Eversheds Sutherland 11th Circuit Business Blog
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FCRA Class Action Foiled by Comcast Arbitration Agreement

A Comcast arbitration agreement by which a former subscriber to the cable service agreed to arbitrate “any claim or controversy related to Comcast” was enforced by the court in Hearn v. Comcast Cable Communications, LLC, 992 F.3d 1209 (11th Cir. 2021), overturning a contrary decision by the Northern District of Georgia. The arbitration agreement was included in Comcast’s subscriber agreement with the plaintiff, but the plaintiff terminated his service. A year and a half later, however, the plaintiff approached Comcast about renewing service. In connection with that inquiry, Comcast made use...
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Credit Reporting Agency’s Procedures and Investigation to Ensure FCRA Accurate Reporting Not Reasonable Enough for Summary Judgment

In Losch v. Nationstar Mortgage LLC, 2021 WL 1653016 (11th Cir. Apr. 28, 2021), the Eleventh Circuit considered whether the defendant Experian violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act’s requirements that a credit-reporting agency employ “reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy of the information concerning the individual” when preparing credit reports, 15 U.S.C. § 1681e(b), and conduct a “reasonable reinvestigation” of disputed information upon notification of a claimed inaccuracy, id. § 1681i(a).  The plaintiff filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and discharged his debts,...
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Class Claims for Declaratory and Supplemental Relief Remanded to State Court

In Mack v. USAA Casualty Insurance Co., 2021 WL 1572709 (11th Cir. Apr. 22, 2021), the Eleventh Circuit dismissed for lack of an Article III “case or controversy” a putative class action in which the plaintiff sought a declaration that his insurer’s adjustment of total loss claims violates Florida law and money damages as corresponding “supplemental relief.”   Leroy Mack brought an action against USAA in Florida state court following adjustment of his insurance claim for a totaled vehicle, seeking a declaration that the methodology USAA used to adjust his claim violated Florida law; a...
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Public Accommodations Under ADA Limited to Actual, Physical Places, with Website Accessibility Claims Permitted Only for Intangible Barriers to Access

The fact that a website was incompatible with screen-reader software for visually impaired users was held insufficient (without more) to state a claim for public-accommodation discrimination under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, in Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores. Inc., 2021 WL 1289906 (11th Cir. Apr. 7, 2021). The Eleventh Circuit held in a majority opinion by Judge Lisa Branch that the statutory definition of “public accommodation” in Title III, which prohibits discrimination “on the basis of disability” in any “place of public accommodation,” 42 U.S.C. § 12182(a), applies...
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Debt Collector’s Provision of Consumer Information to Mail Service Is Actionable Under FDCPA

In Hunstein v. Preferred Collection & Management Services, Inc., 2021 WL 1556069 (11th Cir. Apr. 21, 2021), the Eleventh Circuit held that a consumer had standing to challenge a debt collector’s provision of the consumer’s information to a third-party mail service and that the consumer’s allegations stated a cognizable claim under 15 U.S.C. § 1692c(b) of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”). The decision has garnered a good deal of attention within the industry. Richard Hunstein incurred a debt for his son’s medical treatment, and the hospital assigned the debt to Preferred...
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ERISA’s Fee-Shifting Provision Permits Awards Against Parties, Not Attorneys

Does ERISA’s fee-shifting provision, 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(1), permit a court to award fees against a party’s counsel?  Deciding this issue of first impression that has divided district courts within and without the Eleventh Circuit, the court in Peer v. Liberty Life Assurance Co. of Boston, 2021 WL 1257440 (11th Cir. Apr. 6, 2021), held that it does not.  Although the fee-shifting statute provides that “the court in its discretion may allow a reasonable attorney’s fee and costs of action to either party,” the Eleventh Circuit determined that the statute is best understood to...
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Email Service of Motion to Vacate Arbitration Award Not Sufficient Without Prior Express Consent, and Agreement to Arbitrate Under AAA Rules Does Not Provide Such Consent

The Eleventh Circuit rejected an argument from a party seeking to vacate an arbitration award that an email courtesy copy of a “notice of motion” was effective service under the Federal Arbitration Act.  In O’Neal Constructors, LLC v. DRT America, LLC, 2021 WL 1220710 (11th Cir. Apr. 1, 2021), the appellant, DRT, sought to vacate an arbitration award in O’Neal’s favor. Section 12 of the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) requires a party seeking to vacate an arbitration award to serve notice of a motion to vacate within three months after the award is delivered.  9 U.S.C. § 12. ...
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General Statistical Evidence of “Local Controversy” Held Insufficient for Jurisdiction Under Class Action Fairness Act

