Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (2024)

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (1)

Reports of Decisions of:

THE CIRCUIT COURTS OF FLORIDATHE COUNTY COURTS OF FLORIDA

andMiscellaneous Proceedings of Other Public Agencies

Readers are invited to submit for publication any decisions of these courts and any reportsfrom other public bodies which are not generally reported and which would, because of the

issues involved, be of interest to the legal community.

FLW SUPPLEMENT (ISSN10684050) is published monthly by Judicial and Administrative Research Associates,Incorporated, 1327 North Adams Street, Tallahassee, FL 32303. All rights reserved. Subscription price is $275 per yearplus tax. Internet subscription available at www.FloridaLawWeekly.com. Periodical postage paid at Tallahassee, FL.POSTMASTER: Send address changes to FLW Supplement, P.O. Box 4284, Tallahassee, FL 32315. Telephone (800)351-0917; Fax (850) 222-7938. E-mail: [emailprotected]

© 2020 JUDICIAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE RESEARCH ASSOCIATES, INC.

Volume 27, Number 11, March 31, 2020

Pages 917-984

SUMMARIESSummaries of selected opinions or orders published in this issue.

! CIVIL PROCEDURE—DEFAULT—CONTRACTS—LIQUIDATED/UNLIQUIDATED DAMAGES. A defaultjudgment entered in a case in which a complaint alleges the precise amount of damages due under the parties’agreement does not automatically “liquidate” damages such that no further inquiry is necessary, even though adefaulting defendant admits to the well-pled allegations of a complaint. A default in this context does not automatically“liquidate” damages such that no further inquiry is necessary. BAREKS v. EASTERN METAL COMPANY, LLC. CircuitCourt, Eleventh Judicial Circuit in and for Miami-Dade County. December 27, 2019. Full Text at Circuit Courts-OriginalSection, page 956a.

! TORTS—DEFAMATION—CYBERSTALKING. A commercial pet retail business brought an action against an opponent alleging defamation and cyberstalking. The court determined that the defendant was entitled to summaryjudgment on the defamation count, concluding that the plaintiff was a general purpose public figure, the undisputedevidence showed that the defendant believed her statements about the plaintiff’s stores, and the plaintiff could notdemonstrate that any of the defendant’s statements were substantially false. To the extent that the plaintiff’sdefamation count concerned statements made by the defendant to a county commission, those statements wereprotected by the privilege to petition the government provided by the First and Fourteenth Amendments and Floridacommon law. With respect to the claim of cyberstalking, neither posting messages regarding the plaintiff on socialmedia nor conducting internet searches for the plaintiff’s name constituted communications “directed at a specificperson,” within the meaning of section 784.048. Further, the cyberstalking counts were deficient because the plaintifffailed to show that the defendant’s communications caused him substantial emotional distress or lacked a legitimatepurpose. MARQUEZ v. LAZAROW. Circuit Court, Eleventh Judicial Circuit in and for Miami-Dade County. January 10,2020. Full Text at Circuit Courts-Original Section, page 954b.

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (2)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

March 31, 2020 INDEX—FLW SUPPLEMENT iii

Bold denotes decision by circuit court in its appellate capacity.

ADMINISTRATIVE LAWDepartment of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles—Licensing—

Driver's license—see, LICENSING—Driver's license Hearing officers—Departure from neutrality—Driver's license suspen-

sion—Employing agency's active work with law enforcement toprevent license suspensions from being invalidated 13CIR 943a

Hearings—Driver's license suspension—Hearing officers—Departurefrom neutrality—Employing agency's active work with law enforce-ment to prevent license suspensions from being invalidated 13CIR943a

Hearings—Driver's license suspension—Witnesses—Failure of subpoe-naed witness to appear—Arresting officer—Multiple failures toappear—Just cause 18CIR 951a

Hearings—Driver's license suspension—Witnesses—Failure of subpoe-naed witness to appear—Stopping officer—Multiple failures to appear13CIR 939a

Licensing—Driver's license—see, LICENSING—Driver's license

APPEALSCertiorari—Licensing—Driver's license revocation—Permanent—

Challenge to constitutionality of statutes 6CIR 917aCriminal—see, CRIMINAL LAW—Appeals Estoppel—Judicial—Inconsistent litigation positions—Party arguing on

appeal that non-binding arbitration was necessary prior to suit whilefiling its own separate suit 17CIR 946a

Licensing—Driver's license revocation—Permanent—Challenge toconstitutionality of statutes—Certiorari 6CIR 917a

Premature—Final, appealable order not rendered—Bankruptcy proceed-ing pending 13CIR 944b

Zoning—Conditional use—Approval—Jurisdiction—Challenge toplanning board's jurisdiction—Issue first raised—Issue requiringfactual determinations 11CIR 929a

Zoning—Conditional use—Approval—Standing to appeal—Businessowner with property located across the street—Nonfundamentalprocedural errors 11CIR 927

Zoning—Conditional use—Approval—Standing to appeal—Businessowner with property located across the street—Owner affordedstanding before city design review board—Relevance to right to seekjudicial review 11CIR 927c

Zoning—Conditional use—Approval—Standing to appeal—Businessowner with property located across the street—Special injury 11CIR927c

Zoning—Setback—Waiver—Authority to approve—Mootness—Developer's abandonment of waiver before zoning appeals board11CIR 930a

ARBITRATIONTrial de novo—Timeliness of motion—Five-day mailing period—

Applicability—Arbitrator's decision served by email CO 980b

ATTORNEYSFees—Charging lien—Medical provider/assignee prevailing in action

against insurer—Applicability of statute—Presuit fees that did notproduce positive result for client 11CIR 925b

ATTORNEY'S FEESCharging lien—Medical provider/assignee prevailing in action against

insurer—Applicability of statute—Presuit fees that did not producepositive result for client 11CIR 925b

Discharged attorney—Medical provider/assignee prevailing in actionagainst insurer—Applicability of statute—Presuit fees that did notproduce positive result for client 11CIR 925b

Prevailing party—Medical provider/assignee's action against insurer—Applicability of statute—Presuit fees that did not produce positiveresult for client 11CIR 925b

CIVIL PROCEDUREAffirmative defenses—Striking—Opportunity to amend 17CIR 946dAmendments—Complaint—Denial—Prejudice to opposing party—

Untimely injection of new issues CO 976aAnswer—Striking—Opportunity to amend 17CIR 946dComplaint—Amendment—Denial—Prejudice to opposing party—

Untimely injection of new issues CO 976aDefault—Damages—Liquidated—Evidence—Affidavit of indebtedness

11CIR 956aDefault—Damages—Liquidated/unliquidated—Discussion in context of

breach of contract complaint alleging precise amount due underparties' contract 11CIR 956a

Default—Vacation—Service of process—Defects—Corporation—Service on person other than registered agent—Initial attempt to serveregistered agent or absence of agent—Failure to allege in return ofservice 11CIR 921a

Default—Vacation—Void judgment—Unliquidated damages award—Discussion of liquidated/unliquidated damages 11CIR 956a

Service of process—Defects—Corporation—Service on person other thanregistered agent—Initial attempt to serve registered agent or absenceof agent—Failure to allege in return of service 11CIR 921a

Summary judgment—Affidavit in opposition to motion—Adequacy11CIR 934a

Summary judgment—Affidavit in support of motion—Attachments—Unsworn, uncertified copies 11CIR 921b

Summary judgment—Opposing affidavit—Adequacy 11CIR 934aSummary judgment—Supporting affidavit—Attachments—Unsworn,

uncertified copies 11CIR 921b

CONDOMINIUMSAssociations—Unit owner's action against association—Presuit

requirements—Non-binding arbitration—Judicial estoppel—Association arguing on appeal that non-binding arbitration wasnecessary prior to suit while filing its own separate suit 17CIR 946a

CONTEMPTDissolution of marriage—Failure to turn over child's passport 15CIR 968aDissolution of marriage—Noncompliance with final judgment and

mediated settlement agreement 15CIR 968aDissolution of marriage—Noncompliance with final judgment and

mediated settlement agreement—Attorney's fees—Waiver—Accordand satisfaction language on back of spouse's check 15CIR 968a

CONTRACTSDamages—Default—Liquidated/unliquidated—Discussion in context of

breach of contract complaint alleging precise amount due underparties' contract 11CIR 956a

Damages—Liquidated/unliquidated—Discussion in context of breach ofcontract complaint alleging precise amount due under parties' contract11CIR 956a

Default judgment—Damages—Liquidated/unliquidated—Discussion incontext of breach of contract complaint alleging precise amount dueunder parties' contract 11CIR 956a

CORPORATIONSService of process—Defects—Service on person other than registered

agent—Initial attempt to serve registered agent or absence of agent—Failure to allege in return of service 11CIR 921a

COUNTIESCode enforcement—Animals—Failure to register and vaccinate dog

Dismissal of citation based on personal hardship—Exemption notprovided by county code 11CIR 924c

Zoning—Variance—Use—Hardship—Developer's threat to build largerproject if variance not granted 11CIR 932a

Zoning—Variance—Use—Hardship—Historic difficulty in developingderelict property subject to patchwork of zoning designations 11CIR932a

Zoning—Variance—Use—Parking garage on residential-zonedproperty—Hardship not established 11CIR 932a

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (3)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

iv INDEX—FLW SUPPLEMENT March 31, 2020

CRIMINAL LAWAppeals—Anders appeal 9CIR 919c; 11CIR 925aDiscovery—Breathtesting instrument—Intoxilyzer documentation—

Source codes—Code in possession of foreign corporation—Foreigncourt declining to issue subpoena under Uniform Act to SecureAttendance of Witnesses after concluding source code was notmaterial 18CIR 951b

Discovery—Breathtesting instrument—Intoxilyzer documentation—Source codes—State neither in possession of nor able to acquire sourcecode 18CIR 951b

Driving under influence—Discovery—Breathtesting instrument—Intoxilyzer documentation—Source codes—Code in possession offoreign corporation—Foreign court declining to issue subpoena underUniform Act to Secure Attendance of Witnesses after concludingsource code was not material 18CIR 951b

Driving under influence—Discovery—Breathtesting instrument—Intoxilyzer documentation—Source codes—State neither in posses-sion of nor able to acquire source code 18CIR 951b

Evidence—Statements of defendant—Post-Miranda statements—Taintfrom pre-Miranda interrogation 9CIR 953a

Evidence—Statements of defendant—Pre-Miranda state-ments—Custody—Defendant cited for littering detained in presenceof armed officer with no indication that he could leave or terminateinterrogation 9CIR 953a

Immunity—Stand Your Ground law—Denial of immunity—Clear andconvincing evidence that defendant did not act in self-defense 9CIR919b

Judges—Disqualification—Denial of motion—Mandamus 9CIR 919aJudges—Disqualification—Denial of motion—Prohibition 9CIR 919aJurisdiction—Restitution—Amount—Expiration of probationary term—

Delay in setting restitution caused by loss of jurisdiction duringpendency of defendant's appeal of conviction and sentence 15CIR944c

Jurors—Challenge—Cause—Belief that police officers were morecredible than civilians in DUI cases 11CIR 922b

Jurors—Challenge—Peremptory—Racial discrimination—Hispanicjurors 9CIR 920a

Jurors—Challenge—Peremptory—Racial discrimination—Race-neutralexplanation—Genuineness 9CIR 920a

Jurors—Challenge—Peremptory—Racial discrimination—Race-neutralexplanation—Necessity—Hispanic jurors 9CIR 920a

Mandamus—Judges—Disqualification—Denial of motion 9CIR 919aOperating unregistered vehicle—Evidence—Hearsay 11CIR 924bProhibition—Judges—Disqualification—Denial of motion 9CIR 919aRestitution—Amount—Jurisdiction—Expiration of probationary term—

Delay in setting restitution caused by loss of jurisdiction duringpendency of defendant's appeal of conviction and sentence 15CIR944c

Search and seizure—Consent—Voluntariness—Continued detentionfollowing issuance of littering citation—Detention in presence ofarmed officer without indication that consent to search of person couldbe refused 9CIR 953a

Self-defense—Stand Your Ground law—Immunity—Denial—Clear andconvincing evidence that defendant did not act in self-defense 9CIR919b

Sentencing—Restitution—Amount—Jurisdiction—Expiration ofprobationary term—Delay in setting restitution caused by loss ofjurisdiction during pendency of defendant's appeal of conviction andsentence 15CIR 944c

Stand Your Ground law—Immunity—Denial—Clear and convincingevidence that defendant did not act in self-defense 9CIR 919b

Statements of defendant—Evidence—Post-Miranda statements—Taintfrom pre-Miranda interrogation 9CIR 953a

Statements of defendant—Evidence—Pre-Miranda state-ments—Custody—Defendant cited for littering detained in presenceof armed officer with no indication that he could leave or terminateinterrogation 9CIR 953a

DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGEAttorney's fees—Contempt proceedings—Enforcement of marital

settlement agreement 15CIR 968aContempt—Failure to turn over child's passport 15CIR 968aContempt—Noncompliance with final judgment and mediated settlement

agreement 15CIR 968aContempt—Noncompliance with final judgment and mediated settlement

agreement—Attorney's fees—Waiver—Accord and satisfactionlanguage on back of spouse's check 15CIR 968a

Judgment—Noncompliance—Contempt 15CIR 968aJudgment—Noncompliance—Contempt—Attorney's fees—Waiver—

Accord and satisfaction language on back of spouse's check 15CIR968a

Settlement agreement—Noncompliance—Contempt 15CIR 968aSettlement agreement—Noncompliance—Contempt—Attorney's fees—

Waiver—Accord and satisfaction language on back of spouse's check15CIR 968a

EMPLOYER-EMPLOYEE RELATIONSUnpaid wages—Fitness coach—Franchise owner's liability—Limited

liability company CO 981aUnpaid wages—Fitness coach—Franchise owner's liability—Limited

liability company—Individual LLC members CO 981a

ESTATESWills—Codicil—Challenge—Lack of testamentary capacity 11CIR 960aWills—Codicil—Challenge—Undue influence—Presumption 11CIR

960a

EVIDENCEAccident report privilege—Administrative driver's license suspension

proceedings 18CIR 948d

GUARDIANSHIPAccounting reports—Confidentiality—Petition by Workers' Compensa-

tion Insurance Guaranty Association alleging improper use of ward'sfunds by guardian 11CIR 962a

Incapacitated persons—Accounting reports—Confidentiality—Petitionby Workers' Compensation Insurance Guaranty Association allegingimproper use of ward's funds by guardian 11CIR 962a

INSURANCEApplication—Misrepresentations—Personal injury protection—

Drivers—Household member who did not drive insured vehicle CO979a

Application—Misrepresentations—Personal injury protection—Prej-udice—Sufficiency of evidence CO 979a

Attorney's fees—Personal injury protection—Provider/assignee prevail-ing in action against insurer—Applicability of statute—Dischargedcounsel—Presuit fees that did not produce positive result for client11CIR 925b

Attorney's fees—Provider/assignee prevailing in action against insurer—Applicability of statute—Discharged counsel—Presuit fees that didnot produce positive result for client 11CIR 925b

Complaint—Amendment—Denial—Prejudice to opposing party—Untimely injection of new issues CO 976a

Deductible—Personal injury protection—Sequence 17CIR 946bHomeowners—Insured's action against insurer—Indispensable party—

Additional insured 9CIR 954aMisrepresentations—Application—Personal injury protec-

tion—Drivers—Household member who did not drive insured vehicleCO 979a

Misrepresentations—Application—Personal injury protection—Prej-udice—Sufficiency of evidence CO 979a

Personal injury protection— Application — Misrepresentations—Drivers—Household member who did not drive insured vehicle CO979a

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (4)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

March 31, 2020 INDEX—FLW SUPPLEMENT v

INSURANCE (continued)Personal injury protection— Application— Misrepresentations—

Prejudice—Sufficiency of evidence CO 979aPersonal injury protection—Attorney's fees—see, INSURANCE—

Attorney's fees Personal injury protection—Complaint—Amendment—Denial—

Prejudice to opposing party—Untimely injection of new issues CO976a

Personal injury protection—Conditions precedent—Examination underoath—see, Personal injury protection—Examination under oath

Personal injury protection—Conditions precedent to suit—Demandletter—see, Demand letter

Personal injury protection—Coverage—Medical expenses— Deduct-ible—Sequence 17CIR 946b

Personal injury protection—Coverage—Medical expenses—Exhaustionof policy limits—Gratuitous payments—Payment using 2007Medicare Limiting Charge CO 982a

Personal injury protection—Coverage—Medical expenses—Participatingphysicians fee schedule/non-facility limiting charge CO 971a

Personal injury protection—Coverage—Medical expenses— Reasonable-ness of charges—Summary judgment—Opposing affidavit—Adequacy—Reference to HMO and PPO rates 11CIR 934a

Personal injury protection—Coverage—Medical expenses— Reasonable-ness of charges—Summary judgment—Opposing affidavit—Adequacy—Reference to Medicare and workers' compensation feeschedules 11CIR 934a

Personal injury protection—Coverage—Medical expenses—Reduction—Multiple Procedure Payment Rule CO 972a

Personal injury protection—Coverage—Medical expenses—Statutory feeschedules—Clear and unambiguous election by insurer CO 971a; CO972a

Personal injury protection—Deductible—Sequence 17CIR 946bPersonal injury protection—Demand letter—Defects—Inconsistencies

between amount demanded in letter and amount due reflected inattached ledger CO 974a

Personal injury protection—Demand letter—Defects—Remedy—Dismissal/abatement CO 974a

Personal injury protection—Demand letter—Defects—Waiver—Reservation of right to raise additional defenses CO 974a

Personal injury protection—Examination under oath—Failure to attend—Untimely request CO 980a

JUDGESCriminal proceedings—Disqualification—Denial of motion—Mandamus

9CIR 919aCriminal proceedings—Disqualification—Denial of motion—Prohibition

9CIR 919a

JURISDICTIONService of process—Defects—Corporation—Service on person other than

registered agent—Initial attempt to serve registered agent or absenceof agent—Failure to allege in return of service 11CIR 921a

LABOR RELATIONSUnpaid wages—Fitness coach—Franchise owner's liability—Limited

liability company CO 981aUnpaid wages—Fitness coach—Franchise owner's liability—Limited

liability company—Individual LLC members CO 981a

LANDLORD-TENANTEviction—Affirmative defenses—Striking—Opportunity to amend

17CIR 946dEviction—Answer—Striking—Opportunity to amend 17CIR 946dEviction—Default—Failure to deposit rent into court registry 13CIR 944aEviction—Default—Notice to tenant—Tenant filing answer and affirma-

tive defenses 17CIR 946dEviction—Deposit of rent into court registry—Failure to comply—

Default 13CIR 944a

LANDLORD-TENANT (continued)Eviction—Motion to determine rent—Hearing—Necessity—Waiver of

defenses by failing to deposit disputed rent into court registry 13CIR944a

Writ of possession—Service by sheriff—Fees—Single premises withmultiple tenants—Limitation of fee to $90—Mandamus 13CIR 940a

LICENSINGDriver's license—Reinstatement—Early reinstatement—Denial—

Consumption of alcohol within five years 10CIR 920cDriver's license—Revocation—Permanent—Fourth DUI conviction—

Constitutionality of statute—Challenge via petition for writ ofcertiorari 6CIR 917a

Driver's license—Revocation—Permanent—Fourth DUI conviction—Evidence—Uncertified out-of-state driving record 6CIR 917a

Driver's license—Revocation—Permanent—Fourth DUI conviction—Twenty-year-old convictions 6CIR 917a

Driver's license—Suspension—Driving under influence—Hearing—Witnesses—Failure of subpoenaed witness to appear—Arrestingofficer—Multiple failures to appear—Just cause 18CIR 951a

Driver's license—Suspension—Driving under influence—Hearing—Witnesses—Failure of subpoenaed witness to appear—Stoppingofficer—Multiple failures to appear 13CIR 939a

Driver's license—Suspension—Evidence—Licensee's statements—Accident report privilege 18CIR 948d

Driver's license—Suspension—Hearing—Witnesses—Failure ofsubpoenaed witness to appear—Arresting officer—Multiple failuresto appear—Just cause 18CIR 951a

Driver's license—Suspension—Hearing—Witnesses—Failure ofsubpoenaed witness to appear—Stopping officer—Multiple failuresto appear 13CIR 939a

Driver's license—Suspension—Hearing officer—Departure fromneutrality—Employing agency's active work with law enforcement toprevent license suspensions from being invalidated 13CIR 943a

Driver's license—Suspension—Refusal to submit to blood, breath or urinetest—Actual physical control of vehicle—Evidence—Licensee'sstatements—Accident report privilege 18CIR 948d

Driver's license—Suspension—Refusal to submit to blood, breath or urinetest—Blood test—Impracticality or impossibility of breath or urinetest—Passage of time while licensee underwent medical treatment15CIR 945a

Driver's license—Suspension—Refusal to submit to blood, breath or urinetest—Evidence—Arrest affidavit—Oath—Verbal oath 18CIR 948d

Driver's license—Suspension—Refusal to submit to blood, breath or urinetest—Evidence—Conflict between documentary evidence indicatingrefusal and breath test technician's testimony that test was administered13CIR 943a

Driver's license—Suspension—Refusal to submit to blood, breath or urinetest—Evidence—Licensee's statements—Accident report privilege18CIR 948d

Driver's license—Suspension—Refusal to submit to blood, breath or urinetest—Evidence—Refusal affidavit—Oath—Verbal oath 18CIR 948d

Driver's license—Suspension—Refusal to submit to blood, breath or urinetest—Hearing officer—Departure from neutrality—Employingagency's active work with law enforcement to prevent licensesuspensions from being invalidated 13CIR 943a

Driver's license—Suspension—Refusal to submit to blood, breath or urinetest—Lawfulness of arrest—Probable cause—Visible signs ofimpairment, odor of alcohol, and poor performance on field sobrietyexercises 18CIR 948d

Driver's license—Suspension—Refusal to submit to blood, breath or urinetest—Lawfulness of detention—Reasonable suspicion that licenseewas driving under influence 18CIR 948d

LIENSCharging lien—Attorney's fees—Provider/assignee prevailing in action

against insurer—Applicability of statute—Presuit fees that did notproduce positive result for client 11CIR 925b

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (5)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

vi INDEX—FLW SUPPLEMENT March 31, 2020

LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANIESLabor relations—Unpaid wages—Liability of individual LLC members

CO 981aLabor relations—Unpaid wages—Liability of LLC CO 981a

MANDAMUSJudges—Disqualification 9CIR 919aSheriffs—Fees—Service of writs—Writ of possession—Single premises

with multiple tenants—Limitation of fee to $90 13CIR 940a

MORTGAGESAssignment—Scope 11CIR 922a

MUNICIPAL CORPORATIONSCode enforcement—Parking—Prohibition against parking of commercial

equipment in residential zones—Constitutionality—Discriminatoryenforcement—Sexual orientation—Sufficiency of evidence 13CIR941b

Code enforcement—Parking—Prohibition against parking of commercialequipment in residential zones—Trailer designed for transporting lawnequipment—Trailer limited to owner's personal use—Relevance13CIR 941b

Zoning—Conditional use—Application—Failure to identify allapplicants—Applicants identified in affidavits attached to application11CIR 927c

Zoning—Conditional use—Approval—Appeals—Challenge to planningboard's jurisdiction—Issue first raised—Issue requiring factualdeterminations 11CIR 929a

Zoning—Conditional use—Approval—Appeals—Judicial review—Standing—Business owner with property located across the street—Nonfundamental procedural errors 11CIR 927c

Zoning—Conditional use—Approval—Appeals—Judicial review—Standing—Business owner with property located across the street—Owner afforded standing before city design review board—Relevanceto right to seek judicial review 11CIR 927c

Zoning—Conditional use—Approval—Appeals—Judicial review—Standing—Business owner with property located across the street—Special injury 11CIR 927c

Zoning—Conditional use—Approval—Jurisdiction—Conditions toplanning board's jurisdiction—Written certificate of city attorneystating that subject matter was proper and did not constitute variance—Certificate issued by deputy city attorney who had purportedly beenrecused 11CIR 929a

Zoning—Conditional use—Hearing—Failure to appear—One of multipleproperty owners—Interests of nonappearing owner represented byowner who did appear 11CIR 927c

Zoning—Resolution—Accurate memorialization of commitments andagreements made by developer at hearing 11CIR 930a

Zoning—Setback—Waiver—Authority to approve— Appeals—Moot-ness—Developer's abandonment of waiver before zoning appealsboard 11CIR 930a

PROHIBITIONJudges—Disqualification 9CIR 919a

REAL PROPERTYTrusts—Resulting or constructive trust—Property acquired and main-

tained during plaintiff/former wife's and defendant/former husband'smarriage with joint funds and owned through complex corporatestructure driven by estate/tax planning considerations—Action byformer wife against former husband and corporate entities 11CIR 964a

TORTSConversion—Funds received from sale of real property 11CIR 964aConversion—Real property 11CIR 964aCyberstalking—Dismissal—Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participa-

tion 11CIR 954b

TORTS (continued)Cyberstalking—Social media—Communications not directed at specific

person 11CIR 954bCyberstalking—Social media—Sufficiency of allegations—Lack of

legitimate purpose 11CIR 954bCyberstalking—Social media—Sufficiency of allegations—Substantial

emotional distress 11CIR 954bDefamation—Defenses—Truth 11CIR 954bDefamation—Dismissal—Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation

11CIR 954bDefamation—Privilege—Statements made to county commission—Right

to petition government 11CIR 954bDefamation—Public figure—General purpose public figure—Owner of

commercial retail business 11CIR 954bDismissal—Anti-SLAPP statute 11CIR 954bDismissal—Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation 11CIR 954bFiduciary—Breach of duty—Action against former husband and corporate

entities directly or indirectly owning property acquired and maintainedduring plaintiff/former wife's and defendant/former husband'smarriage with joint funds—Appointment of custodian for preservationof properties and protection of parties' rights 11CIR 964a

Fiduciary—Breach of duty—Action against former husband and corporateentities directly or indirectly owning property acquired and maintainedduring plaintiff/former wife's and defendant/former husband'smarriage with joint funds—Imposition of trust on properties 11CIR964a

Fiduciary—Breach of duty—Action against former husband and corporateentities directly or indirectly owning property acquired and maintainedduring plaintiff/former wife's and defendant/former husband'smarriage with joint funds—Money judgment in amount of plaintiff'sshare of proceeds from sale of property 11CIR 964a

Fraud—Inducement—Intent—Sufficiency of allegations 11CIR 964a

TRAFFIC INFRACTIONSRed light violation—Defenses—Vehicle in care, custody or control of

another person at time of violation—Sufficiency of affidavit—Careand custody of "mechanic shop" 11CIR 938a

Red light violation—Hearings—Due process—Notice—Failure of ownerto receive notice—Mootness—Defense to violation legally insuffi-cient on its face 11CIR 938a

TRUSTSConstructive or resulting trust—Real property—Property acquired and

maintained during plaintiff/former wife's and defendant/formerhusband's marriage with joint funds and owned through complexcorporate structure driven by estate/tax planning considerations—Action by former wife against former husband and corporate entities11CIR 964a

Real property—Property acquired and maintained during plaintiff/formerwife's and defendant/former husband's marriage with joint funds andowned through complex corporate structure driven by estate/taxplanning considerations—Action by former wife against formerhusband and corporate entities—Constructive or resulting trust 11CIR964a

WILLSCodicil—Challenge—Lack of testamentary capacity 11CIR 960aCodicil—Challenge—Undue influence—Presumption 11CIR 960a

ZONINGConditional use—Application—Failure to identify all applicants—

Applicants identified in affidavits attached to application 11CIR 927cConditional use—Approval—Appeals—Judicial review—Standing—

Business owner with property located across the street—Nonfundamental procedural errors 11CIR 927c

Conditional use—Approval—Appeals—Judicial review—Standing—Business owner with property located across the street—Ownerafforded standing before city design review board—Relevance to rightto seek judicial review 11CIR 927c

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (6)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

March 31, 2020 INDEX—FLW SUPPLEMENT vii

ZONING (continued)Conditional use—Approval—Appeals—Judicial review—Standing—

Business owner with property located across the street—Special injury11CIR 927c

Conditional use—Approval—Jurisdiction—Challenge to planning board'sjurisdiction—Appeals—Issue first raised—Issue requiring factualdeterminations 11CIR 929a

Conditional use—Approval—Jurisdiction—Conditions to planningboard's jurisdiction—Written certificate of city attorney stating thatsubject matter was proper and did not constitute variance—Certificateissued by deputy city attorney who had purportedly been recused11CIR 929a

Conditional use—Hearing—Failure to appear—One of multiple propertyowners—Interests of nonappearing owner represented by owner whodid appear 11CIR 927c

Resolution—Accurate memorialization of commitments and agreementsmade by developer at hearing 11CIR 930a

Setback—Waiver—Authority to approve—Appeals—Mootness—Developer's abandonment of waiver before zoning appeals board11CIR 930a

Variance—Use—Hardship—Developer's threat to build larger project ifvariance not granted 11CIR 932a

Variance—Use—Hardship—Historic difficulty in developing derelictproperty subject to patchwork of zoning designations 11CIR 932a

Variance—Use—Parking garage on residential-zoned property—Hardship not established 11CIR 932a

* * *

TABLE OF CASES REPORTED

516, LLC v. C&I Garden, Inc. 17CIR 947dActive Wellness Center Inc. (Chavez) v. Allstate Insurance Company CO

976aAdvanced Chiropractic and Medical Center, Corporation (Dumesle) v.

Progressive American Insurance Company 17CIR 946bAleman v. City of Opa-Locka 11CIR 938aAlowolodu v. Mid-America Apartment Communities, Inc. 13CIR 944bAmerican Colonial Insurance Company v. Florida Pain and Wellness Centers,

Inc. (Williams) 9CIR 920bBareks Dis Ticaret, A.S. v. Eastern Metal Company, LLC 11CIR 956aBarr v. Beazer Preowned Homes II 13CIR 944aBeach v. State 17CIR 948bBeach Towing Services, Inc. v. Sunset Land Associates, LLC 11CIR 927cBeach Towing Services, Inc. v. Sunset Land Associates, LLC 11CIR 929aBeiningen v. State, Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles 6CIR

917aBest v. State 11CIR 925aBuckner v. State 9CIR 919aBuechele, In re Estate of 11CIR 960aBuissereth v. Vela 11CIR 924aCason v. Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles 10CIR

920cCricket Club Condominium Inc. v. Miami-Dade County 11CIR 932aDebose v. Rice 13CIR 941aDennis v. State 17CIR 947fFeldman, P.A. v. Infinity Assurance Insurance Company 11CIR 925bFeldman, P.A. v. MGA Insurance Company, Inc. 11CIR 927bFeldman, P.A. v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company 11CIR

927aFlowers v. State 11CIR 922bGainey v. Security First Insurance Company 9CIR 954aGraff v. JJAK OTF, LLC CO 981aGraff v. State 9CIR 919bGreen v. City of Tampa 13CIR 941bHarrington and Pospishil, In re Marriage of 15CIR 968aHillsborough Therapy Center, Inc. (Perez) v. Progressive American Insurance

Company CO 980aHoward v. State 17CIR 947cInaoly Auto Tech Corporation v. Romero 11CIR 921aJohnson v. State 11CIR 924b

TABLE OF CASES REPORTED (continued)Kennedy v. Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles

13CIR 943aKozich v. Reliance Progresso Associates, Ltd. 17CIR 946cLenox 16675, LLC v. The Wendover Assoc., Inc. 11CIR 922aMark J. Feldman, P.A. v. Infinity Assurance Insurance Company 11CIR

925bMark J. Feldman, P.A. v. MGA Insurance Company, Inc. 11CIR 927bMark J. Feldman, P.A. v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance

Company 11CIR 927aMarquez v. Lazarow 11CIR 954bMartins v. State 17CIR 947eMiami-Dade County v. Perez 11CIR 924cMillard v. State, Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles

18CIR 951aMRI Associates of Lakeland LLC (Crockett) v. Progressive American

Insurance Company CO 971aOrlando Medical and Wellness (Brea) v. Century-National Insurance

Company CO 979aOrlando Medical and Wellness (Montoya) v. Century-National Insurance

Company CO 979aPatchen v. Quadomain I & IV Association, Inc. 17CIR 946aPerez v. State 9CIR 920aPeynado-Fatiol v. State 9CIR 919cPHD Development, LLC v. Sagesse 17CIR 948cPood v. State 17CIR 947bRiverfront Master Association, Inc. v. City of Miami 11CIR 930aRoach v. State, Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles

18CIR 948dSacowi Medical Clinic LLC (Pollard) v. Progressive Select Insurance

Company CO 972aSalazar, In re Guardianship of 11CIR 962aSarlabous v. Kouranov 11CIR 964aSinger v. State 17CIR 948aSmiley v. State, Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles

15CIR 945aSpine and Extremity Rehabilitation Center, Inc. (Tores) v. State Farm

Mutual Automobile Insurance Company CO 982aSpine Correction (Rubio) v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance

Company CO 974aStar Casualty Insurance Company v. Hollywood Injury Rehabilitation

Center, Inc. (Garcia) 17CIR 947aState v. Bonotto 18CIR 951bState v. Harris 9CIR 953aState v. Mitchell CO 978aState Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company v. Gables Insurance

Recovery, Inc. (Garcia) 11CIR 921bState Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company v. Montgomery CO

980bState Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company v. Open Magnetic

Scanning, Ltd. (Mino) 17CIR 946cStewart v. State Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles

13CIR 939aUnited Automobile Insurance Company v. Miami-Dade County MRI,

Corporation (Munoz) 11CIR 934aYeagerfischer v. State 15CIR 944cYore v. Hillsborough County Sheriff 13CIR 940a

* * *

TABLE OF STATUTES CONSTRUEDFlorida Statutes and Rules of Procedure construed in opinions reported in this issue.

FLORIDA STATUTES30.231(1)(a-b) Yore v. Hillsborough County Sheriff 13CIR 940a83.60(2) Barr v. Beazer Preowned Homes II 13CIR 944a316.0083(1)(d)1 (2019) Aleman v. City of Opa-Locka 11CIR 938a316.066(4) Roach v. State, Department of Highway Safety and Motor

Vehicles 18CIR 948d316.1932(1)(c) (2019) Smiley v. State, Department of Highway Safety and

Motor Vehicles 15CIR 945a

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (7)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

viii INDEX—FLW SUPPLEMENT March 31, 2020

TABLE OF STATUTES CONSTRUED (continued)FLORIDA STATUTES (continued)322.2615(2)(b) Roach v. State, Department of Highway Safety and Motor

Vehicles 18CIR 948d322.2615(6)(c) Stewart v. State Department of Highway Safety and Motor

Vehicles 13CIR 939a322.27 Beiningen v. State, Department of Highway Safety and Motor

Vehicles 6CIR 917a322.28(d) Beiningen v. State, Department of Highway Safety and Motor

Vehicles 6CIR 917a627.428 Mark J. Feldman, P.A. v. Infinity Assurance Insurance Company

11CIR 925b627.736(4)(b) Hillsborough Therapy Center, Inc. v. Progressive American

Insurance Company CO 980a627.736(4)(i) Orlando Medical and Wellness v. Century-National

Insurance Company CO 979a627.736(5)(a)(1) (2009-12) United Automobile Insurance Company v.

Miami-Dade County MRI, Corp. 11CIR 934a627.736(5)(a)(1)-(3) Sacowi Medical Clinic LLC v. Progressive Select

Insurance Company CO 972a627.736(5)(a)(2) Spine & Extremity Rehabilitation Center, Inc. v. State

Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company CO 982a627.736(5)(a)(5) (2013) MRI Associates of Lakeland LLC v. Progressive

American Insurance Company CO 971a627.736(6)(g) Hillsborough Therapy Center, Inc. v. Progressive American

Insurance Company CO 980a627.736(10) Spine Correction v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance

Company CO 974a744.367(4) In re Guardianship of Salazar 11CIR 962a744.3701 In re Guardianship of Salazar 11CIR 962a768.295(3) Marquez v. Lazarow 11CIR 954b768.295(4) Marquez v. Lazarow 11CIR 954b775.089(3) Yeagerfischer v. State 15CIR 944c776.032 Graff v. State 9CIR 919b942.01-.06 State v. Bonotto 18CIR 951b960.292(2) Yeagerfischer v. State 15CIR 944c

RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE1.070(c) Yore v. Hillsborough County Sheriff 13CIR 940a1.090 State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company v. Montgomery

CO 980b1.510(e) State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company v. Gables

Insurance Recovery, Inc. 11CIR 921b; United Automobile InsuranceCompany v. Miami-Dade County MRI, Corp. 11CIR 934a

1.820(h) State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company v. Mont-gomery CO 980b

RULES OF JUDICIAL ADMINISTRATION2.514(b) State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company v. Mont-

gomery CO 980b

PROBATE RULES5.700(a) In re Guardianship of Salazar 11CIR 962a

* * *

TABLE OF CASES TREATEDCase Treated / In Opinion At

Allen v. In re Estate of Dutton, 394 So.2d 132 (Fla. 5DCA 1981)/11CIR960a

Allstate Fire & Cas. Ins. Co. v. Stand-Up MRI of Tallahassee, 188 So.3d1 (Fla. 1DCA 2015)/CO 972a

Allstate Ins. Co. v. Orthopedic Specialists, 212 So.3d 973 (Fla. 2017)/CO972a

Carpenter v. Carpenter, 253 So.2d 697 (Fla. 1971)/11CIR 960aCellular Warehouse, Inc. v. GH Cellular, LLC, 957 So.2d 662 (Fla.

3DCA 2007)/11CIR 956aDepartment of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles v. Perry, 702 So.2d

294 (Fla. 5DCA 1997)/18CIR 948dDepartment of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles v. Sperberg, 257

So.2d 560 (Fla. 3DCA 2018)/6CIR 917aDunkley Stucco, Inc. v. Progressive Am. Ins. Co., 751 So.2d 723 (Fla.

5DCA 2000)/11CIR 956a

TABLE OF CASES TREATED (continued)GEICO General Ins. Co. v. Virtual Imaging Services, 141 So.3d 147

(Fla. 2013)/CO 971a; CO 972aGuzman v. State, 934 So.2d 11 (Fla. 3DCA 2006)/11CIR 922bHerrera v. City of Miami, 600 So.2d 561 (Fla. 3DCA 1992)/11CIR

932aKotlyar v. Metro. Cas. Ins. Co., 192 So.3d 562 (Fla. 4DCA 2016)/

11CIR 956aLitman v. Fine, Jacobson, Schwartz, Nash, Block & England, P.A.,

517 So.2d 88 (Fla. 3DCA 1987)/11CIR 925bLLP Mortg. Ltd. v. Cravero, 851 So.2d 897 (Fla. 4DCA 2003)/11CIR

922aLubarsky v. Sweden House Properties, 673 So.2d 975 (Fla. 4DCA

1996)/11CIR 960aMaturo v. City of Coral Gables, 619 So.2d 455 (Fla. 3DCA 1993)/

11CIR 932aMelbourne v. State, 679 So.2d 759 (Fla. 1996)/9CIR 920aMillennium Diagnostic v. Security National, 882 So.2d 1027 (Fla.

3DCA 2004)/CO 971aMobley v. Homestead Hospital, Inc., __ So.3d __, 45 Fla. L. Weekly

D2a (Fla. 3DCA 2019)/11CIR 960aNickerson v. State, 178 So.3d 538 (Fla. 3DCA 2015)/15CIR 944cRaimi v. Furlong, 702 So.2d 1273 (Fla. 3DCA 1997)/11CIR 960aRich v. Spivey, 922 So.2d 326 (Fla. 1DCA 2006)/11CIR 956aRimes v. State, 993 So.2d 1132 (Fla. 5DCA 2008)/11CIR 922bRudolph v. Rosecan, 154 So.3d 381 (Fla. 4DCA 2014)/11CIR 962aSec. Bank, N.A. v. BellSouth Advert. & Pub. Corp., 679 So.2d 795

(Fla. 3DCA 1996)/11CIR 956aState v. Alen, 616 So.2d 452 (Fla. 1993)/9CIR 920aState v. Cino, 931 So.2d 164 (Fla. 5DCA 2006)/18CIR 948dState v. J.P., 907 So.2d 1101 (Fla. 2004)/11CIR 927cState v. Neil, 457 So.2d 481 (Fla. 1984)/9CIR 920aState Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company v. MRI Assocs. of

Tampa, Inc., 252 So.3d 773 (Fla. 2DCA 2018)/CO 971aU.S. Fidelity and Guar. Co. v. Rosado, 606 So.2d 628 (Fla. 3DCA

1992)/11CIR 925bU.S. Fire Ins. Co. v. C&C Beauty Sales, Inc., 674 So.2d 169 (Fla.

3DCA 1996)/11CIR 956aUFF DAA, Inc. v. Towne Realty, Inc., 666 So.2d 199 (Fla. 4DCA

1995)/11CIR 960aYork Communications, Inc. v. Furst Group, Inc., 724 So.2d 678 (Fla.

4DCA 1999)/11CIR 921a

* * *

REHEARINGS, CLARIFICATIONS, CORRECTIONS, WITH-DRAWN OPINIONS

Active Wellness Center Inc. v. Allstate Insurance Company. CountyCourt, Miami-Dade County, Case No. 2013-575-SP-24 (01). OriginalOrder at 26 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 844a (February 28, 2019). Cor-rected Order CO 976a

Advanced Chiropractic and Medical Center, Corporation v. ProgressiveAmerican Insurance Company. Circuit Court, Seventeenth JudicialCircuit (Appellate), Broward County, Case No. CACE16-017115(AP). Original Opinion at 24 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 766a (February 28,2017). Corrected Opinion 17CIR 946b

Lenox 16675, LLC v. The Wendover Assoc. Inc. Circuit Court, EleventhJudicial Circuit (Appellate), Case No. 2017-000357-AP-01. OriginalOpinion at 27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 851a (February 28, 2020). OrderDenying Motion for Rehearing 11CIR 922a

Millard v. State, Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles,Division of Driver Licenses. Circuit Court, Eighteenth Judicial Circuit(Appellate), Seminole County, Case No. 17-41-AP. Original Opinionat 26 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 484d (October 31, 2018). On Motion forRehearing 18CIR 951a

* * *

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (8)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

March 31, 2020 INDEX—FLW SUPPLEMENT ix

DISPOSITION ON APPELLATE REVIEWDisposition of cases previously reported in FLW Supplement on review by appellate courts.

This is not a comprehensive listing.

Advanced Chiropractic and Medical Center, Corporation v. ProgressiveAmerican Insurance Company. County Court, Seventeenth JudicialCircuit, Broward County, Case No. COCE 13-12197 (52). CountyCourt Opinion at 24 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 766a (February 28, 2017).Reversed 17CIR 946b

State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company v. Ceda Health ofHialeah, LLC. Circuit Court, Eleventh Judicial Circuit (Appellate),Miami-Dade County, Case No. 16-151 AP. Circuit Court Opinion at27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 14a (May 31, 2019). Petition for Second-Tier Certiorari Review Denied at 45 Fla. L. Weekly D505a

* * *

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (9)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

917

Volume 27, Number 11

March 31, 2020

Cite as 27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. ____ CIRCUIT COURTS—APPELLATELicensing—Driver’s license—Permanent revocation—Fourthconviction for driving under influence—Evidence—Department ofHighway Safety and Motor Vehicles was entitled to rely on uncertifiedout-of-state driving record in permanently revoking license for fourthDUI conviction—No merit to argument that hearing officer departedfrom essential requirements of law by citing wrong statute in supportof license revocation—Petition for writ of certiorari is not propervehicle for challenging constitutionality of statutes authorizing licenserevocation—License revocation based on 20-year-old convictions is notbarred by statute of limitations, estoppel or laches—Petition for writ ofcertiorari is denied

KIM ANNETTE BEININGEN, Petitioner, v. STATE OF FLORIDA, DEPARTMENTOF HIGHWAY SAFETY AND MOTOR VEHICLES, Respondent. Circuit Court, 6thJudicial Circuit (Appellate) in and for Pinellas County. Case No. 2018-000059AP-88A.UCN Case No. 522018AP000059XXXXCI. August 8, 2019. Petition for Writ ofCertiorari from Decision of Hearing Officer, Bureau of Administrative Reviews,Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Counsel: Leslie M. Sammis, forPetitioner. Christine Utt, General Counsel and Mark L. Mason, Asst. General Counsel,for Respondent.

ORDER AND OPINION(PER CURIAM.) Petitioner, Kim Annette Beiningen, seeks certiorarireview of the Department of Highway Safety and Motor VehicleHearing Officer’s Final Order entered August 29, 2018 whichpermanently revoked Petitioner’s driving privileges for Four or moreDUI’s (Driving Under the Influence) and the DHSMV Order ofRevocation dated August 2, 2018. The Court reviews the underlyingFinal Order to determine whether Petitioner was afforded due process,whether the hearing officer’s decision observed the essential require-ments of law and whether competent, substantial evidence supportsthe hearing officer’s decision. City of Deerfield Beach v. Vaillant, 419So. 2d 624 (Fla. 1982). For the reasons set for below, the Petition forWrit of Certiorari is denied.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORYPetitioner’s driving privileges were suspended by court order for

one year following a conviction for DUI in Pinellas County beginningon January 17, 2017. On August 2, 2018, the Department of HighwaySafety and Motor Vehicles (Department) sent an Order of Revocationnotifying Petitioner that effective January 19, 2017 her drivingprivileges were permanently revoked in the State of Florida. Peti-tioner’s driving record also reflects that on July 27, 2018, the Depart-ment entered a notation on Petitioner’s driving record for a permanentrevocation for “DHSMV ACTION” for “4 OR MORE DUISREVOCATION IS A RESULT OF VIOLATION NUMBER 13, 15,16, 17, 18, 19” Number 13 is the Pinellas County DUI convictioneffective January 19, 2017. The other numbers (15-19) refer to DUIconvictions, resulting in a disposition of guilty, from the State ofMinnesota:

1. Number 15 has an offense date of July 20, 2016 with a disposi-tion date of September 25, 1987.

2. Number 16 has an offense date of March 24, 1988 with adisposition date of May 5, 1988.

3. Number 17 has an offense date of September 6, 1988 with adisposition date of September 16, 1998.

4. Number 18 has an offense date of November 9, 1996 with adisposition date of November 26, 1996.

5. Number 19 has an offense date of July 9, 1996 with a dispositiondate of November 26 1996.1

Petitioner requested a show cause hearing as authorized byFla.Stat. §322.27(5) (a) which provides “any person whose license isrevoked may, by petition, to the department, show cause why his or

her license should not be revoked.” Petitioner also requested, througha public records request, any and all documents/record to support theDepartment’s action of the permanent revocation. Petitioner received12 pages from the Department which included the Petitioner’s FloridaDriving Record and CDL Helpdesk printout related to Petitioner’sMinnesota Driving Record. The show cause hearing was held August27, 2018. Petitioner objected to the Florida Driving Record and CDLHelpdesk printout were not admissible for the following reasons; theywere not signed, notarized or certified, the documents were inadmissi-ble hearsay, the documents did not reflect a “guilty” finding, only a“conviction date” and the notations for the out of state convictionswere over twenty years old and thus barred by laches, estoppel orstatute of limitations. The Hearing Officer overruled all Petitioner’sobjections. Petitioner’s position at the August 27, 2018 hearing wasthat the hearing was “to show cause why the Department does nothave sufficient evidence to uphold the suspension. So this is thedriver’s opportunity to see what do you have.” The hearing officerstated the purpose of the hearing was for the Petitioner “to provideevidence or testimony as to why the record is incorrect. It’s not madeto invalidate the suspension for this hearing. It’s whether you providesufficient evidence to show that the record is incorrect.” The FinalOrder was entered August 28, 2018 stating:

“The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles revokedthe driving privilege of Kim Annette Beiningen, effective January 19,2017, for Four or more DUI’s as authorized by section 322.27, F.S.

A hearing was conducted as noticed on August 27, 2018 to affordPetitioner the opportunity to submit evidence to show her drivingprivileges should not have been revoked.

Upon review of the Department’s records and information receivedat the review, this officer finds, that there is competent substantialevidence to find that the Petitioner’s driving privilege was properlyrevoked by the Department. The Department’s Order revoking thePetitioner’s driving privilege is affirmed.

Appeal of this order may be initiated by filing a petition for writ ofcertiorari in the circuit court within 30 calendar days of this order byfollowing the procedure specified in section 322.31, F.S.”

STANDARD OF REVIEWThis Court’s standard of review for first-tier review of an administra-tive decision is limited to:

1. Whether due process was accorded2. Whether the essential requirements of law were observed and3. Whether the administrative findings and judgment were sup-

ported by competent, substantial evidence.

DISCUSSIONPetitioner raised the following issues in her initial brief. Petitioner

states the Department departed from the essential requirementsbecause it is not authorized under Fla.Stat. §322.27 to order apermanent revocation for four or more DUI’s, the Hearing Officercited to the incorrect statute in her Final Order, the Department reliedupon uncertified records of Petitioner’s driving history,Fla.Stat.§322.27 and 322.28(d) are unconstitutional on their face andfinally that the actions of the Department are barred by the Statute ofLimitation, Equitable Doctrines of Estoppel or Waiver or Laches.

Florida is a member of the Drivers License Compact, which is anagreement among the states providing that a suspension or revocationof a driving privilege in one state will result in a suspension orrevocation of a driving privilege in the driver’s home state. TheDrivers License Compact has been codified in Fla.Stat.§322.44. Thestatute requires Florida to enter into agreements for the exchange ofdriver license records with other jurisdictions for the purposes of the

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (10)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 918 CIRCUIT COURTS—APPELLATE

Commercial Driver’s License Information System or the NationalDriver Register. Fla.Stat.§322.65. As such, the Department isauthorized to suspend a driving privilege upon conviction for certainoffenses in another state. Fla.Stat.§322.27 specifically lists theoffenses from another state the Department may consider in revokinga driving privilege.

Petitioner’s license was permanently revoked based upon herdriving record showing four or more DUI convictions. The Depart-ment was authorized to take action on a license without a preliminaryhearing upon a showing of its records that the licensee has committedan offense in another state, which, if committed in this state would begrounds for suspension or revocation. Fla.Stat.§322.27. The showcause hearing is authorized by Fla.Stat.§322.27(5)(a) which states that“any person whose license is revoked may, by petition to the depart-ment, show cause why his or her license should not be revoked”. In thecase at bar, Petitioner argues the Department has the burden ofshowing why the Petitioner’s license was revoked. The Departmentstated the purpose of the hearing “was to provide evidence or testi-mony as to why the record is incorrect. It’s not made to invalidate thesuspension for this hearing. It’s whether you provide sufficientevidence to show that the record is incorrect.”

The Department is able to rely upon the documents furnished byMinnesota as to Petitioner’s driving record under the Drivers LicenseCompact. Florida is considered the home state and Minnesota is thereporting state. Article III of the Driver License Compact imposes noduty on the reporting state to submit certified court documents to theone state to prove the veracity of its conviction report. While reportsof convictions in abstracts from other states that are not certified ornotarized are sometimes challenged by drivers, it is not appropriate fora circuit court to quash orders entered by the Department or require thebest evidence of underlying convictions. Vichich v. DHSMV, 799So.2d 1069 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2001) [26 Fla. L. Weekly D2290a]. Seealso DHSMV v. Sperberg, 257 So.2d 560 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2018) [43 Fla.L. Weekly D2318a],“Florida courts have held that a circuit courtacting in its appellate capacity on first-tier certiorari review, fails toapply the correct law when the circuit court goes beyond the appropri-ate standard/scope”. Denson v. State, 711 So.2d 1225 (Fla. 2nd DCA1998) [23 Fla. L. Weekly D1216a].

Petitioner asserts the permanent revocation was entered in error asthe Hearing Officer cited the incorrect statute in the Final Order andthis was an essential departure from the law. The Hearing Officer citedto Fla.Stat.322.27, not Fla.Stat.§322.28. The Department argues thatFla.Stat.322.27(1)(e) provides “if someone commits an offense inanother state that would be grounds for suspension or revocation inthis state, the Department may take action on the license withoutpreliminary hearing”. The Final Order refers to the revocation ofPetitioner’s driving privileges “for Four or more DUI’s

Petitioner contends “the Department only used uncertified recordsto support any showing of the Petitioner’s four or more DUIs whichdid not provide enough evidentiary support for finding that competentsubstantial evidence supported Petitioner’s drivers license revoca-tion”. Petitioner cites to Sperberg v. Florida Department of HighwaySafety and Motor Vehicles, 26 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 4a (2018).Sperberg was overturned after Petitioner filed the Petition for Writ ofCertiorari. Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles v.Sperberg, 257 So.2d 560 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2018) [43 Fla. L. WeeklyD2318a]. In Sperberg, the Department permanently revoked Mr.Sperberg’s Florida driving privileges based on records that Mr.Sperbeg had four DUI convictions in the State of Virginia. TheDepartment of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles attached Mr.Sperberg’s uncertified driving transcript which he argued wasinadmissible under the best evidence rule. The Circuit Court grantedthe petition for Writ of Certiorari and the Department appealed.Florida courts have held that a circuit court, acting in its appellate

capacity on a first-tier certiorari review, fails to apply the correct lawwhen the circuit court goes beyond the appropriate standard/scope ofreview. Miami-Dade County v. Omnipoint Holdings, Inc. 863 So.2d195 (Fla. 2003) [28 Fla. L. Weekly S717a]. The 3rd District courtcautioned “This Court must exercise caution not to expand certiorarijurisdiction to review the correctness of the circuit court’s decision”citing Futch v. Fla. Dep’t Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles, 189So.3d, 131, 132 (Fla. 2016) [41 Fla. L. Weekly S150a]. The Depart-ment may suspend the license of any person, without preliminaryhearing upon a showing of its record or other sufficient evidence thatthe licensee has committed an offense in another state which, ifcommitted in this state, would be grounds for suspension or revoca-tion. Fla.Stat. 322.27(1) (d). In the case at bar, the Department reliedupon the out of state driving record of Petitioner, of which thePetitioner was aware and had been provided pursuant to her publicrecords request to the Department.

Petitioner’s third issue is Florida Statute §322.27 and §322.28(d)are unconstitutional on their face as vague, an improper delegation oflegislative authorization, a violation of due process, a violation ofarticle I, section 9 and a violation of article II section 3 of the FloridaConstitution. Assuming arguendo the Petitioner is correct, a petitionseeking certiorari review is not the proper procedural vehicle tochallenge the constitutionality of a statute or ordinance. Miami-DadeCounty, 863 So.2d at 199. Petitioner argues that the DHSMV officialare left without any standards for guidance. Fla.Stat. §322.27specifically provides that the department may take action on a licensewithout a preliminary hearing upon a showing of its records that thelicensee has committed an offense in another state which, if commit-ted in this state, would be grounds for suspension or revocation. TheDepartment had records from the State of Minnesota reflecting fiveprior convictions for DUI in Minnesota and it relied upon thoserecords in permanently revoking Petitioner’s driving privileges.

Petitioner’s final argument is that the revocation based on DUIconvictions that occurred, if at all, more than 20 years ago is barred bythe Statute of Limitation, or alternatively, the Equitable Doctrines ofEstoppel or Waiver or Laches. There is no prescribed time limitationor period in which the Department must take action to suspend orrevoke an individual’s driving privileges. Department of HighwaySafety and Motor Vehicles v. Hagar, 581 So.2d 214 (Fla. 5th DCA1991). Fla. Stat.§322.28(2) (d) provides that the convictions counttoward a permanent revocation provided at least one of the convic-tions for a violation of s. 316.193 or former 316.1931 was for aviolation that occurred after 1982. In this case, Petitioner’s out of stateconvictions were all after 1982. Additionally, as noted in JenniferLynn Wallace v. State Department of Highway Safety and MotorVehicles (Fla. 12th Jud. Circ. May 8, 2018) referring to Landes v.Department of Professional Regulation, 441, So.2d 686 (Fla. 2ndDCA 1983), civil and criminal statutes of limitation are inapplicableto administrative license revocation proceedings absent legislativeauthority.

Petitioner cites to Mari Beth Fury v. State Department of HighwaySafety and Motor Vehicles, 25 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 421a. (Fla. 13thJud. Cir. June 14, 2017) in which the circuit court found that a statuteof limitation applied to the suspension of a drivers license by fraud. InFernando Hincapie Escobar v. Department of Highway Safety andMotor Vehicles, 2017-CA-008090 (Fla. 13th Cir. Ct., June 15, 2018)[26 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 346a], the court declined to apply the Furydecision, noting that neither Landes nor Sarasota County v. NationalCity Bank of Cleveland, Ohio, 902 So.2d 233, 234 (Fla. 2nd DCA2005) [30 Fla. L. Weekly D1244b] which cautioned against equatingan administrative proceeding with a civil action, where presented tothe Fury Court. This Court is mindful of the Fury decision anddeclines to apply it to this case.

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (11)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

CIRCUIT COURTS—APPELLATE 27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 919

CONCLUSIONThe Court is not to reweigh the evidence but is to determine only

if competent substantial evidence supports the Hearing Officersfindings. In reviewing all the evidence of record, the Court concludesthat reliable, competent, substantial evidence supports the HearingOfficer’s Final Order and the permanent revocation of Petitioner’sdriving privileges by the Department. The Petition for Writ ofCertiorari is denied. (ARNOLD, MUSCARELLA, and MEYER, JJ.)))))))))))))))))))

1The last offenses, number 18 and 19 were separate offenses resulting in convictionsentered the same day. Florida law treats the earlier offense date as the earlier convictionfor the purposes of enhancing a suspension or revocation period.Fla.Stat.§322.28(2)(a)(2); Boulineau v. Department of Highway Safety and MotorVehicles, 247 So.3d 660 (Fla. 1st DCA 2018) [43 Fla. L. Weekly D1141a].

* * *

Criminal law—Judges—Disqualification—Petition for writ ofmandamus seeking review of orders denying motions to disqualifyjudge is dismissed without prejudice—Proper vehicle for review ispetition for writ of prohibition, not mandamus, and review of orders ofcircuit court judge should be filed in district court of appeal, not circuitcourt

ERIC VINCENT BUCKNER, Petitioner, v. STATE OF FLORIDA, Respondent.Circuit Court, 9th Judicial Circuit (Appellate) in and for Orange County. Case No.2019-CA-14709-O. December 10, 2019.

ORDER DISMISSING WITHOUT PREJUDICEPETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS

(TENNIS, J.) THIS MATTER came before the Court for consider-ation of the Petition for Writ of Mandamus, filed on December 6,2019. The Court finds as follows:

The instant Petition seeks the disqualification of the HonorableKeith F. White, the presiding judge in Case No. 2019-CF-788-A-O,in which Petitioner has been charged with burglary of a structure andother offenses, and in which Petitioner is representing himself.According to the Petition, Petitioner has filed “at least” four motionsto disqualify Judge White, but those motions were all “improperlydenied.”

Under Florida law, the proper procedural vehicle for seekingreview of the denial of a motion to disqualify is a petition for writ ofprohibition. See Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Carter, 768 So. 2d 21, 21-22(Fla. 1st DCA 2000) [25 Fla. L. Weekly D1778d] (“The traditionalremedy for interlocutory review of an order denying judicial disquali-fication is prohibition.”). Additionally, since the Petition is seekingreview of disqualification orders entered in a Circuit Court case, thePetition should be filed in the next higher reviewing court, not thisCourt. See State ex rel. Bettendorf v. Martin County EnvironmentalControl Hearing Bd., 564 So. 2d 1227, 1228 (Fla. 4th DCA 1990) (enbanc) (“Special writ jurisdiction follows the appellate process.”). Theproper reviewing Court in the instant case is the Fifth District Court ofAppeal.

Accordingly, it is ORDERED and ADJUDGED that the Petitionfor Writ of Mandamus is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE toPetitioner filing a petition for writ of prohibition in the Fifth DistrictCourt of Appeal, and that the above-styled case shall be CLOSED bythe Clerk. (BLACKWELL and CALDERON, JJ., concur.)

* * *

Criminal law—Immunity—Stand Your Ground law—Trial courtproperly denied motion to dismiss based on Stand Your Ground lawimmunity after concluding that state had carried its burden of provingby clear and convincing evidence that defendant had not acted in self-defense

ROSE GRAFF, Petitioner, v. STATE OF FLORIDA, Respondent. Circuit Court, 9thJudicial Circuit (Appellate) in and for Orange County. Case No. 2019-CA-12379-O.

