Justia Contracts Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
Daniel Ilias v. USAA General Indemnity Company
S.D. lost control of his van while driving on a divided highway in Pasco County, Florida. The van jumped the center median and landed directly on top of an oncoming car driven by Plaintiff. Plaintiff was seriously injured in the resulting wreck. S.D.’s insurer, USAA General Indemnity Company, immediately began investigating. But despite learning that Plaintiff had suffered grievous injuries so that his damages would almost surely exceed S.D.’s $10,000 policy limit, and despite determining that S.D. was solely at fault for the accident, USAA delayed initiating settlement negotiations for over a month. Then, USAA failed to confirm for Plaintiff’s attorney that S.D. lacked additional insurance coverage with which to satisfy a judgment. Plaintiff then commenced this action to hold USAA responsible for the judgment, bringing a single claim for bad faith under Florida common law. USAA moved for summary judgment, arguing that no reasonable jury could find that its conduct amounted to bad faith. The Eleventh Circuit reversed and remanded. The court held that the district court improvidently granted summary judgment to USAA. Material issues of fact as to bad faith and causation remain in dispute, and Plaintiff is entitled to have a jury resolve them. The court explained had USAA complied with its “duty to initiate settlement negotiations” sooner or provided Plaintiff’s attorney with a coverage affidavit before Plaintiff filed suit, the case may have settled before rising costs changed the calculus. View "Daniel Ilias v. USAA General Indemnity Company" on Justia Law
Professional Airline Flight Control Association v. Spirit Airlines, Inc.
The Professional Airline Flight Control Association complained that Spirit is attempting to change its agreement. Spirit responded that its unilateral decision to open a second operations control center is permitted by the parties’ agreement. The district court agreed with Spirit that this dispute is minor and dismissed the action for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. Section 151 et seq., divides labor disputes into two categories: disputes over the interpretation of an existing agreement are “minor” and resolved exclusively through binding arbitration, and disputes over proposed changes to an agreement or over a new agreement are “major” and addressed through bargaining and mediation. During a major dispute, district courts have subject-matter jurisdiction to enjoin violations of the status quo. But district courts ordinarily lack jurisdiction over minor disputes. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court’s dismissal. View "Professional Airline Flight Control Association v. Spirit Airlines, Inc." on Justia Law
MSP Recovery Claims, Series LLC v. United Automobile Insurance Company
The assignees of two Medicare Advantage Organizations seek reimbursements from insurance companies that they allege qualify as primary payers of beneficiaries’ medical expenses. The insurance companies argued, and the district courts agreed, that the assignees’ claims are barred because both assignees failed to satisfy a procedural requirement: a contractual claims-filing deadline in one case and a statutory requirement of a pre-suit demand in the other. The assignees contend that the procedural requirements are preempted by the Medicare Secondary Payer Act. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court reasoned that Florida’s pre-suit demand requirement does not meet this relatively high bar. The statutory notice requirement and corresponding 30-day cure period are procedural requirements that may result in a brief delay. But the Florida law does not prevent or meaningfully impede the reimbursement of Medicare Advantage Organizations that Congress sought to facilitate. So, the provision does not create an unconstitutional obstacle to the purposes or operation of the Medicare Secondary Payer Act. View "MSP Recovery Claims, Series LLC v. United Automobile Insurance Company" on Justia Law
GSE Consulting, Inc. v. L3Harris Technologies, Inc.
