Scott J. Edwards, P.A. brings you this summary of selected recent opinions issued by Florida’s appellate courts, with a focus on opinions discussing civil procedure, appellate procedure, trial practice, evidence, commercial litigation, insurance litigation, technology, and personal injury litigation. This article covers the weeks of July 11-22, 2016. Click here to learn more about Scott Edwards’ appellate law services.
Prejudgment Interest, Breach of Contract Arizona Chemical Co. v. Mohawk Industries (Fla. 1st DCA July 18, 2016): Florida courts follow the “loss theory” in calculating prejudgment interest. Under the loss theory, the purpose of awarding prejudgment interest is to make the plaintiff whole; thus, prejudgment interest cannot be used as a tool to grant a windfall to a plaintiff, or for the court to penalize a defendant. A party is entitled to prejudgment interest at the statutory rate when a verdict liquidates a plaintiff’s monetary losses and the date of the loss can be ascertained from the evidence. In most breach of contract cases, interest begins to accrue on the date of the breach, or on the date when payment was due under the contract. However, in some cases, the monetary loss caused by a breach of contract does not occur until sometime later.
In this case, a chemical company delivered defective resin to a carpet manufacturer, which caused the manufacturer’s carpets to fail prematurely. The defective resin resulted in an increase in warranty claims from the manufacturer’s customers, caused the manufacturer to sell off some of the defective carpet at discounted prices, and required the manufacturer to simply throw away some carpet. (I discussed the First DCA’s earlier opinion on the merits of the case in this article). The trial court incorrectly ruled that prejudgment interest in this case should be calculated from the dates that the manufacturer applied the resin to each roll of carpet. The First DCA held that the trial court should have calculated prejudgment interest from the dates that manufacturer suffered actual loss: i.e., the dates that warranty claims were paid, or that defective carpet was sold at a discount or thrown away.
Equine Liability, The Horse Gets Away With It Germer v. Churchill Downs Management (Fla. 3d DCA July 13, 2016): A man visiting a stable to see a friend’s horse had the misfortune of crossing paths with “Forever Happy,” an ironically named homicidal horse who escaped his stall and bit the man in the chest. The man sued Forever Happy’s owner, who defended the case based on Florida’s Equine Immunity statute. Under the law, an equine activity sponsor or professional is not liable for injuries resulting from the inherent risks of participating in equine activities. The 3rd DCA agreed with Forever Happy’s owner that a person visiting a stable participates in an equine activity, therefore triggering the protections of the Equine Immunity statute.
E-Filing is Mandatory United Bank v. Estate of Frazee (Fla. 4th DCA July 13, 2016): Under Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.516, electronic filing of court documents is mandatory except under certain limited circumstances. In this case, a party’s attorney attempted to file paper documents with the clerk of court by mail on the date of the deadline. The clerk rejected the documents due to the rule mandating e-filing, and the party’s subsequent e-filing was not timely. Because the error was caused by the attorney’s lack of knowledge or negligence, justice did not require the trial court to deem the filing as timely.
Discovery, Privacy of Financial Information Inglis v. Casselberry (Fla. 2d DCA July 15, 2016): A trial court departed from the essential requirements of the law by compelling non-parties to disclose personal financial information. Florida’s constitutional right to privacy protects personal finances, as they are private matters kept secret by most people. Non-party personal financial information discovery should only be granted following an evidentiary hearing establishing that the relevance of the evidence outweighs the strong public policy favoring the constitutional protection of private financial information.
Medicaid Liens, Wrongful Death Goheagan v. Perkins (Fla. 4th DCA July 20, 2016): The Federal Medicaid anti-lien statute applies only to claims brought by living patients. In a wrongful death action, Medicaid can seek reimbursement of its lien from the entire amount of the judgment, rather than only the portion of the judgment attributable to medical expenses.
Dismissal as a Sanction, Part One Cal v. Forward Air Solutions (Fla. 3d DCA July 20, 2016): A trial court acted within its discretion by dismissing a personal injury plaintiff’s complaint as a sanction for numerous discovery violations. The plaintiff violated a court order compelling her attendance at a compulsory medical examination, and gave false testimony on numerous occasions about a previous injury.
Dismissal as a Sanction, Part Two Diaz v. Home Depot USA, Inc. (Fla. 3d DCA July 13, 2016): Dismissal for fraud on the court was proper where the plaintiff denied previous injuries or accidents, but medical records revealed that she had indeed been involved in a motor vehicle accident and a slip and fall accident in the year before her accident at Home Depot, and suffered injuries to the same body parts as were at issue in this case. The trial court conducted an evidentiary hearing, and made specific findings that the plaintiff gave false testimony with a flagrant disregard for the integrity of the civil justice system.
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Scott J. Edwards is an appellate and civil litigation attorney in Boca Raton, Florida, with a practice focused on personal injury, commercial litigation, technology law, and insurance law. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 561-609-0760.
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