Articles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

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Federal tobacco laws do not preempt state tort claims based on the dangerousness of all the cigarettes manufactured by the tobacco companies. The Florida Supreme Court upheld the jury verdicts of negligence and strict liability in Engle v. Liggett Group, Inc., 945 So. 2d 1246 (Fla. 2006) (Engle III), and decertified the class to allow individual actions about the remaining issues. In this case, R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris challenged the jury verdict against them in one of the individual actions. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed its holding in Walker v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 734 F.3d 1278 (11th Cir. 2013), and concluded that giving full faith and credit to the Engle jury findings of negligence and strict liability does not deprive R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris of property without due process of law, and that federal law does not preempt the Engle jury findings. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgments against R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris. View "Graham v. R.J Reynolds Tobacco" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a motion to compel post-judgment discovery over ten years after a money judgment was entered against defendant in a suit filed under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 201 et seq. The Eleventh Circuit certified the following question to the Florida Supreme Court: What limitations period, if any, applies to a request for post-judgment discovery brought in federal district court in Florida on a judgment entered by that same federal district court? View "Salinas v. Ramsey" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a class action in state court against insurance companies, alleging a variety of state law violations including breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, unconscionability, unjust enrichment, negligence, and bad faith. The insurance companies subsequently sought permission to appeal the district court's order remanding plaintiffs' class action to state court. The court concluded that there was no minimal diversity supporting federal jurisdiction because all of the plaintiffs and all of the defendants were citizens of Georgia. Accordingly, the court denied the petition. View "Life of the South Insurance Co. v. Carzell" on Justia Law

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In December 2011, Purchasing Power filed suit against Bluestem in Georgia state court. Bluestem, a citizen of Minnesota and Delaware, sought to remove the case to federal court based on diversity jurisdiction. Burr & Forman (B&F) was the law firm representing Purchasing Power. In 2014, the district court granted summary judgment for Bluestem. On appeal, this court noted that the pleadings did not allege Purchase Power's citizenship. B&F had failed to realize, and no one bothered to investigate, that Falcon, one of the LLCs, did not own an interest in Holdings directly. This missing piece of information was essential in destroying diversity jurisdiction because Falcon was incorporated in Delaware, of which Bluestem was a citizen. The district court subsequently found that B&F misrepresented to either the district court or Bluestem on five occasions that diversity of citizenship existed. In this appeal, B&F challenged the district court's sanctions order. The court reversed the district court's imposition of sanctions, concluding that, while the requirements of diversity jurisdiction were complicated, no party in this case acted with bad intentions. View "Purchasing Power, LLC v. Bluestem Brands, Inc." on Justia Law

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Thermoset filed a products liability suit in Florida state court against GAF and RSGO. After GAF removed to federal court, the district court granted summary judgment for defendants. Thermoset appealed and shortly afterwards, it became apparent that RSGO was not a diverse party at the time of removal. The court vacated the district court's summary judgment order and remanded with instructions to send this case back to the state court for further proceedings. The court explained that, because RSGO was not a nominal party, its non-diverse citizenship could not be ignored for jurisdictional purposes. And because RSGO was an indispensable party under Rule 19, the court could not preserve jurisdiction over the rest of the case by dismissing RSGO. View "Thermoset Corp. v. Building Materials Corp of America" on Justia Law

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This case involved a contract dispute arising out of the lease of telecommunications equipment by GDG to the Government of Belize. In this appeal, the Government challenged the district court's denial of its motion to dismiss. The court concluded that the Government waived its sovereign immunity. In this case, the Government claimed that the express waiver of sovereign immunity contained in the contract was ineffectual because its Minister of Budget Management, who negotiated and signed the contract on its behalf, lacked the authority to waive sovereign immunity. The court explained that, despite the Minister's claimed lack of authority to bind Belize, the Government ratified the actions by fully performing its contract obligations during the lease term and paying approximately $13.5 million in forty separate payments over a period of nearly six years and spanning two different administrations. Therefore, the court reasoned that the Government's conduct intended it to be bound by the contract and affirmed the district court's denial of the Government's motion to dismiss. View "GDG Acquisitions LLC v. Government of Belize" on Justia Law

