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The court certifies to the Supreme Court the question whether a cruise line is vicariously liable for the medical malpractice of the shipboard doctor committed on a ships passenger?
Affirming the application of a contingency risk multiplier in an action by an insured against an insurer under §627.428, Florida Statutes, the court certifies the question: In light of the Supreme Courts decision in Sarkis v. Allstate Ins. Co. 28 Fla. L. Weekly S740 (Fla. 2003)], may a multiplier be applied to enhance an award of attorneys fees granted under a fee-shifting statute such as section 627.428, Florida Statutes (2002)?
Of course, many, many cases have upheld application a multiplier to statutory attorneys fees, including, for example, Standard Guaranty Ins. Co. v. Quanstrom, 555 So.2d 828 (Fla. 1990), and State Farm v. Palma, 629 So.2d 830 (Fla. 1993).
It is sufficient to file the motion for attorneys fees within 30 days of the final judgment. Rule 1.525 does not require the filing of documentation supporting the motion within that time.
The court holds that the reservation of jurisdiction in the final judgment to award attorneys fees tolls the time for filing the motion for fees under Rule 1.525. Because the court notes possible conflict with Wentworth v. Johnson, 845 So.2d 296 (Fla. 5thDCA 2003), you should not rely on this decision until the Supreme Court resolves the issue file your motion within 30 days anyway, whether or not the court reserves jurisdiction.
Plaintiff was entitled to limited discovery of defense counsels billing records in connection with plaintiffs claim for attorneys fees. The records are relevant, limited to the amount of time, not the amount charged or any privileged information. How the time was spent would be discoverable to the extent it is not privileged. Descriptions of services rendered which reveal the mental impressions and opinions of counsel could be privileged, but are not at issue here. But see HCA Health Services v. Hillman, 28 Fla. L. Weekly D2758 (Fla. 2d DCA 2003) (requiring showing of relevance, need, and unavailability of substantial equivalent).
This case reverses an order of bifurcation, and makes some very important points about
why bifurcation is improper in a case where the defendant argues that some or all of the
plaintiffs injuries were pre-existing or were caused by subsequent negligent
It was error to bifurcate liability and damages in a med mal case where liability and damages are necessarily intertwined. Any argument for the bifurcation based on inconvenience of travel to Germany, where the plaintiff now lives and is being treated, was belied by the trial courts denial of a stay of discovery on damages. The discovery would have to go forward in any event, primarily because it simply is not possible in this case to separate the issues of causation and liability from damages. The defense was contending that all of the plaintiffs injuries that ensued in Germany were either caused by the plaintiff or by her pre-existing condition, or by the negligent care she received in Germany. Therefore, evidence of the treatment the plaintiff received in Germany is necessarily relevant to liability.
It was an abuse of discretion to deny the plaintiffs motion for continuance where
the plaintiffs only expert suddenly refused to testify and refused to return any of
plaintiffs counsels phone calls.
I have been hearing lately about efforts by some groups to intimidate plaintiffs medical witnesses or otherwise persuade them to refuse to testify. See Jost v. Ahmad, 730 So.2d 708 (Fla. 2d DCA 1998) (evidence admissible that someone from hospitals risk management office called doctors risk management office with instructions about his testimony). I dont know if this case resulted from that kind of problem.
The Third District held that polygraph tests are inadmissible as a matter of law, and not subject to the test of Frye v. United States, 293 F. 1013 (D.C. Cir. 1923). However, the court certified to the Supreme Court the question: Are the results of polygraph tests inadmissible in evidence as a matter of law or are polygraph tests subject to the Frye test?
Holding that orders pertaining to withdrawal of counsel are passive and not sufficient record activity to preclude dismissal for failure to prosecute, the court certifies to the Supreme Court the question:
After the decision in Metropolitan Dade County v. Hall, 784 So.2d 1097 (Fla. 2001), are trial court orders that are entered and filed to resolve motions that have been properly filed in good faith under the rules of procedure automatically treated as activity, or must the trial court continue to assess its own orders to determine whether they are passive entries in the court record?
The court rejects the plaintiffs contention that whenever a dispositive motion is pending, the duty to proceed rests with the trial court and the case cannot be dismissed for lack of prosecution. The court distinguishes Third DCA cases where the motions had been argued and the parties were awaiting the courts ruling. The court certifies conflict with Dye v. Security Pacific Financial Services, Inc., 828 So.2d 1089 (Fla. 1st DCA 2002), which held that where a motion to dismiss has not been disposed of, even though it has never been set for hearing, the case cannot be dismissed for failure to prosecute.
