Justia Injury Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
Robert Wayne Dotson, et al. v. USA
Plaintiffs were involved in a motor vehicle accident involving a vehicle operated by a USPS employee; through counsel, Plaintiffs submitted a “claim for damage, injury, or death." Subsequently, Plaintiffs retained a new law firm (Pawlowski), and provided notice to the USPS. On September 27, 2018, Plaintiffs filed a Federal Tort Claims Act action against the government and the USPS employee. On October 16, 2018, a copy of the complaint and summons in the first FTCA action was delivered to the government. Another law firm (“Youngblood”), filed the first FTCA action complaint.On October 22, 2018, the USPS mailed a certified letter denying Plaintiffs’ administrative claims to Pawlowski, indicating Plaintiffs had until April 22, 2019 to file suit against the government. Neither Pawlowski nor Youngblood provided the USPS notice of any change in representation. On August 30, 2019, Plaintiffs filed their second FTCA complaint. On March 4, 2020, the government moved for summary judgment, arguing Plaintiffs’ claims were time-barred.Plaintiffs contend that the government failed to comply with the plain language of 39 C.F.R. Sec. 912.9(a) when the USPS sent the denial letter to Pawlowski. Further that the district court erred in finding they were not entitled to equitable tolling.The court ruled that the USPS mailed the denial letter to the legal representative who Plaintiffs most recently identified, thus complying with the regulation. Further, the court held that Plaintiffs failed to demonstrate entitlement to equitable tolling. The court affirmed the district court’s order granting summary judgment for the government. View "Robert Wayne Dotson, et al. v. USA" on Justia Law
Erika L. McNamara v. Government Employees Insurance Company
While driving the co-plaintiffs car, the plaintiff negligently changed lanes and caused a collision, seriously injuring another driver. At the time of the incident at-fault car’s owner had a GEICO insurance policy that provided bodily-injury coverage up to $100,000 per person. The victim and Geico assert they made offers to settle, but the parties never agreed. After the conclusion of the victim's lawsuit, plaintiffs sued GEICO for bad faith, seeking to recover the amounts of the final judgments entered against them that exceeded the $100,000 policy limit. They contended that GEICO had breached its fiduciary duty to them by failing to settle the victim’s case within the policy limit. Plaintiffs challenge Cawthorn v. Auto-Owners Insurance Co 791 F. App’x 60, 65 (11th Cir. 2019), arguing that Florida law doesn’t require that a verdict precede an excess judgment as a prerequisite to proving the causation element of an insurer-bad-faith claim. The court reasoned that plaintiffs' available coverage and final judgments entered against them constituted excess judgments. Thus, plaintiffs could prove causation in their bad-faith case because they were subject to excess judgments. Finally, the court declined to follow Cawthorn because that court incorrectly analyzed Florida's bad-faith law and is unpersuasive. View "Erika L. McNamara v. Government Employees Insurance Company" on Justia Law
Newbauer v. Carnival Corp.
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's negligence claims against Carnival based on failure to state a claim. Plaintiff alleged claims for negligent failure to maintain and negligent failure to warn after she slipped and fell on a wet substance near the bar onboard a Carnival cruise ship. The court concluded that plaintiff failed to include any factual allegations that were sufficient to satisfy the Iqbal and Twombly pleading standards such that it is facially plausible that Carnival had actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition. Rather, the court concluded that plaintiff's complaint contains only conclusory allegations as to actual or constructive notice. Finally, because plaintiff never sought leave to amend the complaint, there was no error in granting leave sua sponte before dismissing the complaint. View "Newbauer v. Carnival Corp." on Justia Law
Doe v. Choice Hotels International, Inc.
