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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

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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

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The Supreme Court reaffirmed the denial of Defendant’s intellectual disability (ID) claim, holding that Moore v. Texas, 137 S. Ct. 1039 (2017), did not compel a different result. In Wright v. State, 213 So. 3d 881 (Fla. 2017) (Wright), the Supreme Court affirmed the denial of Defendant’s ID claim. Thereafter, the United States Supreme Court issued Moore. In the instant case, the United States Supreme Court vacated the Supreme Court’s decision in Wright and remanded to allow the Court to reconsider Wright. The Supreme Court reaffirmed the denial of the ID claim, holding that the intelligence prong and the adaptive functioning prong of the ID test did not require reversal of Defendant’s ID claim. View "Wright v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The circuit court denied Zakrzewski’s motion under Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.851, seeking relief pursuant to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2016 decision in Hurst v. Florida. The Supreme Court of Florida affirmed the denial of relief, concluding that its prior denial of Zakrzewski’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus raising similar claims is a procedural bar to the claims at issue. All of Zakrzewski’s claims depend upon the retroactive application of Hurst, to which the court has held he is not entitled. View "Zakrzewski v. Florida" on Justia Law

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Andres was convicted of first-degree murder, armed burglary with assault or battery, first-degree arson, and armed robbery for crimes that resulted in the death of the occupant of a Miami apartment where Andres was performing renovation work. After the penalty phase, the jury recommended a sentence of death by a vote of nine to three. The court imposed a sentence of death. On direct appeal, the Supreme Court of Florida affirmed Andres’ conviction for first-degree murder but vacated his death sentence. The trial court did not abuse its discretion by failing to conduct a full Richardson hearing after determining that a witness’s trial testimony was merely a clarification of his prior deposition testimony. The court also rejected claims concerning evidentiary rulings and alleged improper burden shifting. The court remanded for a new penalty phase. Andres’ sentence was imposed under the capital sentencing scheme found to violate the Sixth Amendment in the Supreme Court’s holding, Hurst v. Florida, The Sixth Amendment requires a jury, not a judge, to find each fact necessary to impose a death sentence. A jury’s mere recommendation is not enough. The court imposed Andres’ death sentence following the jury’s nonunanimous recommendation of death. It is not clear why the dissenting jurors voted for a life sentence, so the error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "Andres v. Florida" on Justia Law

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Lynch pled guilty to two counts of first-degree premeditated murder, one count of armed burglary of a dwelling, and one count of kidnapping, all stemming from the 1999 deaths of Morgan and her 13-year-old daughter. Lynch’s counsel recommended that he waive a penalty phase jury because a jury would be more emotional and unsympathetic to mitigation presented for the murder of a child than a seasoned trial judge. Lynch waived his right to a penalty phase jury. The court sentenced Lynch to death. The Supreme Court of Florida affirmed. In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Lynch’s petition for certiorari. The Supreme Court of Florida affirmed the denial of Lynch’s initial motion for postconviction relief and denied his petition for habeas corpus. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the denial of Lynch’s petition for federal habeas relief and, in 2016, the Supreme Court denied Lynch’s petition for certiorari to the Eleventh Circuit. Lynch filed a successive motion for postconviction relief, citing Hurst v. State. The Supreme Court of Florida affirmed the denial of relief. Lynch is not entitled to Hurst relief in light of his valid waiver of a penalty phase jury. Lynch argued, that the test for prejudice under the Strickland standard for ineffective assistance has changed post-Hurst. The court stated that trial counsel is not required to anticipate changes in the law in order to provide effective legal representation. View "Lynch v. Florida" on Justia Law

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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

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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 Supreme Court affirmed the order of the postconviction court granting in part and denying in part Appellant’s motion to vacate his conviction of first-degree murder and his sentence of death, holding that the postconviction court did not err in denying Appellant's claim that counsel was ineffective for failing to move to an improper comment made during closing argument and failing to move for a mistrial. After the Supreme Court affirmed Appellant’s conviction and death sentence, Appellant filed his initial motion for postconviction relief. The postconviction court found that Appellant was entitled to a new penalty phase based on Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016) . The postconviction court then held an evidentiary hearing on Appellant’s claims premised upon allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel and denied the claims. Appellant appealed the denial of his claim that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to an improper comment made during the State’s closing argument and failing to move for a mistrial. The Supreme Court held that the postconviction court did not err in denying this claim. View "Brown v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the postconviction court’s summary denial of Appellant’s claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, holding that the postconviction court properly denied the claims. Appellant was sentenced to death for the murders of Byrd and Melanie Billings. Appellant filed an amended motion for postconviction relief pursuant to Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851, which included a claim for relief pursuant to Hurst v. Florida, 136 S. Ct. 616 (2016), and Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016). The postconviction court summarily denied relief on Appellant's ineffective assistance of counsel claims but granted a new penalty phase based on his Hurst claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the record positively refuted Appellant’s claim ineffective assistance of counsel for failing to renew his motion for change of venue; and (2) the postconviction court properly denied Appellant's claim of ineffective assistance of counsel for failing to challenge the indictment as legally insufficient. View "Gonzalez v. State" on Justia Law