Articles Posted in Florida Case Law

It should not come as a surprise, but litigants are not permitted to commit fraud against, or mislead, a court of law. However, in order for a case to get dismissed for fraud or misconduct, the party committing the alleged fraud must know that what they are submitting to the court is not true. In a recent case in front of one Florida court of appeals, the court had the occasion to describe when it is proper to dismiss a case based on fraud or misconduct. The bar may be higher than previously thought.

Casteel v. Maddalena: The Facts

In the recent case, Casteel v. Maddalena, the parties were disputing fault in a serious Florida accident involving a car and a motorcycle. Casteel, the motorcyclist, was hit by Maddalena as he was making a left turn across two lanes of traffic. The main issue in the case was where Casteel was in the intersection when he was struck by Maddalena’s vehicle. If he was clear of the intersection, it would indicate that Maddalena was at fault. However, if he was still in the intersection at the time of the collision, it would mean that he failed to yield the right of way to Maddalena, who was traveling straight ahead at the time of the accident. Continue reading ›

In essence, an arbitration agreement is a contract between two parties that stipulates that a neutral arbiter, rather than a judge or jury, will have the final binding decision over any claims that arise between the parties. Arbitration agreements have become the focus of some critical attention recently, because of the ultimate fact that sophisticated parties are requiring that less sophisticated parties waive their legal right to a trial in front of a judge. Oftentimes, these arbitration clauses are provided to the less sophisticated party on a “take it or leave it” basis, leaving them to either accept the clause or forego doing business with the requesting party.

On occasion, Florida courts have held that an arbitration agreement is not enforceable as a matter of law for a number of reasons. For instance, if the clause is considered by the court to be unconscionable, or to go against public policy, then a court can void an arbitration clause. Recently, the Florida Supreme Court had the opportunity to decide if an arbitration agreement entered into between a nursing home and its deceased resident also bound future litigants to arbitration in a wrongful death action.

Laizure v. Avante at Leesburg, Inc.

In a recent case in front of the Florida Supreme Court, Laizure v. Avante at Leesburg, Inc., the court was presented with the question of whether a nursing home patient’s agreement to arbitrate all claims against a nursing home bound that resident’s estate and heirs in any subsequent wrongful death action against the nursing home. The court held that it did. Continue reading ›

The law that allows accident victims to recover from the person who caused the accident that caused their injuries is called the law of negligence. While the laws of negligence are complex and can be very confusing, at its core, the law is designed to allow an accident victim to recover from any party whose negligence was a cause of the accident that ultimately resulted in harm to the plaintiff.

It goes without saying that the negligent driver who gets into an accident is responsible for the accident. But what about in a situation where a car owner lets another person drive the car and that person is negligent and gets into an accident? In this situation, the law generally allows the accident victim to name both the driver and the car’s owner in a suit for negligence. This legal doctrine is called the “dangerous instrumentality doctrine.”

A Recent Example: Roman v. Bogle

In a recent case in front of a Florida court of appeals, the dangerous instrumentality doctrine is discussed at some length. The facts of the case are as follows: Two people were killed in a car accident when the driver of the car ran a red light, colliding with a semi truck. The family of the passenger (Roman) filed suit against the owner of the car (Bogle) based on the dangerous instrumentality doctrine, although the owner was not even in the car at the time of the accident. Continue reading ›

In a recent opinion by the District Court of Appeals of Florida, Third Circuit, the court reversed a decision by an arbitrator and send the case back for a rehearing because the arbitrator did not properly calculate the damages the plaintiff was eligible for.

Background: What Is an Arbitration Agreement?

An arbitration agreement is a legally binding contract between two or more parties that agree not to go to court, but to instead submit their dispute to a neutral, third-party arbiter. Generally speaking, when a valid arbitration agreement is signed, both parties give up their right to take the case to court. However, when the arbiter makes a mistake of law, then that error—not the decision—may be appealable to a court of appeals.

In Florida, the civil courts are sticklers for procedure. Whether it be following court imposed rules or sticking to deadlines set by statute, courts will rarely allow exceptions to procedural defaults. Along these lines are the strict notice requirements imposed by statute that require plaintiffs suing the state government (or a local government) provide adequate notice to the government agency within a certain amount of time. To simplify, these will be referred to as “notice requirements.”

Aitcheson v. Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles

In the recent case, Aitcheson v. Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FDHSMV), a Florida court of appeals had the opportunity to explain what kind of notice is sufficient when it comes to telling a government agency that they are being sued.

Not every piece of evidence that may seem relevant at first glance is admissible, or even discoverable, in a Florida personal injury case. A piece of evidence may be undiscoverable or inadmissible for any number of reasons, including its lack of relevance, the fact that it constitutes hearsay, the prejudicial nature of the evidence, or the fact that it invades the privacy rights of a party.

As a general rule, Florida courts have to balance competing concerns when it comes to evidence; while a piece of evidence may be extremely probative of one point, it may be unduly prejudicial to they opposing party and therefore must not be used at trial.

Medical Records in Florida Cases: Poston v. Wiggins

The Florida Court of Appeals, Third District, recently decided an interesting case that affects both plaintiffs and defendants in multiple-defendant personal injury cases. Specifically, the case relates to the admissibility of evidence showing that the plaintiff settled with a party who used to be, but is no longer, named as a defendant.

In the case of Bern v. Camejo, the dispute arose from a three-car collision. Bern, the plaintiff, sued both Acevedo and Perez, claiming that they caused the accident which caused her injuries. Before trial, Bern settled out of court with Perez and proceeded to trial against Acevedo (and the owner of Acevedo’s car). It was Bern’s plan to have Perez testify that the accident was Acevedo’s fault, a position that Perez maintained from the beginning.

Before the trial began, the plaintiff asked the court to prevent Acevedo from telling the jury that Bern had initially named Perez as a defendant but had since settled with Perez out of court and then dismissed her from the suit. The trial court gave Bern half of what she asked for: Acevedo could tell the jury that Perez was initially named as a defendant, but could not get into any discussion about an out-of-court settlement. Continue reading ›

In a case earlier this year, the Florida Supreme Court had a chance to further define the situations in which an arbitration agreement is valid. An arbitration agreement is a contract entered into as a part of a larger contract. Generally speaking, an arbitration agreement is an agreement to waive the right to go to court if anything should happen between the two parties to the contract. Instead of going to court, the parties agree to instead participate in a binding arbitration session.

Problems with Arbitration Agreements

There has been some commentary lately from a variety of sources that arbitration agreements are unfair to the lesser sophisticated party. In a traditional contract between a business and an individual, this would be the individual. This is because the more sophisticated party often chooses the arbiter, meaning that, at least in theory, they will have an advantage. Many common contracts contain arbitration clauses, which is another reason why some scholars claim they are unfair; a consumer is often not able to find a vendor to deal with that does not include an arbitration clause in the contract. This leaves the consumer in a “take it or leave” type position.

The Recent Florida Supreme Court Opinion

In the opinion Jackson v. Shakespeare Foundation, Inc., the Florida Supreme Court determined that a claim of fraud is included in the intended realm of the arbitration agreement and therefore cannot proceed to a court of law.

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