Plaintiffs, four sex trafficking victims, filed suit against numerous defendants within the hotel industry for violations of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), specifically 18 U.S.C. 1595(a), and Georgia state law. The district court held that plaintiffs failed to plausibly allege claims against three hotel franchisors: Choice Hotels, Wyndham Hotels, and Microtel Inn & Suites.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed and held that Section 1595(a) should be applied according to its plain meaning: that is, to state a claim for beneficiary liability under the TVPRA, a plaintiff must plausibly allege that the defendant (1) knowingly benefited (2) from taking part in a common undertaking or enterprise involving risk and potential profit, (3) that the undertaking or enterprise violated the TVPRA as to the plaintiff, and (4) that the defendant had constructive or actual knowledge that the undertaking or enterprise violated the TVPRA as to the plaintiff. The court concluded that plaintiffs have failed to meet that burden as to the three franchisors at issue on appeal. The court likewise concluded that, as to these three defendants, plaintiffs did not state a plausible claim under Georgia state law. View "Doe v. Choice Hotels International, Inc." on Justia Law
Blackburn v. Shire US Inc.
Blackburn, who has Crohn’s disease, was prescribed LIALDA, an anti-inflammatory drug specifically aimed at the gut. LIALDA is not FDA-approved to treat Crohn’s, but it is approved to treat ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s “sister” disease. Blackburn was subsequently diagnosed with advanced-stage kidney disease. Blackburn does not claim that Shire, LIALDA’s manufacturer failed to warn of the risk of kidney disease; he and his doctor knew that the drug might impair his kidney function. Blackburn contends that Shire should have more explicitly warned his doctor about how regularly to monitor his kidney function after prescribing LIALDA. He contends that, if LIALDA’s warning label had been better, his physician would have discovered the effect on his kidneys sooner and prevented his injury.The Eleventh Circuit identified two unsettled, dispositive questions of Alabama law, which it certified to the state’s highest court. May a pharmaceutical company’s duty to warn include a duty to provide instructions about how to mitigate warned-of risks? May a plaintiff establish that an improper warning caused his injuries by showing that his doctor would have adopted a different course of testing or mitigation, even though he would have prescribed the same drug? View "Blackburn v. Shire US Inc." on Justia Law
Colon v. Twitter, Inc.
The estates of some of the murder victims from the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016, along with some of the injured, filed suit in federal court in Michigan against social media companies. The lawsuit was unsuccessful. A second action, this case, was filed in federal court in Florida against the same social media companies by different victims of the Pulse shooting. Here, plaintiffs alleged in part that the companies aided and abetted Omar Mateen, the shooter, in violation of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) by facilitating his access to radical jihadist and ISIS-sponsored content in the months and years leading up to the shooting. Plaintiffs also alleged claims against the companies under Florida law for negligent infliction of emotional distress and wrongful death.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the ATA and state law claims with prejudice under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The court agreed with the district court that plaintiffs failed to make out a plausible claim that the Pulse massacre was an act of "international terrorism" as that term is defined in the ATA. Consequently, the companies—no matter what the court may think of their alleged conduct—cannot be liable for aiding and abetting under the ATA. In regard to the state law claims, the court concluded that plaintiffs have failed to adequately brief proximate cause under Florida law, and have therefore abandoned their challenge to the district court's ruling. Accordingly, the district court properly dismissed plaintiffs' claims for aiding and abetting under the ATA and for negligent infliction of emotional distress and wrongful death under Florida law. View "Colon v. Twitter, Inc." on Justia Law
Smith v. United States
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) suit against the United States after Steve Smith and his daughter, Sydney, were killed when their car struck two mailboxes. Plaintiffs claim that the Postal Service is liable because it failed to warn the mailboxes' owners that the mailboxes did not comply with various safety regulations.The court concluded that, even assuming plaintiffs are correct—about both the regulatory infractions and the Postal Service's duty to provide warnings about those infractions—the United States cannot be held liable. The court explained that the FTCA waives sovereign immunity for the acts or omissions of a federal employee only when a private person would be liable under state tort law for those same acts or omissions. In this case, plaintiffs pointed to no state law duty where the duty plaintiffs allege, negligence per se based on the Postal Service's requirement to notify homeowners if their mailboxes did not conform to various safety standards, would spring only from federal guidance—the Postal Operations Manual. View "Smith v. United States" on Justia Law
Turner v. Costa Crociere S.P.A.
