Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
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In March 2020, seven crewmembers of the M/V Greg Mortimer cruise ship filed a lawsuit against several companies, including CMI Leisure Management, Inc., Cruise Management International, Inc., and Vikand Medical Solutions, LLC. The crewmembers alleged that the decision to sail during the COVID-19 pandemic exposed them to foreseeable harms, resulting in six of them contracting the virus. The crewmembers had signed employment agreements with other companies that contained forum-selection and choice-of-law clauses requiring disputes to be brought in the Bahamas under Bahamian law.The United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida dismissed the action based on the forum-selection clause. The court ruled that the defendants, who were not parties to the employment agreements, could invoke the forum-selection clause under the doctrine of equitable estoppel.Upon review, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit vacated and remanded the decision. The appellate court held that the defendants could not invoke the forum-selection clause in the employment agreements under the doctrine of equitable estoppel. The court reasoned that the crewmembers' claims did not rely on the terms of their employment agreements, and thus, equitable estoppel did not apply. The court remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with its opinion. View "Usme v. CMI Leisure Management, Inc." on Justia Law

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The case revolves around William Spears, a front desk clerk at hotels operated by Rick Patel Sr. and his son, Rick “Sunny” Patel Jr. Spears was compensated with monthly paychecks and onsite lodging. He sued the Patels and the hotel entities under the Fair Labor Standards Act for wages owed and unpaid overtime. The district court ruled that Sunny was an employer individually liable for the violations. In calculating Spears’s damages, the court considered the stipulated value of Spears’s lodging for unpaid overtime but declined to include it in the minimum-wage calculation.The case went to a bench trial before a magistrate judge. The judge found that Spears was not paid the legally required minimum wage or overtime. The judge ruled that Rick and Sunny were employers under the Act individually liable for those violations. The judge also found that Spears was entitled to damages for unpaid overtime and minimum wages. The judge included the stipulated $630 lodging value to determine Spears’s overtime pay rate but did not give the Patels credit for the value of Spears’s lodging when calculating Spears’s unpaid minimum wages.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the ruling that Sunny was an employer under the Act due to his involvement in the day-to-day operation of the hotels and some financial control. However, the court vacated and remanded for recalculation of damages. The court held that the magistrate judge erred in excluding the stipulated value of Spears’s lodging from the calculation of his unpaid minimum wages but including it for the calculation of Spears’s overtime damages. The court reasoned that the stipulation to the value of Spears’s lodging relieved the Patels of the burden to prove at trial the reasonable cost of lodging. View "Spears v. Patel" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a products liability lawsuit filed by Virginia Redding against Coloplast Corporation. Redding alleged that vaginal mesh devices inserted inside her body were defectively designed. Coloplast argued that Redding's suit was time-barred under Florida's four-year statute of limitations for products liability lawsuits, as her claim accrued more than four years before she filed suit. The district court sided with Redding, and Coloplast appealed.The case was previously reviewed by the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida. The district court denied Coloplast's motion for summary judgment, arguing that Redding's suit was time-barred. The court found that the facts in a similar case, Eghnayem v. Boston Scientific Corporation, were "strikingly similar" to Redding's case and compelled the conclusion that Redding's injuries were not sufficiently different from the symptoms that could have occurred as a result of the surgeries to put her on notice.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court concluded that the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to Redding, did not overwhelmingly establish that she knew or should have known about a compensable injury arising out of Coloplast's mesh before September 18, 2010, such that a reasonable jury could not conclude otherwise. As a result, Redding's claims were not time-barred under Florida's four-year statute of limitations. View "Redding v. Coloplast Corp." on Justia Law

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The case involves Martha Isabel Rosales-Mendez, a Honduran native who illegally entered the United States. After being apprehended by border patrol agents, she was served with a notice to appear for a removal hearing. The agents recorded an address provided by her boyfriend over the phone, which turned out to be incorrect. Consequently, Rosales-Mendez did not receive the second notice setting the date and time of her removal hearing, leading to her being ordered removed in absentia when she failed to appear.Rosales-Mendez's case was initially reviewed by an immigration judge who ordered her removal in absentia after she failed to attend the hearing. She later discovered the removal order and moved to reopen the removal proceeding, arguing lack of notice. However, the immigration judge denied the motion. The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed the decision, stating that since Rosales-Mendez failed to provide a correct address, the officials were excused from providing her notice of her removal hearing.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit denied Rosales-Mendez's petition for review. The court held that immigration officials were not required to give notice of a removal hearing to an alien who provided them an inaccurate home address. The court reasoned that Rosales-Mendez, through her boyfriend, provided an incorrect address and failed to correct it, thereby forfeiting her right to actual notice of her removal hearing. The court concluded that Rosales-Mendez was properly ordered removed in absentia. View "Rosales-Mendez v. U.S. Attorney General" on Justia Law

