Justia Communications Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
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In this libel case, the Eleventh Circuit held that New York's "fair and true report" privilege, codified as N.Y. Civ. Rights Law 74, applies to the fair and true publication of the contents of a document that was filed and sealed in a Florida paternity/child custody proceeding.Plaintiff filed suit against Gizmodo and Katherine Krueger, the author of an article published on the Splinter website owned by Gizmodo, over an article entitled "Court Docs Allege Ex-Trump Staffer Drugged Woman He Got Pregnant with 'Abortion Pill.'" The district court concluded that section 74 applied, and that the Splinter article was a fair and true report of the supplement because it was "substantially accurate." Plaintiff does not challenge the district court's finding that the Splinter article was a fair and true report, but he maintains that the section 74 privilege does not apply because the supplement was filed in a paternity/child custody proceeding and sealed. The court held that section 74's fair and true report privilege applies to the Splinter article written by Ms. Krueger about the supplement filed by the mother of plaintiff's child, and that the 1970 decision of the New York Court of Appeals in Shiles v. News Syndicate Co., 261 N.E.2d 251, 256 (N.Y. 1970), does not preclude the application of section 74. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants. View "Miller v. Gizmodo Media Group, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment against Shkelzen Berisha, the son of the former Prime Minister of Albania, who alleges that he was defamed in a book that accused him of being involved in an elaborate arms-dealing scandal in the early 2000s. Guy Lawson wrote the book at issue, called Arms and the Dudes: How Three Stoners from Miami Beach Became the Most Unlikely Gunrunners in History, which tells the supposedly true story of three young Miami, Florida, men who became international arms dealers. Lawson also sold the movie rights to Warner Brothers, which turned the story into the 2016 major motion picture War Dogs, starring Jonah Hill and Miles Teller.After determining that the district court correctly applied the heightened defamation standard for claims brought by public figures, the court held that the district court did not err in finding that there was insufficient evidence to support Berisha's claim that defendants acted with actual malice. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Berisha's motion to compel where the employee-equivalent doctrine, which extends the attorney-client privilege beyond individuals who control the corporation to include other employees with whom the lawyer must consult in order to advise the company, would likely shield from discovery the communications between Lawson and Simon & Schuster's attorneys. Finally, the court held that Berisha presents no grounds upon which the court could conclude that the district court abused its discretion in denying him an additional and last-minute extension of the discovery deadline. View "Berisha v. Lawson" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that DISH violated the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (FCCPA) in its attempts to collect debt it knew had been discharged in bankruptcy and in its direct contacts with plaintiff knowing she was represented by counsel. Plaintiff also alleged that DISH violated the Telephone Consumer Practices Act (TCPA) by contacting plaintiff about the debt with an automated dialing system after she revoked her consent to receive such calls.The Eleventh Circuit first determined that DISH's claim for the Pause debt was discharged. The court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment as to the FCCPA claims. In this case, DISH attempted to collect debt it had no legal right to collect because the debt had been discharged in bankruptcy, and DISH directly contacted plaintiff after having received notice that she was represented by counsel. Accordingly, the court remanded on the FCCPA claims for the district court to consider whether DISH actually knew that the Pause charges were invalid and that plaintiff was represented by counsel with regard to the debt it was attempting to collect, and if so, whether such errors were unintentional and the result of bona fide error.The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment as to the TCPA claim, holding that the TCPA does not allow unilateral revocation of consent given in a bargained-for contract. The court reasoned that, by permitting plaintiff to unilaterally revoke a mutually-agreed-upon term in a contract would run counter to black-letter contract law in effect at the time Congress enacted the TCPA. View "Medley v. Dish Network, LLC" on Justia Law

