Justia Florida Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
by
The Supreme Court answered a certified question by concluding that Fla. R. App. P. 9.130(a)(3)(C)(xi) does not permit an appeal of a non-final order denying immunity if the record shows that the defendant is entitled to immunity as a matter of law but the trial court did not explicitly preclude it as a defense. Plaintiff sued the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP), alleging negligence. FHP moved for summary judgment, arguing that it was protected by sovereign immunity. The trial court denied the motion. FHP appealed the non-final order, relying on the sovereign immunity subdivision of rule 9.130 as the basis for the district court's jurisdiction. The First District Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal. The panel then certified the question at issue in this case as a question of great public importance. The Supreme Court answered the question in the negative, holding that rule 9.130(a)(3)(C)(xi) in its current form insufficiently protects the interests underlying sovereign immunity. The Court then approved the decision of the First District. View "Florida Highway Patrol v. Jackson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
by
The Supreme Court dismissed Petitioner's petition for review of the decision of the Third District Court of Appeal concluding that Petitioner's "negligent security" claim against Miami-Dade County was barred by sovereign immunity, holding that the conflict issue in this case was a dead issue that has been resolved by this Court in previous opinions. Petitioner was shot and injured at a birthday party hosted at one of the County's public parks. The Third District concluded that Petitioner's personal injury claim was predicated on the County's alleged failure to allocate off-duty police officers to the party and that sovereign immunity protects the County's policy and planning decisions about where to allocate its limited police resources. The Third District reached its holding irrespective of any duty owed to Petitioner by the County. Petitioner petitioned for review, arguing that the existence of duty rendered sovereign immunity inapplicable. The Supreme Court dismissed Petitioner's petition for review without reaching the merits, holding that the merging of duty and sovereign immunity has already been resolved by this Court in opinions making clear that duty and sovereign immunity are not to be conflated. View "Sanchez v. Miami-Dade County" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
by
The Supreme Court answered a question certified to it by the First District Court of Appeal by holding that the private cause of action contained in Fla. Stat. 376.373(3) permits recovery for personal injury, thus receding from precedent. Plaintiff brought this suit alleging that Defendant was strictly liable for injuries he suffered after one of Defendant's tractor-trailers spilled battery acid onto the highway. Plaintiff filed his complaint under section 376.373(e), which imposes strict liability for the discharge of certain types of pollutants. The jury found the battery acid caused Plaintiff's injuries and awarded him more than $5 million in damages. The First District reversed, concluding that Curd v. Mosaic Fertilizer, LLC, 39 So. 3d 1216 (Fla. 2010), required it to apply the 1970 Pollutant Discharge Prevention and Control Act's definition of damages, which precluded Plaintiff's cause of action for personal injuries. The Supreme Court quashed the First District's decision, holding (1) Curd incorrectly applied the 1970 Act's definition of "damage" to a claim brought under the 1983 Act; and (2) the plain meaning of "all damages" in section 376.313(3) of the 1983 Act includes personal injury damages. View "Lieupo v. Simon's Trucking, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
by
In this case involving the proper method of applying a personal injury protection (PIP) insurance policy deductible to a medical provider’s bill for hospital emergency services and care, the Supreme Court approved the Fifth District Court of Appeal’s decision, holding that the deductible should be subtracted from the total charges prior to application of the reimbursement limitation in Fla. Stat. 627.736(5)(a)1.b. While this case was pending in the Court, the Fourth District Court of Appeal issued an opinion in State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Care Wellness Center, LLC (Care Wellness), 240 So. 3d 22 (Fla. 4th DCA 2018), holding that the deductible should be applied after charges are reduced under any fee schedule found in section 627.736. The Supreme Court approved the Fifth District’s decision in the instant case and disapproved the Fourth District’s decision in Care Wellness, holding that, under Fla. Stat. 627.739(2), the deductible should be applied to the total medical charges prior to reduction under the reimbursement limitation. View "Progressive Select Insurance Co. v. Florida Hospital Medical Center" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court quashed the decision of the Second District Court of Appeal affirming the ruling of the trial court that Plaintiffs’ claims that Defendants negligently failed to protect Plaintiffs, who were twins, from suffering physical, mental, and emotional injuries at the hands of their mother were barred by the four-year statute of limitations applicable to negligence claims, holding that Plaintiffs’ negligence action was tolled by Fla. Stat. 95.051(1)(h) - the tolling statute - because Plaintiffs did not have a guardian ad litem appointed for the purposes of bringing a negligence action. Specifically, the Court held (1) the statute of limitations applicable to Plaintiffs’ claims was tolled under section 95.051(1)(h) at all times prior to Plaintiffs’ grandparents being appointed as their permanent guardians; and (2) therefore, the statute of limitations did not bar Plaintiffs’ claims in this case. View "D.H. v. Adept Community Services, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
by
The Supreme Court held that chapter 2013-107, section 1, Laws of Florida, which revised section 90.702, Florida Statutes, which the Court previously declined to adopt to the extent it was procedural, infringes on the Court’s rulemaking authority. After developing mesothelioma, Plaintiff filed this personal injury action claiming that sixteen defendants caused him to be exposed to asbestos. The trial court awarded Plaintiff $8 million in damages apportioned to certain defendants. At issue on appeal was the admission of expert causation testimony. The Fourth District Court of Appeal reviewed the admission of the experts testimony under Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. 509 U.S. 579 (1993), found that the trial court failed properly to exercise its gatekeeping function as to three experts, and reversed for a new trial as to R.J. Reynolds and remanded for entry of a directed verdict for Crane Co. The Supreme Court quashed the decision below, holding (1) Frye v. United States, 293 F. 1013 (D.C. Cir. 1923), not Daubert, is the appropriate test for Florida courts to determine the reliability of expert testimony before allowing it to be admitted into evidence; and (2) because the causation of mesothelioma is neither new nor novel, the trial court’s acceptance of the expert testimony was proper. View "DeLisle v. Crane Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
by
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

by
The Supreme Court quashed the decision of the district court in favor of Plaintiff, an independent contractor, in this complaint alleging that Caterpillar Financial Services Corporation was liable for injuries Plaintiff sustained from C&J Bobcat and Hauling, LLC’s agent’s negligent operation of a multi-terrain loader because the loader was a dangerous instrumentality, holding that loaders are dangerous instrumentalities. The trial court found that loaders are not dangerous instrumentalities and granted summary judgment in favor of Caterpillar. The Supreme Court quashed the decision below and handed the case for an order granting summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff, holding that a loader is a dangerous instrumentality as a matter of law. View "Newton v. Caterpillar Financial Services Corp." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
by
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

by
In this wrongful death medical malpractice action, the Supreme Court quashed the decision of the First District Court of Appeal affirming the trial court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s action and remanded with instructions to reinstate Plaintiff’s complaint, holding that the trial court erred in dismissing Plaintiff’s complaint where the record established that Plaintiff’s presuit expert was qualified and that Defendants did not suffer prejudice for any alleged noncompliance with discovery. Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) where the facts regarding a presuit expert’s qualifications are unrelated, the proper standard of review of a trial court’s dismissal of a medical malpractice action based on its determination that the plaintiff’s presuit expert witness was not qualified is de novo; (2) before a medical malpractice action can be dismissed based on a trial court’s finding that the plaintiff or plaintiff’s counsel failed to comply with the informal presuit discovery process for medical malpractice actions, the trial court must find that such noncompliance prejudiced the defendant; and (3) Plaintiff’s presuit medical expert in this case clearly met the statutory requirements for medical experts, and Plaintiff complied with the necessary discovery. View "Morris v. Muniz" on Justia Law