Week In Review

Headnotes of selected Florida Supreme Court and District Courts of Appeal cases filed the week of
January 10, 2022 - January 14, 2022

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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Attorney's fees -- Contingency fee agreement -- Charging lien -- Voluntary/involuntary withdrawal -- Conflict of interest -- Action involving firm which withdrew from representing client after client filed bar complaints against two of the firm's lawyers following disagreement over whether to accept settlement offer -- Discussion of Faro v. Romani -- Trial court erred in failing to award reasonable fees pursuant to charging lien in the absence of factual findings regarding who bore responsibility for creating the attorney-client rift -- Trial court was required to determine whether it was the clients' or the firm's conduct that made continued representation either legally impossible or would have caused firm to violate an ethical rule of the bar -- If evidence shows that clients' conduct caused ethical conflict, then the firm is entitled to a fee based upon quantum meruit without a lodestar
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Attorney's fees -- Prevailing party -- Voluntary dismissal -- Trial court applied wrong legal test when it determined that defendant was not prevailing party for purposes of award of attorney's fees because defendant did obtain an adjudication on the merits -- Proper test is whether defendant prevailed on significant issues before the court -- Because plaintiff sued defendant for damages and failed to recover, defendant was prevailing party -- Discussions of exceptions to Thornber rule that defendant is prevailing party when plaintiff voluntarily dismisses action
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Dissolution of marriage -- Prenuptial agreement -- Equitable distribution -- Marital/nonmarital assets -- Business interests -- Commingling -- Evidence -- Companies which were majority-owned by former husband's father, and partially owned by former husband, joined as additional defendants -- Error to grant partial summary judgment in favor of companies based on determination that any interests which former husband may have acquired in those companies were covered by prenuptial agreement and were thus non-marital in character -- With regards to the company shares purchased by former husband, the burden never shifted to the former wife to introduce evidence that the shares were acquired by the use of marital funds because the record is void of any evidence supporting the former husband's and companies' claims that those shares were acquired by use of nonmarital funds -- Whether the purchased shares were acquired using marital funds was a disputed issue of material fact precluding entry of summary judgment -- Trial court erred by wholly disregarding financial records, which were recovered from a dumpster behind former husband's accountant's office, as substantive evidence -- Documents had a proper foundation and authenticity was not in question where, regardless of former wife's credibility or the circumstances of her acquisition of the financial documents, the documents were admitted into evidence without objection and all applicable privileges were expressly waived -- Furthermore, former husband's unqualified stipulation to admit documents into evidence waived any objections he may have had regarding their acquisition or disclosure
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Family Law Rules of Procedure -- Amendment -- Child Support Guidelines Worksheet
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Insurance -- Attorney's fees -- Prevailing party -- Timeliness of motion -- Appeals -- Non-final orders -- Trial court erred in denying insured's motion for prevailing party attorney's fees based on determination that motion was untimely under rule 1.525 -- Although insurer's payment of the claim plus statutory interest triggered entitlement to attorney's fees under section 627.428, insurer's filing of a confession of judgment, by itself, is not the functional equivalent of a “judgment that concludes the action” within the meaning of rule 1.525 which triggers the rule's thirty-day time period for service of a motion seeking attorney's fees -- Because insurer's confession filing did not constitute a judgment and no final judgment has been entered by the trial court, the challenged order is interlocutory and the appeal must be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction
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Insurance -- Coverage -- Denial -- Concealment or fraud -- False post-loss statements relating to insurance -- Error to enter summary judgment in favor of insurer based on determination that insured had forfeited her coverage by making “false statements relating to the insurance” when she failed to disclose prior similar insurance claims, which insured argues she forgot -- Term “false statement” in post-loss context includes an element of intent to mislead which, in this case, involves a genuine issue of material fact
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Insurance -- Personal injury protection -- Coverage -- Medical expenses -- Reasonableness of charges -- MRI -- Collateral estoppel -- Identity of parties -- Trial court improperly applied offensive collateral estoppel to preclude insurer from challenging reasonableness of cost of MRI procedures that provider performed on insureds because each of the PIP claims was premised on assignments provider received from different insureds -- Identity of parties, an essential element of collateral estoppel, was not met -- Summary judgments in favor of provider reversed
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Torts -- Damages -- Execution of judgment -- Appeals -- Certiorari -- Partial final summary judgment awarding damages for medical bills and permitting execution thereon subjects petitioner to material injury that has no appellate remedy where order authorizes execution at a time when petitioner has no appellate remedy and therefore cannot protect his assets by filing a supersedeas bond -- Allowing execution on judgment prior to entry of a final appealable order is a departure from essential requirements of the law
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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 -- Murder -- Death penalty -- Evidence -- Perpetuated testimony of material prosecution witness was improperly admitted where record conclusively established that witness was unable to see defendant at the time the perpetuated testimony occurred -- Proceeding with testimony despite witness's inability to see defendant violated rule 3.190(i)(3) -- Error was not harmless where witness was defendant's mother and there is a reasonable possibility that her incriminating testimony contributed to jury's guilty verdicts
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Criminal law -- Sentencing -- Absence of defendant -- Remote hearing -- Defendant's appearance by video for his sentencing hearing did not violate defendant's due process rights under the pandemic circumstances which existed at the time, and did not constitute fundamental error
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