Justia Florida Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Class Action
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Ciccone
At issue in this case was the definition of “manifestation” for purposes of determining class membership in the Engle class. In Engle v. Liggett, the Supreme Court held that membership in the Engle class is established when the tobacco-related disease or medical condition “first manifested itself.” In the instant case, Plaintiff, as the personal representative of the estate of her deceased husband (Decedent), filed suit against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. The trial court instructed the jury that “manifestation” occurred when Decedent experienced symptoms of or was diagnosed with peripheral vascular disease. Decedent was not diagnosed until after the November 21, 1996, cut-off date for Engle class membership. The jury decided the issue of Engle class membership in favor of Plaintiff and later found in favor of Plaintiff on the majority of her claims. The Court of Appeal largely affirmed, concluding that Decedent’s “pre-1996 knowledge of a causal link between symptoms and tobacco” was unnecessary for class membership. The Supreme Court approved the Court of Appeal’s definition of “manifestation,” holding that “manifestation” for purposes of establishing membership in the Engle class is defined as the point at which the plaintiff began suffering from or experiencing symptoms of a tobacco-related disease or medical condition. View "R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Ciccone" on Justia Law
Soffer v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
Maurice Soffer died from lung cancer caused by smoking. Soffer’s widow, Lucille Soffer, brought a wrongful death action against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company pursuant to Engle v. Liggett Group, Inc., alleging four causes of action, all of which had been pled in the Engle class litigation. Prior to trial, Soffer moved to amend her complaint to add a demand for punitive damages. The trial court granted the motion to amend. A judgment was entered for Soffer in the amount of $2 million. Soffer appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in instructing the jury that it was prohibited from awarding punitive damages on the counts for negligence and strict liability based on the procedural posture of the original Engle class action. The Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that individual members of the Engle class action are bound by the procedural prosture of the Engle class representatives when they pursue their individual lawsuits and, thus, cannot seek punitive damages on negligence or strict liability counts. The Supreme Court quashed the Court of Appeal’s decision, holding that the individual members of the Engle class action are not prevented from seeking punitive damages on all claims properly raised in their subsequent individual actions. View "Soffer v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co." on Justia Law
Hess v. Philip Morris USA, Inc.
As surviving spouse of Stuart Hess and personal representative of his estate, Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against Philip Morris USA (Defendant), asserting claims of fraudulent concealment and alleging that Mr. Hess detrimentally relied on and dried as a proximate result of Defendants’ fraud. A jury entered judgment in favor of Plaintiff and awarded both compensatory and punitive damages. Defendant moved for judgment as a matter of law on the fraudulent concealment claim, arguing that it did not defraud Mr. Hess within the twelve-year fraud statute of repose period. The trial court denied the motion. The Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed for entry of judgment in Defendant’s favor on the fraudulent concealment claim and punitive damages award, concluding that the fraudulent concealment claim and punitive damages award were foreclosed by the statute of repose because Defendant did not defraud Mr. Hess within the repose period. The Supreme Court quashed the Fourth District’s decision and reinstated the jury verdict, holding that Defendant was precluded as a matter of law from raising the fraud statute of repose defense to Plaintiff’s fraudulent concealment claim. View "Hess v. Philip Morris USA, Inc." on Justia Law
Young v. Achenbauch
In 1991, a group of flight attendants initiated a class action suit against several tobacco companies. The suit resulted in a settlement agreement. Subsequently, the Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute (FAMRI) was formed, and several of the flight attendants who were part of the class action became members of FAMRI’s board, including Patricia Young and Alani Blissard. Thereafter, several flight attendants filed individual suits against the tobacco companies. Steve Hunter and Philip Gerson were among the attorneys who represented the flight attendants. In 2010, a group of attorneys, including Gerson and Hunter, filed a petition against FAMRI on behalf of some of the flight attendants who were part of the original class, seeking an accounting of FAMRI’s funds and requesting that the settlement funds be dispersed directly to their clients. Young, Blissard and FAMRI moved to disqualify the attorneys on the ground of conflict of interest. The trial court entered an order disqualifying several attorneys, including Hunter and Gerson. The Third District Court of Appeals quashed the trial court’s order. The Supreme Court quashed the Third District’s decision and reinstated the trial court’s disqualification order, holding that disqualification was warranted in this case. View "Young v. Achenbauch" on Justia Law
