Justia Injury Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Florida Supreme Court
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
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
Barnett v. State, Department of Financial Services
The Supreme Court answered a certified question by holding that a mass shooting committed by Patrick Dell was a single "incident or occurrence" for purposes of Fla. Stat. 768.28(5) and that the cumulative liability for all claims of injury resulting from the incident may not exceed the aggregate cap of $200,000 set forth in section 768.28(5).Dell fatally shot his former wife and four of her children and severely wounded a fifth child. Plaintiffs, the two fathers of the deceased and injured children, sued the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) alleging wrongful death and negligence. The trial court granted partial summary judgment for Plaintiffs and determined that each wrongful death or personal injury claim was eligible for the $100,000 per person and $200,000 per claim limitation found in section 768.28(5). The court of appeal reversed, concluding that the claims arose from the same incident of negligence, and therefore, the $200,000 cap per incident or occurrence applied to limit recovery for all claims. The Supreme Court approved of the court of appeal's result, holding that the claims stemming from the mass shooting of Dell's victims were subject to the $200,000 aggregate cap for damages paid by the State, its agencies, or subdivisions. View "Barnett v. State, Department of Financial Services" on Justia Law
Florida Highway Patrol v. Jackson
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
Sanchez v. Miami-Dade County
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
Lieupo v. Simon’s Trucking, Inc.
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