Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
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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

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In 2006, Doris Sloan filed for survivor’s benefits under the Black Lung Benefits Act following the death of her husband, Gurstle Sloan, who had worked as a coal miner for Drummond Company for 16 years. Sloan's claim was denied by an administrative law judge, and this denial was reviewed twice. Sloan argued that the administrative law judge improperly excluded evidence supporting her request to modify her claim and erred by finding that the evidence did not establish that her husband’s death was due to pneumoconiosis.The Benefits Review Board affirmed the administrative law judge’s denial of survivor’s benefits. Sloan timely moved for reconsideration by the en banc Board, arguing that the administrative law judge erred by excluding and failing to consider certain evidence and by improperly relying on the opinion of the government’s expert witness. The Board denied Sloan’s motion for reconsideration en banc. Sloan filed a second motion for reconsideration, which was also denied by the Board.In the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, the court was required to decide whether it had jurisdiction over a petition for review of a denial of survivor’s benefits under the Black Lung Benefits Act filed in this Court one day late. The court found that the filing deadline is jurisdictional and it had no jurisdiction to review the denial of a motion for reconsideration by the Benefits Review Board. Therefore, the court lacked jurisdiction to review the petition and dismissed the petition for lack of jurisdiction. View "Sloan v. Drummond Company, Inc." on Justia Law

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The case revolves around an employment discrimination suit filed by Dr. Tara Loux against her former employers, BayCare Medical Group and St. Joseph’s Hospital. Dr. Loux sought to discover BayCare’s internal documents about the performance of other doctors who were not fired despite also committing errors. BayCare objected to disclosing certain documents, such as its “quality files” and “referral logs,” arguing that they were privileged under the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act of 2005. The Act creates a statutory privilege for work product prepared for or reported to patient safety organizations.The district court ordered BayCare to produce the disputed documents, concluding that the Act does not privilege documents if they have a “dual purpose,” only one of which relates to making reports to a patient safety organization. The court held that these documents were not privileged because BayCare used information in the documents for other purposes, such as internal safety analysis and peer review.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit disagreed with the district court's interpretation of the Act. The appellate court found that the district court had applied an incorrect "sole purpose" standard to assess whether BayCare’s quality files and referral logs fell under the privilege. The court held that the Act does not require that privileged information be kept solely for provision to a Patient Safety Organization. The court granted BayCare's petition for a writ of mandamus, directing the district court to vacate its orders compelling the disclosure of the privileged documents and reconsider BayCare’s assertion of privilege consistent with the appellate court's opinion. View "In re: Baycare Medical Group, Inc." on Justia Law

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The case revolves around W.P. Productions, Inc. (WPP), a company owned by Sydney Silverman, and Sam's West, Inc. WPP, which sold kitchen products under the Wolfgang Puck brand to Sam's Club, owed significant debt to Sam's West. Despite this, WPP initiated a tort lawsuit against Tramontina U.S.A., Inc. and Sam's West. After a final judgment was entered against WPP, Sam's West filed a supplemental lawsuit to pierce WPP's corporate veil and hold Silverman personally liable for WPP's unpaid judgments. Silverman, who used a shared bank account for his personal and WPP's corporate funds, allegedly spent over $3 million from the shared account on personal expenses and transfers to himself and his relatives.The United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida granted summary judgment in favor of Sam's West, piercing the corporate veil and holding Silverman personally liable for the judgments against WPP. The court adopted a Report and Recommendation (R&R) that determined Silverman was the alter ego of WPP, but did not establish the remaining elements of improper conduct or causing an injury. Both parties then moved for summary judgment regarding these elements. The court adopted a second R&R stating that the undisputed facts showed Sam's West was entitled to judgment as a matter of law on its veil piercing claim.In the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, Silverman appealed the district court's decision, alleging that the court improperly pierced the corporate veil on summary judgment. After reviewing the case, the appellate court affirmed the district court's decision. The court found no genuine dispute of material fact regarding the three elements for piercing the corporate veil in Florida: Silverman was the alter ego of WPP; Silverman used WPP for the improper purpose of evading Florida's Rule of Priorities; and this improper use of WPP's corporate form caused injury to Sam's West. Therefore, the court held that the district court correctly granted summary judgment in favor of Sam's West and pierced the corporate veil. View "Sam's West, Inc. v. Silverman" on Justia Law

