Justia Business Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
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The case-at-hand returned to the Eleventh Circuit for disposition from the Florida Supreme Court, to which the court certified three questions of Florida law. In considering the court’s certified questions, the Florida Supreme Court found dispositive a threshold issue that the court did not expressly address: “Is the filing office’s use of a ‘standard search logic’ necessary to trigger the safe harbor protection of section 679.5061(3)?”   The Florida Supreme Court answered that question in the affirmative. And the court further determined that Florida does not employ a “standard search logic.” The Florida Supreme Court thus concluded that the statutory safe harbor for financing statements that fail to correctly name the debtor cannot apply, “which means that a financing statement that fails to correctly name the debtor as required by Florida law is ‘seriously misleading’ under Florida Statute Section 679.5061(2) and therefore ineffective.   The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court’s order affirming the bankruptcy court’s grant of Live Oak Banking Company’s cross-motion for summary judgment and remand for further proceedings. The court held that Live Oak did not perfect its security interest in 1944 Beach Boulevard, LLC’s, assets because the two UCC-1 Financing Statements filed with the Florida Secured Transaction Registry (the “Registry”) were “seriously misleading” under Florida Statute Section 679.5061(2), as the Registry does not implement a “standard search logic” necessary to trigger the safe harbor exception set forth in Florida Statute Section 679.5061(3). View "1944 Beach Boulevard, LLC v. Live Oak Banking Company" on Justia Law

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A federal district court decision in a declaratory judgment action that an insurance policy issued by Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s, London (“Underwriters”) covered certain negligent actions undertaken by the former directors and officers of Omni National Bank (“Omni”) during the 2008 banking crisis. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (“FDIC”), acting in Omni’s name as Omni’s receiver, demanded payment and prejudgment interest from Underwriters under the insurance policy for a stipulated judgment previously entered against three of Omni’s former directors and officers for $10 million, the limit of Underwriters’ insurance policy. Underwriters paid the $10 million once the Supreme Court denied certiorari for its appeal from the declaratory judgment but refused to pay prejudgment interest, causing the FDIC to institute this action.   On appeal, the FDIC argues that demands for prejudgment interest are timely under Georgia law so long as they are made before the entry of a coercive final judgment, which declaratory judgments are not. The Eleventh Circuit agreed, concluding that the district court erred by granting summary judgment for Underwriters. Accordingly, the court remanded for the determination of when prejudgment interest began to run.   The court explained that Underwriters’ argument that it lacked a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue of prejudgment interest, as Section 9–11–54(c)(1) requires, is false on its face. This entire lawsuit has been dedicated to extensively litigating prejudgment interest. Further, the court held that FDIC’s claim is not barred. View "Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyd's of London" on Justia Law

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The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) initiated an enforcement action against several entities and individuals. The district court granted the unopposed motion and appointed Appellee as receiver, authorizing him to “take custody, control, and possession of all Receivership Entity records, documents, and materials” and to “take any other action as necessary and appropriate for the preservation of the Receivership Entities’ property interests.” Defendants didn’t appeal the order appointing Appellee as receiver. The district court granted the motion. Defendants appealed, contending that they weren’t afforded an adequate opportunity to be heard before the receivership estate’s expansion. Appellee has moved to dismiss Defendants’ appeal for lack of jurisdiction.The Eleventh Circuit dismissed the appeal. The court found that neither Section 1292(a)(2) nor Section 1292(a)(1) grants the court jurisdiction to consider the appeal because the expansion order was neither an order appointing a receiver nor an order granting (or modifying) an injunction. The court explained that to the extent that the appointment of the receiver or the expansion of his duties could be viewed as an injunction at all, the district court possessed freestanding authority to enter it. Given that the district court had both statutory and residual equitable authority to establish and expand the receivership, it had no cause to invoke the All Writs Act to aid its jurisdiction. View "Securities & Exchange Commission v. L.M.E. 2017 Family Trust, et al." on Justia Law

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MSPA Claims 1 LLC—the assignee of a now-defunct Medicare Advantage Organization—sued Tower Hill Prime Insurance Company to recover a reimbursable payment. The district court granted Tower Hill’s motion for summary judgment because it determined that MSPA Claims 1’s suit was untimely.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court explained that because it is at least “plausible” that the term “accrues” in Section 1658(a) incorporates an occurrence rule—in fact, and setting presumptions aside, the court wrote that it thinks that’s the best interpretation—that is how the court interprets it. Therefore, MSPA Claims 1’s cause of action accrued in 2012 when MSPA Claims 1’s assignor, Florida Healthcare, paid D.L.’s medical bills and became entitled to reimbursement through the Medicare Secondary Payer Act. Because that was more than four years before MSPA Claims 1 filed suit in 2018, its suit is not timely under 28 U.S.C. Section 1658(a). View "MSPA Claims 1, LLC. v. Tower Hill Prime Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a shareholder and citizen of Illinois, brought this shareholder derivative action alleging breach of fiduciary duties by FleetCor’s directors and executives without first making a demand on the board. Plaintiff argued that demand was excused because a majority of the board faced a substantial likelihood of liability for their breach of fiduciary duties. The district court held that Plaintiff had failed to adequately plead that demand was excused and dismissed Plaintiff’s claims.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s complaint under Rule 23.1. The court held that Plaintiff failed to plead particularized facts showing demand was excused. The court explained that because Plaintiff failed to adequately plead Board knowledge of the allegedly fraudulent scheme, all three of his claims that purportedly show that a majority of the Board faced a substantial likelihood of liability fail. View "Jerrell Whitten v. Ronald F. Clarke, et al." on Justia Law