December 12, 2019. Petition for Writ of Prohibition—Maureen A. Bell, RespondentJudge. Counsel: Robert Wesley, Public Defender and Felipe Franca, Assistant PublicDefender, for Petitioner. Aramis D. Ayala, State Attorney and Matthew Kozyra,Assistant State Attorney, for Respondent.

(Before MARQUES, KEST, JORDAN, JJ.)

(PER CURIAM.) Rose Graff petitions this Court for a writ ofprohibition challenging the trial court’s order denying her motion todismiss, which was based on the Stand Your Ground law. § 776.032,Fla. Stat. We deny the petition.

The facts of the underlying case involve a physical altercationbetween a mother—Graff—and her daughter—the victim. Graffasserted that she was entitled to immunity from prosecution under theStand Your Ground law. The trial court held a hearing, at the conclu-sion of which it evaluated the testimony and concluded that the Statehad carried its burden to prove by clear and convincing evidence thatGraff had not acted in self-defense and denied her motion to dismiss.See § 776.032(4), Fla. Stat. This petition challenging that decisionfollowed. In this proceeding, our standard of review is that “the trialcourt’s findings of fact are ‘presumed correct and can be reversed onlyif they are not supported by competent substantial evidence, while thetrial court’s legal conclusions are reviewed de novo.’ ” State v.Kirkland, 276 So. 3d 994, 996 (Fla. 5th DCA 2019) [44 Fla. L.Weekly D2375a] (quoting Mobley v. State, 132 So.3d 1160, 1162(Fla. 3d DCA 2014) [39 Fla. L. Weekly D64b]). Here, substantialevidence supports the trial court’s conclusions. Our review of therecord demonstrates that the State indeed proved that nothingsubstantiated Graff’s self-defense claim. At the hearing, both thevictim and an independent witness testified that the victim did notprecipitate Graff’s action in briefly choking her daughter. Indeed,Graff herself could only muster that the victim was yelling at her andthat she “accidentally grabbed her by the neck.” Ex. C at 49. Accord-ingly, we agree that the State carried its burden of proof and themotion to dismiss was properly denied.

Therefore, the petition for a writ of certiorari is DENIED. (KESTand JORDAN, JJ., concur.)

* * *

Criminal law—Appeals—Anders appeal

LUIS JOHAN CARLOS PEYNADO-FATIOL, Appellant, v. STATE OF FLORIDA,Appellee. Circuit Court, 9th Judicial Circuit (Appellate) in and for Osceola County.Case No. 2018-AP-7. L.T. Case No. 2017-MM-2809. Appeal from the County Courtfor Osceola County, Carol E. Draper, Judge. Counsel: Luis Johan Carlos Peynado-Fatiol, pro se, Appellant. Carol Levin Reiss, Office of the State Attorney, Kissimmee,for Appellee.

(Before MURPHY, CALDERON, and STROWBRIDGE, JJ.)

(PER CURIAM.) Appellant, Luis Johan Carlos Peynado-Fatiol,appeals his judgment and sentence for the misdemeanor crime ofResisting an Officer without Violence, pursuant to Florida Statutesection 843.02 (2014). Appellate counsel filed an Anders1 brief onJune 21, 2018. On that same date, Appellate counsel filed a Motion toWithdraw. An Order Granting Motion to Withdraw and AffordingAppellant an Opportunity to File a Pro Se Brief was entered on July 9,2018, wherein Appellant was granted thirty days to file a pro se brief.However, to date, Appellant has not done so. The State did not file ananswer brief.

Nevertheless, this Court’s independent review of the record andpertinent legal authority, pursuant to Anders v. California, 386 U.S.738 (1967) and In re Anders Briefs, 581 So. 2d 149 (Fla. 1991),reveals no meritorious point which might support reversal of theconviction and sentence. Notwithstanding such, the Court notes thatAppellant’s sentence includes a special condition of probation of noearly termination, which was not pursuant to a negotiated plea withthe State. Though this provision does not warrant reversal, thisopinion should not be construed as an endorsem*nt of its

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (12)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 920 CIRCUIT COURTS—APPELLATE

enforceability.The judgment and sentence below are AFFIRMED.

))))))))))))))))))1Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738 (1967).

* * *

Criminal law—Prostitution—Jurors—Peremptory challenge—Trialcourt erred in failing to ask state to provide race-neutral explanationsfor peremptory strikes of two Hispanic jurors and to ascertain thegenuineness of reason given—Hispanics are ethnic group for purposesof Neil inquiry—New trial required

LYNETTE MARIA PEREZ, Appellant, v. STATE OF FLORIDA, Appellee. CircuitCourt, 9th Judicial Circuit (Appellate) in and for Osceola County. Case No. 2017-AP-13. L.T. Case No. 2016-MM-2854. December 3, 2019. Appeal from the County Courtfor Osceola County, Carol E. Draper, Judge. Counsel: Sarah Jordan and Brian Johnson,Assistant Public Defender, for Appellant. Carol Levin Reiss, Assistant State Attorney,for Appellee.

(Before CALDERON, STROWBRIDGE, and WEISS, JJ.)

(PER CURIAM.) Appellant was tried and convicted for misdemeanorprostitution. At trial on May 1, 2017, Defense Counsel objected to twoperemptory strikes made by the State during the voir dire process.Appellant asserts that that the Trial Court did not adhere to therequirements of the Neil inquiry for two challenged jurors. The TrialCourt’s decision to uphold a peremptory challenge is reviewed forabuse of discretion. Truehill v. State, 211 So. 3d 930, 942 (Fla. 2017)[42 Fla. L. Weekly S223a].

The law governing the process for a Neil inquiry is well-defined.Our analysis begins with the initial presumption that peremptorychallenges are exercised in a nondiscriminatory manner. State v. Neil,457 So. 2d 481, 486 (Fla. 1984). However, upon objection that aperemptory challenge is being used in a discriminatory manner, thetrial court must conduct a Neil inquiry. State v. Johans, 613 So. 2d1319, 1322 (Fla. 1993). The Neil court provided the guidelines todetermine whether a preemptory challenge is used in a discriminatorymanner, requiring a party to make a timely objection to the peremp-tory challenges, demonstrate on the record that the challenged personsare members of a distinct racial group, and that there is a stronglikelihood that they have been challenged solely because of their race.Neil at 486.

Neil’s progeny further clarified and solidified the test. TheSupreme Court in Melbourne v. State, 679 So. 2d 759, 764 (Fla. 1996)[21 Fla. L. Weekly S358a] detailed the steps necessary for the Neilinquiry, holding that a party must first make a timely objection to theother side’s use of a peremptory challenge on alleged racial grounds,show that the prospective juror is a member of a distinct racial group,and request that the court ask the striking party its reason for the strike(i.e. conduct a Neil inquiry). If these initial requirements are met, theMelbourne procedure next requires the trial court to ask the propo-nent’s purpose for the strike, which shifts the burden to the proponentto provide a race neutral reason. Hayes v. State, 94 So. 3d 452, 461(Fla. 2012) [37 Fla. L. Weekly S253a]. Finally, the trial court mustascertain the genuineness of the reason. Compliance with each step isnot discretionary, and the proper remedy when the trial court fails toabide by its duty under the Melbourne procedure is to reverse andremand for a new trial. Welch v. State, 992 So. 2d 206, 212 (Fla. 2008)[33 Fla. L. Weekly S713a].

In this case, Defense Counsel made a timely objection to the State’speremptory strike of Juror Number Six, stated on the record that thejuror was Hispanic, and requested that the Trial Court inquire as to theState’s race neutral reason for the strike. Defense Counsel met theinitial burden, which required the Trial Court to inquire as to a raceneutral reason for the strike. Upon request by Defense Counsel, theTrial Court responded, “[b]eing Hispanic is not a race, it’s a national-

ity.” However, it is clear that Hispanics are considered an ethnic groupfor the purposes of a Neil inquiry. State v. Alen, 616 So. 2d 452, 455(Fla. 1993). Nonetheless, the State independently proffered a raceneutral reason for the strike, indicating that the juror should bestricken because she would require more physical evidence. At thispoint, the record is devoid of any indication that the Trial Courtengaged in a judicial assessment of the genuineness of the reasongiven for the strike of Juror Number Six, which is grounds for a newtrial.1

Furthermore, Defense Counsel also met the initial burden withregard to Juror Number Two when he objected to the State’s peremp-tory strike, stated that the juror was Hispanic, and requested that theTrial Court inquire as to what the State’s race neutral reason was forthe strike. The Trial Court again responded, “Spanish is a nationality,not a race.” The Trial Court did not satisfy the second step of theMelbourne procedure when it refused to inquire as to a race neutralreason for the State’s peremptory strike of Juror Number Two. TheTrial Court’s failure to make the requisite inquiry warrants a new trial.

Accordingly, we conclude that the Trial Court erred in failing tohold a Neil inquiry and not following the Melbourne procedure for thetwo challenged jurors. Because a new trial is granted as to this issue,we do not consider the merits of Appellant’s other arguments.

REVERSED AND REMANDED FOR A NEW TRIAL.(STROWBRIDGE and WEISS, JJ., concur.)))))))))))))))))))

1When there is no genuineness analysis, Florida courts have consistently held thata new trial is warranted. Hayes at 464 (footnote omitted).

* * *

AMERICAN COLONIAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Appellant, v. FLORIDA PAINAND WELLNESS CENTERS, INC. a/a/o Dennis P. Williams, Appellee. CircuitCourt, 9th Judicial Circuit (Appellate) in and for Orange County. Case No. 2018-CV-000004-A-O. L.T. Case No. 2015-SC-12571-O. January 29, 2020. Appeal from theCounty Court, for Orange County, Eric DuBois, Judge. Counsel: Robert E. Bonner,Meier, Bonner, Muszynski, O’Dell & Harvey, P.A., Longwood, for Appellant. ChadA. Barr, Law Office of Chad A. Barr, P.A., Altamonte Springs; and Timothy A. Patrick(co-counsel), Patrick Law Group, P.A., Tampa, for Appellee.

[Lower court order at 25 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 815b]

(Before LeBLANC, TENNIS, and WEISS, JJ.)

(PER CURIAM.) AFFIRMED. Appellant’s Motion for OralArgument, filed on May 22, 2018, is DENIED.1 Appellee’s Motionfor Award of Appellate Attorney’s Fees and Costs, filed on February22, 2018, is GRANTED and the assessment of those fees and costs isREMANDED to the trial court. (TENNIS and WEISS, JJ., concur.)))))))))))))))))))

1See Fla. R. App. P. 9.320.

* * *

Licensing—Driver’s license—Early reinstatement— Denial—Con-sumption of alcohol within five years—No error in denying earlyreinstatement of driver’s license to licensee who admitted to consumingalcohol two months before hearing

WALTER LEE CASON, Petitioner, v. FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF HIGHWAYSAFETY AND MOTOR VEHICLES, Respondent. Circuit Court, 10th Judicial Circuit(Appellate) in and for Polk County. Case No. 2019AP-000002, Section 30. December20, 2019. Counsel: James Domineck, Jr., for Petitioner. Mark L. Mason, AssistantGeneral Counsel, for Respondent.

ORDER DENYING THE PETITION FORWRIT OF CERTIORARI

This matter came before the Court on Petitioner’s AmendedPetition for Writ of Certiorari (hereinafter “Petition”), filed onSeptember 9, 2019. The Petitioner seeks review of the Final OrderDenying Early Reinstatement, issued on April 5, 2019.

This Court has jurisdiction to review the decision of the hearing

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (13)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

CIRCUIT COURTS—APPELLATE 27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 921

officer of the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles(“Department”) relating to the Petitioner’s driver’s license reinstate-ment. See Fla. R. App. P. 9.030(c). The standard of review is whetherthe hearing officer afforded the Petitioner procedural due process,whether the hearing officer departed from the essential requirementsof law, and whether the hearing officer’s actions are supported bysubstantial competent evidence. See Haines City Community Develop-ment v. Heggs, 658 So. 2d 523, 530 (Fla. 1995) [20 Fla. L. WeeklyS318a].

The Petition raises the single argument that the hearing officer forthe Department erred as a matter of law when he denied earlyreinstatement of the Petitioner’s driving privilege because thePetitioner admitted that he drank a couple of beers two months priorto the hearing. The facts are not in dispute.

The Petitioner argues that the hearing officer should not haverequired the Petitioner to be alcohol free for the five years immedi-ately prior to the hearing. This argument was not presented to thehearing officer nor was a specific five-year period cited that thehearing officer should have considered alternatively.

More importantly, this Court is duty-bound to consider theestablished precedent that a petitioner’s admission to drinking alcoholwithin the three months prior to the hearing is a valid basis to denyreinstatement. See Dep’t of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles v.Walsh, 204 So.3d 169 (Fla 1st DCA 2016) [41 Fla. L. WeeklyD2648b].

Based on the Court’s review of the Petition, Appendix, andResponse, the Court finds that the hearing officer’s decision does notdeprive the Petitioner of procedural due process, does not depart fromthe essential requirements of law, and is supported by substantialcompetent evidence. Therefore, it is

ORDERED that the Amended Petition for Writ of Certiorari isDENIED.

* * *

Civil procedure—Default—Vacation—Service of process—Defects—Defective return of service—Return of service is defective on its faceand default entered based on defective return is invalid where processserver attempted to serve process on corporation by service on personother than registered agent but failed to allege in return of service thathe first attempted to serve registered agent or that agent was absent

INAOLY AUTO TECH CORP., a Florida corporation, Petitioner, v. LAZAROROBERTO ROMERO, Respondent. Circuit Court, 11th Judicial Circuit (Appellate)in and for Miami-Dade County. Case No. 2018-000390-AP-01. L.T. Case No. 2017-005907-SP-26. December 26, 2019. An Appeal from the County Court in and forMiami-Dade County, Lawrence King, Judge. Counsel: Manuel A. Celaya, Paul M.Cowan & Associates, P.A., for Appellant. Tony A. Haber, Law Offices of Tony A.Haber, P.A., for Appellee.

(Before TRAWICK, WALSH and REBULL, JJ.)

(REBULL, J.) We reverse the Default Final Judgment entered below.It’s clear that the return of service relied upon by Mr. Romero to obtainthe default judgment was defective on its face.

Mr. Romero provided a “SUMMONS/NOTICE TO APPEARFOR PRETRIAL CONFERENCE DISTRICT COURT” to the MiamiDade Police Department Court Services Bureau to be served on InaolyAuto Tech Corp. In that form document, Mr. Romero filled in byhand: “DEFENDANT(S) TO BE SERVED AT: Registered [sic]Odalys B. Rodriguez.” (emphasis added)

The return of service shows that Deputy Sheriff Robert Kingserved the pretrial notice “BY SERVING A COPY TO MARIORODRIGUEZ BUSINESS AGENT.” (emphasis added) Other thanindicating the date, time, and address, the return of service doesn’tcontain any other information. It’s undisputed that Odalys B. Rodri-guez was at all pertinent times the only registered agent for Inaoly.

Notably, the return contains no information at all regarding anyattempt to serve Odalys Rodriguez.

Under the binding authority of York Communications, Inc. v. FurstGroup, Inc, 724 So. 2d 678 (Fla. 4th DCA 1999) [24 Fla. L. WeeklyD231a], when a process server attempts to effect service on acorporation on someone other than the registered agent, the processserver must allege in the return of service, “that he first attempted toserve the registered agent or that the agent was absent.” Failure to setforth those sworn statements in the return of service renders theservice defective on its face. This renders invalid the final defaultjudgment entered based on the defective return.

For these reasons, the trial court should’ve granted Inaoly’soriginal motions to quash and to set aside the default entered based onthe facially defective service. Inaoly was not required to come forwardwith any affidavits or other sworn proof. There is a patent conflict andinconsistency between the summons prepared by Mr. Romero to beserved on “REGISTERED ODALYS B. RODRIGUEZ,” and theactual return of service which purports to effect proper service on“MARIO RODRIGUEZ BUSINESS AGENT.” Indeed, a “businessagent” is not even a recognized term under the law, at least as it relatesto service of process on a corporation. Moreover, as noted, there’s noexplanation in the return of service as to whether the Deputy Sheriffmade any attempt to find Odalys Rodriguez to hand her the papersfirst.

The final default judgment entered is reversed and the case isremanded with directions to quash service and for further proceedingsconsistent with this opinion.1 (WALSH AND TRAWICK, JJ.,CONCUR.)))))))))))))))))))

1As correctly set forth in the reply brief, an involuntary satisfaction of judgmentdoesn’t deprive this court of jurisdiction, nor does it deprive Inaoly of its well-takenappeal. Great Am. Ins. Co. v. Stolte, Inc., 491 So. 2d 352 (Fla. 4th DCA 1986).

* * *

Insurance—Summary judgment—Supporting affidavit was legallyinsufficient to support summary judgment entered in favor of medicalprovider where documents attached to affidavit were not sworn orcertified copies

STATE FARM MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Appellant, v. GABLESINSURANCE RECOVERY, INC., a/a/o Gladys Garcia, Appellee. Circuit Court, 11thJudicial Circuit (Appellate) in and for Miami-Dade County. Case No. 2016-000244-AP-01. LT. Case No. 2011-2707-SP-26. December 26, 2019. An Appeal from theCounty Court in and for Miami-Dade County, Lawrence D. King, Judge. Counsel:Nancy W. Gregoire, Birnbaum, Lippman & Gregoire; and R. Ryan Smith, KirwanSpellacy & Danner, for Appellant. G. Bart Billbrough, Billbrough & Marks, P.A.; andAdriana de Armas, Gables Insurance Recovery, Inc., for Appellee.

(Before GUZMAN, REBULL, and RUIZ, JJ.)

(PER CURIAM.) We reverse the summary judgment entered below.In support of its motion for summary judgment, the provider

served the affidavit of Dr. Raul Aparicio. Attached to his affidavitwere what purported to be “a complete copy of the medical records Ireviewed to formulate my opinion regarding the medical treatment atissue.” Because this affidavit did not comply with Fla. R. Civ. P.1.510(e), the trial court erred in entering summary judgment.

That rule provides that:Supporting and opposing affidavits must be made on personal

knowledge, must set forth such facts as would be admissible inevidence, and must show affirmatively that the affiant is competent totestify to the matters stated therein. Sworn or certified copies of alldocuments or parts thereof referred to in an affidavit must beattached thereto or served therewith. The court may permit affidavitsto be supplemented or opposed by depositions, answers to interrogato-ries, or by further affidavits.

Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.510(e) (emphasis added).The provider did not attach or serve sworn or certified copies of the

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (14)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 922 CIRCUIT COURTS—APPELLATE

documents referred to in Dr. Aparicio’s affidavit. “A party cannotsimply attach unsworn or unauthenticated documents to a motion forsummary judgment and satisfy the procedural requirements of FloridaRule of Civil Procedure 1.510(e).” Gidwani v. Roberts, 248 So. 3d203, 208 (Fla. 3d DCA 2018) [43 Fla. L. Weekly D1024a]. As a result,Dr. Aparicio’s affidavit was legally insufficient to support thesummary judgment entered. On that basis alone, we must reverse thesummary judgment entered.

Because the issue might recur on remand (assuming the providerwere to attempt to correct the attachment-deficiencies of the affidavit),Dr. Aparicio’s later deposition testimony raises—at a minimum —reasonable conflicting inferences as to whether the x-rays orderedwere medically necessary and related to the car accident at issue. SeeHayim Real Estate Holdings, LLC v. Action Watercraft Intern. Inc., 15So. 3d 724, 728 (Fla. 3d DCA 2009) [34 Fla. L. Weekly D1418a](reversing summary judgment where the evidence permitted differentreasonable inferences).

We need not address the remaining points raised on appeal, as thesummary judgment is hereby reversed, and this case is remanded fora trial by the finder of fact. We conditionally grant the insurer’s motionfor appellate attorney’s fees, conditioned on the trial court on remanddetermining whether it is entitled to fees as a prevailing party in thisaction and, if so, as to a reasonable amount.

REVERSED AND REMANDED WITH DIRECTIONS.(GUZMAN, REBULL, and RUIZ, JJ., concur.)

* * *

Mortgages—Assignment—Assignee of mortgage received onlyassignor’s right to enforce mortgage

LENOX 16675, LLC, Appellant, v. THE WENDOVER ASSOC. INC., Appellee.Circuit Court, 11th Judicial Circuit (Appellate) in and for Miami-Dade County. CaseNo. 2017-000357-AP-01. LT. Case No. 2017-00649-CC-23. December 20, 2019. AnAppeal from the County Court in and for Miami-Dade County, Spencer Multack,Judge. Counsel: Andrea L. Haber, Galbut, Walters & Associates LLP, for Appellant.David Israel, Israel, Israel & Associates, P.A., for Appellee.

(Before TRAWICK, WALSH and REBULL, JJ.)

ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR REHEARING[Original Opinion at 27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 851a]

(REBULL, J.) Lenox’s motion for rehearing is denied.The motion continues to use the entirely conclusory and unhelpful

phrase that an assignee “stands in the shoes of the assignor.” Lenoxuses this phrase without critically examining exactly what it is that theassignor assigned to the assignee, in the written assignment itself.

In other words, what shoes did the assignor assign to the assignee?In this case, Kondaur Capital assigned to Lenox all of Kondaur’s“right, title and interest in and to” the mortgage here involved. Theonly “shoes” Lenox received were all of Kondaur’s property rights(“bundle of sticks,” to use the law school analogy) to the mortgage.

This is why Lenox’s citation to LLP Mortg. Ltd. v. Cravero, 851So. 2d 897 (Fla. 4th DCA 2003) [28 Fla. L. Weekly D1889a] isentirely off point and, indeed, supports this Court’s decision. InCravero, the court held that where the federal government, actingthrough the Small Business Administration, assigns all of its propertyrights in a mortgage to an entity, the assignee-entity is entitled to thesame rights to enforce that mortgage—the federal (as opposed to thestate) statute of limitations—that the assignor had. In other words, theassignee stood in the same enforcement-of-the-mortgage-shoes as theassignor, the SBA.

Also entirely off point is Lenox’s citation to the “safe harbor”provision of section 718.116 of the Florida Statutes. There, by itsexpress terms, the statute applies to a “first mortgagee or its successorsor assignees who acquire title to a unit by foreclosure . . . .” (emphasisadded) The statute expressly applies to the assignees of a first

mortgagee! Here, the only language close to that is in the condodeclaration, which by its terms applies to an “assignee of a mortgageoriginally taken by a savings and loan association . . . .” Lenox isplainly not an assignee of a savings and loan association.

The motion for rehearing is denied. (TRAWICK AND WALSH,JJ., CONCUR.)

* * *

Criminal law—Driving under influence—Jurors—Challenges—Cause—Prospective juror who opined that police officers are morecredible than civilians in DUI cases—Because juror’s comments raisedreasonable doubt as to ability to be fair, and trial court failed toevaluate the comments, record established manifest error in denial ofcause challenge

TREVOR FLOWERS, Appellant, v. THE STATE OF FLORIDA, Appellee. CircuitCourt, 11th Judicial Circuit (Appellate) in and for Miami-Dade County. Case No.2018-227-AC-01. L.T. Case Nos. A2FJZBP and AlMWSGP. December 31, 2019. AnAppeal from County Court in and for Miami-Dade County, Edward Newman, Judge.Counsel: Carlos J. Martinez, Public Defender, and James Odell, Assistant PublicDefender, for Appellant. Katherine Fernandez Rundle, State Attorney, and SelenaGibson, Assistant State Attorney, for Appellee.

(Before TRAWICK, WALSH and REBULL, JJ.)

OPINION(WALSH, J.) On appeal from a conviction for driving under theinfluence, Appellant Trevor Flowers argues that the trial court erredin denying a cause challenge to a prospective juror who opined thatpolice officers are more credible than civilians in a driving under theinfluence case. Because the juror’s comments raised a reasonabledoubt as to his ability to be fair and the trial court failed to evaluate thecomments, the record established manifest error in the denial of thecause challenge. We therefore reverse.

In jury selection, Juror Lopez expressed both positive and negativethoughts about police officers. Initially, to the prosecutor, Juror Lopezexpressed that he might not be fair and impartial to police officers:

[PROSECUTOR]: Okay. Mr. Lopez, do you want to go ahead andelaborate on that?PROSPECTIVE JUROR LOPEZ: A couple months ago my son hada crash and the police officer approached the accident. But at the endof the report, he never reviewed the insurance for the other party. I getthe report the same day and I called the insurance and the insurancewas expired, but the police never checked that. I can’t trust thembecause they had to verify everything at that moment.[PROSECUOTR]: Based on that experience, do you feel like youcan’t be fair and impartial here today and listening to officers comingin and testify (sic)?THE COURT: is that what you are saying? Are you saying youcannot—you’ve generalized that you just can’t trust officers, or willyou be listening and give a fair shake to all the evidence that’spresented today?PROSPECTIVE JUROR LOPEZ: No, everybody is different, but thatwas my experience.(T. 55-56)

Later, Juror Lopez told the defense that he would find a policeofficer’s testimony “more credible” in a DUI case:

[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: Now, let’s talk a little about police officers.I know the State went into this a little bit with you about whether youlike or dislike a police officer. You are going to hear testimony frompolice officers in this case and we can all agree that police officersreceives (sic) specialized training, correct?PROSPECTIVE JURORS: Yes.[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: They go through the Police Academy, theyget trained on a lot of different things. They are taught things that non-law enforcements (sic) and civilians like the rest of us are not taught,correct?

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (15)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

CIRCUIT COURTS—APPELLATE 27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 923

PROSPECTIVE JURORS: Correct.[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: Mr. Lopez, do you think that a policeofficer’s testimony is more credible than someone who is not a policeofficer?PROSPECTIVE JUROR LOPEZ: In DUI cases, I think so becausethey caught them.[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: So you think that in a DUI case that a policeofficer’s testimony is more credible than someone else’s because oftheir training and experience?PROSPECTIVE JUROR LOPEZ: If he has evidence.THE COURT: This goes to the status. That’s the point here. She’stesting whether you will give more credibility to a police officer onlybecause he is a police officer. You are supposed to weigh credibilitybased on the quality of testimony, that’s what she’s testing on.PROSEPCTIVE JUROR LOPEZ:—

(T. 101-02) (emphasis added). Juror Lopez did not answer the trialjudge’s rehabilitating question.

Defense counsel later asked whether it was possible that a policeofficer could take the stand and lie. Each juror, including Juror Lopez,individually agreed that a police officer could lie. (T. 109)

At the conclusion of jury selection, the defense moved to excuseJuror Lopez for cause on the ground that he “thinks DUI officers aremore credible than other people. So I have a reasonable doubt as to hisability to be fair and impartial in a DUI case.” (T. 119) The trial judgeasked, “State, do you recall it that way?” The State responded, “I don’trecall it that way,” and the trial judge denied the cause challenge. Id.

Defense counsel used a peremptory challenge to remove JurorLopez, exhausted his remaining peremptory challenges, and requestedan additional peremptory challenge to use upon a juror who wasempaneled. Because use of an additional peremptory challenge wouldresult in a five-person jury panel, the defense expressly offered towaive the right to a six-juror panel. The prosecutor refused to waive asix-person jury, and the trial court denied the defense’s request for anadditional peremptory challenge. (T. 123-24). At trial, three lawenforcement witnesses, Officer Lee, Officer Cancel and OfficerClosius, testified against the Defendant. (T. 127-28)

“The test for determining juror competency is whether the juror canlay aside any bias or prejudice and render a verdict solely on theevidence presented and the instructions on the law given by the court.”See Lusk v. State, 446 So.2d 1038, 1041 (Fla.1984), citing Singer v.State, 109 So. 2d 7 (Fla. 1959). A juror must be excused for cause “ ‘ifany reasonable doubt exists as to whether the juror possesses animpartial state of mind.’ ” See Bryant v. State, 656 So. 2d 426, 428(Fla.1995) [20 Fla. L. Weekly S164a] (quoting Hill v. State, 477 So.2d 553, 556 (Fla. 1985)).

On appeal, the decision to deny a cause challenge is reviewed forabuse of discretion, will not be overturned absent manifest error, andwill be upheld on appeal if there is record support for the ruling. Busbyv. State, 894 So. 2d 88, 95 (Fla. 2004) [30 Fla. L. Weekly S95a], citingFernandez v. State, 730 So. 2d 277, 281 (Fla. 1999) [24 Fla. L.Weekly S102b]. Courts have “recognized that the trial court has aunique vantage point in the determination of juror bias. The trial courtis able to see the jurors’ voir dire responses and make observationswhich simply cannot be discerned from an appellate record.” Taylorv. State, 638 So. 2d 30, 32 (Fla.1994).

In many decisions spanning decades, Florida’s courts of appealhave uniformly held that trial courts should excuse jurors for causewho expresses bias in favor of police officers. See Duncan v. State,588 So. 2d 50 (Fla. 3d DCA 1991) (error to deny cause challenges tojurors who admitted bias in favor of police officers); Polite v. State,754 So. 2d 859 (Fla. 3d DCA 2000) [25 Fla. L. Weekly D905a](same); Vega v. State, 182 So. 3d 848, 850 (Fla. 4th DCA 2016) [41Fla. L. Weekly D99a] (Courts “routinely have held” that juror who

expresses bias in favor of police should be excused for cause);Rodriguez v. State, 226 So. 3d 833 at *3 (Fla. 2d DCA May 10, 2017)(unpublished opinion) (same).

Even ambivalent or equivocal statements by jurors expressing thebelief that police officers are more credible witnesses may raise areasonable doubt as to the juror’s impartiality requiring a causechallenge. See Jefferson v. State, 489 So. 2d 211, 12 (Fla. 3d DCA1986) (error to deny cause challenge to juror who gave equivocalanswers about whether husband’s law enforcement career wouldaffect verdict); Martinez v. State, 795 So. 2d 279, 282 (Fla. 3d DCA2001) [26 Fla. L. Weekly D2358a] (juror’s conflicting statements invoir dire “cast doubt on his ability to evaluate police testimonyimpartially”); Salgado v. State, 829 So. 2d 342, 345 (Fla. 3d DCA2002) [27 Fla. L. Weekly D2343a] (same); Clemons v. State, 770 So.2d 296, 297 (Fla. 1st DCA 2000) [25 Fla. L. Weekly D2634a] (same),Henry v. State, 756 So. 2d 170, 172 (Fla. 4th DCA 2000) [25 Fla. L.Weekly D804a] (same); Rimes v. State, 993 So. 2d 1132, 1134 (Fla.5th DCA 2008) [33 Fla. L. Weekly D2562a] (despite rehabilitation bythe trial judge, juror who initially said he would give greater weight topolice witness should have been excused for cause).

In contrast, in Guzman v. State, 934 So. 2d 11 (Fla. 3d DCA 2006)[31 Fla. L. Weekly D486a], despite a juror’s initial opinion that hewould give more credibility to a police officer, the trial court denieda cause challenge, noting that the prospective juror “stressed that hewould ultimately base his decision ‘upon the evidence presented,’ ”and understood the importance of juror impartiality. 934 So. 2d at 16-17. In finding no manifest error, the court explained, “the trial judgewas in the best position to observe [the juror’s] demeanor, assess hiscandor, and determine whether [he] was impartial.” Id. at 17.

We must determine whether the record here supports the denial ofa cause challenge to Juror Lopez. When Mr. Flowers’ lawyer objectedto Juror Lopez on the ground that the juror expressed a bias in favor ofpolice witnesses in a DUI case, the trial judge asked, “State, do yourecall it that way?” The State responded, “I don’t recall it that way,”and the motion was denied. Thus, although the trial judge holds asuperior vantage point to evaluate a juror’s responses, the trial judgehere did not interpret the juror’s responses; rather, he did not specifi-cally recall them.

Juror Lopez was never rehabilitated. But even if he was, we mustevaluate the totality of his responses. In Rimes v. State, 993 So. 2d at1134, although the trial judge attempted to rehabilitate a juror whoultimately agreed to be impartial, the appellate court held that it waserror to deny a cause challenge where the totality of the juror’sresponses evinced bias. See also Freeman v. State, 50 So. 3d 1163,1166 (Fla. 2d DCA 2010) [35 Fla. L. Weekly D2748b] (juror’sequivocal answers about the credibility of police officers, despiterehabilitation, required removal for cause).

The State contends that Juror Lopez’s statements were confusing.Some of his statements indicated an unfavorable opinion of the police,and some of his statements indicated that he would tend to believe thepolice. Juror Lopez stated that police are more credible on DUI cases“because they caught them” and “if he has evidence.” The same juroralso opined, “you can’t trust” the police, because an officer botchedhis son’s accident report, and finally agreed with the defense thatpolice officers may lie. But the question for us is not whether thejuror’s responses demonstrated unequivocal bias but rather whetherthe juror’s equivocal responses raised a reasonable doubt as to hisimpartiality. This issue is especially important in a trial where allwitnesses were police officers. We therefore hold that it was manifesterror to deny the cause challenge and accordingly, reverse.(TRAWICK, J. CONCURS.)))))))))))))))))))

(REBULL, J. concurring.) I concur in the decision to reverse the

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (16)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 924 CIRCUIT COURTS—APPELLATE

judgment of conviction and sentence. I’m not convinced that thetotality of Juror Lopez’s contradictory answers to the questions posedto him throughout the entire voir dire reflect a “fixed belief”—or evena partiality—that police officers are per se more credible than awitness who is not a law enforcement officer. But I join in the reversalbecause the trial judge didn’t recall Juror Lopez’s answers and,therefore, didn’t exercise the discretion his superior vantage pointgives him to determine for himself—as the trial judge—whether anyreasonable doubt exists as to whether Juror Lopez possessed animpartial state of mind.

As an appellate court, we don’t engage in a de novo review of thetrial court’s decision as to whether to grant a challenge for cause. “Thetrial court standard for granting an excusal for cause is based onreasonable doubt: ‘The juror should be excused if there is anyreasonable doubt about the juror’s ability to render an impartialverdict” Rodas v. State, 821 So. 2d 1150, 1153 (Fla. 4th DCA 2002)[27 Fla. L. Weekly D1559a] (emphasis added). We don’t decide(based only on a cold transcript) whether we have a reasonable doubt;but instead the question for us is whether the trial judge committedmanifest error in his reasonable doubt determination. Because the trialjudge in this case made no such reasonable doubt determination at allregarding Juror Lopez, I’m compelled to concur in the decision toreverse the judgment and sentence.

The law is clear on the importance of the trial judge’s role in thisarea:

A challenge for cause to an individual juror may be made only onthe following grounds:

(10) The juror has a state of mind regarding the defendant, the case,the person alleged to have been injured by the offense charged, or theperson on whose complaint the prosecution was instituted that willprevent the juror from acting with impartiality, but the formation of anopinion or impression regarding the guilt or innocence of the defen-dant shall not be a sufficient ground for challenge to a juror if he or shedeclares and the court determines that he or she can render animpartial verdict according to the evidence;

§ 913.03, Fla. Stat. (2019) (emphasis added). In this case Juror Lopezdid not declare—and the trial judge didn’t determine—that he couldrender an impartial verdict according to the evidence.

The Third District Court of Appeal has plainly laid out thedifference in the analysis to be engaged in by the trial judge, and thedeference to be accorded to those determinations by an appellate courtusing the manifest error standard of appellate review:

It is within the trial court’s province to determine whether achallenge for cause should be granted based on a juror’s competency,and such a determination will not be disturbed on appeal absentmanifest error.

[T]he trial court should evaluate the questions posed to and theanswers received from the juror to determine whether the juror’sresponses are equivocal enough to generate a reasonable doubt as tothe juror’s fitness to serve.

A trial judge has a unique vantage point from which to evaluatepotential juror bias and make observations of the juror’s voir direresponses, which cannot be discerned by this court’s review of a coldappellate record. Furthermore, a trial judge has broad discretionregarding juror competency because [t]he trial judge hears and seesthe prospective juror and has the unique ability to make an assessmentof the individual’s candor and the probable certainty of his answers tocritical questions presented to him.

Again, we emphasize that the trial judge was in the best position toobserve Thies’ demeanor, assess his candor, and determine whetherThies was impartial.

Guzman v. State, 934 So. 2d 11 (Fla. 3d DCA 2006) [31 Fla. L.Weekly D486a] (emphasis added).

Because the trial judge in this case didn’t use his broad discretionand superior vantage point to make an assessment of Juror Lopez andhis ability to render an impartial verdict, I join the decision to reversethe judgment and sentence.

* * *

MARIE DARCISE BUISSERETH, Appellant, v. GUY VELA, Appellee. CircuitCourt, 11th Judicial Circuit (Appellate) in and for Miami-Dade County. Case No.2017-000374 AP-01 (01). L.T. Case No. M17-14911-CC-23. January 13, 2020. AnAppeal from the County Court for Miami-Dade County. Alexander S. Bokor, Judge. Counsel: Hegel M. Laurent, for Appellant. Charles H. Groves, for Appellee.

(Before DARYL E. TRAWICK, MIGNA SANCHEZ-LLORENS,and THOMAS J. REBULL, JJ.)

(PER CURIAM.) Affirmed, in favor of Appellee/Landlord as topossession only, all other claims remain pending before the lower trialcourt. First Hanover v. Vazquez, 848 So. 2d 1188 (Fla. 3d DCA 2003)[28 Fla. L. Weekly D1319b] (tenants’ cause of action is not lost tothem when a court issues a writ of possession, rather they lose onlytheir right to retain possession of the premises by failure to pay the rentto the landlord or into the registry of the court).

Appellee/ Landlord sought costs in addition to possession. Thejudgment awarding costs shall be stayed pending resolution ofAppellant/Tenant’s counterclaims. See Premici v. United GrowthProperties, L.P., 648 So. 2d 1241 (Fla. 5th DCA 1995) [20 Fla. L.Weekly D228c].

* * *

Criminal law—Operating unregistered vehicle—Evidence—Hearsay

DARRELL JOHNSON, Appellant, v. STATE OF FLORIDA, Appellee. Circuit Court,11th Judicial Circuit (Appellate) in and for Miami-Dade County. Case No. 19-058 AC.L.T. Case No. AB07ISE. December 16, 2019. An appeal from the County Court,Traffic Division of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit in and for Miami-Dade County.Counsel: James Odell, Assistant Public Defender, for Appellant. David B. Harden,Assistant State Attorney, for Appellee.

On December 11, 2019, the State of Florida filed its Notice ofConfession of Error. We have conducted our own independent reviewof the record and transcript of proceedings. The Confession of Erroris well-taken. The State’s evidence below is indistinguishable fromthat presented in Riggins v. State, 67 So. 3d 244, 247 (Fla. 2d DCA2010) [35 Fla. L. Weekly D2480b]. The trial court should havegranted the defendant’s motion for judgment of acquittal.1

Accordingly, we reverse the Judgment and sentence datedFebruary 28, 2019, and remand with instructions that the defendant beacquitted of the charge of “NO MOTOR VEHICLE REGISTRA-TION,” in violation of section 320.02(1) of the Florida Statutes.(DARYL TRAWICK, LISA WALSH, THOMAS REBULL, JJ.)))))))))))))))))))

1We note that in the trial proceedings, the State made no effort to distinguishRiggins, and essentially walked the trial judge into error.

* * *

Counties—Code enforcement—Animals—Hearing officer failed toobserve essential requirements of law where hearing officer foundcitations were properly issued to dog owner who failed to register andvaccinate his dog but dismissed citations based on owner’s medicalissues despite there being no exemption in county code for personalhardship

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Appellant, v. GUSTAVO PEREZ, Appellee. Circuit Court,11th Judicial Circuit (Appellate) in and for Miami-Dade County. Case No. 2018-363-AP-01. L.T. Case Nos. 2018-I087983, 2018-I087984. January 3, 2020. On Appealfrom final decision by Miami-Dade Code Enforcement Hearing Officer. Counsel:Abigail Price-Williams, Miami-Dade County Attorney and Christopher J. Wahl,Assistant County Attorney, for Appellant. Gustavo Perez, in proper person, Appellee.

(Before TRAWICK, WALSH and REBULL, JJ.)

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (17)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

CIRCUIT COURTS—APPELLATE 27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 925

OPINION(PER CURIAM.) County Code Enforcement cited Gustavo Perez forviolating sections 5-6 and 5-7, Miami-Dade County Code of Ordi-nances, requiring yearly licensing and vaccination of his dog againstrabies. Mr. Perez timely requested an administrative hearing. At hishearing on June 15, 2018, Mr. Perez admitted that he failed tovaccinate and license his dog and that as of the date of the hearing, hestill had not vaccinated his dog.

To excuse his violations, Mr. Perez showed the hearing officer hismedical records to prove that he was injured in a car accident. Despiteadmonishing Mr. Perez “to look out for [his] pet,” and that medicalinjuries did not “justify [him] not taking care of [his] dog,” the hearingofficer said, “based on [his] medical situation,” she would dismiss thecase, even though she admitted she was “not even sure how [she] cando it.” The hearing officer reset the matter for the following Monday,June 18, 2018, and instructed Mr. Perez that if he vaccinated andlicensed his dog by that date, the citations would be dismissed.

The matter was not heard until November 14, 2018, five monthsafter the original hearing. At the hearing, Mr. Perez proved that as ofJune 18, 2018, he had complied with the vaccination and licensingrequirements as he was instructed at his prior hearing. The hearingofficer dismissed the citations, “based on a medical reason.” In herwritten order, the hearing officer found that the citations were properlyissued and that the Department “presented a preponderance ofevidence to indicate that the violator(s) is/ are responsible for thesubject violation.” Her only factual finding in support of dismissingthe citations was “[n]o previous compliance due to medical reasons.”

“[C]ircuit court review of an administrative agency decision, underFlorida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.030(c)(3), is governed by athree-part standard of review: (1) whether procedural due process isaccorded; (2) whether the essential requirements of law have beenobserved; and (3) whether the administrative findings and judgmentare supported by competent substantial evidence.” Haines CityCommunity Development v. Heggs, 658 So. 2d 523, 530 (Fla. 1995)[20 Fla. L. Weekly S318a].

Section 5-6(a) of the Miami-Dade County Code of Ordinances (theCode) requires that all dogs be vaccinated yearly for rabies. Section 5-6(d) establishes a violation for failure to vaccinate or re-vaccinate ananimal. Sections 5-7(a) and (c) require that all dogs be licensed and re-licensed annually. Section 5-7(e) makes it a violation to fail to licenseor re-license an animal.

Although the hearing officer found that the citations were properlyissued and proven, she dismissed the citations because of the owner’smedical issues. Sections 5-6 and 5-7 set forth enumerated exemptionsto the vaccination and licensing requirements. Animals are exemptfrom vaccination when a veterinarian certifies that vaccination wouldendanger the animal’s life or health. § 5-6(a). Greyhounds and animalsused for entertainment are also exempt from vaccination and licensingrequirements. §§ 5-6(f); 5-7(f). No other exemptions exist in the code.

The hearing officer’s dismissal appears to be based on compassionfor the owner’s personal issues. There is no code exemption for anowner’s personal hardship. Therefore, in dismissing the violations fora reason that has no basis in the code or any other law, her decisionconstitutes a failure to observe the essential requirements of law. Wemust therefore reverse the order dismissing the citations and remandfor an adjudication of the citations and imposition of fines and costs.(TRAWICK, WALSH AND REBULL, JJ. CONCUR.)

* * *

Criminal law—Appeals—Anders appeal

CLEON BEST, Appellant, v. THE STATE OF FLORIDA, Appellee. Circuit Court,11th Judicial Circuit (Appellate) in and for Miami-Dade County. Case No. 2019-000081-AC-01. L.T. Case No. A91Q4AE. January 8, 2020. An appeal conducted

pursuant to Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738, 87 S.Ct. 1396, 18 L.Ed.2d 493 (1967),from the County Court for Miami-Dade County, Robin Faber, Judge. Counsel: CleonBest, in proper person. Christine Zahralban, Assistant State Attorney.

(Before TRAWICK, WALSH, AND REBULL, JJ.)

(PER CURIAM.) Under Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738, 744, 87S.Ct. 1396, 18 L.Ed.2d 493, this Court deferred ruling on a motion ofthe public defender to withdraw as counsel for Cleon Best. The Courtprovided Mr. Best with a copy of the public defender’s memorandumbrief, and allowed him a reasonable specified time within which toraise any points in support of his appeal. Mr. Best has failed torespond, and after full examination of the proceedings, we concludethat the appeal is wholly frivolous. We thus grant the public de-fender’s motion to withdraw.

“Anders review requires this Court to conduct ‘a full and independ-ent review of the record to discover any arguable issues apparent onthe face of the record.’ In re Anders Briefs, 581 So. 2d 149, 151 (Fla.1991). This heightened review ensures a fair result despite the lack ofa merits brief by appointed counsel. Towbridge v. State, 45 So. 3d484, 487 (Fla. 1st DCA 2010) [35 Fla. L. Weekly D1947a].” Rice v.State, 44 Fla. L. Weekly D2727a (Fla. 1st DCA Nov. 13, 2019).

Our independent review of the record and transcript of the benchtrial in this case revealed no reversible errors. As a result, we affirmthe March 11, 2019 judgment for knowingly driving while licensesuspended, in violation of section subsection 322.34(2) of the FloridaStatutes, where the trial court withheld adjudication.

Affirmed.

* * *

Insurance—Personal injury protection—Attorney’s fees—Attorneywho was discharged by medical provider before suit for PIP benefitswas filed may not recover attorney’s fees against insurer who ulti-mately settled suit with provider—Section 627.428 precludes recoveryof pre-suit fees, insurer did not act unreasonably so as to justify awardof pre-suit fees, and charging lien does not compel insurer to pay pre-suit fees when attorney’s work did not produce positive result forprovider

MARK J. FELDMAN, P.A. and MARK J. FELDMAN, ESQ., Appellants, v.INFINITY ASSURANCE INSURANCE COMPANY, Appellee. Circuit Court, 11thJudicial Circuit (Appellate) in and for Miami-Dade County. Case No. 2019-46-AP-01.L.T. Case No. 14-8681-SP-25. December 31, 2019. On Appeal from the County Courtin and for Miami-Dade County, Linda Diaz, Judge. Counsel: Mark J. Feldman, P.A.and Mark J. Feldman, for Appellant. Law Offices of Deborah N. Perez & Assoc., andAlina Hart, for Appellee.

(Before TRAWICK, WALSH and REBULL, JJ.)

OPINION(WALSH, J.) Appellants Mark J. Feldman, P.A. and Mark J. Feldman,Esq. (Collectively “Feldman”) appeal the trial court’s order strikinga charging and retaining lien and denying entitlement to attorney’sfees. Feldman, who was discharged by his client before any lawsuitwas filed, argues that Appellee, Infinity Assurance InsuranceCompany (“Infinity”), should pay his pre-suit attorney’s fees,pursuant to Section 627.428, Florida Statutes. Feldman also com-plains that the trial judge improperly denied him the right to conductdiscovery on the amount of his fees.

On December 6, 2013, Feldman sent a demand letter to Infinity onbehalf of his client, Apple Medical Center, for personal injuryprotection (PIP) benefits. Two months later, Apple Medical Centerdischarged Feldman and hired a new lawyer. After he was fired,Feldman filed a charging and retaining lien to secure payment of hispre-suit attorney’s fees. Successor counsel mailed his own pre-suitdemand letter to Infinity, and later, filed a complaint for breach ofcontract. Two years later, the parties settled.

Feldman then moved for payment of his pre-suit attorney’s feesand served voluminous discovery on the amount fees. The trial court

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (18)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 926 CIRCUIT COURTS—APPELLATE

struck his charging lien, denied his entitlement to fees and denied himthe right to conduct discovery.

The standard of review of an order determining entitlement toattorney’s fees under Section 627.428, Florida Statutes is de novo. Dov. GEICO General Ins. Co., 137 So. 3d 1039 (Fla. 3d DCA 2014) [39Fla. L. Weekly D455b]. The standard of review of an order denyingdiscovery is abuse of discretion. Gold, Vann & White, P.A. v. DeBerryBy and Through DeBerry, 639 So. 2d 47 (Fla. 4th DCA 1994).

Feldman may not recover his attorneys fees against the insurer forpre-suit work because (1) the plain language of Section 627.428,Florida Statutes, precludes recovery for pre-suit attorneys’ fees, (2) theinsurer did not act unreasonably to justify awarding pre-suit fees and(3) a charging lien does not compel an insurer to pay pre-suit attor-ney’s fees where the attorney’s work did not produce a positive resultfor his client. Regarding his claim that he was entitled to conductdiscovery on the amount of fees, Feldman was not a party to anylawsuit1 and was therefore not entitled to engage in discovery on theamount of fees.

No Entitlement to Fees Under Plain Language of Section 627.428,Florida Statutes

Section 627.428, Florida Statutes, shifts the burden of payingattorney’s fees to the insurer when an insured receives a judgment,decree or succeeds on appeal against the insurer. In such case, the trialor appellate court “shall adjudge or decree against the insurer and infavor of the insured or beneficiary a reasonable sum as fees orcompensation for the insured’s or beneficiary’s attorney prosecutingthe suit in which the recovery is had.” (emphasis added) Feldman’sclaim to entitlement to his pre-suit fees turns upon the meaning of thisprovision.

Recently, the Supreme Court of Florida clearly explained how tointerpret the meaning of a statute:

A court’s determination of the meaning of a statute begins with thelanguage of the statute. Lopez v. Hall, 233 So. 3d 451, 453 (Fla. 2018)[43 Fla. L. Weekly S11a] (citing Holly v. Auld, 450 So. 2d 217, 219(Fla. 1984)). If that language is clear, the statute is given its plainmeaning, and the court does not “look behind the statute’s plainlanguage for legislative intent or resort to rules of statutory construc-tion.” City of Parker v. State, 992 So. 2d 171, 176 (Fla. 2008) [33 Fla.L. Weekly S671a] (quoting Daniels v. Fla. Dep’t of Health, 898 So.2d 61, 64 (Fla. 2005) [30 Fla. L. Weekly S143a]).

Lieupo v. Simon’s Trucking, Inc., 2019 WL 6904130 (Fla. Dec. 19,2019) [44 Fla. L. Weekly S298a].

Feldman’s work submitting a demand letter—a demand which wasnever used to form the basis for a suit—does not fall within the plainlanguage of this phrase. The phrase “prosecuting the suit in which therecovery is had” includes three separate elements: “prosecuting,” “thesuit” and “in which the recovery is had.” Feldman was never “prose-cuting” because he was fired. He certainly did not prosecute “the suit”because he never filed a suit. And he was not the lawyer who prose-cuted the suit “in which the recovery was had”—successor counselwas. The plain language of the phrase “prosecuting the suit in whichthe recovery is had” therefore excludes payment for submittingunsuccessful, pre-suit demand letters.

Two federal judges construing the plain language of Section627.428 concluded that all legal work done prior to drafting and filingthe complaint is not compensable. In Kearney v. Auto-Owners Ins.Co., 2010 WL 3119380 at *8 (M.D. Fla. Aug. 4, 2010), the courtopined,

[T]he word “prosecute” also limits fees to work on a lawsuit. “Prose-cute” means “to commence and carry out a legal action.” [Blacks’ LawDictionary 1237 (7th ed.1999)] The term specifically excludes pre-suitwork. As the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida

found: “The narrow sense of the statute’s use of the phrase ‘prosecut-ing the suit’ should only include those fees incurred after the Plain-tiff’s formal initiation of their litigation and no pre-suit activities.”

(quoting Dunworth v. Tower Hill Preferred Ins. Co., 2006 WL889424 (S.D. Fla. Feb. 14, 2006) (Unpublished decision)) InDunworth, another federal judge fractionally reduced the total amountof attorney’s fees sought, excluding fees for “time either not permit-ted, e.g., pre-suit activities, or not related . . . .” Id. at *3.

Because Feldman was not the lawyer who “prosecuted the suit inwhich the recovery was had,” his claim for fees was properly stricken.

Feldman Failed to Establish the Insurer’s Unreasonable Conductto Justify Payment of Pre-Suit Fees

This Court must abide by the holding in U.S. Fidelity and Guar.Co. v. Rosado, 606 So. 2d 628, 629 (Fla. 3d DCA 1992), that entitle-ment to fees hinges upon “a determination whether the pre-suit work,particularly those legal services rendered prior to providing the insurerwith proof of claims, was necessitated by the insurer’s unreasonableconduct.”2 Feldman did not claim in his motion for fees that theinsurer did anything unreasonable; he simply argued that he filed ademand letter, that the claimant ultimately prevailed and therefore, hewas entitled to fee-shifting compensation for preparing and mailinghis demand letter. But Infinity’s failure to pay a claim set forth in ademand letter is conduct common to every insurance company namedin every PIP lawsuit. If this is Feldman’s theory, every insurer namedin every PIP lawsuit would be liable for pre-suit work, surely not whatthe Court in Rosado meant by an insurer’s “unreasonable conduct.”

In United Automobile Insurance Company v. Affiliated HealthCenters, Inc., a/a/o Jacqueline Olivas, 22 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 687a(Fla. 11th Jud. Cir. Jan. 16, 2015), in the context of a prevailing partyissue, another panel discussed the meaning of an insurer’s “unreason-able conduct” which would entitle prevailing plaintiff’s counsel topre-suit fees. The court concluded that failing to pay a claim until thedemand letter was filed is not “unreasonable conduct” which wouldjustify pre-suit fees, even though there was no doubt the attorney haddone the work. In Apple Medical Ctr. v. Progressive Select Ins. Co.,25 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 748a (Fla. 11th Jud. Cir., Aug. 27, 2015), atrial judge rejected a similar Feldman pre-suit fee claim, explainingunder Rosado and the plain language of 627.428, pre-suit fees werenot compensable. Likewise, here, Infinity’s failure to pay Feldmanprior to or after his demand letter, standing alone, does not establishthe kind of unreasonable conduct which should result in the penalty ofpayment of pre-suit fees.

Feldman Failed to Satisfy Prerequisite for Charging LienAdditionally, Feldman failed to satisfy the prerequisites of a

charging lien in order to recover his fees. Feldman argues that he hassatisfied the elements of a charging lien: “(1) an express or impliedcontract between attorney and client; (2) an express or impliedunderstanding for payment of attorney’s fees out of the recovery; (3)either an avoidance of payment or a dispute as to the amount of fees;and (4) timely notice.” Daniel Mones. P.A. v. Smith, 486 So. 2d 559,561 (Fla. 1986). However, Feldman failed to establish that heobtained a positive result for his former client.

The Third District Court of Appeal explained in Litman v. Fine,Jacobson, Schwartz, Nash, Block & England, P.A., 517 So. 2d 88, 91(Fla. 3d DCA 1987), “[i]t is not enough . . . . to support the impositionof a charging lien that an attorney has provided his services; theservices must, in addition, produce a positive judgment or settle-ment for the client, since the lien will attach only to the tangible fruitsof the services.” (emphasis added) See also Walia v. Hodgson RussLLP , 28 So. 3d 987, 989 (Fla. 4th DCA 2010) [35 Fla. L. WeeklyD552a] (where litigation has not yet produced a positive judgment,charging lien is not established).

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (19)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

CIRCUIT COURTS—APPELLATE 27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 927

Feldman did nothing to “produce a positive judgment or settlementfor the client.” Feldman’s demand letter was not used in the lawsuit.Successor counsel mailed a new demand letter and filed the complaintwhich led to the settlement. Feldman’s demand letter thus served nopart in producing the positive judgment in this case.

We also reject Feldman’s claim that he should have been entitledto conduct discovery on the amount of his fee. The rules of civilprocedure do not provide for a non-party to serve discovery. Feldmanwas correctly denied the right to intervene as a party. He was thereforenot permitted to engage in discovery. See Rule 1.280(b)(1), Fla. R.Civ. P. Moreover, because Feldman was not entitled to attorney’s feesfor his pre-suit work, his right to discovery on this matter is moot.

Accordingly, we AFFIRM. (TRAWICK and REBULL, JJ.,concur.)))))))))))))))))))

1The trial court denied his motion to intervene as a party plaintiff, and that order wasaffirmed on December 4, 2018 in a separate appeal in 2016-355-AP-01.

2The Rosado opinion cites Wollard v. Lloyd’s & Cos. of Lloyd’s, 439 So. 2d 217(Fla.1983), at 219 n. 2. However, the court in Wollard did not address entitlement topre-suit fees under a fee-shifting statute.

* * *

MARK J. FELDMAN, P.A., Appellant, v. STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILEINSURANCE COMPANY, Appellee. Circuit Court, 11th Judicial Circuit (Appellate)in and for Miami-Dade County. Case No. 2019-000221-AP-01. L.T. Case No. 2014-12232-CC-25 (04). January 3, 2020. An Appeal from the County Court in and forMiami-Dade County, Carlos Guzman, Judge. Counsel: Mark J. Feldman, forAppellants. Kirwan, Spellacy, Danner, Watkins & Brownstein, P.A.; Birnbaum,Lippman & Gregoire, PLLC; and Nancy Gregoire, for Appellee.

(Before TRAWICK, WALSH and REBULL, JJ.)

(PER CURIAM.) This Court recently decided Feldman v. InfinityAssurance Insurance Company, Case Number 2019-46-AP-01 (Dec.31, 2019) [27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 925b], affirming on the identicalissues raised in this appeal. Therefore, this Court summarily affirmson the authority of Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.315(a)(“After service of the initial brief . . . the court may summarily affirmthe order to be reviewed if the court finds that no preliminary basis forreversal has been demonstrated.”). (TRAWICK, WALSH, andREBULL, JJ., concur.)

* * *

MARK J. FELDMAN, P.A. and MARK J. FELDMAN, ESQ., Appellants, v. MGAINS. CO., INC., Appellee. Circuit Court, 11th Judicial Circuit (Appellate) in and forMiami-Dade County. Case No. 2019-000176-AP-01. L.T. Case No. 2014-8087-SP-25.January 3, 2020. An Appeal from the County Court in and for Miami-Dade County,Linda Diaz, Judge. Counsel: Mark J. Feldman, for Appellants. Conroy Simberg andDiane H. Tutt, for Appellee.

(Before TRAWICK, WALSH and REBULL, JJ.)

(PER CURIAM.) This Court recently decided Feldman v. InfinityAssurance Insurance Company, Case Number 2019-46-AP-01 (Dec.31, 2019) 27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 925b], affirming on the identicalissues raised in this appeal. Therefore, this Court summarily affirmson the authority of Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.315(a)(“After service of the initial brief . . . the court may summarily affirmthe order to be reviewed if the court finds that no preliminary basis forreversal has been demonstrated.”). (TRAWICK, WALSH, andREBULL, JJ., concur.)

* * *

Municipal corporations—Zoning—Conditional use—Business ownerof property located across street from property for which conditionaluse was approved by city design review board does not have standingto seek judicial review of order merely because city code affordedbusiness owner standing before the board—Business owner who has

not alleged any special injury or any other injury does not havestanding to seek judicial review—Alleged procedural errors that arenot fundamental do not confer standing—Even if business owner hadstanding, it abandoned challenge to city commission order affirmingboard’s order by failing to challenge commission’s order in certioraripetition—No merit to claim that approval of application for designreview departed from essential requirements of law because applica-tion failed to identify all applicants and one of property owners failedto appear in review proceedings where affidavits attached to applica-tion identified all applicants, and interests of nonappearing owner wererepresented by owner who did appear—Decision is supported bycompetent substantial evidence

BEACH TOWING SERVICES, INC., Petitioner, v. SUNSET LAND ASSOCIATES,LLC, and THE CITY OF MIAMI BEACH, Respondents. Circuit Court, 11th JudicialCircuit (Appellate) in and for Miami-Dade County. Case No. 19-213-AP-01. L.T. CaseNo. 17-0198. January 16, 2020. On a Petition for Writ of Certiorari seeking to quash anOrder of the City of Miami Beach’s Design Review Board (File Number 17-198).Counsel: Kent Harrison Robbins, Law Offices of Kent Harrison Robbins, P.A., forPetitioner. Jeffrey S. Bass, Kathrine R. Maxwell and Alannah Shubrick, Shubin &Bass, P.A., for Sunset Land Associates, LLC, Respondent. Raul J. Aguila, AleksandrBoksner, and Faroat Andasheva, City Attorney’s Office, City of Miami Beach,Respondent.

(Before WALSH, TRAWICK and REBULL, JJ.)

(TRAWICK, J.) Petitioner, Beach Towing Services, Inc. (“BeachTowing”), seeks to quash a December 7, 2018 Order of the DesignReview Board (the “DRB”) of the City of Miami Beach (the “City”),which approved an Application by Sunset Land Associates, LLC(“Sunset”) and which the City Commission unanimously affirmed(the “Commission’s Order”).

