Justia Florida Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Injury Law
Valladares v. Bank of America Corp.
Plaintiff filed suit against the Bank for negligence, battery, and false imprisonment after bank employees mistakenly identified him as a bank robber. The jury awarded plaintiff a total of $2,603,000 in compensatory damages and $700,000 in punitive damages. The Third District reversed and remanded for entry of judgment for the bank. At issue is whether those who falsely report criminal conduct to law enforcement have a privilege or immunity from civil liability for the false report. The court held that a cause of action is available to one injured as a result of a false report of criminal behavior to law enforcement when the report is made by a party which has knowledge or by the exercise of reasonable diligence should have knowledge that the accusations are false or acts in a gross or flagrant manner in reckless disregard of the rights of the party exposed, or acts with indifference or wantonness or recklessness equivalent to punitive conduct. The court quashed the decision below and remanded for a new trial. View "Valladares v. Bank of America Corp." on Justia Law
Posted in: Injury Law
Paton v. Geico Gen. Ins. Co.
Plaintiff prevailed in an action filed against GEICO General Insurance Company. Thereafter, Plaintiff moved for attorney’s fees. Plaintiff sought discovery related to her opposition’s attorneys’ time records and propounded Lodestar/Multiplier Fee Determination Interrogatories. GEICO objected to the discovery requests, but the circuit court overruled the objections. GEICO filed a petition for writ of certiorari requesting that the Fourth District quash the orders relating to the request to produce and the interrogatory. The Fourth District granted the petition, concluding that Plaintiff failed to establish that the billing records of opposing counsel were actually relevant and necessary and that their substantial equivalent could not be obtained elsewhere. The Supreme Court quashed the decision of the Fourth District, holding that hours expended by counsel for a defendant insurance company in a contested claim for attorney’s fees filed pursuant to Fla. Stat. 624.155 and 627.428 is relevant to the issue of the reasonableness of time expended by counsel for the plaintiff, and discovery of such information, where disputed, falls within the sound decision of the trial court. View "Paton v. Geico Gen. Ins. Co." on Justia Law
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
Santiago v. Mauna Loa Invs., LLC
Petitioner filed suit against Mauna Loa Investments, LLC alleging that she was injured when she fell on property owned, maintained, and/or controlled by Mauna at the time of the injury. The trial court entered a default judgment against Mauna. Petitioner subsequently filed a complaint in a separate action against Iberia NV, LLC, alleging that she was injured on the same property and alleging that Iberia owned, maintained, and/or controlled the property at the time of the injury. The Iberia case was consolidated with Petitioner’s suit against Mauna. Mauna filed an amended motion to set aside the default, alleging that the Iberia complaint constituted Plaintiff’s admission that her prior allegations in the Mauna complaint were false. Thereafter, Petitioner voluntarily dismissed without prejudice the Iberia complaint. The circuit court ultimately denied Mauna’s motion. After a jury trial solely on damages, the jury found for Petitioner. The Court of Appeal reversed the judgment and vacated the default, concluding that Petitioner’s Mauna complaint failed to state a cause of action. The district court reached its conclusion based on its consideration of the complaint in the Iberia case. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court erred in considering documents outside the complaint in determining the complaint’s sufficiency to state a cause of action. View "Santiago v. Mauna Loa Invs., LLC" on Justia Law
Posted in: Injury 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
Mlinar v. United Parcel Serv., Inc.
Plaintiff, a professional artist, brought suit against the United Parcel Service (UPS) and other defendants, alleging that two of her paintings were unscrupulously removed from their packaging during the interstate shipment process and sold to a third party without her consent or knowledge. The trial court dismissed all of Plaintiff’s claims against UPS, concluding that they were preempted by the federal Carmack Amendment. The Court of Appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court quashed the Court of Appeal’s decision to the extent it was inconsistent with this opinion, holding that Plaintiff’s state law causes of action were not preempted because neither the Carmack Amendment nor public policy supports UPS’s attempt to evade liability arising from its intentional misconduct. View "Mlinar v. United Parcel Serv., Inc." on Justia Law
Fridman v. Safeco Ins. Co. of Ill.
