The Week In Torts – Cases from September 2, 2022
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FLORIDA LAW WEEKLY
VOLUME 47, NUMBER 35
CASES FROM THE WEEK SEPTEMBER 2, 2022
AMENDMENT TO RULE ALLOWING NON-FINAL APPEALS IN PUNITIVE DAMAGES CASES APPLIED TO AN APPEAL FILED THREE DAYS AFTER THE AMENDMENT TOOK EFFECT
Vital Pharmaceuticals v. Kesten, 47 Fla. Law Weekly D1783 (Fla. 3rd DCA Aug. 24, 2022):
The trial court entered an order granting the plaintiff’s motion to amend his complaint to add a claim for punitive damages on March 10, 2022. On April 1, 2022, the amendment to Rule 9.130 became effective, allowing interlocutory appeals of non-final orders based on substantive rulings regarding claims for punitive damages (changing the rule which previously just allowed review for procedural compliance).
The plaintiff sought to dismiss the defendant’s appeal of that order filed after the amendment took effect. Plaintiff argued that the trial court entered the order before the amendment became effective. The court acknowledged that the case presented a unique situation that had not ever been addressed by any Florida court.
While the court acknowledged there was no Florida case governing the precise situation where a rule was deemed to “take effect” after its enactment, it looked to the United States Supreme Court that regularly applies newly adopted rules and statutes conferring or eliminating jurisdiction, to determine whether or not jurisdiction lay when the underlying conduct occurred, or when the suit was filed. The Supreme Court has held that jurisdictional statutes speak to the power of the court, rather than the obligations of the parties.
The plaintiff argued that the amendment should be treated in the same manner as the recently adopted amendment to Rule 1.510 on summary judgment, where the Florida Supreme Court explicitly stated that the rule would govern the adjudication of any summary judgment motions decided on or after the date including pending cases. As such, the new Rule 1.510, did not apply to cases where the motion and hearing were held prior to the effective date of the amendment.
The court distinguished the summary judgment rule, finding that the amendment had substantially altered the standard and therefore impacted when a trial court could grant or deny summary judgment.
With the punitive damages amendment, it explained that the new jurisdictional rule did not alter or take away any substantive right – it merely altered when an appellate court has jurisdiction to consider an appeal of a non-final order granting or denying leave to amend a complaint to assert a claim for punitive damages.
Because the amendment to Rule 9.130 did not change the findings that a trial court is required to make when entering an order evaluating a punitive damages proffer, the court found that appellate courts should look to the date the appeal was filed in considering whether they have jurisdiction. Because the defendant filed the appeal in this case after the effective date of the amendment, the court had jurisdiction to consider it.