Justia Florida Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Personal Injury
Coates v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
In this wrongful death action, the Supreme Court approved the decision of the Fifth District Court of Appeal reversing as excessive a punitive damages award that exceeded the net compensatory damages award by a ratio of 106.7 to 1, holding that the trial court abused its discretion by denying remittitur of the excessive award.The Fifth District certified to the Supreme Court the question of whether a trial court in a wrongful death action abuses its discretion by denying remittitur of a punitive damages award "that does not bear a reasonable relation to the amount of damages proved and the injury suffered by the statutory beneficiaries." The Supreme Court answered the question in the positive and held that the trial court improperly denied remittitur of the excessive award because no reasonable trial court could have concluded that the necessary relation existed in this case. View "Coates v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co." on Justia Law
Dial v. Calusa Palms Master Ass’n
The Supreme Court approved the Second District Court of Appeal's decision in this negligence case, holding that the ruling in Joerg v. State Farm Mutual Insurance Co., 176 So,. 3d 1247 (Fla. 2015) prohibiting the introduction of evidence of Medicare benefits in a personal injury case for purposes of a jury's consideration of future medical expenses does not also apply to past medical expenses.Plaintiff sought to recover past medical expenses due to injuries she received when she tripped and fell on property owned by Defendant. The jury awarded Plaintiff $34,642 in past medical expenses. On appeal, Plaintiff argued that the trial court abused its discretion by precluding her from introducing as evidence the gross amount of her past medical expenses and limited her to introducing only the discounted amounts paid by Medicare. The Second District affirmed, concluding that the Joerg court set the scope of its holding to evidence concerning future Medicare benefits. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Jeorg had no application to the past medical expenses at issue in the instant case. View "Dial v. Calusa Palms Master Ass'n" on Justia Law
Boyle v. Samotin
The Supreme Court held that the statutory presuit notice requirement that Fla. Stat. 766.106 imposes on a claimant who seeks to file a medical negligence suit demands only that a claimant to timely mail the presuit notice to trigger tolling of the applicable limitations period.The claimant in this case mailed the presuit notice before the expiration of the applicable limitations period, but the defendant did not receive the notice until after the limitations period would have expired, absent tolling. At issue was whether the limitations period for filing a medical negligence complaint is tolled under section 766.106(4) upon the claimant's mailing of the presuit notice of intent to initiate litigation or only upon the prospective defendant's receipt of the notice. The Supreme Court held that under section 766.106 and Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.650, it is the timely mailing of the presuit notice of intent to initiate ligation, rather than the defendant's receipt of the notice, that begins the tolling of the applicable limitations period for filing a complaint for medical negligence. View "Boyle v. Samotin" on Justia Law
Posted in: Medical Malpractice, Personal Injury
Airbnb, Inc. v. Doe
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
Posted in: Arbitration & Mediation, Contracts, Personal Injury
Sheffield v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
The Supreme Court held that the wrongful death action at issue in this case was covered by the Legislature's 1999 amendment of Fla. Stat. 768.73.In 1999, the Legislature amended section 768.73 to presumptively preclude an award of punitive damages against a defendant in a civil action if “punitive damages have previously been awarded against that defendant in any state or federal court in any action alleging harm from the same act or single course of conduct for which the claimant seeks compensatory damages" and made the amendments applicable "to all causes of action arising after" October 1, 1999. The certified conflict at issue in this case was whether the amendments applied to Engle progeny wrongful death actions where the smoking-injured decedent died after October 1, 1999. The Fifth District Court of Appeal held that the 1999 amendments applied to Petitioner's Engle progeny wrongful death action against Respondent, on which "numerous prior punitive damages awards" had been imposed previously. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the 1999 amendments apply in Engle progeny wrongful death actions in which the decedent died after the effective date of the amendments. View "Sheffield v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co." on Justia Law
Dodgen v. Grijalva