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After a jury found CSX solely liable for injuries suffered by an employee of General Mills and awarded the employee damages, CSX filed this action for indemnification from General Mills. The district court dismissed on the ground that the contract between the parties barred indemnification for damages arising from CSX's sole negligence. In reaching this result, the district court applied a federal rule of collateral estoppel to bar relitigation of the relative fault of General Mills for the injury suffered by its employee. The court held, however, that federal common law adopts the state rule of collateral estoppel to determine the preclusive effect of a judgment of a federal court that exercised diversity jurisdiction. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for the district court to determine whether collateral estoppel bars the complaint of CSX for indemnification. The court declined to decide the dispute regarding one element of collateral estoppel as defined by Georgia law: the earlier litigation must have been between identical parties. The court also declined to decide the alternative argument raised by CSX, whether the Sidetrack Agreement requires indemnification assuming CSX was solely at fault. View "CSX Transportation, Inc. v. General Mills, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Myra Furcron appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Mails Centers Plus, LLC (“MCP”) on Furcron’s claims of sexual harassment and retaliation. In addressing Furcron’s sexual harassment claim, the district court found that Furcron failed to produce sufficient evidence that the alleged harassment was based on sex. On the retaliation claim, the district court found that Furcron failed to demonstrate that she engaged in protected activity and that Defendant’s defense was a pretext for her termination. The Fifth Circuit vacated and remanded in part, and affirmed in part. The Court concluded that questions of fact remained on Furcron's harassment claim. The Court concluded that her allegations with respect to the pretext argument. View "Furcron v. Mail Centers Plus, LLC" on Justia Law

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This case began as a contract dispute between two corporations: PTA-FLA, Inc., and ZTE USA, Inc. Shortly thereafter, three corporations affiliated with PTA-FLA filed similar cases against ZTE USA and its parent corporation, ZTE Corp., in several different federal district courts. All of the parties involved in these disputes participated in a consolidated arbitration proceeding that resulted in a zero-dollar award binding ZTE USA and the four affiliated plaintiff corporations. ZTE USA then moved the district court in the Middle District of Florida to reopen PTA-FLA’s case, join the three other plaintiff corporations to the case, and, finally, to confirm the arbitrator’s award against all four plaintiff corporations. But before the district court could rule on that motion, PTA-FLA (the original plaintiff) voluntarily dismissed its claims. The district court eventually confirmed the arbitral award against all parties, concluding that it had subject matter jurisdiction (grounded in diversity of citizenship) to confirm the award against the original parties and supplemental jurisdiction to confirm the award against the later-joined parties despite PTA-FLA’s voluntary dismissal and the reduction in the amount in controversy. The three joined parties appealed the confirmation of the award, claiming that the district court was without subject matter or supplemental jurisdiction. After careful review, the Eleventh Circuit concluded that the district court properly exercised its jurisdiction and, accordingly, affirmed. View "PTA-FLA, Inc. v. ZTE USA, Inc." on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from a labor dispute involving the H-2A visa program. Defendant Consolidated Citrus Limited Partnership (“Consolidated Citrus”) appealed from the district court’s order granting judgment in favor of the plaintiffs and holding Consolidated Citrus liable as a joint employer. All original plaintiffs were Mexican nationals who came to the United States temporarily to work as harvesters on citrus groves in central Florida. These plaintiffs entered the United States legally under the federal H-2A visa program. During the 2005-06 harvest season, Consolidated Citrus struggled to find sufficient labor to meet its harvesting needs. Starting with the 2006-07 harvest season, Consolidated Citrus began working with labor contractors to hire temporary foreign workers. One such labor contractor was defendant Ruiz Harvesting, Inc. (“RHI”), owned by Basiliso Ruiz (“Ruiz”). Consolidated Citrus expected the temporary workers to be at their assigned groves at some time in the early morning, but RHI personnel ultimately decided what time the workers would arrive. Each day, RHI transported workers to and from the groves in RHI vehicles. Under the H-2A program regulations, agricultural workers compensated on a piece-rate basis must be paid at least the equivalent of the wages they would have received under the applicable “adverse effect wage rate” (“AEWR”), which was the hourly minimum set by the Department of Labor. Where a worker’s piece-rate wages did not add up to the wages the worker would have earned under the hourly rate, the employer had to supplement that worker’s earnings to meet that minimum wage. The supplemental amount was known as “build-up” pay. RHI perpetrated a kickback scheme to recoup this build-up pay: on payday, RHI employees drove the H-2A temporary workers to a bank where the workers cashed their paychecks. The workers then returned to the RHI vehicle, where an RHI employee collected cash from each worker in an amount equal to that worker’s build-up pay. H-2A workers were told to return money only to Ruiz and RHI and only when the workers’ paychecks included build-up pay. No one from Consolidated Citrus demanded that H-2A temporary workers return their build-up pay, and no H-2A temporary worker ever complained directly to Consolidated Citrus about RHI’s kickback scheme. After careful review of this matter, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded this case to the district court for further proceedings. To the extent that the district court held Consolidated Citrus liable as a joint employer for purposes of the plaintiffs’ Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) claims, the Court affirmed. The Court reversed, however, the district court’s determination that the FLSA “suffer or permit to work” standard applied to the breach of contract claims for purposes of determining whether Consolidated Citrus qualified as a joint employer under the H-2A program. The case was remanded to the district court to apply, in the first instance, that governing standard of common law agency for purposes of the plaintiffs’ breach of contract claims. View "Garcia-Celestino, et al. v. Consolidated Citrus Ltd. Partnership" on Justia Law