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The Center for a Sustainable Coast and its member, Karen Grainey, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, alleging that the Corps had issued a dock permit without a full environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Center claimed that several of its members regularly visit Cumberland Island, where the dock is located, and suffer an ongoing aesthetic injury due to the dock's presence. The Center argued that the environmental review the Corps skipped could have protected that interest.The district court dismissed the lawsuit, concluding that the Center did not have standing because its harm was not redressable. The court reasoned that since the dock had already been built, the court’s ability to provide relief had ended along with construction.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit disagreed with the district court's decision. The appellate court held that the Center had standing to bring at least one of its procedural rights claims. The court reasoned that the Center had identified a concrete aesthetic interest and pleaded that the NEPA process would protect that interest. Directing full NEPA review would thus redress the Center’s procedural injury. Furthermore, the permit issued by the Corps authorized not just the construction of the dock, but also its continued existence. Therefore, the case was not moot because the challenged project was already completed. However, the court affirmed the dismissal of the Seashore Act claim, as the Center abandoned that argument on appeal. View "Center for a Sustainable Coast v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers" on Justia Law

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The case involves a dispute between J.C. Penney Corporation, Inc. and Oxford Mall, LLC. Oxford Mall purchased a shopping center in a 2017 foreclosure sale and began a significant redevelopment plan. J.C. Penney, a tenant at the mall since 1968, had a lease that included the right to approve certain changes to the mall’s site plan. When J.C. Penney sought to exercise one of its remaining contractual options, Oxford denied the request, claiming that J.C. Penney was out of extension options. This led to a lawsuit filed by J.C. Penney in 2019, invoking the district court’s diversity jurisdiction.The case proceeded for two years under the assumption that diversity jurisdiction existed. However, in 2020, Oxford discovered that it was a citizen of Delaware, the same as J.C. Penney, which destroyed the court’s diversity jurisdiction. Despite this, Oxford continued to litigate in federal court and did not inform the court of the lack of jurisdiction until April 2021, after several unfavorable rulings.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's decision to impose sanctions on Oxford Mall, LLC for its bad faith conduct. The court found that Oxford had actual knowledge that it was a citizen of Delaware, which destroyed the court’s diversity jurisdiction, and that Oxford's delay in disclosing the lack of diversity jurisdiction was strategic. The court also concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining the amount of fees owed to J.C. Penney and in refusing to consider an irrelevant and untimely affidavit from Oxford's attorney. View "J.C. Penney Corporation, Inc. v. Oxford Mall, LLC" on Justia Law

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Two consumers, Tanethia Holden and Mark Mayer, entered into separate purchase agreements for timeshares with Holiday Inn Club Vacations Inc. Both stopped making monthly payments and considered their agreements to be canceled. However, Holiday disagreed and reported their debts to Experian, a consumer reporting agency. After unsuccessful attempts to resolve their disputes with Holiday, both Holden and Mayer filed individual actions under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), alleging that Holiday inaccurately reported that they owed debts and failed to reasonably investigate their disputes.The District Courts granted summary judgment for Holiday in both cases, finding the alleged inaccuracies were legal disputes and therefore not actionable under the FCRA. The courts reasoned that a plaintiff asserting a claim against a furnisher for failure to conduct a reasonable investigation cannot prevail on the claim without demonstrating that had the furnisher conducted a reasonable investigation, the result would have been different; i.e., that the furnisher would have discovered that the information it reported was inaccurate or incomplete.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the lower courts' decisions, but for a different reason. The court held that whether the alleged inaccuracy is factual or legal is beside the point. Instead, what matters is whether the alleged inaccuracy was objectively and readily verifiable. In this case, it was not. Thus, Mayer and Holden had no actionable FCRA claims. The court declined to impose a bright-line rule that only purely factual or transcription errors are actionable under the FCRA. Instead, it held that in determining whether a claimed inaccuracy is potentially actionable under the FCRA, a court must determine whether the information in dispute is 'objectively and readily verifiable.' View "Tanethia Holden v. Holiday Inn Club Vacations Incorporated" on Justia Law

