Florida Appellate Law: Each week Florida’s Appellate Courts release their new opinions. We read them so you don’t have to (unless you want a nice nap). Here’s a summary of what happened this week:
Florida Supreme Court Opinions:
Henry v. State of Florida: Appeal from death row denied.
Florida Supreme Court denied an appeal from Henry, a death row inmate, which argued that Henry was too intellectually disabled to qualify for the death penalty. The Court held that Henry was not entitled to an evidentiary hearing to determine if he is intellectually disabled, and that the prior record showed no evidence of mental disability.
Abdool v. Pam Bondi: Timely Justice Act upheld.
Abdool, along with a group of death row inmates, challenged Florida’s “Timely Justice Act” which was enacted to reduce delays between the death sentence and all appeals and post-conviction actions. The Court held that the challenged provisions of the Act do not facially violate the Florida Constitution.
Masone v. City of Aventura: Red light cameras illegal (before 2010 when they were made legal).
The Court held that city ordinances allowing red light cameras conflict with state law and are expressly and impliedly preempted by state law. Basically, red light cameras that were authorized under local ordinances prior to the state-wide law allowing their use in 2010 were illegal. In 2010 the Florida Legislature enacted a law allowing counties and municipalities to use red light cameras. Based on this opinion, any red light camera tickets issued prior to that law are invalid. This could mean that the cities and counties will have to return any fines collected prior to 2010. If you want to read more, this Tampa Bay Times article provides a good summary.
Dausch v. State of Florida: Murder conviction thrown out for not enough evidence.
The Court threw out the conviction of Carl Dasch in the Adrian Mobley murder case. Dasch was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death in 2011. The Court found that there was insufficient evidence of the perpetrator’s identity, and on that basis vacated the conviction and death sentence. Although DNA was recovered from the victim’s body and from a cigarette butt from the victim’s car which were a potential match to Dausch, other DNA evidence from the car and victim’s body excluded Dausch as a contributor. Although the evidence placed Dausch inside the victim’s car, there was no evidence showing Dausch committed the murder.
First DCA Opinions:
TJL v. State of Florida: Pull up your pants, young man.
TJL, a child in juvenile court, was charged with contempt after trying to pull up his pants and then “throwing a tantrum”. The appellate court reversed the finding of contempt after viewing the video of the episode and finding that TJL’s behavior was not combative or defiant.
Jackson v. State of Florida: Prior bad acts inadmissible.
The appellate court found that the trial court erred in allowing the state to introduce into evidence two prior incidents involving the victim and the defendant at trial. The court found that the two prior incidents had no bearing on any issues in dispute, and, even if they did, any probative value they had was substantially outweighed by their prejudicial effect.
Second DCA Opinions:
Zelaznik v. Isensee: Don’t show me that while I’m eating.
The defendant appealed following a verdict in excess of $1,000,000 in a rear-end collision personal injury case. The appellate court upheld the verdict, most notably holding that the trial court did not commit error in allowing the plaintiff to show fifteen-minute videos of the plaintiff’s surgery following the accident.
Third DCA Opinions:
Goicochea v. Lopez: The doctors will see you now.
The appellate court quashed the trial court’s order limiting the defendants to only one independent medical examination per medical specialty. The plaintiff had sued multiple defendants for multiple accidents leading to injuries. The court held that, because the defendants were all technically adverse to each other (each was trying to establish that the plaintiff’s injuries were not the result of their specific negligence), the trial court should not have limited them all to one independent medical examination per specialty.
Fourth DCA Opinions:
MacClatchey v. HCA Health Services: Colonel Mustard, in the hospital room, with the painting.
Appellate court reversed summary judgment in favor of hospital in negligence action where the plaintiff alleged that a piece of framed artwork fell from the wall and hit her on the head. The hospital claimed it had no actual or constructive notice of any dangerous condition, and that the res ipsa loquitur (“it speaks for itself”) doctrine did not apply to the plaintiff’s claims. To succeed under the theory of res ipsa, the plaintiff must show that the item causing injury was under the exclusive control of the defendant, and that the accident is not one that would have normally occurred but for the negligence of the defendant. The appellate court held that the hospital failed to prove that no material facts existed as to both elements of the res ipsadoctrine, and reversed the summary judgment.
Matte v. Caplan: Check your emails.
The appellate court held that the defendant was not entitled to fees under Section 57.105, Florida Statutes, where the defendant did not strictly comply with the rules for service of a 57.105 motion. Basically, the 57.105 motion was served by email, but the email to which the motion was attached did strictly comply with the requirements of Rule 2.516, which sets for the rules for electronic service.
Fifth DCA Opinions:
Moody v. State of Florida: Blanket ban on read-backs not allowed.
The appellate court held that the trial court committed per se reversible error by not permitting any read-backs of testimony to the jury during their deliberations. Although the trial court judge does have some discretion in deciding to allow read-backs of testimony, a blanket ban on it is error.
11th Circuit Opinions:
U.S. v. Quartavious Davis: Want my cell phone location info? Get a warrant.
The 11th Circuit held that cell site location information (data on your location from your cell phone) is within the subscriber’s reasonable expectation of privacy, and to obtain that information the police must first get a warrant.