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Under Section 227 of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, to be an auto-dialer, the equipment must (1) store telephone numbers using a random or sequential number generator and dial them or (2) produce such numbers using a random or sequential number generator and dial them. Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that the companies' unsolicited phone calls violated the Act. Plaintiffs alleged that the companies placed the calls through "Automatic Telephone Dialing Systems," which the Act regulates and restricts.The Eleventh Circuit held that because neither phone system used randomly or sequentially generated numbers and because the phone system in Plaintiff Glasser's appeal required human intervention and thus was not an auto-dialer, the Act does not cover them. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment in Glasser's case, and affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment in Plaintiff Evans' case. View "Glasser v. Hilton Grand Vacations Co., LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a class action under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, alleging that DIRECTV and the company it contracted with to provide telemarketing services, Telecel, failed to maintain the do-not-call list and continued to call individuals who asked not to be contacted.The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court's certification order, holding that the unnamed members of the putative class who did not ask DIRECTV to stop calling them were not injured by the failure to comply with the regulation. Therefore, their injuries were not fairly traceable to DIRECTV's alleged wrongful conduct, and thus they lacked Article III standing to sue DIRECTV. The court also held that, although the case was justiciable because the named plaintiff had standing, the district court abused its discretion in certifying the class as it is currently defined. In this case, determining whether each class member asked Telecel to stop calling requires an individualized inquiry, and the district court did not consider this problem at all when it determined that issues common to the class predominated over issues individual to each class member. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Cordoba v. DIRECTV, LLC" on Justia Law

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Receiving a single unsolicited text message, sent in violation of a federal statute, is not a concrete injury in fact that establishes standing to sue in federal court. Plaintiff filed suit against defendant, alleging violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA) after he received unsolicited text messages from defendant's law firm. The court found that the history and the judgment of Congress did not support a finding of concrete injury in plaintiff's allegations. In this case, plaintiff's allegations of a brief, inconsequential annoyance were categorically distinct from those kinds of real but intangible harms. The court noted that its assessment was qualitative, not quantitative. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded with instructions to dismiss without prejudice the amended complaint. View "Salcedo v. Hanna" on Justia Law

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Hotels filed suit against Safemark on behalf of a putative class, alleging that faxes sent to franchisees violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which makes it unlawful to send certain unsolicited fax advertisements. The district court denied certification and held that the solicited-fax rule, a regulation of the FCC that required solicited faxes to include compliant opt-out notices, was invalid. The district court subsequently granted summary judgment to Safemark. While the appeals were pending, the Commission eliminated the solicited-fax rule in light of the DC Circuit's decision that the rule is invalid.The Fifth Circuit held that the district court did not err when it ruled that the faxes were solicited because the hotels gave their prior express permission to receive faxes from Safemark. Furthermore, because the Commission eliminated the solicited-fax rule during the pendency of his consolidated appeal, Safemark's faxes need not have contained opt-out notices. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment for Safemark. View "Gorss Motels, Inc. v. Safemark Systems, LP" on Justia Law

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Verizon filed suit challenging the Board's denial of its application for a special use permit to construct a cellular communications tower. The district court dismissed the action as time-barred under the thirty-day limitations period of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (TCA). The Eleventh Circuit reversed, holding that the Board's action became final not when the Clerk entered a document in the Ordinances and Resolutions books, as the district court found, but when the Board approved the minutes of the meeting at which it voted on Verizon's application. The court reasoned that only when an applicant receives sufficient notice does the decision become "final," and only then can the thirty-day clock begin to run. In this case, the minutes, created pursuant to published statute, provided the notice that due process and the Supreme Court's interpretation of the TCA required. View "Athens Cellular, Inc. v. Oconee County, Georgia" on Justia Law

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Former Coach of the Miami Dolphins, James Turner, filed suit against defendants, alleging defamation claims under Florida law related to defendants' publication of a report, which concluded that bullying by other Dolphins players contributed to Jonathan Martin's decision to leave the team. The Eleventh Circuit held that none of the challenged statements contained in the report were actionable for defamation; no alleged omission or juxtaposition of facts in the report stated a claim for defamation by implication; and Turner was a public figure who failed to adequately plead that defendants acted with malice in drafting and publishing the report. View "Turner v. Wells, Jr." on Justia Law

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The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), 47 U.S.C. 227 et seq., permits a consumer to partially revoke her consent to be called by means of an automatic telephone dialing system. The Eleventh Circuit thought it logical that a consumer's power under the TCPA to completely withdraw consent and thereby stop all future automated calls encompasses the power to partially withdraw consent and stop calls during certain times. In this case, the court held that summary judgment was inappropriate because a reasonable jury could find that plaintiff partially revoked her consent to be called in "the morning" and "during the workday" on the October 13 phone call with a Comenity employee. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Schweitzer v. Comenity Bank" on Justia Law