Rule 1.061(g) requires that a motion to dismiss based on forum non conveniens must be served not later than 60 days after service of process on the moving party. The time is not tolled by the defendants motion to quash service. Therefore, the trial court properly denied the defendants motion.
The court certifies to the Supreme Court the question: Does Floridas impact rule preclude the recovery of damages for emotional injuries in a negligence case alleging that the defendants actions wrongfully caused the plaintiff to lose custody of his children and all other parental rights for a significant period? This court held the plaintiffs claim was not barred by the impact rule.
The case involved a hospitals liability for the mental health services provided by one of its agents, a psychologist, who wrote a letter accusing the plaintiff of child abuse, resulting in his loss of custody and visitation with his children, until he was able to regain them in court proceedings. The court also held that, because the agent was a psychologist, and the claim did not arise out of the rendering or failure to render medical services, the med mal presuit provisions did not apply.
Under the version of the med mal act that was in force from 1998-2002, §§766.201- 212, if the parties arbitrate, the measure of damages for a wrongful death claim is not limited by the wrongful death act. Rather, the plaintiff is entitled in arbitration to the full range of damages including economic damages defined in §766.207(7)(a): financial losses which would not have occurred but for the injury giving rise to the cause of action, including, but not limited to, past and future medical expenses and 80 percent of wage loss and loss of earning capacity.
Section 458.320(2) requires physicians to comply with one of three financial responsibility options in order to have hospital staff privileges. The court holds that the statute imposes a duty on the hospital to ensure compliance. Therefore, the plaintiffs complaint, seeking to hold the hospital liable for a staff physicians failure to comply with the financial responsibility statute, stated a cause of action. Accord, Robert v. Paschall, 767 So.2d 1277 (Fla. 5th DCA 2000); Baker v. Tenet Healthsystem Hosp., Inc., 780 So.2d 170 (Fla. 2d DCA 2001).
In a med mal case, the statute of limitations begins to run when the plaintiff has knowledge of the injury and that there is a reasonable possibility that the injury was caused by medical malpractice. Tanner v. Hartog, 618 So.2d 177 (Fla. 1993). Suffering a second heart attack while under treatment would not necessarily have put plaintiff on notice that she was being negligently treated, where she was a longtime smoker with a family and personal history of heart disease, and not medically sophisticated. A question of fact was presented for the jury.
This is the most recent case in the long-established negligent undertaking doctrine. One who undertakes to provide a service to others, gratuitously or by contract, assumes the duty to act carefully and to not put others at undue risk of harm. The doctrine applies not just to parties in privity with one another, but to third party within the foreseeable zone of risk. See, e.g., Union Park Memorial Chapel v. Hutt, 670 So.2d 64 (Fla. 1996); Banfield v. Addington, 140 So. 893 (Fla. 1932). The duty can arise where the failure to exercise reasonable care increases the risk of such harm, or the defendant has undertaken to perform a duty owed by another to the third person, or the harm is suffered because of reliance of the other or the third person on the undertaking. An electric company under a contract to maintain street lights had a legally recognized duty to a pedestrian to maintain the lights, and could be held liable when a motorist, who could not see the pedestrian, struck and killed him because the lights were negligently maintained and were not working.
This is only a slightly revised version of the opinion that originally appeared at 28 Fla. L. Weekly D2507. It involves NICA, the Florida Birth Related Neurological Injury Compensation Act, §§766.301-306, Florida Statutes (1998). (The statute has since been amended). The court held that the ALJ did not have jurisdiction to make any determination other than whether the claim was compensable under the NICA plan. The ALJ does not have any jurisdiction to determine whether the notice given by the health care provider pursuant to the act was sufficient, or whether the provider is entitled to immunity from tort liability, or to require the plaintiff to make an election of remedies. The court certifies conflict with OLeary v. Florida Birth Related Neurological Injury Comp. Assn, 757 So.2d 624 (Fla. 5th DCA 2000); Behan v. Florida Birth Related Neurological Injury Compensation Assn, 664 So.2d 1173 (Fla. 4th DCA 1995) and University of Miami v. M.A., 793 So.2d 999 (Fla. 3d DCA 2001).
Although the court takes note of the ping-pong effect of the conflicting decisions, it states that it is constrained to follow the ball wherever the legislature chooses to send it. In my opinion, that raises serious due process concerns. See generally Aldana v. Hollub, 381 So.2d 231 (Fla. 1980) (finding medical mediation panel laws unconstitutional because they have proved unfair and arbitrary and capricious in their application.)
