Georgia Law Review Online’s Eleventh Circuit Summer Summary

We at the Georgia Law Review Online would like to welcome every one of you (our loyal and devoted followers) back to the beginning of another fun-filled semester of Eleventh Circuit case summaries. While we might have taken the summer off to clerk with judges and/or law firms, there was no rest for the Eleventh Circuit.

So busy was the Eleventh Circuit, in fact, that we cannot describe in vivid detail all of the opinions that were published over the summer. The information would be too much for one reader to handle (and we lack the man power to accomplish such a Herculean feat). Instead, we present to you our Eleventh Circuit Summer Summary – a list of the Top 10 Eleventh Circuit Opinions from the months of June and July.

Why only 10 opinions? Why only the months of June and July? Well, the long-and-short answer is: This format just makes sense for us (we are going through a transitional period), so expect more of the same in the future.

Without further ado, we present to you our subjective list of the Top 10 Eleventh Circuit Summer Opinions.

June:

  1. Lynn Breslow v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., No. 12-14564 (June 9, 2014)
    1. Why read it? In this case, the Eleventh Circuit determined the proper interpretation of the term “called party” for purposes of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (“TCPA”), Pub. L. No. 102-243, 105 Stat. 2394.
    2. Why this matters? The TCPA makes it unlawful to make any call using an automatic telephone dialing system (an “autodial system”) to a cellular telephone without the prior express consent of the “called party.” 47 U.S.C. § 227(b)(1)(A)(iii) (2006).
    3. What they said: A “called party,” for purposes of § 227(b)(1)(A)(iii), means the subscriber to the cell phone service and not the intended recipient. See Osorio v. State Farm Bank, F.S.B., 746 F.3D 1242, 1251 (11th Cir. 2014).
  2. Sherrie Johnson v. Ryan Connor, No. 12-15228 (June 13, 2014)
    1. Why read it? In this case, the Eleventh Circuit was called upon to decide whether a recently amended Alabama statute granting sovereign immunity to jailers, which is silent on retroactivity, applies retroactively or only prospectively.
    2. Why this matters? This case involves the suicide of a prison inmate. The State of Alabama is immune from suit, and that sovereign immunity extends to Alabama sheriffs and their deputies “when [they are] executing their law enforcement duties.” McMillan v. Monroe Cnty., Ala., 520 U.S. 781, 793 (1997). However, under the Jailer Liability Protection Act, which came into effect on June 14, 2011 after the inmate’s suicide, sovereign immunity can extend to jailers. Ala. Code § 14-6-1.
    3. What they said: Amended § 14-6-1 speaks to the substantive rights of the parties, and, if we applied the federal framework laid out in Landgraf and Hughes Aircraft, it would be presumed to apply only retroactively. This is consistent with Alabama law, under which the presumption against retroactivity applies to substantive statutes—“those that create, enlarge, diminish, or destroy vested rights … [and] define[] and regulate[] the rights, duties, and powers of the parties.” Ala. Ins. Guar. Ass’n v. Mercy Med. Ass’n, 120 So. 3d 1063, 1068 (Ala. 2013).
  3. Robert Adams v. Austal, USA, LLC, No. 12-11507 (June 17, 2014)
    1. Why read it? In this case, the Eleventh Circuit decided whether an employee may rely on evidence of racial harassment of which he is not personally aware to prove that his work environment was objectively hostile.
    2. Why this matters? This case involved complaints alleging harassment including vulgar graffiti in the men’s restroom, appearances of nooses, displays of Confederate flags, and utterances of racial slurs at a shipyard in Mobile, Alabama.
    3. What they said: Although an employee may introduce evidence of harassment which he is not personally aware to prove that his employer is responsible for the harassment or to rebut an affirmative defense, this kind of “me too” evidence can not prove that a work environment is objectively hostile.
  4. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Tahisia L. Scantling, No. 13-10558 (June 18, 2014)
    1. Why read it? In this case, the Eleventh Circuit was asked to determine if a debtor can “strip off” a wholly unsecured junior mortgage in a Chapter 20 case.
    2. Why this matters? In order to resolve this issue, the Eleventh Circuit was asked to analyze the interplay between two provisions of the Bankruptcy Code 11 U.S.C. §§ 506 and 1322(b), following the enactment of the BAPCPA.
    3. What they said: A debtor, in a Chapter 13 setting, may strip off an unsecured mortgage in the debtor’s principal residence. This strip off is accomplished through the § 506(a) valuation procedure that determines that the creditor does not hold a secured claim. Pursuant to § 1332(b) (2), the creditor’s “rights” are modified by avoiding the lien to which the creditor would otherwise be entitled under nonbankruptcy law.
  5. Sakari Jarvela v. Crete Carrier Corporation, No. 13-11601 (June 18, 2014)
    1. Why read it? In this case, the Eleventh Circuit was asked to decide whether a company, Crete, violated the ADA by terminating an employee, Jarvela, after the employee was diagnosed with alcoholism.
    2. Why this matters? The Department of Transportation (“DOT”) regulation prohibits anyone with a “current clinical diagnosis of alcoholism” from driving commercial trucks. Crete Carrier Corporation contends that it maintains a company policy that prohibits it from employing anyone who has had a diagnosis of alcoholism within the past five years.
    3. What they said: Crete determined that Jarvela was not qualified under DOT regulations to drive a commercial truck because he had a current clinical diagnosis of alcoholism. The district court found no fault with Crete’s determination. And we find no fault with the district court’s determination upholding Crete’s.