Posted in: Class Action, Injury Law, Legal Ethics
Kalisz v. State
Defendant was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of attempted first-degree murder, and burglary of a dwelling. The trial court imposed death sentences for the murders of both victims. Defendant appealed, raising several issues with regard to the penalty phase that led to the imposition of the death sentences. The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions and sentences, holding (1) any error in the trial court's finding of the aggravating factors was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) the trial court did not err in allowing victim impact statements or in admitting photographs of the murder victims; (3) the imposition of the death penalty in this case was proportionate and supported by the applicable aggravating and mitigating factors; and (4) sufficient evidence in the record supported Defendant's convictions. View "Kalisz v. State" on Justia Law
Posted in: Class Action, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Florida Supreme Court
Washington Nat’l Ins. Corp. v. Ruderman
Several insureds filed a class action against the predecessor of Washington National Insurance Corporation concerning insurance policies that provide for reimbursement of certain home health care expenses. The district court granted summary judgment for the insureds, concluding that various provisions in the policy, including a certificate schedule, demonstrated an ambiguity concerning whether an automatic increase applied only to the daily benefit or also applied to the lifetime maximum benefit amount and the per occurrence maximum benefit amount. Because there was ambiguity in the policy, the court of appeal certified questions of law to the Florida Supreme Court, which held (1) because the policy was ambiguous, it must be construed against the insurer and in favor of coverage without consideration of extrinsic evidence; and (2) when so construed, the policy's automatic benefit increase applies to the daily benefit, the lifetime maximum benefit, and the per occurrence maximum benefit. View "Washington Nat'l Ins. Corp. v. Ruderman" on Justia Law
Posted in: Class Action, Contracts, Florida Supreme Court, Insurance Law
McKenzie Check Advance of Fla., LLC v. Betts
Plaintiffs filed a class action complaint against a check advance company, asserting claims based on numerous Florida statutes. Plaintiffs later amended the complaint to add Tiffany Kelly as an additional plaintiff and named class member. Because Kelly had signed the version of Defendant's arbitration agreement that contained a class action waiver, this case focused on her contracts with Defendant. The trial court eventually denied Defendant's motion to compel arbitration, ruling that the class action waiver was unenforceable because it was void as against public policy. The court of appeal affirmed, finding that no other reasonable avenue for relief would be available if it enforced the class action waiver. After the court of appeal decided this case, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in AT&T Mobility, LLC v. Concepcion. Applying the rationale of Concepcion to the facts set forth in this case, the Supreme Court quashed the court of appeal's decision, holding that the Federal Arbitration Act preempted invalidating the class action waiver in this case on the basis of the waiver being void as against public policy. View "McKenzie Check Advance of Fla., LLC v. Betts" on Justia Law
Sosa, etc. v. Safeway Premium Fin. Co., etc.
This appeal arose from a motion for class certification filed in the trial court by petitioner where petitioner claimed that respondent violated sections 627.840(3)(b) and 627.835, Florida Statutes, by knowingly overcharging him an additional service charge of $20 twice in a twelve month period in two premium finance agreements which he entered into with respondent. At issue was whether the putative class members satisfied the requirements of commonality and predominance needed for class certification under Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.220. The court held that the Third District's decision was incorrect because it afforded no deference to the trial court's actual factual findings and conducted a de novo review which constituted error where the proper appellate standard of review for a grant of class certification was abuse of discretion. The court also held that the Third District incorrectly addressed whether petition satisfied section 627.835's "knowingly" requirement and incorrectly held that petitioner and the putative class members failed to satisfy rule 1.220's commonality and predominance requirements. Therefore, the court held that the Third District created conflict with Olen Properties Corp. v. Moss and Smith v. Glen Cove Apartments Condominiums Master Ass'n. Accordingly, the court quashed the Third District's judgment. View "Sosa, etc. v. Safeway Premium Fin. Co., etc." on Justia Law
Posted in: Banking, Class Action, Consumer Law, Florida Supreme Court