Week In Review

Headnotes of selected Florida Supreme Court and District Courts of Appeal cases filed the week of
January 23, 2023 - January 27, 2023

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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Administrative law -- Special districts -- Water management -- Attorney's fees -- Prevailing party -- Homeowner filed administrative petition challenging issuance of environmental resource permit authorizing developer to construct a surface water management system on property located near petitioner's home -- Water management district properly awarded attorney's fees and costs to developer pursuant to section 120.595 where there was competent, substantial evidence from the record to support administrative law judge's factual finding that petitioner as the nonprevailing adverse party participated in the proceeding for an improper purpose -- Statute does not require the administrative law judge to find that nonprevailing adverse party participated in two or more prior proceedings before fees can be awarded; rather, the state only requires that ALJ consider this
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Attorney's fees -- Landlord-tenant -- Trial court erred in awarding attorney's fees to tenants who prevailed in small claims action to recover security deposit from landlord where tenants failed to properly plead claim for attorney's fees -- Pro se statement of claim form in which tenants primarily requested judgment for specific amount of damages “plus costs of court” did not serve to put landlord on notice of tenants' intent to seek attorney's fees -- Failure of tenants to reference lease agreements on which they relied in demanding attorney's fees as part of “costs of court” and to attach lease agreements to statement of claim operated as a failure to comport with small claims rule or with purpose of pleading requirement addressed in Stockman v. Downs regarding notice -- Entitlement order and final judgment awarding fees reversed -- Remand for new entitlement hearing with correct application of rule and exception in Stockman
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Insurance -- Homeowners -- Sinkhole claims -- Post-loss obligations -- Prompt notice -- Triggering event -- Trial court erred by granting summary judgment in favor of insurer based on conclusion that insureds did not give prompt notice of loss because notice was given over a year after insureds first noticed cracks to exterior structure of home -- Insurer failed to carry its summary judgment burden where insurer did not produce any evidence as to the degree of the cracking that insureds had observed a year prior, or any evidence that the extent of the cracking was such that a reasonably prudent person would have believed that a policy award was likely, thereby constituting an event of significant consequence to trigger the insureds' duty to notify -- Mere observation of two cracks of unspecified nature to the exterior of a home is not, as a matter of law, an event “of sufficient consequence” that triggers an insured's duty to notify insurers of a claim for sinkhole damage
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Mortgage foreclosure -- Standing -- Evidence -- Hearsay -- Contracts -- Trial court erred by entering summary judgment in favor of borrowers based on determination that trustee failed to establish standing to foreclose on date when complaint was filed -- Error to exclude as hearsay pooling and servicing agreement which indicated that trustee was holder of the note at time complaint was filed -- Trustee did not need to establish that PSA was admissible under business records exception to hearsay rule because PSA was admissible for its independent legal significance -- Trial court erred in holding that PSA was not admissible due to lack of authentication by trustee's witness -- Although authentication of a PSA is a prerequisite to admissibility, borrower waived any authentication argument by failing to object to admissibility of PSA on that ground
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Rules of General Practice and Judicial Administration -- Amendment -- District Court of Appeal Budget Commission -- Membership and organization -- Amendments accounting for addition of a sixth district court of appeal
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Torts -- Premises liability -- Slip and fall -- Discovery -- Relevance -- Appeals -- Certiorari -- Order requiring defendant's corporate representative to address areas of inquiry related to defendant's corporate-wide operations is quashed -- Allowing corporate-wide discovery amounted to carte blanche discovery that results in irreparable harm and departs from essential requirements of the law -- Information is not discoverable based on its relevance to show negligent mode of operation because, under section 768.0755, negligent mode of operation is not a viable theory of recovery in slip-and-fall cases
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Torts -- Tortious interference -- Public officials -- Absolute immunity -- Sovereign immunity -- Waiver -- Appeals -- Certiorari -- Action alleging that chairperson for town's impact review committee engaged in series of acts with other co-conspirators to delay plaintiff landowners' construction applications and interfere with relationships plaintiffs had with professionals they retained to assist with their applications -- Trial court departed from essential requirements of the law by denying defendant public official's motion to dismiss with prejudice based on common law absolute immunity -- Actions which the complaint alleged defendant undertook fell within scope of defendant's official duties as pled in the complaint, regardless of whether those actions occurred outside of, or during, a committee meeting, and however false, malicious, or badly motivated those actions may have been -- Allegations that defendant falsely and repeatedly stated she had not engaged in ex parte communications regarding plaintiffs' construction applications is not relevant to whether those actions occurred in the scope of defendant's duties as a committee member and as its chair -- Fact that defendant had the authority to address plaintiffs' construction applications was sufficient to bring defendant's statements within the scope of her duties, regardless of whether those statements were false -- While defendant was entitled to common law absolute immunity, defendant was not entitled to dismissal at pleading stage based on sovereign immunity where complaint sufficiently alleged that defendant acted in bad faith or with malicious purpose -- Discussion of terms “in bad faith” and “with malicious purpose” in context of section 768.28(9)(a)
