Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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The Supreme Court accepted a question certified to it by the Second District Court of Appeal as to whether the pre-2014 version of Rule Regulating the Florida Bar 4-3.4(b) prevents the prevailing party in the underlying case from taxing as costs certain payments made to fact witnesses, answering that the party here was not permitted to pay a fact witness for the witness’s assistance with case and discovery preparation that was not directly related to the witness preparing for, attending, or testifying at proceedings. Rule 4-3.4(b) addresses witness payments and the prohibition against offering inducements to witnesses. In this dispute over the recoverable amount of prevailing party fees and costs, the Second District concluded that payments made to fact witnesses for their “assistance with case and discovery preparation” were permitted under rule 4-3.4(b) and were thus recoverable. The Supreme Court accepted certification and held (1) Rule 4-3.4(b) permits a party to pay a fact witness for the witness’s assistance with case and discovery preparation that is directly related to the witness preparing for, attending, or testifying at proceedings; and (2) this case must be remanded because it is unclear which witness payments were included in the trial court’s cost award. View "Trial Practices, Inc. v. Hahn Loeser & Parks, LLP" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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The Supreme Court approved the result reached by the First District Court of Appeal affirming the trial court’s rejection of Petitioners’ challenge to the State’s K-12 public education system based on the State’s alleged failure to comply with Fla. Const. art. IX, 1(a), holding that Coalition for Adequacy & Fairness in School Funding, Inc. v. Chiles (Coalition), 680 So. 2d 400 (Fla. 1996) defeated Petitioners’ claim. In their complaint, Petitioners sought a declaration that the State was breaching its duty to make adequate provision for an “efficient” and “high quality” system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education. Petitioners requested that the courts order the State to establish a remedial plan including studies to determine what resources are necessary to provide a high quality education to Florida students. The trial court rejected Petitioners’ challenge, and the court of appeal affirmed. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that because Petitioners failed to present any manageable standard by which to avoid judicial intrusion into the powers of the other branches of government, the court of appeal properly affirmed the trial court’s rejection of Petitioners’ blanket challenge to the adequacy of the funding of the entire K-12 education system. View "Citizens for Strong Schools, Inc. v. State Board of Education" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court quashed the decision of the Third District Court of Appeal regarding whether proposals for settlement made pursuant to Fla. Stat. 768.79 and Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.442 must comply with the email service provisions of Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.516, holding that proposals for settlement are not subject to the email service requirement of rule 2.516. The trial court in this case denied Petitioner’s motion to enforce her proposal for settlement because Petitioner’s email to Respondent containing the proposal for settlement did not strictly comply with all of the formatting requirements set forth in the rule 2.516. The Third District Court of Appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court quashed the decision below, holding (1) the Third District erred in finding that a proposal for settlement is subject to the requirements of rule 2.516; and (2) even if rule 2.516 applied to proposals for settlement, Petitioner’s failure to comply with the email formatting requirements set forth in the rule would not render the proposal unenforceable because the proposal complied with the substantive requirements set forth in section 768.79. View "Wheaton v. Wheaton" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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The Supreme Court approved the decision of the Third District Court of Appeal ruling that the existence of a Facebook “friendship” was not a sufficient basis to disqualify a trial court judge, holding that the existence of a Facebook “friendship” was not a sufficient basis for disqualification. A law office and attorney petitioned the Third District for a writ of prohibition to disqualify the trial court judge in the underlying case based on the fact that an attorney appearing before the trial judge was listed as a “friend” on the trial judge’s personal Facebook page. The Third District denied the petition for writ of prohibition, ruling that an allegation that a trial judge is a Facebook “friend” with an attorney appearing before the judge, standing alone, does not constitute a legally sufficient basis for disqualification. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that where Facebook “friendships” regularly involve strangers, there was no reason that this particular relationship should be singled out and subjected to a per se rule of disqualification. View "Law Offices of Herssein and Herssein, P.A. v. United Services Automobile Ass’n" on Justia Law

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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

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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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

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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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