On October 10, 2017, Sunset filed a Land Use Board HearingApplication (the “Application”) requesting Conditional Use approvalfor a five-story mixed use project containing both residential andcommercial uses (the “Project”). The Project was to be developed on0.77 acres located at 1733, 1743, 1747, and 1759 Purdy Avenue, and1724, 1738, and 1752 Bay Road, Miami Beach, Florida (the “SubjectProperties”). Sunset is the owner of three of the Subject Properties,while SH is the owner of five of these Subject Properties. BeachTowing is the lease holder and licensed business owner of a propertylocated at 1349 Dade Boulevard, Miami Beach, Florida, which isacross the street from the proposed Project. The DRB heard theApplication and rendered the Final Order. This petition followed.

STANDING“The issue of standing is a threshold inquiry which must be made

at the outset of the case before addressing [the merits].” Ferreiro v.Philadelphia Indem. Ins. Co., 928 So. 2d 374, 376 (Fla. 3d DCA2006) [31 Fla. L. Weekly D719a]. “A plaintiff must demonstrate theexistence of an actual controversy between the plaintiff and thedefendant in which plaintiff has a sufficient stake or cognizableinterest which would be affected by the outcome of the litigation inorder to satisfy the requirements of standing.” Matheson v. Miami-Dade Cty., 258 So. 3d 516, 519 (Fla. 3d DCA 2018) [43 Fla. L.Weekly D2293a] (citing Warren Tech., Inc. v. Carrier Corp., 937 So.2d 1141, 1142 (Fla. 3d DCA 2006) [31 Fla. L. Weekly D2166b]).

Beach Towing claimed standing below based upon; 1) holding along-term lease and being a licensed business owner of a propertylocated within 375 feet of the subject Property, and 2) based upon itsappearance through counsel before the DRB. While this may besufficient to confer standing before the DRB under the City Code,neither is sufficient to confer standing upon Beach Towing to seekjudicial review. “The fact that a person may have the requisitestanding to appear as a party before an agency at a de novo proceedingdoes not mean that the party automatically has standing to appeal.”Martin County Conservation Alliance v. Martin County, 73 So. 3d856, 861 (Fla. 1st DCA 2011) [36 Fla. L. Weekly D2416a] (citation

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (20)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 928 CIRCUIT COURTS—APPELLATE

omitted).Beach Towing fails to point to a “special injury” or any other injury

in its Petition which would be sufficient to confer standing before thisCourt. See Liebman v. City of Miami, 279 So. 3d 747, 751 (Fla. 3dDCA 2019) [44 Fla. L. Weekly D1836a] (“special injury” necessaryto confer standing). The Florida Supreme Court has stated that:

There are three requirements that constitute the “irreducible constitu-tional minimum” for standing. (citation omitted) First, a plaintiff mustdemonstrate an “injury in fact,” which is “concrete,” “distinct andpalpable,” and “actual or imminent.” (citation omitted) Second, aplaintiff must establish “a causal connection between the injury andthe conduct complained of.” (citation omitted) Third, a plaintiff mustshow “a ‘substantial likelihood’ that the requested relief will remedythe alleged injury in fact.”

State v. J.P., 907 So. 2d 1101, 1113 n. 4 (Fla. 2004) [29 Fla. L. WeeklyS691a]. Beach Towing failed to meet any of these requirements. Theerrors alleged in the City forms did not materially impair nor effect theDRB’s approval of the Application or the Commission’s subsequentaffirmation of the DRB’s decision on appeal.

Additionally, “[w]hen the alleged error is procedural, as in thiscase, the petitioner must demonstrate that the error is fundamentalerror. Non-fundamental errors of procedure cannot be the subject ofa proceeding for writ of certiorari . . . .” Gulf Cities Gas Corp. v. Cihak,201 So. 2d 250, 251 (Fla. 2d DCA 1967). The crux of Beach Towing’sargument is that SH purportedly was not an Applicant. At no time didBeach Towing’s counsel maintain that Beach Towing was preventedfrom fully preparing and presenting its objections at hearings, or thatBeach Towing was prejudiced in any other manner due to thispurported omission.

We find that Beach Towing lacks standing to challenge either theOrder of the DRB or the subsequent order of the Commission.

ABANDONMENT OF CHALLENGE TO CITY COMMISSIONORDEREven if SH had standing to challenge the DRB and Commission

orders, a party abandons any issue that was not raised in the initialpetition. Hall v. State, 823 So. 2d 757, 763 (Fla. 2002) [27 Fla. L.Weekly S627a]; J.A.B. Enter. v. Gibbons, 596 So. 2d 1247, 1250 (Fla.4th DCA 1992). Beach Towing failed to challenge the City Commis-sion’s Order in its petition. Instead, it presented arguments that onlyaddressed the original DRB Order. They are therefore precluded frommaking argument regarding the Commission’s order now.1

ANALYSIS OF THE PETITION’S SUBSTANTIVE ARGU-MENTSCertiorari review by this Court typically requires a determination

as to whether: (1) procedural due process was accorded, (2) theessential requirements of the law were observed; and, (3) the adminis-trative findings and judgment were supported by competent substan-tial evidence. City of Deerfield Beach v. Vaillant, 419 So. 2d 624, 626(Fla. 1982).

With regard to due process, “[a] quasi-judicial hearing generallymeets basic due process requirements if the parties are provided noticeof the hearing and an opportunity to be heard.” Jennings v. DadeCounty, 589 So. 2d 1337, 1340 (Fla. 3d DCA 1991). Additionally,“the parties must be able to present evidence, cross-examine wit-nesses, and be informed of all the facts. . .” Id. The City providednotice by publication, mail and posting. Miami Beach Code ofOrdinances section 118-8, which sets forth the City’s notice require-ments for quasi-judicial public hearings, does not require that theApplicant be identified in the notice. It only requires “a description ofthe request, and the date, start time of the meeting, and location of thehearing.” Code section 118-8(a). Beach Towing was affordedprocedural due process having received proper notice and an opportu-

nity to be heard by the DRB.Further, the essential requirements of the law were observed.

Beach Towing argues that SH was not an Applicant as required by theDRB By-Laws and Rules of Order (“DRB By-Laws”) Section 3(Board to Hear Only Bona Fide Cases) even though it is a title ownerof five of the eight Subject Properties. Beach Towing claims thatbecause Sunset, the title owner of the other three properties, was theonly Applicant, the Application was not bona fide. Beach Towing’sargument is without merit.

The City of Miami Beach Design Review Board, By-Laws andRules of Order provide in Article 11, Section 3 that: “The Board mayhear only those applications for design review brought by the legaltitle owner of record of the subject property . . . .” (emphasis added).There is abundant evidence in the record that this Application was“brought” by the legal title owners of the Property.

SH was identified in the Application and the Application included“OWNER AFFIDAVITS” that were executed on behalf of bothSunset and SH. The third page of each Affidavit was an “APPLI-CANT AFFIDAVIT” affirming that Sunset and SH were each anApplicant. The City Attorney concluded the same. Indeed, evenBeach Towing itself argued that SH was an Applicant during theinitial hearing before the DRB.2 Their change of position punctuatesthe deficiency of their argument.

Beach Towing further claims that SH was an indispensable partyto the DRB proceedings. “An indispensable party is one whoseinterest in the controversy makes it impossible to completely adjudi-cate the matter without affecting either that party’s interest or theinterests of another party in the action.” Fla. Dep’t of Revenue v.Cummings, 930 So. 2d 604, 607 (Fla. 2006) [31 Fla. L. WeeklyS275c]. SH was provided with an opportunity to appear before theDRB and chose not to do so. However, SH shares a common interestin the Project with Sunset, who successfully represented SH’s positionin the proceedings below. If SH was in fact an indispensable party,SH’s position was considered by the DRB prior to issuing its order.

Finally, as to competent substantial evidence, Beach Towing doesnot argue that the DRB’s order lacks such support. It would bedifficult for them to credibly do so. The record includes but was notlimited to the professional staff report with recommendations andrenderings of the project. Competent substantial evidence has beendefined as “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might acceptas adequate to support a conclusion.” Duval Utility Co. v. FloridaPublic Service Commission, 380 So. 2d 1028, 1031 (Fla. 1980). Aslong as the record contains competent substantial evidence to supportthe agency’s decision, the decision is presumed lawful and the court’sjob is ended. Dusseau v. Metropolitan Dade County Bd. of CountyCom’rs, 794 So. 2d 1270, 1275-76 (Fla. 2001) [26 Fla. L. WeeklyS329a]. We find that the Order issued by the DRB was supported bycompetent substantial evidence.

For the reasons herein discussed, the Petition for Writ of Certiorariis hereby DENIED.3 (WALSH and REBULL, JJ. concur.)))))))))))))))))))

1If in fact Beach Towing had intended to challenge the City Commission order,they failed to provide a sufficient record of the administrative proceedings before theCommission for appellate review. “An appellate court cannot reverse a decision in theabsence of a sufficient record” Kass Shuler, P.A. v. Barchard, 120 So. 3d 165, 168 (Fla.2d DCA 2013) [38 Fla. L. Weekly D1807d].

2The DRB held an initial hearing on November 6, 2018. However, due to aprocedural issue not relevant to this petition, the DRB continued that hearing toDecember 4, 2018. The DRB entered its order on December 7, 2018.

3The Court has considered each of the other arguments raised by Petitioner.However, our findings render a determination of these issues unnecessary.

* * *

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (21)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

CIRCUIT COURTS—APPELLATE 27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 929

Municipal corporations—Zoning—Conditional use—Jurisdiction—Appeals—Claim that planning board lacked jurisdiction over requestfor a conditional use approval because code required that jurisdictionwould not attach until board had a written certificate of the cityattorney stating that the subject matter of the request was proper anddid not constitute a variance of city’s land development regulations,and the certificate before the planning board was issued by a deputycity attorney who had purportedly been recused—Jurisdictional issuewhich was not raised below and which requires factual determinationis not properly before appellate court—Purported error was notfundamental , as city staff report confirmed that application did notrequire variance—Further, city attorney ratified deputy’s allegedlyunauthorized certification

BEACH TOWING SERVICES, INC., Petitioner, v. SUNSET LAND ASSOCIATES,LLC, SH OWNER, LLC, and THE CITY OF MIAMI BEACH, Respondents. CircuitCourt, 11th Judicial Circuit (Appellate) in and for Miami-Dade County. Case No. 19-012-AP-01. L.T. Case Nos. (Planning Board File Numbers) PB 17-0168 a/k/a PB 18-0168. January 16, 2020. On a Petition for Writ of Certiorari seeking to quash an Orderof the City of Miami Beach’s Planning Board (File Number 17-0168). Counsel: RafaelE. Andrade, Law Offices of Rafael E. Andrade, P.A., for Petitioner. Jeffrey S. Bass andIan E. DeMello, Shubin & Bass, P.A., for Sunset Land Associates, LLC and SH Owner,LLC, Respondents. Raul J. Aguila, Aleksandr Boksner, and Faroat Andasheva, CityAttorney’s Office, for City of Miami Beach, Respondent.

(Before WALSH, TRAWICK and REBULL, JJ.)

(TRAWICK, J.) Petitioner, Beach Towing Services, Inc. (“BeachTowing”), seeks to quash a December 14, 2018 Order of the PlanningBoard (the “Planning Board”) of the City of Miami Beach (the“City”), which approved an Application by Sunset Land Associates,LLC (“Sunset”) and SH Owner, LLC (“SH”) (together the “Appli-cants”), requesting Conditional Land Use Permits in Planning BoardFile Number 18-0168 (the “Final Order”).

On October 10, 2017, Sunset filed a Land Use Board HearingApplication (the “Application”) requesting Conditional Use approvalfor a five-story mixed use project containing both residential andcommercial uses (the “Project”). The Project was to be developed on0.77 acres located at 1733, 1743, 1747, and 1759 Purdy Avenue, and1724, 1738, and 1752 Bay Road, Miami Beach, Florida (the “SubjectProperties”). Sunset is the owner of three of the Subject Properties,while SH is the owner of five of these Subject Properties. BeachTowing is the lease holder and licensed business owner of a propertylocated at 1349 Dade Boulevard, Miami Beach, Florida 33139, whichis across the street from the proposed Project. The Planning Boardheard the Application and rendered the Final Order. This petitionfollowed.

Certiorari review by this Court typically requires a determinationas to whether: (1) procedural due process was accorded, (2) theessential requirements of the law were observed; and, (3) the adminis-trative findings and judgment were supported by competent substan-tial evidence. City of Deerfield Beach v. Vaillant, 419 So. 2d 624, 626(Fla. 1982). Beach Towing only raises the issue of whether theessential requirements of the law were observed.

Section 118-52(b) (Meetings and procedures) of the City of MiamiBeach Code of Ordinances (the “Code”) provides that:

Requests. All requests shall be submitted to the city attorney for adetermination whether the request is properly such, and does notconstitute a variance of these land development regulations. Thejurisdiction of the planning board shall not attach unless and untilthe board has before it a written certificate of the city attorney thatthe subject matter of the request is properly before the board. Theseparate written recommendations of the planning director shall bebefore the board prior to its consideration of any matter before it.(emphasis added).

Beach Towing alleges that the City Attorney required the recusal

of a Deputy City Attorney prior to that Deputy issuing the requiredcertification that the subject Application did not require a variancefrom land development regulations (the “Certificate”). Based uponthe Deputy City Attorney’s purported recusal, Beach Towingcontends that the Planning Board’s Order was void ab initio and thusthe Board lacked jurisdiction to consider the Application. However,Beach Towing failed to properly provide this Court with a record basisto support its claim that a recusal occurred.

“As a general rule, it is not appropriate for a party to raise an issuefor the first time on appeal.” Sunset Harbour Condo. Ass’n v. Robbins,914 So. 2d 925, 928 (Fla. 2005) [30 Fla. L. Weekly S763a]; seeRobins v. Colombo, 253 So. 3d 94, 97 (Fla. 3d DCA 2018) [43 Fla. L.Weekly D1821a]. Beach Towing never raised itsrecusal/jurisdictional argument below. Nevertheless, an exceptionexists where the issue for the appellate court’s consideration is one ofthe lower tribunal’s subject matter jurisdiction. See City of Miami v.Cosgrove, 516 So. 2d 1125, 1128 (Fla. 3d DCA 1987); see alsoDepartment of Revenue v. Vanamburg, 174 So. 3d 640, 642 (Fla. 1stDCA 2015) [40 Fla. L. Weekly D2177c] (“Lack of subject matterjurisdiction may be raised for the first time on appeal.”).

“[A]n unpreserved jurisdictional issue is properly before theappellate court only if the issue does not require a factual determina-tion.” P. Padovano, Florida Civil Practice § 8.8 FN 3 (2020 ed.)(emphasis added); see Florida Auto. Dealers Industry Ben. Trust v.Small, 592 So. 2d 1179, 1184 (Fla. 1st DCA 1992) (appellate reviewis only possible when resolution of the issue does not require factualdeterminations).

Here, the issue of whether a recusal occurred requires a factualdetermination by the Court as this issue was not raised or part of therecord below. In an attempt to resolve this factual issue, BeachTowing improperly attached an email string to its Reply Brief.However, where documents that are not part of the record are attachedto an appellate brief, they will not be considered by the appellate court.See Pedroni v. Pedroni, 788 So. 2d 1138, 1139 n. 1 (Fla. 5th DCA2001) [26 Fla. L. Weekly D1717a]. “[I]t is a basic tenet of theappellate process that an appeal is based only on evidence presentedto the lower tribunal.” Hughes v. Enterprise Leasing Company, 831So. 2d 1240-41 (Fla. 1st DCA 2002) [27 Fla. L. Weekly D2656a];(citation omitted). “That an appellate court may not consider mattersoutside the record is so elemental that there is no excuse for anyattorney to attempt to bring such matters before the court.” Altchilerv. Dep’t Prof’l Regulation, 442 So. 2d 349, 350 (Fla. 1st DCA 1983)

Further, when an error is unpreserved, the alleged error mustconstitute a fundamental error in order to be reversible. Doty v. State,170 So. 3d 731, 743 (Fla. 2015) [40 Fla. L. Weekly S442a]. Afundamental error is “one that ‘reaches down into the validity of thetrial itself’ and ‘could not have been obtained without the assistanceof the alleged error.’ ” Id. at 743 (citations omitted); See Saka v. Saka,831 So. 2d 709, 711 (Fla. 3d DCA 2002) [27 Fla. L. Weekly D2335a](citing Sanford v. Rubin, 237 So. 2d 134, 137 (Fla. 1970) (“Funda-mental error, which can be considered on appeal without objection inthe lower court, is error which goes to the foundation of the case orgoes to the merits of the cause of action.”). The City’s ProfessionalStaff’s Report confirmed that the Application did not require avariance and thus the Application was properly before the PlanningBoard. Accordingly, the alleged error does not reach down to thevalidity of the proceeding itself.

Even if we were to consider the attachments to Beach Towing’sbrief, the result would be the same. The assistant city attorney whoissued the certification at issue was acting on behalf of the cityattorney. Assuming she lacked the authority to issue that certificationbecause of some purported recusal, the attachments reflect that thecity attorney plainly ratified her putatively unauthorized actions. “[A]

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (22)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 930 CIRCUIT COURTS—APPELLATE

principal may subsequently ratify its agent’s act, even if originallyunauthorized, and such ratification relates back and supplies theoriginal authority.” See Juega ex rel. Estate of Davidson v. Davidson,8 So. 3d 488, 490 (Fla. 3d DCA 2009) [34 Fla. L. Weekly D917b](internal quotations and citation omitted).

As the essential requirements of law were observed, the Petition forWrit of Certiorari is hereby DENIED. (WALSH and REBULL, JJ.,concur.)

* * *

Municipal corporations—Zoning—Waivers—Setbacks—Issue ofzoning administrator’s authority to approve waiver of waterfrontsetback for high-rise condominium and hotel project is moot wheredeveloper abandoned waiver at hearing before zoning appealsboard—Resolution of board accurately memorializes commitmentsand agreements made by developer at hearing, including agreement toredesign project to conform with requirements of city charter and codefor waterfront setbacks

THE RIVERFRONT MASTER ASSOCIATION, INC., and MINT CONDOMINIUMASSOCIATION, INC. Appellant, v. CITY OF MIAMI, FLORIDA a politicalsubdivision of the State of Florida, and BRICKVIEW 3114 LLC, Appellee. CircuitCourt, 11th Judicial Circuit (Appellate) in and for Miami-Dade County. Case No. 2019-000092-AP-01. L.T. Case No. 2018-0098. January 14, 2020. On Petition for Writ ofCertiorari from the City of Miami, Planning, Zoning, and Appeals Board, EnactmentNo. PZAB-R-19-004. Counsel: Paul C. Savage, Rasco, Klock, Perez & Nieto, P.L., forPetitioners. Thomas H. Robertson, Bercow, Radell, Fernandez & Larkin, PLLC, forRespondent Brickview 3114 LLC. Victoria Mendez, City Attorney, and Kerri L.McNulty, Sr. Appellate Counsel, for Respondent City of Miami.

(Before TRAWICK, WALSH, AND REBULL, JJ.)

(REBULL, J.) The River Front Master Association and the MintCondominium Association petition this court for a writ of certiorari toquash a Resolution1 of the City of Miami Planning, Zoning andAppeals Board. We dismiss a portion of the petition as moot. Becausewe also find that the PZAB’s Resolution doesn’t depart from theessential requirements of law, we deny the petition as to the remainingarguments.

Factual Background and Procedural HistoryThe parties’ submissions reflect that Brickview owns the property

located at 39-55 and 95 SW Miami Avenue Road in the City of Miami.Brickview has proposed a 58-story mixed use condominium and hotelproject known as the “Edge” (the “Project”) on the Property. TheProperty abuts the Miami River, and is located on its south side, nextto the Miami Avenue Bridge. The Property is located 217 feet acrossthe river from three existing residential high rises represented by thePetitioners: the Mint, the Ivy, and the Wind (collectively the“Riverfront Project”). In addition to the three existing residential highrises, Petitioner, Riverfront Master Association, represents theinterests of three undeveloped lots within the Riverfront Project,which will eventually be developed into additional high rise condo-miniums.

In connection with the planning and design of the Project,Brickview applied to the “Director of Zoning/Zoning Administrator”for certain waivers from applicable city code provisions.2 The ZoningAdministrator issued a Final Decision (File No. 2018-0098) approv-ing the waivers, with conditions. The waiver which is the main focusof the petition relates to setbacks for waterfront property. The FinalDecision reads as follows with regard to the waterfront setbacks:

The subject proposal has been reviewed for the following Administra-tive Permits:

• Waiver, pursuant to Article 3, Section 3.3.3(c), Where an existinglot of record is located adjacent to a Thoroughfare in a manner thatcreates an irregular Frontage such that the side or rear yards cannot bedetermined as with a regular lot, to allow the Zoning Administrator todetermine the yard and setback for the lot, as fits the circ*mstances of

the case.

In reviewing this application the following findings have been made:

FINDINGS:• It is found that the Waterfront setback of 13.2' is 25% of the

average Lot depth of 52.76', pursuant to Article 3, Section 3.11(a)(1),which states that where the depth of the Lot is less than two hundredfeet (200'), the Setback must be a minimum of twenty-five percent(25%) of the Lot depth.

• It is found that the Waterfront side setback is approximatelyseventy-four (74') feet, more than the required sixty-nine (69') feet ortwenty-five percent (25%) of the water frontage of the average lotwidth of 276'; to allow View Corridors open from ground to sky andto allow public access to the waterfront, pursuant to Article 3, Section3.11(a)(2).

• It is found that the Lot is located adjacent to SW Miami AvenueRoad in a manner that creates an irregular Frontage, such that the sidesetbacks cannot be determined as with a regular Lot. Therefore,pursuant to Article 3, Section 3.3.3(c), the Zoning Administrator hasdetermined the side setbacks for the Lot to be zero feet (0'), by Waiver,with ten feet (10') provided on the south-east side, and 53'-5" providedon the south-west side for the Height of the Building.

River Front and Mint appealed the Zoning Administrator’s FinalDecision to the City of Miami Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board.Part of the basis for the appeal was that the Final Decision violated theCity Charter and the City Code as it relates to waterfront setbackstandards.

The City of Miami’s governing document—its Charter—expresslyspeaks to the heightened scrutiny given to proposals to build on theCity’s waterfront:

(ii) In order to preserve the city’s natural scenic beauty, to guaran-tee open spaces, and to protect the waterfront, anything in this Charteror the ordinances of the city to the contrary notwithstanding, neitherthe city nor any of its agencies shall issue building permits for anysurface parking or enclosed structures located on Biscayne Bay or theMiami River from its mouth to the N.W. 5th Street Bridge,

(A) which are not set back at least 50 feet from the seawall (wherethe depth of the lot is less than 200 feet, the setback shall be at least 25percent of the lot depth), and

(B) which do not have average side yards equal in aggregate to atleast 25 percent of the water frontage of each lot based on average lotwidth.

(iii) The above setback and side-yard requirements may bemodified by the city commission after design and site-plan review andpublic hearing only if the city commission determines that themodifications requested provide public benefits such as direct publicaccess, public walkways, plaza dedications, covered parking up to thefloodplain level, or comparable benefits which promote a better urbanenvironment and public advantages, or which preserve naturalfeatures.

Section 3(mm)(ii) and (iii), The City of Miami Charter (emphasisadded).3

Thus, the Charter itself imposes certain setback and side-yardrequirements for structures to be built on the waterfront. And it is onlythe Miami City Commission which may modify those requirements,provided it makes the determinations set forth in the Charter that themodifications provide the public benefits set forth therein.

At the hearing before the PZAB, the City—which had earliersupported the waterfront setback waiver—acknowledged that itshouldn’t have been approved by the Zoning Administrator. As aresult, at the PZAB hearing Brickview essentially abandoned thatwaiver (“We have agreed not to request the Waiver for the WaterfrontSetback), and instead pledged to comply with the applicable Charterand code provisions in that regard. The PZAB ultimately voted (in less

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (23)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

CIRCUIT COURTS—APPELLATE 27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 931

than clear oral motions) to reject the appeal of the Final Decision, thusallowing the Final Decision to stand. The City memorialized thePZAB’s action in the Resolution which the petitioners are now askingus to quash.

Discussion

1. The Waterfront Setback Waiver Issue is Moot.We dismiss that portion of the petition related to the waterfront

setback issue as moot. “Mootness can be raised by the appellate courton its own motion.” Montgomery v. Dep’t of Health & Rehab.Services, 468 So. 2d 1014, 1016 (Fla. 1st DCA 1985). “Mootnessoccurs in two basic situations: [W]hen the issues presented are nolonger ‘live’ or [when] the parties lack a legally cognizable interest inthe outcome.” See id. at 1016 (internal quotations and citationsomitted). “It is the function of a judicial tribunal to decide actualcontroversies by a judgment which can be carried into effect, and notto give opinions on moot questions, or to declare principles or rules oflaw which cannot affect the matter in issue.” See id. at 1016-17.

The issue presented as to the waterfront side setback waiver is nolonger “live.” There is NOT an actual controversy. Brickview hasunambiguously indicated that it will not use the waiver from applica-ble code provisions for the side setbacks. Instead, at the hearing beforethe PZAB, Brickview clearly indicated that it will comply with theCharter and code provisions regarding the required side setbacks forwaterfront property:

And despite that fact, I will tell you that it is an impact to theproject, but we’re willing to accept it. It will require that we reduce—-or increase our setback slightly on the Southeast corner of theproperty. And that will resolve two issues that Mr. Martos [on behalfof River Front] has raised today, which is the waterfront setback, andthe side setback from the bridge.

* * *We have agreed not to request the Waiver for the Waterfront

Setback. So I’m not going to talk about that issue, but I will talkabout the zero front setback.

* * *We know we have to make changes to the plan anyway as a result

of the waterfront setback issue.* * *

For the record, we’re prepared to comply with the waterfrontsetback requirement. I said it, and I’ll say it again, and our client isgoing to do that. It’s a six foot deviation along the street frontage. It’snot a big deal, and we’re going to do it.

* * *I want the Board to understand that we mean what we say.

* * *I don’t think that’s what this appeal was about, but we’ll do it.

(Tr. of PZAB of Jan. 30, 2019 at 53, 58, 85, 138-39)(emphasis added).Both before and after the PZAB’s vote on whether to grant the

appeal and reverse the decision of the Zoning Administrator regardingthe waiver of waterfront setback requirements, Brickview unequivo-cally pledged that it was no longer going to use the waiver. It wasgoing to design, plan and build in compliance with the code. At thatpoint, there was nothing for the PZAB to reverse as to that waiver,because Brickview wasn’t going to use it. It’s more than reasonable toassume that, when the PZAB voted on whether or not to reverse theZoning Administrator’s Final Decision, it did so knowing thatwaterfront setback waiver was no longer a “live” or “actual” contro-versy, as Brickview had essentially conceded that the petitioners werecorrect, and it would not avail itself of the waiver.4

As a result, we dismiss the petition as moot, as it relates to thewaterfront setback issue.

2. The PZAB Resolution Accurately Memorializes What Hap-pened at the Meeting.

The Petitioners argue that the lower tribunal’s determination mustbe quashed because they contend that the written Resolution doesn’taccurately memorialize the action taken by the PZAB. Although thetranscript of the proceedings before the PZAB is very far from amodel of clarity, the Resolution accurately memorializes whattranspired at the hearing. Even assuming the petition were not mootas to the waterfront setback waiver, we deny the Petition on this point.

Before the PZAB took its final vote regarding the appeal of theFinal Decision, Brickview made it abundantly clear to the Board (aswe’ve noted in the transcript excerpts above) that it was no longergoing to attempt to avail itself of the waiver from charter and coderequirements as it relates to waterfront setbacks. It was instead goingto redesign its project to comply with those requirements. Thus, aswe’ve already noted above in our discussion of mootness, it’sreasonable to assume that when the Board voted, it no longer consid-ered the waterfront setback waiver to be an issue.

Unfortunately, the PZAB voted on the appeal of the Final Decisionas a whole; in other words, despite the fact that the Decision grantedmultiple different waivers as to various matters unrelated to water-front setbacks (such as, for example, minimum parking spacerequirements), the Board voted on the appeal of the Decision as awhole.

Board Member Gersten made a motion to “uphold the appeal.” Theassistant city attorney in attendance characterized the motion as oneto “grant the appeal of all the Waivers,” and to “grant the appeal inwhole, which denies all the waivers.” The Board members voted asfollows:

Yes No1. Garvaglia 1. Althabe2. Gersten 2. Dominguez3. Parrish 3. Vadillo4. Torrens 4. Zeigler

5. Collins

Thus, the PZAB voted to reject the entire appeal of the Decision.After that vote, River Front’s lawyer addressed the Board: “There

were commitments and agreements made here, and I want a clearrecord of those agreements that are still standing. The agreement, youwill recall, was that the applicant, the developer . . . .” In response,Board Member Collins (who had voted to reject the appeal entirely),inquired as to whether it would be possible to reverse or remove thewaiver related to waterfront setbacks, since everyone agreed itwouldn’t be used and shouldn’t have been granted.

The assistant city attorney told member Collins: “Someone fromthe prevailing side would have to make a motion to reconsider, and itwould have to pass by a super majority—I’m sorry—a majority vote,and then you would have to—someone would have to make a newmotion.”5 Board Member Collins then made a motion to reconsiderthe earlier vote, which rejected the entire appeal. The Board voted asfollows on the motion to reconsider:

Yes No1. Collins 1. Althabe2. Gersten 2. Dominguez3. Parrish 3. Vadillo4. Torrens 4. Zeigler

5. Garavaglia

As a result, Mr. Collins—who had earlier voted to reject the appealin its entirety—voted in support of his motion in an effort to carve outthe waterfront setback waiver. Mr. Garavaglia on the other hand—who had voted to reverse all of the waivers in their entirety—votedagainst the motion for reconsideration. In sum, we had four votes to

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (24)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 932 CIRCUIT COURTS—APPELLATE

reverse the waivers in their entirety (Garavaglia, Gersten, Torrens,Parrish), and member Collins clearly agreed that the waterfrontsetback waiver should be reversed. Thus, a majority of the PZABagreed that the waterfront setback waiver should be reversed.

After the motion for reconsideration failed, River Front’s lawyeronce again addressed the PZAB:

Through the Chair, if I may, I can’t stress this point enough. You havea commitment from the applicant, you have a commitment from thestaff, you have an appeal on our behalf saying that the WaterfrontCharter requirement have been violated, and you’re walking awaygranting this. I think that’s not the intent of any of the Board members.

All I’m respectfully requesting is that it be clear for the recordthat that one waterfront setback requirement is not satisfied.

River Front’s lawyer got what he wanted. He wanted a clear recordthat Brickview’s agreements and commitments were still standing. Healso wanted it to be clear that the waterfront setback requirement “isnot satisfied.” The PZAB Resolution prepared by the City and signedby the Planning Department Director provides in pertinent part asfollows:

WHEREAS, the Appellant claimed the approval violates water-front standards of the City’s Charter and Miami 21, Section 3.11;

WHEREAS, the Applicant and Appellant during the hearing of thisappeal mutually agreed that, notwithstanding the approval of theSetback Waiver by the City’s Zoning Administrator, the projectapproved pursuant to Waiver No. 2018-0098 will be redesigned toprovide side setbacks that each individually have a consistent widthfrom the street Frontage to the Miami River and, that in the aggregate,comply with Miami 21 and Section 3(mm)(ii) of the City Charter;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE PLANNING,ZONING AND APPEALS BOARD OF THE CITY OF MIAMI,FLORIDA:

Section 1. The recitals and findings contained in the Preamble tothis Resolution are adopted by reference and incorporated as if fullyset forth in this Section.

Section 2. The appeal of Waiver No. 2018-0098 is denied.Section 3. Waiver No. 2018-0098 is upheld subject to the redesign

of the project approved by Waiver No. 2018-0098 related to theSetback Waiver as mutually agreed by the Applicant and Appellantbefore the PZAB.

(emphasis added).The Resolution accurately memorializes the “commitments and

agreements” made by Brickview. It also resolves that the waivers wereupheld, subject to Brickview redesigning the project to conform with(satisfy) the applicable charter and code requirements related towaterfront setbacks. As a result, we reject the argument that theResolution does not accurately reflect what transpired at the hearingand, more importantly, that it doesn’t accurately reflect the intent of amajority of the Board.

ConclusionWe reject without further extended comment the additional

arguments made in the petition. The City’s determination that thePZAB’s approval of the project would “cure” the open code violationfor an unpermitted sales office on the Property, was support bycompetent substantial evidence, and by a fair reading of what it meansfor an approval to “cure” a violation. Also, the waiver Final Decisionmandated that the plans be changed (from 11%) to comply with the10% reduction allowed by the waiver. There is no error.

We dismiss the petition as moot as it relates to the waterfrontsetback waiver abandoned by Brickview. Because the lower tribunalotherwise accorded the petitioners due process, applied the correctlaw, and issued a decision supported by competent substantialevidence, we deny the Petition. (TRAWICK AND WALSH, JJ.,concur.)

))))))))))))))))))1The resolution’s “Enactment Number” is PZAB-R-19-004, with an “Execution

Date” of 3/6/2019.2“The Waiver permits specified minor deviations from the Miami 21 Code, as

provided in the various articles of this Code and as consistent with the guidingprinciples of this Code. Waivers are intended to relieve practical difficulties incomplying with the strict requirements of this Code. Waivers are not intended to relievespecific cases of financial hardship, nor to allow circumventing of the intent of thisCode. A Waiver may not be granted if it conflicts with the City Code or the FloridaBuilding Code.” Article 7, Section 7.1.2.5 of the Miami 21 Code.

3The Miami 21 Code has a Waterfront Standards provisions consistent with theCharter:

3.11 WATERFRONT STANDARDSIn addition to the Miami City Charter requirements, the following Setback,

walkways and Waterfront standards shall apply to all Waterfront properties within theCity, except as modifications to these standards for all Waterfront properties may beapproved by the City Commission pursuant to the procedures established in the CityCharter.

a. Waterfront Setbacks1. For properties fronting a Waterway, the Setback shall be a minimum of fifty (50)

feet measured from the mean high water line provided along any Waterfront, exceptwhere the depth of the Lot is less than two-hundred (200) feet the Setback shall be aminimum of twenty-five percent (25%) of the Lot depth . . . .

2. For properties fronting a Waterbody, the Setback shall be a minimum of twenty-five (25) feet measured from the mean high water line provided along any Waterfront,except for the following:

1. Where the depth of the Lot is less than one-hundred (100) feet, the Setbackshall be a minimum of twenty-five percent (25%) of the Lot depth; and

2. For T3, T4-R, Dl, D2, and D3 Transect Zones, a minimum Setback of twenty(20) feet shall be provided, except where the depth of the Lot is less than eighty (80)feet, the Setback shall be a minimum of twenty-five percent (25%) of the Lot depth.

3. Side Setbacks shall be equal in aggregate to at least twenty-five percent(25%) of the water frontage of each Lot based on average Lot Width, to allow ViewCorridors open from ground to sky and to allow public access to the Waterfront . . . .

4From our review of the transcript, we note that the assistant city attorney assignedto provide guidance to the PZAB on legal and procedural issues (and presumably tohelp make clear what its intentions were with respect to the appeal), was not particu-larly helpful in that regard; including the failure to point out that the appeal as to thatissue was now moot.

5We note that it would’ve been a lot cleaner for the Board to have been simplypresented with the option of voting on the reversal of only the agreed-upon waterfrontsetback waiver. Which would’ve amounted to a ratification of the agreement of theparties.

* * *

Counties—Zoning—Variances—County’s decision to grant usevariance to allow developer to build parking garage on residential-zoned land is not supported by competent substantial evidence of legalhardship that would occur if variance were not granted—Neitherhistorical difficulty in developing derelict property that is subject topatchwork of zoning designations nor developer’s threat to buildlarger project if use variance for garage was not granted constitutescompetent substantial evidence that property would be virtuallyunusable or incapable of yielding reasonable return without usevariance

THE CRICKET CLUB CONDOMINIUM INC., a Florida not for profit corporation,KENNETH ROTH, and RICARDO ROSEMBERG and JOCKEY CLUB CONDO-MINIUM APARTMENTS, INC., a Florida not for profit corporation, Petitioners, v.MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, a political subdivision of the State of Florida, andAPEIRON MIAMI, LLC,1 a Florida limited liability corporation, Respondents. CircuitCourt, 11th Judicial Circuit (Appellate) in and for Miami-Dade County. Case No.2019-18-AP-01. L.T. Case Nos. CZAB 7-1-17 and Resolution Number Z-23-18.January 15, 2020. On Petition for Certiorari from the Miami-Dade County CommunityZoning Appeals Board 7. Counsel: W. Tucker Gibbs, W. Tucker Gibbs, PA, forPetitioners. Dennis A. Kerbel, Assistant County Attorney, Miami-Dade CountyAttorney’s Office; Augusto Maxwell, Akerman, LLP; Paul C. Savage, Rasco, Klock,Perez & Nieto; and Glen H. Waldman, Waldman Barnett, PL, for Respondents.

(Before TRAWICK, WALSH, and REBULL, JJ.)

(WALSH, J.) The Jockey Club, a gated development east of BiscayneBoulevard and Northeast 111th Street, was developed and built over53 years ago as a condominium, restaurant, marina, pro-shop andclub. Petitioners, neighbors who reside both in the existing JockeyClub and its adjacent property, the Cricket Club (“Cricket Club”),

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (25)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

CIRCUIT COURTS—APPELLATE 27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 933

object to Miami-Dade County resolutions approving non-use and usevariances granted to Respondent Apeiron Miami, LLC (Developer)to develop property located within the Jockey Club.

Over the last 20 years, the Jockey Club has degraded from aformerly vibrant community club, marina and condominium to adilapidated, run-down facility and an unusable marina. The CountyPlanning Division described the Jockey Club as a “ ‘dead spot’ offlimits to the neighboring” community. Because of the difficultiesinherent in abiding by a patchwork of varied zoning designations, pastattempts to develop the property failed. To circumvent these difficul-ties, the Developer applied to the County and obtained non-use anduse variances to build a 120-unit residential property and a 90-roomhotel within four varied-height buildings, a separate parking garageand signage.

Petitioners make three arguments to quash these variances. First,they complain that the zoning board improperly granted non-usevariances. Second, they complain that that their vested rights asneighbors to the development would be infringed. Finally, they arguethat no competent substantial evidence in the record supported thedecision to grant a use variance to build a parking garage.

At oral argument, the Petitioners abandoned their challenges to thenon-use variances and their vested rights arguments. In view of theseconcessions and after reviewing the evidence presented below, weconclude that the decisions by the Community Zoning Appeals Board,the Development Impact Committee, and the County Commissionbelow approving the non-use variances and overruling the assertionof vested rights were supported by substantial, competent evidence.We therefore deny the petition on those grounds. However, we agreethat there was no competent substantial evidence to support theCounty’s approval of the use variance granted to build a parkinggarage on residential-zoned land.

Municipal approval of a use variance is quasi-judicial and subjectto certiorari review. Park of Commerce Assoc. v. Delray Beach, 636So. 2d 12, 15 (Fla. 1994); Skraggs v. Key West, 312 So. 2d 549, 551-552 (Fla. 3d DCA 1975); Broward County v. G.B.V. International,Ltd., 787 So. 2d 838, 843 (Fla. 2001) [26 Fla. L. Weekly S389a]. Weapply a three-part standard of review: (1) whether procedural dueprocess was afforded; (2) whether the essential requirements of lawhave been observed; and (3) whether the findings and judgment aresupported by competent substantial evidence. Haines City CommunityDevelopment v. Heggs, 658 So. 2d 523, 530 (Fla. 1995) [20 Fla. L.Weekly S318a]; Board of County Comm’rs of Brevard County v.Snyder, 627 So. 2d 469, 476 (Fla. 1993); City of Deerfield Beach v.Vaillant, 419 So. 2d 624, 626 (Fla. 1982).

The Petitioners argue that the decision to grant a use variance wasnot supported by competent, substantial evidence. Our review on thisissue is limited. We do not reweigh evidence, but rather determinewhether there was competent substantial evidence to support thedecision of the lower tribunal:

The court must review the record to assess the evidentiary support forthe agency’s decision. Evidence contrary to the agency’s decision isoutside the scope of the inquiry at this point, for the reviewing courtabove all cannot reweigh the “pros and cons” of conflicting evidence.While contrary evidence may be relevant to the wisdom of thedecision, it is irrelevant to the lawfulness of the decision. As long asthe record contains competent substantial evidence to support theagency’s decision, the decision is presumed lawful and the court’s jobis ended.

Dusseau v. Metro. Dade County Bd. of County Com’rs, 794 So. 2d1270, 1276 (Fla. 2001) [26 Fla. L. Weekly S329a]; see also Norwood-Norland Homeowners’ Ass’n, Inc. v. Dade County, 511 So. 2d 1009,1012 (Fla. 3d DCA 1987) (“Reviewing courts are not empowered toact as super zoning boards, substituting their judgment for that of the

legislative and administrative bodies exercising legitimate objec-tives.”).

Section 33-311(A)(4)(a) of the Miami-Dade County Code setsforth the requirements to obtain a use variance:

Use variances from other than airport regulations. Upon appeal ordirect application in specific cases to hear and grant applications foruse variances from the terms of the zoning regulations as will not becontrary to the public interest, where owing to special conditions, aliteral enforcement of the provisions thereof will result in unneces-sary hardship, and so the spirit of the regulations shall be observedand substantial justice done; provided, that the use variance will be inharmony with the general purpose and intent of the regulation, andthat the same is the minimum use variance that will permit thereasonable use of the premises; and further provided, no variance fromany airport zoning regulation shall be granted under this subsection;provided, however, no use variance shall be granted permitting a BUor IU use in any residential, AU or GU District, unless the premisesimmediately abuts a BU or IU District. A “use variance” is a variancewhich permits a use of land other than which is prescribed by thezoning regulations and shall include a change in permitted density.(emphasis added)

The County granted this use variance in a residential zone (RU-4) tobuild a parking garage to serve a condominium and hotel. “Floridacourts have held that a legal hardship will be found to exist only inthose cases where the property is virtually unusable or incapable ofyielding a reasonable return when used pursuant to the applicablezoning regulations.” Maturo v. City of Coral Gables, 619 So. 2d 455,456 (Fla. 3d DCA 1993) (emphasis added). See also MetropolitanDade County v. Betancourt, 559 So. 2d 1237, 1239 (Fla. 3d DCA1990) (“Where land is zoned for residential use, deprivation of allbeneficial use is proved only when it is established by competentevidence that the land cannot be used for any of the purposes permit-ted in such district”); Bernard v. Town Council of Palm Beach, 569So. 2d 853 (Fla. 4th DCA 1990) (to justify a use variance, applicantmust demonstrate “unique hardship,” that “ ‘renders it virtuallyimpossible to use the land for the purpose for which it is zoned.’ ”)(quoting Town of Indialantic v. Nance, 485 So. 2d 1318, 1320 (Fla.5th DCA 1986)).

In granting the use variance, the County and Developer relied upon(1) the historical difficulty in developing the Jockey Club propertygiven the patchwork of zoning designations, (2) Apeiron’s mock-uppresentation of a much larger development it could build if itsrequested variances were not adopted, and (3) the Planning Divisionstaff analysis.2 Neither the historical difficulty developing the JockeyClub nor Apeiron’s threat to build a larger project, without more,constitutes competent substantial evidence that the property would be“virtually unusable” or “incapable of yielding a reasonable return”without the use variance. In fact, the Developer acknowledged that itcould build a smaller or different garage.

Additionally, nothing in the planning staff analysis supports theconclusion that the property would be unusable or incapable of areasonable return without the use variance. There was no evidence atall demonstrating the financial constraints of the property as presentlyzoned. Instead, staff acknowledged difficulties in developing on thesite and the odd location of the BU-2 portion, not suitable for place-ment of the garage. Staff further opined that rezoning the entireproperty to build the garage would be inconsistent with the rest of theproperty, and ultimately decided, “a hotel and residential uses are theonly viable opportunity to develop the site.”

In the absence of competent substantial evidence of legal hardshipto justify an agency’s approval of a use variance, a circuit court iscompelled to quash the agency decision. In Herrera v. City of Miami,600 So. 2d 561 (Fla. 3d DCA 1992), the Third District Court of

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (26)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 934 CIRCUIT COURTS—APPELLATE

Appeal quashed a use variance granted in the absence of evidence thatthe land would otherwise be virtually unusable or would not yield areasonable return without the variance. The Third District hasconsistently quashed variances granted by municipalities in theabsence of this heightened showing. See Fine v. City of Coral Gables,958 So. 2d 433, 434 (Fla. 3d DCA 2007) [32 Fla. L. Weekly D1155a](circuit court properly quashed decision to grant a use variance whereapplicant failed to demonstrate any legally cognizable hardship);Auerbach v. City of Miami, 929 So. 2d 693, 694 (Fla. 3d DCA 2006)[31 Fla. L. Weekly D1432a] (same); Maturo v. City of Coral Gables,619 So. 2d 455 (Fla. 3d DCA 1993) (same); Hemisphere Equity RealtyCo. v. Key Biscayne Prop. Taxpayers Ass’n, 369 So. 2d 996, 1001(Fla. 3d DCA 1979) (same). We conclude that the Developer failed topresent evidence to establish that without the variance, it was virtuallyimpossible to use the land or that the subject property was unusable orincapable of yielding a reasonable return.

All parties conceded at oral argument that a decision quashing theuse variance would not be preclusive—that on remand, the Respon-dent Apeiron Miami, LLC should be permitted the opportunity topresent competent substantial evidence to the Community ZoningAppeals Board demonstrating the required showing of hardship forthe requested use variance.3

Therefore, we grant Petitioner Cricket Club’s petition in part andquash the County’s approval of the use variance. In all other respects,the petition is denied. This matter is remanded with directions topermit the developer to present evidence in support of the usevariances.

Certiorari granted in part, denied in part. (TRAWICK andREBULL, JJ., concur.)))))))))))))))))))

1The Petitioner misspelled the name of the Respondent as “Aperion Miami, LLC.”The Respondent’s correct name is “Apeiron Miami, LLC” and the project is entitled,“Apeiron at Jockey Club.” We have directed the clerk to correct the spelling in thedocket.

2The staff analysis is contained at Appendix Tab F to the Petition for Writ ofCertiorari.

3The Petitioners as well as the Respondents Apeiron Miami LLC and Miami-DadeCounty conceded that on remand, Apeiron will not be forced to apply anew andredesign the plans. The County will therefore not force Respondent Apeiron to applyanew and redesign the plans, unless Apeiron is unable to establish legal hardship.

* * *

Insurance—Personal injury protection—Coverage—Medicalexpenses—Reasonableness of charges—Summary judgment—Trialcourt erred in rejecting affidavit of insurer filed in opposition tomedical provider’s motion for summary judgment on issue of reason-ableness of charges on basis that affidavit referred to Medicare andworkers’ compensation fee schedules and HMO and PPO rates—Affidavit that was not conclusory, indicated source of affiant’sknowledge, contained evidence pertinent to statutory reasonablenessfactors, and was supported by exhibits was legally sufficient—Motionfor summary judgment should have been denied

UNITED AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, Appellant, v. MIAMI-DADECOUNTY MRI, CORP., a/a/o Beisy Munoz, Appellee. Circuit Court, 11th JudicialCircuit (Appellate) in and for Miami-Dade County. Case No. 2017-170 AP 01. L.T.Case No. 12-14168 SP 23 (01). December 31, 2019. On Appeal from the County Courtfor Miami-Dade County. Myriam Lehr, Judge. Counsel: Michael J. Neimand, HouseCounsel, United Automobile Insurance Company, for Appellant. Kenneth J. Dorchakof Buchalter, Hoffman & Dorchak, P.A., and Chad A. Barr and Heather M. Kolinsky,Law Office of Chad A. Barr, P.A., for Appellee.

(Before SCOTT M. BERNSTEIN, DARYL E. TRAWICK, andCARLOS LOPEZ, JJ.)

(TRAWICK, J.) The Appellant, United Automobile InsuranceCompany (“Insurer”), appeals the Final Summary Judgment enteredin favor of Appellee, Miami-Dade County MRI, Corp. (“Provider”),as the assignee of Beisy Munoz (“Insured”) in a suit to collect Personal

Injury Protection (“PIP”) benefits. This appeal seeks review of thetrial court’s order granting Final Summary Judgment in favor of theProvider where the parties filed conflicting affidavits regarding thereasonableness of the amount charged for X-rays. Here, the amountcharged for X-rays was approximately $3,148.77.

The standard of review applicable to summary judgment is denovo, and requires the appellate court to view the evidence in the lightmost favorable to the non-moving party. Sierra v. Shevin, 767 So. 2d524, 525 (Fla. 3d DCA 2000) [25 Fla. L. Weekly D1605a]. To analyzesummary judgment properly, the appellate court must determine: (1)whether there is a genuine issue of material fact, and (2) whether thetrial court applied the correct rule of law. Volusia County v. Aberdeenat Ormond Beach, L.P., 760 So. 2d 126, 130-31 (Fla. 2000) [25 Fla.L. Weekly S390a]. It is well established that summary judgmentshould only be granted if the moving party demonstrates conclusivelythat no genuine issues exist as to any material fact, with all reasonableinferences drawn in favor of the opposing party. Moore v. Morris, 475So. 2d 666, 668 (Fla. 1985).

Summary Judgment cannot be granted “if the evidence is conflict-ing, if it will permit different reasonable inferences, or if it tends toprove the issues.” Albelo v. S. Bell, 682 So. 2d 1126, 1129 (Fla. 4thDCA 1996) [21 Fla. L. Weekly D2165a]. If the record reflects theexistence of any issue of material fact, or the possibility of any issue,or if the record raises even the slightest doubt that an issue might exist,summary judgment is improper and must be denied. Milgram v.Allstate Ins. Co., Inc., 731 So. 2d 134, 135 (Fla. 1st DCA 1999) [24Fla. L. Weekly D1069a]. In ruling on a motion for summary judg-ment, it is well-established that the court may neither adjudge thecredibility of the witnesses nor weigh the evidence. Hernandez v.United Auto. Ins. Co., Inc., 730 So. 2d 344, 345 (Fla. 3d DCA 1999)[24 Fla. L. Weekly D646a].

In a lawsuit seeking benefits under the PIP statute, reasonableness,like necessity and relatedness, is an essential element of a plaintiff’scase and is decided by factfinders on a case by case basis, dependingon the specific evidence introduced at trial and the arguments ofcounsel. Derius v. Allstate Indem. Co., 723 So. 2d 271, 274 (Fla. 4thDCA 1998) [23 Fla. L. Weekly D1383a].

Section 627.736(5)(a)(1), Florida Statutes (2009-2012), providesthe following guidance to determine whether a charge for treatmentis reasonable:

“[w]ith respect to a determination of whether a charge for a particularservice, treatment, or otherwise is reasonable, consideration may, begiven to evidence of usual and customary charges and paymentsaccepted by the provider involved in the dispute, and reimburse-ment levels in the community and various federal and state medicalfee schedules applicable to automobile and other insurancecoverages, and other information relevant to the reasonableness ofthe reimbursem*nt for the service, treatment, or supply.”

(Emphasis added).The issue in dispute here is the trial court’s summary judgment

decision on the issue of reasonableness of the Provider’s bill. Insupport of Provider’s Motion for Summary Judgment, Provider filedan affidavit of its billing manager Llina Milian which generally statedthat the charges were reasonable because the amounts charged wereits usual and customary charges for which it has received reimburse-ment from PIP insurers without reduction. In opposition to theProvider’s motion for summary judgment, the Insurer filed theaffidavit of its litigation adjuster and corporate representative, John A.O’Hara III (Adjuster) which challenges the reasonableness of thecharges. Specifically, the issue before this Appellate Court is whetherMr. O’Hara’s affidavit, along with other documents filed by theparties, proved the existence of genuine issues of material fact

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (27)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

CIRCUIT COURTS—APPELLATE 27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 935

regarding the reasonableness of the Provider’s bill (as determinedaccording to the PIP statute), and whether the trial court applied thecorrect rule of law in making its decision.

In addition to the affidavit referenced above, the Insurer also filedthe following documents in opposition to the motion for summaryjudgment: 1) The Deposition Transcript of John O’Hara, 2) CMS.govsearch results for Physician Fee Schedules pertaining to the subjectCPT codes and Miami locality showing a price range substantiallylower than what was billed in the subject case. 3) The FloridaWorker’s Compensation Health Care Provider Reimbursem*ntManual also showing a price range substantially lower than what wascharged in the subject bill, 4) a memorandum of law in opposition tosummary judgment, and 5) the insurance policy. The memorandumof law contained several legal and factual arguments. Among them, itaverred that the average health insurance reimbursem*nts are atapproximately 140% of Medicare and that from discovery, it learnedthat the Provider has received and willingly accepted reimbursem*ntsas low as $22.85 from HMO and PPO insurers and reimbursem*ntsfrom some PIP insurers (including USAA and Ocean Harbor) at 80%of 200% of the Medicare Part B fee schedules.

The Insurer clearly submitted evidence concerning the followingfactors that may be considered by the trier of fact in the determinationof reasonableness pursuant to the PIP statute, section 627.736(5)(a)(1)Florida Statutes (2009-2012): reimbursem*nt levels in the communityand federal and state medical fee schedules applicable to automobileand other insurance coverage. The affidavit of its adjuster comparedthe amounts billed by the Provider with the range of reimbursem*ntlevels in the community and pertinent fee schedules includingMedicare and Worker’s Compensation charts which were incorpo-rated into and attached to her affidavit as exhibits.

Pursuant to Section 627.736(5)(a)(1) of the PIP statute, which, asnoted, allows consideration of “various federal and state medical feeschedules applicable to automobile and other insurance coverages”(emphasis added), we find that when determining the reasonablenessof a particular charge, the trier of fact may consider evidence pertain-ing to Medicare and Worker’s Compensation fee schedules. MedicarePart B Fee Schedules are fee schedules clearly applicable to automo-bile insurance coverage because they are incorporated into the PIPinsurance statute and form a statutory basis upon which various PIPclaims must be paid.1 Thus, Medicare Fee Schedules may be consid-ered by the trier of fact to determine the reasonableness of a provider’sbill. Accordingly, it was error for the trial court to find that Medicarefee schedules cannot be utilized in a reasonableness determination.See, e.g., United Auto. Ins. Co. v. Miami Dade Cty. MRI, Corp., a/a/oMiguel Garcia Pagan, Case No. 17-264 AP (Fla. 11th Cir. Ct. Sept.23, 2019) [27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 677a]; United Auto. Ins. Co. v.Miami Dade Cty. MRI, Corp., a/a/o Tania Barrios, Case No. 15-431AP (Fla. 11th Cir. Ct. Mar. 5, 2019) [27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 7a];United Auto. Ins. Co. v. Miami Dade Cty. MRI Corp, a/a/o Ana Rojas,26 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 865b (Fla. 11th Cir. Ct. Jan. 8, 2019); StateFarm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Gables Ins. Recovery, Inc. a/a/o Luis A.Aispur, 26 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 709a (Fla. 11th Cir. Ct Oct. 30,2018); State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Roberto Rivera-Morales,M.D., a/a/o Syed Ullah, 26 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 469a (Fla. 11th Cir.Ct. June 20, 2018). We find that the Medicare fee schedules and otherfee schedules submitted by the Insurer are relevant to the consider-ation of reasonableness under the 627.736(5)(a)(1) methodology, andthat O’Hara’s affidavit should not be rejected for referring to them.Accordingly, we find that the trial court improperly rejected theadjuster’s affidavit on that basis.

Furthermore, the trial court found that negotiated contract rates,including HMO and PPO rates, are not relevant to determine thereasonableness of a medical bill. However, section 627.736(5)(a)

allows the consideration of “information relevant to the reasonable-ness of the reimbursem*nt,” to determine whether a charge isreasonable. See Ullah, 26 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 469a. We find thatevidence regarding HMO, PPO, and other such negotiated contractrates are relevant to the reasonableness determination and suchevidence constitutes a statutory element that may be considered todetermine the reasonableness of a medical bill in a PIP case. SeeShands Jacksonville Medical Ctr., Inc. v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins.Co., 213 So. 3d 372, 376 (Fla. 1st DCA 2015) [40 Fla. L. WeeklyD1447a] (in a dispute about a different subsection of the PIP statue,stating that discovery about “negotiated reimbursem*nt rates,” whichwas sought by the insurer in order to determine if the amounts billedby a provider were reasonable, were not the type of documentsallowed under the applicable subsection, but “may very well berelevant and discoverable in the context of litigation over the issue ofreasonableness of charges instituted pursuant to subsection (5)(a). . . .”); see also Hialeah Med. Assocs., Inc. a/a/o Coto v. United Auto.Ins. Co., 21 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 868b (Fla. 11th Cir. Ct. May 2,2014) (“insurers can consider charges derived from public sectorprograms and managed care plans, in addition to the customary billed-charges of private providers.”).

When determining whether expert testimony is admissible, a court“must not conflate” the question of admissibility with the weight ofthe proffered testimony. Rosenfeld v. Oceania Cruises, Inc., 654 F. 3d1190, 1193 (11th Cir. 2011) [23 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. C366a]. It is notthe court’s role to “make ultimate conclusions as to the persuasivenessof the proffered evidence.” Id. Rather, “[v]igorous cross-examination,presentation of contrary evidence, and careful instruction on theburden of proof are the traditional and appropriate means of attackingthe substance of expert testimony.” Daubert v. Merrell DowPharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 596 (1993). Accordingly, byrejecting the use of HMO and PPO rates, the trial court may haveimproperly weighed the evidence in ruling on the motion for summaryjudgment.

In making its summary judgment decision below, and in consider-ation of the Insurer’s constitutional challenge against the Daubertadmissibility standard for expert opinion evidence, the trial court didnot ultimately apply Daubert to reject O’Hara’s affidavit. Rather, thetrial court considered the context of the affidavit, while making anerroneous legal determination that the affidavit was legally insuffi-cient and conclusory. The standard for reviewing affidavits for thepurpose of summary judgment was discussed in the Joseph opinionissued from this Court last year:

Affidavits submitted in support of, or in opposition to, summaryjudgment must follow the requirements of Florida Rule of CivilProcedure 1.510(e), which provides:

[s]upporting and opposing affidavits must be made on personalknowledge, must set forth such facts as would be admissible inevidence, and must show affirmatively that the affiant is competentto testify to the matters stated therein. Sworn or certified copies ofall documents or parts thereof referred to in an affidavit must beattached thereto or served therewith. The court may permitaffidavits to be supplemented or opposed by depositions, answersto interrogatories, or by further affidavits.

“[G]eneral statements in an affidavit which are framed in terms onlyof conclusions of law do not satisfy a movant’s burden of proving thenonexistence of a genuine material fact issue.” Heitmeyer v. Sasser,664 So. 2d 358, 360 (Fla. 4th DCA 1995) [21 Fla. L. Weekly D39a](citing Seinfeld v. Commercial Bank & Trust Co., 405 So. 2d 1039(Fla. 3d DCA 1981)). However, the evidence offered “need not be inthe exact form, or cover all the preliminaries, predicates, and detailswhich would be required of a witness, particularly an expert witness,if he were on the stand at trial.” One West Bank, 173 So. 3d at 1013-14

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (28)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 936 CIRCUIT COURTS—APPELLATE

[One West Bank, FSB v. Jasinski, 173 So. 3d 1009 (Fla. 2d DCA2015) [40 Fla. L. Weekly D1389a]] (quoting Holl v. Talcott, 191 So.2d 40, 45 (Fla. 1966)).

State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Roberto Rivera-Morales, M.D.,a/a/o Joseph, 26 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 454a (Fla. 11th Cir. Ct. July 17,2018).

In applying this standard to the affidavit under consideration in theinstant case, we find that the claims adjuster’s affidavit is legallysufficient. The O’Hara affidavit complies with the requirements ofRule 1.510(e) of the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure. O’Hara’saffidavit is not conclusory because his affidavit indicates the source ofhis knowledge and contains supporting facts and reasoning. SeeRamsey v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., 124 So. 3d 415, 418 (Fla. 1stDCA 2013) [38 Fla. L. Weekly D2245a]. The affidavit containsevidence pertinent to the statutory factors that may be considered inthe determination of reasonableness. The affidavit was also supportedby exhibits consisting of documents and data that may be consideredby the trier of fact to determine the reasonableness of the Provider’sbill.

