Articles Posted in U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals

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Plaintiff, on behalf of herself and the Estate, challenged the district court's grant of summary judgment to Zenith on the Estate's breach of the insurance contract claim. After review and oral argument, the court certified questions to the Florida Supreme Court: (1) Does the estate have standing to bring its breach of contract claim against Zenith under the employer liability policy? (2) If so, does the provision in the employer liability policy which excludes from coverage "any obligation imposed by workers' compensation . . . law" operate to exclude coverage of the estate's claim against Zenith for the tort judgment? (3) If the estate's claim was not barred by the workers' compensation exclusion, does the release in the workers' compensation settlement agreement otherwise prohibit the estate's collection of the tort judgment? View "Morales v. Zenith Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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When Edith Entrekin was admitted to a nursing home in Alabama, she signed a contract requiring the arbitration of "all claims or disputes" that she or the executor of her future estate might have against the nursing home. After Entrekin died, the executor of her estate brought an action against the nursing home for damages under Alabama's wrongful death statute. The district court denied the nursing home's motion to compel arbitration. The issue on appeal to the Eleventh circuit centered on whether a decedent's agreement with a nursing home to arbitrate any claims that she or her executor may have in the future against the nursing home bind her executor to arbitrate a wrongful death claim against the nursing home under Alabama law? The Court found it was "compelled" to follow the Alabama Supreme Court's holdings and compel arbitration of the wrongful death claim in this case. The Court reversed the district court's order denying the nursing home's motion to compel arbitration and remanded the case with instructions to compel arbitration. View "Entrekin v. Westside Terrace, LLC" on Justia Law

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Debtor appealed the district court's decision affirming the bankruptcy court's determination that an Illinois judgment debt owed to the Bank was not dischargeable, pursuant to 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(4). The court held that the bankruptcy court's order must be affirmed under section 523(a)(4) as a debt arising from a defalcation while debtor was acting in a fiduciary capacity. The court also held that the district court correctly determined that the propriety of the Bank's actions was not a basis for finding that the Illinois judgment debt should be discharged. Instead, the court agreed with the district court that the issue was not properly before the court, but rather should be brought by debtor in an action in Illinois to consider the malfeasance of the trustee. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the bankruptcy court. View "Bullock v. BankChampaign NA" on Justia Law

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Defendant and her husband (Duckworths) purchased two automobile policies and one motorcycle insurance policy from plaintiff (State Farm) where all three insurance contracts contained "anti-stacking" provisions that precluded recovery of uninsured motorist benefits under any policy other than that covering the damaged vehicles. The Duckworths subsequently moved to Florida, where the husband was struck and killed by an uninsured motorist while driving the motorcycle covered under the Maryland policy. State Farm consequently brought this action in the district court, seeking a declaratory judgment that it had satisfied its contractual obligations to the husband's estate. At issue before the district court was the applicability of the public policy exception to Florida's choice of law rule in disputes over contract terms. The district court declared that State Farm had satisfied its contractual obligations to the husband's estate and dismissed defendant's counterclaims. Taking into account all of the undisputed facts, and assuming that defendant informed a State Farm representative that the Duckworths' move from Maryland to Florida would be "permanent," the court held that State Farm still did not receive reasonable notice sufficient to trigger the public policy exception. The court held that, even if defendant informed the representative as alleged, her later actions overwhelmingly indicated to State Farm that the Duckworths' move was not necessarily permanent and that, consequently Maryland law would continue to govern the Duckworths' policies. Therefore, the issue of fact upon which defendant's appeal rested was immaterial and, as State Farm was deprived of reasonable notice, judgment as a matter of law was proper.

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Kurt R. Ward, Attorney at Law, LLC, appealed the district court's order denying its motion for judgment on the pleadings and granting the Plan Parties' (the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan, the Retirement Board of the Plan, and the Bank of New York Mellon Corporation) cross-motion for judgment on the pleadings. Both parties' motions sought a declaration about whether the Plan Parties had to pay the disability benefits of two of the Ward Firm's retired NFL player clients into the firm's client trust account pursuant to state court jurisdiction for unpaid attorney's fees despite a provision in the Plan prohibiting any "benefit under the Plan" from being assigned or reached by creditors through legal process. The court held that its prior panel precedent held that bargained-for provisions barring assignments in ERISA welfare benefits were valid and enforceable and that the Ward Firm had not directed the court's attention to any such intervening en banc or Supreme Court decision. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment and held that the district court did not err in declaring that the spendthrift provision in the Plan prevented the Plan Parties from depositing the disability benefits owned by two retired NFL players into the Ward Firm's trust account.

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Appellant, the personal representative of the estate of her son, sued two police officers alleging violations of state wrongful death claims and excessive force claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 when her son died after being arrested and tasered by the officers. At issue was whether a section 1983 excessive force claim survived in Alabama if the injured party died before the lawsuit was filed, or abated pursuant to Ala. Code 6-5-462. The court held that there was no inconsistency between section 6-5-462 and federal law and that the statute was applicable to this case. Therefore, the excessive force claim against one of the officers abated under Alabama law when section 6-5-462 applied to the action, which was not filed prior to the death of the son.