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Trusts -- Accounting -- Entitlement -- Qualified beneficiary -- Summary judgment -- Action involving trust which stated that, upon settlor's death, residue would be distributed to settlor's spouse, if living, or settlor's adult children and their linear descendants -- Trial court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of trustee based on determination that plaintiff, one of settlor's children, was not a qualified beneficiary entitled to an accounting because the trust terminated upon settlor's death when settlor's spouse was still living -- Genuine disputes as to whether the trust terminated, whether its assets were distributed to spouse upon settlor's death, and whether trustee ever acted in the capacity of trustee with respect to the trust assets during the time between settlor's death and spouse's death precluded summary judgment -- Trial court erred in relying on tax returns where returns were not authenticated and only attached as an exhibit to trustee's memorandum of law in opposition to plaintiff's motion for summary judgment
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Wrongful death -- Damages -- Noneconomic damages -- Children -- Dismissal -- Appeals -- Non-final orders -- Trial court's dismissal of personal representative's claim for noneconomic damages for decedent's adult children is a non-final, non-appealable order -- Order does not constitute a partial final judgment disposing of an entire case as to a party because the cause of action of the only party, the personal representative on behalf of the estate, remains pending -- Although a decedent's survivors are real parties in interest to a wrongful death suit, they are not entitled to join the wrongful death action as parties -- Because children's claims are dependent upon and interrelated with estate's pending claims for surviving spouse, order dismissing children's damages claims remains an interlocutory order -- Court declines to accept certiorari jurisdiction where there has been no showing that order results in irreparable harm
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Wrongful death -- Medical malpractice -- Hospitals -- Vicarious liability -- Punitive damages -- Amendment of complaint -- Trial court erred by granting plaintiff's motion to amend wrongful death medical malpractice complaint to assert a claim for punitive damages against hospital -- Plaintiff failed to satisfy requirements to establish entitlement to assert claim for punitive damages against a corporation where proffered evidence failed to show that the health care providers involved were grossly negligent, and neither the complaint nor the proffered evidence demonstrated how hospital's actions before or during decedent's treatment ratified or approved the health care providers' alleged negligent conduct -- Hospital's post-injury actions cannot constitute evidence of ratification, condonement, or consent sufficient to support vicarious liability for punitive damages
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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 -- Habeas corpus -- Dismissal -- Trial court did not err in dismissing petition for writ of habeas corpus filed by federal prisoner with a state detainer against him for failing to appear at a violation of probation hearing -- Trial court did not have authority to grant requested relief of resolving the violation of probation case by transferring prisoner from federal to state custody or setting aside the detainer -- State appellate court has no power to set aside a state detainer because it does not carry the force of law, does not, on its own, affect liberty interests, and is not an order, but an informal request between two executive branch agencies -- Further, appellate court has no power to interfere with federal custody decisions
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Criminal law -- Probation revocation -- Due process -- Sentencing -- Evidence -- Defendant's open plea to having committed one technical violation alleged by state in probation violation affidavit and his knowing waiver of hearing on the additional violations alleged in the affidavit did not preclude state from presenting evidence related to those additional violations during sentencing phase -- Trial court properly considered evidence of defendant's conduct during probation, including facts and conduct not directly related to the one technical violation that defendant admitted, in order to have a complete picture of defendant's amenability to reform when determining whether to revoke probation and impose a further sentence for crimes for which defendant was placed on probation; and defendant had full and fair opportunity to respond with his own evidence regarding alleged new crimes -- State did not have to prove additional new law violations alleged in probation violation affidavit to support revocation of defendant's probation where defendant freely and voluntarily admitted to violating technical condition and did not withdraw that admission -- Invited error -- Any error in failing to conduct further violation hearing would have been invited where defendant strategically entered plea to technical violation and waived further hearing on alleged violations with full knowledge that evidence of those violations, including new law violations, would be utilized by state at sentencing
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