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Week In Review

Headnotes of selected Florida Supreme Court and District Courts of Appeal cases filed the week of
November 23, 2020 - November 27, 2020

Civil Law Headnotes (Jump to Criminal Law Headnotes)

THESE ARE NOT ALL OF THE CASES RELEASED BY THE COURTS FOR THE WEEK.
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Landlord-tenant -- Sublease -- Eviction -- Dismissal -- Lease allowing for discretionary termination should lessee operate its facility in a manner that reflects unfavorably upon lessor -- Trial court reversibly erred by involuntarily dismissing eviction claim with prejudice where evidence was sufficient to withstand involuntary dismissal under the unfavorable-operation standard the parties agreed to in the discretionary termination clause -- Under the standard, it did not matter whether allegations of lessee's rule and law violations were true -- By focusing on how lessee's operation reflected on lessor, the parties agreed it would be enough that others believed allegations were true -- Letter from lessor's landlord which threatened to terminate lessor's lease due to a steady stream of repeated rule violations and civil disturbances committed by lessee qualified under broad unfavorable-operation standard -- Likewise, criminal records alleging lessee had committed various crimes on the leased premises over which trial court took judicial notice should have precluded involuntary dismissal as they constituted affirmative evidence that facility had been operating in a manner reflecting unfavorably on lessor
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Mandamus -- Landlord-tenant -- Eviction -- Circuit court lacked discretion to deny landlord's motion for default after tenant failed to deposit rent into registry of court on due date, notwithstanding fact that payment was mailed prior to due date and deposited by clerk one day after due date and trial court's consideration of various court administrative orders relating to court proceedings during emergency health condition -- Landlord entitled to default for possession, not disbursement of deposited funds
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Real property -- Bert J. Harris, Jr. Property Rights Protection Act -- Damages -- Evidence -- Action seeking compensation from county for the loss of landowner's ability to construct a concrete batch plant as result of amended zoning regulations -- No error in excluding economist who sought to testify as to the concrete batch plant's economic feasibility to demonstrate that it was not the highest and best use, and appraiser who sought to value the property as something other than a concrete batch plant -- Neither expert offered testimony complying with section 70.001(6)(b) -- Pursuant to plain meaning of the Bert Harris Act, valuation is focused on landowner's investment-backed expectation itself, rather than a potentially higher value use -- The Act's purpose is to determine the investment-backed expectation loss, and to value the property otherwise would result in unnecessary and irrelevant valuation -- To the extent proffered testimony from the appraiser concerning the property's value as inordinately burdened would not have violated the trial court's interpretation of the statute's “as though the owner had the ability to attain the reasonable investment-backed expectation” language, any such testimony would not implicate the full damages calculation under section 70.001(6)(b) -- Moreover, any potential error in excluding testimony was harmless where appraiser's proffered testimony demonstrated that he sought to value the property, as inordinately burdened, with a value lower than the value to which landowner's expert testified -- Trial court did not abuse its discretion by permitting landowner to testify as to his property's value -- Act references only that the appraisal must demonstrate the loss in fair market value, and nothing precludes owner from testifying as to his or her own knowledge of the property -- Moreover, landowner demonstrated familiarity with and knowledge of the property that sufficiently qualified him to testify as to his property's value
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Torts -- Settlement -- Distribution of proceeds -- Priorities -- Interpleader action filed by law firm after it realized that deduction of its contingency fee from settlement proceeds would leave insufficient funds to pay outstanding bills from medical providers and others, with providers asserting affirmative defenses against law firm and crossclaims against plaintiff alleging that letters of protection given to them by the plaintiff and law firm gave them priority to be paid in full -- By distributing to law firm its full contingency fee while conflicting claims to funds remained pending, trial court disregarded purpose of interpleader action, which is to prevent prosecution of other suits against complainant in interpleader and to require those claiming the fund in the hands of the interpleader to litigate their differences among themselves -- Remand for further proceedings
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Criminal Law Headnotes (Jump to Civil Law Headnotes)

THESE ARE NOT ALL OF THE CASES RELEASED BY THE COURTS FOR THE WEEK.
To see others not presented here, log in for more comprehensive weekly listings.

