"Can we take the top dog's depo?"

FLORIDA LAW WEEKLY

VOLUME 44, NUMBER 48

CASES FROM THE WEEK OF NOVEMBER 29, 2019

COURT CERTIFIES QUESTION REGARDING GOVERNMENTAL “APEX DOCTRINE,” ASKS WHETHER IT ALSO APPLIES TO HIGH RANKING CORPORATE OFFICIALS.

Suzuki Motor Corp. v. Winckler, 44 Fla. L Weekly D2826 (Fla. 1st DCA November 22, 2019):

As reported several months ago, the First District has ruled that under the circumstances of that case, the plaintiff could depose the top official of a corporation (Suzuki) under the Apex Doctrine, because that corporate officer was uniquely able to provide relevant information that could not be obtained from other sources.

While the court denied the defendant’s motion for Rehearing on banc, and for Certification of conflict, the panel did grant a motion to certify the question as one of great public importance. It asked the Florida Supreme Court whether a trial court departed from the essential requirements of law by not requiring a top officer of a corporation is uniquely able to provide relevant information that cannot be obtained from other sources to sit for deposition, and whether the “apex doctrine” which applies to governmental entities also applies to corporations.

TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DETERMINING THAT DRIVER WAS AN INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR AS A MATTER OF LAW.

Blue v. Weinert, 44 Fla. L Weekly D2827 (Fla. 1st DCA November 22, 2019):

In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the trial court had looked at an agreement between a driver and the corporation he was doing work for, and also looked at the fact that the driver was considered an independent contractor.

Because there was factual uncertainty in the records as to whether the corporation had the “right” to control the painting outcomes in that case, the court found it was error for the trial judge to take the matter away from the jury’s consideration.

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DISQUALIFICATION OF A JUDGE IS REQUIRED WHERE THE JUDGE, IN DENYING THE MOTION TO DISQUALIFY, FAILS TO LIMIT THE DISQUALIFICATION INQUIRY TO A MERE DETERMINATION OF WHETHER THE MOTION IS SUFFICIENT.

Novo v. State, 44 Fla. L Weekly D2831 (Fla.5th DCA August 28, 2019):

It is well settled that when a judge is presented with a motion seeking his or her disqualification, that the judge shall not pass on the truth of the facts alleged, nor adjudicate the question of disqualification.

When a trial judge has looked beyond the mere legal sufficiency of the suggestion of prejudice and attempted to refute the charges of partiality, the judge has exceeded the proper scope of the inquiry, and on that basis alone, the trial judge must be disqualified.