Justia Injury Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
Guevara v. NCL (Bahamas) Ltd.
After plaintiff slipped and fell as he stepped down from a landing located on the outer deck of a cruise ship operated by NCL, he filed suit alleging that NCL negligently failed to warn passengers of the step down, and negligent failed to maintain and inspect the lighting in the area. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed in part and held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in striking a portion of the expert's First Supplemental Report and the entirety of the Second Supplemental Report. However, the court held that plaintiff raised a genuine issue of material fact regarding NCL's prior notice of the dangerous condition posed by the step down. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded the district court's ruling regarding the failure to warn claim. Finally, the court affirmed as to the negligent maintenance claim and held that the district court did not err in concluding that plaintiff failed to create a triable issue of fact on whether NCL had notice of the allegedly dangerous condition posed by the unilluminated lightbulb. View "Guevara v. NCL (Bahamas) Ltd." on Justia Law
Caron v. NCL (Bahamas), Ltd.
Plaintiff filed suit against NCL, the owner and operator of a cruise ship, alleging negligence claims after he fell down an emergency-exit hatch in an area designated for crew members only. The Eleventh Circuit held that plaintiff as a Canadian citizen and NCL as a Bermuda company, with its principal place of business in Florida, did not support the exercise of jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1332(a)(2). However, the district court validly exercised admiralty jurisdiction over the case under section 1333(1). On the merits, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claim that the cruise line was negligent in over-serving him alcohol, holding that the claim was time-barred and the claim did not relate back. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on plaintiff's claim that the cruise line was negligent for letting him fall down the hatch where NCL's uncontroverted record showed that no injuries similar to plaintiff's had been reported on any of NCL's ships in the last five years, and plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence of negligence on the part of NCL's crew. View "Caron v. NCL (Bahamas), Ltd." on Justia Law
Cote v. Philip Morris USA, Inc.
The 1994 “Engle” Florida class action against major cigarette manufacturers, was decertified, but “Phase I findings” concerning the defendants’ conduct may be used in individual suits. Berger sued Philip Morris for smoking-related injuries. A jury awarded Berger compensatory and punitive damages. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the denial of Philip Morris’s motions for a new trial based on improper closing argument, and for judgment as a matter of law on all claims based on due process and preemption principles. Eleventh Circuit precedent holds, categorically, that use of Phase I findings to establish Engle-progeny tort claims is constitutionally permissible. The court reversed judgment as a matter of law, in favor of Philip Morris, on intentional tort claims and remanded for the entry of judgment in Plaintiff’s favor on fraudulent concealment and conspiracy to fraudulently conceal claims and for reinstatement of the punitive damages award. Engle-progeny concealment claims arise from a sustained effort to hide the truth about the health hazards of smoking. Florida courts hold that Engle-progeny plaintiffs are not required to show reliance on a specific statement. Berger’s testimony that peer pressure influenced her decision to start smoking and that she chose her cigarette brand based on personal preferences did little to rebut the reasonable inference that Philip Morris’s disinformation campaign confused her about the health hazards of smoking; a reasonable juror could have concluded that if she had known the whole truth about smoking, she would have quit. View "Cote v. Philip Morris USA, Inc." on Justia Law
Searcy v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
Plaintiff filed suit against defendants for unintentional and intentional torts arising from the death of her mother. Plaintiff alleged that her mother's illnesses were caused by her addiction to cigarettes manufactured by defendants. The jury found for plaintiff and defendants appealed. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment and rejected defendants' due process arguments because, consistent with precedent, the use of the Engle findings to establish the conduct elements of the progeny plaintiffs' tort claims was a constitutionally permissible application of res judicata. The court rejected defendants' contention that their Seventh Amendment rights were violated because the court concluded that the jury was not asked or required to reexamine the Engle findings. The court also rejected defendants' contention that the damages award should have been apportioned based on the mother's comparative fault, because the district court neither misinterpreted nor misapplied Florida law and plaintiff did not waive her statutory right to full, unapportioned damages. View "Searcy v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co." on Justia Law
Waite v. AII Acquisition Corp.
Plaintiffs filed suit in Florida state court alleging that defendants, including Union Carbide, negligently failed to warn users of the health hazards of asbestos and defectively designed their products. Union Carbide removed the case to federal court where the district court dismissed Union Carbide based on lack of personal jurisdiction. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, holding that Union Carbide was not subject to specific jurisdiction because plaintiffs could not show that their claims arose out of Union Carbide's contacts with Florida. Furthermore, Union Carbide was not subject to general jurisdiction because there was no evidence that Union Carbide was at home in Florida. View "Waite v. AII Acquisition Corp." on Justia Law
McGinnis v. American Home Mortgage Servicing, Inc.