Upon a thorough review of the record and the subject affidavit, wefind that the claims adjuster, John O’Hara III, is qualified to addressthe topic of reasonableness. We find that his affidavit is legallysufficient, is not conclusory, and is not invalidated by his priordeposition testimony. We find that his references to Medicare,Worker’s Compensation, HMO, and PPO reimbursem*nt rates arerelevant to the issue of reasonableness, pursuant to section627.736(5)(a)(1), Florida Statutes (2009-2012), and do not invalidatehis affidavit.

The trial court found that the claims adjuster’s affidavit conflictedwith his previously tendered deposition where he admitted that he hadnot reviewed particular documentation relevant to the reasonablenessof the Provider’s bill. However, the affidavit was filed approximatelya year or more after the deposition was taken, and thus it is reasonablypossible that the adjuster reviewed the subject discovery documentssubsequent to the deposition, but prior to his affidavit. This allegedcontradictory testimony is not sufficient to preclude his entireaffidavit/testimony, especially where the court must view the evidencein the light most favorable to the non-moving party. In comparison, areview of the Provider’s witness affidavit and depositions also presentsome inconsistencies and discrepancies. It is suggested that suchinconsistencies go to the weight of the evidence and the credibility ofthe witnesses.

Moreover, each party’s affidavit contained conclusory statementsand self-serving legal conclusions. Despite this, each affidavit alsoalleged relevant facts to be considered in the determination ofreasonableness pursuant to the PIP statute. These conflicting affidavitsindicate the existence of a genuine issue of material fact that must bedetermined by the trier of fact with regard to the reasonableness of theprovider’s bill.

In reviewing the evidence and the motion for summary judgmentde novo and in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, wefind that the Provider’s Motion for Summary Judgment should havebeen denied. We further find that John O’Hara III’s affidavit, alongwith other evidence in the record, create a genuine issue of materialfact regarding the reasonableness issue. At the very least, it is suffi-cient to suggest the possible existence of a genuine issue of materialfact by providing the “iota” or “scintilla” of evidence necessary towithstand summary judgment.2 Accordingly, this case is REVERSEDand REMANDED for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

MOTIONS FOR APPELLATE ATTORNEY’S FEESBoth parties moved for appellate attorney’s fees and costs pursuant

to Florida Appellate Procedure Rule 9.400, which authorizes the

prevailing party on appeal to recover these expenses. The statutorybasis for Appellant/Insurer’s motion is section 768.79, FloridaStatutes, while Appellee/Provider relies on section 627.428(1). Giventhe above holding, Appellee’s motion is DENIED and Appellant’sconditionally GRANTED pending a favorable outcome at trial onremand.

REVERSED AND REMANDED FOR PROCEEDINGSCONSISTENT WITH THIS OPINION; APPELLANT’S MOTIONSFOR ATTORNEY FEES CONDITIONALLY GRANTED;APPELLEE’S MOTIONS FOR SAME DENIED. (BERNSTEIN J.,concurs. LOPEZ, J., dissents, with written opinion.)))))))))))))))))))

1Black’s Law Dictionary defines “applicable,” in part, as “[c]apable of beingapplied . . . .” Black’s Law Dictionary (10th ed. 2010) at 120. Since the Medicare Feeschedules are capable of being applied to determine reasonableness and are incorpo-rated into the PIP statute, it then logically follows that Medicare fee schedules areapplicable to PIP coverage.

2Ortega v. Citizens Property Ins. Corp., 257 So. 3d 1171, 1172 (Fla. 3d DCA 2018)[43 Fla. L. Weekly D2427b] (citing Carnes v. Fender, 936 So. 2d 11, 14 (Fla. 4th DCA2006) [31 Fla. L. Weekly D1383a]).

))))))))))))))))))(LOPEZ, J., dissenting) The standard of review regarding theadmission or rejection of evidence is that of abuse of discretion. Buninv. Matrixx Initiative, Inc., 197 So.2d 1109 (Fla. 4th DCA 2016) [41Fla. L. Weekly D1308a]; State Farm Mutual Automobile InsuranceCompany v. CC Chiropractic, LLC, 245 So. 3d 755 (Fla. 4th DCA2018) [43 Fla. L. Weekly D583a]. Judicial discretion is abused whenjudicial action is arbitrary, fanciful, or unreasonable, or where noreasonable man would take view adopted by trial court; however, ifreasonable men could differ as to propriety of action taken by trialcourt, then it cannot be said that trial court abused its discretion.Canakaris v. Canakaris, 382 So. 2d 1197 (Fla. 1980) In the proceed-ings below the Appellee argued and the Court agreed that the affidavitof John O’Hara was devoid of admissible facts and was conclusoryand did not constitute admissible evidence. I agree with the trial court.

The record before the trial revealed Mr. O’Hara and the otheradjusters for the Appellant do not make reasonableness determina-tions on a case by case basis but instead are required to follow acompany directive to reduce all medical charges to 200% of MedicarePart B did not provide sufficient training and experience to qualify heras an expert witness on reasonableness. Furthermore, the recordreveals that he was not a part of the process of formulating suchcompany policy. Simply following a company directive does notequate to providing a foundation for expert witness opinion.

The trial court properly found that Mr. O’Hara’s affidavit con-flicted with his prior deposition testimony wherein he admitted that hehad not personally reviewed any documentation regarding paymentsfrom other third-party payors and wherein he admitted that has wasnot even familiar with the medical services (CPT codes) that werebilled in this matter. The majority speculates that perhaps between thetime of the deposition and the execution of the affidavit that Mr.O’Hara had reviewed additional documents. However, this fact isnowhere to be found in the record. To the extent of any conflict in thetestimony it was incumbent upon the Defendant, not this court, to findan explanation for the discrepancy in the opinion. See Ellison v.Anderson, 74 So. 2d 680 (Fla. 1954).

The Appellee has provided the court with numerous opinions ofother panels of this Court affirming summary judgment where theAppellant filed an affidavit from one its adjusters. In United Automo-bile Insurance Company v. Miami Dade County MRI, Corp., (a/a/oErlin Duran); Case No. 16-450 AP (Fla. 11th Jud. Cir., March 22,2019) [27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 221a]. In the Duran matter the Courtheld that the trial court properly found that the adjuster was unquali-fied as an expert or lay witness, and her affidavit did not raise an issue

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (29)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

CIRCUIT COURTS—APPELLATE 27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 937

of material fact such that it would preclude summary judgment.Likewise in United Automobile Insurance Company v. Miami

Dade County MRI, Corp., (a/a/o Barbara Harrell); Case No. 15-279AP (Fla. 11th Jud. Cir., September 26, 2018), a panel of this circuitaffirmed summary judgment on reasonableness and held that thetestimony of the adjuster that 200% of Medicare is reasonable did notcreate an issue of fact. See also United Automobile InsuranceCompany v. Miami Dade County MRI, Corp., (a/a/o Jawanda James);Case No. 17-26 AP (Fla. 11th Jud. Cir., April 26, 2019) [27 Fla. L.Weekly Supp. 223a];—affirming summary judgment on reasonable-ness finding no abuse of discretion in striking affidavit of Dr. Dauer,M.D. filed in opposition to Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgmentas to reasonableness; and United Automobile Insurance Company v.Miami Dade County MRI, Corp., Inc. (a/a/o Julio Reyes); Case No.17-25 AP (Fla. 11th Jud. Cir., April 26, 2019) [27 Fla. L. WeeklySupp. 225b];—affirming summary judgment on reasonablenessfinding no abuse of discretion in striking the affidavit of Dr. Dauer,M.D. filed in opposition to Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgmentas to reasonableness; United Automobile Insurance Company v.Miami Dade County MRI, Corp., M.D. (a/a/o Barbara Perez); CaseNo. 17-27 AP (Fla. 11th Jud. Cir., April 26, 2019) [27 Fla. L. WeeklySupp. 225a];—affirming summary judgment on reasonablenessfinding no abuse of discretion in striking affidavit of Dr. Dauer, M.D.filed in opposition to Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment as toreasonableness; United Automobile Insurance Company v. MiamiDade County MRI, Corp., M.D. (a/a/o Joseph Dames), Case No. 17-148 AP (Fla. 11th Jud. Cir., May 24, 2019);—affirming summaryjudgment on reasonableness finding no abuse of discretion in strikingaffidavit of Dr. Dauer, M.D. filed in opposition to Plaintiff’s motionfor summary judgment as to reasonableness.

Given the many rulings filed by the Appellee from other trial courtsand other appellate panels in this Circuit affirming summary judgmenton the issue of reasonableness including, as noted above, one opinionfinding that the Defendant’s very same witness at issue in this case wasunqualified as either an expert or lay witness, and other instanceswhere trial courts have excluded similar affidavits as being conclusoryand otherwise inadmissible, it cannot be said that the trial court abusedits discretion in excluding the affidavit of John O’Hara. See StateFarm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company v. Pembroke PinesMRI, Inc., 171 So.3d 814 (Fla. 4th DCA 2015) [40 Fla. L. WeeklyD1879a].

The majority writes that the trial court improperly weighed theevidence and that because the posture of the case was at the summaryjudgment stage that all disputed issues of fact were to be resolvedagainst the Appellee. However, the decision to admit or excludeevidence does not equate to the weighing of evidence and by itsopinion that majority is applying a too restrictive standard upon thetrial’s court ability to exclude expert witness evidence.

In its opinion adopting Daubert the Florida Supreme Court cited tothe case of Gen. Elec. Co. v. Joiner, 522 U.S. 136, (1997) wherein theUnited States Supreme Court stated that:

Alleged fact that grant of summary judgment on basis of inadmissibil-ity of expert scientific testimony was “outcome determinative” as toproducts liability action did not compel finding that it should havebeen subjected to a more searching standard of review than “abuse ofdiscretion” standard . . . while “disputed issues of fact are resolvedagainst the moving party[,] . . . the question of admissibility of experttestimony is not such an issue.

Given that the trial court applied the correct evidentiary standardand given the presumption of correctness which is to be afforded to thetrial court’s rulings regarding evidence, together with the reasonsstated above, this Court cannot find that the trial court abused itsdiscretion.

Lastly, even upon de novo review I would affirm. The affidavit ofJohn O’Hara offers nothing but conclusory statements and it doeslittle more than create a paper issue by comparing the Plaintiff’scharges to the lowest payors in the community while ignoring theundisputed evidence in the record of higher charges and reimburse-ments including reimbursem*nts made by the Appellant. A party maynot defeat a motion for summary judgment by raising purely paperissues where the pleadings and evidentiary matters before the trialcourt show that defenses are without substance in fact or law. Reflex,N.V. v. UMET Trust, 336 So. 2d 473 (Fla. 3d DCA 1976).

In the matter of United Automobile Insurance Company v. MiamiDade County MRI, Corp., Inc., (a/a/o Erlin Duran); Case No. 15-279AP (Fla. 11th Jud. Cir., September 26, 2018) [27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp.221a], Milian, Hirsch, Silber, JJ., cited above, the Court found that themere existence of Medicare and HMO and PPO rates that are lowerthan actual charges in the community does not create an issue of factas to the reasonableness of a medical provider’s charge that exceedsreimbursem*nt rates. The Duran Court cited to the Third DistrictCourt of Appeal opinion in Atkins v. Allstate Ins. Co., 382 So. 2d 1276(Fla. 3d DCA 1980) and held that “[t]his distinction is importantbecause it would be unfair to assess medical charges by a comparisonof dissimilar insurance and non-insurance charges. Local circuitappellate decisions have held that Medicare, HMO and PPO lowerrates are not relevant as to the issue of reasonableness of charges.Virtual Imaging Svcs. Inc. v. State Farm Mut. Ins. Co., 23 Fla. L.Weekly Supp. 515a (Fla. 11th Cir. Ct. 2015); Hialeah Medical Inc. v.United Auto Ins. Co., 21 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 487b (Fla. 11th Cir. Ct.2013).”

The trial court correctly reasoned that the purpose of the FloridaNo-Fault law which was to guarantee “swift and virtually automatic”payment of out of pocket medical expenses. Gov’t Employees Ins. Co.v. Gonzalez, 512 So. 2d 269 (Fla. 3d DCA 1987). The FloridaSupreme Court has stated that any impediment to the right of theinsured to recover in a ‘swift and virtually automatic’ way has thepotential for interfering with the PIP scheme’s goal of being areasonable alternative to common law tort principles. Nunez v. GeicoGen. Ins. Co., 117 So. 3d 388 (Fla. 2013) [38 Fla. L. Weekly S440a].Allowing an insurance company to withhold even a portion ofpayment of a medical bill based simply upon a comparison to thelowest payment amounts that can be found in the medical communityto the exclusion of the any other higher reimbursem*nts whichsupport payment of the full charge to assert that anything above suchamount is unreasonable subverts the very purpose of No-Fault law.

The majority’s interpretation of the role of the Medicare feeschedules is in violation of the Supreme Court’s decision in GeicoGen. Ins. Co. v. Virtual Imaging Services, Inc., 141 So. 3d 147 (Fla.2013) [38 Fla. L. Weekly S517a]. In its opinion the Florida SupremeCourt made it clear that the addition of the permissive paymentlimitations in Section 627.736(5)(a)(2)(f), Fla. Stat., by way of the2008 amendments to the Florida No-Fault law did not act as alimitation or measure of the reasonableness of a medical charge butinstead represents a payment limitation that an insurer may applyregardless of the reasonableness of a given charge. Virtual 141 So.3dat 156.

The Virtual Court drew this distinction from the fact that the priorversion No Fault Act contained fee schedule language which ex-pressly limited what an MRI provider could charge to a multiple of200% of Medicare. The Court then stated:

In contrast to this MRI-specific language, the Legislature did not statein the 2008 amendments that a provider’s charge “shall not exceed”a certain allowable amount of the Medicare fee schedules. Instead, theLegislature specifically used the word “may” to reference an insurer’sability to limit reimbursem*nt.

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (30)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 938 CIRCUIT COURTS—APPELLATE

Geico Gen. Ins. Co. v. Virtual Imaging Services, Inc., 141 So. 3d147, 157 (Fla. 2013) [38 Fla. L. Weekly S517a]. The Court thenfurther held that such may only be applied with where the insurer hasexpressly elected to apply such payment limitation. Virtual, 141 So.3d at 160. It is undisputed that the Appellant did make such expresselection in its policy.

At its core the majority opinion is based upon the concept that uponthe Defendant’s presentation of lower reimbursem*nts rates the courtmust draw an inference that charges above those lower rates arepotentially unreasonable thereby creating a judicially createdrebuttable presumption that only the lowest reimbursem*nts rates areper se reasonable. Such inference would perhaps be reasonable if theevidence revealed that there are no reimbursem*nts rates consistentwith the Appellee’s charge, but such is not the evidence in this case.

I disagree with the recent rulings cited by the Appellant and themajority from other panels of this court reversing summary judgmentson the reasonableness of charges. Collectively these 11 Circuit Courtopinions have had the effect of placing a chilling effect upon the trialcourt’s function on ruling on matters concerning the admission orexclusion of opinion evidence. Such restriction on the trial court’sdiscretion stands in direct conflict with the adoption of the Daubertstandard the purpose of which was to empower trial courts to excludepreviously admissible opinion testimony.

A review of the prevailing decisions from other the circuit courtsreveals that this Circuit stands virtually alone in reversing summaryjudgments based upon the type of evidence offered by the Appellantto defeat summary judgment. As noted by Judge Renatha Francis inthe James case cited above, the Appellant itself has openly admittedthat this circuit is the only circuit where its appeals the granting ofsummary judgment on the issue of the reasonableness of charges.

For these reasons I would affirm the final judgment under review.

* * *

Traffic infractions—Red light camera violations—Due process—Question of whether appellant was denied due process by her failure toreceive notice of final hearing on red light camera violation is mootwhere defense was legally insufficient on its face—Affidavit identifyingvehicle as being in care, custody or control of “mechanic shop” at timeof violation is insufficient to establish defense that someone else wasdriving appellant’s vehicle at time of violation—Statute requiresdesignation of another human being as being in control of vehicle

EMELDA O. ALEMAN, Appellant, v. CITY OF OPA-LOCKA, Appellee. CircuitCourt, 11th Judicial Circuit (Appellate) in and for Miami-Dade County. Case No. 2018-320-AP-01. L.T. Case No. 1551800033970. January 15, 2020. An Appeal from a FinalAdministrative Order of the City of Opa-Locka Intersection Safety Program. Counsel:Emelda Aleman, Pro se Appellant. Burnadette Norris-Weeks, Bumadette Norris-Weeks, P.A. for Appellee.

(Before TRAWICK, WALSH and REBULL, JJ.)

(REBULL, J.) We affirm the Final Administrative Order upholdingthe red light camera violation. Ms. Aleman contends on appeal thatshe failed to receive the notice of final hearing in this case, despite thefact that she received every other paper from the City delivered in thesame way, and to the same address. We affirm because even assumingMs. Aleman failed to receive the notice, such failure is moot as Ms.Aleman’s defense to the violation was legally insufficient on its face.

Ms. Aleman tried to avail herself of the defense that someone elsewas driving her car when it received the red light violation. The statuteprovides that:

(d) 1. The owner of the motor vehicle involved in the violation isresponsible and liable for paying the uniform traffic citation issued fora violation of s. 316.074(1) or s. 316.075(1)(c) 1. when the driverfailed to stop at a traffic signal, unless the owner can establish that:

c. The motor vehicle was, at the time of the violation, in the care,custody, or control of another person;

2. In order to establish such facts, the owner of the motor vehicleshall, within 30 days after the date of issuance of the traffic citation,furnish to the appropriate governmental entity an affidavit settingforth detailed information supporting an exemption as provided in thisparagraph.

a. An affidavit supporting an exemption under sub-subparagraph1.c. must include the name, address, date of birth, and, if known, thedriver license number of the person who leased, rented, or otherwisehad care, custody, or control of the motor vehicle at the time of thealleged violation.

3. Upon receipt of an affidavit, the person designated as havingcare, custody, or control of the motor vehicle at the time of theviolation may be issued a notice of violation pursuant to paragraph (b)for a violation of s. 316.074(1) or s. 316.075(1)(c) 1. when the driverfailed to stop at a traffic signal.

4. Paragraphs (b) and (c) apply to the person identified on theaffidavit, except that the notification under sub-subparagraph (b)1.a.must be sent to the person identified on the affidavit within 30 daysafter receipt of an affidavit.

§ 316.0083(1)(d), Fla. Stat. (2019)(emphasis added).Ms. Aleman submitted the following affidavit to the City:

In violation of the mandatory plain language of the statute, Ms.Aleman did not set forth the name and date of birth of the person whoshe claimed had control of her vehicle at the time of the violation. Herwriting “Mechanic Shop” is simply legally insufficient. The plainlanguage of the statute contemplates designating another human beingas being in control of the vehicle, so that the municipality can issuethat person a notice of violation. Barring that, Ms. Aleman—as theowner of the motor vehicle involved in the violation—“is responsibleand liable for paying the uniform traffic citation . . . .” §316.0083(1)(d)1., Fla. Stat. (2019).1

For these reasons, we affirm. (WALSH, J., concurs.)))))))))))))))))))

1It occurs to us that—as between Ms. Aleman and the City of Opa-Locka—Ms.Aleman was in a much better position to find out from her own mechanic shop the nameand date of birth of the person she claims was driving her car when it received a redlight violation.

))))))))))))))))))(TRAWICK, J. concurring.) I am in agreement with the result here asI believe it is compelled by the plain language of the statute. I write toask the Legislature to consider a revision to the statute to address a

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (31)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

CIRCUIT COURTS—APPELLATE 27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 939

potential inequity raised by this statute’s enforcement. Alemancontends that her vehicle was in the custody of a mechanic shop at thetime the ear was driven through the red-light traffic signal. Since thestatute provides no practical recourse when a vehicle is in the hands ofa bailee, Aleman will be required to pay for a violation that she maynot be responsible for. It is foreseeable that this situation will occuragain and again with others similarly situated.

I pose this example. The owner of a vehicle leaves her car with avalet while going in to eat at a restaurant. While the owner is enjoyingher meal, one of the valet drivers takes the vehicle on a joy ride andmakes a right turn through a red-light traffic signal without stoppingand subsequently returns to the restaurant. Oblivious to what hasoccurred, the owner later returns to the valet and retrieves her car. It isnot until several weeks later that she receives a traffic citation thanksto the valet driver’s actions. Given the passage of time, it is unlikelythat the owner would have retained the valet parking ticket. When shegoes back to the restaurant, what are the chances that anyone willknow of, or own up to knowing, who took the owner’s vehicle out ofthe valet parking area on the evening in question? Remote at best.

§ 316.0083(1)(d) requires an affidavit from the driver that mustinclude the name, address, date of birth, and if known the driverlicense number of the person who had custody of the vehicle at thetime of the violation. In the circ*mstance that I have posed, practicallyspeaking, the owner would not be able to provide this information.This would be unfair to her and others, such as Aleman, whosevehicles are in the hands of third parties at the time of the violation andwho would be unable to obtain the required information. In the interestof fairness, I suggest that a revision of the statute to take into accountthis type of circ*mstance is appropriate.

* * *Licensing—Driver’s license—Suspension—Hearing—Failure ofsubpoenaed witness to appear—Stopping officer—Due processviolation resulted when subpoenaed officer failed to appear for formalreview hearing, licensee obtained court order compelling officer’sattendance, and officer nonetheless failed to appear at two subsequenthearings—Licensee was not required to pursue contempt determina-tion against officer in order to preserve his procedural due processrights—License suspension is quashed

ALBERT STEWART, JR., Petitioner, v. STATE DEPARTMENT OF HIGHWAYSAFETY AND MOTOR VEHICLES, Respondent. Circuit Court, 13th Judicial Circuit(Appellate) in and for Hillsborough County, General Civil Division. Case No. 19-CA-7025. Division E. November 7, 2019. Counsel: Mustafa Ameen, The Law Office ofAmeen and Shafii, LLC, Tampa, for Petitioner. Samuel Frazer, Assistant GeneralCounsel, Christie S. Utt, General Counsel, Jacksonville, for Respondent.

ORDER GRANTING PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI

(GREGORY P. HOLDER, J.) THIS MATTER is before the Court onPetition for Writ of Certiorari filed July 3, 2019, and supplementalappendix filed July 26, 2019. Having reviewed the petition, response,and appendices, the court determines that the officer’s failure toappear at multiple scheduled hearings, despite Petitioner’s attempts toenforce the officer’s attendance as provided in §322.2615(6)(c),Florida Statutes, including obtaining a court order compelling theofficer to appear, deprived Petitioner of his due process rights.Accordingly, the order suspending Petitioner’s driving privilegesmust be quashed.

On January 26, 2019, Petitioner was arrested for driving under theinfluence pursuant to §316.193. He complied with the arrestingofficer’s request to take a breath test, resulting in a six-month licensesuspension. In accordance with §322.2615(3), Petitioner requested aformal review of the suspension. A formal hearing was held April 8,2019. The arresting officer Gregory Barlaug, Tampa Police Depart-ment, appeared for the hearing. The stopping officer, Gregory Damon,did not appear, despite being under a valid subpoena to do so. His

absence was unexcused. As a result of Officer Damon’s failure toappear, the hearing was continued.

On April 19, 2019, the hearing officer notified Officer Damon thatthe hearing would be held May 2, 2019. Although Officer Damon toldthe hearing officer he could not attend, the hearing officer denied hisexcuse because of his previous unexcused failure to appear. Rule15A-6.015(c), Florida Administrative Code. On April 29, 2019,pursuant to §322.2615(6)(c), Petitioner filed a Petition to SeekEnforcement of the Subpoena in the Hillsborough County Court.Judge Gutman granted the petition and ordered Officer Damon toappear at the next formal review hearing. Officer Damon failed toappear at the May 2nd hearing. Although he was still under a sub-poena and his request for a continuance of the May 2nd hearing hadbeen denied, Officer Damon did not yet have notice that the court hadordered his appearance. Accordingly, the hearing was continued asecond time to allow Petitioner to notify Officer Damon of the courtorder compelling his appearance at the suspension review hearing.

The order was personally served at the Tampa Police Department.The officer servicing the front desk signed that the order was received.In addition, Officer Damon communicated directly to the hearingofficer his intent to appear at the next hearing, then scheduled for May23, 2019. Despite the court order and his personal assurance, however,Officer Damon again failed to appear at the hearing. At this point,Petitioner moved to invalidate the suspension based on OfficerDamon’s failure to appear in disobedience of a court order. Thehearing officer reserved ruling. At the last hearing, held May 31,2019, Petitioner renewed the motion to invalidate the suspension. Byorder rendered June 3, 2019, the hearing officer denied the motion toinvalidate the suspension, acknowledging Officer Damon’s failure toappear, but relying on the fact that sufficient competent, substantialevidence existed to uphold the suspension.

On review, this Court must determine whether Petitioner wasafforded due process, whether the hearing officer observed theessential requirements of law, and whether competent, substantialevidence supports the suspension. City of Deerfield Beach v. Vaillant,419 So. 2d 624 (Fla. 1982). The burden is on the State to establish thevalidity of the license suspension. Dep’t of Highway Safety & MotorVehicles v. Colling, 178 So. 3d 2, 3 (Fla. 5th DCA 2014) [39 Fla. L.Weekly D1195b]. If there is a denial of procedural due process, acircuit court may grant relief. Dep’t of Highway Safety & MotorVehicles v. Pitts, 815 So. 2d 738, 744 (Fla. 1st DCA 2002) [27 Fla. L.Weekly D999b]. Because the court determines that Petitioner did notreceive the required due process, it is unnecessary to address the otherfactors.

Due process is defined as notice and a meaningful opportunity tobe heard. Dep’t of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles v. Corcoran, 133So.3d 616, 620 (Fla. 5th DCA 2014) [39 Fla. L. Weekly D507a]. Adriver may request either an informal or formal review of the licensesuspension. §322.2615(1)(b)(3), Fla. Stat. An informal reviewconsists of an examination by a hearing officer of the materialssubmitted by law enforcement and by the person whose license wassuspended. The presence of witnesses is not required.§322.2615(2)(b)4. In contrast, a formal review consists of the right toquestion witnesses and to present evidence. Lee v. Dep’t of HighwaySafety & Motor Vehicles, 4 So.3d 754, 756-57 (Fla. 1st DCA 2009)[34 Fla. L. Weekly D520a] §322.2615(6)(b), Fla. Stat.; Rule 15A-6.013(5), Fla. Admin. Code. The legitimacy of a driver’s licensesuspension begins with the traffic stop, which in this case was effectedby Officer Damon. Petitioner has the right to establish the validity ofthe stop by questioning the stopping officer. Here, Petitioner was,through no fault of his own, not afforded that opportunity.

As the Department correctly states, under §322.2615 (11), there isa distinction between the failure of an arresting officer to appear as

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (32)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 940 CIRCUIT COURTS—APPELLATE

opposed to that of any other witness. A single unexcused failure of anarresting officer to appear pursuant to a valid subpoena is grounds forinvalidation under the statute. Id. This Court has previously invali-dated a suspension under these circ*mstances. Ramonika Simmons v.Dep’t of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles, 23 Fla. L. Weekly Supp.692a (Fla. 13th Jud. Cir. 2015). The statute further provides that thefailure of any other subpoenaed witness to appear at the formal reviewhearing is not grounds to invalidate a license suspension.§322.2615(6)(c); Simmons, 23 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 629a. Section322.2615(6)(c), has been deemed to require a licensee desiring toquestion any witness other than the arresting officer who fails toappear at a formal review hearing to affirmatively seek enforcement.Patricia Garcia v. Dep’t of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, 26Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 457a (Fla. 11th Jud. Cir. 2018). The statuteprovides an enforcement mechanism, which Petitioner used, thatinvolves obtaining a court order to secure a witness’s appearance.Despite being subject to a court order to appear, Officer Damon neverappeared for a hearing before the hearing officer rendered a decisionin the matter.

In support of its contention that the suspension should be upheld,the Department relies on McKenney v. Dep’t of Highway Safety &Motor Vehicles, 12 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 1030a (Fla. 13th Jud. Cir.2011), cert. denied, 75 So. 3d 1259 (Fla. 2d DCA 2011). InMcKenney, another division of this Court determined that thepetitioner was not denied due process because of a witness’s absencewhere the petitioner failed to seek judicial enforcement of a properlyissued subpoena. In this case, however, and in contrast to McKenney,Petitioner obtained the necessary court order compelling OfficerDamon’s appearance.

The Department further argues that Petitioner did not fulfill all thestatutory enforcement requirements because he did not pursuecontempt proceedings against the officer, specifically a contemptorder. The Court disagrees that Petitioner must pursue a contemptdetermination to preserve his procedural due process rights. Withregard to a witness’s failure to appear, and enforcement of a subpoena,§322.2615(6)(c) says:

c) The failure of a subpoenaed witness to appear at the formal reviewhearing is not grounds to invalidate the suspension. If a witness failsto appear, a party may seek enforcement of a subpoena under para-graph (b) by filing a petition for enforcement in the circuit court of thejudicial circuit in which the person failing to comply with the sub-poena resides or by filing a motion for enforcement in any criminalcourt case resulting from the driving or actual physical control of amotor vehicle that gave rise to the suspension under this section. Afailure to comply with an order of the court shall result in a finding ofcontempt of court. However, a person is not in contempt while asubpoena is being challenged.

The statute does not mandate specifically that either Petitioner or theDepartment seek a contempt ruling. It is worth mentioning that OfficerDamon did not challenge the subpoena.

The conclusion that Petitioner need not seek a contempt finding isalso consistent with the Department’s rule on this issue. With regardto a properly subpoenaed witness’s failure to appear, administrativerule 15A-6.015 (2), says

(2) . . .a properly subpoenaed witness who fails to appear at ascheduled hearing may submit to the hearing officer a writtenstatement showing just cause for such failure to appear within two (2)days of the hearing.

(a) For the purpose of this rule, just cause shall mean extraordinarycirc*mstances beyond the control of. . .the witness which prevent thatperson from attending the hearing.

(b) If just cause is shown, the hearing shall be continued and noticegiven.

(c) No hearing shall be continued for a second failure to appear.(d) Notification to the department of a witness’s nonappearance

with just cause prior to the start of a scheduled formal review shall notbe deemed a failure to appear.

(Emphasis added.)That the rule prohibits further continuances for a witness’s failure

to appear is consistent with this court’s conclusion that Petitioner wasnot required to seek further enforcement through a contempt finding.Officer Damon’s absences were unexcused; he did not show justcause for his failures to appear. The hearing officer properly excusedonly the absence attributable to possible lack of notice that the courtissued an order compelling Officer Damon’s attendance. The rule’sproviso against continuances for failure of a witness to appear cannotinure to the detriment of a driver unless the nonappearance is attribut-able to the driver. Moreover, the statute’s instruction that a witness’sfailure to appear is not grounds to invalidate the suspension assumesthe nonappearance occurs before a driver attempts to enforce asubpoena. To hold otherwise effectively deprives him of the processhe is due in a formal review.

It is therefore ORDERED that the petition is GRANTED and thedecision below is QUASHED in Tampa, Hillsborough County,Florida, on the date imprinted with the Judge’s signature.

* * *

Mandamus—Landlord-tenant—Posting of writ of possession—Petition for writ of mandamus is granted compelling sheriff to chargestatutory $90 fee for posting writ of possession on premises irrespectiveof number of tenants listed in writ rather than charging $90 fee plusadditional $40 fee for each person or business listed in writ

PETER W. YORE, Petitioner, v. HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY SHERIFF, Respon-dent. Circuit Court, 13th Judicial Circuit (Appellate) in and for Hillsborough County,General Civil Division. Case No. 19-CA-5413, Division I. November 20, 2019.Counsel: Peter W. Yore, Odessa, Pro se. Oliver F. Lindemann, Tampa, for Respondent.

ORDER GRANTING PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS

(PAUL L. HUEY, J.) This cause is before the Court on PetitionerPeter Yore’s Petition for Writ of Mandamus filed May 23, 2019. TheHillsborough County Sheriff responded belatedly on July 16, 2019.The Court accepts the late response. Petitioner filed a reply and,thereafter, the court held oral argument. The Court has reviewed thebriefs, appendices, applicable law and considered points made in oralargument. Being fully advised of the issue and the law, the Courtdetermines that the petition should be granted.

Mandamus is the recognized remedy to require a public official todischarge his or her duty. Dante v. Ryan, 979 So. 2d 1122, 1123 (Fla.3d DCA 2008) [33 Fla. L. Weekly D981b]. Mandamus will lie onlyto enforce a clear legal right. Fla. League of Cities v. Smith, 607 So. 2d397, 400-401 (Fla. 1992). Petitioner Peter Yore asks this Court tocompel the Hillsborough County Sheriff to comply with §30.231,Florida Statutes, which sets forth the fees sheriffs of this State shallcharge for services rendered through their offices. Petitioner is alandlord who, from time to time, is tasked with evicting tenants, whichrequires the service of writs of possession. Serving writs of possessionis a service sheriffs are authorized to provide under §30.15(1)(b). Aschedule of fixed, nonrefundable fees for services sheriffs provide isset forth in §30.231.

Petitioner asserts that §30.231(1)(a-b) provides a fixed fee of $90for serving a writ of possession regardless of the number of personsofficially or unofficially residing on the property. Petitioner adds, andthe Sheriff concedes, that the Hillsborough County Sheriff charges anadditional $40 fee for each person or business listed on the writ ofpossession, despite serving only one writ by posting it conspicuouslyon the property to be restored to the landlord.

Section 30.231(1)(a-b), Florida Statutes, says:

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (33)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

CIRCUIT COURTS—APPELLATE 27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 941

Sheriffs’ fees for service of summons, subpoenas, and executions.—(1) The sheriffs of all counties of the state in civil cases shall chargefixed, nonrefundable fees for service of process, according to thefollowing schedule:

(a) All summons or writs except executions: $40 for each summonsor writ to be served.

(b) All writs except executions requiring a levy or seizure ofproperty: $50 in addition to the $40 fee as stated in paragraph (a).

The Sheriff responds that the charges are consistent with FloridaRule of Civil Procedure 1.070(c).1 Rule 1.070(c) relates to the serviceof writs of process (or summonses) on multiple defendants. At thepoint in a proceeding that the writ of possession is issued, all defen-dants will have already been served with process under Rule 1.070.Simply, Rule 1.070(c) is inapplicable here. The execution of writs ofpossession is addressed in Rule 1.580, not Rule 1.070. Rule 1.580defines the writ of possession as the direction to the sheriff to deliverpossession of real property as directed in a final judgment of the court.

Upon rendition of a judgment for possession by a court, the Clerkissues the writ commanding the sheriff to put the landlord in posses-sion after 24 hours’ notice posted conspicuously on the premises. See§83.62(1), Florida Statutes. See also Rule 1.580. The writ, whichnames all parties to the proceeding, states “You are commanded toremove all persons from the following described property inHillsborough County, Florida: (Address of property) and to putPlaintiff of the above action in possession of it.” See Form 1.915,Florida Rules of Civil Procedure. It does not contemplate separateservice upon individuals. Under §30.231(1)(a), the sheriff shall charge$40 each for the service of summonses or writs, except executions.Under §30.231(1)(b) the sheriff shall charge $50 each for the serviceof writs, except executions requiring a levy or seizure of property, inaddition to the $40 fee referenced in subparagraph (a). Based on theforegoing, the statutorily authorized charge for serving a writ ofpossession, regardless of the number of tenants named therein, is $90.The number of defendants named in the writ does not affect thestatutory amount the sheriff shall charge for posting it on the property.

As Petitioner is without any legal remedy to compel the Sheriff’scompliance with §30.231, and the Sheriff’s compliance therewith isa clear legal right to which Petitioner is entitled, it is thereforeORDERED that the petition for writ of mandamus is GRANTED. TheHillsborough County Sheriff is hereby directed to comply with thestatute as directed herein and charge no more than the statutory rate of$90 for each writ of possession posted.))))))))))))))))))

1Respondent cited the rule as 1.070(2), which does not exist. Rule 1.070(c)addresses the relevant subject matter.

* * *

ANGELA DEBOSE, Petitioner, v. ELIZABETH G. RICE, JUDGE In her officialcapacity, Respondent. Circuit Court, 13th Judicial Circuit (Appellate) in and forHillsborough County, Circuit Civil Division. Case No. 19-CA-11407, Division D.November 12, 2019. Counsel: Angela W. DeBose, Tampa, Pro se..

ORDER DIRECTING CLERK TO TRANSFER PETITIONFOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS TO

THE SECOND DISTRICT COURT OF APPEAL(EMILY A. PEAco*ck, J.) THIS MATTER is before the Court onPetitioner’s “Petition for Writ of Mandamus” mailed filed November6, 2019. The petition seeks a writ of mandamus to compel thedisclosure of judicial records purported to be public. Having reviewedthe petition, the court determines that it lacks jurisdiction to review thepetition. See Florida of Judicial Administration 2.420(l)(1).

It is therefore ORDERED that the Clerk of Court shall close theabove-captioned civil case number and TRANSFER the Petition forWrit of Mandamus and any other filings in the above-captioned civil

case number to the Second District Court of Appeal.

* * *

Municipal corporations—Code enforcement—Where city codeprohibiting parking commercial equipment in residential zonesdefines “commercial equipment” as equipment designed or used forcommercial purposes, magistrate correctly found that trailer designedfor transporting lawn equipment violated ordinance irrespective of factthat trailer was only for owner’s personal use—Equal protection—Where trailer owner challenged unconstitutional application ofordinance before magistrate, but magistrate believed issue could not bedetermined in administrative proceeding, appellate court will treatissue as if magistrate denied challenge—Trailer owner failed to proveclaim of discriminatory enforcement based on sexual orientationwhere he did not provide sufficiently specific evidence of uncitedviolations, code enforcement officer did not meet owner’s domesticpartner until second investigation of property, and competentsubstantial evidence supported finding of code violation

ANTHONY GREEN, Appellant, v. CITY OF TAMPA, FLORIDA (Code Enforce-ment), Appellee. Circuit Court, 13th Judicial Circuit (Appellate) in and forHillsborough County, Civil Division. Case No. 18-CA-7999, Division X. L.T. CaseNo. COD-18-0000536. October 29, 2019. On review of a final order of the CodeEnforcement Special Magistrate for the City of Tampa. Counsel: Felix Montanez, TheLaw Office of Felix G. Montanez, P.A., Tampa, for Appellant. Robin HortonSilverman, Assistant City Attorney and Gina K. Grimes, City Attorney, Tampa, forAppellee.

APPELLATE OPINION(BATTLES, J.) This case is before the court to review a decision ofthe Code Enforcement Special Magistrate, hereinafter “magistrate,”for the City of Tampa. In the underlying case, Appellant AnthonyGreen was cited for parking a trailer outside his residence at 4732 W.Oklahoma Avenue in violation of City Code Section 27-283.11(b).Appellant challenges the finding of violation on several grounds.Cited for parking commercial equipment in a residential zone,Appellant first argues that the subject trailer did not violate the codebecause the equipment—a trailer—was not used for commercialpurposes. He also contends that the City violated his right to equalprotection by selectively enforcing the code. Having reviewed therecord, the briefs, and applicable law, the court determines thatAppellant may seek review of the constitutional issue in this forum.Having considered Appellant’s constitutional argument, however, thecourt determines that he has not shown the City violated his rights. Inaddition, because the trailer parked at his residence meets thedefinition of “commercial equipment” under the code, the magis-trate’s decision must be affirmed.

In this appeal, the court reviews the magistrate’s order to determinewhether Appellant received due process, whether it observes theessential requirements of law, and whether competent, substantialevidence supports the decision. Lee County v. Sunbelt Equities, II, Ltd.P’ship, 619 So. 2d 996, 1003 (Fla. 2d DCA 1993). Procedural dueprocess includes fair notice and a meaningful opportunity to be heard.Keys Citizens for Responsible Gov’t, Inc. v. Florida Keys AqueductAuth’ty, 795 So. 2d 940, 948 (Fla. 2001) [26 Fla. L. Weekly S502a].The record shows that Appellant’s property was the subject of a codeinspection on January 18, 2018. Appellant was provided with specificnotice of the violation on February 22, 2018, which advised him thatcommercial equipment is not allowed in residential zoning under thecode’s sections 27-283.11(b)(parking) and 27-156 (zoning districts).The notice directed him to remove the trailer or place it in a fullyenclosed structure by March 15, 2018. When Appellant failed to doso, the case was set for hearing, of which Appellant received timelynotice. The record, which includes a transcript of the proceeding,shows that Appellant appeared through counsel and participated in theproceeding, presenting evidence and legal argument to the magistrate.

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (34)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 942 CIRCUIT COURTS—APPELLATE

Accordingly, a want of due process does not form the basis forreversal of the magistrate’s decision.

Turning our attention to the essential requirements of law,Appellant argues that the trailer that is the subject of the complaint isnot commercial equipment because it was not used for commercialpurposes. He also contends the city violated his constitutional right toequal protection in that it selectively enforced the code against himwhile leaving a number of violations in the area uncited. He claims thecode enforcement officer that cited him was biased because of hissexual orientation.1

With regard to parking commercial vehicles in residential areas ofthe city, the Code’s section 27.283.11(b) says:

Commercial equipment in residential districts. The parking ofcommercial equipment in any residential district is prohibited. Thisrequirement shall not be interpreted to prohibit commercial vehiclesfrom loading and unloading in any residential district and shall notprevent temporary parking of vehicles on a lot as accessory to a lawfulcommercial use of the same residential lot or require such vehicles tobe garaged. Parking is, however, permitted within any entirelyenclosed structure which meets the regulatory requirements for theapplicable zoning district.

Section 27-43 of the City Code defines “commercial equipment” as“Vehicles, machinery, materials or furnishings owned, used, ordesigned and/or intended for commercial purposes, except that apersonal vehicle (car, one-ton pickup truck or van) used by anindividual for transportation to and from home and job sites will notbe considered commercial equipment, regardless of any commercialnames, insignias or markings advertised on the vehicle.”

(Emphasis added.) As defined, commercial equipment includes thatwhich is designed, or intended, or used for commercial purposes.Section 27-283.11(b) prohibits parking commercial equipment in aresidential district. Responding to Appellant’s contention that thetrailer was for his personal, not commercial use, the magistrateexplained that under the ordinance it is the trailer’s design forcommercial use, not necessarily its actual use, which places it underthe ordinance’s definition of commercial equipment. The magistrateobserved that Appellant’s stated use of the trailer—transporting lawnequipment between his home and his mother’s—is identical to the usefor which commercial lawn services employ the same equipment. Themagistrate’s decision applies the correct law.

Appellant further argues the ordinance should not be enforcedagainst him because the City unconstitutionally targeted him forenforcement based on his sexual orientation. He adds that the City leftother similar violations of the same ordinance unenforced. The Cityresponds that Appellant did not raise the issue in the administrativeproceeding; therefore the issue has not been preserved for appellatereview. The court disagrees. Although Appellant did not make asignificant substantive argument concerning the constitutional issueto the magistrate, the record shows that Appellant both profferedevidence of similarly situated properties that he contended were notenforced and also raised the issue before the hearing in a letter hisattorney wrote to city staff. It also appears that both the magistrate andAppellant’s counsel believed this issue could not be determined in theadministrative proceeding.2 But when a constitutional challengerelates to the unconstitutional application or enforcement of rules andordinances, administrative remedies must be exhausted. Key HavenAssociated Enters., Inc. v. Bd. Of Trustees of Internal Imp. Trust Fund,427 So. 2d 153, 158 (Fla. 1982) ([appellate] court is the proper forumto determine whether agency has applied a facially constitutional[ordinance] in a manner that deprives an aggrieved party of hisconstitutional rights). Because the constitutional issue was raised as tothe application of the ordinance, and the magistrate would notconsider it, the court will treat the matter as though the magistrate

denied Appellant’s challenge. The issue is, therefore, appropriate forappellate review. Holiday Isle Resort & Marina Associates v. MonroeCounty, 582 So. 2d 721, 721 (Fla. 3d DCA 1991) (appeal under§162.11, Fla. Stat. was proper forum to raise both facial and as appliedconstitutional challenges to code enforcement procedure).

To support his contention that the City improperly targeted hisproperty for enforcement, Appellant cites Scarbrough v. Morgan Cty.Bd. of Educ., 470 F.3d 250 (6th Cir. 2006). Under Scarbrough, toestablish this claim, Appellant must show that his status is constitu-tionally protected, that adverse action was taken against him, and thatthere is a causal connection between the two. Id. at 255. As a generalrule, zoning decisions will not usually be found to implicate constitu-tional guarantees. Campbell v. Rainbow City, Ala., 434 F. 3d 1306,1313 (11th Cir. 2006) [19 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. C171a]. But the EqualProtection requires government entities to treat similarly situatedpeople alike. Id. Where one person claims to have been treateddifferently from others who are similarly situated, however, somespecificity is required. Id. at 1314.

In this appeal, apart from making unsubstantiated statements thathe was targeted for enforcement because of his sexual orientation,Appellant has not provided the required specificity. The evidence heoffered of the bias against him, specifically photographs alleged todepict uncited or unenforced violations, does not support his constitu-tional claim where the evidence fails to identify the location andzoning of the properties, and further fails to conclusively show that theCity has taken no enforcement action against the properties or theirowners. For those properties to be considered similarly situated, aplaintiff must make a specific showing that the two properties are“prima facie identical in all relevant respects.” Scopellitti v. City ofTampa, 677 F. App’x 503, 508 (11th Cir. 2017), citing Campbell at1315. In addition, by Appellant’s admission, the code enforcementofficer did not meet Appellant’s domestic partner until the officerarrived a second time to investigate the matter.3 To the extent thisencounter forms the basis for Appellant’s contention that the codeenforcement officer was biased, it is at odds with Appellant’sargument that he was targeted on improper grounds because theproperty was already being investigated.

Finally, competent, substantial evidence supports the codeviolation. The violation was photographed by the officer. Thephotographs show the trailer parked on the property next to the home.A copy of the trailer’s registration reflects Appellant’s ownership.Other record evidence shows the trailer as being one designed forcommercial use. Business records show that the trailer is registered tothe address given for Appellant’s business “Evictions Plus, Inc.”4

It is therefore ORDERED that the judgment below is AFFIRMEDin Tampa, Hillsborough County, Florida, on the date imprinted withthe Judge’s signature. (BATTLES, TESCHE ARKIN, PEAco*ck,JJ.)))))))))))))))))))

1In pre-hearing correspondence to code enforcement, Appellant asserted the codeenforcement officer discriminated against him on the basis of his sexual orientation orhis ethnicity. He appears to have abandoned any constitutional claim based on hisethnicity in this appeal.

2Although some of the argument on this matter could not be clearly transcribed,Appellant’s counsel intended to put evidence in the record for appellate review, andindicated that an unidentifiable matter could not be considered administratively. Themagistrate acquiesced to this conclusion. Under the circ*mstances, this court considersthe issue to have been preserved for appellate review.

3In his initial brief, Appellant asserts that Code Enforcement Officer NicolleSequeira first inspected the property November 24, 2017, and that no action wasimmediately taken as a result of that visit. The record of these proceedings begins witha January, 2018, inspection, at which time the same officer “confronted Appellant’s‘domestic partner’ of 17 years.” In the absence of any facts to the contrary, this timelinesuggests that the violation was targeted for inspection before the officer could make anyassumptions regarding Appellant’s sexual orientation.

4This is not intended to suggest that the equipment was, in fact, used commercially,

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (35)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

CIRCUIT COURTS—APPELLATE 27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 943

but rather to reinforce that Appellant is the owner where the equipment was parked infront of Appellant’s residence but was not registered to that address.

* * *

Licensing—Driver’s license—Suspension—Refusal to submit to breathtest—Hearing officer—Departure from neutrality—No error indenying motion to recuse hearing officer on ground that her supervi-sors conducted seminar for law enforcement on how to uphold licensesuspensions where hearing officer did not attend seminar and nothingin record indicates that the hearing officer acted in a biased or partialmanner—Competent substantial evidence does not support findingthat licensee refused breath test where documentary evidence indicatesthat licensee refused test, breath test technician testified that sheadministered test, and hearing officer’s attempt to rehabilitatetechnician did not resolve conflict—Petition for writ of certiorari isgranted

ROBERT JAMES KENNEDY, Petitioner, v. FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OFHIGHWAY SAFETY AND MOTOR VEHICLES, Respondent. Circuit Court, 13thJudicial Circuit (Appellate) in and for Hillsborough County, General Civil Division.Case No. 19-CA-7715, Division F. December 31, 2019.

ORDER GRANTING PETITION FORWRIT OF CERTIORARI

(RICHARD A. NIELSEN, J.) Petitioner Robert James Kennedy seeksreview of the final order of a hearing officer of the Bureau of Adminis-trative Reviews, Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehiclesentered June 24, 2019. The order affirmed the suspension of Peti-tioner’s driving privileges based on his alleged refusal to submit to abreathalyzer test after he was arrested on suspicion of driving underthe influence. Having reviewed the briefs and appendices, the courtdetermines that because conflicting evidence presented is insufficientto uphold the administrative suspension of Petitioner’s drivingprivileges, the order must be quashed.

Petitioner was arrested April 3, 2019, for driving under theinfluence of alcohol. Shortly before the arrest, Det. Chandler of theJacksonville Sheriff’s Office was leaving his own residence when heheard a screeching sound and the sound of a vehicle coming down theroad. The vehicle, which appeared to have been involved in a crash,attempted to turn around and drove up onto a curb. Det. Chandlerinitiated a traffic stop, identified himself as a law enforcement officer,took Petitioner’s keys, and asked Petitioner to exit the vehicle. Heobserved among other indicators of alcohol consumption thatPetitioner had an odor of alcohol about him and that he was dazed andunsteady on his feet. About 20 minutes later, Officer Merrow, whohad been dispatched to a traffic crash, made contact with Det.Chandler and Petitioner. Based on his observations, along with histraining and experience, Officer Merrow stated that he believedPetitioner was impaired, and, based on this conclusion, called for aDUI investigator. Meanwhile, a community service officer conducteda crash investigation. About 30 minutes later Officer Moeller arrivedto conduct the DUI investigation. Officer Moeller transportedPetitioner to the Duval County Jail. There, Officer Gonzalez requesteda breath test. Her notes indicate that Petitioner refused the test.

Petitioner requested a formal review of his license suspension. Thetwo-part hearing began May 3, and concluded June 13, 2019. Beforethe final review, however, Petitioner filed a motion to recuse thehearing officer conducting the hearing based on documents that showthe Bureau of Administrative Review actively works with lawenforcement to prevent license suspensions from being invalidated.Specifically, the Bureau invited law enforcement interested inupholding license suspensions, with an invitation to improve upon analready very high 90-percent license suspension rate, to a how-toseminar. Petitioner contends that the hearing officer in this case didnot participate in this “training” but the same hearing officer issubordinate to the officials who conducted it. Petitioner believes that

this employer-employee relationship compromises the hearingofficer’s neutrality and goes against the very nature of a fair andimpartial process. This, in turn, effectively denies license holders’ dueprocess rights to a neutral hearing in general, and Petitioner’sspecifically. The hearing officer denied Petitioner’s motion to recuse.Petitioner contends that this forms a basis for this court to quash theorder below. The court disagrees that the denial of Petitioner’s motionto recuse, by itself, is a basis to set aside the order upholding hislicense suspension. Nothing in the record demonstrates that thehearing officer acted in biased or partial manner. Moreover, byPetitioner’s own admission, the hearing officer did not participate inthe seminar in question.

Petitioner also contends that a conflict in the evidence renders theevidence incompetent such that it cannot support the order upholdinghis suspension. At the formal review hearing breath technician OfficerGonzalez appeared and testified. When asked whether she hadadministered a breath test to the Petitioner Officer Gonzalez said,specifically, “you said did I do a breath test? . . . Yes, sir.” Thistestimony conflicted with documentation that indicated Petitioner hadrefused a breath test. In an apparent effort to resolve this conflict, thehearing officer, in follow up questioning, directed Officer Gonzalez’sattention to the documents in the record. He asked Officer Gonzalezwhether the documentation was true and correct to the best of herknowledge. She said “yes.” It should be noted that Officer Gonzaleztestified telephonically, so it is unknown whether she had the samedocumentation before her as did the hearing officer, or even whethershe had any of her documentation with her. Despite Petitioner’scontention that the hearing officer’s attempt at rehabilitation did notresolve the conflict in the evidence regarding Petitioner’s allegedrefusal, the hearing officer denied Petitioner’s motion to invalidate thelicense suspension. A final order upholding the administrativesuspension of Petitioner’s driver’s license was issued June 24, 2019.This timely petition followed.

The Department has the burden to prove the elements necessary touphold the suspension by a preponderance of the evidence.§322.2615(7), Fla. Stat. Petitioner argues that Officer Gonzalez’stestimony creates a conflict in the evidence that was the State’s burdento reconcile. Dep’t of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles v. Colling,178 So. 3d 3, 4 (Fla. 5th DCA 2014) [39 Fla. L. Weekly D1195b].Petitioner suggests that the evidence is consistent with an attempt onPetitioner’s part to recant his refusal.

The Department responds that Officer Gonzalez’s testimonyneither established an intent for Petitioner to recant his refusal norcreated an irreconcilable conflict in the evidence. The Departmentreminds the court that it may not reweigh evidence when reviewingthe administrative decision, citing Dep’t of Highway Safety and MotorVehicles v. Allen, 539 So. 2d 20, 21 (Fla. 5th DCA 1989). TheDepartment further asserts that it is the hearing officer’s responsibilityto resolve conflicts in the evidence, citing Dep’t of Highway Safetyand Motor Vehicles v. Satter, 643 So. 2d 692, 695 (Fla. 5th DCA1994), rev. denied, 651 So. 2d 1195 (Fla. 1995).

The court agrees with the Department that nothing in the evidencesuggests any intent or attempt on Petitioner’s part to recant his allegedrefusal. The court disagrees with the Department that there is noconflict in the evidence or that the conflict has been resolved,however. The documentary evidence indicates that Petitioner refusedthe breath test. In contrast, Officer Gonzalez’s testimony indicates thatshe performed a breath test. The hearing officer’s attempt at rehabili-tation did not clearly resolve the conflict. The court does notimpermissibly reweigh evidence when concluding competent,substantial evidence does not support hearing officer’s finding. Dep’tof Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles v. Trimble, 821 So. 2d 1084,1087 (Fla. 1st DCA 2002) [27 Fla. L. Weekly D807a]; Colling, 178

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (36)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 944 CIRCUIT COURTS—APPELLATE

So. 3d 3, at 4 (conclusion amounting to nothing more than a flip of thecoin insufficient to uphold suspension). The evidence gives equalsupport for two conflicting inferences. Id. Such evidence, beinginconsistent, is not substantial. Id. Because competent, substantialevidence does not support the order upholding Petitioner’s administra-tive license suspension, it will be quashed. It is therefore unnecessaryto address Petitioner’s remaining issue.

IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the Petition is GRANTEDand the order upholding the administrative suspension of Petitioner’sdriving privilege is QUASHED in Tampa, Hillsborough County,Florida, on the date imprinted with the Judge’s signature.

* * *

Landlord-tenant—Eviction—Default—Failure to deposit rent intocourt registry—No error in entry of eviction judgment and writ ofpossession without conducting hearing on motion to determine rentwhere tenant waived all defenses to eviction action by failing to depositany of disputed rent into court registry

ALFRED BARR, Appellant, v. BEAZER PREOWNED HOMES II, Appellee. CircuitCourt, 13th Judicial Circuit (Appellate) in and for Hillsborough County. Case No. 19-CA-1598, Division X. L.T. Case No. 19-CC-02351. December 20, 2019. Counsel:Alfred Barr, Pro se, Appellant. Jean M. Henne, Jean M. Henne, P.A., Winter Haven, forAppellee.

APPELLATE OPINIONThis case is before the court to review an eviction judgment and

writ of possession entered in favor of landlord Beazer Homes againsttenant/Appellant Alfred Barr. Mr. Barr challenges the court’sauthority to enter the judgment and writ without having conducted ahearing on his motion to determine rent. He also challenges thevalidity of service of process. Where service was effected by postingin accordance with the law, Mr. Barr has shown no error on this issue.With regard to the court’s entry of judgment without a hearing on themotion to determine rent, there is likewise no error shown. AlthoughMr. Barr timely moved for an order determining rent, because he didnot deposit any of the disputed rent or any rent accruing during thecourse of proceedings into the court’s registry, he waived his defenses,and the landlord was entitled to an immediate judgment under the law.

The statute is clear:83.60(2) In an action by the landlord for possession of a dwelling

unit, if the tenant interposes any defense other than payment,1 . . . thetenant shall pay into the registry of the court the accrued rent as allegedin the complaint or as determined by the court and the rent thataccrues during the pendency of the proceeding, when due. . . . Failureof the tenant to pay the rent into the registry of the court or to file amotion to determine the amount of rent to be paid into the registrywithin 5 days, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays, afterthe date of service of process constitutes an absolute waiver of thetenant’s defenses other than payment, and the landlord is entitled to animmediate default judgment for removal of the tenant with a writ ofpossession to issue without further notice or hearing thereon. . . .(Emphasis added).

First Hanover v. Vazquez, 848 So.2d 1188, 1190 (Fla. 3d DCA 2003)[28 Fla. L. Weekly D1319b] (tenants in actions for possession for non-payment of rent are obligated to pay rent as a condition to remainingin possession irrespective of their defenses and counterclaims); K.D.Lewis Enterprises Corp. v. Smith, 445 So.2d 1032, 1035 (Fla. 5thDCA 1984)(even if there is a dispute as to the amount of rent due, rentmust be paid for tenant to remain in possession of premises).

The judgment below is AFFIRMED. It is FURTHER ORDEREDthat Appellee’s motion for appellate attorney’s fees is GRANTED.This matter is REMANDED to the county court for a hearing on theamount of fees. (PEAco*ck, THOMAS, TESCHE ARKIN, JJ.)))))))))))))))))))

1In addition to improper service, Mr. Barr alleged payment of August, 2018, rent

only. Although Beazer’s complaint alleged nonpayment of rent for the months August2018-January 2019, the amended complaint removed the claim for August, 2018, rentfrom the claim.

* * *

Appeals—Appeal is premature where final, appealable order has notbeen rendered and pending bankruptcy action has been filed byappellant

GWENDOLYN L. ALOWOLODU, Appellant, v. MID-AMERICA APARTMENTCOMMUNITIES, INC., Appellee. Circuit Court, 13th Judicial Circuit (Appellate) inand for Hillsborough County, Civil Division. Case No. 19-CA-12729. Division X. L.T.Case No. 19-CC-60552. December 20, 2019. Counsel: Gwendolyn Alowolodu,Brandon, Pro se, Appellant. Charles V. Barrett, III, Charles V. Barrett, P.A., Tampa, forAppellee.

(Per Curiam.)

ORDER DISMISSING PREMATURE APPEAL

(ARKIN, Judge.) It has come to the Court’s attention that a finalappealable order has not been rendered in the proceeding below.Moreover, it appears bankruptcy has been filed by Appellant.Accordingly, this Court lacks jurisdiction to consider an appeal at thistime. It is therefore

ORDERED that the appeal, being premature, is DISMISSED.Appellant may file a new appeal, if necessary, when a final judgmentis rendered in the case or within 30 days of the expiration of thebankruptcy stay, whichever is later. AmMed Surgical Equipment, LLCv. Professional Medical Billing Specialists, LLC, 162 So.3d 209, 211-12 (Fla. 2d DCA 2015) [40 Fla. L. Weekly D352a]; Gardner v. Bankof New York Mellon, 192 So. 3d 51 (Fla. 2d DCA 2015).

* * *

Criminal law—Sentencing—Restitution—Trial court lacked jurisdic-tion to set amount of restitution after defendant’s probation ended,notwithstanding fact that delay in setting restitution was caused by lossof trial court’s jurisdiction during pendency of defendant’s appeal ofher conviction and sentence

ASHLEY YEAGERFISCHER, Appellant, v. STATE OF FLORIDA, Appellee. CircuitCourt, 15th Judicial Circuit (Appellate) in and for Palm Beach County, CriminalDivision AC. Case No. 502018AP000085AXXXMB. L.T. Case No.502014MM012688AXXXNB. January 8, 2020. Appeal from the County Court in andfor Palm Beach County, Judge Mark Eissy. Counsel: Claire V. Madill, Office of thePublic Defender, West Palm Beach, for Appellant. Samantha Bowen, Office of theState Attorney, West Palm Beach, for Appellee.

