Justia Florida Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Contracts
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The Supreme Court quashed the decision of the Second District Court of Appeal reversing the circuit court's grant of Airbnb, Inc.'s motion to compel arbitration, holding that the circuit court did not err in compelling arbitration.Plaintiffs brought this complaint against Airbnb, alleging constructive intrusion and loss of consortium. After a hearing, the circuit court granted Airbnb's motion to compel arbitration and stayed the underlying lawsuit pending arbitration, finding that the parties entered into an express agreement that incorporated the the American Arbitration Association (AAA) rules, requiring Airbnb to submit the issue of arbitrability to the arbitrator. The Second District Court reversed, concluding that the arbitration provision and the AAA rule it referenced did not amount to "clear and unmistakable" evidence that the parties agreed to arbitrate arbitrability. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Airbnb's terms of service that incorporate by reference rules that expressly delegate arbitrability determinations to an arbitrator constitute clear and unmistakable evidence of the parties' intent to authorize an arbitrator, rather than a court, to resolve questions of arbitrability. View "Airbnb, Inc. v. Doe" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court quashed the decision of the Third District Court of Appeal concluding that the circuit court had personal jurisdiction over Tribeca Asset Management, Inc., holding that the parties' agreement did not provide for arbitration in Florida.Tribeca and Ancla International, S.A. entered into a confidentiality agreement. Ancla later filed a petition to compel arbitration. The circuit court dismissed the petition for lack of personal jurisdiction, concluding that a provision in the parties' agreement did not contain a forum selection clause and merely contained a choice of law provision. The Third District reversed, concluding that the provision contained a forum selection clause. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the agreement did not provide for arbitration in Florida. View "Tribeca Asset Management, Inc. v. Ancla International, S.A." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that Plaintiff's unjust enrichment claim failed because he received adequate consideration in exchange for the challenged fee when he took advantage of the privilege of using his credit card to pay the penalty.Plaintiff filed a putative class action arguing that a convenience fee that Plaintiff paid in connection with a penalty he paid with his credit card to the City of North Miami Beach. Plaintiff argued that the convenience fee was statutorily prohibited and that American Traffic Solutions, Inc. (ATS), with whom the City had contracted to issue and mail citations and process violators' payments of the civil penalties imposed, was unjustly enriched by retaining the fee. The trial court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. The court of appeals certified a question to the Supreme Court, which answered that Plaintiff's unjust enrichment claim failed because he had not alleged a benefit conferred and accepted which would be unjust for ATS to retain. View "Pincus v. American Traffic Solutions, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that, for purposes of calculating whether a plaintiff has met the threshold amount of difference between an offer of judgment and the judgment entered for purposes of Fla. Stat. 768.79, post-offer prejudgment interest must be excluded from the amount of the "judgment entered."The Fourth District held that caselaw required the exclusion of post-offer prejudgment interest from the "judgment obtained" when determining entitlement to attorney's fees under section 768.79. Because this conclusion conflicted with the Third District's decision in Perez v. Circuit City Stores, Inc., 721 So. 2d 409 (Fla. 3d DCA 1998), and the First District Court of Appeal’s decision in Phillips v. Parrish, 585 So. 2d 1038 (Fla. 1st DCA 1991), the Fourth District certified conflict. The Supreme Court approved the Fourth District decision and disapproved the decisions in Perez and Phillips to the extent they were inconsistent with the decision today, holding that the Fourth district's interpretation of section 768.79 was not erroneous. View "CCM Condominium Association, Inc. v. Petri Positive Pest Control, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts
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The Supreme Court answered in the negative a question certified by the Fifth District Court of Appeal, holding that in a first-party breach of insurance contract action brought by an insured against its insurer not involving suit under Fla. Stat. 624.155, Florida law does not allow the insured to recover extra-contractual, consequential damages.The insureds in this case sought to recover from the insurer extra-contractual, consequential damages for lost rental income. The trial court granted the insurer's motion for partial summary judgment regarding the breach of contract claim for lost rental income. The Fifth District reversed the partial summary judgment regarding the consequential damages claim, concluding that the insurer was not statutorily immune from this aspect of the insureds' claim. The Supreme Court quashed the Fifth District's decision and remanded the case, concluding that