In the past few years, the strangest things have started appearing in appellate decisions: images. That has been seen as so revolutionary that it has been widely covered in the legal press, with 7th Circuit opinions authored by Judge Richard Posner (as is often the case) drawing the most attention. The question is: why
The Supreme Court of Florida has created quite a stir among the less tech-savvy members of the legal community (and who don’t practice in federal court) with its June 2012 announcement that Florida courts are about to join the electronic age. Preparation for these moves has been ongoing for over a year, as noted on …
No doubt family law disputes can result in some of the most acrimonious litigation. If France v. France, No. 5D11-1477, a decision handed down by Florida’s 5th DCA last week, is any indication, they can also result in highly complex issues of jurisdiction and conflicts of law among states.
Generally, if you’re injured while in …
As I mentioned in my last post, the Florida Supreme Court’s decision to approve the Florida Senate’s amended redistricting plan wasn’t the only late April 2012 decision to bring a measure of closure to unsettled legal issues. The stars seem to have aligned such that our state appellate courts as well the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit all released decisions in late April bringing a measure of closure on prominent, unsettled issues.
First, in Geico General Insurance Co. v. Virtual Imaging Services, Inc. (a/a/o Maria Tirado), No. 3D11-581,the 3rd DCA went a long way toward finding closure on the hotly contested issue of whether PIP insurers can take advantage of the reimbursement rate caps provided in the 2008 amendments to Florida’s No Fault/Personal Injury Protection Law if their policies don’t expressly state that the caps will be used. That issue, on which the 4th DCA had the first word among Florida appellate courts in its 2011 decision in Kingsway Amigo Insurance Company v. Ocean Health, Inc., has pre-occupied PIP lawyers ever since. I’ve also written multiple posts about it, including this one, this one, and this one.
In its Tirado decision, the Third District did a tremendous favor for opponents of the rule set down in Kingway Amigo (PIP insurers and their lawyers chief among them) by certifying the issue as a question of great public imporance. You may recall that the lack of an express and direct conflict among the District Courts of Appeal on the issue has prevented the Florida Supreme Court from stepping in end the controversy.
But now the issue has been certified as a question of great public importance, the Florida Supreme Court can exercise jurisdiction to review Tirado even without a conflict among the DCAs. If the Supreme Court chooses to do so, as the ultimate arbiter of Florida law, it can bring closure to this ongoing PIP battle. I’m guessing that it will.
Second, in the parallel cases of Calder Race Course, Inc. v. Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, West Flagler Associates, Ltd. v. Fla. DBPR, and Florida Gaming Centers, Inc. v. Fla. DBPR, the Florida Supreme Court brought closure on the issue of whether the legislature validly exercised its Constitutional authority in enacting 2009 legislation that allowed Hialeah Race Track to operate slot machines. That legislative enactment had been challenged by the three Miami-Dade facilities that were already licensed to operate slot machines prior to the legislation, as discussed in this post. On the same day as its redistricting decision was released, the Supreme Court declined to exercise its discretionary jurisdiction over the competitors’ appeal from the 1st DCA’s decision upholding Hialeah Race Track’s authorization to operate slot machines.
Third, the 11th Circuit released its long awaited decision in FTC v. Watson Pharmaceuticals, Inc., (a/k/a In re: Androgel Antitrust Litigation) addressing the prominent antitrust/patent/health care law issue of the validity of so-called “reverse payment” or “pay for delay” settlements between pharmaceutical patent holders (i.e. name brand drug makers) and competing drug makers seeking to market generic alternatives. The FTC and the Antitrust Division of the DOJ, in addition to certain academics have fretted for years about such arrangements, and their effects on drug prices…
Appellate courts often struggle with the tension between allowing for consideration of the individual circumstances of each case and establishing clear dividing lines between conduct that violates the law and conduct that does not. Courts have assigned varying amounts of weight to each of these considerations at different points in history. Particularly in recent years …
Despite the annual slow down in appellate courts (as in the rest of the world) at this time of year, December 2011 has seen a spate of major antitrust decisions being handed down. As I know from experience, antitrust cases are about as complex as it comes, and as a result, they often require long opinions to decide. It may be that these decisions’ release dates might have something to do with busy judges putting off these time-consuming decisions to the end of the year, but wanting to get them out before they became part of year-end unresolved case statistics. But that would only be a guess.
In any event, major decisions have recently come down at the federal level from the 3rd and 11th Circuits, and on the state level from Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeal.
The 4th DCA’s decision in MYD Marine Distributor, Inc. v. International Paint Ltd. (released on December 14, 2011) takes on the U.S. Supreme Court’s major decisions in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), which requires plaintiffs pleading claims based on antitrust conspiracies to include detailed factual allegations supporting the assertion that the defendants entered into an unlawful agreement, and Leegin Creative Leather Prods., Inc. v. PSKS, Inc., 551 U.S. 877 (2007), which set down standards for pleading that a conspiracy harmed competition. The 4th DCA held that both decisions apply to cases filed in Florida state court asserting claims under the Florida Antitrust law. But it also held that MYD’s complaint, which alleged that its competitor marine paint distributors had conspired with one another as well as with the manufacturer of a premium paint for boats to have MYD cut off as a distributor of that paint because MYD was undercutting their prices.
The 11th Circuit’s decision, FTC v. Phoebe Putney Health System, Inc. (released on December 9, 2011) threw a wrench in the Federal Trade Commision’s campaign to take on consolidation among large healthcare facilities that threaten competition and contribute to rising healthcare costs. In the Phoebe Putney case, the FTC sought to enjoin the acquisition by a public hospital of its only competitor in Dougherty County, Georgia, and thereby create a monopoly in that market.
