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

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Barbara Bobo's husband, who worked for the TVA for more than 22 years, was diagnosed with asbestos-induced lung cancer and in 1997 died from a heart attack. Mrs. Bobo was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma in 2011 and died from mesothelioma in 2013. Before her death, Mrs. Bobo filed suit claiming that the TVA's negligence resulted in her being exposed to "take-home" asbestos when she washed her husband's work clothes over the years. The district court entered judgment against the TVA. The court concluded that, assuming that the district court erred in considering the state court deposition testimony of Mr. Bobo to support its finding that he had been exposed to asbestos while employed by TVA, the error was harmless because there was plenty of other evidence proving the same fact; the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the testimony of plaintiff's expert; under Alabama law, TVA owed a duty to Mrs. Bobo to prevent take-home asbestos exposure and TVA violated that duty; the court rejected TVA's argument that the district court applied the wrong exposure standard, concluding that which standard applies does not matter because the evidence of exposure was enough to satisfy either tests at issue; and TVA is not shielded from liability under the discretionary function exception. The court affirmed as to these issues. The court vacated the award of damages, remanding to the district court for it to recalculate the damages award in order to exclude from it any amounts that were written off by Mrs. Bobo's providers and to correct any other errors that may appear to the court when the parties have a chance to focus exclusively on the medical expenses component of the damages award. View "Bobo v. Tennessee Valley Authority" on Justia Law