Can class-action plaintiffs avoid federal court by relying on general economic studies and  population statistics to prove that their case should be in state court? Not in the Eleventh Circuit. In Smith v. Marcus & Millichap, Inc., 2021 WL 939184 (11th Cir. Mar. 12, 2021), the court held that “studies, surveys, and census data—which do not directly involve the plaintiffs”—are not “sufficient to establish that a certain percentage of the plaintiff class are citizens of a particular state for the purposes of CAFA’s local controversy and discretionary exceptions.” Smith concerned the...
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Equipment Distributor Can’t Defeat Summary Judgment on Claims that Competitor Conspired with Manufacturer to Terminate Business with Distributor

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for a defendant facing claims under the Sherman Antitrust Act, concluding that the plaintiff’s evidence was “at least ‘as equally consistent with permissible competition as it is with an illegal conspiracy.’” The court’s decision in American Contractors Supply, LLC v. HD Supply Construction Supply, Ltd., 2021 WL 822194 (11th Cir. Mar. 4. 2021), underscores the high bar for plaintiffs alleging an unlawful vertical conspiracy. To defeat summary judgment, a plaintiff must affirmatively present evidence “tending to exclude the inference” that the...
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Derivative Jurisdiction Doctrine Does Not Apply to Personal Jurisdiction

In the category of legal doctrines that have outlived whatever usefulness that they once had falls the doctrine of “derivative jurisdiction”—that a federal district court must dismiss a removed case if the state court from which it was removed lacked subject-matter jurisdiction. The doctrine was repealed by statute for cases removed under the general removal provision, 28 U.S.C. § 1441(f), but the question remains whether it has any viability with respect to cases removed under other provisions. In Reynolds v. Behrman Capital IV L.P., 2021 WL 683997 (11th Cir. Feb. 23, 2021), the court...
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Appeal on the Merits Untimely, and Costs Award to Defendant Under Rule 68 Affirmed, in FLSA Case

In a hectic end to 2020, we almost overlooked an interesting appellate procedure opinion affecting FLSA cases, Vasconcelo v. Miami Auto Max, Inc., 981 F.3d 934 (11th Cir. 2020). In Vasconcelo, the Eleventh Circuit dismissed an FLSA plaintiff’s appeal on the merits as untimely; affirmed the district court’s attorneys’ fees award, which awarded less than the plaintiff had sought; and affirmed the district court’s application of Rule 68 to tax costs against the plaintiff. Vasconcelo worked as a sales associate at a car dealership. He brought an action against the dealership and its owner,...
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Increased Risk of Identity Theft Cannot Establish Article III Standing in Data Breach Cases

The Eleventh Circuit has now taken a stand on whether a substantial risk of identity theft, fraud, and other future harm constitutes Article III standing in data breach cases.  Tsao v. Captiva MVP Rest. Partners, LLC, 2021 WL 381948 (11th Cir. Feb. 4, 2021).  In an opinion authored by Senior Judge Tjoflat, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the lower court’s decision, holding that plaintiff Tsao lacked Article III standing because he could not demonstrate a substantial risk of identity theft and because he cannot manufacture standing.  The court dismissed the case without...
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Administrative Feasibility Not Separate Class Certification Requirement

The Eleventh Circuit aligned itself last week with the majority of circuits in holding that a threshold determination that identifying class members is administratively feasible is not a separate requirement for class certification. The ruling, in the closely-watched case of Cherry v. Dometic Corp., 2021 WL 346121 (11th Cir. Feb. 2, 2021), which attracted numerous amicus briefs, represents a minor victory for the plaintiffs’ class-action bar. The issue before the court was framed in terms of the “ascertainability” requirement for membership in a class action. The specific issue was whether...
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Court Rejects Challenges to SEC Subpoenas

The Eleventh Circuit rejected jurisdictional and relevance challenges to SEC subpoenas in SEC v. Marin, 982 F.3d 1341 (11th Cir. 2020). The SEC issued subpoenas to Carla Marin and MinTrade Technologies pursuant to a formal order of investigation (“FOI”) authorizing the Commission to investigate whether a Tampa-based limited liability company called Traders Café, and its “officers, directors, employees, partners, subsidiaries, and/or affiliates, or other persons or entities,” had engaged, or were about to be engaged in, unregistered broker-dealer conduct in violation of Section 15(a) of the...
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