In an opinion authored by Judge Tjoflat, the 11th Circuit agreed that the transaction would create a monopoly but affirmed the dismissal of the FTC’s case, holding that the “state action doctrine” made antitrust laws inapplicable and rendered the FTC powerless to challenge the transaction. In essence, the court held that in authorizing public hospitals like Phoebe Putney to acquire other hospitals, the Georgia legislature had contemplated and authorized even acquisitions that created monopolies. The state action doctrine therefore exempted the transaction from antitrust scrutiny. This decision essentially forecloses the FTC and DOJ from challenging any merger in Georgia involving a public hospital, and its reasoning could result in foreclosing challenges to acquisitions involving public hospitals in other states as well.
The 3rd Circuit’s en banc decision in Sullivan v. DB Investments, Inc. (released on December 20, 2011), is a significant decision dealing with antitrust class actions brought by alleged “indirect purchasers” of price-fixed goods. The en banc court held that it is appropriate (at least in the settlement context) to certify a nationwide class of indirect purchasers asserting antitrust claims under the laws of all 50 states, even though class members from certain states did not have the right to sue for damages for antitrust violations.
A more thorough discussion of Sullivan follows.
Losing at trial hurts. Getting hit with the bill for your adversary’s attorney’s fees makes it hurt ever-so-much more. That’s why fee-shifting under Florida Statutes Section 768.79 — available to parties that make a proposal for settlement under Rule 1.442 — can be such a powerful tool. It’s probably also why lawyers who refuse an …
Real electronic filing may finally make its way to Florida courts in the not-too-distant future. But before that happens, the Florida Supreme Court wants to make sure that there isn’t too much private information in court filings for the public to access.
On June 30, 2011, the Court adopted sweeping new rules about what information can and can’t be put in the court file. Florida litigators who want to avoid the sanctions that can be imposed for violating the new rules shouldn’t wait too long to become familiar with them — they are going into effect on October 1, 2011.
For the time being, the privacy rules don’t affect criminal cases, for the most part, but they affect all civil cases. And the reprieve in criminal cases isn’t likely to last very long.
Here is a breakdown of the Rule changes you need to know:
Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.425
Rule of Judicial Administration 2.425, which was added by the Court’s June 30, 2011 Amendments, contains the overarching principles. So if you learn that Rule (and remember to apply it in whatever context you find yourself) you’ll be most of the way there. But one caution: Rule 2.425 only states a default rule — it gives way to conflicting Rules, statutes, and orders.
This chart spells out the types of information that are subject to Rule 2.425:
Restricted Info: Can include in a filing? Exceptions:Child’s Name Initials only Orders re: time-sharing, parental responsibility, or child support. Any document re: child’s ownership of real property. Birthdates Year only Any party’s full birthdate in writ of attachment or notice to payor. Child’s full birthdate when
necessary for jurisdiction.
Social Sec. #s No General exceptions
Bank Account #s No General exceptions
Credit/Debit Card # No General exceptions
Charge Account # No General exceptions
Drivers License # Last 4 digits only General exceptions Passport # Last 4 digits only General exceptions Taxpayer ID # Last 4 digits only General exceptions Employee ID # Last 4 digits only General exceptions Phone # Last 4 digits only General exceptions Insurance Policy # Last 4 digits only General exceptions Loan # Last 4 digits only General exceptions Patient/health care # Last 4 digits only General exceptions Customer Accont # Last 4 digits only General exceptions Email address Truncated General exceptions User name Truncated General exceptions Password Truncated General exceptions PIN #s Truncated General exceptions
Other sensitive info: Truncated as per court order
- Statute, Rule or Order authorizes the inclusion of the information in a filing
- Account number is necessary to identify property at issue in a case.
- Information that is “relevant and material to an issue before the court.” [!!! This looks to me like an exception that you could drive a truck through. It’ll be interesting to see how courts interpret it.]
- Records in an administrative, agency, appellate, or review proceeding.
- Information used by the clerk or the court for file and case management purposes.
- Criminal cases are temporarily exempt.
- Traffic court cases are temporarily exempt.
- Small claims cases are temporarily exempt.
A Few Other Notes:
What effect does Rule 2.425 have on parties’ ability to obtain a protective order? According to the Rule itself, none. But I’d be surprised if judges’ opinions on what information should be kept private were not influenced by the views of the Supreme Court as expressed in Rule 2.425.
The Rule also claims that it “does not affect the application of constitutional provisions, statutes, or rules of court regarding confidential information or access to public information.” I’m not sure how that could be so, but again, we’ll see how courts interpret that subsection.
The Court is also amending quite a few other Rules to accomodate Rule 2.425. Changes are being made to the Rules of Civil Procedure, particularly with regard to filing discovery documents, the Family Law Rules of Procedure, the Rules of Appellate Procedure, Probate Rules, and to a lesser extent, Criminal Procedure and Small Claims Rules, as well as several forms.
The amendments to those rules and forms are listed below.
2011 will surely go down as the Year of the Class Action in the Supreme Court of the United States. If you were surprised at the potential effects of Concepcion v. AT&T Mobility LLC for consumer class actions (unlike many observers, I didn’t see it as their end), then you might want to…
Sometime around 2004, I heard that consumer class actions were dead. Why? Companies were inserting into consumer contracts mandatory arbitration clauses that waived the right to proceed as a class action. Courts were upholding them – arbitration clauses are, after all, pretty much inviolate – and surely every company would soon be using them. Fast …