Justia Florida Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Injury Law
Audiffred v. Arnold
Valerie Audiffred and her husband, Robert Kimmons, filed an action against Thomas Arnold that arose from an automobile collision. A settlement proposal was filed on behalf of Audiffred, which Arnold constructively rejected. After a trial, a verdict was entered against Arnold for Audiffred’s past medical expenses. The jury did not award anything to Kimmons for his loss of consortium claim. Audiffred and Kimmons subsequently filed a motion seeking an award of attorney’s fees pursuant to Fla. Stat. 768.79 and Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.442. Arnold moved to strike the settlement proposal, arguing that it was defective because it did not apportion the settlement amount between Audiffred and Kimmons. The trial court denied the motion to strike and awarded attorney’s fees. The district court reversed the award of attorney’s fees, concluding that the settlement offer constituted a joint proposal and that the proposal was invalid for failing to comply with the statute and rule. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that when a single offeror submits a settlement proposal to a single offeree pursuant to section 768.79 and rule 1.442 and the offer resolves pending claims by or against additional parties who are neither offerors nor offerees, it constitutes a joint proposal that is subject to the apportionment requirement of the rule. View "Audiffred v. Arnold" on Justia Law
Limones v. Sch. Dist. of Lee County
Fifteen-year-old Abel Limones suddenly collapsed during a high school soccer game from a previously undetected underlying heart condition. Twenty-six minutes after Abel’s initial collapse, emergency responders revived him. Abel survived but suffered a severe brain injury due to a lack of oxygen over the time delay involved. Abel’s parents (Petitioners) filed this action against the School Board of Lee County (Respondent) alleging that Respondent breached both a common law and a statutory duty when it failed to apply an automated external defibrillator on Abel after his collapse. The trial court granted summary judgment for Respondent. The Second District Court of Appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court quashed the decision below and remanded for trial, holding that Respondent owed a common law duty to supervise Abel, and once Abel was injured, Respondent owed a duty to take reasonable measures and come to his aid to prevent aggravation of his injury. View "Limones v. Sch. Dist. of Lee County" 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
Philip Morris USA, Inc. v. Russo
Plaintiff filed a complaint against Philip Morris USA, Inc. and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (together, Defendants) alleging that her smoking of Defendants’ cigarettes proximately caused her to develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. A jury found that Plaintiff’s claims were barred by the applicable four-year statutes of limitations. The Third District Court of Appeal reversed, concluding that there was no competent record evidence that Plaintiff’s claims accrued before the statute of limitations bar date. The Third District also denied Defendants’ arguments on cross-appeal, including the assertion that Plaintiff’s fraudulent concealment and conspiracy to conceal claims were barred by the fraud statute of repose. The Supreme Court approved the Third District’s decision to the extent of its conclusion concerning the statute of repose and disapproved two decisions of the Fourth District Court of Appeal that expressly and directly conflicted with the decision in this case, holding (1) the plain language of the fraud statute of repose does not require proof of reliance on an act committed no more than twelve years before the complaint was filed; and (2) the trial court did not err in denying Defendants’ requested jury instruction on the statute. View "Philip Morris USA, Inc. v. Russo" on Justia Law
Sanders v. Erp Operating Ltd. P’ship
Two young adults were shot to death by unknown assailants inside their apartment. The apartment was located in an apartment complex marketed as a “gated community.” Plaintiff, as personal representative of the decedents’ estate, sued Defendant, a national company that owned the complex, alleging that Defendant’s negligence was a proximate cause of the deaths because Defendant failed to provide adequate security at the apartment complex. A jury found Defendant forty percent comparatively negligent and awarded $4.5 million in damages. Defendant filed a motion for directed verdict, which the trial court denied. The Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s ruling on Defendant’s motion for directed verdict, concluding that without proof of how the assailants gained entry into the apartment, Plaintiff could not prove causation. The Supreme Court quashed the Fourth District’s decision granting a directed verdict to Defendant, holding that Plaintiff presented evidence that could support a finding that Defendant more likely than not substantially contributed to the deaths in this case. View "Sanders v. Erp Operating Ltd. P’ship" on Justia Law
Sanislo v. Give Kids The World, Inc.