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This case revolves around the death of Susan Teel, who was shot by Deputy Jonathan Lozada during a suicide attempt at her home. Dr. Dudley Teel, Susan's husband and the personal representative of her estate, sued Deputy Lozada and the Sheriff of Indian River County, alleging excessive force under the Fourth Amendment and a claim under Monell v. Department of Social Services of the City of New York.The district court initially granted summary judgment in favor of Deputy Lozada and the Sheriff, but the decision was partially reversed and vacated in an earlier appeal. On remand, the district court granted summary judgment on the Monell claim, and the excessive force claim proceeded to trial. The jury found that Deputy Lozada did not use excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment.In the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, the Estate appealed the grant of summary judgment on the Monell claim, two of the district court’s jury instructions, and one of the district court’s evidentiary rulings. The Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's decisions on all issues. The Court held that the district court had wide discretion to modify the jury instructions to make them understandable for the jury. The Court also found that the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding evidence of Deputy Lozada's prior misconduct. Finally, the Court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the Sheriff on the Monell claim, as there was no underlying constitutional violation. View "Teel v. Lozada" on Justia Law

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In this case, Amber Jackson filed a lawsuit against Atlanta police officers Cody Swanger and Jeremiah Brandt, alleging that they violated her constitutional rights by unlawfully seizing her without reasonable suspicion or probable cause and using excessive force. She also claimed that Brandt failed to intervene in Swanger's use of excessive force. The officers moved to dismiss the case, arguing that they were entitled to qualified immunity, but the district court denied their motion. The officers then appealed the decision.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit found that it had jurisdiction to review the district court's denial of the officers' motion to dismiss Jackson's unlawful seizure claim. The court affirmed the district court's decision, agreeing that Jackson had plausibly alleged that the officers violated her clearly established right to be free from an unreasonable seizure.However, the court found that it did not have jurisdiction to review the district court's decision not to incorporate certain video footage into the pleadings. The court also declined to assert pendant appellate jurisdiction over that issue.As for Jackson's claim that Brandt failed to intervene in Swanger's use of excessive force, the court found that it had jurisdiction to review the district court's denial of Brandt's motion to dismiss this claim. However, the court vacated and remanded this part of the case, instructing the district court to dismiss the claim. The court reasoned that Brandt did not have a reasonable opportunity to intervene physically or verbally and stop Swanger's use of alleged excessive force against Jackson. Therefore, Brandt did not violate Jackson's Fourth Amendment rights. View "Jackson v. Swanger" on Justia Law

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The case involves a claimant, Isaac Flowers, who applied for Social Security Disability benefits due to various health issues including back, neck, shoulder, and joint problems, obesity, vision loss in one eye, and depression and opioid dependence. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) initially denied his claim, deeming that he could perform "sedentary work". Later, Flowers applied for benefits again, and the ALJ denied his claim again, this time finding that he could perform "light work", a classification slightly more intensive than "sedentary work".Flowers appealed this decision, arguing that the ALJ's finding that he could perform "light work" wasn't supported by substantial evidence as there was no proof of his condition improving. He also suggested that the ALJ should have considered the previous finding of him only being able to perform "sedentary work".The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit rejected Flowers' argument. Firstly, the court found that Flowers hadn't raised this legal issue in the lower courts and they declined to consider it for the first time on appeal. Secondly, the court concluded that even if Flowers had raised the issue in the lower courts, any error would have been harmless because Flowers hadn't shown that he would be entitled to disability benefits even if he was limited to "sedentary work". Lastly, the court found that the ALJ's decision was supported by substantial evidence. Consequently, the court affirmed the ALJ's decision. View "Flowers v. Commissioner, Social Security Administration" on Justia Law