Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Florida Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court of Florida heard a case involving an appeal by James Seadler against Marina Bay Resort Condominium Association, Inc. following an injury Seadler sustained when a pool chair at the resort collapsed. The case revolved around the jury selection process during the initial trial and specifically, the denial by the trial court of Seadler’s request to dismiss a potential juror (Juror 16) for cause. Seadler argued that this decision by the trial court led to an unfair trial as he was forced to use his peremptory challenges to exclude Juror 16, leaving him without a challenge to exclude another juror (Juror 22), who he found objectionable. The First District Court of Appeal rejected Seadler's claim that an error by the trial court in denying his cause challenge to a potential juror automatically entitled him to a new trial. The Supreme Court of Florida agreed with the First District Court that the harmless error standard applies in such cases, rather than automatic entitlement to a new trial. However, the Supreme Court found that Marina Bay did not demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that the error by the trial court did not contribute to the verdict. The court concluded that Seadler was entitled to a new trial and quashed the decision of the First District Court. View "Seadler v. Marina Bay Resort Condominium Association, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the holding of the court of appeal that the dangerous instrumentality doctrine did not support the trial court's judgment in the underlying case, holding that the court of appeal did not err.The son of the couple in this case was driving the subject car with the permission of both parents when he injured someone. Plaintiff alleged vicarious liability against the son's parents for the son's negligent use of the car under the dangerous instrumentality doctrine. The jury found that the son was seventy-five percent at fault for the accident and that the mother was a bailee who consented to the son's use of the car on the night of the accident. The trial court entered judgment against the son and mother. The court of appeal reversed as to the mother's vicarious liability, concluding that the trial court erred in denying the mother's renewed motion for directed verdict because the jury's determination that the mother was a bailee of the car was not a basis upon which vicarious liability could be applied under the dangerous instrumentality doctrine. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the dangerous instrumentality doctrine did not make the mother vicariously liable. View "Emerson v. Lambert" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court declined to answer the first portion of a certified question and answered the second portion of the certified question that a settlement payment made by an uninsured motorist insurer to settle a first-party bad faith claim is not a collateral source under Fla. Stat. 768.76(2)(a)2.Plaintiff, who was injured in a car crash, sued Defendant for vicarious liability based on Defendant's co-ownership of the other car involved in the crash. Plaintiff further sued his uninsured motorist insurance carrier, seeking to recover policy benefits and statutory bad faith damages. Plaintiff and his insurer settled for $4 million. After a trial against Defendant, the jury returned a $30 million verdict for Plaintiff. Defendant sought to set off the $4 million insurance settlement against the damages award, but the motion was denied. The court of appeal affirmed the denial of the setoff request. The Supreme Court held (1) Defendant did not ask the trial court for a setoff under section 768.041(2); and (2) a settlement payment made by an uninsured motorist insurer to settle a first-party bad faith claim is not a collateral source within the meaning of Fla. Stat. 768.76(2)(a)2. View "Ellison v. Willoughby" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court approved the decision of the First District Court of Appeal affirming the trial court's judgment concluding that this negligence action was untimely filed, holding that Fla. Stat. 733.710(1) extinguished the claim at issue in this case.Petitioners, who were injured in an accident by Thomas Morton, sued Morton's estate for negligently operating the car and his employer, the Lewis Bear Company (LBC), for vicarious liability under the doctrines of respondeat superior and dangerous instrumentality. The trial court ruled (1) section 733.710(1) barred Petitioners' action against the estate because they failed to file their claims within two years of Morton's death; and (2) because the Estate could not be held liable, LBC could not be held vicariously liable. The court of appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) because Petitioners' claims against the estate were filed beyond section 733.710(1)'s deadline and did not qualify under an exception, they were barred; and (2) the court of appeal correctly held that section 733.710(1)'s statute of non claim exonerated LBC from vicarious liability for Morton's negligence. View "Tsuji v. Fleet" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that Florida's offer-of-judgment statute does not impose the requirement that a party must prevail in a proceeding to be entitled to fees under the statute, and therefore, the statute is not a prevailing-party statute.Plaintiff sued R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company seeking damages for her sister's wrongful death. Before trial, Plaintiff served Defendant with two proposals for settlement, both of which Defendant rejected. After a jury trial, the jury awarded Plaintiff $300,000 in compensatory damages and $16,000,000 in punitive damages. The court of appeal reversed the punitive damages award as excessive. Thereafter, Plaintiff sought attorney's fees based on Defendant's rejection of her offers of judgment. The Supreme Court provisionally granted the motion for reasonable attorney's fees conditioned upon the trial court's finding of entitlement and determination of amount, holding that the offer-of-judgment statute is not a prevailing-party statute. View "Coates v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co." on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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