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The ambiguous section of the insurance policy at issue in this case must be construed in favor of coverage for the costs and attorneys’ fees awarded against the insured pursuant to the offer of judgment statute, Fla. Stat. 768.79. Alysia Macedo sued Zackery Lombardo for damages resulting from injuries she sustained in an automobile collision.The jury returned a verdict in favor of Macedo in the amount of $243,954.55. Macedo joined to the judgment GEICO, which provided bodily injury liability coverage to Lombardo. The trial court awarded taxable fees and costs against GEICO jointly and severally with its insured pursuant to section 768.79. The First District Court of Appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court approved the First District’s decision, holding that the key provision in the insurance policy was ambiguous and must be construed in favor of coverage. View "Government Employees Insurance Co. v. Macedo" on Justia Law

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A party that has had judgment entered against it is not entitled to seek equitable subrogation from a subsequent tortfeasor when the judgment has not fully been sustained. Benjamin Hintz was injured when his scooter collided with an automobile driven by Emily Boozer. The car belonged to Boozer’s father, Otto, who was insured by Allstate. Petitioner, guardian of Hintz’s property, filed suit against the Boozers. The jury found the Boozers liable for Hintz’s injuries, ultimately awarding Petitioner $11,179,189. Allstate paid $1.1 million, its policy limit, but the Boozers did not pay the remainder of the judgment. Following the personal injury verdict, Petitioner filed a separate medical malpractice suit against medical provider defendants, alleging that Hintz’s injuries were exacerbated by medical negligence. Allstate and Emily Boozer filed complaints claiming they were entitled to equitable subrogation from the medical provider defendants. The trial court dismissed the complaints with prejudice. The Fifth District Court of Appeal reversed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case to reinstate the dismissal of the equitable subrogation claims, holding that the Fifth District erred in holding that Respondents could assert claims for contingent equitable subrogation without first paying the judgment in full. View "Holmes Regional Medical Center, Inc. v. Allstate Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for first-degree murder, vacated his death sentence, and remanded for a new penalty phase, holding that there was sufficient evidence to support Defendant’s convictions but that, under Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016), Defendant was entitled to a new penalty phase. After a trial, the jury recommended the death penalty by a vote of ten to two for Defendant’s murder conviction. Upon weighing the aggravation and mitigation, the trial court sentenced Defendant to death. The Supreme Court held (1) competent, substantial evidence supported Defendant’s convictions under both premeditated murder and felony murder; (2) death was a proportionate punishment in this case; but (3) considering the nonunanimous jury recommendation and reasoning, there was a sentencing error under Hurst, and the error was not harmless. View "Jeffries v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court granted Petitioner’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus, vacated Petitioner’s death sentence, and remanded to the circuit court for a new penalty phase. In his habeas petition, Petitioner sought relief under Hurst v. Florida, 477 U.S. __ (2016), and Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016). The Supreme Court granted relief, holding (1) because the jury in Petitioner’s case recommended the death penalty by a vote of eleven to one, Petitioner’s death sentence violated Hurst; and (2) because it cannot be said that there is no reasonable possibility that the error did not contribute to the sentence, the Hurst error in Petitioner’s sentencing was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "Bailey v. Jones" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the postconviction court’s order denying Robert Peterson post-conviction relief as to the guilt phase of Peterson’s criminal trial and denied Peterson’s separate habeas petition. The court, however, concluded that Peterson was entitled to a new penalty phase under Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016). Peterson was convicted of first-degree murder and evidence tampering and was sentenced to death. The jury recommended death by a vote of seven to five. Peterson appealed the denial of his postconviction motion. The Supreme Court held (1) Peterson was not entitled to relief as to his ineffective assistance of guilt phase counsel claim; but (2) the Hurst error during Peterson’s penalty phase was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, warranting a new penalty phase proceeding. View "Peterson v. State" on Justia Law

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The indigent care provision of the special law applicable only to Sarasota County does not constitute an unconstitutional privilege because it applies equally to all hospitals in Sarasota County, whether public or private. Certain private hospitals sought a declaration establishing their right to reimbursement from Sarasota County for providing indigent care under the indigent care provision of the special law. The County asserted that such reimbursement would provide an unconstitutional privilege to private corporations in violation of Fla. Const. art. III, section 11(a)(12). The trial court entered summary judgment for the County. The Second District Court of Appeal affirmed, concluding that the indigent care provision constitutes an unconstitutional privilege because it provides for reimbursement to the public and private hospitals only in Sarasota County rather than in the entire state. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the indigent care provision of the special law does not grant a privilege to a private corporation within the plain meaning of article III, section 11(a)(12) because it applies to all hospitals in Sarasota County. View "Venice HMA, LLC v. Sarasota County" on Justia Law

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The trial court granted Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence found on his cell phone by arresting officers pursuant to a search incident to arrest, relying on the holding in Smallwood v. State, 113 Wo. 3d 724 (Fla. 2013) that warrantless cell phone searches are unconstitutional. The First District Court of Appeal reversed, relying on Davis v. United States 564 U.S. 229 (2011) to conclude that because the officers relied in good faith on the holding in Smallwood v. State, 61 So. 3d 448 (Fla. 1st DCA 2011), the appellate precedent at the time of the search, the evidence was not subject to the exclusionary rule based on the good-faith exception. The Supreme Court disapproved the First District’s decision and held that the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule did not apply to the officers’ warrantless search of Defendant’s cell phone because the officers were not relying on the type of longstanding, thirty-year appellate precedent at issue in Davis, but rather, on a non-final, pipeline case still under active review in the Supreme Court at the time of the search. View "Carpenter v. State" on Justia Law

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On direct appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed Appellant's first-degree murder conviction but reversed his sentence of death and remanded this case to the trial court for a new penalty phase. The court held (1) the trial court did not err by denying Appellant the opportunity to cross-examine DNA analysts regarding prior instances of contamination in analyses they conducted in other cases; (2) the trial court did not abuse its discretion by excluding testimony regarding an attempted auto burglary; (3) any error in admitting the Appellant’s wife’s statement to detectives was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; (4) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in allowing evidence of postmortem injuries; (5) the evidence was sufficient to sustain the first-degree murder conviction; and (6) in light of the nonunanimous jury recommendation to impose a death sentence Appellant was entitled to a new penalty phase under Hurst v. Florida, 577 U.S. __ (2016) and Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016). View "Sexton v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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On direct appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed Appellant’s first-degree murder conviction but vacated his sentence of death and remanded for a new penalty phase, holding (1) Appellant’s ineffective assistance of counsel claims were improperly raised on direct appeal; (2) the evidence presented at trial was sufficient to support Appellant’s first-degree murder conviction; (3) the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying Appellant’s motion for the appointment of a crime scene expert; and (4) in light of the nonunanimous jury recommendation to impose the death sentence, Appellant’s death sentence must be reversed and the case remanded for a new penalty phase. View "Bargo v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Appellant, an inmate under a sentence of death, appealed the denial of her motion for postconviction relief filed under Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851. The Supreme Court affirmed the denial of relief for a new guilt phase but granted Appellant a new penalty phase based on Hurst v. Florida, 577 U.S. __ (2016) and Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016). The court vacated Appellant’s death sentences and remanded for a new penalty phase, holding (1) Appellant’s ineffective assistance of guilt phase counsel claims failed; but (2) Appellant was entitled to a new penalty phase in light of a nonunanimous jury recommendation to impose death sentences. View "Cole v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law