(PER CURIAM.) Appellant, Ashley Lynn Yeagerfischer, wasadjudicated guilty of one count of Battery and sentenced to twelvemonths’ probation. Although restitution was a condition of Appel-lant’s probation, because Appellant appealed her underlying convic-tion and sentence before the restitution hearing, the amount ofrestitution was not determined until after Appellant’s appeal wasresolved. By that point in time, Appellant had completed her proba-tion. Appellant now appeals the restitution order, arguing that the trialcourt lacked jurisdiction to set the amount of restitution after herprobation ended. We agree.

“Questions of subject matter jurisdiction are reviewed de novo.”Stanek-Cousins v. State, 912 So. 2d 43, 48 (Fla. 4th DCA 2005) [30Fla. L. Weekly D2060a]. A restitution order must be imposed atsentencing or within sixty days thereafter. State v. Sanderson, 625 So.2d 471, 473 (Fla. 1993). If the restitution order is timely entered, acourt may reserve jurisdiction to determine the amount of restitutionbeyond the sixty day period. Id. Thus, a trial court may properly setthe actual amount of restitution years after the date of sentencing if itreserves and maintains jurisdiction. White v. State, 190 So. 3d 99, 101(Fla. 4th DCA 2015) [40 Fla. L. Weekly D775a]. However, a trialcourt loses jurisdiction to set the amount of restitution, even if it timelyentered an order reserving jurisdiction, once a defendant’s probationhas ended. Montes v. State, 723 So. 2d 881, 882 (Fla. 3d DCA 1998)

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (37)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

CIRCUIT COURTS—APPELLATE 27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 945

[24 Fla. L. Weekly D15a]; see also State v. Maddex, 159 So. 3d 267,270-71 (Fla. 4th DCA 2015) [40 Fla. L. Weekly D577a] (holding thatwhen defendant’s eighteen-month probation sentence ended itsnatural life, the trial court was divested of its jurisdiction overprobationer).

Based on this clear precedent, we hold that the court lackedjurisdiction to set the amount of restitution after Appellant’s probationended. Although Appellant did not raise this issue at the restitutionhearing below, the court’s lack of jurisdiction created a fundamentalerror and, therefore, we are compelled to reverse. See J.D. v. State, 849So. 2d 458, 460 (Fla. 4th DCA 2003) [28 Fla. L. Weekly D1633a].Neither section 960.292(2), Florida Statutes—which allows a trialcourt to retain jurisdiction “for the sole purpose of entering civilrestitution liens” based on set restitution amounts—nor section775.089(3), Florida Statutes—which allows a trial court that hasordered restitution for a misdemeanor offense to retain jurisdiction“for the purpose of enforcing the restitution order for any period, notto exceed 5 years”—alter this conclusion as both statutes contemplatethe restitution being set before the defendant completes his or hersentence. See Nickerson v. State, 178 So. 3d 538, 538-39 (Fla. 3d DCA2015) [40 Fla. L. Weekly D2493a] (court had jurisdiction to enter civilrestitution lien order under section 960.292 after defendant wasreleased from supervision when restitution was set before supervisionended); McClintock v. State, 995 So. 2d 1147, 1149 (Fla. 5th DCA2008) [33 Fla. L. Weekly D2779a] (holding that section 775.089(3)pertains to a period of time wherein the trial court can enforce thepayment of a restitution order, not a period for entry of an originalrestitution order).

In arriving at this conclusion, we acknowledge the State’s argu-ment regarding the effect of Appellant’s appeal on the trial court’sability to set restitution. The State is correct that a trial court losesjurisdiction to hold a restitution hearing where a notice of appeal hasbeen filed and, therefore, is also correct that the trial court did not havejurisdiction to deal with the amount of restitution while Appellant’sappeal of her judgment and sentence was pending. See Marro v. State,803 So. 2d 906, 906 (Fla. 4th DCA 2002) [27 Fla. L. Weekly D159a].In cases where the defendant is serving a lengthy sentence, thistypically does not present an issue as the defendant will likely still beserving his or her sentence at the conclusion of the appeal and,therefore, the trial court will still have jurisdiction to set restitution.See, e.g., White, 190 So. 3d at 101; Marro, 803 So. 2d at 906. How-ever, when the defendant is serving a sentence which may be shorterthan the appellate process, the court and the State may be faced witha jurisdictional conundrum. As per the Fourth District Court ofAppeal, the “better practice” in such a scenario is to request theappellate court to relinquish jurisdiction to allow the trial court to holda hearing as to the amount of restitution. Stanek-Cousins, 912 So. 2dat 48 (Fla. 4th DCA 2005) [30 Fla. L. Weekly D2060a].

Accordingly, we REVERSE and REMAND for the trial court tovacate the restitution order. Based on this holding, the remainder ofthe issues raised by Appellant are moot. (CARACUZZO,SUSKAUER, and SCHER JJ., concur.)

* * *

Licensing—Driver’s license—Suspension—Refusal to submit to bloodtest—Request that licensee who was transported to hospital followingaccident submit to blood test was not lawful where there was noevidence that breath test or urine test was impossible or impractical—Mere passage of time while licensee underwent medical treatment is notsufficient to establish impossibility or impracticality of breath or urinetest

CARA MICHELE SMILEY, Petitioner, v. THE STATE OF FLORIDA DEPART-MENT OF HIGHWAY SAFETY AND MOTOR VEHICLES, Respondent. Circuit

Court, 15th Judicial Circuit (Appellate) in and for Palm Beach County. Civil DivisionAY. Case No. 502019CA008960XXXXMB. December 20, 2019. Petition for Writ ofCertiorari from the Bureau of Administrative Review, Department of Highway Safetyand Motor Vehicles. Counsel: Ira D. Karmelin, West Palm Beach, for Petitioner. MarkL. Mason, Tallahassee, for Respondent.

(PER CURIAM.) Petitioner seeks review of an order affirming thesuspension of her driver license based on her refusal to submit to ablood test. Petitioner contends that the suspension order is notsupported by competent, substantial evidence because one of the legalrequirements for requesting a blood test—that a breath or urine testwas impossible or impractical when the officer requested thatPetitioner submit to a blood draw—was not satisfied. We agree andgrant the Petition for Writ of Certiorari.

After being involved in an accident, Petitioner was arrested fordriving under the influence. She was then taken to the hospital wheremedical personnel withdrew blood and urine samples from Petitioneras part of the treatment. The medical tests showed that Petitioner hadcocaine in her system. While at the hospital, the arresting officerrequested a blood test from Petitioner to check her blood for alcoholor chemical substances. The officer warned Petitioner that refusal tosubmit to a blood test under the implied consent law would result inthe suspension of her driver license. Petitioner refused to submit andher license was suspended. At the request of Petitioner, a hearingofficer for the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehiclesreviewed the suspension and affirmed it.

Section 316.1932, Florida Statutes, known as the implied consentlaw, addresses driver license suspensions based on refusal to submitto a blood test. A driver is deemed to have given his or her consent tosubmit to “an approved blood test for the purpose of determining thealcoholic content of the blood” or determining the presence ofchemical or controlled substances where 1) there is a reasonable causeto believe that the person was driving while under the influence ofalcohol or chemical substances; 2) “the person appears for treatmentat a hospital, clinic, or other medical facility;” and 3) “the administra-tion of a breath or urine test is impractical or impossible. §316.1932(1)(c), Fla. Stat. (2019) (emphasis added). Based on theplain language of subsection 316.1932(1)(c), the impracticality of abreath or urine test is a necessary precondition for a driver’s impliedconsent to a blood test. See State v. Davis, 264 So. 3d 965, 967 (Fla.4th DCA 2019) [44 Fla. L. Weekly D450a] [Editor’s note: State,Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles v. Davis].

The first two preconditions were met here, but the third was not.There is nothing in the record to suggest that the officer requested abreath or a urine test or that a breath or urine test was impractical orimpossible before requesting a blood test from Petitioner. DHSMVargues that impracticality of administering a breath or urine test can beinferred from the fact that Petitioner had been in the hospital for twoand a half hours at the time of the blood request. However, as thisCourt held in Mejia v. Florida Department of Highway Safety &Motor Vehicles, 25 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 781a (Fla. 15th Cir. Ct. Nov.28, 2017), “the mere passage of time is not . . . sufficient to establishimpossibility or impracticality of a breath [or urine] test.” Somethingmore must be shown, such as “some minimal indication that Petitionerwould continue to remain at the hospital.” Id.

Additionally, the hearing officer’s final order made no findingsthat a breath test or urine test was impractical, nor that the request waslawful—that is, that the impracticality requirement was met beforerequesting the blood test. The tests performed by the hospital beforethe officer’s blood draw request are irrelevant. The basis for a licensesuspension due to refusal to submit to a test under the implied consentlaw is that the test be administered at the request of the officer. Seegenerally § 316.1932, Fla. Stat. (2019) (indicating that refusal to a testis aimed at the request of a law enforcement officer). A test performed

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (38)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 946 CIRCUIT COURTS—APPELLATE

by medical personnel for treatment is not a test requested by theofficer. Although we agree with DHSMV that highway safety is a vitalpublic interest, the law is the law. Subsection 316.1932(1)(c) clearlyaddresses the requirements for implied consent to a lawful blood test.

Therefore, we conclude that the suspension of Petitioner’s driverlicense was not supported by competent, substantial evidence that abreath or urine test was impractical or impossible. Accordingly, weGRANT the Petition for Writ of Certiorari and QUASH the orderaffirming the Petitioner’s license suspension. (KERNER, ROWE andNUTT, JJ., concur.)

* * *

Appeals—Judicial estoppel—Inconsistent litigation positions—Condominium association arguing in one suit that non-bindingarbitration was required before litigation, while nonetheless filingparallel court action seeking the same relief

JOHN PATCHEN, Appellant, v. QUADOMAIN I & IV ASSOCIATION, INC.,Appellee. Circuit Court, 17th Judicial Circuit (Appellate) in and for Broward County.Case No. CACE17-000081 (AP). L.T. Case No. COCE16-009625. November 4, 2019.Appeal from the County Court for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, Broward County;Linda Pratt, Judge. Counsel: Eric C. Edison, Waldman Trigoboff Hildebrandt &Calnan, P.A., Fort Lauderdale, for Appellant. Josef M. Fiala, Vernis & Bowling of PalmBeach, P.A., North Palm Beach, for Appellee.

OPINION(PER CURIAM.) Appellant, John Patchen (“Patchen”), appeals aFinal Judgment entered in favor of Appellee, Quadomain I & IVAssociation, Inc. (“Quadomain”). Having carefully considered thebriefs, the record, and the applicable law, the Final Judgment is herebyREVERSED as follows:

In the instant case, on May 6, 2016, Patchen filed a complaintagainst Quadomain. On August 22, 2016, Patchen filed an amendedcomplaint against Quadomain seeking equitable relief from the Courtto enjoin Quadomain from requiring that construction be performedon Patchen’s condo balcony or related areas of his unit. On August 30,2016, Quadomain filed a Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint,which the county court entered without prejudice on November 29,2016. Ultimately, the county court dismissed the action withoutprejudice for lack of jurisdiction, and for failure of Patchen to firstcomply with section 718.1255(4)(a), Florida Statutes, requiring non-binding arbitration before litigation.

On November 11, 2017, Quadomain filed a parallel action in theSeventeenth Judicial Circuit against Patchen, seeking injunctive relief.See Quadomain Condominium Assoc., Inc. v. John Patchen, No.CACE17-020651. Even a brief reading of this Complaint shows thatit contains the same parties and issues as in the instant case.

Judicial Estoppel is an equitable doctrine that prevents litigantsfrom taking inconsistent positions in separate judicial or quasi-judicialproceedings. See Crawford Residences, LLC v. Banco Popular NorthAmerica, 88 So. 3d 1017 (Fla. 2d DCA 2012) [37 Fla. L. WeeklyD1260d]. Quadomain maintains inconsistent positions between thesetwo actions. Quadomain argues in this litigation the need fornonbinding pre-suit arbitration, while at the same time filing an actionseeking the same relief in the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit Court.Therefore, the doctrine of Judicial Estoppel is appropriately invokedto preclude any such position in this Appeal.

Accordingly, the Final Judgment in favor of Appellee is herebyREVERSED, and this case is REMANDED to the county court forfurther proceedings consistent with this Opinion. Additionally,Appellee’s Motion for Attorney’s Fees and Costs is hereby DENIED.(HENNING, SINGHAL, and LEDEE, JJ., concur.)

* * *

Insurance—Personal injury protection—Coverage—Medicalexpenses—Deductible—Proper sequence

ADVANCED CHIROPRACTIC AND MEDICAL CENTER, CORP., (a/a/o NethanelDumesle), Appellant, v. PROGRESSIVE AMERICAN INSURANCE COMPANY,Appellee. Circuit Court, 17th Judicial Circuit (Appellate) in and for Broward County.Case No. CACE16-017115 (AP). L.T. Case No. COCE13-012197. November 21,2019. Appeal from the County Court of the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, BrowardCounty, Giuseppina Miranda, Judge. Counsel: Robert J. Hauser, Pankauski HauserPLLC, West Palm Beach, for Appellant. Michael C. Clarke, Kubicki Draper, P.A.,Tampa, for Appellee.

[Lower court order at 24 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 766a]

CORRECTED OPINION UPON CONFESSION OF ERROR

(LEDEE, J.) This Court hereby GRANTS Appellant’s Motion forRehearing to Correct Scrivener’s Error in November 4, 2019 Opinion,filed November 7, 2019. This Court’s Opinion, dated November 4,2019, is hereby withdrawn and substituted with the following:

Appellant appeals from a final judgment entered in favor ofAppellee. Appellant argues the county court improperly applied thedeductible to the maximum compensable amount pursuant to the feeschedules under section 627.736(5)(a)1.f, Florida Statutes, rather thanAppellant’s billed amount. Appellee has filed a Confession of Errorin light of the Florida Supreme Court’s decision in Progressive SelectInsurance Company v. Florida Hospital Medical Center, 260 So. 3d219 (Fla. 2018) [44 Fla. L. Weekly S59a]. Appellee’s Confession ofError is hereby ACCEPTED. Accordingly, the final judgmententered in favor of Appellee is hereby REVERSED, and the case isREMANDED for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.Appellant’s Motion for Appellate Attorney’s Fees is GRANTED, asto appellate attorney’s fees, with the amount to be determined by thecounty court upon remand. Further, Appellee’s Motion for AppellateAttorney’s Fees is hereby DENIED. (HENNING and SINGHAL, JJ.,concur.)

* * *

STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, Appellant,v. OPEN MAGNETIC SCANNING, LTD., a/a/o John Mino, Appellee. Circuit Court,17th Judicial Circuit (Appellate) in and for Broward County. Case No. CACE17-012458 (AP). L.T. Case No. COCE13-008601. November 4, 2019. Appeal from theCounty Court for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, Broward County; KathleenMcCarthy, Judge. Counsel: Thomas L. Hunker, Cole Scott & Kissane, P.A., Plantation,for Appellant. Joseph R. Dawson, Law Offices of Joseph R. Dawson, P.A., FortLauderdale, for Appellee.

OPINION(PER CURIAM.) Having carefully considered the briefs, the record,and the applicable law, this Court dispenses with oral argument andthe final judgment is hereby AFFIRMED. See Dade Cnty. Sch. Bd. v.Radio Station WQBA, 731 So. 2d 638, 644 (Fla. 1999) [24 Fla. L.Weekly S71a] (“if a trial court reaches the right result, but for thewrong reasons, it will be upheld if there is any basis which wouldsupport the judgment in the record.”). Appellee’s Motion for Attor-neys’ Fees is hereby GRANTED as to appellate attorney’s fees, withthe amount to be determined by the county court upon remand.Further, Appellant’s Motion for Appellate Attorneys’ Fees is herebyDENIED. (HENNING, SINGHAL, and LEDEE, JJ., concur.)

* * *

Landlord-tenant—Eviction—Notice—Default—Abuse of discretionto strike tenant’s answer and affirmative defenses without affordingtenant leave to amend and to summarily enter default final judgmentof removal despite tenant’s defense of action

DON KOZICH, Appellant, v. RELIANCE PROGRESSO ASSOCIATES, LTD., d/b/aPROGRESSO POINT APARTMENT COMMUNITY, Appellee. Circuit Court, 17thJudicial Circuit (Appellate) in and for Broward County. Case No. CACE16-001144(AP). L.T. Case No. COCE15-004735. November 4, 2019. Appeal from the County

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (39)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

CIRCUIT COURTS—APPELLATE 27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 947

Court of the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, Broward County, Peter B. Skolnik, Judge.Counsel: Don Kozich, Pro se, Fort Lauderdale, Appellant. Michael T. Burke, Johnson,Anselmo, Murdoch, Burke, Piper & Hochman, P.A., Fort Lauderdale, for Appellee.

OPINION(PER CURIAM.) Appellant, Don Kozich (“Kozich”) appeals thecounty court’s entry of default final judgment of removal in favor ofReliance Progresso Associates, Ltd. d/b/a Progresso Point ApartmentCommunity (“Reliance”) and the county court’s order strikingKozich’s answer and affirmative defenses. Having carefully reviewedthe briefs, the record, and the applicable law, this Court dispenses withoral argument, and finds that the final judgment is hereby RE-VERSED as set forth below.

The county court abused its discretion in striking Kozich’s answerand affirmative defenses without affording Kozich leave to amend andsummarily entering default final judgment of removal notwithstand-ing Kozich’s defense of the action. See Pro-Art Dental Lab, Inc. v. V-Strategic Grp., LLC, 986 So. 2d 1244, 1259 (Fla. 2008) [33 Fla. L.Weekly S503a] (finding a default improper when a party has filed aresponsive pleading or otherwise defended before entry of default).Accordingly, final judgment should be REVERSED and the caseREMANDED for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.(HENNING, SINGHAL, and LEDEE, JJ., concur.)

* * *

STAR CASUALTY INSURANCE CO., Appellant, v. HOLLYWOOD INJURYREHABILITATION CENTER, INC., a/a/o Vanessa Garcia, Appellee. Circuit Court,17th Judicial Circuit (Appellate) in and for Broward County. Case No. CACE16-021218 (AP). L.T. Case No. COCE 11-026833. October 15, 2019. Appeal from theCounty Court of the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, Broward County, Stephen J. Zaccor,Judge. Counsel: Nancy Gregoire, Birnbaum, Lippman & Gregoire, PLLC, FortLauderdale, for Appellant. Chad A. Barr, Law Office of Chad A. Barr, P.A., AltamonteSprings, for Appellee.

OPINION(PER CURIAM.) Having carefully considered the briefs, the record,and the applicable law, this Court dispenses with oral argument andthe final judgment is hereby AFFIRMED. Appellee’s Motion forAward of Appellate Attorney’s Fees and Costs is hereby GRANTEDas to appellate attorney’s fees, with the amount to be determined bythe county court upon remand, and DENIED as to costs, WITHOUTPREJUDICE to Appellee to file a motion in the county court pursuantto Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.400(a). See Fla. R. App. P.9.400(a) (“Costs shall be taxed by the lower tribunal on a motionserved no later than 45 days after rendition of the court’s order.”).(HENNING, SINGHAL, and LEDEE, JJ., concur.)

* * *

JARRETT POOD, Appellant, v. STATE OF FLORIDA, Appellee. Circuit Court, 17thJudicial Circuit (Appellate) in and for Broward County. Case No. 16-27AC10A. L.T.Case No. 14-3227TC20A. December 17, 2019. Appeal from the County Court for theSeventeenth Judicial Circuit, Broward County, Melinda K. Brown, Judge. Counsel:Lisa S. Lawlor, Office of the Public Defender for Appellant. Nicole Bloom, Office ofthe State Attorney, for Appellee.

OPINION(PER CURIAM.) Having carefully considered Appellant’s InitialBrief, Appellee’s Answer Brief, the record on appeal, and theapplicable law, we hereby AFFIRM the trial court’s order denyingAppellant’s motion for judgment of acquittal. As such, the judgmentand sentence entered in the trial court shall stand. (BAILEY, T.,KOLLRA, JR., and WEEKES, JJ., concur.)

* * *

JAMES C. HOWARD, Appellant, v. STATE OF FLORIDA, Appellee. Circuit Court,17th Judicial Circuit (Appellate) in and for Broward County. Case No. 17-

000037AC10A. L.T. Case No.15-25889MM10A. December 17, 2019. Appeal fromthe County Court of the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, Broward County, Judge RobertF. Diaz. Counsel: Joseph W. Gibson, Joseph W. Gibson, P.A., Miami, for Appellant.Nicole Bloom, State Attorney’s Office, Fort Lauderdale, for Appellee.

OPINION(PER CURIAM.) THIS CAUSE is before the Court, sitting in itsappellate capacity, upon Appellant’s timely appeal of the trial court’sorder denying Appellant’s Motion to Suppress. Having carefullyconsidered the briefs, the record, and the applicable law, this Courtdispenses with oral argument, and decides that the trial court’s denialof Appellant’s Motion to Suppress is AFFIRMED. (KOLLRA,WEEKES, and BAILEY, T., JJ., concur.)

* * *

516, LLC, Appellant, v. C&I GARDEN, INC., Appellee. Circuit Court, 17th JudicialCircuit (Appellate) in and for Broward County. Case No. CACE18-003565 (AP). L.T.Case No. COCE16-009214. November 4, 2019. Appeal from the County Court of theSeventeenth Judicial Circuit, Broward County, Daniel J. Kanner, Judge. Counsel:Jeffrey J. Molinaro, Fuerst Ittleman David & Joseph, Miami, for Appellant. Eric M.Sodhi, Sodhi Spoont PLLC, Miami, for Appellee.

OPINION(PER CURIAM.) Having carefully considered the briefs, the record,and the applicable law, this Court dispenses with oral argument andthe final judgment is hereby AFFIRMED. Appellee’s Motion forAppellate Attorneys’ Fees and Costs is hereby GRANTED, as toappellate fees, with the amount to be determined by the trial courtupon remand, and DENIED, as to costs, WITHOUT PREJUDICEto Appellee to file a motion in the trial court pursuant to Florida Ruleof Appellate Procedure 9.400(a). See Fla. R. App. P. 9.400 (“Costsshall be taxed by the lower tribunal on a motion served no later than 45days after rendition of the court’s order.”). (HENNING, SINGHAL,and LEDEE, JJ., concur.)

* * *

CARLOS MARTINS, Appellant, v. STATE OF FLORIDA, Appellee. Circuit Court,17th Judicial Circuit (Appellate) in and for Broward County. Case No. 18-44AC10A.L.T. Case No. 15-032432MM10A. December 17, 2019. Appeal from the County Courtfor the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, Broward County, Kal Evans, Judge. Counsel:Michael B. Cohen, for Appellant. Nicole Bloom, for Appellee.

OPINION(PER CURIAM.) Having carefully considered Appellant’s InitialBrief, Appellee’s Answer Brief, and the applicable law, we herebyAFFIRM the trial court’s denial of Appellant’s motion to suppress.(BAILEY, T., KOLLRA, and WEEKES, JJ., concur.)

* * *

CARL DENNIS, Appellant, v. STATE OF FLORIDA, Appellee. Circuit Court, 17thJudicial Circuit (Appellate) in and for Broward County. Case No. 13-28AC10A. L.T.Case No. 09-7693MM10A. December 17, 2019. Appeal from the County Court for theSeventeenth Judicial Circuit, Broward County, Judge Evans. Counsel: Richard L.Rosenbaum, Law Offices of Richard Rosenbaum, for Appellant. Nicole Bloom, Officeof the State Attorney, for Appellee.

OPINION(PER CURIAM.) Having carefully considered the briefs, the recordon appeal, and the applicable law, we hereby AFFIRM the Defen-dant’s traffic infractions. We note, however, that the affirmance iswithout prejudice to Defendant’s right to raise his ineffectiveness oftrial counsel claims in a postconviction motion. See Fla. R. Crim. P.3.850; York v. State, 731 So. 2d 802 (Fla. 4th DCA 1999) [24 Fla. L.Weekly D996a]. (BAILEY, KOLLRA, and WEEKES, JJ., concur.)

* * *

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (40)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 948 CIRCUIT COURTS—APPELLATE

RENA SINGER, Appellant, v. STATE OF FLORIDA, Appellee. Circuit Court, 17thJudicial Circuit (Appellate) in and for Broward County. Case No. 15-82AC10A. L.T.Case No. 14-29051MU10A. December 17, 2019. Appeal from the County Court for theSeventeenth Judicial Circuit, Broward County, Christopher Pole, Judge. Counsel:Jason T. Forman, for Appellant. Nicole Bloom, Office of the State Attorney, forAppellee.

OPINION(PER CURIAM.) Having carefully considered the Initial Brief ofAppellant, the Answer Brief of Appellee, and the Reply Brief ofAppellant, the record on appeal, and the applicable law, we find noerror on the part of the County Court denying Appellant’s motion inlimine and/or to strike testimony, and Appellant’s motion to suppress,dismiss and/or exclude, and therefore AFFIRM the conviction.(KOLLRA, T. BAILEY, and WEEKES, JJ., concur.)

* * *

KEVIN BEACH, Appellant, v. STATE OF FLORIDA, Appellee. Circuit Court, 17thJudicial Circuit (Appellate) in and for Broward County. Case No. 18-48AC10A. L.T.Case No. 17-026185TC10A. October 30, 2019. Appeal from the County Court for theSeventeenth Judicial Circuit, Broward County, Judge Ginger Lerner-Wren. Counsel:Lisa S. Lawlor, Office of the Public Defender, for Appellant. Nicole Bloom, Office ofthe State Attorney, for Appellee.

OPINION(PER CURIAM.) Having carefully considered the briefs, the recordon appeal, and the applicable law, we hereby AFFIRM the Defen-dant’s judgment and sentence. (BAILEY, KOLLRA, and WEEKES,JJ., concur.)

* * *

PHD DEVELOPMENT, LLC, Appellant, v. CHRISTIAN SAGESSE, Appellee.Circuit Court, 17th Judicial Circuit (Appellate) in and for Broward County. Case No.CACE17-006533 (AP). L.T. Case No. COWE16-015366. November 4, 2019. Appealfrom the County Court for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, Broward County; OlgaLevine, Judge. Counsel: Eric J. Volz, Fort Lauderdale, for Appellant. ChristianSagesse, Pro Se, North Lauderhill, Appellee.

OPINION(PER CURIAM.) Having carefully considered the brief, the record,and the applicable law, the final judgment is hereby AFFIRMED.(HENNING, SINGHAL, and LEDEE, JJ., concur.)

* * *

Licensing—Driver’s license—Suspension—Refusal to submit to breathtest—No merit to argument that arrest affidavit and refusal affidavitare deficient because arresting officer testified that he was not adminis-tered verbal oath when he signed documents where language indocuments expressly provide that they were sworn documents—Further, officer swore to veracity of documents under oath at hearing—Actual physical control of vehicle—Because accident report privilegedoes not apply in administrative license suspension hearings, hearingofficer properly considered licensee’s statements in crash report asbasis for concluding that licensee was driving or in actual physicalcontrol of vehicle—Lawfulness of detention and arrest—Officer hadreasonable suspicion to detain licensee for DUI investigation wherelicensee caused accident after coming from bar at 3:30 a.m.; stumbledwhen he walked; and had bloodshot eyes, slurred speech and odor ofalcohol—Officer had probable cause for arrest based on theseobservations and licensee’s poor performance on field sobrietyexercises

MICHAEL ROACH, Petitioner, v. STATE OF FLORIDA, DEPARTMENT OFHIGHWAY SAFETY AND MOTOR VEHICLES, Respondent. Circuit Court, 18thJudicial Circuit (Appellate) in and for Seminole County. Case No. 18-05-AP. April 10,2019. Petition for Writ of Certiorari from the Florida Department of Highway Safetyand Motor Vehicles, Ronald Ryan, Hearing Officer. Counsel: Stuart I. Hyman, forPetitioner. Mark L. Mason, Assistant General Counsel, for Respondent.

(Before NELSON, MCINTOSH, and RUDISILL, JJ.)

ORDER GRANTING REHEARING(PER CURIAM.) Respondent filed a Motion for Rehearing of theWrit of Certiorari on March 6, 2019, alleging that this Court over-looked a change in the law regarding section 322.2615(2)(b), FloridaStatutes. Respondent argues that as of the statutory amendment in2006, the accident report privilege contained in section 316.066(4),Florida Statutes, no longer applies in formal administrative hearingsand, therefore, this Court’s reliance on State v. Cino, 931 So. 2d 164,168 (Fla. 5th DCA 2006) [31 Fla. L. Weekly D1353a], and Depart-ment of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles v. Perry, 702 So. 2d 294,295-96 (Fla. 5th DCA 1997) [22 Fla. L. Weekly D2796a], wasmisplaced.1 Respondent contends that the hearing officer properlyrelied upon Petitioner’s admissions referenced in the arrest report toconclude that Petitioner was driving or in actual physical control of amotor vehicle.

At the formal review hearing and in the Petition, counsel forPetitioner strenuously argued that the statements made by Petitionerto Eustis Police Officer Sean Hackett—that he was in the drive-thrulane and his foot slipped off the pedal causing him to hit the back ofthe vehicle in front of him—were protected by the accident reportprivilege. Petitioner relied upon Cino and Perry.

Notably, Respondent did not present any of the arguments it nowraises in the instant Motion in its response to the Petition. Respondentdid not argue that the accident report privilege does not apply informal administrative hearings, or that Petitioner’s reliance on Cinoand Perry was misplaced based upon the 2006 change in the law.Rather, Respondent merely asserted that any argument that informa-tion gathered during the crash investigation stage may not be used toform probable cause necessary to arrest a person due to the accidentreport privilege was misplaced, without explanation, and quoted therelevant statute.

The issue of whether the accident report privilege applies inadministrative hearings has never been decided by the FloridaSupreme Court or any Florida District Court of Appeal. However,based on the circuit court case cited in Respondent’s motion, and othercircuit court cases interpreting the statute to mean that the accidentreport privilege no longer applies in such hearings, this Court willgrant rehearing.

Therefore, upon due consideration of the Motion and Petitioner’sresponse, this Court grants rehearing, withdraws its previous Writ ofCertiorari, and substitutes the following Order in its stead.

ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARIPetitioner seeks certiorari review of the Department of Highway

Safety and Motor Vehicles’ final order sustaining the suspension ofhis driver’s license for driving or being in actual physical control of amotor vehicle while under the influence of alcoholic beverages. ThisCourt has jurisdiction pursuant to section 322.2615(13), FloridaStatutes, and Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.030(c)(3).

BACKGROUNDOn December 20, 2017, at approximately 3:34 a.m., Eustis Police

Officer Sean Hackett was dispatched to a vehicle accident thatoccurred in a McDonald’s drive-thru. He was the initial officer on thescene. When he arrived, he observed Petitioner outside of a vehicle.He never saw Petitioner inside a vehicle. Upon contacting Petitioner,Officer Hackett observed that he had bloodshot eyes and slurredspeech, he smelled of alcohol, and he stumbled while walking.Petitioner told Hackett that when he was in the drive-thru lane, his footslipped off the pedal and he hit the back of the vehicle in front of him.He also told Hackett that he had come from a bar in Tavares before theaccident. Hackett spoke with the driver and passenger of the othervehicle, who informed him that they were sitting in the drive-thru lane

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (41)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

CIRCUIT COURTS—APPELLATE 27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 949

when another vehicle hit the rear of their vehicle.Officer Hackett conducted a DUI investigation and Petitioner

completed field sobriety exercises. Hackett did not advise Petitionerthat he changed from an accident investigation to a criminal investiga-tion. Although Petitioner successfully completed the finger-to-nosetest, he performed poorly on the other tests. Petitioner was placedunder arrest for DUI and transported to the Eustis Police Departmentfor booking. Hackett advised Petitioner of his Miranda rights after thearrest. His decision to arrest Petitioner for DUI was based on acombination of factors rather than solely on any one particularindicator. Petitioner refused to submit to a breath test, and wassubsequently transported to the Lake County Jail. His license wassuspended pursuant to section 322.2615, Florida Statutes, as a resultof his failure to submit to a breath test. He then sought formal reviewof the license suspension by the Department of Highway Safety andMotor Vehicles Division of Driver Licenses pursuant to section322.2615(6), Florida Statutes. A hearing was held on January 23,2018.

At the hearing, the following documents were submitted into therecord: Florida DUI Uniform Traffic Citation; Arrest Affidavit;Officer Report; EPD DUI Packet Checklist; State of Florida TrafficCrash Report; Breath Alcohol Test Affidavit; Affidavit of Refusal toSubmit to Breath, Urine, or Blood Test; Prisoner Property Inventory;and a DVD. Officer Hackett appeared telephonically and was swornin by a notary public. At the start of his testimony, he swore oraffirmed that the documents he submitted into the record were true andcorrect. He testified that he was not administered a verbal oath whenhe signed those documents.

Counsel for Petitioner moved to invalidate the suspension, arguingthat: (1) the documents submitted into the record were inadmissiblebecause they were not properly sworn under oath by Officer Hackett;(2) there was no evidence that Petitioner was driving or in actualphysical control of the vehicle, aside from Petitioner’s own statementswhich were inadmissible under the accident report privilege; (3) therewas no reasonable suspicion to detain Petitioner to investigate forDUI; (4) there was no probable cause to arrest for DUI based on atotality of the investigation, including the DVD which contradictedOfficer Hackett’s observations of impairment; and (5) there was noshowing that the horizontal gaze nystagmus test was scientificallyreliable. The hearing officer granted the motion as to the horizontalgaze nystagmus test, but denied all of the other motions. He found thatall elements necessary to sustain the suspension for refusal to submitto a breath test under section 322.2615 were supported by a prepon-derance of the evidence.

STANDARD OF REVIEWThe Court’s review of the hearing officer’s order is “limited to a

determination of whether procedural due process was accorded,whether the essential requirements of law had been observed, andwhether the administrative order was supported by competentsubstantial evidence.” Dep’t of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles v.Luttrell, 983 So. 2d 1215, 1217 (Fla. 5th DCA 2008) [33 Fla. L.Weekly D1625a].

ANALYSISIn a formal review hearing for suspension of a driver’s license

based upon refusal to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test, thehearing officer’s scope of review is limited to the following issues:

1. Whether the law enforcement officer had probable cause tobelieve that the person whose license was suspended was driving or inactual physical control of a motor vehicle in this state while under theinfluence of alcoholic beverages or chemical or controlled substances.

2. Whether the person whose license was suspended refused tosubmit to any such test after being requested to do so by a law

enforcement officer or correctional officer.3. Whether the person whose license was suspended was told that

if he or she refused to submit to such test his or her privilege to operatea motor vehicle would be suspended for a period of 1 year or, in thecase of a second or subsequent refusal, for a period of 18 months.

§ 322.2615(7)(b), Fla. Stat. (2018).Petitioner argues that there was no competent substantial evidence

to support the hearing officer’s findings because: (1) Officer Hackettadmitted that he was not administered an oath before he signed thedocuments in the record; (2) there was no evidence that he was drivingor in actual physical control of the vehicle, aside from his ownstatements which were inadmissible under the accident reportprivilege; (3) there was no reasonable suspicion to detain him longerthan necessary to issue a citation or conduct field sobriety exerciseswhere there were no signs of impairment; and (4) there was noprobable cause to arrest him for DUI.

(1) OathPetitioner argues that there was no competent substantial evidence

to support the sustaining of his license suspension in this case becauseOfficer Hackett testified that he signed the reports without beingadministered an oath and, therefore, the reports were legally insuffi-cient to constitute affidavits under section 322.2615(2)(a), FloridaStatutes.

Respondent argues that the arrest affidavit and refusal affidavitwere both signed to indicate they were attested to. Respondent alsoargues that the hearing officer administered an oath to Officer Hackettpursuant to section 322.2615(6)(b) and, therefore, the reports wereproperly sworn and admitted into the record as affidavits of probablecause.

The Court agrees with Respondent. Before a driver’s licensebelonging to a person who has been arrested for DUI can be sus-pended, section 322.2615(2) requires the arresting officer to forwardto the Department an affidavit stating the grounds for the officer’sbelief that the person was driving or in actual physical control of amotor vehicle while under the influence, and an affidavit stating thata breath test was requested and the person refused to submit. §322.2615(2)(a), Fla. Stat. (2018). The failure to furnish the Depart-ment with a properly sworn statement of the arresting officer fails tovest the Department with initial jurisdiction to proceed with anyadministrative action in suspending a person’s driver’s license. Statev. Johnson, 553 So. 2d 730, 733 (Fla. 2d DCA 1989).

An affidavit is a “statement in writing under an oath administeredby a duly authorized person.” Youngker v. State, 215 So. 2d 318, 321(Fla. 4th DCA 1968). “An oath may be undertaken by any unequivo-cal act in the presence of an officer authorized to administer oaths bywhich the declarant knowingly attests the truth of a statement andassumes the obligation of an oath.” Id. “The key to a valid oath is thatperjury will lie for its falsity. . . . It is essential to the offense of perjurythat the statement considered perjurious was given under an oathactually administered.” Collins v. State, 465 So. 2d 1266, 1268 (Fla.2d DCA 1985).

Here, the arrest affidavit is legally sufficient to constitute a validaffidavit. At the top of each page it states, “Before Me, the under-signed authority personally appeared Ofc. S. Hackett E50 who beingduly sworn, alleges . . . ,” and at the bottom of each page is OfficerHackett’s signature. Next to that it states, “Sworn to and subscribedbefore me this 20 day of December, 2017,” followed by the signatureof Corporal Fahning. Likewise, the Affidavit of Refusal states, “I, OfcS. Hackett E50 . . . do swear or affirm that . . . ,” followed by OfficerHackett’s signature and the signature of another corporal as theattesting officer. The language in these documents expressly providesthat the documents were sworn documents. Petitioner does not disputethe validity of the attesting officers’ signature, authority, or identity.

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (42)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 950 CIRCUIT COURTS—APPELLATE

Nor does Petitioner provide this Court with any authority that the oathmust be verbally administered by the attesting officer in addition to thewritten statement and oath contained within the documents. SeePearson v. Dep’t of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles, 11 Fla. L.Weekly Supp. 521a (Fla. 9th Cir. Ct. Jan. 14, 2004); see also Hallmanv. Dep’t of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles, 22 Fla. L. WeeklySupp. 181a (Fla. 6th Cir. Ct. Sept. 30, 2014) (finding that although anoath was not administered to the deputy, the language contained in theprobable cause affidavit was sufficient to meet the statutory require-ments under section 322.2615(2)).

Furthermore, the hearing officer actually administered an oath toOfficer Hackett at the hearing during which Hackett swore or affirmedthat the documents he submitted into the record were true and correct.See Messer v. Dep’t of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles, 3 Fla. L.Weekly Supp. 563b (Fla. 9th Cir. Ct. Dec. 15, 1995) (noting that theDepartment relied solely on the arresting officer’s facially invalidarrest affidavit, but could have met its burden at the hearing “bycalling and eliciting sworn testimony from the arresting officer”).

The cases relied upon by Petitioner are distinguishable. In Chasev. Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, 6 Fla. L.Weekly Supp. 324b (Fla. 18th Cir. Ct. Mar. 15, 1999), the courtgranted certiorari because the hearing officer relied solely upon afacially invalid arrest report which did not provide any indication ofthe identity of the attestor or whether he or she had authority toadminister an oath or notarize a document. In Messer, the court heldthat the hearing officer departed from the essential requirements oflaw in relying upon the arresting officer’s charging affidavit whichcontained an illegible attestation signature, and provided no indicationof the identity of the attestor or whether the attestor had authority toadminister an oath or notarize a document. Messer, 3 Fla. L. WeeklySupp. 563b. In contrast, the affidavits in this case were facially validand Officer Hackett provided sworn testimony. Thus, the reports wereproperly admitted into the record for consideration by the hearingofficer.

(2) Accident Report PrivilegePetitioner argues that there was no competent substantial evidence

to support the sustaining of his license suspension because the onlyevidence that establishes he was driving or in actual physical controlof the vehicle—his own statements to Officer Hackett during theaccident investigation—are protected by the accident report privilege.

Respondent argues that the accident report privilege codified insection 316.066(4), Florida Statutes, no longer applies in formaladministrative hearings pursuant to section 322.2615(2)(b), whichprovides, “Notwithstanding s. 316.066(4),2 the crash report shall beconsidered by the hearing officer.” § 322.2615(2)(b), Fla. Stat. (2018).

The Court agrees with Respondent and finds, based on other circuitcourts’ interpretation of the statute, that the privilege does not apply inthis case. See Horne v. Dep’t of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles, 15Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 442a (Fla. 13th Cir. Ct. Mar. 20, 2008) (inter-preting “notwithstanding” to mean a hearing officer may considerhearsay statements despite any limitations under section 316.066, andfinding the Department did not depart from essential requirements oflaw in considering petitioner’s statements in the crash report); see alsoTackett v. Dep’t of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles, 22 Fla. L.Weekly Supp. 174a (Fla. 4th Cir. Ct. Sept. 10, 2014) (the accidentreport privilege does not apply to the administrative review of alicense suspension pursuant to section 322.2615(2)(b)); Stafford v.Dep’t of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles, 19 Fla. L. Weekly Supp.167c (Fla. 8th Cir. Ct. Sept. 19, 2011) (section 322.2615(2) abrogatedthe accident report privilege as applied to administrative licensesuspension review hearings); Alford v. Dep’t of Highway Safety &Motor Vehicles, 17 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 995a (Fla. 14th Cir. Ct. Feb.

18, 2010) (there is no crash report privilege in Florida administrativelicense suspension hearings because the privilege was abrogated bylegislation in 2006); Juettner v. Dep’t of Highway Safety & MotorVehicles, 15 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 538b (Fla. 6th Cir. Ct. Mar. 26,2008) (the accident report privilege is no longer applicable inadministrative license suspension hearings). Thus, the hearing officerproperly considered Petitioner’s statements in the crash report toconclude that Petitioner was driving or in actual physical control of avehicle.

(3) DetentionPetitioner argues that there was no competent substantial evidence

to support the sustaining of his license suspension because there wereno signs of impairment to detain him longer than necessary to issue atraffic citation and require field sobriety tests. He claims that the odorof alcohol and bloodshot eyes are not indicative of impairment, andthat the DVD contradicts that he had slurred speech or any otherindication of impairment.

Respondent argues that once the traffic crash investigationconcluded, Officer Hackett had reasonable cause to detain Petitionerto conduct a DUI investigation because Petitioner caused a trafficcrash after coming from a bar, had bloodshot eyes, had slurred speech,stumbled while he walked, and smelled of alcohol.

The Court agrees with Respondent. “To request that a driversubmit to field sobriety tests, a police officer must have reasonablesuspicion that the individual is driving under the influence.” State v.Ameqrane, 39 So. 3d 339, 341 (Fla. 2d DCA 2010) [35 Fla. L. WeeklyD1148b]. “Reasonable suspicion is something less than probablecause, but ‘an officer needs more than a mere hunch before he candetain a suspect past the time reasonably required to write a citation.’ ”Maldonado v. State, 992 So. 2d 839, 842 (Fla. 2d DCA 2008) [33 Fla.L. Weekly D2303a] (quoting Eldridge v. State, 817 So. 2d 884, 888(Fla. 5th DCA 2002) [27 Fla. L. Weekly D1009a]); State v. Breed, 917So. 2d 206, 208 (Fla. 5th DCA 2005) [30 Fla. L. Weekly D1457a]. “Areasonable suspicion ‘has a factual foundation in the circ*mstancesobserved by the officer, when those circ*mstances are interpreted inthe light of the officer’s knowledge and experience.’ ” State v.Castaneda, 79 So. 3d 41, 42 (Fla. 4th DCA 2011) [36 Fla. L. WeeklyD1347b] (quoting Origi v. State, 912 So. 2d 69, 71 (Fla. 4th DCA2005) [30 Fla. L. Weekly D2302a]).

Here, the evidence in the record establishes that Petitioner was ina McDonald’s drive-thru at approximately 3:30 a.m., after comingfrom a bar, when his foot slipped off the pedal and he hit the vehiclein front of him. Petitioner had bloodshot eyes and slurred speech,smelled of alcohol, and stumbled while walking. This evidence, whichis not contradicted by the DVD in the record, is sufficient to supporta finding of reasonable suspicion. See State v. Taylor, 648 So. 2d 701,703 (Fla. 1995) [20 Fla. L. Weekly S6b] (finding reasonable suspicionwhere officer observed speeding, odor of alcohol, staggering, slurredspeech, and watery and bloodshot eyes); Castaneda, 79 So. 3d 41(finding reasonable suspicion where officer observed speeding, odorof alcohol, and bloodshot and watery eyes); Ameqrane, 39 So. 3d 339(finding reasonable suspicion where officer observed speeding, odorof alcohol, and bloodshot and glassy eyes); Origi, 912 So. 2d 69(finding reasonable suspicion where officer observed speeding, odorof alcohol, and bloodshot eyes). Thus, the hearing officer’s finding ofreasonable suspicion is supported by competent substantial evidence.

4) ArrestPetitioner argues that there was no competent substantial evidence

to support the sustaining of his license suspension because there wasno probable cause for his arrest. He claims that the DVD establishesthat he performed the field sobriety exercises in a normal manner.

Respondent argues that Officer Hackett’s observations and

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (43)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

CIRCUIT COURTS—APPELLATE 27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 951

Petitioner’s poor performance on the field sobriety exercises estab-lished probable cause for the arrest.

The Court agrees with Respondent. “[P]robable cause sufficient tojustify an arrest exists ‘where the facts and circ*mstances, as analyzedfrom the officer’s knowledge, special training and practical experi-ence, and of which he has reasonable trustworthy information, aresufficient in themselves for a reasonable man to reach the conclusionthat an offense has been committed.’ ” Dep’t of Highway Safety &Motor Vehicles v. Whitley, 846 So. 2d 1163, 1165-66 (Fla. 5th DCA2003) [28 Fla. L. Weekly D1090a] (quoting Dep’t of Highway Safety& Motor Vehicles v. Smith, 687 So. 2d 30, 33 (Fla. 1st DCA 1997) [22Fla. L. Weekly D161a]).

Here, as noted above, Petitioner caused a traffic crash, hadbloodshot eyes and slurred speech, stumbled while he walked, andsmelled of alcohol. The evidence in the record also shows thatalthough Petitioner successfully completed the finger-to-nose test, heperformed poorly on the remaining field sobriety exercises, and theDVD does not contradict this evidence. See State v. Geiss, 70 So. 3d642, 653 n.1 (Fla. 5th DCA 2011) [36 Fla. L. Weekly D1132a](“probable cause may be found by a combination of factors, includingan ‘odor of alcohol on a driver’s breath . . . the defendant’s reckless ordangerous operation of a vehicle, slurred speech, lack of balance ordexterity, flushed face, bloodshot eyes, admissions, and poorperformance on field sobriety exercises.’ ”); Whitley, 846 So. 2d at1166 (holding that erratic driving, an odor of alcohol, glassy eyes,slurred speech, and an admission of drinking alcohol were sufficientto provide the officer with probable cause to arrest defendant forDUI). Thus, the hearing officer’s finding of probable cause issupported by competent substantial evidence.

Based upon the foregoing, this Court concludes that the hearingofficer’s order was supported by competent substantial evidence. It istherefore ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that the Petition for Writ ofCertiorari Jurisdiction is DENIED. (MCINTOSH and RUDISILL,JJ. concur.)))))))))))))))))))

1See § 322.2615(2)(b), Fla. Stat. (2018) (“Notwithstanding s. 316.066(4), the crashreport shall be considered by the hearing officer.”).

2Section 316.066(4) provides in part:Except as specified in this subsection, each crash report made by a person involvedin a crash and any statement made by such person to a law enforcement officer forthe purpose of completing a crash report required by this section shall be withoutprejudice to the individual so reporting. Such report or statement may not be usedas evidence in any trial, civil or criminal. However, subject to the applicable rulesof evidence, a law enforcement officer at a criminal trial may testify as to anystatement made to the officer by the person involved in the crash if that person’sprivilege against self-incrimination is not violated.

§ 316.066(4), Fla. Stat. (2018).

* * *

Licensing—Driver’s license—Suspension—Driving under influence—Hearings—Failure of subpoenaed witness to appear—Arrestingofficer—Where arresting officer provided statement of just cause fornonappearance at formal review hearing, but failed to provide writtenstatement of just cause for nonappearance at continued hearing withintwo days of hearing, petition for writ of certiorari is granted

HUGH ELLIOT MILLARD, JR., Petitioner, v. STATE OF FLORIDA, DEPART-MENT OF HIGHWAY SAFETY AND MOTOR VEHICLES, DIVISION OFDRIVER LICENSES, Respondent. Circuit Court, 18th Judicial Circuit (Appellate) inand for Seminole County. Case No. 17-41-AP. September 1, 2018. Counsel: Mark L.Mason, Assistant General Counsel, for Respondent.

ORDER GRANTING “RESPONDENT’SMOTION FOR REHEARING”

[Original Opinion at 26 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 484d]

(STACY, J.) THIS MATTER is before the Court on “Respondent’sMotion for Rehearing” filed on August 22, 2018, pursuant to Florida

Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.330. Having reviewed the Motion, andthe court record and being fully advised in their premises, it is hereby

ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that “Respondent’s Motion forRehearing,” which is reviewed as a Motion for Reconsideration, isGRANTED.

Upon reconsideration, the Court finds that at the first continuedhearing on September 13, 2017, the arresting officer informed thehearing officer via email prior to the hearing that she would not beable to attend the hearing because she was scheduled for alpha/bravoshifts due to Hurricane Irma. According to the hearing transcript, itappears (though it cannot be ascertained with certainty) that the emailwas sent to the hearing officer on the date of that hearing.

At the second continued hearing on September 27, 2017, thearresting officer stated that she would not be able to attend the hearingprior to the hearing because she was under subpoena to appear in aseparate proceeding in traffic court. However, there is no recordevidence that shows the arresting officer provided a written statementshowing just cause within two days of the hearing as required byFlorida Administrative Code Rule 15A-6.015(2).

Accordingly, the Court reiterates its ruling that the Writ ofCertiorari is GRANTED, and the Findings of Fact, Conclusions ofLaw and Decision issued on October 25, 2017, is hereby QUASHED.

* * *

Criminal law—Driving under influence—Discovery—Source code forIntoxilyzer 8000—Trial court abused its discretion by excluding breathtest results as sanction for state’s failure to provide source code forbreath testing instrument where state did not possess the source code—Any ability to obtain source code from foreign corporation whichpossessed the code was thwarted when, in response to subpoena issuedunder Uniform Act to Secure the Attendance of Witnesses fromwithout a State, foreign court found the source code was not materialand declined to issue subpoena to corporation—Holding stateresponsible for foreign court’s failure to issue a subpoena would nullifythe intent and operation of Uniform Act and is precluded by supremecourt’s holding in Ulloa v. CMI, Inc.

STATE OF FLORIDA, Appellant, v. JOHN JAMES BONOTTO, Appellee. CircuitCourt, 18th Judicial Circuit (Appellate) in and for Seminole County. Case No. 16-52-AP. L.T. Case No. 12-MM-9581-A. May 23, 2019. Appeal from the County Court forSeminole County. Honorable John L. Woodard, III, County Court Judge. Counsel:Phillip Archer, State Attorney, and Ben Fox, Assistant State Attorney, for Appellant.Kendell K. Ali, for Appellee.

(RECKSIEDLER, J.) The Appellant is charged with DUI.1 During thepretrial process, he sought to obtain the source code of the Intoxilyzer8000 machine through discovery. The State did not provide the sourcecode because it did not possess that evidence. After numeroushearings, the trial court found that the source code was material.However, it was determined CMI, Inc., based in Owensboro,Kentucky, actually possessed the source code. The trial court issueda certificate to the Appellant to authorize the issuance of a subpoenaduces tecum to CMI, Inc. The certificate permitted the Appellant torequest the Kentucky court with jurisdiction over CMI, Inc. issue thesubpoena for the source code. This process is set forth in the “UniformAct to Secure the Attendance of Witnesses from without a State” inCriminal Proceedings (hereinafter referred to as “Uniform Act”),adopted by Florida, as codified in §§ 942.01-.06, Florida Statutes, andKentucky. Contrary to the Florida court, the Kentucky court found thesource code was not material and declined to issue a subpoena to CMI,Inc., which thwarted the ability to obtain the source code. The trialcourt, frustrated by the Kentucky court’s application of the law,sanctioned the State and excluded the breath test results. The Stateappealed. In its appeal, the State did not contest the finding ofmateriality by the trial court, but challenged the sanction to exclude

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (44)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 952 CIRCUIT COURTS—APPELLATE

the breath test results.The Uniform Act enumerates a two-step procedure to compel the

attendance of an out-of-state witness. First, the court in the jurisdictionseeking the attendance of a witness issues a certificate, which setsforth the basis for the finding of materiality and the duration thewitness’ presence is required. Thereafter, the certificate of materialityis presented to a judge in the court of record in the county where thewitness is located. See Fla. Stat. §942.03(1). That court makes its ownindependent determination as to whether the witness is material andnecessary. “[T]he witness does not need to travel to another stateunless his or her own state’s court has also determined that he or sheis material and necessary to the case.” Ulloa v. CMI, Inc., 133 So. 3d914, 922 (Fla. 2013) [38 Fla. L. Weekly S804a]. The act applies towitnesses required to testify and witnesses only required to producedocuments. Id. at 925-26.

The trial court believed the Kentucky court was required to issuethe subpoena pursuant to the Full Faith and Credit Clause. The UnitedStates Constitution dictates “Full Faith and Credit shall be given ineach State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings ofevery other State.” Art. IV, § 1, U.S. Const. “Florida courts areobligated by the Full Faith and Credit Clause to recognize judgmentswhich have been validly rendered in the courts of sister states. . .”Kemp & Associates, Inc. v. Chisholm, 162 So. 3d 172, 176 (Fla. 5thDCA 2015) [40 Fla. L. Weekly D372b] (quoting Boardwalk RegencyCorp. v. Hornstein, 695 So. 2d 471, 471 (Fla. 4th DCA 1997) [22 Fla.L. Weekly D1415c]). However, the finding of materiality by theFlorida trial court was not a judgment and therefore the Kentuckycourt was not bound by it. Consequently, Full Faith and Credit did notapply.

Because the Kentucky court had the authority to make its ownfindings and refuse to issue the subpoena, the only issue for this Court,in its appellate capacity, is whether the State may be sanctioned forfailing to turn over the source code. Ulloa speaks to this point.

A review of the Uniform Law as a whole shows that in order for aFlorida court to require the attendance of an out-of-state witness toappear to testify in a Florida criminal proceeding, the Florida courtcannot actually compel the out-of-state witness to take any action andcannot impose sanctions against the out-of-state witness for failing toobey. Instead, under section 942.03(1), the Florida court merely issuesa certificate to the sister state court where the witness is located, so thatthe sister state can make certain findings and issue a summons to thewitness who is appearing before that court. The sister state court then

has the authority to impose sanctions if the witness does not comply. Inother words, the same process that takes place in Florida when a Floridacourt receives a certificate from a sister state would then take place in thatother state.

Accordingly, this process requires two courts to work together,with both courts finding that the witness in question is material andnecessary. The witness also has an opportunity to be heard, and thesister state can ensure that the witness endures no undue hardship.This process guarantees that both sovereign states are coordinatingtheir efforts, that the witness has the opportunity to be heard by his orher own state court, and that the witness does not need to travel toanother state unless his or her own state’s court has also determinedthat he or she is material and necessary to the case.

Id. at 922. The trial court had no authority to override the Kentuckycourt’s finding that the source code was not material and necessary tothe case and ultimate refusal to issue a subpoena directed to CMI, Inc.

Once the Kentucky court declined to issue a subpoena to CMI,neither the Appellant nor the State could have acquired the sourcecode. The State did not commit a discovery violation because at notime did it possess the source code. “[N]one of the rules of criminalprocedure relating to discovery require the State to disclose informa-tion which is not within the State’s actual or constructive possession.”Sinclair v. State, 657 So. 2d 1138, 1141 (Fla. 1995) [20 Fla. L. WeeklyS293a]. Moreover, the State could not have willfully committed adiscovery violation in failing to provide evidence it never couldobtain. Therefore, the trial court was not permitted pursuant to Fla. R.Crim. P. 3.220 to sanction the State for not producing the source code.Alternatively, holding the State responsible for the Kentucky court’sfailure to issue a subpoena would nullify the intent and operation ofthe Uniform Act and is precluded by Ulloa. Under either rationale, thetrial court abused its discretion. As such, the order excluding thebreath test results for failure to disclose the source code should bereversed.

REVERSED AND REMANDED with instructions. (CHASE andSOUTO, JJ., concur.)))))))))))))))))))

1This case was intended to be a companion case with several other cases pendingin the same division. However, the cases were never formally consolidated and thelower court record shows that the only hearings held and orders entered on the matterwere rendered in the Appellee’s case. Therefore, the other cases were not properlyraised before this appellate court, so those appeals were dismissed.

* * *

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (45)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

953

Volume 27, Number 11

March 31, 2020

Cite as 27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. ____ CIRCUIT COURTS—ORIGINALCriminal law—Search and seizure— Consent— Voluntariness—Con-sent to search was not freely and voluntarily given where officer wholawfully detained defendant for littering gave littering warning andthen continued detention in presence of second armed officer in effortto obtain consent to search defendant’s person, there was no indicationthat consent could be refused, and defendant appeared to bebewildered and upset—Statements of defendant—Where defendantwas in custody when he made statements in response to interrogation,and reasonable person would not have felt as though he could leave orterminate interrogation, pre-Miranda interrogation was unlawful andany subsequent administration of Miranda was tainted and did notcure violation—Motion to suppress is granted

STATE OF FLORIDA, Plaintiff, v. CHARLES HARRIS, Defendant. Circuit Court,9th Judicial Circuit in and for Orange County, Felony Division 16. Case No. 2019-CF-002332-A-O. December 12, 2019. Elaine A. Barbour, Judge. Counsel: Aiza Skelton,Assistant State Attorney, Orlando, for Plaintiff. David L. Redfearn and Yasin Amba,Assistant Public Defenders, Orlando, for Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO SUPPRESSTHIS CAUSE came on to be heard upon the Defendant’s Motion

to Suppress. The Court took testimony from Orlando Police OfficersBrandon Glatthorn and Kevin Walczak as well as the Defendant. TheCourt viewed the body worn camera (BWC) footage in evidence(State’s 1) and being otherwise advised, finds as follows:

FACTS1. The competent substantial evidence is that in the evening hours

of 2/15/19 the Defendant, a middle aged black male, was walking inOrange County eastbound on E. Colonial Drive. At the time of his stophe was in the area of Westmoreland and E. Colonial Drive—a highcrime, high drug area. He was wearing a backpack and headed to thebus stop. Officer Glatthorn was in a marked patrol car northbound onWestmoreland when he observed the Defendant throw an object hesuspected to be a cigarette butt into the roadway. A 7-11/gas stationwas located at the southeast corner of Westmoreland and E. ColonialDrive. At that time another officer, Officer Walczak, was at the 7-11independently involved on an unrelated encounter. Both officers werein full uniform and had marked patrol cars. Officer Glatthorn made adecision to stop the Defendant for the civil infraction of littering. AsOfficer Glatthorn is pulling into the 7-11 his BWC depicts to his righta marked patrol car parked in front of the 7-11 (south side) and theDefendant to his left walking on a sidewalk eastbound in front of the7-11. Initially there is no audio but it is apparent from the BWC thatthe Defendant’s attention is called to Officer Glatthorn after he exitedhis patrol car by some statement, command or question because theDefendant stopped and turned to face Officer Glatthorn as heapproached the Defendant. As Officer Glatthorn approached, theDefendant’s full body is in view and the audio comes on. TheDefendant is seen with his hands together just below his chest. Itappears he has something in one or both hands. Officer Glatthorn toldthe Defendant to “keep your hands out”. Officer Glatthorn testifiedthat this statement was made for his safety because he observed theDefendant reach to his left pocket, however, the BWC up to this pointdoes not support this gesture. Officer Glatthorn then asked theDefendant what he was smoking “over there” to which the Defendantresponded “a cigarette”. There was other brief discussion andclarification as to whether the Defendant was selling cigarettes, theofficer stated it is illegal to sell cigarettes and then the Defendant statedthat someone else asked him for a cigarette. During this exchangeOfficer Glatthorn asked the Defendant to reposition himself to a shortdistance away for his own safety due to vehicle traffic. OfficerGlatthorn then asked the Defendant “Where did your cigarette go?” to

which the Defendant responded “I threw it out.” The officer stated,“That’s littering, alright.” The Defendant then put his head up in theair and stated “Oh, no.” The Defendant was not asked to pick up thelitter. The BWC now shows the Defendant from chest up. At eviden-tiary hearing Officer Glatthorn testified that at this point in his mindhe had issued a verbal warning to the Defendant and was not going toissue a citation. No written warning was issued or statements of averbal warning to signify to the Defendant that the task and purposeof his original stop had ended. In point of fact, it was not made clear tothe Defendant at any point that the detention was for littering. Up untilthis point, Officer Glatthorn had no reason to believe the Defendanthad was armed or had committed, was about to commit or wascommitting a crime. The Defendant was not told he was free to leave.Instead Officer Glatthorn began a criminal investigation and decidedto attempt to obtain consent to search. Officer Glatthorn said to theDefendant, “Be honest with me man, you ain’t got no pipes on you,nothing like that?” At this time Officer Walzcak comes partially intoframe to the Defendant’s left and Officer Glatthorn’s right. TheDefendant answers “No”. Officer Glatthorn then said, “Do you mindif I have a quick look?” The Defendant appears to think about it brieflyand appears to reach down as if he is going to pat his pockets at whichtime Officer Glatthorn stated, “Don’t reach. . .I don’t want you toreach” and the Defendant stated, “I have a lighter, I have money. . .”Officer Walczak then stated, “I know you’re thinking about it, man.You keep going for that left pocket like I got a crack pipe, I know I gota crack pipe.” Officer Glatthorn then stated, “Be real with me now.”The Defendant then responded, “No.” and Officer Glatthorn said, “Soyou don’t mind if I take a quick look?” and the Defendant responds,“Take a quick look.” Officer Glatthorn then asks that the Defendantput his hands on his head and a search of the Defendant’s personensues. The Defendant does appear surprised and taken aback at timesby the statements and requests of law enforcement. Eventually theDefendant is found to be in possession of suspected crack cocaine.The Defendant was not Mirandized until after his arrest. At no timedid the Officers draw their weapons, raise their voices or threaten theDefendant.

