FTL MAKES NEW LAW STRIKING PUNITIVES AFTER REJECTING PFS
Florida’s Proposal for Settlement rules and law remains in a constant state of confusion and uncertainty. (In fact, it still maintains the distinction in names. By Rule it is a Proposal for Settlement, and by Statute, it is still called an Offer of Judgment.)
After years of litigation, E.T. and Team beat two (2) proposals in a tractor trailer and passenger vehicular accident case in North Florida. No fees or costs assessed against his clients for fighting the “good fight” and prevailing.
Not so fast a local Judge decided. A punitive damages award was made against a long, defunct corporate Defendant. The Judge, in a surprise decision, ADDED the punitive damages to the Final Judgment and then awarded over a million dollars in fees and costs on top of everything else.
After appealing the matter to the First District Court of Appeals and the Florida Supreme Court, the addition of the punitive damages was stricken as was the award of fees and costs restoring the original jury’s findings.
Punitive damages were not pled as a part of the case when the two PFSs were served and, therefore, they could not be made a part of the Final Judgment.
SETS NEW LAW ON CONSTRUCTION CASE INTEREST RATES
Construction related claims in Florida are unique in a few regards.
First, they involve one of the few claims that, should a materialman or general contractor prove that work or materials used in the construction be legally found to be due, owing and unpaid, the successful GC or warehouse can invade the protection normally afforded the homeowner, and actually force a sale of the homestead to recover the costs.
In addition, many (many) materialmen would further capitalize on the unsuspecting homeowner and attempt to asses an “interest rate” well beyond what is defined statutorily and as set by the Comptroller for the State of Florida. In doing so, they would rely on the contract’s “late fee” provisions which are usually the maximum allowed by State law, or in other words, 18% per annum.
E.T. was successful in the appeal of a case in which the 1st District Court of Appeals of Florida agreed with him and found ALL applications of interest rates are relegated to the Comptroller’s definition of it … which is about 1/3rd … or less … than previously applied by most Courts.
Davis v. H&A
Train v. Tractor Trailer Collision
In a Tampa Courtroom, from September 4 thru September 8 (yes, from the day after Labor Day through and including the following Saturday), E.T. and Maryanne defended a Train v. Tractor- Trailer accident.
As always, the train “wins” but the conductors were seeking countless millions of dollars based on allegations of serious injuries resulting from it. The Trial, in Tampa, marked the first of those two conductors’ cases being presented to a jury.
This accident was unique in that it just so happened to have been captured on film … from both a surveillance camera on nearby private property, and from the inside of the train’s engine. As a result, a summary judgment was entered against our driver long before Trial started.
To add insult to injury, defense counsel for CSX was actively working with counsel for the Plaintiff by providing him with information not shared with our defense.
At Mediation, the demand was four (4) million dollars. At Trial, the Plaintiff presented over six (6) million dollars in damages.
VERDICT: DEFENSE WINS!
The jury, in just 1:55 minutes, returned a defense verdict awarding only 1/24 th of what Plaintiff sought.
While the jury was out, both primary and excess carriers continued the negotiations and the Plaintiff left much more than that offered “on the table”.
E.T. defended the entirety of the case with but one witness, the CME doctor. In a presentation that looked more like a classroom lecture, it was clear to see how the Plaintiff failed to convince the jurors that there was a significant injury and refused to award him any past pain and suffering and no future medical expenses.
Ocean Village v. North East Florida Contracting
A large condominium complex along the Atlantic Ocean was the subject of claims of millions of dollars of damage as the result of water intrusion allegedly caused by our clients’ work. Literally, hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on plaintiff’s experts simply trying to prove the connection.
Defended by E.T. and Greg Blackwell, Esq of FTL, the jury remained unconvinced and a “hung jury” was the result of two weeks of trial. Like E.T. says, “If you can’t get a complete defense verdict, a jury unconvinced in the plaintiff’s claim is the next best thing. They came to take your client’s money, and failed.”
VERDICT: “HUNG JURY” (Plaintiff failed to prove their case.)
Kuntzman v. Saylor
At 82, the plaintiff was “attacked” by a dog owned by the defendants, a Navy Chief and his wife. The “attack” was actually the dog jumping on the plaintiff and knocking her frail and diminutive stature to the ground causing serious injury and surgery. As many know, Florida now adopts and follows a “strict liability” theory of law to injury by animals. No longer is there even a “one bite rule” (i.e. you aren’t responsible for an injury by an animal if it marks the first time such behavior occurred). In a strict liability claim, the questions are simple: (1) Is it your animal?, (2) Did it hurt someone or do property damage?, and (3) Where is your check book because you’re going to pay?
Yet, John Howell, Esq of FTL, taking advantage of one of the last known defenses to such claims, proved the plaintiff actually “provoked” the animal to jump on her. By engaging the services of a real life “dog whisperer”, he was able to convince the jury this defense applied and waltzed the clients out of the courtroom with a complete defense verdict.
As a result, John forever has earned his new moniker: “Lord Trial Dog”.
VERDICT: COMPLETE DEFENSE VERDICT (-0-)
Cardona v. National Truck Leasing
Tractor Trailer v. Automobile
In Federal Court in Miami, a Hispanic plaintiff claims she was the driver of a vehicle and said our client’s Tractor Trailer “drifted” into her lane of travel and caused a violent accident – resulting in hundreds of thousands of medical expenses attendant with future medical needs and permanent pain and suffering.
Within weeks before trial, the federal judge started striking witnesses from both sides to shorten the anticipated length of the trial. (Although 2 weeks were requested by both sides, he insisted it will be completed in but 1 week.) Not the least of the witnesses struck by the court was our expert accident reconstructionist.
Armed with common sense logic, and an unmatchable courtroom presence, Mike O’Neal, Esq of FTL convinced the jury – by pointing out and explaining the laws of Newton and forces of energy – the plaintiff could not have come to rest where she did on the highway had she not been the at fault party who “drifted” in to our lane.
The jury wasted little time in delivering a complete defense verdict, and once again, being witness to hundreds of thousands of dollars being “left” by a plaintiff.
It is why we call Mike O’Neal, “Magic Mike”!
VERDICT: COMPLETE DEFENSE VERDICT (-0-)
Review our recent cases managed by our team of appellate lawyers in Jacksonville, FL. We have the team in place to appeal any verdicts that are reached.
Heartland Express v. Torres, 90 So.3d 365 (Fla. App., 2012)
Protective Ins. Co. v. FMX, Inc., et. al., 79 So.35 25 (Fla. App., 2012)
Nilo v. Fugate, 30 So.3d 623 (Fla. App., 2010)
Liberty Trucking, Inc. v. Joyner, 8 So.3d 380 (Fla. App., 2009)
Glover v. Seminole Casualty Insurance Company, Case No. 1D08-3027 (Fla. App., 2/3/2009)
Alford v. Cool Cargo Carriers, Inc., 936 So.2d 646 (Fla. App., 2006)
Galvez v. Merelo, 849 So.2d 1158 (Fla. App., 2003)