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Dukes Clothing, LLC (“Dukes”) operated two clothing stores. As a result of the state orders and a customer’s exposure to COVID-19, Dukes was forced to close its doors. These closures resulted in lost business income for Dukes. Dukes’s insurer, The Cincinnati Insurance Company (“Cincinnati”), had issued an all-risk commercial insurance policy to Dukes. Dukes submitted a claim under its policy to recover its loss of business income due to its store closures caused by COVID-19. Cincinnati denied the claim on the basis that Dukes’s income loss was not caused by a direct physical loss or damage to the insured’s property.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s claims holding that Plaintiff’s income loss was not caused by a direct physical loss or damage to the insured’s property. The court explained that when examining insurance policies, Alabama courts consider the language of the policy as a whole, not in isolation. There are no Alabama appellate court decisions interpreting the relevant terms here—physical loss or damage—or interpreting these types of all-risk policies in the COVID-19 context so the court looked to its’ decisions interpreting nearly identical terms under Florida and Georgia law. Ultimately, the court found that since COVID-19 does not cause a “tangible alteration of the property” such that the property could not be used in the future or needed repairs to be used, lost business income resulting from COVID-19 could not constitute a “physical loss of or damage to” the property necessary for insurance coverage. View "Dukes Clothing, LLC v. The Cincinnati Insurance Company" on Justia Law

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In a consolidated appeal each of the insured businesses, SA Palm Beach, LLC, Emerald Coast Restaurants, Inc., Rococo Steak, LLC, and R.T.G. Furniture, Corporation, were denied after seeking coverage under an all-risk insurance policy that provides compensation for losses and expenses incurred in connection with “direct physical loss of or damage to” the covered property or “direct physical loss or damage to” the covered property. The Eleventh Circuit addressed the question of whether under Florida law, all-risk commercial insurance policies provide coverage for “direct physical loss of or damage to” property or “direct physical loss or damage to” property insure against losses and expenses incurred by businesses as a result of COVID-19. The court affirmed in part and vacated in part, the district court’s dismissal of the complaints. The court held that under Florida law there is no coverage because COVID-19 did not cause a tangible alteration of the insured property. The court reasoned that under Florida law, an insurance policy should be read “as a whole, endeavoring to give every provision its full meaning and operative effect.” Further, Florida Supreme Court has explained, that an “all-risk policy” does not extend coverage to “every conceivable loss.” Thus, the court found that it believes that the Florida Supreme Court would hold that, under the allegations in the complaints before the court, there is no coverage. The court vacated in part the dismissal of Emerald Coast’s complaint finding that the district court did not address the Plaintiff’s Spoilage provision claim. View "SA Palm Beach, LLC v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyd's London, et al." on Justia Law

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Heather operated a health-coaching business called Constitution Nutrition. She started her business in California, which did not require a license. After moving to Florida in 2015, she continued to run her business—meeting online with most of her clients and meeting in person with two clients who lived in Florida. She described herself as a “holistic health coach” and not as a dietician. Heather tailored her health coaching to each client, which included dietary advice. After a complaint was filed against her and she paid $500.00 in fines and $254.09 in investigatory fees, Heather sued, claiming that Florida’s Dietetics and Nutrition Practice Act, which requires a license to practice as a dietician or nutritionist, violated her First Amendment free speech rights to communicate her opinions and advice on diet and nutrition to her clients. The district court granted the Florida Department of Health summary judgment.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, after considering the Supreme Court’s decision in National Institute of Family & Life Advocates v. Becerra (2018). The Act “is a professional regulation with a merely incidental effect on protected speech,” and is constitutional under the First Amendment. View "Del Castillo v. Secretary, Florida Department of Health" on Justia Law

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An online promotions team posted thousands of videos to persuade people to buy BitConnect Coin, a new cryptocurrency. BitConnect coin was not a sound investment; it was a Ponzi scheme. BitConnect’s original investors received “returns” from the money paid by new investors. The promoters were siphoning off money. At one point, BitConnect was bringing in around $10 million per week in investments from the United States.Two victims of the BitConnect collapse filed a putative class action, alleging that the promoters were liable under section 12 of the Securities Act for selling unregistered securities through their BitConnect videos, 15 U.S.C. 77l(a)(1); 77e(a)(1). The district court dismissed because the plaintiffs based their case on interactions with the promoters’ “publicly available content,” the plaintiffs had never received a “personal solicitation” from the promoters. The Eleventh Circuit reversed. Neither the Securities Act nor precedent imposes that kind of limitation. Solicitation has long occurred through mass communications, and online videos are merely a new way of doing an old thing. The Securities Act provides no free pass for online solicitations. View "Parks v. BitConnect International PLC" on Justia Law

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Vital produces and sells energy-drink products. In 2019, Vital hired Alfieri, Perry, LaRocca, and Maros. All four signed employment agreements containing restrictive covenants, including an agreement not to work for a competing company and not to solicit Vital employees while employed by and for one year after leaving Vital and “never to disclose” or utilize any of Vital’s confidential information. All four left Vital in 2020. Vital sued, alleging that they violated their non-compete covenants by working for Elegance, which sells a cannabidiol-infused caffeinated drink, within a year after leaving Vital; that Alfieri violated the employee non-solicitation covenant by encouraging the others to join Elegance; and that Elegance and Alfieri engaged in tortious interference with Vital’s contractual relationships with the other former employees.The district court determined that the restrictive covenants were enforceable under Florida law, rejecting an argument that Vital was required to “identify specific customers” to establish a legitimate business interest in its customer relationships. The court entered a preliminary injunction. The two time-limited provisions in the preliminary injunction had expired; the prohibition against using Vital’s confidential information had no time limit. The Eleventh Circuit dismissed as moot the portions of the appeal that concerned the expired provisions. The court vacated with respect to the unexpired provisions because Vital failed to prove its entitlement to preliminary relief. View "Vital Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Alfieri" on Justia Law