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The case involves PB Legacy, Inc., a Texas-based shrimp breeding company, and American Mariculture, Inc., a Florida-based company that operated a shrimp breeding facility. PB Legacy had a contract with American Mariculture to breed shrimp. However, PB Legacy failed to fulfill its contractual obligations, including removing its shrimp from the facility on time. When American Mariculture threatened to harvest the abandoned shrimp, PB Legacy sued in state court. After a failed attempt to resolve the dispute, American Mariculture used the shrimp to launch a competing company, American Penaeid, Inc. PB Legacy then sued American Mariculture, Penaeid, and their CEO, Robin Pearl, in federal court, alleging conversion, defamation, trade secret misappropriation, breach of contract, unfair competition, and unjust enrichment.The case proceeded to a jury trial in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida. During the trial, the district judge had to leave before the jury returned its verdict. The parties agreed to have a magistrate judge receive the verdict. However, the magistrate judge also responded to several jury questions and rejected a request for clarification about the verdict. The jury awarded $4.95 million in damages to PB Legacy on each of their federal and state trade secret claims. Post-trial motions were filed and denied.The case was appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. The defendants argued that the magistrate judge lacked authority to preside over the last three days of trial because the parties did not consent to the magistrate judge’s exercise of Article III authority. The court agreed, stating that while the parties had consented to the magistrate judge receiving the verdict, they had not consented to the magistrate judge performing non-ministerial duties such as responding to jury questions and rejecting a request for clarification about the verdict. The court vacated the judgment, remanded for a new trial, and dismissed the cross-appeal as moot. View "TB Foods USA, LLC v. American Mariculture, Inc." on Justia Law

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Sylvan Plowright filed a lawsuit against Miami-Dade County, its police chief, and two of its police officers after one of the officers, Sergio Cordova, fatally shot Plowright’s dog, Niles, during an investigation. The district court dismissed Plowright’s complaint, concluding that Cordova was entitled to qualified immunity because he did not violate any clearly established right when he shot Niles.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit disagreed with the lower court's decision. The court held that the use of deadly force against a domestic animal constitutes a seizure of its owner’s property subject to the Fourth Amendment’s reasonableness requirement. The court found that under the facts alleged in the complaint, no reasonable officer in Cordova’s position could have believed that Niles posed an imminent danger, and therefore, his decision to shoot Niles falls short of that requirement. The court reversed the dismissal of Plowright’s § 1983 claim against Cordova and remanded for further proceedings. The court also reversed the dismissal of Plowright’s claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress against Cordova. However, the court affirmed the dismissal of Plowright’s intentional-infliction-of-emotional-distress claim against a second officer, as well as his claims against the county and its police chief. View "Plowright v. Miami Dade County" on Justia Law

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The case involves Cynthia Allen and Kristine Webb, who filed a class action lawsuit against their employer, AT&T Mobility Services, LLC, alleging pregnancy discrimination under Title VII. The district court denied their motion for class certification, and the plaintiffs settled with AT&T and voluntarily dismissed their case. The following day, Amanda Curlee, who claimed she would have been a member of the proposed class, sought to intervene in the case to appeal the denial of class certification. The district court allowed her to intervene, and she immediately appealed.The district court had denied the original plaintiffs' motion for class certification, and the plaintiffs subsequently settled with AT&T and voluntarily dismissed their case. The court had not addressed the merits of any plaintiff's discrimination claims. Amanda Curlee, who claimed she would have been a member of the proposed class, sought to intervene in the case to appeal the denial of class certification. The district court allowed her to intervene.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit dismissed Curlee's appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The court found that there was no final decision as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1291 because the district court had not resolved the merits of any plaintiff's discrimination claims. The court held that Curlee, as an intervenor, must litigate her claims on the merits before she can appeal the denial of class certification. The court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to hear Curlee's appeal because there was no final judgment in the case. View "Curlee v. AT&T Mobility Services, LLC" on Justia Law