July:

  1. USA v. Michael J. Muzio, No 10-13325 (July 8, 2014)
    1. Why read it? This case required the Eleventh Circuit to answer a jurisdictional question left open by the Supreme Court in Dolan v. United States, 560 U.S. 605, 130 S. Ct. 2533 (2010).
    2. Why this matters? Specifically, the Eleventh Circuit was asked to determine whether it has jurisdiction to hear appeals from judgments sentencing a defendant to a term of imprisonment and indicating that restitution will later be ordered but deferring determination of the specific amount.
    3. What they said: Regardless of whether a final judgment reflecting the amount of restitution has been entered, a judgment imposing a term of imprisonment is “freighted with sufficiently substantial indicia of finality to support an appeal.” Id. at 617 (quoting Corey v. United States, 375 U.S. 169, 174-75 (1963)).
  2. Allan Campbell v. Air Jamaica LTD, No. 12-14860 (July 8, 2014)
    1. Why read it? In this case, Plaintiff suffered a heart attack after being delayed, recalled to a boarding gate, forced to reschedule to another flight on another day (the day when his permanent resident alien card would expire), forced to pay for the rescheduled flight, and Defendant failed to put him up in a hotel. On top of everything, terminal repairs left Plaintiff to spend the night outside, exposed to the elements.
    2. Why this matters? Plaintiff’s claims for damages are governed by the Montreal Convention, a multilateral treaty setting rules for international air travel. Plaintiff seeks recovery against Air Jamaica and Caribbean Airlines under Article 19, which concerns damages due to delay, and Article 17, which addresses accidents that injure passengers on board a plane.
    3. What they said: The district court dismissed Plaintiff’s amended complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Eleventh Circuit disagrees because Article 33 of the Montreal Convention grants the district court the power to hear his claims. However, the Eleventh Circuit affirms the dismissal where Plaintiff failed to state an Article 17 claim, because he did not allege injuries caused by an “accident” that occurred “on board the aircraft or in the course of any of the operations of embarking or disembarking.”
  3. Stanley L. Crawford v. LVNV Funding, LLC, No. 13-12389 (July 10, 2014)
    1. Why read it? This appeal considers whether a proof of claim to collect a stale debt in Chapter 13 bankruptcy violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”). 15 U.S.C. 1692-1692p (2006).
    2. Why this matters? In U.S. bankruptcy courts, consumer debt buyers—armed with hundreds of delinquent accounts purchased from creditors—are filing proofs of claim on debts deemed unenforceable under state statutes of limitations.
    3. What they said: The FDCPA’s broad language, our precedent, and the record compel the conclusion that defendants’ conduct violated a number of the FDCPA’s protective provisions. See id. §§ 1692(e), 1692d-1692f.
  4. Lilliana Maria Cardona v. Chiquita Brands International, Inc., No. 12-14898 (July 24, 2014)
    1. Why read it? Over four thousand Colombians brought actions against Appellant Chiquita Brands International, Inc., and Chiquita Fresh North LLC (collectively, “Chiquita”), alleging claims involving torture, personal injury, and death under the Torture Victims Protection Act and the Alien Tort Statute.
    2. Why this matters? The district court denied the motions to dismiss and, concluding that there were controlling questions of law that could be efficiently decided before further litigation, those questions were certified to the Eleventh Circuit.
    3. What they said: The Eleventh Circuit disposed of the action concluding that neither it nor the district courts had jurisdiction over the action. In Mohamad v. Palestinian Authority, __ U.S. at __, 132 S. Ct. 1702, 1708 (2012), a unanimous Court held that the TVPA “authorizes liability solely against natural persons.” In this case, neither defendant is a natural person and the claims under the TVPA must be dismissed.
  5. USA v. Charles Marvin Watkins, No 12-12549 (July 28, 2014)
    1. Why read it? Charles Marvin Watkins was charged under 18 U.S.C. § 2252 for receipt of child pornography by computer over the internet. Mr. Watkins was assisting law enforcement in a murder investigation after the body of a seven-year-old girl, with whom he was acquainted, was found in a landfill. When questioned by an investigating officer, Mr. Watkins admitted to having downloaded and viewed child pornography.
    2. Why this matters? A detective asked for Mr. Watkins permission to search his computers but assured him that the officer was not searching for his child pornography but only for clues to the girl’s murder from sites she had visited on the computers while visiting his home. In addition to Mr. Watkins’ agreeing to this search, his wife later independently consented to a general search of the computers.
    3. What they said: The search was valid because, despite the infirmities that the district court detected in Mr. Watkins’s consent to search the computers, Mrs. Watkins consented to a full search of the computers, and Mr. Watkins failed to show that the search violated his rights under Georgia v. Randolph, 547 U.S. 103, 126 S. Ct. 1515, 164 L. Ed. 2d 208 (2006).

 

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