Turner, a Wisconsin resident, filed a putative class action against Costa, an Italian cruise operator, and its American subsidiary, alleging that their negligence contributed to an outbreak of COVID-19 aboard the Costa Luminosa during his transatlantic voyage beginning on March 5, 2020. The Luminosa had evacuated a passenger, who subsequently died of COVID-19, from a cruise immediately preceding Turner’s cruise. Costa told passengers that the ship was safe. It did not hire any experts to verify that the ship had been sufficiently cleaned and allegedly failed to refuse boarding to individuals who had COVID-19 symptoms or had traveled to high-risk areas. On March 8, the Luminosa had docked to transport passengers with COVID-19 symptoms to the hospital but did not inform passengers of those circumstances, When passengers disembarked on March 19, 36 of the 75 passengers tested positive for COVID-19. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Turner’s complaint on forum non conveniens grounds. Turner's passage ticket contract included a forum selection clause requiring that all claims associated with his cruise be litigated in Genoa, Italy. Forum selection clauses are presumptively valid and enforceable; Turner failed to defeat the presumption by showing that the clause was induced by fraud or overreaching, that he would be deprived of his day in court because of inconvenience or unfairness, the chosen law would deprive him of a remedy or enforcement of the clause would contravene public policy.’ View "Turner v. Costa Crociere S.P.A." on Justia Law
Smith v. United States
Plaintiff filed suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), alleging that various medical professionals working for the VA breached their legal duty to exercise ordinary medical care and negligently failed to diagnose his throat cancer and immediately treat it. The district court dismissed plaintiff's complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, concluding that judicial review of his claims was precluded by the Veterans' Judicial Review Act (VJRA).The Eleventh Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in pat, concluding that the district court did lack jurisdiction over some of plaintiff's claims but that it had jurisdiction over his tort claims alleging medical negligence or malpractice. To the extent that plaintiff alleges that any delay in his receipt of needed medical care was a result of the VA's failure to timely approve and/or authorize his care or payments therefore, the district court could not review those allegations without second-guessing a decision by the VA necessary to a benefits determination—when to grant the requested benefit. As for plaintiff's allegations related to the VA's failure to follow its own policies, procedures, and protocols, if the district court lacks jurisdiction to review the VA's approval, authorization, and scheduling decisions, it must also lack jurisdiction to determine whether the VA followed its own internal procedures in making those decisions. However, plaintiff's medical negligence and malpractice claims do not require the district court to decide whether plaintiff was entitled to benefits nor do they require the court to revisit any decision made by the Secretary in the course of making benefits determinations. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Smith v. United States" on Justia Law
McIntosh v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd.
In this maritime negligence case involving a "cruise to nowhere," plaintiff filed a class action complaint against Royal Caribbean, on behalf of other similarly situated cruise ship passengers, alleging several tort theories, including negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Plaintiff alleged that Royal Caribbean canceled her cruise because of Hurricane Harvey and offered refunds only on the day the cruise ship was set to sail. Because the ticket contracts provided that no refunds would be given for passenger cancelations within 14 days of the voyage, and because Royal Caribbean repeatedly told passengers that they would lose their entire payments for the cruise if they canceled, the plaintiffs claimed that they were forced to travel to Galveston and nearby areas (like Houston) as Hurricane Harvey approached. Therefore, plaintiff alleged that, while in Texas, they were forced to endure hurricane-force conditions, and suffered physical and emotional injuries.The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and remanded for further proceedings. The court concluded that the district court committed two errors in ruling that diversity jurisdiction was lacking in this case, and each one provides an independent basis for reversal. First, the district court failed to give the plaintiffs notice of its intent to sua sponte address the matter of diversity jurisdiction. Second, putting aside the aggregation of damages issue, the district court failed to consider whether any individual plaintiff had satisfied the $75,000 amount-in-controversy requirement. On remand, the district court should also consider whether there is maritime jurisdiction. Because of the uncertainty over jurisdiction, the court did not address the class action waiver or the claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress. View "McIntosh v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd." on Justia Law