Under the terms of a consulting agreement between GSE Consulting, Inc. (“GSE”) and Harris Corporation (“Harris”), GSE is entitled to a payment of up to four million dollars in the event that certain intellectual property owned by Harris is “sold, merged or transferred” but did not form “the primary basis of the sale.” GSE contends that the relevant intellectual property, held by a subsidiary of one of Harris’s subsidiaries, necessarily “merged” when Harris used a different subsidiary to effectuate a comprehensive reverse triangular merger with an outside company and thus triggered Harris’s payment obligation under the parties’ agreement. L3Harris, however, maintained that Harris’s participation in the reverse triangular merger did not cause the relevant intellectual property to “merge” and has accordingly refused to make the demanded payment. The district court agreed with L3Harris and dismissed GSE’s breach of contract claim on summary judgment. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court reasoned that the reverse triangular merger at issue did not “merge,” i.e., combine, the relevant intellectual property in any ordinary way. The Plan contains assurances regarding the validity, right to continued use, and maintenance of each party’s intellectual property. And, given its broad definitions of “Company Intellectual Property” and “Intellectual Property,” the Plan certainly reaches the intellectual property held by Eagle as subsidiary of one of Harris’s subsidiaries. The Plan neither blends, pools, nor otherwise combines the intellectual property held by Eagle with any other intellectual property. Therefore, the intellectual property discussed in the Consulting Agreement was not “merged” as a result of the reverse triangular merger. View "GSE Consulting, Inc. v. L3Harris Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law
Cherri Walker v. Life Insurance Company of North America
Life Insurance Company of North America (“LINA”) made multiple determinations that Plaintiff did not qualify for disability benefits under her long-term disability insurance policy and her life insurance policy. Plaintiff sued LINA for breach of contract and bad-faith failure to provide insurance benefits. The district court granted summary judgment for LINA on Plaintiff’s bad-faith claim based on the multiple medical opinions that supported LINA’s determinations. The district court held that, under Alabama law, Plaintiff could not recover mental anguish damages for her breach of contract claim and excluded evidence of such damages. Finally, following a jury verdict in Plaintiff’s favor on the breach of contract claim related to the long-term disability insurance policy, the district court determined that Plaintiff was entitled to simple pre-judgment interest at a rate of 1.5 percent under the policy and simple post-judgment interest at a rate of 0.08 percent pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 1961. In determining that the long-term disability insurance policy provided for simple rather than compound interest, the district court struck a document produced by Plaintiff because it was not properly authenticated. On appeal, Plaintiff argued that the district court erred at each of these steps. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court held that the evidence establishes that LINA had an arguable reason for determining that Plaintiff did not qualify for disability benefits under the disability policy. Further, the court wrote that the Supreme Court of Alabama has made clear that mental anguish damages are unavailable for breach of contract claims related to long-term disability insurance policies. View "Cherri Walker v. Life Insurance Company of North America" on Justia Law
Government Employees Insurance Company, et al. v. Jason Wilemon, et al.
Geico General Insurance Company (Geico) asserted eight claims against Glassco, Inc.: a declaratory judgment claim seeking a declaration that Glassco violated the Repair Act and that Geico had no duty to pay pending claims (count one); a federal racketeering claim (count two); a federal racketeering conspiracy claim (count three); a Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act claim (count four); a Florida racketeering claim (count five); a common law fraud claim (count six); an unjust enrichment claim (count seven); and a Repair Act claim (count eight). The district court denied summary judgment to the extent that Geico alleged that Glassco, Inc. made misrepresentations that amounted to fraud “independent of” Glassco’s violations of the Florida Motor Vehicle Repair Act. Geico tried to convert this nonfinal decision into a final decision by filing an amended complaint that removed the fraud allegations that were independent of the Repair Act violations. The Eleventh Circuit dismissed the appeal explaining that because the district court denied summary judgment as to these fraud allegations, there is no final decision for Geico to appeal. The court held that it can’t exercise jurisdiction over this appeal simply because the alternative—sending this case back to the district court—may be inconvenient or inefficient. The court wrote that by dismissing this appeal today, it vindicates finality as the historic characteristic of federal appellate procedure, serves the important interests of judicial efficiency, and promotes the sensible policy of avoiding piecemeal appeals. View "Government Employees Insurance Company, et al. v. Jason Wilemon, et al." on Justia Law
Mortgage Corporation of the South v. Judith Lacy Bozeman
Appellee’s confirmed bankruptcy plan purported to modify the rights of Appellant Creditor Mortgage Corporation of the South’s (“MCS”) mortgage on Appellee’s residence. In fact, her plan purported to eradicate all remaining outstanding payments on her mortgage, beyond MCS’s claims for past-due arrearages. The bankruptcy court had confirmed Appellee’s Plan without objection and that 11 U.S.C. Section 1327 (the “finality” provision) renders confirmed plans final, the bankruptcy court granted Appellee’s motion, and the district court affirmed. On appeal, at issue was which provision wins— antimodification or finality—when the two clash in the scenario this case presents. The Eleventh Circuit reversed and remanded the district court’s ruling holding that release of MCS’s lien before its loan had been repaid in full violates Section 1322(b)(2)’s antimodification clause. The court held that under Supreme Court and Eleventh Circuit precedent, it read the antimodification provision as an ironclad “do not touch” instruction for the rights of holders of homestead mortgages. So a bankruptcy plan cannot modify the rights of a mortgage lender whose claim is secured by the debtor’s principal residence by providing for release of the homestead-mortgagee’s lien before the mortgagee has recovered the full amount it is owed. View "Mortgage Corporation of the South v. Judith Lacy Bozeman" on Justia Law
Donrich Young v. Grand Canyon University, Inc., et al.