Criminal law -- Jurors -- Misconduct -- Trial court erred in failing to remove juror during trial, after that juror belatedly disclosed his relationship with one of the victims -- Alternate juror's failure to disclose his friendship with victim constitutes juror misconduct that deprived defendant of his right to receive a fair trial before an impartial jury -- Applying three-part test for considering whether juror's non-disclosure warrants a new trial, alternate juror's relationship with victim was relevant and material to alternate juror's service in case; juror concealed information during voir dire, even if unintentionally; and failure to disclose juror's relationship with victim was not attributable to lack of due diligence on part of defendant's counsel -- Defendant is entitled to presumption of prejudice, and thus new trial, where state made no attempt whatsoever to rebut the presumption and satisfy its burden by showing that any error was harmless
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Criminal law -- Murder -- Conspiracy to commit murder -- Evidence -- Trial court erred in denying defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal on the charge of principal to first-degree murder -- Discussion of section 777.011 and what conduct it criminalizes through an examination of the original meaning of the statutory terms -- Court rejects argument that a defendant may not be found guilty as a principal based solely on communications -- Many actions that could fall within the terms of the statute, including abetting, counseling, hiring, and procuring, may be accomplished through words alone -- State failed to produce competent, substantial evidence to prove defendant was a principal to murder under the statute where defendant's only ostensibly culpable conduct, which included consideration of the ways to kill victim, development of an alibi, and agreeing to encourage victim to go with perpetrator of the killing, did not constitute commanding or impelling perpetrator to commit the murder or the assisting or encouraging of the perpetrator at the time he actually was committing the offense -- While testimony showed that defendant mostly agreed with the idea of killing the victim, such evidence does not prove that defendant was the prime mover behind the murder -- Court rejects argument that defendant's act of secretly maintaining victim's life insurance policy was enough to support conviction -- Maintenance of victim's insurance policy did not entice or encourage perpetrator to murder where there was no promise that perpetrator would get proceeds for committing the murder -- No error in denying motion for judgment of acquittal on charge of conspiracy to commit murder -- Defendant's payment of extra insurance premium to extend victim's life insurance, her agreement to come up with an alibi, and her preference of one plan over another all circumstantially showed defendant's intent to participate in conspiracy and see that its objective was accomplished -- Additionally, defendant's actions after murder provided additional accompanying circumstances from which the jury could infer her involvement in the conspiracy -- Defendant is not entitled to a new trial based on trial court's denial of defendant's motion to compel state to choose between mutually exclusive charges of principal to first degree murder and accessory after the fact to first degree-murder -- Given that jury would have heard the same evidence, trial court's failure to grant motion to compel election was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt
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Criminal law -- Sentencing -- Death penalty -- Reinstatement of vacated death sentence -- Death sentence that was vacated by postconviction court cannot be reinstated where state never appealed the final order granting relief, resentencing has not taken place, and Florida Supreme Court has since receded from decisional law on which the sentence was vacated -- State's all writs petition that would direct circuit court to dismiss resentencing proceeding and reinstate death sentence denied -- State's alternative petition for writ of prohibition that would bar circuit court from conducting resentencing denied
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Criminal law -- Sentencing -- Death penalty -- Reinstatement of vacated death sentence -- State's all writs petition and petition for writ of prohibition seeking the reinstatement of death sentence which was vacated by Florida Supreme Court on basis of decision which has since been receded from -- Petitions denied -- Florida Supreme Court judgment vacating death sentence is final, and neither supreme court nor trial court can lawfully reinstate that sentence -- Resentencing is required
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Criminal law -- Sentencing -- Guidelines -- Downward departure -- Appeals -- A defendant may not appeal an order denying a motion for a downward departure unless the trial court misapprehends its discretion to depart or refuses to exercise that discretion as a matter of policy -- Conflict certified
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Criminal law -- Trial court reversibly erred by requiring defendant's mother to take witness stand for sole purpose of having her invoke Fifth Amendment privilege in front of jury and refuse to testify -- State's argument that it needed to demonstrate that this witness was “unavailable” so it could introduce hearsay evidence at trial was devoid of merit -- Evidence sought to be admitted, a recorded phone call between defendant and witness, was independently admissible as an “admission” without any need to establish witness's unavailability
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