ANALYSIS AND RULING2. Officer Glatthorn had probable cause to detain the Defendant for

the suspected non-criminal infraction of littering. See, F.S. 403.413and 901.15(1). However, once his task was completed by giving theDefendant the warning that Officer Glatthorn testified in his mind hehad done, Officer Glatthorn had no authority to prolong the detentionof the Defendant. See, Thomas v. State, 614 So.2d 468, 471 (Fla.1993). This Court notes that as a society we ask a lot of police officers.We expect them to weed out and intercept illegal activity and keep ourstreets safe while at all times being respectful of the Constitutionalprotections we all enjoy. While it may be true that high crime areas arefraught with people in the commission of or about to commit criminalacts, it should be noted that they are also filled with law abidingcitizens who must be free to go about their business unfettered by 4th

Amendment violations. While hunches based on police experienceoften bear out, a hunch or mere suspicion cannot be allowed to passConstitutional muster. It is a hard line for the police to walk ordecipher in the heat of the moment. However, in the case at bar therewas no evidence that the Defendant was believed to be armed orotherwise engaged in criminal activity to justify a Terry stop pursuantto F.S. 901.151. Instead Officer Glatthorn (who had already warnedthe Defendant of the illegality of littering and illegally sellingcigarettes) now joined by Officer Walczak embarked on an immediate

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (46)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 954 CIRCUIT COURTS—ORIGINAL

quest to obtain consent to search his person. The question of whetherconsent is voluntarily given is a mixed question of law and factdetermined from the totality of the circ*mstances. See, United Statesv. Mendenhall, 446 U.S. 544, 557, 100 S.C. 1870, 1878, 64 L.Ed.2d497 (1980) and Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U.S. 218, 93 S.Ct.2041, 36 L.Ed.2d 854 (1973). The State carries the burden of provingthe consent was obtained freely and voluntarily and not merely by wayof submission to a claim of lawful authority. See, Florida v. Royer,460 U.S. 491, 497, 103 S.Ct. 1319, 1324, 75 L.Ed.2d 229 (1983).Where there is an illegal detention or other illegal conduct on the partof the police, consent will be found to be voluntary only if there isclear and convincing evidence that it was not the product of illegalpolice action. See, Norman v. State, 379 So.2d 643, 647 (Fla. 1980).Otherwise, the State must establish voluntariness of consent by apreponderance of the evidence. See, Denehy v. State, 400 So.2d 1216(Fla. 1980). In the case at bar, given the totality of the circ*mstances,to include the time and place of the encounter, the number of officerspresent, the words used, the manner in which they were used, the ageof the Defendant, the demeanor and responses of the Defendant andthe lack of any indication that consent could be refused, this Courtfinds that the consent to search was obtained by police conduct thatwas at best cajoling in nature which resulted in the Defendant yieldingto the apparent authority of the officers. The Defendant appearedbefuddled, bewildered and at times upset by the various statementsand requests of the officers. Given the totality of the circ*mstances, itis apparent that the Defendant’s consent was not freely and voluntarilygiven. The State has not met its burden under either standard.

3. As to the Defendant’s statements, the Court finds that theDefendant was in custody for the purposes of Miranda inasmuch as hewas being investigated for a non-criminal infraction which became acriminal investigation, not told at any point that he was free to leave,was asked questions designed to lead to an incriminating responsewhich were the functional equivalent of an interrogation and areasonable person under the totality of the circ*mstances would nothave felt as though he or she was free to leave or terminate theinterrogation. Due to the violation of the Defendant’s 4th AmendmentConstitutional rights any subsequent administering of Miranda istainted and uncured. See, Ramirez v. State, 739 So.2d 568, 573 (Fla.1999) [24 Fla. L. Weekly S353a] and Pirzadeh v. State, 854 So.2d740, 742 (Fla. 5th DCA 2003) [28 Fla. L. Weekly D1986a]

WHEREFORE, the Defendant’s Motion to Suppress isGRANTED.

* * *

Insurance—Homeowners—Additional named insured under home-owners policy is not indispensable party to action concerning paymentof benefits under policy

ANDREW GAINEY, Plaintiff, v. SECURITY FIRST INSURANCE COMPANY dbaSECURITY FIRST FLORIDA, Defendant. Circuit Court, 9th Judicial Circuit in andfor Orange County. Case No. 2019-CA-004801-O. December 16, 2019. Chad K.Alvaro, Judge. Counsel: David Albert Spain, Morgan & Morgan, Orlando, for Plaintiff.Andrew Mitchell, Cole, Scott & Kissane, P.A., Tampa, for Defendant.

ORDER ON DEFEDANT’S MOTION TO DISMISSAND MOTION TO STAY DISCOVERY

Having come before the Court on the 4th day of December at 8:30p.m. on Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss for Failure to Join Indispens-able Party/Motion to Add Indispensible[sic] Party and Defendant’sMotion to Stay Discovery, it is hereby

ORDERED and ADJUDGED as follows:1. This matter involves a first party dispute over payment of

homeowner insurance policy benefits.2. Defendant, Security First Insurance Company, in response to

Plaintiff’s complaint, requested dismissal of Plaintiff’s complaint, or

alternatively to add the additional named insured under the policy,Karen Rattigan, as an indispensable party to this action.

3. This Court finds that this case can be adjudicated in its meritswithout Karen Rattigan as a party to this action, and as such, is not anindispensable party. See Phillips v. Choate, 456 So. 2d 556, 557 (Fla.4th DCA 1984).

4. Accordingly, Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss for Failure to JoinIndispensable Party/Motion to Add Indispensible[sic] Party isDENIED.

5. Defendant’s Motion to Stay Discovery is DENIED AS MOOT.Defendant shall have (20) days to respond to Plaintiff’s discoveryrequests.

* * *

Torts—Defamation—Cyberstalking—Anti-SLAPP statute—Actionagainst opponent of retail pet sales for defamation and cyberstalkingbrought by owner of commercial pet retail business—Defendant isentitled to summary judgment on defamation count where plaintiff isgeneral purpose public figure, undisputed evidence shows thatdefendant believed her statements about plaintiff’s stores, and plaintiffcannot demonstrate substantial falsity of any of defendant’s state-ments—To extent defamation count concerns statements made bydefendant to county commission, statements are protected by privilegeto petition government provided by First and Fourteenth Amendmentsand Florida common law—Because neither posting messages regard-ing plaintiff on social media nor conducting internet searches forplaintiff’s name are communications “directed at a specific person,”those actions do not constitute cyberstalking within meaning of section784.048—Further, cyberstalking counts are deficient because plaintiffhas not shown that defendant’s communications caused him substan-tial emotional distress or lacked legitimate purpose—Final summaryjudgment entered in favor of defendant

LUIS MARQUEZ, Plaintiff, v. MICHELE LAZAROW, Defendant. Circuit Court,11th Judicial Circuit in and for Miami-Dade County, General Jurisdiction Division.Case No. 2019-023903-CA-31. January 10, 2020. Spencer Eig, Judge. Counsel: Juan-Carlos Planas, Law Firm of Juan-Carlos Planas, P.A., Miami, for Plaintiff. Thomas R.Julin and Timothy J. McGinn, Gunster, Yoakley & Stewart, P.A., Miami, forDefendant.

FINAL SUMMARY JUDGMENTTHIS CASE came before this Court on January 7, 2020, on

defendant Michele Lazarow’s Anti-SLAPP Motion to Dismiss theSecond Amended Complaint with Prejudice or to Enter FinalSummary Judgment and to Award Costs and Attorneys’ FeesIncurred. All parties were represented by learned counsel.

The Undisputed Material FactsIn support of her motion, Lazarow filed a declaration which sets

forth the facts which she asserts are not in dispute and which entitleher to judgment as a matter of law. Plaintiff did not file any recordevidence and this Court must accept Defendant’s Declaration as theundisputed facts in the matter (Plaintiff’s counsel did file a Memoran-dum in Opposition).

The Legal StandardA person “may not file or cause to be filed, . . . any lawsuit, cause

of action, claim, cross-claim, or counterclaim against another personor entity without merit and primarily because such person or entity hasexercised the constitutional right of free speech in connection with apublic issue, . . . to instruct representatives of government, or topetition for redress of grievances before the various governmentalentities of this state, as protected by the First Amendment to theUnited States Constitution and s. 5, Art. 1 of the State Constitution.”Fla. Stat. § 768.295(3).

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (47)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

CIRCUIT COURTS—ORIGINAL 27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 955

Section 768.295, Florida Statutes, provides that:[a] person or entity sued by a governmental entity or another person inviolation of this section has a right to an expeditious resolution of aclaim that the suit is in violation of this section. A person or entity maymove the court for an order dismissing the action or granting finaljudgment in favor of that person or entity. The person or entity mayfile a motion for summary judgment, together with supplementalaffidavits, seeking a determination that the claimant’s or governmentalentity’s lawsuit has been brought in violation of this section. Theclaimant or governmental entity shall thereafter file a response and anysupplemental affidavits. As soon as practicable, the court shall set ahearing on the motion, which shall be held at the earliest possible timeafter the filing of the claimant’s or governmental entity’s response.

Fla. Stat. § 768.295(4).A defendant facing a strategic lawsuit against public participation

may simultaneously move to dismiss and for summary judgment. See,e.g., Gundel v. AV Homes, Inc., 264 So. 3d 304, 313 (Fla. 2d DCA2019) [44 Fla. L. Weekly D351a]. Motions to dismiss and forsummary judgment filed pursuant to Section 768.295 are alsogoverned by the applicable Florida Rules of Civil Procedure. Id.

With regard to a motion to dismiss, “all allegations of the complaintmust be taken as true and all reasonable inferences drawn therefrommust be construed in favor of the non-moving party.” Chodorow v.Porto Vita, Ltd., 954 So. 2d 1240, 1242 (Fla. 3d DCA 2007) [32 Fla.L. Weekly D1074a].

Summary judgment, by contrast, “is designed to test the sufficiencyof the evidence to determine if there is sufficient evidence at issue tojustify a trial or formal hearing on the issues raised in the pleadings[.]”Fla. Bar v. Greene, 926 So. 2d 1195, 1200 (Fla. 2006) [31 Fla. L.Weekly S171a]. “[S]ummary judgment is appropriate where, as amatter of law, it is apparent” from the evidence “that there is nogenuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to reliefas a matter of law.” Id. (citation omitted). In ruling on a motion forsummary judgment, this Court “must construe all the evidence, anddraw every possible inference therefrom, in a light most favorable tothe non-moving party.” See, e.g., JVN Holdings, Inc. v. Am. Constr. &Repairs, LLC, 185 So. 3d 599, 600 (Fla. 3d DCA 2016) [41 Fla. L.Weekly D326a] (citations omitted).

Conclusions of LawBased on the undisputed evidence filed by Defendant, the Court

finds that Marquez is a public figure for purposes of his defamationclaim. The determination of whether a plaintiff is a public or privatefigure is an issue of law for the Court’s determination. Turner v. Wells,879 F.3d 1254, 1271-72 (11th Cir. 2018) [27 Fla. L. Weekly Fed.C539a] (public figure status is a matter of law for the court); MileMarker, Inc. v. Petersen Publ’g, L.L.C., 811 So. 2d 841, 845 (Fla. 4thDCA 2002) [27 Fla. L. Weekly D701c] (quoting Saro Corp. v.Waterman Broad. Corp., 595 So. 2d 87, 89 (Fla. 2d DCA 1992))(public figure status “ ‘is a question of law to be determined by thecourt’ ”).

There are three types of public figures: (1) a general purpose publicfigure is one who has access to the media and invites attention andcomment, Silvester v. Am. Broad. Cos., 839 F.2d 1491, 1494 (11thCir. 1988); (2) a limited purpose public figure is one who involveshimself or herself in a public controversy, id.; and (3) an involuntarypublic figure is one who is drawn into a public controversy against hisor her will. See, e.g., Waldbaum v. Fairchild Publ’ns, Inc., 627 F.2d1287, 1298 (D.C. Cir. 1980); Friedgood v. Peters Publ’g Co., 521 So.2d 236 (Fla. 4th DCA 1988).

Per this record, Marquez is a general purpose public figure byvirtue of (1) his investment and participation in commercial pet retail,a highly controversial, highly regulated industry; (2) his voluntarypublic participation in controversies concerning the regulation of pet

retailing; (3) his prominence in South Florida; (4) frequent newscoverage of him and his Petland businesses; (5) his initiation of thislitigation against Lazarow; and (6) his television interview publicizingthe dispute between him and Lazarow and his version of events.

The test for liability in a defamation action depends on whether theplaintiff is a public or private figure. Silvester, 839 F.2d at 1493;Brown v. Tallahassee Democrat, Inc., 440 So. 2d 588 (Fla. 1st DCA1983); From v. Tallahassee Democrat, Inc., 400 So. 2d 52 (Fla. 1stDCA 1981). A public figure is required to prove that the defendantpublished a substantially false, defamatory statement of fact with“actual malice,” defined as knowledge of falsity or reckless disregardof the truth, with convincing clarity. Damron v. Ocala Star-BannerCo., 263 So. 2d 291 (Fla. 1st DCA 1972) (affirming summaryjudgment against public figure libel plaintiff).

Because he is being found as a public figure here, Marquez cannotprevail on his defamation claim against Lazarow without clear andconvincing evidence of “actual malice”—without clear and convinc-ing evidence that Lazarow knew of the falsity of her statements aboutMarquez or recklessly disregarded the truth of those statements.Common law “malice”—which is present where the speaker’sprimary motive is to injure the plaintiff—is not the equivalent of the“actual malice” required by the Constitution. See Nodar v. Galbreath,462 So. 2d 803, 806 (Fla. 1984).

The undisputed evidence in this record shows that Lazarowbelieves her statements about Marquez’s Petland stores.

Lazarow also is entitled to summary judgment on Count I becausethe evidence offered by Lazarow shows Marquez cannot demonstratethe substantial falsity of any statements she is alleged to have made.Whether a plaintiff bringing a defamation case is a public or privatefigure, the “plaintiff must bear the burden of showing that the speechat issue is false before recovering damages . . . . To do otherwise could‘only result in a deterrence of speech which the Constitution makesfree.’ ” Phila. Newspapers, Inc. v. Hepps, 475 U.S. 767, 777 (1986)(quoting Speiser v. Randall, 357 U.S. 513, 526 (1958)).

To the extent Count I concerns statements Lazarow made to theCollier County Commission, those statements are protected by boththe First and Fourteenth Amendment privilege to petition governmentand the Florida common-law privilege to petition government. SeeCal .Motor Transp. Co. v. Trucking Unlimited, 404 U.S. 508, 513(1972) (petitioning of government is immune unless nothing morethan a “sham”); Fridovich v. Fridovich, 598 So. 2d 65 (Fla. 1992)(Florida recognizes privilege to petition government). The undisputedfacts show Lazarow petitioned the Collier County Commission basedon her stated concern that pet retailing is harmful to animals andconsumers, not as a sham to harm Marquez.

Counts II and III are governed by section 784.0485, FloridaStatutes, which creates a civil cause of action for cyberstalking, andsection 784.048(1)(d), which defines the term “cyberstalk” asmeaning “[t]o engage in a course of conduct to communicate, or tocause to be communicated, words, images, or language by or throughthe use of electronic mail or electronic communication, directed at aspecific person . . . causing substantial emotional distress to thatperson and serving no legitimate purpose.” (Emphasis added.)

The courts have held that posting of messages about a specificperson on social media websites is not cyberstalking because suchpostings are not “directed” at a specific person. Chevaldina v. R.K./FLMgmt., Inc., 133 So. 3d 1086, 1092 (Fla. 3d DCA 2014) [39 Fla. L.Weekly D294b] (reversing injunction against cyberstalking forinternet posts); see also Logue v. Book, No. 4D18-1112, 2019 WL3807987 (Fla. 4th DCA Aug. 14, 2019) [44 Fla. L. Weekly D2083b](same); Scott v. Blum, 191 So. 3d 502, 504 (Fla. 2d DCA 2016) [41Fla. L. Weekly D1056a] (same); David v. Textor, 189 So. 3d 871,874-75 (Fla. 4th DCA 2016) [41 Fla. L. Weekly D131a] (reversing

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (48)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 956 CIRCUIT COURTS—ORIGINAL

temporary injunction with directions to dismiss petition); Horowitz v.Horowitz, 160 So. 3d 530, 531 (Fla. 2d DCA 2015) [40 Fla. L. WeeklyD785a] (reversing injunction because posts were not directed at aspecific person).

Marquez does not allege Lazarow sent him electronic messages orcommunications. He alleges Lazarow posted messages about him onsocial media and searched for his name on the Florida Division ofCorporations’ sunbiz.org website. These alleged social media postsand internet searches were not “directed at” Marquez and thereforewere not “cyberstalking.” See Chevaldina, 133 So. 3d at 1092.Moreover, Lazarow’s undisputed declaration affirms that she did notsend Marquez any of the posts at issue.

Marquez also does not show that Lazarow’s communicationscaused him the requisite “substantial emotional distress.” “ ‘Courtsapply a reasonable person standard, not a subjective standard, todetermine whether an incident causes substantial emotional distress.’ ”Logue, No. 4D18-1112, 2019 WL 3807987, at *4 (quoting David v.Schack, 192 So. 3d 625, 628 (Fla. 4th DCA 2016) [41 Fla. L. WeeklyD1239a]). “[T]he substantial emotional distress that is necessary tosupport a stalking injunction is greater than just an ordinary feeling ofdistress.” Shannon v. Smith, No. 1D18-4587, 2019 WL 3296582, at *2(Fla. 1st DCA July 23, 2019) [44 Fla. L. Weekly D1878b]. “Whethera communication causes substantial emotional distress should benarrowly construed and is governed by the reasonable personstandard.” Shack, 189 So. 3d at 875 (citations omitted).

A further deficiency of Counts II and III is that Marquez does notshow Lazarow lacked a legitimate purpose. “Whether a communica-tion serves a legitimate purpose is broadly construed and will cover awide variety of conduct.” Textor, 189 So. 3d at 875 (citations omitted).The undisputed record establishes that Lazarow’ s communicationswere made for legitimate purposes.

Application of the Anti-SLAPP StatuteThe record here establishes, and the Court finds on the basis of the

undisputed facts that this lawsuit is without merit and that Marquezbrought the suit primarily because Lazarow exercised her constitu-tional right of free speech in connection with a public issue.

CONCLUSION AND JUDGMENTLuis Marquez shall take nothing by this action and Michele

Lazarow shall go hence without day. The Court reserves jurisdictionto determine motions for attorneys’ fees and costs to be awarded.

* * *

Civil procedure—Default—Vacation—Void judgment—Contracts—Liquidated/unliquidated damages—Motion to vacate default judgmenton ground that judgment was void because damages awarded wereunliquidated is denied—Although complaint alleged precise amountof damages due under parties’ contract, and defendant, by defaulting,admitted to well-pled allegations of complaint, default does notautomatically “liquidate” damages such that no further inquiry isnecessary—Amount due in instant case, in which contract specifiedprecise amount to be paid, was provable by a mere mathematicalcalculation and, as a result, liquidated—Damages are not unliquidatedmerely because an affidavit is needed in order to prove how muchremains due on a contract that specifies what is required to be paid—Entry of a judgment based upon affidavit of indebtedness and withouttrial was legally appropriate under current state of the law

BAREKS DIS TICARET, A.S., Plaintiffs, v. EASTERN METAL COMPANY, LLC,Defendant. Circuit Court, 11th Judicial Circuit in and for Miami-Dade County, CircuitCivil Division. Case No. 18-17727 CA (22). December 27, 2019. Michael A. Hanzman,Judge. Counsel: Charles Gelman, Miami, for Plaintiff. Daniel R. Vega, Taylor EspinoVega & Touron, PLLC, Coral Gables, for Defendant Eastern Metals.

ORDER DENYING MOTIONTO VACATE DEFAULT FINAL JUDGMENT

I. INTRODUCTIONDefendant Eastern Metal Company, LLC (“Eastern” or “Defen-

dant”), moves to vacate this Court’s September 12, 2018 “DefaultFinal Judgment” pursuant to Florida Rule of Civil Procedure1.540(b)(4), insisting that because the damages awarded were not“liquidated” the judgment—which was entered based upon Plaintiff’saffidavit (and without a trial)—is void. Motion p. 6. Eastern claims “ithad a due process right to notice and an opportunity to defend itselfregarding the amount of [Plaintiff’s] unliquidated damages”—a rightit was deprived of “when counsel [for Plaintiff] served a notice ofhearing (rather than a notice of trial) a mere fourteen (14) days before[Plaintiffs] motion for final default judgment was heard and grantedat a five (5) minute motion calendar . . . .” Motion, p. 8.1

Plaintiff Bareks Dis Ticaret, A.S. (“Plaintiff” or “Bareks”)disagrees, and claims that: (a) “by defaulting [Eastern] . . . admitted allof the well pleaded allegations of the Complaint,” including theallegation that it owed the precise amount pled; and (b) that thedamages awarded were “liquidated” and, as a result, the Courtproperly entered a Default Final Judgment based upon an affidavitattesting to the amount contractually owed. Plaintiff’s Reply Brief, pp1-2. Defendant’s motion has been fully briefed and the Courtentertained oral argument. The matter is now ripe for disposition.

II. FACTS AND PROCEDUREThis case commenced when Plaintiff filed suit seeking damages

allegedly resulting from Defendant’s breach of a contract involvingthe purchase of steel rebar. Plaintiff’s “Complaint for Damages”alleged that:

On or about August 5, 2017, Plaintiff and Defendant entered intoa written agreement wherein Plaintiff would sell Defendant 2,500 KGof prime steel rebars at a price of $1,187,500.00.

Defendant agreed to pay to Plaintiff this $1,187,500.00 sum uponreceipt of said materials.

Plaintiff has delivered and Defendant has received all of said rebarsand owed [sic] Plaintiff a balance of $1,027,617.38.

Complaint, ¶¶ 4-6.Defendant concedes that it was properly served with the complaint

on June 5, 2018 when Plaintiff’s process server delivered the com-plaint/summons to its statutorily designated registered office. See Fla.Stat. § 48.091(2). Despite this valid service Eastern filed no responseto the complaint and was defaulted—a default it does not challenge.2

Eastern therefore admitted all of the well pled allegations of thecomplaint. See, e.g., Phadael v. Deutsche Bank Tr. Co. Americas, 83So. 3d 893 (Fla. 4th DCA 2012) [37 Fla. L. Weekly D341a].3

On August 3, 2018 Plaintiff moved for entry of a Default FinalJudgment, noticing the matter for hearing on August 21, 2018. Themotion was supported by an “Affidavit of Indebtedness” attesting that“Defendant, Eastern Metal Company, LLC, owes Plaintiff the sum of$1,027,617.38 said sum excluding Plaintiff’s pre-judgment interestand Plaintiff’s attorney’s fees and costs in procuring a Default FinalJudgment in this matter.” See Affidavit of Zeni Kirimli. The motion,however, was not heard on August 21 and Plaintiff re-noticed thematter for September 12, 2018. Defendant failed to attend that hearingand the Court—based upon the prior default and the Affidavit ofIndebtedness—entered a Default Final Judgment for the amountclaimed to be owed (i.e., amount of $1,027,617.38).

On October 2, 2019 Eastern filed its motion seeking to vacate theSeptember 12, 2018 Default Final Judgment, arguing that it is void asa matter of law because the damages at issue in this case are unliqui-dated and the Court was therefore required to conduct a trial prior toentry of a final judgment. Defendant’s Supplemental Memorandum,

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (49)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

CIRCUIT COURTS—ORIGINAL 27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 957

p. 5. Because the motion was filed more than one year after entry ofthe Default Final Judgment, Eastern’s only viable avenue of relief isRule 1.540(b)(4), a subsection of Rule 1.540 which affords a remedyif—and only if—an order or judgment is void because: (a) the courtentering the order/judgment was not legally organized; or (b) the courtentering the order/judgment lacked subject matter jurisdiction; or (c)the party against whom the order/judgment was entered was “ille-gally” deprived of an “opportunity to be heard.” Curbelo v. Ullman,571 So. 2d 443 (Fla. 1990). As this Court was clearly legally orga-nized, and possessed subject matter jurisdiction over this dispute,Defendant must (and does) rely upon the claim that it was denied dueprocess (i.e., an opportunity to be heard); an opportunity that must beafforded if—and only if—Plaintiff’s damages were not admittedwhen Eastern defaulted and were in fact unliquidated.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Did Eastern, by Defaulting, Conclusively Admit the AmountOwed.The first question presented is whether Eastern admitted the

amount owed when it defaulted, thereby obviating the need for thisCourt to determine whether Plaintiff’s damages were liquidated orunliquidated. In other words, is Eastern’s claimed admission the endof the inquiry? In Dunkley Stucco, Inc. v. Progressive Am. Ins. Co.,751 So. 2d 723 (Fla. 5th DCA 2000) [25 Fla. L. Weekly D450a], adecision relied upon by Plaintiff, the Fifth District answered thatquestion in the affirmative, holding that by defaulting a defendantadmits “all well pleaded allegations of the complaint,” including anyallegation that a plaintiff was damaged in a precise amount—in thatcase “$44,982.72.” Id. at 724. In the Fifth District’s view, once adefendant—by defaulting—admits to owing the specific amountalleged in the complaint, “[t]his admission converts what would havebeen an unliquidated amount into a liquidated one,” and the amountowed has been “determined.” Id. When this occurs, a defaultingdefendant is “not thereafter entitled to a hearing to require plaintiff toagain establish that amount to which defendant agrees he is liable.” Id.

The rule adopted in Dunkley Stucco appears sensible and isobviously easy to apply. If a default in fact admits “all well pleadedallegations of the complaint,” why would courts make an exceptionfor an allegation setting forth a precise sum owed pursuant to acontract? In other words, if a defaulting defendant admits liability,causation, and any other fact “well pleaded,” then why would it notalso admit an allegation as to how much is owed, if the complaint infact alleges a specific contractual amount?4 It seems to this Court thatan admission of “all well pleaded allegations” means all well pleadedallegations, including an allegation that a precise amount is due andowing pursuant to a contract.

Nevertheless, and despite its simplicity and logic, the rule adoptedin Dunkley Stucco has been expressly rejected by at least one of ourintermediate appellate courts and, in Defendant’s view, implicitlyrejected by others, including the Third District. In Kotlyar v. Metro.Cas. Ins. Co., 192 So. 3d 562 (Fla. 4th DCA 2016) [41 Fla. L. WeeklyD1182a], the Fourth District addressed a subrogation action where theplaintiff insurance carrier alleged that as a result of the defendant’snegligence its insured had suffered personal injuries and that, as aresult, it had paid—and was entitled to be subrogated for—“the sumof $50,000.00.” Id. at 564. Plaintiff also alleged that it was entitled tosubrogation in the amount of “4,789.85” paid in damages for itsinsured’s vehicle. After defendant Kotlyar was defaulted, the trialcourt entered a final default judgment based upon “supportingaffidavits which attested to the amounts paid to the insured as listed inthe complaint.” Id.

Upon discovering that a judgment had been entered against him,Kotlyar “filed a motion to vacate . . . arguing that the judgment was

void because the complaint sought unliquidated damages, and that adefaulting party is entitled to notice and an opportunity to be heardwhen the amount of damages is unliquidated.” Id. The appellate courtagreed, holding that a default terminates “the defending party’s rightto further defend, except to contest the amount of unliquidateddamages,” pointing out that “[w]e have consistently held that ‘[a]default admits a plaintiff’s entitlement to liquidated damages under awell-pled cause of action, but not to unliquidated damages.’ ” Id. at565. Because the damages pled were in the court’s view “unliqui-dated” (i.e., personal injury and property damages to a vehicle), theKotlyar majority concluded that defendant was entitled to notice andan opportunity to be heard on “the amount of damages prior to the trialcourt’s entry of the final judgment,” thereby disagreeing with the“Fifth District’s position” in Dunkley Stucco, a position that—according to the Kotlyar court—“no other appellate district . . . hasagreed with . . .” Id.5

Defendant says that the First District also disagreed with DunkleyStucco in Rich v. Spivey, 922 So. 2d 326 (Fla. 1st DCA 2006) [31 Fla.L. Weekly D561a]. In Rich the plaintiff appealed a final judgmentawarding him only “$10.00 in nominal damages in his action allegingcivil theft” after appellees defaulted. Appellant (plaintiff below)insisted that the trial court had erred in requiring a hearing to“determine damages” because: (a) appellant had pled specificdamages ($2,828 for personal property and $1,399 for householditems); and (b) the defendant, by defaulting, admitted these “wellpleaded allegations of [the] complaint.” Id. at 327. Rejecting thisargument, the Rich court noted that the “only case that arguablysupports” this position was Dunkley Stucco, a decision it found to be“factually dissimilar” because the plaintiff insurance company inDunkley Stucco had alleged a specific amount actually paid to itsinsured ($44,982.72), whereas the plaintiff in Rich had merely“compiled at the end of his complaint a list of real and personalproperty, and his own valuation of each item.” Id. The court thenconcluded that “[u]nlike the allegations in Dunkley Stucco, Rich’s listdoes not constitute a well-pleaded allegation of fact that could bedeemed admitted by appellees’ failure to deny it.” Id. at 328.

Although the Rich court attempted to distinguish Dunkley Stucco,it undoubtedly disagreed with the Fifth District and instead elected tofollow and apply precedent (and secondary authorities) standing forthe proposition that a default “operates as an admission of the truth ofthe well pleaded allegations of the pleading, except those concerningdamages,” including two decisions out of the Third District, see Sec.Bank, N.A. v. BellSouth Advert. & Pub. Corp., 679 So. 2d 795, 803(Fla. 3d DCA 1996) [21 Fla. L. Weekly D1673a]; U.S. Fire Ins. Co.v. C & C Beauty Sales, Inc., 674 So. 2d 169 (Fla. 3d DCA 1996) [21Fla. L. Weekly D1090a], and federal court’ interpretations of FederalRule of Civil Procedure 55, which specifically provides that upon adefault:

When the plaintiff’s claim against a defendant is for a sum certain orfor a sum which can by computation be made certain, the clerk uponrequest of the plaintiff and upon affidavit of the amount shall enterjudgment for that amount.

Id. Applying this rule, it has generally been held that a defaultingdefendant admits the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint,except those relating to the amount of damages, but when the amountowed “is for a sum certain or for a sum which can by computation bemade certain, the clerk upon request of the plaintiff and upon affidavitof the amount shall enter judgment for that amount[.]” See Charles A.Wright, Arthur R. Miller, and Mary K. Kane, Federal Practice &Procedure Civil § 2688, at 58-59, 63-67; Dundee Cement Co. v.Howard Pipe & Concrete Products, Inc., 722 F.2d 1319 (7th Cir.1983); Geddes v. United Fin. Group, 559 F.2d 557 (9th Cir. 1977).

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (50)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 958 CIRCUIT COURTS—ORIGINAL

Neither party has cited (and this Court has been unable to locate)any precedent from the Third District directly addressing the issue ofwhether a default admits a well-pled allegation of the precise amountowed under a contract and, as a result, “liquidates” damages. Eastern,however, directs the Court to Cellular Warehouse, Inc. v. GHCellular, LLC, 957 So. 2d 662 (Fla. 3d DCA 2007) [32 Fla. L. WeeklyD942a] and U.S. Fire Ins. Co. v. C & C Beauty Sales, Inc., 674 So. 2d169 (Fla. 3d DCA 1996) [21 Fla. L. Weekly D1090a], and says thatthose decisions—at least implicitly—reject this bright-line rule.

In Cellular Warehouse the plaintiff sought damages in the amountof $41,742.46, which “included a liquidated damages claim in theamount of $8,800 for failure to make payments under the terms of [a]contract, as well as late fees.” After the defendant defaulted the trialcourt, “without benefit of a trial,” entered a default final judgment forall amounts pled, plus $3,500.00 in attorney’s fees. The defendant wasnot provided “notice or an opportunity to be heard.” Id. Reversing, theThird District first held that “[w]hile a default admits all well-pleadedallegations of a complaint including a plaintiff’s entitlement toliquidated damages, it does not admit entitlement to unliquidateddamages.” Id. at 665, citing Bowman v. Kingsland Development, Inc.,432 So.2d 660, 662 (Fla. 5th DCA 1983). The Court then held thatplaintiff’s damage claims for items such as “lost business profits,stolen assets, and operating expenses” required testimony to “ascer-tain a value” and were thus unliquidated, whereas the amount owedunder the contract ($8,800.00) was liquidated. As a result, the courtheld that it was error to enter a default final judgment that included theunliquidated damages absent notice and a hearing, and vacated “thatportion of the default final judgment awarding unliquidated dam-ages.” Id. (Emphasis added).

The Cellular Warehouse opinion does not expressly state whetherthe amount claimed due ($41,742.46) was specifically pled in thecomplaint. Rather, the court notes only that this was the amount“sought.” Id. The decision, therefore, did not directly tackle the issueof whether a default admits a precise amount actually pled as damagesin a contract case. Nor does Sec. Bank, N.A. v. BellSouth Advert. &Pub. Corp., 679 So. 2d 795 (Fla. 3d DCA 1996) [21 Fla. L. WeeklyD1673a], a pre Dunkley Stucco decision which involved a garnish-ment proceeding and a pleading (writ of garnishment) which, bydefinition, involved an “unliquidated garnishment claim” demandingnot a specific amount, but rather “whatever money” of the creditor thegarnishee bank “had on deposit.” In that instance the court simplyapplied the well-settled rule that once the garnishee bank defaulted,the “required procedure was the same as in any suit for an unliquidatedsum where there has been a default.” Id. The defendant is entitled tonotice and a trial on damages. Id.

The Court also has considered the Third District’s decision in U.S.Fire Ins. Co. v. C & C Beauty Sales, Inc., 674 So. 2d 169 (Fla. 3d DCA1996) [21 Fla. L. Weekly D1090a], another pre-Dunkley Stuccodecision cited by the Rich court. The appellant, U.S. Fire, challengedan order striking its pleadings, and an order entering judgment in theamount of “$486,259.82 as liquidated damages”—an amount“derived from [appellee’s] complaint and the proof of loss attached tothe complaint.” Id. at 171. After affirming the trial court’s decision tostrike appellant’s pleading, the court agreed that a trial on damageswas nonetheless required, citing the “well settled” rule that “a defaultjudgment only admits to a plaintiff’s entitlement to liquidateddamages.” Id. The court then observed that while the appellee hadalleged that the “value of the property at issue was $486,259.82, thecomplaint asked for damages in excess of that amount,” and observedthat the “fact that [the complaint] alleged . . . that the value of thestolen inventory was a certain amount does not make the claimliquidated.” Id.

Like Cellular Warehouse and Sec. Bank N.A., U.S. Fire does not

squarely address the question of whether a defaulted defendant admitsthe precise amount pled as damages for a breach of contract in a casewhere only the amount pled is sought, and the case also was decidedprior to Dunkley Stucco. But it appears that the Third District hasconsistently applied the rule that a default only “admits to a plaintiff’sentitlement to liquidated damages,” and to date has adopted noexception to this rule in circ*mstances where a complaint for breachof contract pleads a specific amount due (i.e., the Dunkley Stuccorule). So while this Court tends to agree with Dunkley Stucco andJudge Damoorgian’s dissent in Kotlyar, and believes that a defendantshould be deemed to admit a well pled allegation of a precise amountdue under a contract, it will continue to apply the liqui-dated/unliquidated test even in a case, such as this, where a preciseamount of contractual damages is pled in the complaint and adefendant—by defaulting—arguably admits that well-pled allegation.

B. Are Plaintiff’s damages “liquidated” or “unliquidated”?There is no doubt that a default judgment “only admits to a

plaintiff’s entitlement to liquidated damages,” U.S. Fire Ins. Co. v. C& C Beauty Sales, Inc., 674 So. 2d 169 (Fla. 3d DCA 1996) [21 Fla.L. Weekly D1090a], and that damages “are liquidated when theamount to be awarded can be determined with exactness from apleaded agreement between the parties, by an arithmetical calculation,or by application of definite rules of law.” DYC Fishing, Ltd. v.Martinez, 994 So. 2d 461, 462-63 (Fla. 3d DCA 2008) [33 Fla. L.Weekly D2604a]. Conversely, damages are unliquidated “if theascertainment of their exact sum requires the taking of testimony toascertain facts upon which to base a value judgment.” Bowman v.Kingsland Dev., Inc., 432 So. 2d 660, 663 (Fla. 5th DCA 1983). Whendamages are unliquidated a defaulted party “is entitled to notice of anorder setting the matter for trial and must be afforded an opportunityto defend.” Viets v. Am. Recruiters Enterprises, Inc., 922 So. 2d 1090,1095 (Fla. 4th DCA 2006) [31 Fla. L. Weekly D851a]. See alsoBowman, supra at 663 (“defaulting party has a due process entitle-ment to notice and opportunity to be heard as to the presentation andevaluation of evidence necessary to a judicial determination of theamount of unliquidated damages”).

Eastern argues that Plaintiff’s damages were “unliquidated”because testimony was required (i.e., an affidavit of indebtedness) inorder to prove the amount due—an affidavit it insists was incorrectand failed to give it credit for payments made towards the purchase.6

In support of this argument it cites cases which say that damages areunliquidated “if they require testimony to ascertain a value,”Rodriguez-Faro v. M. Escarda Contractor, Inc., 69 So. 3d 1097, 1099(Fla. 3d DCA 2011) [36 Fla. L. Weekly D2142b], or—in otherwords—when ascertaining the exact sum owed requires “testimonyto ascertain facts upon which to base a value judgment.” DYC Fishing,Ltd., supra, at 463 (emphasis added). This does not, however, meanthat just because some evidence—such as an affidavit of indebted-ness—is required to prove an amount due, the damages are ipso factounliquidated. Rather, these decisions are referring to instances where,for example, a plaintiff seeks to recover inherently imprecise damagesfor things such as “lost business profits, stolen assets, and operatingexpenses,” that are not “capable of being determined by arithmeticalcalculation,” and thus require testimony “to ascertain a value.”Cellular Warehouse, Inc. v. GH Cellular, LLC, 957 So. 2d 662, 665(Fla. 3d DCA 2007) [32 Fla. L. Weekly D944a]. See also Rich v.Spivey, 922 So. 2d 326 (Fla. 1st DCA 2006) [31 Fla. L. WeeklyD561a] (plaintiff’s damages for personal property and householditems were unliquidated because they were based upon nothing otherthan his “own valuation of each item”); Kotlyar v. Metro. Cas. Ins.Co., 192 So. 3d 562 (Fla. 4th DCA 2016) [41 Fla. L. Weekly D1182a](claims for “personal injury, disability, discomfort, pain and suffering

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (51)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

CIRCUIT COURTS—ORIGINAL 27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 959

. . . property damage to the Insured’s vehicle . . . . are the very types ofunliquidated damages for which a hearing must be held to determinethe proper amount to be awarded”).

Put simply, a close examination of precedent reveals that damagesare unliquidated when evidence must be qualitatively weighed inorder to establish, as a matter of judgment, the value of a plaintiff’sinjuries or damaged property, or the value of such things as lost-profits, attorney’s fees, etc. See, e.g., Gold v. M & G Services, Inc., 491So. 2d 1297 (Fla. 3d DCA 1986) (claim for reasonable attorney’s feesis one for unliquidated damages). But precedent does not hold—orsuggest—that damages are unliquidated merely because an affidavitis needed in order to prove how much remains due on a contract thatspecifies what is required to be paid. To the contrary, bindingauthority from the Third District makes clear that in such a case a courtmay properly base a default final judgment on such an affidavitbecause determining how much remains due and owing on a fixed-price contract is merely an “arithmetical calculation.” See CellularWarehouse, Inc. v. GH Cellular, LLC, 957 So. 2d 662 (Fla. 3d DCA2007) [32 Fla. L. Weekly D944a] (“$8,800.00 due for failure to makepayments under the terms of the contract” amounted to liquidateddamages and judgment for that amount was properly entered withouta trial); Estrada v. Estrada, 274 So. 3d 426 (Fla. 3d DCA 2019) [44Fla. L. Weekly D1047a] (damages in the amount of $2.2M awardedrepresented amount paid to acquire sham quit-claim deeds and wereliquidated).

When a party agrees to pay a specific sum pursuant to a contract, issued for that precise sum, and defaults, the amount owed is: (a)arguably admitted by a failure to respond to the complaint, seeDunkley Stucco, supra; and (b) even if not admitted, is subject toarithmetical calculation (i.e., liquidated) and may be proven by anaffidavit attesting to the precise sum owed.7 No value judgment isrequired based upon a qualitative analysis of evidence. Rather, theamount can be ascertained by simply subtracting the amount(s) paidfrom the amount contractually required. And a rule that mandates atrial in such a case would, for all practical purposes, eliminate defaultfinal judgments in contract cases, save those rare instances where anagreement contains an actual liquidated damage clause. See, e.g.,Hartford Fire Ins. Co. v. Controltec, Inc., 561 So. 2d 1334 (Fla. 5thDCA 1990). That is of course one example of a case where a damageclaim is clearly liquidated, but the presence of a liquidated damageclause is not the sine qua non to damages being liquidated forpurposes of entering a post-default final judgment without a trial.Again, if the damages can be ascertained by arithmetical calculation(i.e., contract required payment of $100.00, defendant paid $20.00and owes $80.00) they are liquidated. Here, Defendant agreed to paya specific sum and it defaulted. The amount remaining due was thenprovable by a mere arithmetical calculation and entry of a judgmentbased upon an affidavit, and without a trial, was legally appropriateunder the current state of the law.8

IV. CONCLUSIONAs our Supreme Court has made clear, “grounds upon which a final

judgment may be set aside, other than by appeal, are limited in orderto allow the parties and the public to rely on duly entered finaljudgments.” DeClaire v. Yohanan, 453 So. 2d 375, 380 (Fla. 1984).Rule 1.540(b) furthers that policy by cabining post-judgmentchallenges to a one-year repose period, except in those rare instanceswhen a judgment is void. Even claims based on perjury are foreclosedafter that one year expires. See Rule 1.540(b)(3).

In this case, Eastern was legally served with process at the addressdesignated with the Secretary of State at the time of service—albeit anaddress it no longer used. When Eastern failed to respond to thecomplaint a default was properly entered, and the allegations of thecomplaint deemed admitted. Eastern therefore forfeited the right to

claim that it did not receive what it contracted for (i.e., that the goodsalleged to be delivered were in fact not delivered, or were notdelivered as represented). And because the contract specified theprecise amount to be paid, the amount remaining due was subject tosimple arithmetical calculation and, as a result, liquidated. Notestimony was needed order to ascertain the value of the damagesclaimed.

The Court is no doubt troubled at the prospect that Plaintiff mayhave sworn that it was owed an amount greater than the contract priceless what had previously been paid. But a judgment entered as a resultof a false—even a knowingly false—affidavit is not void. Such ajudgment may be attacked on grounds of fraud, provided thatchallenge is mounted under Rule 1.540(b)(3) within a year.9 Plaintiff,however, waited over a year to file its Rule 1.540(b) motion and, as aresult, is not entitled to relief unless the judgment is void. It is not. Forthat reason, this Court unfortunately has no procedural route to travelin order to grant relief. See Spencer v. EMC Mortg. Corp., 97 So. 3d257 (Fla. 3d DCA 2012) [37 Fla. L. Weekly D2068a] (“the law is thelaw. Notwithstanding the distasteful consequences of applying it inthis case, it must be served”). And while the Court is tempted “take ashort cut to justice,” Russell v. Thielen, 82 So. 2d 143, 146 (Fla. 1955),and entertain an evidentiary hearing to determine the amount actuallyremaining due under the contract, Rule 1.540(b) does not permit thisinquiry, and its command may not jettisoned “just because [the Court]thinks it is . . . the ‘fair’ thing to do.” Guardian Ad Litem Program v.O.R., 45 So. 3d 974 (Fla. 3d DCA 2010) [ 35 Fla. L. Weekly D2275a].So while it gives the Court “no pleasure to reach the result . . . clearlyrequired by the law of our state,” Ruiz v. State, 388 So. 2d 610, 613(Fla. 3d DCA 1980), it is hereby ORDERED:

Defendant’s “Motion to Vacate Default Final Judgment” isDENIED.))))))))))))))))))

1Eastern also asks the Court to vacate its post-judgment order appointing aReceiver.

2The default was entered by the Clerk on July 13, 2018.3While Defendant acknowledges that it was effectively served with process because

the complaint and summons were delivered to its registered office, Eastern did notactually use that office at the time of service. As a result, an unidentified receptionistwas served at an office center “where small companies like Eastern can rent space. . .”Tombo Affidavit, ¶ 20. Eastern never actually received pleadings/notice in the case, orlearned of the Court’s Default Final Judgment, until July 2019 when its principal,Roberto Tombo, was contacted by the Receiver’s counsel. Id. ¶¶ 27-33. But in the eyesof the law Eastern was on notice of all proceedings because it was served with initialprocess and subsequent notices at the Blue Lagoon suite which was Eastern’sstatutorily designated office. What happened here is unfortunate and caused byDefendant’s failure to update its registered address after it moved its business. See, e.g.,Seay Outdoor Advert., Inc. v. Locklin, 965 So. 2d 325 (Fla. 1st DCA 2007) [32 Fla. L.Weekly D2270b] (party served at address specified in court order, and who failed tofulfill its obligation to notify court of any change of address, had notice and anopportunity to be heard and, as a result, judgment entered against it was not void).Because of this oversight, Plaintiff was permitted to lawfully serve process at, and sendall further notices to, an address that Eastern no longer used. But this is not a case wherea defendant willfully (or recklessly) ignored judicial process at its peril. See, e.g.,Whitney v. A Aventura Chiropractic Care Ctr., Inc., 21 So. 3d 95 (Fla. 3d DCA 2009)[34 Fla. L. Weekly D2186b] (“[i]gnoring a lawsuit after service of the originalcomplaint . . . is the legal equivalent of ignoring the dashboard signal for “no brakes”in a rapidly-moving automobile”). Nevertheless, service was lawful and effectuated.

4As opposed, for example, to a specific amount sought for personal injuries, painand suffering, or such other types of harm not subject to precise calculation.

5Both Dunkley Stucco and Kotlyar drew dissents. In Dunkley Stucco JudgeDauksch believed that “[j]ust because appellee pleaded and demanded [a] specificamount does not render the damages liquidated,” and that because the damages in thatcase were in fact unliquidated, a judgment based upon “an affidavit [was] insufficient”and a denial of due process. In Kotlyar, Judge Damoorgian advocated in favor ofadopting the “Fifth District’s reasoning in Dunkley,” pointing out that when a pleadingalleges “the exact amount of damages being sought,” and a defendant defaults, “[b]ydefinition, the damages [become] liquidated” and there remains “no question” as towhat amount is owed.

6According to Eastern it had actually paid $517,500.00 of the $1,187,500.00contract price and, as a result, Plaintiff’s damages are at most $670,000.00. Supplemen-tal Memorandum, p. 7, fn. 3; Tombo Affidavit, ¶¶ 14, 15. This claim, if true, is

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (52)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 960 CIRCUIT COURTS—ORIGINAL

extremely troubling but, as will be explained later, even a perjurious affidavit used toprocure a final judgment does not render that final judgment void.

7The Court again is not relying on the rule embraced in Dunkley Stucco (i.e., the rulethat a defendant admits a specific amount of damages pled). Rather, the Courtconcludes that even if this rule is not in play, Plaintiff’s damages were still liquidatedand, for that reason, the Default Final Judgment entered sans a trial is not void.

8If this Court were sitting as an appellate judge, and writing on a clean slate, itwould do away with the “liquidated/unliquidated” damages distinction altogether andsimply hold that a defaulting defendant is entitled to a trial on damages, after notice andan opportunity to be heard. If a plaintiff’s damages are what the law now describes asliquidated (i.e., subject to being determined with exactness by a pleaded agreement,arithmetical calculation, or application of definite rule of law), the amount to beawarded can in most cases be adjudicated on summary judgment. And if the amountowed is contested for any reason, and the evidence is conflicting, a trial will be required.But this “liquidated/unliquidated” paradigm is definitionally ambiguous, difficult toapply, and results in inevitable disputes (such as the one here) over which category adamage claim fits, causing uncertainty both in procedure and outcome, not to mentionunnecessary party expense and judicial labor. If given the opportunity this Court wouldabandon this impractical, unworkable and meaningless distinction and adopt a simplerule requiring that all defaulting defendants be granted a trial (or a summary judgmenthearing) on damages, period. But the Court’s constitutional duty is to apply the law asit is, not as the Court thinks it should be. L.P. v. Dep’t of Children & Family Services,962 So. 2d 980 (Fla. 3d DCA 2007) [32 Fla. L. Weekly D1830b].

9Though not particularly relevant, the Court notes that Eastern became aware of thefinal judgment in July 2019, two months before the one-year repose period of Rule1.540(b)(3) expired.

* * *

Estates—Wills—Codicil—Undue influence—Rebuttable presumptionof undue influence arose where proponent of codicil enjoyed confiden-tial relationship with testator and was a substantial beneficiary underthe contested codicil—Motion for summary judgment as to issue ofundue influence denied—Lack of testamentary capacity—Motion forsummary judgment as to issue of testamentary incapacity is granted,as there is no basis upon which to find a material factual issue for trialon issue of testator’s competence at time codicil was drafted

IN RE: THE ESTATE OF AMPARO BERENICE BUECHELE, Deceased. CircuitCourt, 11th Judicial Circuit in and for Miami-Dade County, Probate Division. Case No.2018-5387-CP-02. December 30, 2019. Milton Hirsch, Judge.

ORDER ON PETITIONER’S MOTIONFOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

I. FactsAmparo Berenice Buechele died on August 17, 2018. In December

of that year, Helene Buechele, one of Amparo’s adult children, fileda petition for administration, along with the customary relatedpaperwork. Included were a will dated October 8, 2002, and a codicildated February 13, 2008.

On January 7, 2019, Helene’s brothers Mark, Charles, Paul, andGregory; and her sister Lorraine; filed an answer and affirmativedefenses directed to the codicil.1 The affirmative defenses asserted alack of testamentary capacity on Amparo’s part at the time that thecodicil was drafted and signed; and undue influence on the part ofHelene.

Three weeks later Helene moved for summary judgment. Regard-ing the assertion of undue influence, she pointed out that the codicilwas prepared by a Mr. Hearn, an attorney who had known and beenfriendly with Amparo and her husband for 40 years, Pet.’s Mtn. forSummary J’ment p. 3, and that Mr. Hearn provided an affidavitaverring, inter alia, “that Helene Buechele was not present and tookno part in the procurement or execution of the will or codicil.” Id. p. 3-4. Helene, for her part, denies any role in procuring the codicil. Shenotes that her siblings were not present when the codicil was preparedor executed and thus are not positioned to assert on the basis of theirown knowledge a claim of undue influence on her part. As to the issueof testamentary incapacity, Helene again relies upon the Hearnaffidavit.

Mr. Hearn . . . states that if he thought the deceased lacked testamen-tary capacity he would not have allowed her to execute the codicil. Mr.

Hearn’s long term personal and professional relationship with thedeceased gave him direct and personal information about the de-ceased’s mental condition prior to and at the time of the execution ofthe codicil.

Pet.’s Mtn. for Summary J’ment p. 6.The following month, Helene’s siblings countered with the filing

of declarations by Mark Buechele and Lorraine Buechele-Lacal.Declarants swear—and this is largely uncontroverted—that in thetwilight of her life Amparo, who lived to age 90, experiencedincreasing loss of cognitive function. Declarants also make allega-tions—allegations largely conclusory in nature—that Heleneexercised overreaching influence on her mother. See, e.g., Declara-tion of Mark Buechele ¶ 8 (“it became apparent that [Helene] was . . .taking control of my mother and all of her personal affairs”).

In December of this year, perhaps in an effort to bring someprogress to a case that seems mired in a discovery battle of attrition,both sides filed supplemental memoranda regarding the issue ofsummary judgment. That issue is now ripe for adjudication.

II. AnalysisThese warring siblings are in agreement about very little, but they

are in agreement about the principle that underlies summary judg-ment: “A movant is entitled to summary judgment if the pleadings,depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,together with affidavits, if any, conclusively show that there is nogenuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party isentitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Mobley v. HomesteadHospital, Inc., ___ So. 3d ___, ___ (Fla. 3rd DCA Dec. 26, 2019) [45Fla. L. Weekly D2a] (citing Fla. Rule Civ. P. 1.510(c)). “Whenconsidering a motion for summary judgment, the trial court may notweigh the credibility of witnesses or resolve disputed issues of fact.”Mobley, ___ So. 3d at ___ (citing Strickland v. Strickland, 456 So. 2d583, 584 (Fla. 2d DCA 1984)). “The court must draw every possibleinference in favor of the party against whom summary judgment issought.” Mobley, ___ So. 3d at ___ (citing Gonzalez v. B & B CashGrocery Stores, Inc., 692 So. 2d 297, 299 (Fla. 4th DCA 1997) [22Fla. L. Weekly D1081a]). “The existence of a genuine issue ofmaterial fact precludes summary judgment.” Mobley, ___ So. 3d at___ (citing Pinchot v. First Fla. Banks, Inc., 666 So. 2d 201, 202 (Fla.2d DCA 1995) [21 Fla. L. Weekly D64a]). See Fla. R. Civ. P.1.510(c).

A. As to the affirmative defense of undue influenceWith respect to the issue of undue influence, however, another rule

of law also enters into the summary-judgment calculus: “the rule thatwhere there is evidence supporting the existence of a rebuttablepresumption with respect to a material issue and the moving partybears the burden of disproving the presumed fact, the moving party isprecluded from obtaining summary judgment.” RBC Ministries v.Tompkins, 974 So. 2d 569, 571 (Fla. 2d DCA 2008) [33 Fla. L.Weekly D523b] (Canady, J.) (citing Heisig v. Heisig (In Re Estate ofShort), 620 So. 2d 1106, 1106 (Fla. 4th DCA 1993)). This rule isrendered applicable to the matter at bar pursuant to the oft-cited caseof Carpenter v. Carpenter, 253 So. 2d 697 (Fla. 1971).

Carpenter teaches that if “a substantial beneficiary under a willoccupies a confidential relationship with the testator and is active inprocuring the contested will”—or in this case, the contested codicil—“the presumption of undue influence arises.” Carpenter, 253 So. 2dat 701. “Undue influence comprehends overpersuasion, coercion, orforce that destroys or hampers the free agency and will power of thetestator.” Newman v. Smith, 82 So. 236, 246 (Fla. 1918). A will orcodicil procured by undue influence is of course void as a matter oflaw. Fla. Stat. § 732.5165. The presumption described by Carpenterthus “implements public policy against abuse of fiduciary or confi-

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (53)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

CIRCUIT COURTS—ORIGINAL 27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 961

dential relationships,” Fla. Stat. § 733.107(2). “[O]nce a will contes-tant establishes the existence of the basis for the rebuttable presump-tion of undue influence, the burden of proof shifts to the proponent ofthe will to establish by a preponderance of the evidence the non-existence of undue influence.” RBC Ministries, 974 So. 2d at 572(citing Diaz v. Ashworth, 963 So. 2d 731, 735 (Fla. 3d DCA 2007) [32Fla. L. Weekly D1324c]; Hack v. Janes, 878 So. 2d 440, 443-44 (Fla.5th DCA 2004) [29 Fla. L. Weekly D1652b]).

There can be no serious suggestion that Helene is not a substantialbeneficiary, nor that she lacked a confidential relationship withAmparo. For completeness of the record, I find, in reliance on theparties’s various pleadings, that both of those two Carpenter factorsare present here. The Carpenter factor that remains—the one at issuehere—is whether Helene was active in procuring the contested codicil.

Allen v. In Re Estate of Dutton, 394 So. 2d 132 (Fla. 5th DCA1981), although clearly not “on all fours,” is instructive. AttorneyThomas Gurney had prepared Ellen Dutton’s will. Allen, 394 So. 2dat 134. The will named Gurney as executor “and recommended thehiring of his law firm to represent [Ellen’s] estate.” Id. A verysubstantial share of Ellen’s considerable wealth was to be distributedto such charitable beneficiaries as Gurney, in his unfettered discretion,selected. Id. It was conceded that at or about the time of the drafting ofthe will, Ellen “relied extensively on Gurney and his secretary to copewith ordinary business decisions. They spent a lot of time with her.”Id. In connection with the will contest, Gurney argued the inapplica-bility of the Carpenter presumption on the grounds that although heundoubtedly had a confidential relationship with the testator, and wasactive in procuring the terms of the will, there was insufficientevidence of the third Carpenter factor—that Gurney was a substantialbeneficiary. This argument the court rejected. “Gurney’s absolutediscretion to distribute the bulk of Ellen [Dutton’s] estate to charities[of his own choosing] endows him with sufficient collateral benefitsto make him a substantial beneficiary of the will.” Id. at 134-35 (citingIn Re Estate of Nelson, 232 So. 2d 222 (Fla. 1st DCA 1970); Zeiglerv. Coffin, 123 So. 22 (Ala. 1929)).

An analogy may readily be made to the facts at bar. As noted supra,there can be little doubt that Helene enjoyed a confidential relationshipwith her mother, and that she is a substantial beneficiary under thecontested codicil. Admittedly, the evidence presently before the courtof Helene’s active procurement of the terms of the codicil is less thanoverwhelming. It relies, as previously noted, on statements—many ofthem conclusory, many of them seemingly based on hearsay, all ofthem undoubtedly self-serving—appearing in the declarations filed byMark and Lorraine. But for present purposes that less-than-over-whelming evidence is sufficient. Nor does the content of Mr. Hearn’saffidavit, with its assertion that Helene “took no part in the procure-ment or execution of the will or codicil” serve to eliminate any disputeof fact. Hearn’s testimony, even if true, establishes only that Helenedid no procuring or lobbying in Mr. Hearn’s presence—not that shedid none at all. Such record evidence as exists at this stage of thelitigation, taken in its entirety, gives rise to the Carpenter presump-tion. And “once the presumption arises, the undue influence issuecannot be determined in a summary judgment proceeding.” Allen, 394So. 2d at 135 (citing In Re Knight’s Estate, 108 So. 2d 629 (Fla. 1stDCA 1959)); RBC Ministries, 974 So. 2d at 573.

