U.S. Eleventh Circuit - The FindLaw 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

February 2010 Archives

Medical Malpractice Decision in Deen v. Egleston

Deen v. Egleston, No. 09-11458, was a medical malpractice action involving allegations of dental malpractice.

The court of appeals described some of the claims as follows: "Linda Deen claimed that Dr. Egleston had been medically negligent by, among other things, performing a full mouth debridement which, according to Deen, "caused huge amounts of bacteria to have been dumped into the blood stream." She sought compensatory damages and damages for pain and suffering and loss of consortium. She alleged damages in excess of $10,000. An amended complaint followed, adding counts for negligence per se, simple negligence, and constructive fraud."

The court of appeals reversed the denial of partial summary judgment for the dentist defendant, holding that the district court, in striking down, under the Equal Protection Clause, a state statute that did not exempt the "legally incompetent" from the general two-year statute of limitations, overlooked the essential principle that matters of social and economic policy, particularly when they came to bear on the health and welfare of a state's citizens, were quintessentially legislative in nature.

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Criminal and Civil Rights Matters

The Eleventh Circuit handed down rulings in one criminal and one civil rights case.

In US v. Whitson, 09-10521, the court of appeals vacated defendant's drug importation sentence, holding that defendant's prior conviction for non-overt act criminal conspiracy was not a "crime of violence," in light of Begay v. United States, 128 S. Ct. 1581 (2008), and thus, she did not qualify as a "career offender."

Coffin v. Brandau, No. 08-14538, involved an action based on defendant-officers' alleged warrantless entry into plaintiffs' garage, and one plaintiff's arrest, claiming a violation of plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment rights.  The Eleventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for defendants, on the ground that plaintiffs' garage was not included within the unambiguous physical dimensions of an individual's home, and it was not clear that it fell into the category of curtilage.

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Criminal and Civil Rights Matters

The Eleventh Circuit decided two criminal matters and one civil rights case.

In US v. Phillips, No. 08-17248, the Eleventh Circuit vacated defendant's drug and firearm possession sentence, holding that, under 18 U.S.C. section 3582(c) and Fed. R. Crim. P. 35(a), the district court on January 26, 2009 did not have jurisdiction after seven days had passed to modify and vacate defendant's 324-month sentence imposed on December 5, 2008.

In US v. Whitson, No. 09-10521, the court of appeals vacated defendant's cocaine importation sentence on the ground that defendant's prior conviction for non-overt act criminal conspiracy was not a "crime of violence," in light of Begay v. United States, 128 S. Ct. 1581 (2008), under U.S.S.G. section 4B1.1.

Coffin v. Brandau, No. 08-14538, involved an action based on defendant-officers' alleged warrantless entry into plaintiffs' garage, and one plaintiff's arrest, in violation of plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment rights.  The court of appeals affirmed summary judgment for defendants, holding that plaintiffs' garage was not included within the unambiguous physical dimensions of an individual's home, and it was not clear that it fell into the category of curtilage.

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Criminal and Employment Law Matters

The Eleventh Circuit decided two employment cases and one criminal sentencing matter.

Mora v. Jackson Mem. Found., Inc., No. 08-16113, was an an Age Discrimination in Employment Act action in which the district court granted summary judgment for defendant.  The Eleventh Circuit vacated the judgment, holding that a reasonable juror could accept that plaintiff's supervisor made discriminatory-sounding remarks and that the remarks were sufficient evidence of a discriminatory motive which was the "but for" cause of plaintiff's dismissal.

Brown v. Ala. Dep't of Trans., No. 08-14371, was a Title VII action alleging a racially discriminatory failure to promote plaintiff.  The court of appeals affirmed the judgment for plaintiff in part, holding that there was ample evidence of racial discrimination specific to three of the promotions at issue, suggesting that defendant's proffered reasons were pretextual.  However, the court reversed in part on the grounds that 1) the evidence was insufficient to support a finding of discrimination or retaliation as to the remaining six promotions; 2) the jury's backpay award was plainly a cumulative figure reflecting each of the promotions, and thus a remand for recalculation was required; and 3) clarification was also required as to a portion of a permanent injunction requiring that plaintiff be instated to a "comparable position" pending her promotion.

