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Week In Review

Headnotes of selected Florida Supreme Court and District Courts of Appeal cases filed the week of
November 22, 2021 - November 26, 2021

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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Courts -- Appellate -- Redefinition of appellate districts -- Certification of need for additional appellate judges
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Estates -- Administration expenses -- Challenge -- Standing -- Trial court erred in striking surviving spouse's objections to co-personal representatives' petition for payment of additional interim administration expenses from estate after concluding she lacked standing to object to payment of estate administration expenses because she had already received her complete distribution from the estate -- By virtue of her status as lifetime income beneficiary of residuary trust, surviving spouse was “expected to be affected by the outcome” of the fee petition and, accordingly, qualified as interested party with standing to challenge the petition
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Estates -- Injunctions -- Trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying personal representative's motion for temporary injunction by means of which personal representative sought to recover from the possession of an auction house a painting which she claimed was an estate asset, but which decedent's children claimed was the subject of an inter vivos gift from their father to them, perfected years before decedent's death -- Although personal represented argued that trial court was required to enter the injunction because children's claim was barred by statute of nonclaim, if children's assertions ultimately hold true, painting was gifted outside the estate and children were vested with title long before death of their father -- Trial court carefully considered appropriate factors and concluded the status quo should be preserved pending resolution of competing claims
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Insurance -- Water damage -- Insurer's election to repair -- Appraisal -- Voided endorsements -- Material breach -- Error to deny insurer's motion to compel appraisal based on finding that insurer's failure to provide water mitigation services after electing to do so was a material breach of the policy which caused prejudice to the insureds and discharged them of any further contractual duties under preferred contract endorsement, including appraisal -- Insurer's election to repair created a new repair contract under which insurer was bound to perform repairs within a reasonable time -- Insurer's failure to provide water mitigation services was not a breach that voided or discharged insureds from appraisal provision in the policy -- Rather, mitigation was subsumed within the duty to repair, and insurer's failure to mitigate was relevant only to the cost to repair the property -- Because scope of loss is in dispute and insurer demanded appraisal pursuant to appraisal provision in endorsement, insurer is entitled to appraisal
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Judges -- Trial court judges -- Certification of need
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Torts -- Automobile accident -- Rear-end collision -- Trial court erred by interpreting judicially created rear-end presumption of negligence to defeat defendant's claim of comparative fault -- Because there was admissible evidence that defendant was not sole cause of accident, presumption should have vanished and lost its legal effect -- Trial court also erred in finding that comparative fault defense was unavailable because defendant could not specifically identify nonparty to whom she sought to allocate fault -- Statute provides that defendant need only describe nonparty as specifically as possible when the nonparty's identity is not known -- New trial required on both liability and damages where challenged decision was made at beginning of proceeding and affected its entirety
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Torts -- Negligent misrepresentation -- Municipal corporations -- Sovereign immunity -- Trial court erred in denying city's motion for summary judgment in action brought by former police officer alleging that but for mayor's misinformation that he had been promoted to lieutenant, he would not have resigned when faced with termination, thereby forfeiting rights afforded to full-time police officers -- Because city did not owe common law or statutory duty of care to convey accurate information to plaintiff regarding his employment rank, city was free from governmental liability as to plaintiff's negligent misrepresentation claim
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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.
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Criminal law -- Circumstantial evidence case -- Second degree murder -- Sufficiency of evidence -- Appeals -- Standard of review applicable in criminal appeal challenging sufficiency of state's evidence is de novo review of trial record to ensure guilty verdict was supported by competent, substantial evidence regarding each element of the charged crime -- Trial court erred in denying motion for judgment of acquittal where state failed to present competent substantial evidence at trial from which jury could conclude beyond reasonable doubt that defendant killed victim -- Language in motion for judgment of acquittal adequately challenged sufficiency of state's purely circumstantial evidence to prove victim's death was caused by defendant's criminal conduct to preserve issue for appellate review -- Extensive discussion of Hodgkins v. State and Bush v. State -- Question certified: Does determination in Hodgkins that the State failed to present competent, substantial evidence on which a jury could find, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Hodgkins killed the victim remain valid, notwithstanding the Florida Supreme Court's abandonment, in Bush v. State, of the special standard of appellate review applied in purely circumstantial evidence cases?
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Criminal law -- DUI manslaughter -- Sentencing -- Trial court reversibly erred in sentencing defendant to a term of fifteen years without imposing mandatory probation as required by section 316.193(5) -- There is no conflict between section 775.082 and section 316.193 because section 775.082 provides for a maximum prison term of fifteen years not a mandatory prison term of fifteen years -- Further, even if section 316.193(5) was ambiguous such that statutory construction principles were to be applied, the more specific statute is section 316.193(5) and the two provisions can otherwise be read in harmony -- Question certified: Does section 316.193(5)'s requirements of “monthly reporting probation” and completion of a substance abuse course vitiate a trial court's discretion to impose the maximum fifteen year prison sentence provided in section 775.082?
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Criminal law -- Murder -- Jury instructions -- Independent act doctrine -- Defendant charged with murder after codefendant shot victim during a drug deal arranged by defendant -- Trial court erred in denying defendant's request for an “independent act” jury instruction where there was evidence from which a jury could conclude that codefendant's act of robbing and shooting victim were independent from underlying drug deal -- Independent act doctrine applies when, after participating in a common plan or design to commit a crime, one of the codefendants embarks on acts not contemplated by the other defendants and commits additional criminal acts beyond scope of original collaboration -- State failed to meet its burden to show that error was harmless
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Criminal law -- Search and seizure -- Marchman Act detention -- No error in denying motion to suppress evidence discovered on defendant's person during a search which was conducted after officer entered defendant's home in order to place defendant in protective custody pursuant to Marchman Act while responding to a domestic disturbance call -- Facts supported officer's decision to take defendant into protective custody and trial court's determination that custody was permissible under the Marchman Act -- Although officer failed to obtain defendant's consent or his opinion on getting alcohol assistance as required by Marchman Act, this was not a basis for suppressing the evidence where there is no indication in the Marchman Act of a clear and unequivocal legislative intent to suppress any evidence obtained as a result of the Act -- Circumstances in this case support conclusion that officer acted reasonably in searching defendant for the safety of both defendant and the officer, and for those present at the hospital where deputy intended to take defendant
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