Rodriguez v. Nicolitz, M.D. – (1st DCA)
In this medical malpractice case, the Rodriguez Court held that the Trial Court properly dismissed an action against an ophthalmologist upon finding that the Affidavit of the Plaintiff’s expert, an infectious disease specialist, was inadequate to satisfy pre-suit notice requirements. The Rodriguez Court specifically found that the expert did not practice in the same specialty as the Defendant.
Rodriguez v. City of South Miami – (3rd DCA)
In this case, utilizing its Certiorari jurisdiction, the Rodriguez Court, reversed a Trial Court Order compelling the Plaintiff to sign a document authorizing the release of his mental health records to the Defendant. The Rodriguez Court held that the records were protected by the psychotherapist-patient privilege and the City failed to show that the Plaintiff placed his mental health status at issue. In its opinion, the Rodriguez Court looked to Florida Statute § 90.503(2) which establishes the privilege. The City’s argument with respect to entitlement was that the Plaintiff had filed a Motion to Dissolve a Temporary Restraining Order and in paperwork the Plaintiff noted that he was stable and taking his medication. The Rodriguez Court found that this statement alone did not permit the waiver of the privilege.
Domino’s Pizza v. Wiederhold – (5th DCA)
In this wrongful death case, the Court held that a statutory survivor and specifically, a surviving spouse, in order to be qualified to bring the suit and to receive benefits pursuant to Florida law, needed to be married to the decedent at the time of his death and not at the time of the injury.
Lamb v. State – (4th DCA)
In this case, the Lamb Court addressed whether a Facebook live video was admissible in the criminal context as evidence of guilt. The Court went through a detailed analysis with respect to how the video was obtained by the police, as well as presented at trial. Specifically, the State introduced the testimony of a police digital forensic examiner to authenticate the video. As part of this process, the witness authenticated the video by its distinctive characteristics.
The Lamb Court held that the Trial Court properly authenticated and allowed the video to be presented to the jury. The Lamb Court recognized that authentication is a very low threshold which was met by the witness visiting the Facebook page and downloading the live video.
Saterbo v. Markuson (Fla. 2d DCA): In this automobile accident case, the Court addressed the enforceability of a joint proposal for settlement. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the driver of the car for direct negligence and the owner of the vehicle, which is a vicarious liability claim. The proposal for settlement did not apportion the amount due to each defendant. The Trial Court denied the plaintiff’s request for attorneys’ fees pursuant to the proposal for settlement, finding that the failure to apportion violated Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.442. The Trial Court also found that the proposal was ambiguous because it failed to account for the fact that there was a statutory liability cap of damages applicable to the vehicle owner, thus making it impossible to decide whether or not to accept it.
The Second District Court of Appeal reversed, citing to Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.442(c)(4) which provides that, ““when a party is alleged to be solely vicariously … liable, whether by operation of law or by contract, a joint proposal made by or served on such a party need not state the apportionment or contribution as to that party.” The defendants argued that because the owner could be held liable for amounts above the statutory cap, the owner’s liability was not solely vicarious and therefore, Rule 1.442(c)(4) did not apply. The Second District disagreed, stating, “The focus of the exception contained in rule 1.442(c)(4) is not whether a party is liable for the full amount of damages, but rather, it is whether the claims against the party are direct claims or solely claims of vicarious or other forms of indirect liability.” The Second District also disagreed that the proposal was ambiguous because of the cap, relying on the finding of the Florida Supreme Court in State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Nichols, 932 So.2d 1067, 1079 (Fla.2006), where it recognized that with proposals for settlement, “it may not be possible to eliminate all ambiguity and, therefore, that the rule ‘merely requires that the settlement proposal be sufficiently clear and definite to allow the offeree to make an informed decision without needing clarification.’”
Millard Mall Services Inc. vs. Bolda (4th DCA)
In this case, the Court addressed the issue of whether incident reports and other documents prepared following a slip and fall incident were subject to discovery. The plaintiff argued that she could overcome the work product privilege asserted by the defendant. Specifically, the plaintiff sought all records and incident reports regarding her incident as well as any other substantially similar acts or occurrences on the defendant’s property within the past three years, any and all documents concerning maintenance or cleaning of the subject premises at the time of the incident and documentation regarding maintenance of the premises by outside companies. In objecting on the basis of work product, the defendant submitted affidavits stating that the documents (which included quarterly safety committee reports) were not discoverable because they included photographs, notes of discussions surrounding the incidents and mental impressions. The trial court ordered the production of documents. The Fourth District Court of Appeal quashed that Order.
Conducting an analysis with respect to when work product materials may be produced, the Court noted that Florida Rules of Civil Procedure 1.280(b)(4) provides that any party may obtain work product materials prepared in anticipation of litigation only upon a showing that the party seeking the discovery has the need of the materials in the preparation of the case and is unable without undue hardship to obtain the substantial equivalent of the material by other means. The Court noted that pursuant to the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, the party seeking the discovery must show that documentation sought contains relevant information. Only when the showing can be made will the Court order the documents to be turned over. The rationale behind the work product doctrine was noted to be that one party should not be entitled to prepare his case with the investigative work product of his adversary where the same or similar information is available through ordinary discovery procedures. Additionally, the Court noted that work product protections extend to information gathered in anticipation of litigation by corporate non-attorney employees. Importantly, the Court noted that even where a report is routinely prepared it may still qualify as work product. Ultimately, the Court found that because the plaintiff had been permitted to use the ordinary tools of discovery to obtain the information she needed, she was not entitled to the defendant’s documents.