In US v. Phillips, No. 08-17248, the court of appeals vacated defendant's drug and firearm possession sentence, holding that the district court on January 26, 2009 did not have jurisdiction after seven days had passed to modify and vacate defendant's 324-month sentence imposed on December 5, 2008.

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Rulings in Copyright and Immigration Matters

The Eleventh Circuit decided two cases today, one involving a copyright infringement action, and the other concerning an immigration matter.

In Utopia Provider Sys., Inc. v. Pro-Med Clinical Sys., L.L.C., No. 09-11160, plaintiff filed a copyright infringement action based on defendant's alleged misappropriation of plaintiff's paper templates.  The district court granted summary judgment to defendant and dismissed plaintiff's state law claims without prejudice.

The court of appeals affirmed, holding that the selection and arrangement of the terms in the paper template did not convey information and was not sufficiently original to qualify for copyright protection.

Diallo v. U.S. Atty. Gen., No. 08-16507, involved a petition for review of the BIA's order removing petitioner from the U.S., following the denial of petitioner's asylum application.

The Eleventh Circuit granted the petition on the ground that a credible death threat made in person by one with the ability to carry out that threat rose to the level of persecution.

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Civil Rights and False Claims Act Cases

Today, the Eleventh Circuit decided cases concerning civil rights and False Claims Act issues.

US ex rel. Sanchez v. Lymphatx, Inc., No. 09-14275, was a False Claims Act action alleging fraudulent billing and retaliatory discharge claims against a government contractor.  The district court dismissed the complaint.

The court of appeals affirmed in part on the ground that plaintiff was represented by counsel but did not move for leave to amend.  However, the court reversed in part, holding that, because plaintiff's retaliation claim did not depend on allegations of fraud, the complaint only needed a short and plain statement of the claim showing that she was entitled to relief.

In Jimenez v. WellStar Health Sys., No. 09-10917, a physician claimed that defendant health care system suspended his staff privileges based on his race.  The district court dismissed the complaint.

The court of appeals affirmed, holding that: 1) the complaint did not adequately plead that defendant's alleged discrimination concerned activities enumerated by 42 U.S.C. section 1981; 2) the suspension of medical staff privileges did not implicate any rights protected by section 1981; and 3) conspiracies to violate rights protected under section 1981 were likewise insufficient to form the basis of a section 1985(3) claim.

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First Amendment, Criminal Matters

The Eleventh Circuit decided two cases today: one concerning an adult establishment's First Amendment challenge to an ordinance prohibiting it from serving alcohol, and another concerning a defendant's conviction for knowingly acting in the U.S. as an agent of a foreign government.

In Flanigan's Enters., Inc. v. Fulton County, Ga., No. 08-17035, plaintiff challenged under the First Amendment a county ordinance prohibiting the sale, possession, and consumption of alcohol in adult entertainment establishments.  The district court granted summary judgment for plaintiff.

The Eleventh Circuit reversed on the ground that the evidence showed that the ordinance attempted to insulate the communities surrounding the adult entertainment establishments affected by the ordinance from the "secondary effects" that tended to accompany those businesses, and thus survived intermediate scrutiny.

In US v. Duran, No. 09-11446, defendant appealed his conviction for knowingly acting in the U.S. as an agent of a foreign government, which arose out of his involvement in attempting to cover up the so-called "Suitcase Scandal" between Venezuela and Argentina.

The court of appeals affirmed on the grounds that: 1) the plain language of 18 U.S.C. section 951 and its corresponding regulations gave notice of what was prohibited and were readily understandable to a person of ordinary intelligence; 2) section 951's plain language made it clear that it was a general intent crime, as there was no mens rea element on the face of the statute; and 3) the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding evidence of mens rea to show that defendant and his co-conspirators did not know of the notification requirement under section 951.