The trial court should not have permitted the defense attorney to conduct ex parte interviews with the non-party physicians who treated the decedent while she was a resident at the defendants nursing home. The physicians were not employees of the nursing home. Section 456.057 allows communications among health care providers involved in the care or treatment of the patient, but the doctors were no longer involved in the care and treatment of the patient, because she is deceased. Once the health care providers are no longer involved in the care and treatment of the patient, they may not continue to discuss a patients confidential medical information for their own, or anyone elses purposes. LeMieux v. Tandem Health Care of Florida, Inc., 28 Fla. L. Weekly D2501 (Fla. 2d DCA 2003).
The trial court properly denied attorneys fees under §768.79 and Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.442, because the offer contained a non-monetary term that was not stated with the particularity required by Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.442(c)(2)(c) and (D). The case involved a counterclaim, and the offer required the offeree to stipulate to a final judgment that would have made a specific finding that the offeror prevailed in defense of the offerees claims against them. The stipulation might have been admissible in the litigation of the remaining counterclaims, and eviscerated the offerees defense. While a proposal for settlement may settle only a portion of a lawsuit, a valid proposal must at least settle that portion with certainty. Because the non-monetary condition was not susceptible to meaningful evaluation by the [offeree], it was not stated with sufficient particularity to have rendered the proposal valid.
Amendments to Rule 1.442, the offer of judgment / proposal for settlement rule, do not apply to offers that were rejected before the effective date of the rule, even if the rule became effective during the pendency of the action.
The Supreme Court has amended the standard jury instructions on punitive damages by adding However, you may not award an amount that would financially destroy [defendant].
A motion for remittitur or additur must be filed within 10 days of the verdict, not of the judgment. It is governed by Rule 1.530(b), which requires that a motion for new trial or rehearing be filed within 10 days of the verdict.
The Court finally sets a uniform rule for the res judicata effect of denials of extraordinary writs. Unelaborated denials of an extraordinary writ by any court is not a decision on the merits which would bar the litigant from presenting the same or substantially similar issue on appeal or by a subsequent writ petition, or by other means, in the same or another Florida court. Before this decision, the different courts were free to set their own rules, resulting in inconsistencies and confusion. See Green, Cracking the Code: Interpreting and Enforcing the Appellate Courts Decision and Mandate, 32 Stetson L. Rev. 393, 403-405 (2003).
In my opinion, it is commendable that the courts have become more vigilant against discovery abuses, and are imposing sanctions for egregious violations, destruction of evidence and perjury. These sanction apply equally to plaintiffs and defendants. See, e.g., Figgie International v. Alderman, 698 So. 2d 563 (Fla. 3d DCA 1997) (affirming default entered against defendant for destroying evidence and lying about it). However, courts must be cautious and only impose the ultimate sanction of dismissal or default in the most extreme circumstances, and only after notice and an opportunity to be heard. Here, the court reverses dismissal because the court did not allow an evidentiary hearing, which the plaintiff requested. He should be given the opportunity to appear in person and possibly explain the discovery violations which were the basis for the dismissal.
Technical defects in documents served under the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters will not defeat service where the plaintiff has attempted in good faith to comply and the defendant received sufficient notice despite the technical defects.
In this product liability action, the plaintiff was not guilty of spoliation of his defective artificial knee where the hospital threw it out when a second knee replacement was performed on the plaintiff. Therefore, it was error to preclude plaintiffs expert from testifying about causation, and then entering summary judgment for defendant, which was tantamount to dismissing the plaintiffs case. The defendant suffered no real prejudice because both parties are in the same position they will have to present testimony based on the observations of the artificial knee at the time, not on examination or testing of it.
All materials reasonably expected or intended to be used at trial, including documents intended solely for witness impeachment, are subject to proper discovery requests . . . and are not protected by the work product privilege. Prior depositions of a witness that are not intended to be used as impeachment are protected as work product; but that protection does not apply once the materials are reasonably expected to be used as impeachment at trial.
The Supreme Court disapproves the Fourth Districts decision in Gardner v.
Manor Care, 831 So.2d 676 (Fla. 4th DCA 2002), which required counsel to cull through
materials and determine which are relevant and turn them over. An attorney may not be
compelled to disclose his or her mental impressions resulting from investigations, labor
or legal analysis, unless the product of such investigation itself is reasonably
expected or intended to be presented . . . at trial. Only at such time as the attorney
should reasonably ascertain in good faith that the material may be used or disclosed at
trial is he or she expected to reveal it to the opposing party.