Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
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Because the Eleventh Circuit previously determined that the Government does not have to formally intervene before filing a motion to settle a qui tam action, and because the reasoning is the same for dismissals, the court held that the Government does not have to formally intervene before moving to dismiss a qui tam case even though it had earlier declined to intervene. The court also concluded that decisions to dismiss are within the province of the Executive Branch subject only to limits imposed by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a statute, or the Constitution.The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the case. Here, when relators filed their initial complaint, the United States declined to intervene. Relators then filed an amended complaint adding additional defendants, some of which were Government employees in their individual and official capacities. The United States subsequently filed a motion to dismiss without first filing a motion to intervene in the case. View "United States v. McAvoy" on Justia Law

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In this qui tam action, after the jury found that Pinellas violated the False Claims Act and that the United States sustained damages, the district court trebled the damages and imposed statutory minimum penalties of $1,177,000 ($5,500 for each of the 214 violations).The Eleventh Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part. The court upheld the district court's admission of Exhibit 24 where Pinellas failed to argue that the admission of the evidence constituted plain error. The court concluded that there was sufficient evidence for the jury to have found that, had Medicare known of Pinellas's misrepresentations, it would not have paid the refiled reimbursement claims. Furthermore, viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, the evidence on scienter is not overwhelmingly in favor of Pinellas. Therefore, the jury's decision stands. The court also upheld the jury's findings on damages where the court concluded that the proper measure of damages in this case is the difference between what the United States paid and what it would have paid had Pinellas' claims been truthful. The court rejected the remaining challenges to the jury's verdict. The court further concluded that the monetary award imposed does not violate the Excessive Fines Clause. Finally, the court dismissed Pinellas' appeal as to the allocation of the monetary award between Ms. Yates and the United States. View "Yates v. Pinellas Hematology & Oncology, P.A." on Justia Law

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In November 2021, the Secretary of Health and Human Services issued an interim rule that requires facilities that provide health care to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries to ensure that their staff, unless exempt for medical or religious reasons, are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, 86 Fed. Reg. 61,555. Under the rule, covered staff must request an exemption or receive their first dose of a two-dose vaccine or a single-dose vaccine by December 6, 2021. Florida unsuccessfully sought a preliminary injunction to bar the interim rule’s enforcement.The Eleventh Circuit upheld the denial of the motion, first deciding not to apply the mootness doctrine and to exercise jurisdiction despite another district court’s issuance of a nationwide injunction. Florida failed to demonstrate a substantial likelihood that it will prevail on the merits, that it will suffer irreparable injury absent an injunction, or that the balance of the equities favors an injunction. The Secretary has express statutory authority to require facilities voluntarily participating in the Medicare or Medicaid programs to meet health and safety standards to protect patients. The Secretary provided a detailed explanation for why there was good cause for dispensing with the notice-and-comment requirement. Ample evidence supports the Secretary’s determination that facility staff vaccination will provide important protection for patients. View "State of Florida v. Department of Health and Human Services" on Justia Law

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Liver-transplant candidates and transplant hospitals challenged HHS's adoption of a new policy for allocating donated livers. In 2019, the Eleventh Circuit held that the plaintiffs had not shown a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of their claim that the Secretary failed to follow procedures under 42 C.F.R. 121.4(b) during the new liver-allocation policy's development. Section 121.4(b) does not require the Secretary to refer the new liver allocation policy to an Advisory Committee on Organ Transplantation or to publish the new policy in the Federal Register for public comment. The court remanded for the district court to consider the remaining Administrative Procedure Act and Fifth Amendment claims.The district court ordered limited discovery on remand. The defendants ultimately produced requested communications between its top-level personnel and outside policymakers that, according to the plaintiffs, exposed “bad faith and improper behavior.” The district court ultimately excluded the documents from the administrative record for the APA claim, while noting that the documents included “colorable evidence of animosity and even some measure of regional bias.” The hospitals moved to unseal the documents. In 2021, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed an order unsealing the documents. The documents here are “plainly judicial records” and the appellants have not shown good cause to keep them sealed. View "Callahan v. United Network for Organ Sharing" on Justia Law

