Articles Posted in Florida Supreme Court

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Heather Worley fell in the parking lot of Central Florida Young Men’s Christian Association, Inc. (YMCA). Worley's counsel filed a negligence suit against YMCA on behalf of Worley, seeking to recover damages, including the costs of her treatment from certain healthcare providers. During discovery, YMCA sought information as to whether Worley was referred to the relevant treating physicians by her counsel. The trial court required Worley to produce the information. Worley filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the Fifth District court of Appeal, arguing that the trial court order required the production of information protected by the attorney-client privilege. The district court denied the certiorari petition. The Supreme Court quashed the decision of the Fifth District, holding that the attorney-client privilege protects a party from being required to disclose that his or her attorney referred the party to a physician for treatment. View "Worley v. Central Florida Young Men's Christian Ass’n" on Justia Law

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Respondent, the representative for the estate of Phil Felice Marotta, filed an action as an Engle progeny plaintiff against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, an Engle defendant, asserting that Marotta’s addiction to Reynolds’ cigarettes caused his death by lung cancer. The jury found Reynolds liable on Respondent’s strict liability claim and awarded total compensatory damages of $6 million. Reynolds appealed the final judgment, and Marotta cross-appealed the trial court’s decision to preclude the jury from considering punitive damages on the product liability claim. The Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed. The district court then certified a question to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court answered the rephrased question in the negative, holding that federal law does not implicitly preempt state law tort claims of strict liability and negligence by Engle progeny plaintiffs. The Court approved the Fourth District’s decision related to the preemption issue but quashed the decision below to the extent that it held that Respondent was precluded from seeking punitive damages. View "R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Marotta" on Justia Law

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Richard and Jason Debrincat filed the original civil proceeding against a group of defendants. Stephen Fischer was later added as a party defendant, but the Debrincats subsequently dropped Fischer from the underlying proceeding. Fischer then brought an action against the Debrincats for malicious prosecution. The Debrincats moved for summary judgment, arguing that the litigation privilege afforded them immunity for their conduct of joining Fischer as a defendant in the underlying lawsuit. The trial court granted summary judgment and entered a final judgment for the Debrincats. The Fourth District reversed, holding that th litigation privilege cannot be applied to bar the filing of a malicious prosecution claim. The Supreme Court approved the Fourth District’s decision, holding that the litigation privilege does not bar the filing of a claim for malicious prosecution that was based on adding a party defendant to a civil suit. View "Debrincat v. Fischer" on Justia Law

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Florida Constitution Article X, section 25 (Amendment 7), adopted by citizen initiative in 2004, provides patients “a right to have access to any records made or received in the course of business by a health care facility or provider relating to any adverse medical incident.” “Adverse medical incident” includes “any other act, neglect, or default of a health care facility or health care provider that caused or could have caused injury to or death of a patient.” Amendment 7 gives medical malpractice plaintiffs access to any adverse medical incident record, including incidents involving other patients [occurrence reports], created by health care providers. The Federal Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act, however, creates a voluntary, confidential, non-punitive system of data sharing of health care errors for the purpose of improving medical care and patient safety, 42 U.S.C. 299b-21(6), and establishes a protected legal environment in which providers can share data “both within and across state lines, without the threat that the information will be used against [them].” The Supreme Court of Florida reversed a holding that Amendment 7 was preempted. The Federal Act was never intended as a shield to the production of documents required by Amendment 7. The health care provider or facility cannot shield documents not privileged under state law by virtue of its unilateral decision of where to place the documents under the federal voluntary reporting system. View "Charles. v. Southern Baptist Hospital of Florida, Inc." on Justia Law

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Respondents - four female students and their parents - filed a complaint against their teacher and the Palm Beach County School Board, alleging that the teacher sexually molested the children and that the School Board was negligent. Respondents later filed a third amended complaint adding a claim for violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The School Board filed a motion to dismiss the Title IX claim, arguing that it was barred by the statute of limitations because it id not relate back to the filing of the original complaint. The trial court agreed and dismissed the claim. The Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed, finding that the Title IX claim did, in fact, relate back to the original negligence claims. The Supreme Court approved of the Fourth District’s decision and disapproved the line of cases establishing a bright-line rule that an amendment asserting a new cause of action cannot relate back to the filing of the original complaint, holding that Respondents’ Title IX claim did not relate back to Respondents’ original pleading. View "Palm Beach County School Board v. Janie Doe 1" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, an inmate, filed a pro se complaint against four employees of the Santa Rosa County Jail, alleging negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress relating to his attack at the jail by two inmates. Petitioner also raised federal law claims against the jail employees. The circuit court dismissed the complaint, concluding that Petitioner’s state law claims were barred by the one-year statute of limitations period in Fla. Stat. 95.11(5)(g) and that Petitioner’s federal law claims were governed by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), and exhaustion of administrative remedies was mandatory. The First District Court of Appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court quashed the First District’s decision and remanded for further proceedings, holding (1) the one-year statute of limitations period in section 95.11(5)(g) did not apply in this case, but rather, the four-year statute of limitations in Fla. Stat. 768.28(14) governed; and (2) the circuit court erred in dismissing Petitioner’s federal law claims, as the burden fell on the jail employees to demonstrate that Petitioner failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. View "Green v. Cottrell" on Justia Law

