Every week, Scott J. Edwards, P.A. brings you this summary of selected opinions issued by Florida’s appellate courts in the previous week, with a focus on opinions discussing civil procedure, appellate procedure, trial practice, evidence, commercial litigation, insurance litigation, and personal injury litigation. This article covers the week of August 31-September 4, 2015.
Worker’s Compensation Immunity Moradiellos v. Gerelco Traffic Controls, Inc., 3rd DCA September 2, 2015. A construction worker performing work on a highway widening project died after being struck by a dump truck operated by a coworker. The driver of the truck disobeyed his supervisor’s orders by operating the truck in reverse for over a mile in the dark, on a section of the roadway closed to traffic. The estate sued the subcontractor responsible for an inoperable street light in the area of the incident. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the subcontractor on its worker’s compensation immunity defense, and the Third DCA affirmed. First, the “unrelated works” exception to worker’s compensation immunity did not apply because the exception only applies to fellow employees, not subcontractors. Furthermore, the “gross negligence” exception did not apply under the facts of this case because non-functioning street lights on a major highway construction project such as this did not constitute an obvious clear and present danger of serious harm. Indeed, the widening of the highway caused numerous street lights to be deactivated either by design or by accident, and the subcontractor’s contract allowed up to ten percent of the project’s street lights to be out at any given time. Furthermore, the streetlight at issue had been out for over a year without causing any harm.
Discovery of Insurance Claims Files Geico v. Feller, 5th DCA September 4, 2015: The 5th DCA reversed a trial court’s order compelling production of an insurer’s claim file. The reversal cited to a previous 5th DCA case, Sedgwick v. Feller, involving the same plaintiff, to make the following holdings on the application of the work product privilege to insurance claims files: 1) the work product privilege continues to exist even when litigation in a case has ended; 2) a party claiming that documents are privileged has the right to obtain an in camera review of the documents before their production is ordered; 3) the work product privilege is held by the client, not the attorney; therefore, only the client can waive work product objections.
Bifurcated Trials Rocket Group v. Jatib, 4th DCA September 2, 2015: The Fourth DCA granted a petition for certiorari to quash a trial court’s order bifurcating a trial in a wrongful termination action. Bifurcation of the case was inappropriate because the claims at issue all arose from a single set of interrelated facts. Therefore, a bifurcated trial created a risk of inconsistent verdicts being reached by different finders on fact.
Judicial Recusals Cheshire v. Wells Fargo Bank, 1st DCA September 3, 2015: If a judge enters an order granting a motion to recuse, any order entered simultaneously with the recusal is void. However, a limited exception to this rule allows a judge to enter an order simultaneously with a recusal order only if the order merely reduces to writing an order previously issued orally by the court.
Proposals For Settlement, Part 1 Wallen v. Tyson, 5th DCA September 4, 2015. A trial court struck a proposal for settlement for vagueness. Although the proposal for settlement included a proposed release, the text of the proposal for settlement also stated that Defendant “was willing to consider any suggested changes to the release.” The 5th DCA reversed, holding that language allowing the non-offering party to suggest modifications to the release does not render a proposal for settlement ambiguous.
Proposals For Settlement, Part 2 Key West Seaside v. Certified Lower Keys Plumbing, 3rd DCA September 2, 2015: If a proposal for settlement meets the requirements under the statue and rules, an award of costs and fees to the party serving the proposal is mandatory unless the trial court finds that the offer was made in bad faith.
Scott J. Edwards is an appellate and civil litigation attorney in Boca Raton, Florida, with a practice focused on personal injury, commercial litigation, and insurance law. He can be reached at email@example.com or 561-331-0779.