for coverage of five buildings that Positano owns in Naples, Florida. Following Hurricane Irma, Positano filed a first-party claim for property insurance benefits under the Policy, claiming that Hurricane Irma damaged its property and that the damage was covered by the Policy. Empire determined that there was coverage to only three of the five buildings covered by the Policy but disagreed as to the amount of the loss. Positano sought to invoke appraisal based on the Policy’s appraisal provision. Positano sued Empire in Florida state court, and Empire removed the case to federal court based on diversity jurisdiction. Positano moved to compel appraisal and to stay the case pending the resolution of the appraisal proceedings, which Empire opposed. The magistrate judge issued a report recommending that the district court grant Positano’s motion, and, over Empire’s objection, the district court ordered the parties to appraisal and stayed the proceedings pending appraisal. Empire timely appealed the district court’s order. The Eleventh Circuit dismissed the appeal. The court concluded that the district court’s order compelling appraisal and staying the proceedings pending appraisal is an interlocutory order that is not immediately appealable under 28 U.S.C. Section 1292(a)(1). The court concluded that the order compelling appraisal and staying the action pending appraisal is not immediately appealable under the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”). View "Positano Place at Naples I Condominium Association, Inc. v. Empire Indemnity Insurance Company" on Justia Law
Roland Edger v. Krista McCabe, et al.
The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of qualified immunity following Plaintiff’s Section 1983 false arrest claim and a state law false arrest claim against two Huntsville, Alabama police officers and the City itself. Plaintiff brought both a Section 1983 false arrest claim and a state law false arrest claim against two Huntsville, Alabama, police officers and the City itself. After the district court concluded that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity because they had arguable probable cause to arrest Plaintiff, he appealed. The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment. The court explained that the officers violated Plaintiff’s clearly established Fourth Amendment rights when they arrested him with neither actual nor arguable probable cause. The district court dismissed Plaintiff’s state law claims against Defendants because it determined that arguable probable cause was a defense to those claims as well. The court wrote that the district court did not conduct any independent analysis of these claims and instead linked its decision directly to the finding of arguable probable cause on the federal claims. There was no actual probable cause to conclude that Plaintiff was driving a car without displaying his license at the time the officer arrived. Nor could any reasonable officer interpret the law as permitting arrest in this case, and therefore there was no arguable probable cause either. Accordingly, the court held that there was no arguable probable cause—i.e., the lack of probable cause was clearly established. View "Roland Edger v. Krista McCabe, et al." on Justia Law
Ronda Scott v. Advanced Pharmaceutical Consultants Inc, et al.
The case at hand is about whether Plaintiff was retaliated against by her former employer, Advanced Pharmaceutical Consultants, Inc. (“APC”), and the company that contracted with her employer, Centurion of Florida, LLC (“Centurion”) (together, “Defendants”), for engaging in protected activity. Plaintiff’s complaint alleged four counts. Centurion and APC both moved for summary judgment on all counts. The district court granted summary judgment on three of them. The district court directed the clerk to enter a final judgment on the three resolved counts, and it certified that the fourth count satisfied the requirements of 28 U.S.C. Section 1292(b) for immediate interlocutory review, should either party file an appropriate application with the Eleventh Circuit. At issue is whether the district court’s certification was proper as to Plaintiff’s direct appeal and whether the requirements of 28 U.S.C. Section 1292(b) have been met as to Centurion’s cross-appeal. The Eleventh Circuit concluded that the answer to both questions is not and dismissed the appeals for lack of appellate jurisdiction. The court explained that there are substantial reasons to delay resolving Plaintiff’s appeal of her whistleblower counts against APC. Plaintiff’s whistleblower counts against Centurion and APC are identical. It makes good sense that appeals of an order dismissing those counts should be heard together. But because there is no final judgment against Centurion, the court wrote that it lacks the power to adjudicate those counts against Centurion at this time. View "Ronda Scott v. Advanced Pharmaceutical Consultants Inc, et al." on Justia Law
