Articles Posted in Florida Supreme Court

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In this action filed by Petitioner seeking attorney’s fees, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Fifth District Court of Appeal concluding that the proposals for settlement in the underlying case were ambiguous and therefore unenforceable. Petitioner sued Respondents for negligence and then served a separate proposal for settlement on each Respondent. Neither Respondent accepted Petitioner’s respective proposal. After securing final judgment, Petitioner filed a motion for attorney’s fees under Fla. Stat. 768.79 and Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.442. The trial court granted the motion, finding that the proposals for settlement were sufficiently clear and unambiguous. The district court reversed, concluding that the language in the proposals were ambiguous. The Supreme Court quashed the decision below, holding that Petitioner’s offers to settle his claims against Respondents were unambiguous and that Petitioner’s entitlement to attorney’s fees was actualized after he submitted sufficient offers and obtained satisfactory judgments in his favor. View "Allen v. Nunez" on Justia Law

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A jury made a multimillion-dollar noneconomic damages award to an adult child whose mother died of lung cancer after finding through special interrogatories that the decedent’s addiction to cigarettes was a legal cause of her death. The Fourth District Court of Appeal overturned the award, making a “sweeping statement” that “no matter” what the evidence shows, “an adult child who lives independent of the parent during the parent’s smoking-related illness and death is not entitled to [a] multi-million dollar compensatory damages award.” The Supreme Court of Florida quashed that decision. The Fourth District misapplied the abuse of discretion standard to the trial court’s denial of a motion for remittitur and created of a bright-line cap on the amount of noneconomic damages a financially independent adult surviving child may be awarded for the wrongful death of a parent. Precedent entitles both a jury’s verdict and a trial judge’s ruling on a motion for remittitur to great deference. Neither the Legislature nor the Florida Supreme Court has established a cap on the amount of noneconomic damages a survivor may recover in a wrongful death action. View "Odom v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co." on Justia Law

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A motion under Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.090 to enlarge the time to accept a proposal for settlement does not automatically toll the thirty-day deadline for accepting the proposal until the motion is decided. The Second District Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s order to enforcement the settlement in this case, holding that the texts of Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.442 and rule 1.090 were unambiguous and could not be construed to provide for tolling once a motion to enlarge had been filed. The Supreme Court approved the Second District, holding that the Second District did not err in holding that (1) the filing of a motion to enlarge does not toll the time to accept a proposal for settlement; and (2) the trial court erred in ruling that Respondent’s proposal for settlement had validly been accepted by Petitioner. View "Koppel v. Ochoa" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court quashed the decision of the court of appeal in this medical malpractice action, holding that the treating physician’s deposition testimony regarding how the physician would have treated Alexis Cantore had she arrived at Miami Children’s Hospital (MCH) earlier was admissible. Alexis and her parents (collectively, Plaintiffs) sued MCH and West Boca Medical Center, Inc. (WBMC), alleging that they had not provided proper medical care for Alexis, who suffered permanent brain damage after a brain herniation. Over Plaintiffs’ objection, counsel for WBMC was permitted to publish to the jury the deposition of the pediatric neurosurgeon at MCH who operated on Alexis, in which the physician answered hypothetical questions as to how he would have treated Alexis had she arrived at MCH an hour or two earlier. The jury returned a verdict in favor of WBMC and MCH. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court erred in admitting the challenged deposition testimony pursuant to the Court’s decision in Saunders v. Dickens, 151 So. 3d 434 (Fla. 2014), and that the error was not harmless. View "Cantore v. West Boca Medical Center, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this case before the Supreme Court for review of a question of law certified by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, the Supreme Court answered that post-judgment discovery for the purpose of collecting a federal money judgment issued by a federal court in Florida is permitted for a period of twenty years from the date the judgment was entered. In this case, a federal district court in Florida entered a judgment awarding Judgment Creditors money damages against Judgment Debtor. Judgment Creditors filed a motion requesting an order compelling Judgment Debtor to complete a fact information sheet. The district court denied the motion, citing Balfour Beatty Bahamas, Ltd. v. Bush, 170 F.3d 1048, 1051 (11th Cir. 1999), which provides that post-judgment discovery aimed at collecting a money judgment issued by a Florida federal court is governed by the five-year limitations period in Fla. Stat. 95.11(2)(a). The Supreme Court concluded that the Fourth District’s holding in Burshan v. National Union Fire Insurance Co., 805 So. 2d 835 (Fla. 4th DCA 2001) governed, holding that collection activity on a federal judgment is not got governed but section 95.11(2)(a) but, instead, is permitted for the twenty-year life of the judgment. View "Salinas v. Ramsey" on Justia Law