The Supreme Court answered in the negative a question certified to it by the Fourth District Court of Appeal, holding that it is not a departure from the essential requirements of law to permit discovery regarding the financial relationship between a defendant's nonparty insurer and an expert witness retained by the defense.This case involved a discovery dispute in an automobile negligence action. Plaintiff sought to discover from Defendant the financial relationship between Defendant's nonparty insurer and his expert witness. Defendant was ordered to provide the discovery. Defendant then filed a petition for writ of certiorari. The Fourth District denied the writ but certified a question to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court answered the question in the negative, thus approving the result reached by the Fourth District, and declined to readdress its holding or analysis adopted in Worley v. Central Florida Young Men's Christian Ass'n, 228 So. 3d 18 (Fla. 2017). View "Dodgen v. Grijalva" on Justia Law
Younkin v. Blackwelder
The Supreme Court answered in the negative a question certified to it by the Fourth District Court of Appeal, holding that it is not a departure from the essential requirements of law to permit discovery regarding the financial relationship between a defendant's nonparty insurer and an expert witness retained by the defense.In this automobile negligence case, the district court passed upon a question that it certified to be of great public importance regarding whether the Supreme Court's decision in Worley v. Central Florida Young Men's Christian Ass'n, 228 S. 3d 18 (Fla. 2017), forecloses discovery of the financial relationship between a personal injury defendant's nonparty law firm and the defendant's expert witnesses. The Supreme Court answered the question in the negative, thus approving the result reached by the Fourth District, and declined to readdress its holding or analysis adopted in Worley v. Central Florida Young Men's Christian Ass'n, 228 So. 3d 18 (Fla. 2017). View "Younkin v. Blackwelder" on Justia Law
Peoples Gas System v. Posen Construction, Inc.
The Supreme Court accepted certification of a question about theUnderground Facility Damage Prevention and Safety Act, Fla. Stat. Chapter 556, and answered that the Act creates a standalone cause of action and that the cause of action sounds in negligence.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit certified the question of whether a member-operator has a cause of action under Fla. Stat. 556.106(2)(a)-(c) to recover damages or obtain indemnification from an excavator for payments to a third party for personal injuries related to the excavator's alleged violation of the statute. The Supreme Court answered (1) liability under the Act is subject to proof of proximate causation and to the defense of comparative fault; (2) losses recoverable under the Act can include purely economic damages, independent of personal injury or property damage; and (3) the Act does not create a cause of action for statutory indemnity. View "Peoples Gas System v. Posen Construction, Inc." on Justia Law
Posted in: Construction Law, Personal Injury, Real Estate & Property Law
Wilsonart, LLC v. Lopez
The Supreme Court held that there should not be an exception to the present summary judgment standards applied by Florida state courts that would allow for summary judgment in favor of the moving party when the movant's video evidence negates or refutes any conflicting evidence presented in opposition to the summary judgment motion and there is no evidence that the videotape evidence has been altered or doctored.In this case arising from a fatal rear-end car crash the trial court granted summary judgment for Defendants, relying on video evidence from the front car's forward-facing dashboard camera that appeared to refute Plaintiff's version of the events. The Fifth District Court of Appeal reversed, concluding that the trial court improperly weighed competing evidence on material facts. The Supreme Court approved the result, holding that there was no reason to adopt an ad hoc video evidence exception to the existing summary judgment standard. View "Wilsonart, LLC v. Lopez" on Justia Law
R.R. v. New Life Community Church of CMA, Inc.
In this child sexual abuse case concerning the separation of powers and the proper role of courts in applying statutes of limitations the Supreme Court held that courts cannot go beyond the statutory framework and adopt a special, judge-made rule to govern the accrual of tort claims where the would-be plaintiff is a minor.Petitioners alleged that Daniel Heffield sexually abused them as children. Petitioners filed the underlying lawsuit against New Life Community Church, Daniel's employer at the time of the alleged abuse, and other defendants, alleging negligence claims and a respondeat superior claim. Respondents (other than Daniel) moved for summary judgment, arguing that Petitioners' claims were untimely. The trial court entered summary judgment for Respondents, concluding that Petitioners' claims accrued at the time of injury and therefore were untimely. The court of appeal affirmed. On appeal, Petitioners argued that the accrual of their claims were governed by the judge-made delayed accrual rule that the Supreme Court applied in Hearndon v. Graham, 767 So. 2d 1179 (Fla. 2000). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the statutory framework leaves no room for supplemental common law accrual rules; and (2) the Hearndon decision did not apply to delay the accrual of Petitioners' claims. View "R.R. v. New Life Community Church of CMA, Inc." on Justia Law