Noble Prestige Limited v. Craig Thomas Galle, et al
Noble Prestige Limited lent Paul Thomas Horn $500,000 to pursue litigation against a telecommunications company. While the litigation was pending, a conservatorship over Horn’s assets was commenced in a probate court in Denver, Colorado (the “Denver Probate Court”). The case was settled, and the proceeds were placed in the conservatorship estate, subject to Galle’s management and the ultimate custody and control of the Denver Probate Court. Noble ultimately obtained arbitral awards that required Horn to pay Noble the debt owed under the loan agreement and Galle to pay Noble costs associated with the arbitration. Noble moved to confirm the awards and sought a temporary restraining order prohibiting Galle, Horn, and Galle’s law firm. Galle and GLG (together, “Respondents”) opposed Noble’s request and moved to dismiss the action. The district court granted Noble’s request, entering what it termed a “temporary restraining order” that prohibited Galle from dissipating or transferring $10,000,000 “notwithstanding any order(s) entered by the [Denver] Probate Court.” The district court also entered an order granting Respondents’ motion to dismiss in part and denying it in part. Respondents appealed both orders. The Eleventh Circuit dismissed Respondents’ appeal to the extent it challenged the district court’s denial of their motion to dismiss, vacated the district court’s entry of preliminary injunctive relief, and remanded the case. The court explained that Noble’s petition fails to invoke the equitable jurisdiction of the district court and, therefore, the issuance of a preliminary injunction under Rule 65 was improper. Further, the court explained that district court lacked the power to issue an order freezing the AT&T settlement funds pending judgment. View "Noble Prestige Limited v. Craig Thomas Galle, et al" on Justia Law
John S. Lowman, IV, et al v. Federal Aviation Administration, et al
Petitioners, a group of five individuals, filed this petition for review, claiming that the FAA violated the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) during its Phase II approval process. Petitioners assert that the FAA violated NEPA by (1) segmenting its review of a single Airport development project into multiple, smaller projects to make the project’s environmental effect appear less significant, (2) failing to consider the project’s cumulative effects, and (3) failing to analyze all air quality impacts. The FAA responds that, as an initial matter, Petitioners cannot bring this petition for review because they lack standing and did not exhaust their administrative remedies. Alternatively, the FAA contends that it did not violate NEPA, and the petition for review should be denied. The Eleventh Circuit denied the petition. The court held that Petitioners have standing and did not fail to exhaust their administrative remedies. Petitioners, however, fall short on the merits because it is clear that the FAA satisfied NEPA’s requirements. The court explained that Petitioners are unhappy that the FAA greenlighted Phase II (as well as the Airport developments preceding Phase II). However, the court does not vacate agency decisions over mere policy disagreements. Accordingly, the court held that the FAA did what it was supposed to do, and its review processes were not arbitrary and capricious. View "John S. Lowman, IV, et al v. Federal Aviation Administration, et al" on Justia Law
USA v. Timothy Jermaine Pate
Defendant filed liens against property owned by a slew of people he thought had wronged him—including, as relevant here, a former Commissioner of the IRS and a former Secretary of the Treasury. Defendant was thereafter charged with and convicted of violating 18 U.S.C. Section 1521, which criminalizes the filing of retaliatory liens against the property of “an individual described in” Section 1114, which, in turn, refers to “any officer or employee of the United States. At issue on appeal is whether a former civil servant counts as an “officer or employee of the United States” within the meaning of Section 1114 and, thus, of Section 1521. The Eleventh Circuit vacated Defendant’s convictions on four counts and remanded for resentencing. The court explained that Davis v. Michigan Department of Treasury and Robinson v. Shell Oil Co. establish that words like “officer” and “employee” can sometimes include formers—but only when the statutory context makes clear that they should. Neither suffices to show that the ordinary meaning of those terms includes ex-officers or erstwhile employees. Here, given the absence of textual indicia supporting a broader reading of the terms, the court declined to adopt the government’s strained interpretation. The court wrote that because Defendant filed the liens at issue when the relevant parties were no longer government “officer[s] or employee[s]” within the meaning of Section 1114, his conduct wasn’t covered by 18 U.S.C. Section 1521. View "USA v. Timothy Jermaine Pate" on Justia Law