Full text of Flanigan's Enters., Inc. v. Fulton County, Ga.

Full text of US v. Duran

Robinson v. Tyson Foods, Inc., No. 08-14991

In an employment discrimination action brought by plaintiff during the pendency of her Chapter 13 proceedings, summary judgment for defendant on the ground of judicial estoppel is affirmed where plaintiff failed to disclose her employment discrimination suit to the bankruptcy court, and thus took inconsistent positions under oath with the intent of misleading the court.

Read Robinson v. Tyson Foods, Inc., No. 08-14991

Appellate Information

Filed February 5, 2010

Judges

Opinion by Judge Fay

Arnold v. Sec'y. Dep't of Corr., No. 09-11911

In the government's appeal from the grant of petitioner's habeas petition, the grant of the petition is affirmed for the reasons stated by the district court.

Read Arnold v. Sec'y. Dep't of Corr., No. 09-11911

Appellate Information

Filed February 8, 2010

Judges

Per Curiam

US v. Patterson, No. 09-13354

Defendant's sentence for possessing a counterfeit state security is affirmed where: 1) it was not error for the district court to sentence defendant under a Sentencing Guidelines calculation of intended loss that was more than double the amount of restitution ordered in the same case; and 2) the record was not sufficiently developed to support a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel and a collateral attack is the preferable avenue for such challenges.

Read US v. Patterson, No. 09-13354

Appellate Information

Filed February 8, 2010

Judges

Opinion by Judge Wilson

Clark v. Riley, No. 08-11978

In an action by a member of the Board of Trustees for Alabama State University seeking a declaratory judgment that an age limit in Ala. Code section 16-50-20(a) prohibiting a board member from serving beyond September 30 following his seventieth birthday did not apply to him, dismissal of the action is affirmed where the Code section relied upon by plaintiff applied only to the initial reshuffling of the board that occurred when a 1986 amendment was passed.

Read Clark v. Riley, No. 08-11978

Appellate Information

Filed February 4, 2010

Judges

Opinion by Judge Tjoflat

Green v. Nelson, No. 08-11212

In a rape and sodomy prosecution, a denial of petitioner's habeas petition is affirmed in part where petitioner's trial counsel was ineffective for not moving to suppress his blood and DNA evidence, but petitioner could not show prejudice resulting from that failure. However, order is reversed in part where the evidence was insufficient to support the charge of aggravated sodomy.

Read Green v. Nelson, No. 08-11212

Appellate Information

February 4, 2010

Judges

Opinion by Judge Barkett

US v. Holmes, No. 09-14035

Defendant's aggravated identity theft conviction is affirmed where a reasonable jury could have found beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant knew that the means of identification at issue belonged to another person.

Read US v. Holmes, No. 09-14035

Appellate Information

Filed February 4, 2010

Judges

Per Curiam

US v. Jules, No. 08-13629

In a drug possession prosecution, a denial of defendant's motion to reduce his sentence is reversed where, when a district court intends to rely on new information in deciding a motion for the modification of a sentence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. section 3582(c)(2), each party is entitled to notice of the information and an opportunity to respond.

Read US v. Jules, No. 08-13629

Appellate Information

Filed February 2, 2010

Judges

Opinion by Judge Black

Equity Inv. Partners, LP v. Lenz, No. 09-11887

In an action to foreclose defendants' mortgage and to establish the priority of plaintiff's security interest over a federal tax lien, summary judgment for the IRS is vacated where plaintiff was not required to show that the parties contemplated future execution of a security agreement at the time the loans were issued.  Rather, to show past consideration, plaintiff needed to present evidence that the security agreement was executed for the purpose of repaying the loans.

Read Equity Inv. Partners, LP v. Lenz, No. 09-11887

Appellate Information

Filed February 1, 2010

Judges

Opinion by Judge Cox