Petitioner was injured in an automobile accident with an underinsured motorist. Petitioner filed a claim with his insurer (Insurer) for the limits of his uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM) policy of $50,000. After Insurer refused to pay, Petitioner filed a complaint against Insurer to determine liability under the UM policy and the full extent of his damages. Prior to trial, Insurer tendered a check to Petitioner for $50,000 and filed a confession of judgment for that amount. Petitioner opposed the entry of a confessed judgment, arguing that a jury verdict would determine the upper limits of Insurer’s potential liability under a future bad faith claim. The trial court denied Insurer’s motion to confess judgment. After a trial, the jury set Petitioner’s damages at $1 million. The court of appeal vacated the jury’s verdict, concluding that after Insurer confessed judgment in the amount of $50,000, Petitioner’s UM action became moot. The Supreme Court quashed the court of appeal’s decision, holding (1) an insured is entitled to a determination of liability and the full extent of his damages in a UM action before filing a first-party bad faith action; and (2) that determination of damages is generally binding, as an element of damages, in a subsequent first-party bad faith action. Remanded. View "Fridman v. Safeco Ins. Co. of Ill." on Justia Law
Aubin v. Union Carbide Corp.
After Plaintiff contracted peritoneal mesothelioma, he sued Union Carbide Corporation (Defendant), claiming that his disease was caused by his exposure to an asbestos product designed and manufactured by Defendant. The jury returned a verdict for Plaintiff, finding that Defendant was liable for Plaintiff’s damages, in part, under theories of negligence and strict liability defective design and failure to warn. The Third District Court of Appeal reversed. The Supreme Court quashed the Third District’s decision and remanded to the Third District with directions that the judgment be reinstated, holding (1) the Third District improperly applied the Restatement (Third) of Torts to Plaintiff’s strict liability defective design claim; and (2) the Third District improperly reversed the judgment for the failure to warn claim based on the trial court’s failure to instruct the jury on the learned intermediary defense. View "Aubin v. Union Carbide Corp." on Justia Law
Plancher v. UCF Athletics Ass’n, Inc.
After Ereck Plancher, a University of Central Florida (UCF) football player, collapsed and died during football practice conditioning drills, Ereck’s parents (the Planchers) filed a negligence action against UCF and UCF Athletic’s Association, Inc. (UCFAA). A jury found UCFAA, the statutorily authorized direct-support organization responsible for administering UCF’s athletics department, liable and awarded the Planchers $10 million in damages. The Court of Appeal reversed, concluding that UCFAA was entitled to limited sovereign immunity. The Planchers appealed, arguing that UCF did not have sufficient control over UCFAA’s day-to-day operations to entitle UCFAA to limited sovereign immunity. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that UCFAA was entitled to limited sovereign immunity under Fla. Stat. 768.28 because it primarily acts as an instrumentality of the state. Remanded for entry of a judgment corresponding to the jury’s award of damages but limiting UCFAA’s liability to $200,000. View "Plancher v. UCF Athletics Ass’n, Inc." on Justia Law
Coba v. Tricam Indus., Inc.
The decedent in this case fell from a ladder, resulting in his death. Plaintiff sued the companies that manufactured and sold the ladder, alleging that Defendants were liable on the basis of strict liability and under negligence theories. The jury rendered a verdict finding Defendants liable. Neither party objected to the verdict. After the jury was discharged, Defendants moved to set aside the verdict, contending that the jury verdict was fundamentally inconsistent. The trial court denied the motion. The Third District Court of Appeal reversed, holding that the “fundamental nature” exception to the general rule that Defendants waived their challenges to the inconsistent verdict for failing to timely object applied in this case. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) a party must timely object to an inconsistent verdict under these circumstances or the issue is waived; and (2) because Defendants failed to timely raise their objection to the jury’s inconsistent verdict, the trial court did not err in denying Defendants’ motion to set aside the verdict. View "Coba v. Tricam Indus., Inc." on Justia Law