It may well be that Helene will prevail on the undue influence issueat a trial on the merits. But that issue cannot be resolved otherwise thanby trial on the merits. It cannot be resolved by summary judgment.Helene’s motion for summary judgment as to that issue is respectfullydenied.

B. As to the affirmative defense of testamentary incapacityThere is a strong presumption in favor of testamentary capacity. In

keeping with that presumption, the threshold for a finding of capacity

is low. No more is required than that the testator, at the time ofexecution of the will, have a general understanding of the nature andextent of the property to be disposed of; of his relationship to thosewho would be the natural objects of his bounty; and of the effect of thewill as executed. Raimi v. Furlong, 702 So.2d 1273, 1286 (Fla. 3dDCA 1997) [22 Fla. L. Weekly D2184j] (citing In Re Wilmott’sEstate, 66 So. 2d 465, 467 (Fla. 1953); In Re Weihe’s Estate, 268 So.2d 446, 448 (Fla. 4th DCA 1972); In Re Dunson’s Estate, 141 So. 2d601, 604 (Fla. 2d DCA 1962)). “A testator may still have testamentarycapacity to execute a valid will even though he may frequently beintoxicated, use narcotics, have an enfeebled mind, failing memory,[or] vacillating judgment.” Raimi, 702 So. 2d at 1286 (quoting In ReWeihe’s Estate, 268 So. 2d at 448).

As noted supra, Amparo lived to the age of 90, dying in 2018. Thecodicil at issue was executed fully a decade earlier, in 2008. That awoman of 90 years of age experienced some loss of cognitive functionis hardly surprising; it would be surprising if she did not. The questionbefore me, however, is not whether in 2018 Amparo had the full useof her mental faculties, but whether in 2008 she had that basic use ofher mental faculties required by the law of testamentary capacity.Pleadings filed by the opponents of the codicil, for example, makereference to medical records dating to 2012. But such records areinsufficient to raise a question of fact regarding Amparo’s cognitionat the time of the execution of the codicil four years earlier. Bycontrast, Helene refers to an examination by a Dr. Espinosa in July of2008. See Pet.’s Supplemental Memorandum p. 2. The doctor appearsto have concluded that, although Amparo lacked the intellectualacuity she likely had at a younger age, she more than manifested therudimentary level of cognitive function required for testamentarycapacity.

Here, the declarations of Mr. Hearn are a good deal more probativethan they are in connection with the issue of undue influence. As to thelatter, it is at least possible that Helene exercised an overreachinginfluence on her mother at times and in ways not apparent to Mr.Hearn. But Hearn claims to have known Amparo over the course ofdecades. He would likely have recognized a material loss of mentationif she had manifested one at or about the time he prepared the codicilto her will. And if he recognized such a material loss of mentation, hewould have been ethically bound as a member of the Florida Bar totake steps to verify Amparo’s testamentary capacity before heproceeded with the execution of the codicil.

To the same effect is the affidavit of Orfelina Ramirez. Ms.Ramirez identifies herself as having worked as a “care assistant” toAmparo from July of 2009 until the time of Amparo’s death. Aff. ofOrfelina Ramirez ¶2. She swears that, “[d]uring the years from 2009until sometime in 2012, every Saturday and Sunday . . . Amparo . . .would drive her car to the hairdressing salon, the library and thechurch,” id. at ¶3—activities which, if performed without incident,offer some circ*mstantial evidence of basic intellectual wherewithal.2

Appended as an exhibit to an affidavit filed by Helene is a letterdated April 3, 2009, written by Mark to an officer of the WachoviaBank. In that letter, Mark accuses the bank officer of “hav[ing] toldmy mother that she is incompetent when her medical care-givers (whoare far more competent than you on these matters) disagree with youropinion.” Apparently, then, Amparo’s doctors were still of the opinionabout a year after the execution of the codicil that Amparo was ofsound mind. Mark made this assertion in his capacity as a member ofthe Bar, and would not have done so if it were not true.

I am keenly aware that, as noted supra, the standard for thegranting of summary judgment is exacting, and trial courts must bechary in finding that standard to be met. Our betters on the courts ofappeal never tire of reminding us, for example, that “[s]ummaryjudgments should be cautiously granted in negligence and malpracticesuits,” Davis v. Green, 625 So. 2d 130, 131 (Fla. 4th DCA 1993).

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (54)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 962 CIRCUIT COURTS—ORIGINAL

(That is not, emphatically not, to suggest that summary judgmentshould be carelessly granted in probate suits. In probate litigation aselsewhere, judgment will lie only when there exists no materialdispute of fact.)

The present lawsuit has been atrabilious. There has been noshortage of name-calling and finger-pointing on both sides. Inter-spersed with that name-calling and finger-pointing, the answeringsiblings have, in their various declarations and pleadings, expressedtheir feelings that at all times material their mother must surely havesuffered from a state of intellectual decay inconsistent with testamen-tary capacity. I have no doubt that their feelings are sincerely held.Indeed I need not and cannot consider the sincerity or credibility oftheir feelings, because summary judgment must be determinedwithout weighing or even attempting to weigh the evidence.

But more than an expression of feeling, however sincere, isrequired to create a material issue of fact sufficient to defeat a motionfor summary judgment. The bench and bar have only recently beenreminded that all too often, “cases in Florida improperly attached tothe summary judgment standard some statement like the following:‘[i]f the record on appeal reveals the merest possibility of genuineissues of material fact, or even the slightest doubt in this respect, thesummary judgment must be reversed’.” Mobley v. HomesteadHospital, Inc., ___ So. 3d ___, ___ (Fla. 3d DCA Dec. 26, 2019) [45Fla. L. Weekly D2a] (Logue, J., concurring) (quoting Piedra v. Cityof N. Bay Village, 193 So. 3d 48, 51 (Fla. 3d DCA 2016) [41 Fla. L.Weekly D1087a] (in turn citing Estate of Marimon ex rel. Falcon v.Fla. Power & Light Co., 787 So. 2d 887, 890 (Fla. 3d DCA 2001) [26Fla. L. Weekly D1069a]). But this dependence on “merest possibili-ties” and “slightest doubt,” as Judge Logue very clearly points out,misstates the law. “A court might sense a scintilla [of doubt], conjureup a ‘mere possibility,’ or feel a ‘slightest doubt’ even when anobjective review of the record reveals the absence of “sufficientevidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdictfor that party’.” Mobley v. Homestead Hospital, Inc., ___ So. 3d ___,___ (Fla. 3d DCA Dec. 26, 2019) [45 Fla. L. Weekly D2a] (Logue, J.,concurring) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,249 (1986) (in turn citing First Nat’l Bank of Az. v. Cities Serv. Co.,391 U.S. 253, 288-89 (1968)). “The over-arching question . . . iswhether there is a [material] factual issue for trial.” Mobley v.Homestead Hospital, Inc., ___ So. 3d ___, ___ (Fla. 3d DCA Dec. 26,2019) [45 Fla. L. Weekly D2a] (Logue, J., concurring). With respectto Amparo’s testamentary competence, there is simply no basis uponwhich to find a material factual issue for trial.

Relying principally on Lubarsky v. Sweden House Properties, 673So. 2d 975 (Fla. 4th DCA 1996) [21 Fla. L. Weekly D1256a] and UFFDAA, Inc. v. Towne Realty, Inc., 666 So. 2d 199 (Fla. 4th DCA 1995)[21 Fla. L. Weekly D24b], the answering siblings argue that discoveryis still ongoing and that summary judgment is therefore not yet ripe foradjudication. Lubarsky involved a claim of premises liability. Ahearing on defendant’s claim for summary judgment was set forFebruary 24, 1995. Lubarsky, 673 So. 2d at 976. Plaintiffs sought acontinuance on the grounds that they “had been unable to serve fordeposition . . . a corporate principal of [the landlord defendant]because he was in Mexico and would not return until April.” Id. Therewas some basis to believe that this particular corporate representativehad visited the demised premises shortly before the accident givingrise to plaintiff’s claim. Id. On these facts, the trial court’s denial of theplaintiff’s motion for continuance and granting of the landlord’smotion for summary judgment was error. Plaintiffs had been “diligentin seeking the deposition of” the corporate representative, id. at 977,and sought a continuance of only two months (i.e., from February toApril, at which time the deposition could be taken). The appellatecourt saw “no reason why this short continuance should not have beengranted, so that the summary judgment could be determined based on

all pertinent facts.” Id.The case at bar has been pending for a year. The parties have

developed such information as exists regarding the decedent’s mentalstate at the time of the execution of the codicil. The answering siblingspoint to no deposition that remains to be taken that would materiallyadd to the present fund of information on that score. Those affidavitsand reports that have been cited by the parties speak with one voice:although Amparo undoubtedly experienced cognitive decline by theend of her life, there is no reason to believe that ten years earlier—i.e.,at the time the codicil was executed—she had fallen below thatminimum standard of mental competence required of a testator. Thisis not a case like Lubarsky, in which a diligent litigant sought a verybrief continuance to complete an important deposition that could nothave been taken earlier, but would surely be taken within 60 days. Theanswering siblings identify no pending deposition that remains to betaken and will be taken shortly, and that is likely to provide criticalinformation on the subject of Amparo’s competence at the time of thedrafting of the codicil. So far as appears from the existing record, nodeponent exists who might provide such a deposition.

Nor does UFF DAA, Inc. v. Towne Realty, Inc., 666 So. 2d 199(Fla. 4th DCA 1995) [21 Fla. L. Weekly D24b] support the answeringsiblings’ position. There, out-of-state deponents failed to appear fortheir duly-scheduled depositions. UFF DAA, Inc., 666 So. 2d at 200.The plaintiff, who had set the depositions, promptly moved to compeldiscovery and for sanctions. Id. While those motions were pending,the trial court granted summary judgment for the defendant. Theappellate court reversed, because it is “error to enter summaryjudgment when discovery is in progress and the deposition of a partyis pending.” Id. (citing Sica v. Sam Caliendo Design, Inc., 623 So. 2d859 (Fla. 4th DCA 1993); Singer v. Star, 510 So. 2d 637 (Fla. 4thDCA 1987)) (emphasis added). No deposition of a party, relating tothe issue of Amparo’s mental condition at the time of the codicil, ispending. No deposition of a non-party relating to that issue is pending.The general principle stated in UFF DAA, Inc., is of course anaccurate statement of the law, but it simply has no applicability here.

Helene’s motion for summary judgment as to the issue of testa-mentary incapacity is respectfully granted.))))))))))))))))))

1Mark, in addition to being a litigant herein, is a member of the Florida Bar andrepresents himself and the other answering siblings.

2The affiant adds that Amparo did her driving “with [her husband] sitting next toher” in the car. If her adult children, including those who now oppose admission of thecodicil to probate, were aware that their mother routinely drove their father aroundtown, and made no objection to her doing so, it suggests that they had some measureof confidence in her cognitive function at the time. If Amparo’s adult children,including those who now oppose admission of the codicil to probate, were unaware thattheir mother routinely drove their father around town, it suggests that they wereinsufficiently familiar with her daily life to express an informed view as to her cognitivefunction and abilities.

* * *

Guardianship—Accounting reports—Confidentiality—In response topetition by Workers’ Compensation Insurance Guaranty Association,which provides medical and indemnity benefits for incompetent ward,seeking to examine guardianship accounting report based on allegationthat guardian used ward’s funds to purchase vehicle for himself,guardian is ordered to produce relevant accounting reports for incamera review by court

IN RE GUARDIANSHIP OF EMILCE SALAZAR, Ward. Circuit Court, 11th JudicialCircuit in and for Miami-Dade County, Probate Division. Case No. 2016-4231-GD-02.December 31, 2019. Milton Hirsch, Judge.

ORDER ON PETITION TO EXAMINEGUARDIANSHIP ACCOUNTING REPORT

The Florida Workers’ Compensation Insurance Guaranty Associa-tion (“the Association”) functions as Florida’s workers’ compensationinsurer of last resort. See gen’ly Fla. Stat. §§ 631.901-932. It “evalu-

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (55)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

CIRCUIT COURTS—ORIGINAL 27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 963

ates workers’ compensation claims made by insureds againstinsolvent [insurance] companies or funds and determines if suchclaims are covered claims which should be paid or settled with fundsfrom” the Association. See https://fwciga.org/.

In the case at bar it is uncontested that the ward was and is entitledto workers’ compensation insurance benefits through a now-insolventinsurer. See Petition Seeking Review and/or Inspection of Ward’sAnnual Guardianship Accounting Report (“Association’s Petition”)¶2. Consistent with its statutory mandate, the Association “hascontinually provided and shall continue to provide all medical andindemnity benefits to further the best interest of the ward who has beendeemed incompetent.” Id. ¶9.

The ward’s guardian is his adult nephew. Id. ¶4. The Associationclaims that the guardian used the ward’s funds—funds provided, inwhole or in part, by the Association—to purchase a car for himself. Id.¶ 6.1 Citing this conduct, and alleging that the Association

is statutorily charged with responsibility for the ongoing care of theward [and that] in administering said duties [the Association] mustmake all efforts to ensure the guardian is meeting the statutoryobligation vested in him, as guardian, where the money paid by [theAssociation] into the [ward’s] account [is] for the care and bettermentof the ward, and not for the guardian’s personal use[2]

the Association brings the present petition, seeking to examine theannual guardianship accounting report.

For his part, the guardian takes the position that the Association isa mere

debtor of the ward, has interests that are adverse to the guardian andadverse to the ward, is not an interested party, and has no standing toparticipate in these proceedings. In fact, Petitioner is merely aguarantor of the ward’s insolvent insurance carrier who owes the wardmoney for his very substantial injuries.

Guardian’s Objection to [the Association’s] Petition Seeking Reviewand/or Inspection of Ward’s Annual Guardianship Accounting Report(“Guardian’s Objection”) ¶3. Regarding the Association’s suggestionthat prior conduct on the part of the guardian gives rise to a reasonableinference that the guardian may, even now, be departing from hisfiduciary duty and serving his own interests,3 the guardian offers abluntly conclusory rebuttal: “Petitioner’s allegations of prejudice aresimply not true. Even if they are true, such allegations are inadequateto justify production or inspection of the [accounting] reports.” Id. ¶5.Implicit in the guardian’s response is the suggestion that granting theAssociation’s petition would unleash a tidal wave: the confidentialityof sensitive guardianship-related documents, documents often ladenwith intensely personal information, would be forfeited any and everytime an insurer made a naked allegation of defalcation on the part ofa guardian.

The guardian has a statutory obligation to file an annual report. Fla.Stat. § 744.367. The contents of that report are confidential, subject tothe court’s oversight. Fla. Stat. § 744.3701. The Association seeksaccess to the report in order to confirm or dispel its suspicions ofwrongdoing on the part of the guardian; and if confirmed in thosesuspicions, to act upon them. The guardian is adamant that theAssociation has no standing to demand to see the report; and that evenif the court were to determine that the Association has such standing,it would be error on these facts for the court to grant the Associationaccess to a document rightly swathed in confidentiality.

This is a matter of first impression. Both parties acknowledge thatno reported opinion or other authority is squarely controlling herein.Both parties also acknowledge that the reported opinion most nearlycontrolling, or at least most instructive, is Rudolph v. Rosecan, 154 So.3d 381 (Fla. 4th DCA 2014) [39 Fla. L. Weekly D2460b].

In Rudolph, the father of a 22-year-old autistic man was appointedhis guardian. Rudolph, 154 So. 3d at 382. The order establishing the

guardianship, however, vested substantial shared parenting responsi-bility in the ward’s mother. Id. At some point, the father refused toprovide the mother with copies of the annual guardianship accountingreports. Id. At issue before the court was the mother’s claim ofentitlement, as an “interested person,” to copies of the reports.

The court began its analysis by noting an anomaly in the law. Fla.Stat. § 744.367(4) and Fla. Prob. R. 5.700(a) both provide that any“interested person” (defined in Fla. Stat. § 731.201(23) as “any personwho may reasonably be expected to be affected by the outcome of theparticular proceeding involved”) may file written objections to aguardianship accounting report. But Fla. Stat. § 744.3701 providesthat such an accounting report is confidential, and absent leave ofcourt may not be seen by anyone other than the court, the guardian, theguardian’s attorney, and the ward if he or she is not a minor orincapacitated. Thus the law “create[s] a conundrum because an‘interested person’ may object to a guardianship report, but is notactually given the right to inspect it.” Rudolph, 154 So. 3d at 385 n. 2.

This conundrum, however, is not insoluble. The statute renderingguardianship accounting reports confidential is subject to the court’scapacious equitable oversight. See Fla. Stat. § 744.3701(1) (reportsconfidential “[u]nless otherwise ordered by the court”). In Rudolph,the court concluded that

because the parenting plan does not give the mother any right to, orinterest in, the financial decisions made for her son, she is not an“interested person” with standing to object to the annual accountingor other financial matters for her son.

Rudolph, 154 So. 3d at 385. The negative inference is that, had themother been clothed with some right or interest in the financialdecisions made for the ward, she would have been an interestedperson for purposes of the statute; and the court would have beenobliged at least to consider whether the equities favored permitting herto inspect the accounting reports so that she might lodge any properobjection to them.

Unlike the mother in Rudolph, the Association is a public entitywith a far-reaching mandate to act for the people of the State ofFlorida. It is the insurer of last resort for working Floridians injured inthe course of their employment. It acts, and spends public funds, onbehalf, and for the benefit, of the people of this state. In the case at bar,it suspects—not entirely without foundation—that those public fundsmay be misused or pilfered. In its present pleadings it commits itselfforthrightly to “provid[ing] and . . . continu[ing] to provide all medicaland indemnity benefits to further the best interest of the ward.”Association’s Petition ¶10. The Association asserts that it has paid$2,171,781.58 to the ward to date, with the expectation of continuedpayment. Associations’s Petition ¶9. As noted supra, that money is insome sense derived from, and spent on behalf of, the people of thisstate. In the circ*mstances, I am hard-pressed to conclude that theAssociation “may [not] reasonably be expected to be affected by theoutcome of” the matter at bar, viz., is not an “interested person.”

But not every “interested person” is entitled, without more, topierce the confidentiality that envelopes guardianship accountingreports. On the contrary; that confidentiality is to be preserved unlessand until the balance of equities4 weighs clearly in favor of inspection.Included among those equitable considerations, for example, wouldbe the Association’s delay in acting upon suspicions of misconductthat date back two or three years; any exceptional or unfair prejudiceto the ward or the guardian resulting from inspection of the accountingreports by the Association; the likelihood that such reports, if divulgedto the Association, would be seen by others to whom they were notintended to be divulged; the extent to which the Association, and thepublic,5 would be damaged by denial of inspection; and the like.

But certainly the most pressing of such equitable factors is theexistence or not of a sufficient factual predicate to suspect malfea-

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (56)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 964 CIRCUIT COURTS—ORIGINAL

sance or misfeasance on the part of the guardian. The Association, insupport of its concerns, cites to a single act of putative misconductcommitted some years ago and subsequently ratified by my predeces-sor. The guardian, in a less-than-helpful rebuttal, asserts no more thanthat the Association’s suspicions of wrongdoing “are simply not true.Even if they are true, such allegations are inadequate to justifyproduction or inspection of the [accounting] reports.” Guardian’sObjection ¶5. But if the Association’s suspicions are true—if they aretrue in the smallest degree—they may well be adequate and more thanadequate to justify inspection of the accounting records. The guardian,after all, is to be held to the strictest standard of conduct—to a standardcharacterized by “the punctilio of an honor the most sensitive.”

Whether the Association’s wariness is well-founded is somethingthat I am unable to determine in the absence of a more particularizedfactual record. Accordingly, the guardian is hereby ordered to produceto the court in camera the guardianship accounting report for the latestyear available, and for the two preceding years, such production to bemade not later than Friday, January 17. The court, or the court’sdesignee, will review the reports; after which a further order will beentered.))))))))))))))))))

1The Association acknowledges, for what it may be worth, that about a year-and-a-half after the guardian purchased the car, the guardian obtained the court’s retroactiveconsent to the purchase being made with the ward’s funds. Association’s Petition ¶¶7and 8.

2For this proposition the Association cites Fla. Stat. § 631.57. Association’s Petition¶10. Section 631.57 says a great many things, but it does not anywhere say that theAssociation is obliged to “make all efforts to ensure the guardian is meeting thestatutory obligation vested in him.” It does say that the Association succeeds to “allrights duties, defenses, and obligations of the insolvent insurer” in whose shoes itstands. Fla. Stat. § 631.57(1)(b). I assume for purposes of this order that the Association,like any insurer, has the right and duty to take reasonable steps to see to it that it is notbeing bilked and that its payments are not being syphoned off by someone not entitledto them.

3In the oft-quoted language of then-Chief Judge Cardozo: “Many forms of conductpermissible in a workaday world for those acting at arm’s length, are forbidden to thosebound by fiduciary ties. A trustee is held to something stricter than the morals of themarket place. Not honesty alone, but the punctilio of an honor the most sensitive, is thenthe standard of behavior” for a fiduciary such as the guardian herein. Meinhard v.Salmon, 164 N.E. 545 (N.Y. 1928).

4As with any decision that turns on the weighing and balancing of equities, thedecision that I reach in this case will be of limited precedential value to other cases. Thenotion of “interested person” for these purposes is intensely fact-bound and protean.See Hayes v. Guardianship of Thompson, 952 So. 2d 498, 508 (Fla. 2006) [31 Fla. L.Weekly S763a]. That is not necessarily a bad thing; it rebuts, to some degree, anysuggestion on the part of the guardian that permitting inspection in this case willunleash a tidal wave of inspections, or requests for inspection, in future cases.

5Whether the totality of the equities would favor disclosure of the report to a privateinsurance-carrier or other private party on these or similar facts is a question not beforeme.

* * *

Torts—Action by former wife against former husband and entities thatdirectly or indirectly owned certain properties acquired duringmarriage, advancing various legal and equitable claims, includingbreach of fiduciary duty, unjust enrichment, fraud, constructive fraud,and conversion—Evidence overwhelmingly demonstrated that theproperties at interest were acquired during parties’ marriage with jointfunds and/or funds borrowed and personally guaranteed by plain-tiff/former wife and defendant/former husband; the parties intendedto acquire each property jointly with intent to own them together anduse them as a family; and the complex ownership structure employedwas driven solely by estate/tax planning considerations and notintended to alter parties’ intent to beneficially own the propertiestogether and equally—Because plaintiff/former wife contributedequally to purchase of properties and joint funds were used to maintainthem post-acquisition, plaintiff is entitled to resulting trust against twocondominium units—In the alternative, plaintiff is entitled to remedyof a constructive trust upon these units in order “to restore property to

the rightful owner and prevent unjust enrichment”—With respect tothird property, which was sold, former husband misappropriatedplaintiff’s share of proceeds “in breach of fiduciary duty owed to her,and by way of constructive fraud and inequitable conduct”—Plaintiffawarded money judgment in amount of sum she was entitled to receivefrom sale of property as well as prejudgment and postjudgmentinterest—Unique circ*mstances of case warrant imposition ofequitable lien upon former husband’s interests in the entities that arethe sole members of the limited liability companies that own thecondominium units, and on the condominium units themselves,thereby enabling plaintiff to proceed directly against those assets inorder to recoup funds former husband misappropriated from sale ofthird property—Plaintiff granted immediate joint possession of bothcondominium units, together with former husband, and court willexercise its discretion and appoint custodian to preserve the propertiesand protect rights of both parties—Counts asserting alternative claimfor unjust enrichment dismissed as moot—Fraudulent inducementclaim dismissed, as court does not find that defendant intended todeprive plaintiff of her rights at the time the properties at issue wereacquired—Count alleging conversion dismissed to extent it is basedupon real estate itself and funds received from sale of third property—Various other claims dismissed as duplicative and moot

JANETT POLL SARLABOUS, Plaintiff, v. CONSTANTINO BAGATELASKOURANOV; INFINITY ASSET HOLDINGS, LLC; INFINITY PROPERTYHOLDINGS, LLC; INFINITY FINANCIAL HOLDINGS, LLC; INFINITY GROUPFINANCIAL HOLDINGS, LTD.; and AGP GLOBAL, LTD., Defendant. CircuitCourt, 11th Judicial Circuit in and for Miami-Dade County, Circuit Civil Division.Case No. 18-10087 CA (22). December 12, 2019. Michael A. Hanzman, Judge.Counsel: Jorge L. Fors, Fors | Attorneys at Law, Coral Gables, for Plaintiff. Juan C.Ramos-Rosado, DMRA Law LLC, Miami, for Defendant.

PARTIAL FINAL JUDGMENT

I. INTRODUCTIONPlaintiff, Janett Poll Sarlabous (“Plaintiff” or “Poll”), and Defen-

dant Constantino Bagatelas Kouranov (“Defendant” or “Bagatelas”),were married and later divorced in their home country, Panama.During the marriage the parties (or according to Bagatelas himselfindividually) acquired, among other things, three pieces of real estateat issue here; two condominiums in Miami, Florida and an apartmentin Boston, Massachusetts. Each property was used by the family untilsometime in 2017 when the marriage began to encounter difficulties.

In early 2018 the Boston property was sold, realizing net proceedsof approximately $1. 5 Million. Those proceeds were deposited intothe bank account of Infinity Financial Holdings, LLC, a FloridaLimited Liability Company which was then the title owner. In Marchof 2018 Poll discovered that Bagatelas had secured signatoryauthority over that bank account (authority previously held by theparties’ accountant) and had removed the money. She then travelledto Miami to celebrate her 50th birthday with her daughter and discov-ered that Bagatelas had changed the locks on the two Florida condo-miniums.

On March 28, 2018 Poll filed this action advancing a number oflegal and equitable claims against Bagatelas and the entities thatdirectly/indirectly own(ed) the properties. As for Bagatelas, Pollbrings claims for “Breach of Fiduciary Duty,” “Unjust Enrichment,”“Fraud,” “Constructive Fraud” and “Conversion.” She also bringsclaims for “Unlawful Detainer” seeking to recover joint possession ofthe Miami Properties, and asks this Court to impose a construc-tive/resulting trust on Bagatelas’ “interest in the properties and theCompanies” which hold title to them. Finally, Poll asserts claimsdirectly against the entities that directly/indirectly hold (or held) titleto these properties for “Unjust Enrichment,” and seeks to impose an“equitable lien” on their interests.1

On June 18, 2019 Defendants filed their Answer denying thematerial allegations of the Complaint and asserting fifteen (15)

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (57)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

CIRCUIT COURTS—ORIGINAL 27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 965

Affirmative Defenses. Bagatelas also filed a Counterclaim fordamages, alleging that Poll had “illegally planted surveillance devicesin the Property in order to invade his privacy, monitor his conduct, andlisten to his conversations,” thereby violating Florida Statute § 934.10.Poll filed her Answer and Affirmative Defenses to the Counterclaimon July 17, 2018.

In order to expeditiously adjudicate all disputes involving the realestate the parties agreed to a non-jury trial on all causes of action pledby Poll, except her claim for damages based upon Bagatela’s allegedremoval of her “personal property” from the Miami condominiums.This stipulation also left for another day Bagatelas Counterclaim forinvasion of privacy. Trial commenced on November 7, 2019 andcontinued on November 8, 10th and 15th. The parties were then orderedto file post-trial memorandum. The matter is now ripe for dispositionand the Court, having carefully considered the extensive testimonialand documentary evidence presented—both qualitatively andquantatively—now enter this “Partial Final Judgment.”2

II. FINDINGS OF FACTPoll is a citizen of Panama and the President and CEO of Group

Machetazo, an entity which owns and operates a variety of businesses(real estate, Pollo Tropical Franchises, chemical facilities, “big box”stores, etc.) in Panama. Bagatelas also is a citizen of Panama whocame from humble beginnings. He and Poll met as teenagers whenBagatelas was working summer jobs at the Machetazo Group,eventually married in 1990, and divorced in 2018.3 Two children wereborn of the marriage—Allen Michael Bagatelas Poll (age 27) andKristen Janett Bagatelas Poll (age 22).

After the parties married, Bagatelas worked with Poll’s father andeventually started his own businesses (gas stations, wholesaler,department stores, construction business, etc.). His construc-tion/development company did considerable work with GroupMachetazo, building some of its facilities/stores. During the 28-yearduration of the marriage both Poll and Bagatelas worked outside thehome and each contributed to the expenses of the family.

Prior to the marriage Poll owned a condominium at the Imperial onBrickell Avenue that had been gifted by her Father. The family wouldfrequently stay there while visiting South Florida. Eventually, she andBagatelas wanted a larger unit and entered into a contract to purchaseUnit 59F at the Four Seasons (also on Brickell).4 Poll and Bagatelasboth individually signed the contract as “buyers.” After the partieshired counsel (Robert Adams), but before closing, it was decided thatthey would acquire the Unit through use of a corporation. Adams thenformed Allkris Estate Corp. (“Allkris”), a closely held Floridacorporation owned jointly by Poll and Bagatelas.5

Allkris was assigned the purchase contract and acquired Unit 59Ffor the sum of $2.2 million, with $400,000.00 in deposit money put upprior to closing. That deposit came from the October 2010 sale ofPoll’s condominium at the Imperial. Those funds were first placed ina joint account held by Poll and Bagatelas at Bank of America andthen transferred from that joint account to the escrow agent.6 At theclosing, Allkris paid an additional $1.6 million obtained from a loansecured by property owned by a Panamanian company—PrometoraMalibu S.A.; a loan that both Poll and Bagatelas personally guaran-teed.7 The remaining $700,000.00 due for the purchase was paid post-closing at the rate of $100,000.00 per month. Those payments camefrom the joint Bank of America account into which both partiesregularly deposited funds, and which was used to pay for the family’sexpenses.

After acquiring Unit 59F the parties had an opportunity to purchasethe adjoining (but smaller) Unit 59A; an opportunity they decided totake. Allkris—the owner of 59F—entered into the purchase contractas “buyer,” agreeing to pay $1,119,000.00 for the property. A tenpercent (10%) down payment was made using funds from the joint

Bank of America account. The remaining funds needed to close alsocame from that account and, in particular, from proceeds that had beenrecently realized on the sale of a jointly owned home in Los Angeles.At or about this same time the parties also purchased an apartment inBoston where their son was attending college. The Boston property—which was bought for approximately $1.450,000.00—was acquiredwith funds from the joint Bank of America account (the 10% deposit),and through refinancing Unit 59F at the Four Seasons.

As mentioned earlier, prior to the closing of Unit 59F Poll andBagatelas had retained Robert Adams (“Adams”), a Miami attorneyspecializing in real estate and tax law. Adams had advised them totake title to Unit 59F in the name of a corporate entity, and, as alsopointed out earlier, he incorporated Allkris so that it could be assignedthe purchase agreement and close on that unit. Adams testified thatboth Poll and Bagatelas were his clients; they were “invariablytogether when we met”; and that they owned Allkris equally. He alsotestified that they were clearly buying the property as “husband andwife,” and that neither ever said, or even suggested, that it was beingacquired as his or her own personal investment.

Adams also represented the couple in their subsequent acquisitionof Unit 59A and assisted Boston counsel in connection with thepurchase of the Boston apartment. By that time (2014) he and theparties accountant, Albert Aguiar (“Aguiar”), had begun to focus onestate/tax issues unique to foreign owners of U.S. real estate; particu-larly the fact that non-residents receive only a “very small exemptionfor taxation” upon death. Adams and Aguiar therefore recommendedthat the parties employ a commonplace double-tiered partnershipstructure to acquire (or hold) title to the U.S. properties; a structurethat would: (a) protect the ultimate beneficial owner from a largeestate tax; and (b) enable the parties to claim capital gain treatment ona sale.

To accomplish these goals, Adams and Aguiar first recommendedthat Florida Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) be formed to taketitle to the properties. The parties accepted their advice and it wasunderstood by Poll, Bagatelas, Adams and Aguiar that the “ultimateowners” of these entities would be Poll and Bagatelas. Adams andAguiar then formed the three (3) LLCs which now (or in the case ofBoston did) hold legal title to the properties. Adam and Aguiar thenformed two BVI entities, Infinity Group Financial Holdings, Ltd. andAGP Global LLC, which were substituted as the members of the threeLLCs. They also formed Infinity Holdings Management LLC, aDelaware entity that would manage the BVI entities. Later, inanticipation of filing the parties’ 2014 tax returns, Adams preparedformal ownership certificates reflecting that each Poll and Bagatelasowned fifty percent (50%) of the Delaware Management entity andthe BVI entities which were the members of the Florida LLCs. Hetestified that he discussed this joint (50/50) ownership with his jointclients (Poll and Bagatelas) and that neither objected. Like Adams,Aguiar also unequivocally testified that based upon his meetings withPoll and Bagatelas, he understood that both of them were the ultimatebeneficial owners of all three (3) properties—50/50.8

At present, Defendant Infinity Asset Holdings, LLC, (“InfinityAsset”) a Florida LLC, owns Unit 59A. Defendant Infinity PropertyHoldings, LLC (“Infinity Property”), a Florida LLC, owns Unit 59F,9

and Defendant Infinity Financial Holdings (“Infinity Financial”), aFlorida LLC, owned the now sold Boston apartment. DefendantInfinity Group Financial Holdings, Ltd. owns ninety nine percent(99%) of the membership interests in each of these LLCs, withDefendant AGP Global, Ltd. owning the remaining one percent (1%).So to sum things up, the Court finds that Poll and Bagatelas wereintended to be—and currently are—the joint owners of both BVIentities (Infinity Group Holdings, Ltd. and AGP Global, Ltd.), andthat these BVI entities are the sole members of the three (3) Florida

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (58)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 966 CIRCUIT COURTS—ORIGINAL

LLC’s which own(ed) these properties. Thus, Poll and Bagatelasjointly and equally own(ed), albeit indirectly, all three properties.

Notwithstanding this joint and equal ownership, once the parties’marriage began to deteriorate Bagatelas embarked on a plan to divestPoll of her equity in the properties and secure that equity for himself.He first created a stock certificate which purported to make him thesole owner of Infinity Group Financial Holdings, Ltd., the BVI entitythat controlled 99% of the membership interests in the three FloridaLLCs that hold/held title to the real estate. Neither Adams nor Aguiarprepared, or had ever seen, that certificate, and the prior certificatesreflecting joint ownership—which Adams had previously preparedand had delivered to Poll—were never voided.10

Neither Poll nor counsel were aware that this new certificateexisted at the time the parties decided to sell the Boston property, andboth Poll and Bagatelas had agreed to use the proceeds from that saleto retire the debt secured by Unit 59F; debt jointly as-sumed/guaranteed in order to finance the Boston purchase. Bagatelas,however, had a different plan, and when the sale of the Bostonproperty closed he asked Aguiar, who at the time was the solesignatory on the Infinity Group Financial Holdings account at PopularBank, to send the proceeds to an unfamiliar BVI account he con-trolled. Aguiar appropriately declined that request. Undeterred,Bagatelas then used his new stock certificate to secure signatoryauthority on the account and convinced Popular Bank to wire themoney to the BVI account in his name only. Put simply, Bagatelasstole the money realized from the closing of the Boston property. Healso locked Poll out of, and assumed sole dominion over, Units 59Aand 59F.

The parties spent considerable trial time going through theexcruciating details of: (a) countless deposits/withdrawals into and outof the parties joint accounts; (b) the ownership of various Founda-tions/Trusts each have had an interest(s) in; (c) each real estatetransaction; and (d) the steps taken in forming and documentingownership of the various entities involved in acquiring these proper-ties. Belaboring that minutia would do nothing other than lengthen thisOrder. Suffice it to say that the cumulative body of evidence presentedoverwhelmingly demonstrates that: (a) all of theses properties wereacquired during the parties’ marriage with joint funds, and/or fundsborrowed and personally guaranteed by both Poll and Bagatelas; (b)the parties intended to—and did—acquire each of these propertiesjointly with the intent to own them together and use them as a family;and (c) the complex ownership structure employed was driven solelyby estate/tax planning considerations, and was never intended to (nordid it) alter the parties’ intent to beneficially own these propertiestogether and equally. Given this compelling proof the Court categori-cally rejects Bagatelas’ claim that he acquired these properties for hisown account, and also rejects, as completely untenable, his testimonythat he initially placed Poll’s name on the purchase contracts so shecould take care of the properties for their children “in the eventsomething may happen to me.” Rather, the Court finds that all three(3) of these properties were acquired by the parties together, withequal ownership rights, and for purposes of using them as a family,and that Bagatelas’ claim of sole ownership reeks of afterthought andis incompatible with, and antithetical to, reality.

III. CONCLUSIONS OF LAWThe evidence again clearly and convincingly establishes that all

three of the properties at issue here were acquired using funds fromjoint bank accounts and debt guaranteed by both Poll and Bagatelas.They also were acquired during the marriage. As a result, the lawpresumes that these properties were intended to be, and were, jointlyacquired and owned. See, e.g., Beal Bank, SSB v. Almand & Associ-ates, 780 So. 2d 45 (Fla. 2001) [26 Fla. L. Weekly S106a]; Sorgen v.Sorgen, 162 So. 3d 45 (Fla. 4th DCA 2014) [39 Fla. L. Weekly

D1367a]; Lakin v. Lakin, 901 So. 2d 186 (Fla. 4th DCA 2005) [30 Fla.L. Weekly D809a]. The Court, however, is not relying merely uponthis presumption, as the evidence confirms beyond doubt that all threeproperties were in fact acquired jointly and with joint funds (or jointlyguaranteed debt), and with the intention that Poll and Bagatelas eachwould beneficially own 50% of each property. The Court thereforeconcludes, as a mixed question of fact and law, that the two Units atthe Four Seasons (59A and 59F) are beneficially owned by Poll andBagatelas (50% each), and that Poll was entitled to receive 50% of theproceeds realized from the sale of the Boston property.

Because Poll contributed equally to the purchase of all theproperties and joint funds were used to maintain them post-acquisi-tion, she is entitled to a resulting trust against Units 59A and 59F byoperation of law. See, e.g., Wadlington v. Edwards, 92 So. 2d 629(Fla. 1957); Steinhardt v. Steinhardt, 445 So. 2d 352, 352 (Fla. 3dDCA 1984) (resulting trust arises “where a person furnishes themoney to purchase property in the name of another, with both partiesintending at the time that the legal title be held by the named granteefor the benefit of the unnamed purchaser of the property”); Abreu v.Amaro, 534 So. 2d 771, 772 (Fla. 3d DCA 1988) (once a plaintiff“proves that he paid the purchase price for a piece of property, apresumption arises that it was the parties’ intention that the [party]holding legal title was to hold the property in trust for the payor”);Willard Homes, Inc. v. Sanders, 127 So. 2d 696 (Fla. 2d DCA 1961)(“where the purchase money of land is paid by one person and title istaken in the name of another a resulting trust arises and the partytaking the title is presumed to hold it in trust for him [sic] who pays thepurchase price”).

The Court also, in the alternative, finds that Poll is entitled to theremedy of a constructive trust upon Units 59A and 59F; a remedyimposed in order “to restore property to the rightful owner and preventunjust enrichment.” Abreu, supra. See also Wadlington v. Edwards,92 So. 2d 629 (Fla. 1957). Poll is entitled to this remedy because shehas proven, by clear and convincing evidence, that: (a) at the timethese properties were acquired, Poll and Bagatelas were in a confiden-tial relationship (i.e., marriage); (b) Poll was expressly promised thatshe would own a 50% beneficial interest in each property; (c) shepermitted the properties to be titled in the name of the Florida LLCs inreliance on this promise/understanding; and (d) allowing the LLCs/Bagatelas to retain these properties to her exclusion would result inunjust enrichment. See, e.g., Abreu, supra at 772, citing 5 G. Thomp-son, On Real Property § 2345, at 134 (1979 Repl.).

While the Court’s finding that Poll and Bagatelas each currentlyown fifty percent (50%) of the BVI entities that are sole members ofthe Florida LLCs which own Units 59A and 59F (and its impositionof resulting/constructive trusts on these Units) ensures that Poll willreceive her share of current equity, it will not compensate her for the$780,000.00 she was entitled to receive from the sale of the Bostonhome. Poll therefore asks the Court to enter judgment againstBagatelas for this amount and to impose an equitable lien againstBagatelas’ 50% indirect interest in the remaining properties (Units59A and 59F) based upon “general considerations of a right or justiceas applied to a particular circ*mstance of a case.” Wichi Mgmt. LLCv. Masters, 193 So. 3d 961, 963 (Fla. 3d DCA 2016) [41 Fla. L.Weekly D1096a]. Because the Court finds that Bagatelas misappro-priated Polls’ share of the proceeds from the parties’ Boston home inbreach of a fiduciary duty owed to her, and by way of constructivefraud and inequitable conduct, it concludes that the unique circum-stances of this case warrant imposing an equitable lien uponBagatelas’ interests in the BVI entities which, in turn, are members ofthe two LLCs which own the remaining properties, and on theproperties themselves, in order to prevent Bagatelas from beingunjustly enriched. While the Court could simply enter a money

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (59)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

CIRCUIT COURTS—ORIGINAL 27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 967

judgment against Bagatelas for the amount taken ($780,000.00), thereis no reason why the Court, given the circ*mstances of this unusualcase, should not also impose an equitable lien on Bagatelas interest inthe entities which indirectly own the remaining properties and theproperties, thereby enabling Poll to proceed directly against thoseassets in order to recoup the funds Bagatelas misappropriated from thesale of the Boston property. See, e.g., Special Tax Sch. Dist. No. 1 ofOrange County v. Hillman, 179 So. 805 (Fla. 1938).

The Court also finds that prior to the dissolution of the marriage theparties were in joint possession of Units 59A and 59F, and that Pollhas since been unlawfully divested of her possessory rights byBagatelas. The Court will therefore grant Poll immediate jointpossession of both Units, together with Bagatelas. See § 82.01, Fla.Stat., (2019), et. seq.; Se. Fid. Ins. Co. v. Berman, 231 So. 2d 249 (Fla.3d DCA 1970). Given the dissolution of the parties’ marriage and theacrimony between them, the Court also will exercise its discretion andappoint a Custodian to preserve the properties and protect the rights ofboth parties. See Ins. Mgmt., Inc. v. McLeod, 194 So. 2d 16 (Fla. 3dDCA 1966); Carolina Portland Cement Co. v. Baumgartner, 128 So.241 (Fla. 1930).

IV. CONCLUSIONWhile the transactions involving the acquisition of the properties

at issue here are a bit complicated, the case itself is not. These parties,while married, used joint funds (and jointly borrowed and guaranteeddebt) to acquire two condominiums in Miami and an apartment inBoston; three properties intended to be used (and in fact used) as afamily. When the marriage abruptly ended Bagatelas decided he didnot want to share the equity in these assets with Poll. So he usurped thesales proceeds from the Boston property, locked Poll out of the Miamiproperties, and attempted to rewrite history by claiming that heacquired all of these assets for his own account and with his ownfunds, never intending to own them with his then wife. The evidenceproves otherwise, and the Court again rejects Bagatelas’ claim in itsentirety.

Of course, had Bagatelas really intended to acquire these propertiesfor himself (and he did not), and had Poll agreed to this arrangement(and she did not), this understanding could have been documented onthe back of a napkin, with Poll simply acknowledging, in writing, thatshe owned no interest in the properties or the entities that directly orindirectly held legal title. Nowhere did she do that, and not a shred ofevidence (other than his own self-serving testimony) supportsBagatelas’ claim that he—and he alone—was to beneficially ownsthese assets.

For the foregoing reasons it is hereby ORDERED:1. On Counts I (Breach of Fiduciary Duty) and XII (Constructive

Fraud), Poll is awarded judgment against Bagatelas in the amount ofSeven Hundred Eighty Thousand Dollars ($780,000.00), togetherwith pre-judgment interest at the legal rate commencing on the datewhich Bagatelas had these funds wired to his BVI entity through thedate of this Judgment, and shall accrue post-judgment interest fromthe date of this Judgment forward at the rate provided by law, forwhich let execution issue. Count II, which seeks damages againstBagatelas based upon the alternative claim of “Unjust Enrichment,”is dismissed as Moot, and Count XI (Fraud in the Inducement) is alsodismissed, as this Court does not find that Bagatelas intended todeprive Poll of her rights at the time the properties were acquired (i.e.,the Court finds no fraud in the inducement).

2. As an additional remedy based upon the Court’s finding ofConstructive Fraud (Count XII), and as a remedy awarded underCount XIII and XIV, the Court imposes a Resulting Trust and aConstructive Trust in favor of Poll on Bagatelas’ interest in the BVIentities which are the members of the LLCs that hold legal title toUnits 59A and 59F of the Four Seasons on Brickell Avenue, and on

said Units. The Court also imposes an Equitable Lien againstBagatelas’ interests in the BVI entities which are the members of theLLCs which hold legal title to Units 59A and 59F, and on said Units,up to the amount necessary to fully satisfy the Judgment (withinterest) specified in paragraph 1 above. These trusts/liens shallimmediately attach to:

Condominium Unit 59A, in MILLENNIUM TOWER RESI-DENCES, A CONDOMINIUM, together with an undivided interestin the common elements, according to the Declaration of Condomin-ium thereof, recorded in Official Records Book 21766, Page 4639, asamended from time to time, of the Public Records of Miami-DadeCounty, Florida (Folio 01-4139-076-0200); and

Condominium Unit 59F, in MILLENNIUM TOWER RESIDENCES,A CONDOMINIUM, according to the Declaration thereof recordedon October 24, 2003, under Clerk’s File No. 20030797700 in OfficialRecords Book 21766, Page 4639, of the Public Records of Miami-Dade County, Florida, as amended from time to time. (Folio 01-4139-076-1740); and

Bagatelas’ ownership interests in:A. Infinity Group Financial Holding, Ltd.B. AGP Global, Ltd.

Bagatelas is enjoined from transferring, selling, pledging, hypothecat-ing or encumbering his fifty percent (50%) ownership interest in theseentities. 3. Count XV, alleging conversion against Bagatelas, is dismissedto the extent it is based upon the real estate itself and the fundsreceived from the Boston sale, as real estate may not be the subject ofconversion claim, see Am. Intern. Land Corp. v. Hanna, 323 So. 2d567 (Fla. 1975), and the Court has already entered judgment againstBagatelas for all sums misappropriated and has granted equitablerelief. To the extent this Count is based upon an alleged conversion ofPoll’s personal property it remains pending, as does Bagatelas’counterclaim for invasion of privacy.

4. The claims pled in Counts III, IV and V, are dismissed asduplicative and moot.

5. As for Counts VI and VII, the Court finds that Poll, as the 50%owner of each of the BVI entities sued, has failed to prove that eitherInfinity Financial or AGP Global have been unjustly enriched and saidcounts are dismissed. Counts VIII, IX and X are also dismissed asduplicative and moot.

6. As for Count XVI (Unlawful Detainer), the Court awards Pollimmediate joint possession of Units 59A and 59F, as legally describedabove. The Court also appoints Melanie Damian, Esquire as Custo-dian Pendente Lite over both of the Florida LLCs which own title tothe Units (Infinity Assets and Infinity Holdings) pursuant to FloridaStatute § 605.0703(3). See, e.g., Kosow v. Kovens, 473 So. 2d 776(Fla. 3d DCA 1985); Puma Enterprises Corp. v. Vitale, 566 So. 2d1343 (Fla. 3d DCA 1990); Romay v. Caribevision Holdings, Inc., 173So. 3d 1055 (Fla. 3d DCA 2015) [40 Fla. L. Weekly D1792a];Granada Lakes Villas Condo. Ass’n, Inc. v. Metro-Dade InvestmentsCo., 125 So. 3d 756 (Fla. 2013) [38 Fla. L. Weekly S777a]; KeyCaisee Corp. v. Seashore Shell Co., 470 So. 2d 792 (Fla. 3d DCA1985); Edenfield v. Crisp, 186 So. 2d 545 (Fla. 2d DCA 1966). TheCustodian shall take immediate possession of both entities (and all oftheir assets wherever located including Units 59A and 59F) and shallrecommend to the Court whether the real estate owned by these LLCs(Units 59A and 59F) should be sold, or whether the parties can, on along-term basis and without ongoing Court supervision, own and usethem jointly. The Custodian shall also periodically report to the Courton the status of these assets. Both parties (Poll and Bagatelas) shallfrom this point forward each pay fifty percent (50%) of the costs ofmaintaining the properties and all fees billed by the Custodian, whoshall ensure that the properties are properly maintained and that all

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (60)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 968 CIRCUIT COURTS—ORIGINAL

obligations (taxes, insurance, etc.) are timely paid.11

))))))))))))))))))1Poll also seeks an accounting, injunctive relief, and the appointment of a Receiver.2The Court believes that the remaining claims (i.e., Polls’ claim for conversion of

her personal belongings and Bagatelas’ invasion of privacy claim) are independent of,and severable from, those disposed of herein and, as a result, this Partial Final Judgmentis appealable. See, e.g., Gov’t Employees Ins. Co. v. Arreola, 231 So. 3d 508 (Fla. 2dDCA 2017) [42 Fla. L. Weekly D1287b]; El Segundo Original Rey de la Pizza Cubana,Inc. v. Rey Pizza Corp., 676 So. 2d 1031 (Fla. 3d DCA 1996) [21 Fla. L. WeeklyD1463a].

3The divorce court in Panama did not adjudicate the parties’ respective claims to theU.S. real property at issue here.

4The parties first contracted to buy Unit 41E, but later elected to purchase Unit 59Fafter that unit became available.

5Allkris is a portmanteau based upon the names of the parties’ children, Allen andKristen.

6At trial Bagatelas claimed that an unidentified check drawn on the couples’ Bankof America account in the amount of $370,000.00 was in fact made payable to Poll andwas for repayment of the funds used to make the deposit on Unit 59F. Although theCourt left the record open this claim was never verified, and the check was neverproduced or entered into evidence.

7While the evidence as to who owned this company at the time was disputed, itmakes no difference for purposes of the Court’s adjudication of this dispute. Nor doesit matter that neither Poll nor Bagatelas were ever called on their personal guaranties.

8Aguiar also was assigned responsibility for managing the properties (i.e., preparingtax returns, paying bills and collecting rents on Unit 59A which was leased at times).

9Because Unit 59F had already been acquired at the time this structure was put inplace Allkris quit-claimed the Unit to Infinity Property.

10Poll picked up the original certificates from Adams, gave them to Bagatelas, andnever saw them again.

11In a claim that can only be characterized as “chutzpah,” Bagatelas asks this Courtto “set-off” against the funds owed to Poll the amount of $1.2 million he claims to havespent in order to maintain the properties “since each of the purchases” (i.e., associationfees, property insurance, and real estate taxes). The Court has already concluded thatjoint funds were used to maintain the properties up until the parties separated, andBagatelas clearly is not entitled to a “set-off” in the amount he spent to maintain theUnits after he wrongfully usurped sole possession. His request for a set-off is thereforedenied.

* * *

Dissolution of marriage—Contempt—Attorney’s fees—Equitabledistribution—Child custody—Travel with child—Court declines tohold former husband in contempt for failing to make timely monthlyequitable distribution payments to former wife because amounts havesince been paid—Former husband is required to pay all former wife’sreasonable attorney’s fees and costs incurred by her with regard toformer husband’s default and noncompliance with final judgment andmediated settlement agreement where former husband was in defaultand noncompliant when motion for contempt was filed, and MSArequires non-prevailing party to pay such fees and costs—Court rejectsargument that former wife waived right to seek attorney’s fees basedon alleged “accord and satisfaction” as a result of language formerhusband wrote on the back of the check—Court finds former husbandin contempt for failing to deliver child’s passport as required byparties’ MSA—Former wife entitled to reasonable attorney’s fees andcosts incurred with regard to former husband’s willful noncompliancewith regard to passport issue

IN RE: THE MARRIAGE OF: THOMAS EARL HARRINGTON III, FormerHusband, and JEANETTE MARIE POSPISHIL F/K/A JEANETTE MARIEHARRINGTON, Former Wife. Circuit Court, 15th Judicial Circuit in and for PalmBeach County. Case No. 502018DR011205XXXXMBFC. December 13, 2019.Renatha S. Francis, Judge. Counsel: John Douglas Boykin, Ciklin Lubiz, West PalmBeach, for Former Husband/Petitioner. Jonathan S. Root, Jonathan S. Root, P.A., BocaRaton, for Former Wife/Respondent.

ORDER GRANTING FORMER WIFE’S MOTION FORCONTEMPT, FOR ENFORCEMENT, AND FOR SANCTIONS

THIS CAUSE came before the Court on November 12, 2019 onJEANETTE MARIE POSPISHIL’s (“Former Wife”) Motion forContempt, For Enforcement, and for Sanctions (“the Motion”), filedAugust 13, 2019. Having reviewed all the evidence, includingtestimony from Former Wife, and THOMAS EARL HARRINGTON

III (“Former Husband”), and having taken judicial notice, as requiredby both parties, of the various recent travel adversaries issued by theUnited States Department of State for the country of Ecuador, theCourt GRANTS Former Wife’s motion for the reasons that follow.

I. FACTSOn April 4, 2019, this Court entered a Final Judgment of Dissolu-

tion of Marriage which incorporated the parties’ Mediated SettlementAgreement and Parenting Plan (hereinafter “Final Judgment,” “MSA”respectively). For reasons that will become clear, three provisions inthese documents are central to the resolution of this case: Article “I”,paragraph “5” of the MSA; Paragraph “G” of the Final Judgment; andSection “VIII” paragraph “4” of the MSA.

Article I, paragraph 5 obligates Former Husband to pay FormerWife $2,000.00 per month on account of an $8,000.00 equitabledistribution payment due and owing by him to her. It is enforced byparagraph “G” of the Final Judgment entitled “Enforcement,” whichprovides that:

[The] [p]arties understand that each may seek enforcement of theterms of this Agreement through the power of contempt against thedefaulting or non-performing party in this or any other Court havingjurisdiction over them. The non-prevailing party shall be responsiblefor all reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.

Section VIII, paragraph of the MSA provides that:Either parent may travel out of the country with the child duringhis/her time-sharing and only to Hague recognized countries andcountries that do not have a current United States Department “redalert.”

*******The Father shall always hold the child’s passport and upon a reason-able request shall provide the same the Mother within 48 hours of herrequest.

(Emphasis added). Former Wife brought the Motion for FormerHusband’s failure to comply with payment of his equitable distribu-tion payment, and for violating Section VIII of the MSA.

A. Equitable Distribution EnforcementWith respect to the payment, Former Wife alleged Former

Husband failed to make the required $2,000.00 payments due on July1, 2019 and August 1, 2019, prior to her filing of the Motion. Sheacknowledges that he did eventually pay—late—on September 8,2019. And she executed a satisfaction of money judgment, noticingthat all sums due were fully paid. At the final hearing, FormerHusband presented no testimony or evidence regarding an inability topay the amount owed.

B. TravelWith respect to the travel, Former Wife alleged that Former

Husband refused to provide and deliver to her, the passport for theparties’ minor child for an intended trip to the Guayaquil province inEcuador on October 5-9, 2019.

On July 31, 2019, and August 6, 2019, she sent Former Husbandemails through the program, “Our Family Wizard,” giving him noticethat she would be traveling with the parties’ minor child to Ecuador inOctober (in which she even invited Former Husband to join them),and she advised him that there was “NO” red alert for Guayaquil (thecity to which she would be traveling with the parties’ minor child),and advised that there was no red alert with regard to “entire country”of Ecuador. Ecuador is a member of the Hague Convention.

Nevertheless, Former Husband refused to acquiesce to FormerWife’s request for the minor child’s passport claiming (a) the city towhich she was going was unsafe, (b) she would effectively bekidnaping the minor child and improperly removing the minor childfrom Florida if she were to travel to Ecuador, and (c) certain portionsor provinces (akin to states of the United States) of Ecuador were

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (61)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

CIRCUIT COURTS—ORIGINAL 27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 969

under a red alert (whereas the rest of the country was only under ayellow alert or level 2 alert—a minimal alert meaning “exercisecaution”—other countries such as Israel, France, Germany, Italy andJamaica have level 2 alerts).

As noted, at the parties’ joint request, the Court took judicial noticeof the U.S. Department of State travel advisories to Ecuador, specifi-cally for the dates April 9, 2019, October 9, 2019, and November 7,2019. It is significant that at the time Former Wife requested the minorchild’s passport (and currently) only certain cities or provinces ofEcuador had a Level 4 or red alert travel advisory, and none of thosepertained to the area in which the Former Wife intended to travel withthe minor child. It is also significant that the parties’ MSA specificallyreferences “countries” with red alerts—as distinguished from parts (orprovinces) of countries—and at no time has the “country” of Ecuadorbeen under a red alert (only parts and portions).

Finally, testimony at the hearing revealed that Former Wife is acitizen of the United States, she has a residential lease for her homehere in Florida, she is employed here in Florida as an accountant, sheowns real property in the United States and she has family in theUnited States, i.e., her mother. In contrast, she has no family, no job,no real estate, and no connections in Ecuador.

II. ANALYSIS

A. Equitable Distribution EnforcementHere, Former Husband paid the Former Wife the $4,000 due and

owing with regard to the July 1 and August 1, 2019, required pay-ments, as well as the payments due and owing for May and June 2019.

For this reason, the Court will not hold Former Husband incontempt. He was, however, non-compliant and in default whenFormer Wife filed the Motion. So the Court shall require him to pay allof Former Wife’s reasonable attorney’s fees and costs incurred by herwith regard to Former Husband’s default and noncompliance with theFinal Judgment and MSA as it relates to the July 1 and August 1, 2019,required monthly payments. See Coe v. Abdo, 790 So.2d 1276, 1279(Fla. 4th DCA 2001) [26 Fla. L. Weekly D1985a] [The court “has nodiscretion to refuse to award attorney’s fees and costs where requiredby the contract. . . .The contract called for the prevailing party to beawarded attorney’s fees. Since the wife has prevailed on all of theissues in this case, she is entitled to an award of reasonable attorney’sfees.”]; Rose v. Rose, 615 So.2d 203, 204 (Fla. 4th DCA 1993)[“Where the contract provides for attorney’s fees to be awarded to theprevailing party in litigation arising out of the contract, the trial judgeis without discretion to decline to enforce the provision.”]. The Courtrejects Former Husband’s argument that Former Wife waived herright to seek attorney’s fees and costs based upon an alleged “accordand satisfaction” as a result of language he wrote on the back of thecheck.

The parties, through their respective counsel, shall attempt to agreeupon the amount of such reasonable attorney’s fees and costs but ifunable to agree, the Court shall reserve jurisdiction to schedule ahearing to determine the reasonable amount of same.

B. TravelFormer Wife is also asking the Court to find Former Husband in

contempt on this issue, but with respect to his failure to deliver theminor child’s passport as contemplated by the parties’ MSA.

As a threshold matter, the Court recognizes that ordinarily1 thecontempt power of the court cannot be invoked to enforce propertyright obligations. See Art. I, § II, Fla. Const. (guaranteeing thefundamental right of freedom from being imprisoned for a debt,except in cases of fraud).

But this is not that. Specifically because Former Wife is notseeking Former Husband to pay a debt, only to compel him to act.When court requires “the performance of an act, and not the paymentof money, the trial court can enforce the provision through contemptwithout running afoul of the constitution.” Williams v. Williams, 251So. 3d 926, 928 (Fla. 4th DCA 2018) [43 Fla. L. Weekly D1575a]; seealso Roth v. Roth, 973 So. 2d 580, 591 (Fla. 2d DCA 2008) [33 Fla. L.Weekly D182d] (finding no reversible error in the trial court’s holdingthe husband in contempt for failing to sign a mortgage and promissorynote, which was an act he was fully capable of performing. “To holdotherwise would permit a party to simply disregard provisions of afinal judgment that required that party to perform some act.”) And sothe Court now finds Former Husband in contempt for failing to deliverthe passport as required by the parties’ MSA.

Having found Former Husband in contempt, he is ordered, as apurge, to comply with Former Wife’s prospective written requests forthe minor child’s passport and produce same to the Former Wifewithin 48 hours of her request. See, e.g., Nical of Palm Beach, Inc. v.Lewis, 981 So.2d 502, 504 (Fla. 4th DCA 2008) [33 Fla. L. WeeklyD788a] (Affirming purge requirement of “NOT committing anyfuture violation of a 1998 settlement agreement.”]; Politz v. Booth,910 So.2d 397 (Fla. 4th DCA 2005) [30 Fla. L. Weekly D2242a](similar). Failure of Former Husband to comply with the purgerequirement may constitute a basis to modify his entitlement to holdthe minor child’s passport in accordance with the MSA.

