The Week in Torts – Cases from the Week of February 21, 2020
Is The Federal Summary Judgment Standard in Florida’s Future?
FLORIDA LAW WEEKLY
VOLUME 45, NUMBER 7
CASES FROM THE WEEK FEBRUARY 21, 2020
SUMMARY JUDGMENT REVERSED WHEN DEFENDANT FAILED TO DEMONSTRATE “CONCLUSIVELY” THAT THERE WAS NO CAUSE OR RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE HOSPITAL’S ALLEGED NEGLIGENCE AND ON THE PLAINTIFF’S INJURY.
Wendel v. Trustees of Mease Hospital, Inc. 45 Fla. L Weekly D322 (Fla. 2 nd DCA February 12, 2020):
The plaintiff worked as a volunteer at a hospital, and sued alleging that he had contracted MRSA there. The hospital moved for summary judgment arguing there was no causal connection between the alleged conduct and the plaintiff’s MRSA infection. The hospital argued it was entitled to summary judgment because the plaintiff had presented absolutely “no evidence that his MRSA infection was causally connected to his volunteer work.
Defendant cited Greene v. Flewe//ing, for the proposition that plaintiffs in negligence cases have the burden of proof, and must introduce evidence to support a reasonable basis for the conclusion that it is more likely than not that, the conduct of the defendant was a substantial factor in bringing about the result.
However, Greene involved a motion for JNOV, and the standard for granting such a motion was different, i.e., whether there was an evidence or reasonable inferences to support the nonmoving party’s position.
On a motion for summary judgment, the party moved against has no burden to come forward with evidence unless the moving party conclusively proves that nonexistence of a genuine triable issue of fact. Even the slightest doubt that an issue might exist renders summary judgment improper.
The court observed, though, that while at trial the plaintiff would have the burden to prove a causal relationship between the hospital’s alleged negligent acts and his injury, on a motion for summary judgment, the burden is on the defendant as the moving party to conclusively show that “no causal relationship exists and no trial is required.
In this case, the trial court granted summary judgment based on the federal standard That standard does not require the moving party to conclusively negate an opposing party’s claim before shifting the burden back to the nonmoving party. The Second District reversed the trial judge for applying the wrong standard.
However, because the Florida Supreme Court has recently accepted jurisdiction to answer a question regarding whether Florida should adopt the federal summary judgment standard, (for no clear reason as to why it should upset years of Florida precedent), the court certified the same question as one of great public importance in this case.
ONCE A PARTY TAKES A VOLUNTARY DISMISSAL, IT CAN NO LONGER APPEAL EARLIER RULINGS.
Metalonis v. Eastgroup Properties, Inc., 45 Fla. L Weekly D315 (Fla. 3 rd DCA February 12, 2020):
The parties agreed that the defendant would pay plaintiff $2.45 million dollars in exchange for the voluntary dismissal of plaintiff’s action with prejudice. The parties further agreed they would exchange releases after the money was paid.
After defendant paid, the plaintiff wanted to negotiate the terms of the settlement further. The defendant filed an emergency motion to compel compliance with the agreement, (i.e dismissal) and set the motion for hearing three days later.
Plaintiff’s counsel conceded at the hearing that the parties had reached a settlement agreement, but claimed there were still details to be negotiated. Plaintiff’s counsel asked the court to reserve jurisdiction on any remaining enforcement issues, but never requested an evidentiary hearing. The court approved the settlement, and granted the motion to compel, retaining jurisdiction to enforce terms to the settlement agreement.
The court then ordered the parties to execute releases, and ordered the plaintiff to file a notice of voluntary dismissal with prejudice in compliance with the terms. The order specified that if plaintiff failed to file that dismissal, the court would dismiss the case with prejudice.
The parties negotiated the terms of the releases, and plaintiff dismissed the case. The plaintiff then appealed the order granting an emergency motion to compel. The defendant moved to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction based on the dismissal. In response, the plaintiff asserted that the dismissal was “involuntary.
Once an appellant takes a voluntary dismissal, he cannot challenge the trial court’s earlier rulings, because the court is divested of jurisdiction upon dismissal.
ORDER DETERMINING ENTITLEMENT TO ATTORNEY’S FEES WITHOUT SETTING AN AMOUNT IS A NON-FINAL, NON-APPEALABLE ORDER.
Ford v. Paradise Lakes, 45 Fla. L Weekly D323 (Fla. 2 nd DCA February 12, 2020).