Plaintiff enrolled in a Doctor of Education degree program at Grand Canyon University. Plaintiff claims that he did not complete his degree because, despite representing that students can finish the program in 60 credit hours, Grand Canyon makes that goal impossible with the aim of requiring students to take and pay for additional courses. Plaintiff also claims that he was not provided with the faculty support promised by Grand Canyon. According to Plaintiff Grand Canyon’s failure to provide dissertation support is designed to require students to take and pay for additional courses that would allow them to complete the dissertation. Plaintiff filed claims alleging breach of contract, intentional misrepresentation, and unjust enrichment. He also asserted claims under the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act. The district court dismissed the complaint in its entirety with prejudice under Rule 12(b)(6). The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s claims for violations of the ACFA, intentional misrepresentation, and unjust enrichment. The court reversed in part the dismissal of Plaintiff’s claims for breach of contract and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The court explained that though Grand Canyon did not contractually promise Plaintiff that he would earn a doctoral degree within 60 credit hours, he has plausibly alleged that it did agree to provide him with the faculty resources and guidance he needed to complete his dissertation. Insofar as he asserts that Grand Canyon promised and failed to meaningfully provide him with the faculty support necessary to complete his dissertation, he has sufficiently alleged breach of contract and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. View "Donrich Young v. Grand Canyon University, Inc., et al." on Justia Law
American Builders Insurance Company v. Southern-Owners Insurance Company
An insured fell from a roof and became paralyzed from the waist down, never to walk again. Within months, his medical bills climbed past $400,000, and future costs were projected into the millions. Three insurance companies potentially provided coverage for the insured. This appeal is a battle between the two of them. The primary insurer was Southern Owners Insurance Company. At the time of the accident, the insured was performing subcontracting work for Beck Construction, which had a policy with American Builders Insurance Company and an excess policy with Evanston Insurance Company. American Builders investigated the accident, assessed Beck Construction’s liability, and evaluated the claim. Southern-Owners did little to nothing for months. American Builders then sued Southern-Owners for common law bad faith under Florida’s doctrine of equitable subrogation. Southern-Owners moved for summary judgment, but the district court denied the motion. A federal trial jury heard the case and found in favor of American Builders. After the entry of final judgment, Southern-Owners sought judgment matter of law or, in the alternative, a new trial. On appeal, Southern-Owners challenges the denials of its summary judgment and post-trial motions. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court held that taking the evidence in the light most favorable to American Builders, a reasonable jury could have found (as it did) both that Southern-Owners acted in bad faith and that its bad faith caused American Builders to pay its policy. Moreover, American Builders did not breach Southern-Owners’ contract and relieve Southern-Owners of its good-faith duties. The district court did not err in denying Southern-Owners’ Rule 50(b) motion. View "American Builders Insurance Company v. Southern-Owners Insurance Company" on Justia Law
Serendipity at Sea, LLC v. Underwriters at Lloyd’s of London Subscribing to Policy Number 187581
This appeal arises out of an insurance dispute involving a yacht, the Serendipity, that was destroyed by Hurricane Dorian, a Category 5 storm, that slammed into Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas. Serendipity at Sea, LLC (“Serendipity, LLC”), a holding company created by M.S. and J.E. (“the Managers”) to manage the Serendipity, sued Underwriters at Lloyd’s of London Subscribing to Policy Number 187581 (“Lloyd’s”) for breach of contract after Lloyd’s denied the the Managers insurance claim for the damage Hurricane Dorian caused to the Serendipity. In denying that it had breached the contract, Lloyd’s argued that it was not liable because Serendipity, LLC did not employ a full-time licensed captain in violation of the policy’s Captain Warranty, and that the breach increased the hazard to the yacht because a licensed captain would have operated the vessel back to Florida when Hurricane Dorian formed and was forecast to hit the Bahamas. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Lloyd’s. It found that the Captain Warranty was unambiguous; that Serendipity, LLC breached the agreement by failing to hire a full-time licensed captain; and that the breach increased the hazard posed to the Serendipity based on the purportedly undisputed testimony of an expert hired by Lloyd’s. The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Lloyd’s and remanded. The court explained that while it agreed with the district court’s conclusion that Serendipity, LLC breached the Captain Warranty, a disputed question of material fact remains about whether the breach increased the hazard posed to the vessel. View "Serendipity at Sea, LLC v. Underwriters at Lloyd's of London Subscribing to Policy Number 187581" on Justia Law