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The case involves the American Alliance for Equal Rights (the Alliance), a membership organization dedicated to ending racial classifications and preferences in America, and Fearless Fund Management, LLC (Fearless), a venture capital fund that invests in businesses led by women of color. Fearless organized the "Fearless Strivers Grant Contest," a funding competition open only to businesses owned by black women. The Alliance, representing several members who wished to participate in the contest but were not black women, sued Fearless, alleging that the contest violated 42 U.S.C. § 1981, which prohibits private parties from discriminating on the basis of race when making or enforcing contracts.The district court denied the Alliance's request for a preliminary injunction to prevent Fearless from closing the application process. The court concluded that the Alliance had standing to sue and that § 1981 applied to Fearless's contest. However, it also concluded that the First Amendment "may bar" the Alliance's § 1981 claim on the ground that the contest constitutes expressive conduct, and that the Alliance hadn't demonstrated that it would suffer irreparable injury.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held that the Alliance has standing and that preliminary injunctive relief is appropriate because Fearless's contest is substantially likely to violate § 1981, is substantially unlikely to enjoy First Amendment protection, and inflicts irreparable injury. The court affirmed the district court's determination that the Alliance has standing to sue but reversed its decision and remanded with instructions to enter a preliminary injunction. View "American Alliance for Equal Rights v. Fearless Fund Management, LLC, et al" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around Justin Keener, who operated under the name JMJ Financial. Keener's business model involved purchasing convertible notes from microcap issuers, converting those notes into common stock, and selling that stock in the public market at a profit. This practice, known as "toxic" or "death spiral" financing, can harm microcap companies and existing investors by causing the stock price to drop significantly. Keener made over $7.7 million in profits from this practice. However, he never registered as a dealer with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).The SEC filed a civil enforcement action against Keener, alleging that he operated as an unregistered dealer in violation of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. The United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida granted summary judgment for the SEC, enjoining Keener from future securities transactions as an unregistered dealer and ordering him to disgorge the profits from his convertible-note business.In the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, Keener appealed the district court's decision. He argued that he did not violate the Securities Exchange Act because he never effectuated securities orders for customers. He also claimed that the SEC violated his rights to due process and equal protection.The Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's decision. It held that Keener operated as an unregistered dealer in violation of the Securities Exchange Act. The court rejected Keener's argument that he could not have been a dealer because he never effectuated securities orders for customers. It also dismissed Keener's claims that the SEC violated his rights to due process and equal protection. The court upheld the district court's imposition of a permanent injunction and its order for Keener to disgorge his profits. View "Securities and Exchange Commission v. Keener" on Justia Law

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The case involves a personal injury action brought by Earlene McBride against Carnival Corporation. McBride fell out of her wheelchair while being assisted by a Carnival crewmember, Fritz Charles, during disembarkation from a Carnival cruise ship. McBride claimed that she suffered severe injuries due to the fall and sued Carnival for negligence.The case was initially heard in the Southern District of Florida. During the trial, the court allowed the deposition testimony of Charles to be presented to the jury over McBride's objection. The jury awarded McBride economic damages for past medical expenses related to the fall but did not award her any damages for past pain and suffering. McBride appealed the district court's judgment, arguing that the court erred in allowing Charles's deposition testimony to be presented to the jury and that the jury's verdict was inadequate because it did not award her past pain and suffering damages.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's decision to allow Charles's deposition testimony to be presented to the jury. The court found that McBride had waived her objection to the use of the deposition by not raising it at the appropriate time during the trial. However, the court reversed the district court's denial of McBride's motion for a new trial on the issue of past pain and suffering damages related to the past medical expenses the jury awarded. The court found that the jury's verdict was inadequate as a matter of law because there was uncontradicted evidence that McBride suffered at least some pain in the immediate aftermath of the wheelchair incident. The case was remanded for a new trial limited to the issue of past pain and suffering damages related to the past medical expenses the jury awarded. View "McBride v. Carnival Corporation" on Justia Law