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The notice and repair process set forth in Fla. Stat. 558 is a “suit” within the meaning of the commercial general liability policy issued in this case by Crum & Forster Speciality Insurance Company (C&F) to Altman Contractors, Inc. According to the policy, C&F had a duty to defend Altman in any “suit” arising from the construction of a condominium. Altman claimed that this duty to defend was invoked when the property owner served it with several notices under chapter 558 cumulatively claiming over 800 construction defects in the project. Altman filed a declaratory judgment action seeking a declaration that C&F owed a duty to defend and to indemnify it under the policy. The federal district court granted summary judgment for C&F, concluding that nothing about the chapter 558 process satisfied the definition of “civil proceeding.” Altman appealed, and the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit certified the legal issue to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court answered the certified question in the affirmative because the chapter 558 presuit process is an “alternative dispute resolution proceeding” as included in the policy’s definition of “suit.” View "Altman Contractors, Inc. v. Crum & Forster Specialty Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed the petition of the League of Women Voters of Florida for a writ of quo warranto, holding that the issue presented was not ripe for consideration. The League asked the Supreme Court to issue a writ of quo warranto against Governor Rick Scott to prohibit him from filling judicial vacancies on Florida’s appellate courts due to terms expiring in January 2019. Although Governor Scott announced his intent to appoint replacements for three justices of the Supreme Court, no appointments at the time of this opinion had been made. The Supreme Court held that the matter the League sought to have resolved was not ripe, and therefore, the Supreme Court lacked jurisdiction to determine whether quo warrants relief was warranted. View "League of Women Voters of Florida v. Scott" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court quashed the decision of the Fifth District Court of Appeals, which held on appeal in this case that trial courts may apply a contingency fee multiplier to an award of attorney’s fees to a prevailing party only in “rare” and “exceptional” circumstances. Petitioners, the insureds in a successful dispute with their homeowners’ insurance carrier, argued before the Supreme Court that the Fifth District’s decision misapplied Supreme Court precedent from Florida Patient’s Compensation Fund v. Rowe, 472 So. 2d 1145 (Fla. 1985), and its progeny. The Supreme Court agreed with Petitioners, holding that there is no “rare” and “exceptional” circumstances requirement before a trial court may apply a contingency fee multiplier. View "Joyce v. Federated National Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Heather Worley fell in the parking lot of Central Florida Young Men’s Christian Association, Inc. (YMCA). Worley's counsel filed a negligence suit against YMCA on behalf of Worley, seeking to recover damages, including the costs of her treatment from certain healthcare providers. During discovery, YMCA sought information as to whether Worley was referred to the relevant treating physicians by her counsel. The trial court required Worley to produce the information. Worley filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the Fifth District court of Appeal, arguing that the trial court order required the production of information protected by the attorney-client privilege. The district court denied the certiorari petition. The Supreme Court quashed the decision of the Fifth District, holding that the attorney-client privilege protects a party from being required to disclose that his or her attorney referred the party to a physician for treatment. View "Worley v. Central Florida Young Men's Christian Ass’n" on Justia Law

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In 2003, Respondents obtained an amended judgment against Petitioner in an Arizona federal district court. In 2006, Respondents registered the Arizona judgment in Florida under the Florida Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act (FEFJA). In 2008, the judgment became unenforceable in Arizona because Respondents failed to renew the judgment prior to the expiration of Arizona’s five-year statute of limitations. In 2012, Respondents obtained a writ of execution in Florida. The trial court quashed the motion with prejudice, concluding that the Arizona judgment was not enforceable in either Arizona or Florida because Arizona’s five-year statute of limitations continued to control after domestication of the Arizona judgment in Florida under the FEFJA. The court of appeal reversed, holding that Florida’s twenty-year statute of limitations found in Fla. Stat. 95.11(1) applied and began to run from the date of the Arizona judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Florida’s twenty-year statute of limitations is applicable to the enforcement of a foreign judgment after it is recorded under the FEFJA. View "Patrick v. Hess" on Justia Law