extra-contractual, consequential damages are not available in a first-party breach of insurance contract action. View "Citizens Property Insurance Corp. v. Manor House, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that a unilateral attorney's fee provision in a credit card contract was made reciprocal to prevailing debtors under Fla. Stat. 57.105(7) where the debtors prevailed in an account stated action brought to collect unpaid credit card debt.The First District Court of Appeal held that the debtors could not recover attorney's fees on the grounds that section 57.105(7) was inapplicable because the actions for account stated did not rely upon the credit card contracts containing the fee provisions. The Supreme Court quashed the decision below, holding that section 57.105(7) allowed the debtors to recover reciprocal attorney's fees because the conditions required by the statute were met. View "Ham v. Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2006, Harvey, the insured, was involved in an automobile accident with Potts. Potts, age 51, died as a result, leaving a wife and three children. Harvey’s vehicle was registered in both his name and his business’s name and was covered under a $100,000 GEICO liability policy. Two days after the accident, GEICO resolved the liability issue adversely to Harvey. GEICO did not communicate a request by the estate’s attorney for a statement. GEICO tendered $100,000 to the estate’s attorney. The estate returned GEICO’s check and filed a wrongful death suit. A jury awarded the estate $8.47 million. Harvey filed a bad faith claim against GEICO. The estate's lawyer testified that he did not receive any communication from GEICO following his initial letter and that had he known that Harvey’s only other asset was a business account worth approximately $85,000, he would not have filed suit. The Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed the judgment entered in favor of Harvey, stating that “the evidence was insufficient as a matter of law to show ... bad faith,” and, “even if the insurer’s conduct were deficient, the insurer’s actions did not cause the excess judgment.” The Supreme Court of Florida reversed. The Fourth District failed to properly apply the directed verdict standard and misapplied precedent setting forth the fiduciary duties of insurance companies. An insurer can be liable for bad faith even “where the insured’s own actions or inactions . . . at least in part” caused the excess judgment. View "Harvey v. Geico General Insurance Co." 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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In 1997, Aaron sustained a catastrophic brain injury at birth due to the negligence of employees at Lee Memorial. The family retained the law firm, under a contingency fee agreement providing for payment of 40 percent of any recovery if a lawsuit was filed, plus costs, and stating that if "one of the parties to pay my claim for damages is a governmental agency, I understand that Federal and Florida Law may limit the amount of attorney fees ... in that event, I understand that the fees owed ... shall be the amount provided by law.” A jury awarded the child $28.3 million, the mother $1.34 million, and the father $1 million. Because the hospital was an independent special district of the state, the court enforced the sovereign immunity damage limitations and entered a judgment for $200,000, which was affirmed. The firm pursued a two-year lobbying effort to secure a claims bill from the Legislature. In 2012 the Legislature passed a claims bill, directing Lee Memorial to pay $10 million, with an additional $5 million to be paid in annual installments to a special needs trust for Aaron, stating that payment of fees and costs from those funds shall not exceed $100,000. No funds were awarded for the parents. The firm petitioned the guardianship court to approve a $2.5 million for attorneys’ fees and costs. The court denied the request. On appeal, the district court affirmed. The Supreme Court of Florida reversed, holding that the fee limitation in the claims bill is unconstitutional and may not stand when such a limitation impairs a preexisting contract. View "Searcy, Denney, Scarola, Barnhart & Shipley. v. Florida" on Justia Law

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In 1994, Petitioner filed this lawsuit against his brother and nephew (together, Respondents) alleging claims resulting from deteriorating business relationships within the family. The first trial resulted in a hung jury, and mistrial was declared. Petitioner’s subsequent amendments to his complaint culminated in a fifth amended complaint filed in 2009. The jury found in favor of Petitioner on all three counts he alleged. On appeal, the Third District Court of Appeal concluded that Respondents were entitled to judgment as a matter of law because the evidence did not support any of Petitioner’s claims. The district court also reversed on the grounds that Petitioenr’s claims were barred by the statute of limitations, as the fifth amended complaint did not relate back to the original. The Supreme Court quashed the Third District’s decision, holding (1) an amendment asserting a new cause of action can relate back to the original pleading where the claim arises out of the same conduct, transaction, or occurrence as the original; and (2) there was sufficient evidence to sustain the jury’s verdict on Petitioner’s breach of oral promise claim. Remanded. View "Kopel v. Kopel" on Justia Law