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Petitioner was the victim of an armed robbery, carjacking, and shooting that occurred in the parking lot of an Embassy Suites hotel. Petitioner filed a negligence action against Hilton Hotels and related companies (collectively, Respondents). Following one mistrial, the parties commenced a second trial. Ultimately, the jury found that Petitioner sustained a total of $1.7 million in damages, and the trial court entered judgment in accordance with the verdict. Thereafter, Petitioner filed a motion for attorneys’ fees. The trial court denied the motion. The Fifth District affirmed, concluding that Petitioner’s pretrial offers of settlement to Respondents did not satisfy the requirements of Fla. Stat. 768.79 and Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.442. The Supreme Court quashed the decision below, holding that the plain language of both section 768.79 and Rule 1.442 indicated that Petitioner was entitled to attorneys’ fees because he submitted sufficient offers to settle his claims against Respondents and obtained satisfactory judgments in his favor. View "Anderson v. Hilton Hotels Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the Bank for negligence, battery, and false imprisonment after bank employees mistakenly identified him as a bank robber. The jury awarded plaintiff a total of $2,603,000 in compensatory damages and $700,000 in punitive damages. The Third District reversed and remanded for entry of judgment for the bank. At issue is whether those who falsely report criminal conduct to law enforcement have a privilege or immunity from civil liability for the false report. The court held that a cause of action is available to one injured as a result of a false report of criminal behavior to law enforcement when the report is made by a party which has knowledge or by the exercise of reasonable diligence should have knowledge that the accusations are false or acts in a gross or flagrant manner in reckless disregard of the rights of the party exposed, or acts with indifference or wantonness or recklessness equivalent to punitive conduct. The court quashed the decision below and remanded for a new trial. View "Valladares v. Bank of America Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff prevailed in an action filed against GEICO General Insurance Company. Thereafter, Plaintiff moved for attorney’s fees. Plaintiff sought discovery related to her opposition’s attorneys’ time records and propounded Lodestar/Multiplier Fee Determination Interrogatories. GEICO objected to the discovery requests, but the circuit court overruled the objections. GEICO filed a petition for writ of certiorari requesting that the Fourth District quash the orders relating to the request to produce and the interrogatory. The Fourth District granted the petition, concluding that Plaintiff failed to establish that the billing records of opposing counsel were actually relevant and necessary and that their substantial equivalent could not be obtained elsewhere. The Supreme Court quashed the decision of the Fourth District, holding that hours expended by counsel for a defendant insurance company in a contested claim for attorney’s fees filed pursuant to Fla. Stat. 624.155 and 627.428 is relevant to the issue of the reasonableness of time expended by counsel for the plaintiff, and discovery of such information, where disputed, falls within the sound decision of the trial court. View "Paton v. Geico Gen. Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was the definition of “manifestation” for purposes of determining class membership in the Engle class. In Engle v. Liggett, the Supreme Court held that membership in the Engle class is established when the tobacco-related disease or medical condition “first manifested itself.” In the instant case, Plaintiff, as the personal representative of the estate of her deceased husband (Decedent), filed suit against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. The trial court instructed the jury that “manifestation” occurred when Decedent experienced symptoms of or was diagnosed with peripheral vascular disease. Decedent was not diagnosed until after the November 21, 1996, cut-off date for Engle class membership. The jury decided the issue of Engle class membership in favor of Plaintiff and later found in favor of Plaintiff on the majority of her claims. The Court of Appeal largely affirmed, concluding that Decedent’s “pre-1996 knowledge of a causal link between symptoms and tobacco” was unnecessary for class membership. The Supreme Court approved the Court of Appeal’s definition of “manifestation,” holding that “manifestation” for purposes of establishing membership in the Engle class is defined as the point at which the plaintiff began suffering from or experiencing symptoms of a tobacco-related disease or medical condition. View "R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Ciccone" on Justia Law