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This case concerned the first of over 500 cases regarding the Wright Medical Conserve "metal-on-metal" hip replacement device designed and manufactured by defendant. Plaintiff filed a products liability suit alleging, among other things, that defendant was liable for design defect based on strict liability and negligence. On appeal, defendant challenged the entry of a $2,100,000 judgment. The court rejected defendant's argument that the district court erred in ordering the jury to continue deliberations after the jury had already begun to deliver its verdict. In this case, upon recognizing the inconsistency in the jury verdict, the district court immediately halted publication of the verdict and instructed the jury that an error had been made; the district court acted in a neutral and non-biased manner in acknowledging and addressing the inconsistent verdict; and the district court also recharged the jury. The court also rejected defendant's argument that the district court erred in its instructions on Utah's products liability law with regard to the unavoidably unsafe product defense in Comment k of Section 402A of the Restatement (Second) of Torts. The court explained that any categorical bar to liability for an unavoidably unsafe product was not available to defendant and thus the district court did not err in failing to give such an instruction to the jury. Furthermore, any error by the district court in instructing the jury on the unavoidably unsafe defense did not affect the result in this case because the jury found that defendant had not proven the defense. Therefore, the court concluded that the district court's error was harmless. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Christiansen v. Wright Medical Technology Inc." 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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Plaintiffs-Appellants James and Karen Feggestad appealed the district court’s order dismissing their complaint against defendants-appellees, Kerzner International Bahamas Limited, Kerzner International Limited, Island Hotel Company Limited, Paradise Island Limited, and Brookfield Asset Management Inc. (collectively, "Kerzner"), on the basis of a valid forum selection clause. The Feggestads made reservations at the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island, Bahamas (Atlantis) and received a reservation confirmation via their email address. The confirmation contained a section titled "Terms and Conditions" and included a hyperlink advising guests to view the other terms and conditions. This link provided advance notification that any dispute between the guest and the hotel or any affiliated company must be litigated exclusively in the Bahamas and that upon arrival at the Atlantis, the guest would be required to sign a registration form that included a Bahamian forum selection clause. When the Feggestads checked into the hotel, the resort asked them to sign a registration card, which also included an "acknowledgement, agreement and release," which also listed the clause at issue here. Several days after their arrival at the Atlantis, Mr. Feggestad slipped and fell on a wet sidewalk and sustained severe personal injuries. He later sued, and the forum-selection clause became an issue. After reviewing the record, reading the parties briefs and having the benefit of oral argument, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal. View "Feggestad v. Kerzner International Bahamas Limited, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appeals the district court’s denial of his motion for reconsideration of its earlier order denying on futility grounds plaintiff's motion for leave to amend his complaint. Plaintiff asserted in his motion that he had developed facts in discovery which showed that (1) a Bank employee knew that Charles Gordon, the chief executive officer of OPT Title and Escrow, Inc., had assisted Gordon in opening a bank account called an “escrow account” into which funds were to be wired by third parties with the expectation that the funds would be held in escrow by OPT Title; (2) the Bank employee knew that Gordon was stealing from the account; (3) the Bank employee assisted Gordon in committing the fraud; and (4) the Bank received at least a short-term financial benefit from allowing Gordon to use OPT Title’s account as a vehicle for his fraud. The court held that the district court erred in denying plaintiff's motion for reconsideration on the basis that even considering his new allegations set forth in his motion for reconsideration, he failed to state claims for relief. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Hsi Chang v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against defendant after she slipped and fell on one of defendant's cruise ships. On appeal, plaintiff challenges the district court's judgment for defendant. In this case, plaintiff’s cruise ticket contains several restrictions governing plaintiff’s right to sue defendant. Most importantly, the ticket contains a time limitation within which to file suit and a forum-selection clause. Plaintiff argues that she should be deemed to have satisfied the one-year limitation period because she filed suit in state court within a year and that filing equitably tolled the limitation. The court found that equitable tolling does not apply under these circumstances where defendants warned plaintiff that it intended to enforce the forum-selection clause and plaintiff nonetheless filed suit in the wrong forum. When plaintiff finally filed suit in the correct forum, she did so after expiration of the time period. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Chang v. Carnival Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the County after he suffered injuries while aboard a vessel traveling in the Coral Park Canal, a drainage canal in the County. The district court dismissed the complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. At issue is whether a canal is navigable for purposes of admiralty jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. 1333, if an artificial obstruction prevents vessels from using the canal to conduct interstate commerce. Because the Coral Park Canal cannot support interstate commerce, the court concluded that it cannot satisfy the location requirement of admiralty jurisdiction. The court concluded that extending jurisdiction to waters incapable of commercial activity serves no purpose of admiralty jurisdiction. Therefore, the court agreed with the district court that plaintiff's injuries did not occur on navigable waters for purposes of admiralty jurisdiction because an artificial obstruction prevents vessels from traveling from the Coral Park Canal to places outside of Florida. View "Tundidor v. Miami-Dade County" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, heirs to eight civilians killed in 2003 by Bolivian troops, filed suit under the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA), 28 U.S.C. 1350, seeking damages and fees. In this case, plaintiffs have exhausted all of their available Bolivian remedies. They received some compensation through those remedies but not nearly as much as they claim is necessary to fully compensate them for their losses. Defendants sought certification for an interlocutory appeal on two issues: (1) whether the exhaustion requirement in section 2(b) of the TVPA bars plaintiffs’ claims, and (2) whether plaintiffs have failed to state claims for relief under the TVPA. The court answered the first certified question in the negative and affirmed the part of the district court’s order denying defendant’s motion to dismiss the TVPA claims on exhaustion grounds. The court concluded that section 2(b)’s exhaustion requirement does not bar a TVPA suit by a claimant who has successfully exhausted her remedies in the foreign state. The court exercised its discretion not to decide the second certified issue, which is actually a cluster of multiple issues involving the claims of multiple plaintiffs against the two defendants. View "Mamani v. Sanchez Berzain" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, two survivors of a bus crash that occurred because the driver fell asleep at the wheel, filed suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. 2680, against the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Plaintiffs alleged that agency officials were at fault for allowing the bus company to continue operating after it should have been declared unsafe to do so. The case was dismissed for lack of federal subject matter jurisdiction. The court affirmed the district court's Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C. 1951, analysis in its order granting summary to the United States on plaintiffs' claims. The district court correctly held that because it lacks jurisdiction to determine the validity of 49 C.F.R. 385.17(f), the district court must proceed with its discretionary function analysis based on the regulation as it stood in 2011. Therefore, the court's review is limited to the portion of plaintiffs' claims that would not require it to assume invalid the version of 49 C.F.R. 385.17(f) in effect at the time the FMCSA granted the company the ten-day extension. The court agreed with the district court's holding that the United States had not waived its immunity from suit related to the decision allowing the bus company to continue operating because that decision was a discretionary one, excepted under 28 U.S.C. 2680(a) from the United States’ waiver of sovereign immunity for certain tort actions. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Chhetri v. United States" on Justia Law

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Rapper and philanthropist Prakazrel Michel, and founding member of the Fugees, filed a defamation suit alleging that an article published about him in the New York Post's Page Six gossip column claimed that he failed to perform as expected as the headliner at a 9/11 charity event for the Hope for Them Foundation with which he was purportedly affiliated. Michel contends that the article defamed him because he had no connection to the Foundation and had not been scheduled to perform at the event. The district court dismissed the claims with prejudice. This court also dismissed the complaint, but for different reasons. The court concluded that the article is not privileged against a defamation action because a reasonable reader of the article would have concluded that it presented statements of fact (not just nonactionable opinion). However, Michel has failed to state a claim because he did not adequately plead facts giving rise to a reasonable inference that defendants published the article with actual malice. Accordingly, the court affirmed the dismissal but entered the dismissal without prejudice, giving leave to amend. View "Michel v. NYP Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law