Give Kids the World, Inc. is a non-profit organization that provides free vacations to seriously ill children and their families at its resort village. Stacy and Eric Sanislo were vacationing at the village with their seriously ill child when Stacy sustained injuries. The Sanislos brought this negligence action against Give Kids the World. Give Kids the World moved for summary judgment on its affirmative defense that the Sanislos signed releases that precluded an action for negligence. The trial court denied the motion. After a jury trial, judgment was entered in favor of the Sanislos. The Fifth District Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s denial of summary judgment, concluding that an exculpatory clause in the liability release form signed by the Sanislos was effective to bar the negligence action despite the absence of express language referring to release of Give Kids the World for its own negligence or negligent acts. The Supreme Court approved of the Fifth District’s decision, holding that the absence of the terms “negligence” or “negligent acts” in an exculpatory clause does not render the agreement per se ineffective to bar a negligence action. View "Sanislo v. Give Kids The World, Inc." on Justia Law
Morales v. Zenith Ins. Co.
Santana Morales died while working for Lawns Nursery and Irrigation Designs, Inc. (Lawns). Thereafter, Lawns’ surviving spouse entered into a workers’ compensation settlement agreement with Lawns and Zenith Insurance Company (Zenith), Lawns’ workers’ compensation and employer liability insurance carrier. In a separate wrongful death lawsuit, Morales’ Estate obtained a default judgment against Lawns. Zenith refused to pay the tort judgment, and the Estate sued Zenith under Lawns’ employer liability policy. A federal district court entered summary judgment for Zenith, holding that the policy’s workers’ compensation exclusion barred the Estate’s suit. On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit certified three questions of law to the Supreme Court. The Court answered (1) the Estate had standing to bring direct action against Zenith to recover the judgment against Lawns; (2) the workers’ compensation exclusion barred coverage of the Estate’s tort judgment under the employer liability policy; and (3) a release in the workers’ compensation settlement agreement, through which Mrs. Morales elected the consideration described in the agreement as the sole remedy with respect to the insurance coverage that Zenith provided to Lawns, precluded the Estate from collecting the tort judgment from Zenith. View "Morales v. Zenith Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Special v. W. Boca Med. Ctr.
After Susan Special died following the delivery of her son, Frank Special, Susan’s husband and the personal representative of his wife’s estate, filed a negligence lawsuit against Dr. Ivo Baux, Baux’s related corporations, and West Boca Medical Center, Inc. for negligence. After a jury trial, the trial court entered judgment in favor of the defendants. The Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed, concluding that alleged errors on the part of the trial court “did not contribute to the verdict” and were therefore harmless. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for a new trial, holding (1) the test for harmless error requires the beneficiary of the error to prove that there is no reasonable possibility that the error complained of contributed to the verdict; and (2) there was a reasonable possibility in this case that the errors by the trial court contributed to the verdict. View "Special v. W. Boca Med. Ctr." on Justia Law
Saunders v. Dickens
Walter Saunders and his wife, Ruby Saunders, sued Dr. Willis Dickens, a neurologist, filed a failure to diagnose action against Dickens after Saunders developed quadriplegia from his condition. Saunders died during the pendency of the appeal. The jury returned a general verdict in favor of Dickens. The Fourth District affirmed, holding that counsel for Dickens did not improperly shift the burden of proof when he asserted that Saunders had not established causation in light of a subsequent treating physician’s testimony that he would not have changed the course of treatment even if Dickens had not acted negligently. The Supreme Court quashed the decision below, holding that testimony that a subsequent treating physician would not have treated the patient differently had the defendant physician acted within the applicable standard of care is inadmissible and will not insulate a defendant physician from liability for his own negligence. View "Saunders v. Dickens" on Justia Law
Christensen v. Bowen
Robert Christensen ("Robert") paid for a vehicle, and the certificate of title was placed in the name of Robert and his wife, Mary, as co-owners. Thereafter, Mary struck and killed Thomas Bowen while driving the vehicle. Mary Jo Bowen ("Bowen"), the executor of her husband’s estate, filed an action for wrongful death against both Mary and Robert, alleging that Robert, as an owner of the vehicle, was vicariously liable for Mary’s negligence under the dangerous instrumentality doctrine. Robert argued that he purchased the vehicle as a gift to Mary and that, afterwards, he had no involvement with the vehicle. Bowen unsuccessfully moved for a directed verdict on the issue of ownership. The jury subsequently found that Robert was not an owner of the vehicle. The district court reversed. The Supreme Court approved the district court’s ruling, holding (1) a person whose name is on the certificate of title of a vehicle as co-owner may not avoid vicarious liability under an exception to the dangerous instrumentality doctrine by asserting that he never intended to be the owner of the vehicle and further claiming that he relinquished control to a co-owner of the vehicle; and (2) therefore, Robert was the owner of the vehicle as a matter of law. View "Christensen v. Bowen" on Justia Law