Week In Review

Headnotes of selected Florida Supreme Court and District Courts of Appeal cases filed the week of
March 23, 2020 - March 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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Arbitration -- “Clickwrap” agreement -- Arbitrable issues -- Determination by judge/arbitrator -- Action against Airbnb and individual from whom plaintiffs rented condominium unit, brought after plaintiffs discovered that there were hidden cameras throughout the unit which secretly recorded plaintiffs' entire stay, including private and intimate interactions -- Neither arbitration clause in clickwrap agreement on defendant's website nor the American Arbitration Association rule referenced by the agreement provided clear and unmistakable evidence that only arbitrator could decide issue of arbitrability -- Because parties' agreement was ambiguous on this issue, court retained its presumed authority to decide arbitrability -- Conflict certified
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Contracts -- Torts -- Court properly entered judgment for plaintiff on claim of breach of joint venture agreement -- Claims of fraud in the inducement and negligent misrepresentation cannot be based on alleged misrepresentations that were never mentioned in the operative complaint -- It was error to enter judgment for plaintiff on claims of fraud in the inducement and negligent misrepresentation where the only alleged misrepresentations had to do with defendant's failure to perform under the contract -- Plaintiff cannot recover in tort for a contract dispute unless the tort is independent of any breach of contract -- Court properly entered judgment as matter of law for defendant on civil theft claim where there was no evidence of criminal intent prior to the alleged breach
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Eminent domain -- Municipal corporations -- Inverse condemnation -- Bert J. Harris, Jr., Private Property Rights Protection Act -- Wetlands designation -- Trial court erred as matter of law in granting final summary judgment in favor of town on property owner's claims for inverse condemnation, partial inverse condemnation, and violation of Bert Harris Act based on conclusion that claims were barred because plaintiff bought property with notice of wetlands restriction and that claims were not ripe for adjudication because plaintiff had not made meaningful application to town to develop his property -- Preexisting regulation does not operate as an absolute bar to a takings claim; instead, plaintiff acquired full property rights when he bought the property, including the right to challenge existing wetlands designation -- Ripeness doctrine does not require property owner to pursue remedies which would clearly be futile, and based on history of plaintiff's various applications and town's responses, it was clear that permissible uses of plaintiff's land were known and that any further application to the town to change wetlands designation would be futile
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Mortgage foreclosure -- Federal Housing Administration loan -- Conditions precedent -- Trial court erred in dismissing foreclosure action due to bank's failure to conduct a face-to-face interview with borrowers pursuant to 24 C.F.R section 203.604(b) where borrowers sent bank cease and desist letter which demanded bank cease all communication with borrowers and stated that any contact by the bank would subject bank to liability under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act -- To interpret borrowers' words as anything other than a clear expression that they would not cooperate in an interview would place bank in an untenable situation and render the regulatory exception to face-to-face meeting meaningless
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Taxation -- Tourist development tax -- Dealers -- Companies which manage online platforms that permit property owners and their agents to list and advertise their properties for short-term accommodations are not exercising a taxable privilege so as to be subject to taxation under TDT statute -- Companies are not in the business of renting, leasing, or letting transient accommodations as contemplated by TDT and transient rentals tax statutes where companies do not own, possess, or have a leasehold interest to convey in any of the properties listed on their platform, but rather act simply as conduits through which customers can compare properties and rates and book reservations -- Court rejects argument that companies are nonetheless required to register as dealers and collect and remit TDT to the taxing authority because they receive payments on property owners' behalf -- Based on reading of TDT and TRT statutes, a dealer is one who can grant a possessory interest in the properties, which the companies cannot do -- To extent that an agency relationship between owners and companies was created by the companies' terms and conditions, the terms and conditions expressly limited agency for the sole purpose of collecting funds from guests before transferring consideration to owners
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Torts -- Automobile accident -- Proposal for settlement -- Attorney's fees -- Insurance -- Subrogation -- Case involving plaintiffs' purchase of defendant's earlier-served, and subsequently rejected, proposals for settlement from defendant's bankruptcy estate in an attempt to withdraw those proposals and avoid paying attorney's fees and costs under section 768.79 -- Jurisdiction -- Court rejects argument that trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to determine, and invaded province of bankruptcy court by determining, that bankruptcy trustee's sale of proposals for settlement was invalid -- Trial court unquestionably had subject matter jurisdiction to rule on statutory and rule-based motion for attorney's fees and costs -- Discussion of differences between subject matter and “case jurisdiction” -- Trial court possessed case jurisdiction to consider the validity of plaintiffs' withdrawal