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In 2008, following a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS), Karantsalis sued the city under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 by failing to make its facilities and infrastructure accessible to individuals with disabilities. He later voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit, believing that he lacked constitutional standing because his symptoms were mild and did not prevent him from accessing and using the city’s programs or services. By 2019, Karantsalis’s MS and his symptoms had progressed dramatically: he had started falling, developed a limp, and needed a disabled parking permit. His neurologist had prescribed a wheelchair.He again sued the city under the ADA and Rehabilitation Act alleging the sidewalks, municipal gymnasium, and parking at public facilities were inaccessible. The district court dismissed the case with prejudice, holding that it was barred by the four-year statute of limitations, which was triggered before or during 2008 when Karantsalis became aware of his MS diagnosis. The Eleventh Circuit reversed. From the face of his complaint, Karantsalis’s injury did not occur until at least 2017. Karantsalis could not have sued before he lost his mobility and his ready access to and use of the city’s public services. View "Karantsalis v. City of Miami Springs" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit held that relocation benefits provided by a railroad to its employees are exempt under the Railroad Retirement Tax Act as bona fide and necessary expenses incurred by the employee in the business of the employer, 26 U.S.C. 3231(e)(1)(iii). The court also held that, because no regulatory substantiation requirements apply, CSX is entitled to a refund. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the United States in regard to whether relocation benefits are exempt under section 3231(e)(1)(iii); reversed in part the district court's grant of summary judgment in regard to CSX's need and failure to satisfy the Accountable Plan Regulation; and remanded for the district court to calculate the amount of CSX's refund and administer the notification process. View "CSX Corp. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Winn-Dixie sells Bacardi’s Bombay Gin in its stores. According to Bombay’s marketing and labeling, the gin contains ten “hand-selected botanicals from exotic locations around the world,” including “grains of paradise.” Marrache filed a class action under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA) and for unjust enrichment, alleging that the inclusion of grains of paradise violated Florida Statute 562.455.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. FDUTPA’s safe harbor provision exempts acts or practices required or specifically permitted by federal law. Under the Food Additives Amendment to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, the FDA had expressly identified grains of paradise as a substance “generally recognized as safe.” In addition, the complaint did not sufficiently allege any actual damages resulting from the purported unfair or deceptive act. Marrache’s amended complaint made no allegations of actual damages, but rather, alleged that he and the other class members were injured by purchasing an illegal product that he claimed was worthless. Marrache did not, however, allege that he could not or did not drink the gin, that he sought a refund of or complained about the Bombay, or that he suffered any side effect, health issue, or harm from the grains of paradise. View "Marrache v. Bacardi U.S.A., Inc." on Justia Law

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The FTC filed suit under 15 U.S.C. 53(b) of the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTCA) against appellants, alleging that they had engaged in unfair or deceptive business practices in violation of 15 U.S.C. 45(a) under the collective name of "On Point." On appeal, On Point challenges the district court's preliminary injunction.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed parts of the preliminary injunction enjoining appellants from misrepresenting their services and releasing consumer information. However, while this appeal was pending, the Supreme Court held in AMG Capital Management that section 53(b) does not permit an award of equitable monetary relief such as restitution or disgorgement, leaving the asset freeze and receivership aspects of the preliminary injunction unsupported by law. Therefore, the court vacated parts of the preliminary injunction subjecting the remaining appellants at issue to the asset freeze and receivership to the extent the district court has not already provided relief. View "Federal Trade Commission v. On Point Capital Partners LLC" on Justia Law

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Pupo first applied for supplemental security income (SSI) in June 2011, alleging that she was unable to work due to depression, body tremors, and high blood pressure. Her initial application was denied, but, in 2015, her case was remanded for further proceedings pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. 405(g). The district court affirmed the subsequent denial of Pupo’s application.The Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded. The decision is not supported by substantial evidence; the ALJ erred by not addressing one of Pupo’s medical diagnoses, her incontinence when assessing her residual functional capacity and the Appeals Council erred by not considering the new medical evidence submitted by Pupo following the ALJ’s denial of her SSI claim. Pupo submitted medical records showing that she had surgery because of her stress urinary incontinence nine days before the ALJ issued his decision. The ALJ did not err in failing to consider Pupo’s borderline age situation because he did not apply the grids mechanically but instead relied on testimony due to Pupo’s non-exertional limitations. View "Pupo v. Commissioner, Social Security Administration" on Justia Law

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New “Voice over Internet Protocol,” (VoIP) systems resulted in the 2008 New and Emerging Technologies 911 Improvement Act, 47 U.S.C. 222, 615a, 615a-1, 615b and 942.2 The “911 Fee Parity Provision” allows non-federal government entities to charge a fee to commercial phone services for the support of 911 services but specifies that, “[f]or each class of subscribers to IP-enabled voice services, the fee or charge may not exceed the amount of any such fee or charge applicable to the same class of subscribers to telecommunications services.”Alabama 911 Districts contended that the Provision authorized them to charge non-VoIP service providers per access line and VoIP service providers per 10-digit telephone number even if the total charges for a given class of VoIP subscribers exceed the total charges for the same class of non-VoIP subscribers for the same amount of burden each group imposes on the 911 system.The district court referred the matter to the FCC, which concluded that the Provision prohibits state and local governments from charging 911 fees to VoIP providers that are greater than those charged to non-VoIP providers for the same amount of burden imposed on the 911 system. The order precludes the 911 Districts from charging VoIP providers and non-VoIP providers the same base fee based on different units if the total fee charged for comparable 911 access is higher for VoIP service providers. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, finding Congress’s intent unambiguous. View "Autauga County Emergency Management Communication District v. Federal Communications Commission" on Justia Law