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying the motion for a new trial filed by American Home Mortgage Servicing, now known as Homeward, the defendant in this action brought by Jane McGinnis alleging, among other claims, wrongful foreclosure, holding that Homeward was not entitled to relief on its claims of error related to the jury’s punitive damages award. McGinnis, the owner of several rental properties, brought this action against Homeward, the servicer of seven of her properties’ mortgages, alleging wrongful foreclosure, conversion, interference with property, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The jury found in favor of McGinnis on all claims and awarded $3,506,000 in damages, including $3,000,000 in punitive damages. In this appeal, Homeward argued that the punitive damages award was unconstitutionally excessive under the Due Process Clause and that the punitive damages award exceeded Georgia’s $250,000 cap on punitive damages. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the punitive damages award was not unconstitutionally excessive; and (2) the punitive damages award did not unlawfully exceed the $250,000 statutory cap in O.C.G.A. 51-12-5.1(g) because there was no evidence from which a jury could conclude that it acted with the specific intent to harm McGinnis. View "McGinnis v. American Home Mortgage Servicing, Inc." on Justia Law
Dixon v. United States
The United States was held liable upon the district court's finding that a doctor at a federal health facility caused plaintiffs' son E.R.T. to suffer severe and life-altering injuries at the time of his birth. On appeal, the government challenged the application of section 768.78(2) of the Florida Statutes to the method of payment the district court chose for the government to satisfy the judgment against it. Plaintiffs cross-appealed the district court's application of section 768.78(2)'s bond requirement. The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court did not err in allowing the United States to pay the full damages award into a trust for E.R.T. to be dispensed periodically without requiring the United States to make a security payment for the full amount of damages; the district court did not err in concluding that the United States was not entitled to a reversionary interest in any future economic damages remaining in the trust after E.R.T.'s death; the district court erred in not awarding the government an interest in (1) the difference between the full value of the balance remaining in the trust in the case of E.R.T.'s premature death and its present value, and (2) the amount of interest that the trust earns solely because the United States paid the entire future-economic-damages award into the trust up front in a lump sum, not reduced to present value; the district court erred in setting the United States's deadline for paying the judgment within thirty days of the entry of this decision on appeal; and the district court did not abuse its discretion when it ordered the United States to make a future-lost-earnings payment when E.R.T. turns 17 and 1/2 years old. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded in part. View "Dixon v. United States" on Justia Law
Minott v. M/Y Brunello
The Eleventh Circuit had interlocutory jurisdiction in this appeal from the denial of a warrant in rem for the arrest of a vessel. In this case, plaintiff filed a complaint against the vessel and others, alleging that he was entitled to enforce a maritime lien for damages arising from a maritime tort. The court held that plaintiff's claim for a maritime tort against the vessel fell within the admiralty jurisdiction of the district court and plaintiff was entitled to a warrant in rem. Accordingly, the court remanded with instructions to direct the clerk to issue a warrant in rem for the arrest of the vessel. View "Minott v. M/Y Brunello" on Justia Law
Williams v. Mosaic Fertilizer, LLC
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Mosaic in this toxic tort action. Plaintiff alleged that toxic substances emitted from a factory operated by Mosaic caused or exacerbated various medical conditions from which she suffers. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding the opinions of plaintiff's expert because the expert's methodology was undermined by multiple defects. The court found no error in the district court's analysis and agreed with the district court that, among other things, the expert failed to properly assess dose-response with regard to plaintiff, to meaningfully rule out other potential causes of plaintiff's medical conditions, and to account for the background risk of her conditions. View "Williams v. Mosaic Fertilizer, LLC" on Justia Law
Lewis v. Moore
Plaintiffs, through their parents, filed suit against defendants, alleging harms from the result of their parents being enrolled in a clinical study while being treated for health issues accompanying the children's premature births. At issue was whether a plaintiff who claims that he did not give informed consent to medical treatment provided as part of a clinical study must show that he was injured as a result of that treatment. The Eleventh Circuit held that Alabama law required that there be an actual injury caused by the treatment. In this case, plaintiffs failed to establish that their lack of informed consent caused any actual injuries, and thus the district court properly granted summary judgment for defendants. View "Lewis v. Moore" on Justia Law