of the proposals for settlement -- Trial court properly declared plaintiffs' notice of withdrawal of proposals for settlement to be a nullity and of no force and effect -- Bankruptcy trustee could only sell whatever title and rights defendant had in the proposals for settlement, which is determined by Florida law -- Because defendant's insurer assumed defense of the tort action, insurer was subrogated to any right defendant had to recover litigation costs and attorney's fees incurred and was the real party in interest as to the proposals for settlement -- Having failed to possess the equitable interest in the proposals for settlement, plaintiffs did not have the power to withdraw them -- Additionally, because the proposals were open for over thirty days without acceptance or written withdrawal of the offer by defendant, any purported withdrawal of the proposals after the expiration of the thirty-day period was a legal nullity and an event not contemplated by rule or statute -- Moreover, the most reasonable interpretation of withdrawal provision of section 768.79 is that the withdrawal of an offer must be made by the offeror
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Torts -- Negligence -- Circuit court clerk -- Sovereign immunity -- Publication on court website of “Amended First Appearance Court Order” without redacting name of minor victim of sexual assault -- Complaint failed to set forth statutory or common law authority creating a legal duty of care owed to plaintiff as set forth in the complaint -- Neither rule governing public access to judicial branch records nor statute providing that information revealing identity of person who is victim of sexual offense is confidential and exempt from public inspection creates legal duty of care on part of clerk in this context -- Trial court's order denying clerk's motion to dismiss on sovereign immunity grounds reversed to extent that it determined clerk owed legal duty of care to redact victim's identifying information in documents filed by court -- Remand with instructions to dismiss complaint without prejudice to right to file amended complaint -- Appeals -- Certiorari -- Clerk's petition for writ of certiorari to review denial of its motion to dismiss on judicial immunity grounds dismissed
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Wrongful death -- Automobile accident -- Vicarious liability -- Damages -- Insurance -- Liability limitations -- Action against vehicle owner arising from fatal accident caused by permissive driver -- No error in entering summary judgment in favor of vehicle owner based on determination that owner's liability was statutorily limited to $100,000, and that vehicle owner's insurance coverage of $250,000, which was paid by owner's insurer toward plaintiff's claim against driver, satisfied owner's maximum liability -- Plaintiff's argument that a vehicle owner's policy cannot be used to both satisfy vehicle owner's maximum liability and count towards driver's combined policy limits is unsupported by statute's unambiguous language -- Section 324.021(9)(b)3 limits a vehicle owner's liability to $100,000 per person if the permissive user's combined limits are $500,000 or more, and nothing within the statute indicates that a vehicle owner's liability cap and permissive driver's combined limits are mutually exclusive -- There is no language excluding insurance payments under a vehicle owner's policy from the calculation of a permissive driver's combined policy limits -- Driver had combined coverage of over $500,000 when vehicle owner's policy under which driver was a permissive user was added to driver's three other policies
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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 -- Medicaid fraud -- Constitutionality of statute as applied -- Defendant, a targeted case management services supervisor, accused of knowingly submitting claims for services provided by employees who were not qualified, to recipients who were not eligible to receive them, and which were categorically non-reimbursable in violation of 409.920(2)(a)(2). and racketeering statute -- Trial court erred in dismissing criminal charges based on finding section 409.920(2)(a)(2). unconstitutional as an invalid delegation of legislative authority and a violation of due process for vagueness -- Discussion of non-delegation doctrine -- Section 409.920(2)(a)(2). does not violate non-delegation doctrine -- Legislature has recognized that the Agency for Health Care Administration is best suited to articulate standards for application of the Medicaid system, and it is the legislature, not the agency, that has declared a violation of those standards as unlawful -- Statute is not void for vagueness as it clearly provides notice such that an ordinary person may understand the acts prohibited -- Statutory scheme leaves no authority to agency to pick and choose which rule violation could result in criminal penalties, thus statute properly operates as an enforcement tool to ensure compliance with agency rules and sufficiently sets out, on its face, the policy decision that knowing noncompliance with agency rules is to be deemed a felony in this context -- Section 409.920(2)(a)(2). satisfies the required balance between the legislature's function in establishing fundamental policy and an administrative agency's promulgation of administrative rules and regulations to fulfill it
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Criminal law -- Unlawful interception of wire communications -- Unit of prosecution -- Double jeopardy -- Defendant's convictions on four counts of unlawful interception of wire communications violate double jeopardy where defendant unlawfully recorded only three phone calls -- Court finds no statutory support for argument that allowable unit of prosecution is determined by the number of individuals whose voices were unlawfully recorded in a single phone call -- On remand, trial court shall enter judgment and sentence against defendant on three counts only
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