As a result of Former Husband’s contempt and noncompliance anddefault with the Final Judgment and MSA, and pursuant to the parties’prevailing party attorney fee provision in the Final Judgment, theCourt now awards Former Wife her reasonable attorney’s fees andcosts incurred with regard to Former Husband’s willful noncompli-ance with regard to the passport issue. The parties, through theirrespective counsel, shall attempt to agree upon the amount of suchreasonable attorney’s fees and costs. But if unable to agree, the Courtshall reserve jurisdiction to schedule a hearing to determine thereasonable amount of same.

The Court reserves jurisdiction to enforce the terms of this Orderand to enter such further orders as the Court deems just and proper.))))))))))))))))))

1The Court uses the term “ordinarily” because case law makes clear that there arecirc*mstances where a party may waive a fundamental constitutional right, providedsuch waiver is voluntary, knowing, and intelligent. See Williams v. State, 736 So. 2d699, 704 (Fla. 4th DCA 1999) [24 Fla. L. Weekly D949c]. And determining that waiverhas occurred is possible, even in the absence of an evidentiary hearing, simply byreviewing the record. See, e.g., Vetrick v. Hollander, 743 So. 2d 1128, 1131 (Fla. 4thDCA 1999) [24 Fla. L. Weekly D2193b] (noting that an evidentiary hearing wasneeded to determine if proper waiver occurred because “[t]he issue of waiver cannotbe determined from this record.”). The Court need not pass upon this issue today.

* * *

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (62)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

971

Volume 27, Number 11

March 31, 2020

Cite as 27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. ____ COUNTY COURTSInsurance—Personal injury protection—Coverage—Medicalexpenses—Statutory fee schedules—Clear and unambiguous electionby insurer—PIP policy that limits reimbursem*nt to 80% of 200% ofallowable amount under Medicare Part B fee schedule clearly andunambiguously elects to limit reimbursem*nt to permissive statutoryfee schedule—Policy does not create unlawful hybrid paymentmethodology—Insurer properly reimbursed medical provider usingparticipating physicians fee schedule specified in policy rather thannon-facility limiting charge

MRI ASSOCIATES OF LAKELAND LLC d/b/a HIGHLAND MRI a/a/o EddieCrockett, Plaintiff, v. PROGRESSIVE AMERICAN INSURANCE COMPANY,Defendant. County Court, 7th Judicial Circuit in and for Volusia County. Case No.2018 16158 CODL, Division 73 (MILLER). December 4, 2019. A. Christian Miller,Judge. Counsel: Michelle Reeves, Ocala, for Plaintiff. Benjamin Floyd and Robert M.Lyerly, Progressive PIP House Counsel, Maitland, for Defendant.

FINAL SUMMARY JUDGMENTThis matter is before the court on the Defendant’s Motion for

Summary Disposition/Judgment filed on April 5, 2019. The court hasreviewed the Motion and the Plaintiff’s Response, conducted ahearing on the matters, and considered the arguments and authoritiescited by the parties. Based upon the above, the court finds and rules asfollows.

Factual FindingsOn August 25, 2013, Eddie Crockett was injured in a car crash. As

part of his resulting medical treatment, Mr. Crockett received an MRIfrom MRI Associates of Lakeland LLC, a medical provider operatingunder the name “Highland MRI” (“Highland”). Highland agreed tobill Mr. Crockett’s insurance company directly for its services underan assignment of benefits. Accordingly, Highland later billedProgressive American Insurance Company (“Progressive”) $2,400.00for an MRI it provided to Mr. Crockett on October 9, 2013.

Under the terms of Mr. Crockett’s PIP insurance policy, Progres-sive allowed $1,006.02 of Highland’s original billed amount basedupon 200% of the 2007 participating level of Medicare physicians feeschedule. Progressive then reimbursed Highland 80% of the allowedamount, for a total payment of $804.82.

The relevant policy language in Progressive’s policy endorsem*ntreads as follows:

UNREASONABLE OR UNNECESSARY MEDICAL BENEFITS

If an injured person incurs medical benefits that we deem to beunreasonable or unnecessary, we may refuse to pay for those medicalbenefits and contest them.

We will determine to be unreasonable any charges incurred thatexceed the maximum charges set forth in Section 627.736(5)(a)(1)(athrough f) of the Florida Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law, as amended.Pursuant to Florida law, we will limit reimbursem*nt to, and pay nomore than, 80 percent of the following schedule of maximum charges:. . .

f. for all other medical services, supplies and care, 200 percent ofthe allowable amount under the participating physicians feeschedule of Medicare Part B, except as follows:

. . .The applicable fee schedule or payment limitation under Medicare isthe fee schedule or payment limitation in effect on March 1 of the yearin which the services, supplies or care is rendered and for the area inwhich such services, supplies or care is rendered. This applicable feeschedule or payment limitation applies throughout the remainder ofthat year, notwithstanding any subsequent change made to the feeschedule or payment limitation, except that it may not be less than theallowable amount under the applicable schedules of Medicare Part B

for 2007 for medical services, supplies and care subject to MedicarePart B.. . .We will reduce any payment to a medical provider under this PartII(A) by any amounts we deem to be unreasonable medical benefits.However, the medical benefits shall provide reimbursem*nt only forsuch services, supplies and care that are lawfully rendered, supervised,ordered or prescribed. . . .

Form A085 FL (05/12), page 1 (emphasis in original).

Analysis and Conclusions of LawAs a preliminary matter, the court finds that there is no triable issue

of fact, and thus the court must only determine if Progressive isentitled to a judgment as a matter of law. See Fla. Sm. Cl. R. 7.135.Based upon the arguments and authorities raised by the parties, thecourt believes that determination turns on the resolution of two legalissues: (1) did Progressive provide sufficient notice of its intent to usefee schedule payment limitations and (2) if so, did Progressivecorrectly apply the limitations to Highland’s bill? Each of these issueswill be addressed in turn below.

I. Sufficiency of Notice—Fee Schedule Payment LimitationsSection 627.736(5)(a)5, Florida Statute (2013)1 provided

“Effective July 1, 2012, an insurer may limit payment as authorizedby this paragraph only if the insurance policy includes a notice at thetime of issuance or renewal that the insurer may limit paymentpursuant to the schedule of charges specified in this paragraph. . . .”Thus under the plain language of the statute in effect at the time thisaction arose, Progressive only had to provide notice at the time ofissuance or renewal of the policy that it may limit payment pursuantto the Medicare fee schedules.

As the parties are keenly aware, in Geico v. Virtual Imaging, theFlorida Supreme Court previously declared that an insurer must“clearly and unambiguously elect the permissive payment methodol-ogy in order to rely on it.” 141 So.3d 147, 158 (Fla. 2013) [38 Fla. L.Weekly S517a]. However, the Virtual Imaging Court was interpretingand applying the 2008 version of the PIP statute, which did notcontain the simple notice requirement added by the Legislature in the2012 amendment. In fact, the Supreme Court recognized thisdistinction and explicitly limited the application of its holding inVirtual Imaging to just those cases arising under pre-July 1, 2012policies. Id. at 150 (“Because the GEICO policy has since beenamended to include an election of the Medicare fee schedules as themethod of calculating reimbursem*nts, and the Legislature has nowspecifically incorporated a notice requirement into the PIP statute,effective July 1, 2012, see § 627.736(5)(a) 5., Fla. Stat. (2012), ourholding applies only to policies that were in effect from the effectivedate of the 2008 amendments to the PIP statute that first provided forthe Medicare fee schedule methodology, which was January 1, 2008,through the effective date of the 2012 amendment, which was July 1,2012.”). Thus it appears that as a result of the legislative amendmentsin 2012, as of July 1, 2012, the “clear and unambiguous” electionstandard was replaced with a simple notice requirement.

Upon a review of Progressive’s policy language in this case,Progressive provided notice to the policyholder (and any subsequentassignees such as Highland) that it intended to apply the Medicare feeschedule limitations with the language that reads “Pursuant to Floridalaw, we will limit reimbursem*nt to, and pay no more than, 80 percentof the following schedule of maximum charges: . . .f. for all othermedical services, supplies and care, 200 percent of the allowableamount under the participating physicians fee schedule of Medicare

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (63)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 972 COUNTY COURTS

Part B. . .” Form A085 FL (05/12), page 1 (emphasis added). Progres-sive’s policy clearly put Mr. Crockett and his assignees on notice thatit “will limit reimbursem*nt” and further, that the limitation will becalculated by using “participating physicians fee schedule ofMedicare Part B.” As stated above, the statute now only requiressimple notice that an insurer may limit payment. The policy languageat issue in this case satisfies this requirement.

Highland also argues that Progressive’s policy creates an unlawfulhybrid payment methodology which blends together the reasonableexpenses methodology with the permissive fee schedule paymentlimitation methodology. This argument is unavailing. As the SecondDistrict Court of Appeal recently explained in State Farm v. MRIAssociates of Tampa,

In 2012 the legislature substantially amended section 627.736(5),setting forth the schedule of maximum charges limitation as asubsection of the reasonable charge calculation methodology. Ch.2012-197, § 10, at 2743-44, Laws of Fla. As a result of this amend-ment, the reasonable charge and schedule of maximum chargesmethodologies are no longer coequal subsections of 627.736(5)(a);instead the reasonable charge method is set forth in subsection (5)(a),and the schedule of maximum charges limitation is provided insubsection (5)(a)(1). Based on the current construction of the PIPstatute, we conclude that there are no longer two mutually exclusivemethodologies for calculating the reimbursem*nt payment owed bythe insurer.

State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. MRI Assocs. of Tampa, Inc., 252 So.3d 773, 777-78 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2018) [43 Fla. L. Weekly D1149a],review granted, No. SC18-1390, 2019 WL 3214553 (Fla. July 17,2019) (emphasis added).

II. Proper Application of Fee Schedule LimitationsHighland also argues that Progressive used the wrong fee schedule

in calculating the reimbursem*nts. Highland contends that due toalleged ambiguities in its policy language as to which fee schedulewould be used, Progressive should have used the fee schedule thatresulted in the highest rate of reimbursem*nt. At the hearing, Highlandagreed that as it was not a facility, and thus the non-facility rate wouldapply. Highland did dispute, however, that Progressive properly usedthe non-facility base rate ($503.01) instead of the non-facility limitingcharge ($549.54), which would have resulted in an additional $74.44in reimbursem*nt (80% of 200% of the fee schedule amount).

First, the court looks to the policy language to determine if there isany ambiguity about which fee schedule rate would be applied. In thelanguage of Progressive’s policy at issue, it provides “for all othermedical services, supplies and care, 200 percent of the allowableamount under the participating physicians fee schedule of MedicarePart B. . . .” Form A085 FL (05/12), page 1 (emphasis added).Highland’s argument that “allowable amount” is ambiguous com-pletely ignores the fact that it is followed three words later by a directreference to the specifically applicable fee schedule in this case—“theparticipating physicians fee schedule.” The court cannot find this to beambiguous at all. If fact, it is quite clear which fee schedule applies.Furthermore, this language directly tracks the statutory language insection 627.736(5)(a)1.f., Florida Statutes (2013).

Highland’s argument was rejected by the Third District Court ofAppeal previously in Millennium Diagnostic v. Security National, 882So.2d 1027 (Fla. 3d DCA 2004) [29 Fla. L. Weekly D1817b]. InMillennium, the Court held that the appropriate fee schedule is theparticipating fee schedule, rather than the limiting charge. Id. at 1030.Furthermore, the “user’s manual” published by the Centers forMedicate & Medicate Services2 (“CMS”) describes the limitingcharge as follows: “LIMITING CHARGE equals 115 percent of thenonparticipating fee schedule amount and is the maximum thenonparticipant may charge a beneficiary on an unassigned claim. The

nonparticipating fee schedule amount is equal to 95 percent of theMedicare Physician Fee Schedule.” (emphasis added). Thus it is clearfrom both Millennium as well as the fee schedule user’s manual thatthe participating physician’s fee schedule is the appropriate scheduleProgressive should have utilized, rather than the limiting charge, asargued by Highland. Therefore, the court finds that Progressivecorrectly applied the participating physicians fee schedule limitationin this case.

WHEREFORE it is ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that Plaintiff,MRI ASSOCIATES OF LAKELAND LLC D/B/A HIGHLANDMRI A/A/O EDDIE CROCKETT, take nothing by this action and thatDefendant, PROGRESSIVE AMERICAN INSURANCE COM-PANY, go hence without day.

The court reserves jurisdiction to determine any appropriately filedmotions for attorney’s fees and costs.))))))))))))))))))

1The 2018 version of section 627.736(5)(a)5 reads largely the same, only omitting“Effective July 1, 2012.”

2The “user’s manual” as colloquially referred to by this court is a governmentpublication also known as the “MLN BOOKLET.” This manual is a reference guidethat explains how providers can obtain Medicare payment information using theonline, searchable Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (MPFS) website.

* * *

Insurance—Personal injury protection—Coverage—Medicalexpenses—Statutory fee schedules—Clear and unambiguous electionby insurer—PIP policy that limits reimbursem*nt to 80% of 200% ofallowable amount under Medicare Part B fee schedule clearly andunambiguously elects to limit reimbursem*nt to permissive statutoryfee schedule—Pursuant to terms of policy and section 627.736(5)(a) 1-3, insurer is permitted to utilize Medicare Multiple Procedure PaymentReduction to calculate reimbursem*nt amounts so long as applicationdoes not result in utilization limit

SACOWI MEDICAL CLINIC LLC, a/a/o Princess Pollard, Plaintiff, v. PROGRES-SIVE SELECT INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant. County Court, 9th JudicialCircuit in and for Orange County. Case No. 2017-SC-010388-O (72), Civil Division.October 1, 2019. Faye L. Allen, Judge. Counsel: Olivia Miller, Altamonte Springs, forPlaintiff. Belinda Rivera and Robert M. Lyerly, Progressive PIP House Counsel,Maitland, for Defendant.

ORDER ON DEFENDANT’S MOTION FORSUMMARY JUDGMENT AND INCORPORATED

MEMORANDUM OF LAW AND PLAINTIFF’S MOTIONFOR FINAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT

THIS CAUSE having come before the Court on July 1, 2019 onDefendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment and IncorporatedMemorandum of Law and Plaintiff’s Motion for Final SummaryJudgment, and the Court having heard argument of counsel, and beingotherwise advised in the premises, finds as follows:

UNDISPUTED FACTSProgressive issued a policy of insurance to its insured which

provide PIP coverage with effective dates of February 28, 2016through August 28, 2016. It was reported that on July 1, 2016,Defendant’s insured, Princess M. Pollard, was involved in a motorvehicle accident in which she allegedly sustained injuries. As a resultof those alleged injuries, Princess M. Pollard sought treatment withthe Plaintiff for dates of service 7/12/2016 to 10/19/2016. Princess M.Pollard executed and assignment of benefits, assigning to Plaintiff herrights under her policy of insurance with Defendant. At the time of theaccident Princess M. Pollard was covered under Defendant’s PolicyForm 9611D FL (07/13). The bills submitted to the Defendant werepaid under the permissive payment methodology of Fla. Stat.627.736(5)(a)(1)-(3). Defendant also applied the Multiple ProcedurePayment Reductions (hereinafter “MPPR”) to specified “AlwaysTherapy” codes. After applying MPPR to the specified codes for the

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (64)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

COUNTY COURTS 27Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 973

year in which the services were rendered, the amount allowed by theMedicare Physician’s Fee Schedule was less than that allowed byMedicare pursuant to the 2007 Physician’s Fee Schedule. In thoseinstances, Progressive allowed 200% of the 2007 Physician’s FeeSchedule and paid 80% of that amount.

ISSUESThe issues before the court are (1) whether Defendant gave proper

notice of its intent to utilize the schedule of maximum chargesprovided for in Fla. Stat. §627.736(5)(a)(1)a-f; (2) whether Defendantwas permitted to apply the Multiple Procedure Payment Reduction(hereinafter “MPPR”) to certain charges submitted by Plaintiff; and(3) whether Defendant properly paid for dates of service 7/14/2019,7/15/2019, 7/20/2019, 7/22/2019, 7/28/2019 and 7/29/2019.

ANALYSIS/CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

(1) Defendant Gave Proper Notice of its Intent to Utilize theSchedule of Maximum Charges Provided for in Fla. Stat.627.736(5)(1)a-fBased on the policy period, Fla. Stat., §627.736 (2013) applied to

the policy at issue. The pertinent part of Fla. Stat., §627.736 applicableto the competing motions for summary judgment are as follows:

(5) CHARGES FOR TREATMENT OF INJURED PERSONS.* * *1. The insurer may limit reimbursem*nt to 80 percent of the followingschedule of maximum charges:* * *f. For all other medical services, supplies, and care, 200 percent of theallowable amount under:

i. The participating physicians fee schedule of Medicare Part B,except as provided in sub-sub-subparagraphs (II) and (III).

ii. Medicare Part B, in the case of services, supplies, and careprovided by ambulatory surgical centers and clinical laboratories.

iii. The Durable Medical Equipment Prosthetics/Orthotics andSupplies fee schedule of Medicare Part B, in the case of durablemedical equipment.

The applicable policy provisions are as follows:Unreasonable or Unnecessary Medical Benefits. If an insured

person incurs medical benefits that we deem to be unreasonable orunnecessary, we may refuse to pay for those medical benefits andcontest them.

We will determine to be unreasonable any charges incurred thatexceed the maximum charges set forth in Section 627.736(5)(a)(2) (athrough f) of the Florida Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law, as amended.Pursuant to Florida law, we will limit reimbursem*nt to, and pay nomore than, 80 percent of the following schedule of maximum charges:* * *f. for all other medical services, supplies and care, 200 percent of theallowable amount under the participating physicians fee schedule ofMedicare Part B, except as follows:

(1) for services, supplies and care provided by ambulatory surgicalcenters and clinical laboratories, 200 percent of the allowable amountunder Medicare Part B; and

(1) for durable medical equipment, 200 percent of the allowableamount under “The Durable Medical Equipment Prosthetics/Orthoticsand Supplies” fee schedule of Medicare Part B.

However, if such services, supplies or care is not reimbursableunder Medicare Part B, as provided in this subsection f., we will limitreimbursem*nt to 80 percent of the maximum reimbursable allowanceunder workers’ compensation, as determined under Section 440.13 ofthe Florida Statutes, and rules adopted thereunder which are in effectat the time such services, supplies or care is provided. Services,supplies or care that is not reimbursable under Medicare or workers’compensation will not be reimbursed by us.

Consistent with Allstate Ins. Co. v. Orthopedic Specialists, 212 So.

3d 973 (Fla. 2017) [42 Fla. L. Weekly S38a] decision, and for thereasons outlined in Sea Spine Orthopedic Institute, LLC v. Progres-sive Select Insurance Company, 26 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 121c,Progressive clearly stated that it will determine to be unreasonable anycharges that exceed the schedule of maximum charges provided forpursuant to Fla. Stat. §627.736(5)(a)1. Progressive also clearly statedthat it will limit reimbursem*nt to, and pay not more than 80% of theschedule of maximum charges.

This Court is persuaded by and bound by the Supreme Court’sdecision in Orthopedics Specialists. Progressive complied with itsstatutory obligation to include the fact-based method for determiningwhat satisfies the reasonable medical expense requirement pursuantto Fla. Stat. §627.736(5)(a) in its policy. Moreover, Progressive alsogave clear notice to the insured that it will deem any charges in excessof the schedule of maximum charges to be unreasonable and the it willpay no more than the schedule of maximum charges.

(2) Pursuant to Fla. Stat. 627.736(5)(a)(3) and the Terms of thePolicy, Defendant is Permitted to Apply MPPR to CertainAlways Therapy CodesThe Court is guided by the opinion of the Florida Supreme Court

in GEICO General Ins. Co. v. Virtual Imaging Services,141 So. 3d147 (Fla. 2013) [38 Fla. L. Weekly S517a] and Allstate Fire & Cas.Ins. Co. v. Stand-Up MRI of Tallahassee, 188 So. 3d 1 (Fla. 1st DCA2015) [40 Fla. L. Weekly D693b]. It is also guided by the fact that thelegislature substantially amended the PIP statute to allow insurancecompanies like Defendant to use Medicare’s coding policies andpayment methodologies when determining reimbursem*nt under Fla.Stat., §627.736(5)(a)(1)-(3). Based on the plain meaning statutorylanguage set forth in Fla. Stat., §627.736(5)(a)(1)-(3) and the terms ofthe policy, which mirror the statute, Progressive is permitted to utilizeMedicare coding policies and payment methodologies of the federalCenters for Medicare and Medicaid Services to calculate the reim-bursem*nt amounts for Plaintiff’s charges so long as their applicationdoes not result in a utilization limit. No argument or evidence waspresented that would suggest that applying MPPR resulted in autilization limit.

(3) Defendant Properly Paid All Dates of ServiceIn its Motion for Final Summary Judgment, Plaintiff argued that

Defendant failed to pay for specified procedure codes for dates ofservice 7/14/2019, 7/15/2019, 7/20/2019, 7/22/2019, 7/28/2019 and7/29/2019. In support of this argument, Plaintiff relied upon pages 57-61 of the affidavit of Defendant’s Litigation Specialists, Samuel H.Fiske. Plaintiff’s reliance on the aforementioned affidavit does notsupport Plaintiff’s Motion for Final Summary Judgement as Plaintiffdid not account for the fact that the affidavit of Defendant’s LitigationSpecialists included Reconsideration EOBs evidencing the fact thatthe procedure codes specified in Plaintiff’s motion were paid pursuantto the Policy and Florida Statutes, §627.736(5)(a)1-3. Plaintiff failedto put for the any admissible summary judgment evidence that woulddispute Defendant’s payment such that Plaintiff’s summary judgmentmust fail.

It is hereby ORDERED and ADJUDGED:1. Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment is Denied.2. Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment is Granted.

Plaintiff shall take nothing from its Complaint and Defendant shall gohence forth without day. The court reserves jurisdiction to awardattorney’s fees and costs to Defendant.

* * *

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (65)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 974 COUNTY COURTS

Insurance—Personal injury protection—Coverage—Medicalexpenses—Demand letter—Sufficiency—Demand letter is required tostrictly comply with requirements of section 627.736(10)—Where thereare inconsistencies between amount demanded in letter and amountdue reflected in attached ledger, letter does not strictly or substantiallycomply with statutory requirements—Insurer did not waive defensesbased on demand letter where insurer explicitly reserved right to raiseadditional defenses in response to letter—Dismissal of action, notabatement, is appropriate remedy for deficient demand letter

SPINE CORRECTION F/K/A ALIGNLIFE a/a/o Griselda Rubio, Plaintiff, v. STATEFARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant. CountyCourt, 10th Judicial Circuit in and for Polk County, Civil Division. Case No. 2019-SC-001125. December 20, 2019. Mary Catherine Green, Judge. Counsel: J. Allen ForetichJr., Schiller Kessler Group, Fort Lauderdale, for Plaintiff. Edward H. Stickles, III,Ramey & Kampf, P.A., Tampa, for Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT’S MOTION FORSUMMARY JUDGMENT FOR FAILURE TO SERVE A

STATUTORILY COMPLIANT PRE-SUIT DEMAND

THIS CAUSE, having come to be heard before the Court onDecember 5, 2019 on Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment forFailure to Serve a Statutorily Compliant Pre-Suit Demand and theCourt having heard the argument of counsel, and being otherwiseadvised in the Premises, the Court finds as follows:

Factual Background1. Plaintiff served State Farm with a document dated January 14,

2019, purporting to be a pre-suit demand in accordance with Fla. Stat.§627.736(10).

2. The correspondence asserts that State Farm owed additionalPersonal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits in the amount of $3,810.39for the dates of service of June 8, 2018 through October 29, 2018.

3. Attached to the correspondence was a copy of a billing ledgerwhich revealed an “Insurance Responsibility” of ($38.89) and a“Patient Responsibility” of $5,351.07.

4. The billing ledger shows a $0.00 balance for all dates of serviceunder the “Insurance Responsibility” with the exception of August 15,2018 which shows an insurance balance of -$36.65 and July 13, 2018which shows a -$2.24 balance.

5. Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on April 29,2019 alleging Plaintiff failed to serve a valid pre-suit demand inaccordance with Fla. Stat. §627.736(10) at least 30 days prior to filingthe instant action.

Legal Analysis

I. The plain language of the No-Fault Statute requires strictcompliance with the pre-suit demand requirements of Fla. Stat.627.736(10)Defendant has asserted that this Court should adopt a “strict

compliance” standard with respect to the requirements of Fla. Stat.§627.736 while Plaintiff has alleged that the Court should adopt a“substantial compliance” standard.

Subsection 627.736(10)(a), Fla. Stat., provides as follows:As a condition precedent to filing any action for benefits under thissection, written notice of an intent to initiate litigation must beprovided to the insurer. Such notice may not be sent until the claim isoverdue, including any additional time the insurer has to pay the claimpursuant to paragraph (4)(b).

These statutory requirements have not changed since the enactment in2001. The Florida Supreme Court stated that this legislation “requiresan insured to provide a pre-suit notice of intent to initiate litigation andprovides an insurer additional time to pay an overdue claim.”Menendez v. Progressive, 35 So.3d 873, 879 (Fla. 2010) [35 Fla. L.Weekly S222b] (emphasis supplied). The Florida Supreme Court

further observed that an insured “must now take additional stepsbeyond filing an application for PIP benefits and beyond complyingwith §627.736(4). This includes the preparation and provision of awritten notice of intent to litigation . . . .” Menendez, 35 So.3d at 881.The effect of the pre-suit demand letter is to provide an insureradditional time to remit payment for a claim before a lawsuit may beenacted:

An insurer has additional time to meet its obligation under the statute,and an action for a claim of benefits and attorneys’ fees cannot beinitiated until the additional time for payment has expired. Thus, thestatue allows the insurer additional time to pay the claim and affectsthe insured’s right to sue and recover attorneys’ fees.

Menendez, 35 So.3d at 881 (emphasis supplied).The statutory requirements surrounding a demand letter are signifi-cant, substantive preconditions to bringing a cause of action for PIPbenefits. MRI Associates of America, LLC v. State Farm Fire andCasualty Company, 61 So.3d 462 (Fla. 4th DCA 2011) [36 Fla. L.Weekly D960b] (citing, Menendez, 35 So.3d 879-880) (emphasissupplied).

While there appears to be no binding authority upon this Court, itis persuasive that many of the surrounding jurisdictions have adopteda strict compliance standard as asserted by defense. See Quality AutoRehab, LLC a/a/o Renaldo Carrasco v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Co., 23Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 584b (Fla. Hillsborough Cty. Ct., April 14,2014)(Ober, J.); West Coast Spine & Injury Center a/a/o Aimee Ariasv. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 17 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 38b (Fla.Hillsborough Cty. Ct., 2009)(Myers, J.); Chambers Medical Group,Inc. v. Progressive Express Ins. Co., 14 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 207a(Fla. Hillsborough Cir., December 1, 2006) (Appellate); First HealthChiropractic a/a/o Sheila Gholami v. State Farm Mutual AutomobileInsurance Company, FLWSUPP 1805GHOL (Fla. Orange Cty. Ct.October 25, 2010) [18 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 484a] (Plogstedt, A.);Florida Emergency Physicians Kang & Associates, M.D., P.A. a/a/oScott Rubenfeld v. Progressive Express Insurance Company, 13 Fla.L. Weekly Supp. 391a (Fla. Seminole Cty. Ct. December 6,2005)(Sloop, J.)

Subsection §627.736(10), F.S. as renumbered in 2008, does notdiffer in material terms from the pre-2008 version of the No-FaultStatute. Both versions of the statute required Plaintiff to serve a pre-suit demand which included an itemized statement specifying eachexact amount, the date of treatment, service, or accommodation, andthe type of benefit claimed to be due. Fla. Stat. 627.736(10).

Based upon the plain language of the statute, the court finds thatstrict compliance with the requirements of subsection 627.736(10),F.S. is required. As espoused by the Chambers court, “A ‘substantialcompliance’ standard would trigger significant litigation as to thesufficiency of the papers attached to a demand letter. . .and providerswould be relieved of their obligation under the statute.”

II. Inconsistencies between the demand correspondence anditemized ledger do not comply with the strict requirements ofFla. Stat 627.736(10).As stated above, Plaintiff’s pre-suit correspondence asserts that

State Farm owed additional Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefitsin the amount of $3,810.39 for the dates of service of June 8, 2018through October 29, 2018. While the attached ledger shows an“Insurance Responsibility” of ($38.89) and a “Patient Responsibility”of $5,351.07. The billing ledger shows a $0.00 balance for all dates ofservice under the “Insurance Responsibility” with the exception ofAugust 15, 2018 which shows an insurance balance of -$36.65 andJuly 13, 2018 which shows a -$2.24 balance.

“Inaccurate, misleading, illegible, or stall information contained ina demand does not strictly comply with the statutory requirements.”

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (66)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

COUNTY COURTS 27Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 975

Chambers, 14 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 207a. The Plaintiff’s demandedamount and the amount due and owing under the attached billingledger are conflicting.

Plaintiff has taken the position that State Farm is the party in thebest position to determine the amount due and owing and that Plaintiffcannot know the amount actually due until discovery is completed.The Court is not persuaded by this argument. Fla. Stat. 627.736(10)clearly and unambiguously places the responsibility to determine theamount due and owing on the Plaintiff, not the carrier.

“If the intent of §627.736(10) is to reduce the burden on the courtsby encouraging the quick resolution of PIP claims, it makes sense torequire the claimant to make a precise demand so that the insurer canpay and end the dispute before wasting the court’s and the parties’time and resources.” Venus Health Center a/a/o Joaly Rojas v. StateFarm Fire & Casualty Company, 21 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 496a (Fla.11th Jud. Cir. App. 2014). In Venus, the provider asserted that it didnot have the “burden of adjusting the claim” however the Venus courtwas not persuaded by this argument. The Court went on to state thatthe reason the exact amount owed is so important is “If the PIP insurermust guess at the correct amount and is wrong, then the provider suesand exposes the insurer to attorney’s fees.”

Without requiring that the Plaintiff identify the specific amountowed in the pre-suit demand, the statutory pre-suit demand require-ments would be eviscerated, and the insurer would be in the untenableposition of hoping that they guessed the amount due and owingcorrectly and waiting to be sued.

As such, this Court finds that the inconsistencies between thedemanded amount and the amount due in the itemized ledger does notstrictly, or even substantially, comply with the requirements of thestatute and that State Farm was not afforded the opportunity to resolvethis matter without litigation. See Florida Injury Longwood a/a/oAaron Clements v. USAA Casualty Insurance Company, 25 Fla. L.Weekly Supp. 970b (Fla. Orange Cty. Ct. 2017)(Allen, F.); ConfortiChiropractic and Wellness Center, Inc. a/a/o Albert Dort v. USAAGeneral Indemnity Company, FLWSUPP 2606DORT (Fla. Hills. Cty.Ct. 2018) [26 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 512c] (Fernandez, G.); BainComplete Wellness, LLC a/a/o Kerri McDougald v. GarrisonProperty and Casualty Insurance Company, FLWSUPP 2607MCDO(Fla. Hills. Cty. Ct. 2018) [27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 743b] (Ober, J.);Ted Berger, D.C., P.A. a/a/o Giselle Victor v. Geico General Insur-ance Company, FLWSUPP 1806VICT (Fla. Broward Cty. Ct. 2011)[18 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 545c] (Trachman, L.); North Florida HealthCare, Inc. a/a/o Spencer Pitcher v. USAA Casualty InsuranceCompany, 18 Fla. L. Weekly. Supp. 548a (Fla. Duval Cty. Ct.2011)(Higbee, R.); First Health Chiropractic a/a/o Sheila Gholami v.State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, FLWSUPP1805GHOL (Fla. Orange Cty. Ct. 2010) [18 Fla. L. Weekly Supp.484a] (Plogstedt, A.); and Injury Centers of St. Pete, Inc. a/a/o StetsonEstes v. Garrison Property and Casualty Insurance Company a/k/aUSAA, 25 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 192a (Fla. Hills. Cty. Ct.2017)(Perrone, F.).

III. State Farm did not waive any defenses relating to the pre-suitdemand.Within Plaintiff’s Notice of Filing of Authority in Opposition to

Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment Regarding DemandLetter Sufficiency, several cases cited relate to a waiver of the defenseof invalid pre-suit demand.

In response to Plaintiff’s pre-suit demand, State Farm provided aresponse dated February 4, 2019. See Exhibit B of the Affidavit ofTracey Pope in support of Motion for Summary Judgment. Within thisresponse, State Farm specifically reserved the right to raise defensesregarding the validity of the pre-suit demand.

State Farm does not have an obligation to respond to the pre-suitdemand under the No-Fault statute. Alliance Spine & Joint, Inc. v.USM Casualty Insurance Company, 24 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 555c(Fla. Miami-Dade Cty. Ct. 2016). The Court in Alliance correctlynoted that, “[t]he PIP statute imposes no legal duty on an insurer tosend a response to a demand letter, much less one that would antici-pate every potential legal defense to a lawsuit.” Id. Additionally,Judge Schwartz noted the following with respect to waiver:

However, it is neither required nor legally permissible to require anon-attorney, claims adjuster to anticipate every legal defense to apotential suit when explaining why a claim was being denied,especially when the majority of the reasons for the denial or reductionwere already determined and communicated to the Plaintiff throughEORs prior to receipt of Plaintiff’s demand. In order for Plaintiff todemonstrate that Defendant waived its affirmative defenses pertainingto the pre-suit demand, it would have had to produce evidence of thefollowing three elements of waiver: “(1) the existence at the time ofthe waiver of a right, privilege, advantage, or benefit which may bewaived; (2) the actual or constructive knowledge of the right; and (3)the intention to relinquish the right.” Husky Rose, Inc. d/b/a Danny’s19th Hole Restaurant and Lounge v. Allstate Ins. Co., 19 So.3d 1085(Fla. 4th DCA 2009) [34 Fla. L. Weekly D2037a].

See also Ted Berger, D.C., P.A. a/a/o Giselle Victor v. Geico GeneralInsurance Company, FLWSUPP 1806VICT (Fla. Broward Cty. Ct.2011) [18 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 545c] (Trachman, L.); and FirstHealth Chiropractic a/a/o Sheila Gholami v. State Farm MutualAutomobile Insurance Company, FLWSUPP 1805GHOL (Fla.Orange Cty. Ct. 2010) [18 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 484a] (Plogstedt, A.).

Therefore, the Court finds that State Farm did not waive anydefenses based upon the pre-suit demand as State Farm explicitlyreserved the right to raise additional defenses in the response to thepre-suit demand.

IV. Dismissal, not abatement, is the appropriate remedy.The correct remedy when a party has failed to comply with pre-suit

notice requirements is summary judgment. Chambers MedicalGroup, Inc. v. Progressive Express Ins. Co., 14 Fla. L. Weekly Supp.207a (Fla. 13th Cir. App. 2013).

The appellate division of the Ninth Judicial Circuit, which alsofollows a strict compliance standard, similarly ruled that the properremedy is dismissal, not an abatement or stay. Medical Therapies,LLC. v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 22 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 34a(Fla. 9th Cir. App. 2014). The Court reasoned that an abatement orstay is proper when a lawsuit is premature because it can be cured bythe passage of time, however the passage of time would not satisfy thecondition precedent of requiring a statutorily compliant demand letter;instead a new lawsuit would need to be filed. Id.

Other courts have similarly ruled that abatement or stay is not theproper remedy for curing a defective demand letter. See Richard WMerritt, D.C., P.A. v. Auto Club South Insurance Company, 22 Fla. L.Weekly Supp. 734b (Fla. Polk Cty. Ct. 2014) (Florida Courts haveheld that as defects in a required pre-suit demand may not be curedmerely by the passage of time, a lawsuit filed subsequent to a defec-tive demand is not merely premature, and as such, “dismissal, and notabatement, is the proper remedy); James D. Shortt, MD., P.A. v. StateFarm Fire and Casualty Co., 23 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 769a (Fla.Sarasota Cty. Ct. 2015) (Because the Plaintiff would be required to dosome affirmative act, i.e, the submission of a new presuit demandletter, any alleged defect(s) in the original demand cannot be cured bythe passage of time and does not render the lawsuit prematurely filed.Therefore, abatement is not the proper remedy); and FoundationChiropractic Clinic, Inc. v. State Farm Mut Auto. Ins. Co., 20 Fla. L.Weekly Supp. 694c (Fla. Palm Beach Cty. Ct. 2013) (Lawsuit is notpremature because it cannot be cured by the passage of time, instead

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (67)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 976 COUNTY COURTS

demand failed to comply with statutory conditions precedent; lawsuitis not premature and dismissal, not abatement, is the proper remedy).

As such, the Court finds that dismissal is the appropriate remedy.

As such, the Court finds as follows:1. Fla. Stat. §627.736(10) requires strict compliance with the

requirements of the statute as a condition precedent to a lawsuit basedupon personal injury protection benefits;

2. Plaintiff’s pre-suit demand contains inconsistencies between theamounts demanded within the correspondence and the total balancewithin the attached ledger;

3. These inconsistencies result in Plaintiff’s pre-suit demand failingto strictly, or even substantially, comply with the requirements of Fla.Stat. §627.736(10);

4. State Farm did not waive the ability to raise a defense based uponthe pre-suit demand;

5. Dismissal is the appropriate remedy for failure to comply withthe condition’s precedent.

Based on the foregoing, it is hereby ORDERED AND ADJUDGEDthat:

1. Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment for Failure to Servea Statutorily Compliant Pre-suit Demand is hereby GRANTED.

2. Judgement is hereby entered in favor of Defendant, State FarmMutual Automobile Insurance Company.

3. Plaintiff shall take nothing from this action and Defendant shallgo hence without day.

4. The Court reserves jurisdiction to consider any applicable claimsfor reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs, if any.

* * *

Insurance—Personal injury protection—Provider’s motion for leaveto file amended reply which would interject new and inconsistenttheory of recovery over five years into litigation, sought by providerafter defendant had prevailed before the Florida Supreme Court on thesole issue pled and litigated in the case, is denied—Motion to strike orexclude unpled issues is granted

ACTIVE WELLNESS CENTER INC. (a/a/o Ignacio P. Chavez), Plaintiff, v.ALLSTATE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant. County Court, 11th JudicialCircuit in and for Miami-Dade County. Case No. 2013-575-SP-24 (01). December 14,2018. Diana Gonzalez-Whyte, Judge. Counsel: Ryan Peterson, The Patino Law Firm,Hialeah, for Plaintiff. Manuel Negron and Raul L. Tano, Shutts & Bowen LLP, Miami,for Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING ALLSTATE’S MOTIONTO EXCLUDE/STRIKE ISSUES WAIVED AND/OR NOTPLED BY THE PLAINTIFF IN ITS COMPLAINT AND

DENYING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR LEAVETO FILE AMENDED REPLY

[Original Opinion at 26 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 844a]

[Editor’s note: Order republished to include inadvertently omittedmaterial. Court’s ruling unchanged.]

THIS CAUSE, having come before the Court on September 11,2018 on Defendant’s Motion to Exclude/Strike Issues Waived and/orNot Pled by the Plaintiff and Plaintiff’s Motion for Leave to FileAmended Reply, the Court having reviewed Defendant’s Motion,Plaintiff’s Motion, heard argument of counsel, and being otherwisefully advised on the premises, this Court makes the following findingsof fact and conclusions of law:

Material FactsOn March 5, 2013, the Plaintiff filed a three-count Complaint for

PIP benefits payments in connection with an automobile accident. TheComplaint specifically alleges that “the amount in controversy is$36.00, plus interest, penalty, and postage, if applicable.”1 Count II ofthe Complaint, titled “Declaration of Rights against Defendant on

Behalf of Plaintiff Related to Fee Schedules,” asserted that thecontroversy at issue was “whether the Defendant may limit reim-bursem*nt to the fee schedules in Fla. Stat. 627.736(5)(a)(2) in lightof the language in the policy form at issue here, which states that theDefendant shall pay a ‘reasonable fee.’ ” The Plaintiff took theposition, as articulated in its Complaint, that “the Defendant may notutilize the fee schedules in this case, as the language of Florida Statute§627.736(5)(a)(2) is permissive in that an insurer ‘may limit’reimbursem*nt to the applicable Medicare and Worker’s Compensa-tion fee schedules” because “the insurer in this case did not exercisethe option to limit reimbursem*nt at the applicable fee schedulesbecause it did not make clear that it would do so under the terms of theinsurance policy issued.”

On April 10, 2014, Allstate answered the Complaint by assertingonly one defense, wherein Allstate quoted the language in its policyand asserted that Allstate’s policy expressly elected reimbursem*ntbased on the fee schedule limitations authorized by the Florida PIPstatute. Thereafter, the Plaintiff timely filed a Reply wherein itspecifically asserted that “the fee schedule does not apply as theinsurance policy in this case does not permit the insurer to paypursuant to the fee schedule at issue.” The Plaintiff further reiteratedits position that it was seeking 80% of its bills, reasserting that “thePlaintiff submitted bills which were reasonable in price, and theDefendant is obligated to pay those bills.” Notably, at no point didPlaintiff allege in its pleadings that Defendant miscalculated ormisapplied the fee schedules.

On January 26, 2017, in Allstate Insurance Company v. Orthope-dic Specialists, 212 So. 3d 973 (Fla. 2017) [42 Fla. L. Weekly S38a](the “Serridge decision”), the Florida Supreme Court held that thepolicy language at issue in this case provides “legally sufficientnotice” of Allstate’s election to reimburse based on the fee schedulelimitations. Following the Serridge decision, the Plaintiff allowed thiscase to lie fallow, triggering a Notice of Lack of Prosecution. Thereaf-ter, Plaintiff engaged in a flurry of record activity, including additionaldiscovery and deposition requests, multiple notices for trial, and amotion in limine. Critically, at no point in these filings did Plaintiffidentify a new litigable issue.

It was not until July 12, 2018 that Plaintiff filed its “Motion forLeave to Amend to File Plaintiff’s Amended Reply” in whichPlaintiff attempted to raise new claims (hereinafter “Unpled Issues”).2

It was not until after the Florida Supreme Court issued its ruling inSerridge that Plaintiff first alluded to a different theory of recovery.Specifically, in its proposed Amended Reply, the Plaintiff alleged forthe first time that Defendant misapplied the deductible, and that “theDefendant utilized the incorrect methods of calculating the reimburse-ment and/or fee schedules and has not paid at the schedule of maxi-mum charges in the No Fault Act.”

Legal Standard and Conclusions of Law

I. Unpled IssuesFlorida law is well established that a party is bound by the issues as

framed by its own pleadings, and the Complaint must be pled withsufficient particularity to permit the Defendant to prepare its defense.See Assad v. Mendell, 550 So. 2d 52, 53 (Fla. 3d DCA 1989). Inherentin that statement is the notion that a party should not suffer the unfairsurprise and prejudice of legal claims and theories not encompassedby the pleadings. See, e.g., Arky, Freed, Stearns, Watson, Greer,Weaver & Harris, P.A. v. Bowmar Instrument Corp., 537 So. 2d 561,563 (Fla. 1988) (if a claim is not pled with sufficient particularity forthe opposing party to prepare a defense, the plaintiff is precluded fromrecovery on the unpled claim); Bank of Am. v. Asbury, 165 So. 3d 808,809 (Fla. 3d DCA 2015) [40 Fla. L. Weekly D1230a] (“Litigants incivil controversies must state their legal positions within a particular

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (68)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

COUNTY COURTS 27Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 977

document, a pleading, so that the parties and the court are absolutelyclear what the issues to be adjudicated are”). Furthermore, the law isclear that a judgment must be based on a claim or defense that waseither properly pled or tried by consent of the parties. See Goldschmidtv. Holman, 571 So. 2d 422, 423 (Fla. 1990). This principle is sogrounded in the law that the Florida Supreme Court has held thatwhere a claim is not pled with sufficient particularity for the opposingparty to prepare a defense, the plaintiff is precluded from recovery onthe unpled claim. See Arky, Freed, Stearns, Watson, Greer, Weaver &Harris, P.A., 537 So. 2d at 563.

The Florida Supreme Court case of Arky, Freed is the seminal caseholding that unpled claims and issues may not be tried. Relying onArky, Freed, the Third District Court of Appeal has consistently heldthat parties are precluded from recovery on unpled claims triedwithout the consent of the parties. See Sunbeam Television Corp. v.Mitzel, 83 So. 3d 865, 875 (Fla. 3d DCA 2012) [37 Fla. L. WeeklyD183a] (“when a plaintiff pleads one claim but tries to prove another,it is error for a trial court to allow the plaintiffs to argue the unpledissue at trial”); Bloom v. Dorta-Duque, 743 So. 2d 1202, 1203 (Fla. 3dDCA 1999) [24 Fla. L. Weekly D2532a] (“[i]t is well settled that adefendant cannot be found liable under a theory that was not specifi-cally pled”); Robbins v. Newhall, 692 So. 2d 947, 949 (Fla. 3d DCA1997) [22 Fla. L. Weekly D945b] (reversing final judgment whereplaintiff had alleged three specific acts of negligence, but tried the caseon a fourth alleged act that was never pled). Many other Florida courtshave held that it is error for a trial court to allow a plaintiff to argue anunpled theory or cause of action at trial. See E.I. Du Pont De Nemours& Co. v. Desarrollo Indus. Bioacuatico S.A., 857 So. 2d 925, 930 (Fla.4th DCA 2003) [28 Fla. L. Weekly D2171a]; see also Straub v. Muir-Villas Homeowners Ass’n, Inc., 128 So. 3d 885, 890 (Fla. 4th DCA2013) [38 Fla. L. Weekly D2655a] (relying on Arky, Freed and DuPont to find error in trial court’s consideration of an unpled defense).See also Cioffe v. Morris, 676 F.2d 539, 543 n. 8 (11th Cir. 1982)(confirming that unpled issues tried without consent deny dueprocess).

Numerous cases have followed Arky Freed to bar the injection ofnew claims or theories into an action, including in cases where the newclaim or theory was devised to evade a recent ruling that underminedthe original claim or theory. For example, in Noble v. Martin Memo-rial Hospital Association, Inc., 710 So. 2d 567 (Fla. 4th DCA 1998)[23 Fla. L. Weekly D58a], after nearly five years of litigation defend-ing against a claim for money damages, defendant hospital filed amotion for summary judgment based on a newly decided federal casewhich would entitle the hospital to immunity. Id. at 568. Shortly afterdefendant’s summary judgment motion was filed, the plaintiff filed amotion to amend its complaint to seek injunctive relief. Id. The trialcourt denied leave to amend and granted summary judgment to thedefendant, and the Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed. Inaffirming, the Fourth District reasoned that the “claim for monetarydamages stood alone for over four years. This . . . is a case where[plaintiff] did not want injunctive relief until it appeared that his questfor monetary damages had come to an end.” Id. The Fourth Districtheld that the trial court properly exercised its discretion to deny leaveto amend where it was clear the plaintiff “only wanted injunctive reliefif his request for monetary relief was to be denied.” Id. at 569.

II. Amendment of PleadingsLeave to amend may be denied “if allowing the amendment would

prejudice the opposing party, the privilege to amend has been abused,or amendment would be futile.” State Farm Fire & Cas. Co. v. FleetFin. Corp., 724 So. 2d 1218, 1219 (Fla. 5th DCA 1998) [24 Fla. L.Weekly D56b] (citations omitted). Under Rule 1.190, the test ofprejudice to the nonmoving party is the primary consideration in

determining whether a motion to amend should be granted or denied.Lasar Mfg. Co., Inc. v. Bachanov, 436 So. 2d 236, 238 (Fla. 3d DCA1983). Florida law is clear that leave to amend is properly deniedwhen there is a sufficient showing of prejudice to the opposing partyin preparing for the “new issue.” See Designers Title Int’l Corp. v.Capitol C. Corp., 499 So. 2d 4, 5 (Fla. 3d DCA 1986) (trial courtcommitted reversible error when it allowed plaintiff to amend itspleading at the end of trial to plead a new cause of action, “a materialchange which under the facts of this case greatly prejudiced thedefendants”).

Further, while as a general proposition leave to amend is freelygranted, that general proposition diminishes as trial approaches anddoes not apply at all where prejudice would result. The trial court is“vested with the discretion to deny such motions where appropriate.”Noble, 710 So. 2d at 567, 568.

It is well established Florida law that there comes a point inlitigation where each party is entitled to some finality, and the rule ofliberality gradually diminishes as the case progresses to trial. Levinev. United Cos. Life Ins. Co., 659 So. 2d 265, 266-67 (Fla. 1995) [20Fla. L. Weekly S444c] (“Levine”); Alvarez v. DeAuguirre, 395 So. 2d213, 216 (Fla. 3d DCA 1981) (stating that “a trial judge may denyfurther amendments where a case has progressed to a point thatliberality ordinarily to be indulged has diminished”); Versen v.Versen, 347 So. 2d 1047, 1050 (Fla. 3d DCA 1977) (“this rule ofliberality does not authorize a party to state a new and different causeof action under the guise of an amendment, or if it will change theissue, introduce new issues, or materially vary the grounds ofrelief. . .”); Ruden v. Medalie, 294 So. 2d 403, 406 (Fla. 3d DCA1974) (“a trial judge in the exercise of sound discretion may deny anamendment where the same materially varies from the relief initiallysought, or where a case has progressed to a point that the liberalityordinarily to be indulged has diminished”); U.S. v. State, 179 So. 2d890 (Fla. 3d DCA 1965) (“such amendments are not allowable if theywould change the issue, or introduce new issues, or materially vary thegrounds for relief” (emphasis omitted).

Moreover, an amendment must be denied where the amendmentseeks to raise an issue that is inconsistent with the original pleading.Warfield v. Drawdy, 41 So. 2d 877 (Fla. 1949) (“We have discoveredno case which authorizes such an amendment inconsistent with theallegations of the original bill”) see Bailey v. State Farm Mut. Auto.Ins. Co., 789 So. 2d 1181, 1182 (Fla. 4th DCA 2001) [26 Fla. L.Weekly D1739b] (affirming the trial court’s order granting insurer’smotion for summary judgment where the Plaintiff took inconsistentpositions in parallel actions); Salcedo v. Asociacion Cubana, Inc., 368So. 2d 1337 (Fla. 3d DCA 1979) (“the universal rule which forbids thesuccessful assertion of inconsistent positions in litigation precludesthe acceptance of any such result”).

Courts separately have held that leave to amend should not begranted where a party knew or should have known of the matter to bepled early in litigation, but declined to do so. See U.S. v. State, 179 So.2d at 892-893; Watkins v. Watkins, 123 Fla. 267, 274 (1936) (“ ‘It isalso held that applications to amend should be made promptly afterthe necessity for the amendment has been discovered’ ”) (quotingGriffin v. Societe Anonyme La Floridienne J. Buttgenbach & Co., 53Fla. 801, 830) (1907)); San Martin v. Dadeland Dodge, Inc., 508 So.2d 497, 498 (Fla. 3d DCA 1987) (affirming denial of leave to amendwhere “plaintiff, in the exercise of due diligence, should have beenaware of the alleged basis for the proposed fraud count long before hesought to amend his complaint”); U.S. v. State, 179 So. 2d 890(affirming denial of leave to amend where party knew of relevant factstwo years before seeking leave to amend); see also Tampa Bay Waterv. HDR Engineering, Inc., 731 F.3d 1171, 1186 (11th Cir. 2013) [24Fla. L. Weekly Fed. C672a] (“A district court may find undue delay

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (69)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 978 COUNTY COURTS

when the movant knew of facts supporting the new claim long beforethe movant requested leave to amend, and amendment would furtherdelay the proceedings”); Soltys v. Costello, 520 F.3d 737, 743 (7th Cir.2008) (“Eleventh hour additions . . . [are] bound to produce delays thatburden not only the parties to the litigation but also the judicial systemand other litigants.’ ”) (quoting Perrian v. O’Grady, 958 F.2d 192,195 (7th Cir. 1992)); Cresswell v. Sullivan & Cromwell, 922 F.2d 60,72 (2nd Cir. 1990) (a trial court may “deny leave to amend where themotion is made after an inordinate delay, no satisfactory explanationis offered for the delay, and the amendment would prejudice thedefendant. . . The burden is on the party who wishes to amend toprovide a satisfactory explanation for the delay”).3

Courts have also separately held that a party who opposes summaryjudgment will not be permitted to alter the position of his or herprevious pleadings, admissions, affidavits, depositions or testimonyin order to defeat a summary judgment. Inman v. Club on SailboatKey, Inc., 342 So. 2d 1069, 1070 (Fla. 3d DCA 1977); see also Noble,710 So. 2d at 568 (holding a party should not be permitted to amendits pleadings for the sole purpose of defeating a motion for summaryjudgment). Moreover, a party may not defeat a summary judgment byaltering previously filed pleadings, especially when the matters itseeks to present were available prior to summary judgment. Boyd v.Int’l Fid. Ins. Co., 412 So. 2d 944, 945 (Fla. 3d DCA 1982).

Conclusions of LawA party is bound by the issues as framed by its own pleadings, and

the Complaint must be pled with sufficient particularity to permit theDefendant to prepare its defense. Assad, 550 So. 2d at 53; see alsoArky, Freed Stearns, Watson, Greer, Weaver & Harris, P.A., 537 So.2d. at 563 (holding that claims must be pled with sufficient particular-ity at the outset of a suit for the opposing party to prepare a defense);see also Bank of Am., 165 So. 3d at 809 (holding that “[l]itigants incivil controversies must state their legal positions within a particulardocument, a pleading, so that the parties and the court are absolutelyclear what the issues to be adjudicated are”).

The sole issue framed for disposition within the pleadings andlitigated by the parties in this case for over five years was whether thesubject policy properly elects the Fee Schedules, or whether, asPlaintiff asserted in its initial pleadings and maintained for five years,it was due 80% of its bills.4 It was not until well after the FloridaSupreme Court found in favor of Allstate on this issue, quashing theruling from the Fourth District Court of Appeal, that the Plaintiffcontended for the first time that there were issues presented in thislawsuit other than whether the subject policy properly elects the FeeSchedules. With the current amendment, Plaintiff seeks to reversecourse by alleging that, while the Defendant may limit reimbursem*ntto the fee schedules, it did not apply the fee schedules correctly.Plaintiff’s proposed Amended Reply offers no factual support for thisallegation. In fact, the Plaintiff did not disclose its new theory ofrecovery with any of the required specificity until Plaintiff’s counseldid so ore tenus during the course of the hearing on the subjectmotions. During argument, the Plaintiff alleged for the first time thatAllstate breached the insurance contract by reimbursing three CPTCodes at 80% of the billed amount rather than 100%, a theory ofrecovery which could only ripen upon the Plaintiffs concession thatthe insurer did properly elected to limit reimbursem*nt to the scheduleof maximum charges. In essence, Plaintiff now takes a position whichis wholly inconsistent with the position that it vigorously litigated overthe past five years of litigation.

Plaintiff was on notice of how the Defendant paid Plaintiff’s billsbefore the instant lawsuit was filed and could have alleged the factssupporting this new alleged underpayment in its original Complaintor even the original Reply, both before the Supreme Court decidedthat Defendant’s policy properly elected the Fee Schedules.

Allowing the Plaintiff to amend its Complaint to raise a new andinconsistent theory of recovery over five years into litigation, and afterDefendant prevailed at the Florida Supreme Court on the sole issuepled and litigated in this case, would unfairly prejudice the Defendant.Defendant will also sustain prejudice because, consistent with the soleissue Plaintiff litigated being whether Defendant’s policy properlyelected the Fee Schedules, Defendant conceded numerous otherdefenses, including, as potentially applicable in this case, deficientdemand.

As held by the Florida Supreme Court in Levine, supra, Defendantis entitled to finality in this five-year-old case. The prejudice toDefendant in having to litigate an entirely new issue which Plaintiffknew about before it filed the Complaint as well as the original Replyoverrides Plaintiff’s need to raise this issue five years after theinception of this lawsuit, and only after the Supreme Court ruledagainst Plaintiff on the sole dispositive issue litigated by the partiesduring the course of this litigation. It is clear that up until the finaliza-tion of the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling in Orthopedic Specialistsin favor of Allstate on the issue of policy language as to application offee schedule, Plaintiff’s position was that the Serridge Issue was thesole issue presented by this litigation and as such, OrthopedicSpecialists is case-dispositive in this matter. Accordingly,

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that Defendant’sMotion to Strike/Exclude Issues Waived and/or not Pled by Plaintiffis GRANTED. Plaintiff’s Motion for Leave to Amend its Reply isDENIED.))))))))))))))))))

1During argument, defense counsel asserted that the amount in controversydelineated in Plaintiff’s Complaint was equal to the difference between 80% of thebilled amount minus payments made by Allstate, a representation that was not refutedby Plaintiff’s counsel.

2Plaintiff’s Motion alleges that the Plaintiff was seeking leave to file an AmendedReply to remedy “clerical mistake.” The Court rejects Plaintiff’s assertion that thechanges in the proposed Amended Reply are merely clerical, and specifically finds thatthe new Reply raises new material issues not previously encompassed within theoriginal pleadings.

3Decisions of the Federal courts construing federal rules of civil procedure identicalto Florida’s rules of procedure have been held to be in point as to the proper construc-tion of the Florida Rules. U.S. v. State, 179 So.2d 890 (1965); Carson v. City of FortLauderdale, 173 So.2d 743 (Fla. 2d DCA 1965).

4The Court rejects Plaintiff’s argument that any specific theories of recovery areencompassed within what it labeled a “general breach of contract” count. To acceptPlaintiff’s position would be to allow Plaintiff to vaguely allege the same unspecifiedbreach of contract across multiple lawsuits, and then materially change its theories asit sees fit to litigate any number of potential theories of recovery, without making itabsolutely clear to the Court and to the Defendant what the issues to be adjudicated are.See Bank of Am., 165 So. 3d at 809; see also Robbins, 692 So. 2d 947 (rejectingPlaintiff’s argument that a fourth theory of negligence was encompassed within thegeneral negligence count of its Complaint). The prejudice to Defendant is crystalizedhere by the fact that its proposed Amended Reply is identical to one in a second case ofnearly identical posture where the same motions were argued by the parties, but wherePlaintiff’s newly raised theory of recovery was totally different than the one in theinstant case. See Right Choice Medical & Rehab Corp. a/a/o Evelyn Martinez v.Allstate Fire and Casualty Insurance Company, Case No. 2013-123-SP-24 (01) (11thJud. Cir.).

* * *

STATE OF FLORIDA, Plaintiff, v. JEREMY BRANDON MITCHELL, Defendant.County Court, 12th Judicial Circuit in and for Sarasota County. Case No. 2019 MM13427 NC. December 17, 2019. Dana Moss, Judge.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT’SMOTION FOR DISCHARGE

This matter came before the Court on the Defendant’s Motion forDischarge, wherein he contends that he was first arrested for themisdemeanor charge of criminal mischief on June 18, 2019, and thenformally charges 101 days later on September 27, 2019. The Defen-dant argued this runs afoul of the speedy trial rule, Fla. R. Crim. P.,Rule 3.191, and he is entitled to immediate discharge. The Court

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (70)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

COUNTY COURTS 27Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 979

agrees. See Genden v. Fuller, 648 So. 2d 1183 (Fla. 1994). Accord-ingly, it is

ORDERED and ADJUDGED that the Defendant’s Motion forDischarge is granted.

* * *

Insurance—Personal injury protection—Application—Misrepresenta-tions—Where PIP policy application requests information for“Drivers,” insured was not required to disclose household memberwho did not drive insured vehicle—Insurer may not rely on premiumquote documents in support of claim that disclosure of additionalhousehold member would have resulted in increased premium whereinsurer claimed that documents were privileged during discovery—Absent quote documents, there is no evidence that disclosure ofhousehold member would have resulted in higher premium—Whereinsurer violated PIP statute by failing to pay or deny claim within 30days, and did not invoke additional time available under section627.736(4)(i), insurer waived ability to investigate or deny claim basedon alleged material misrepresentation

ORLANDO MEDICAL AND WELLNESS, (a/a/o Moises Montoya), Plaintiff, v.CENTURY-NATIONAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant. County Court, 13thJudicial Circuit in and for Hillsborough County, Civil Division. Case No. 18-CC-040604. ORLANDO MEDICAL AND WELLNESS, (a/a/o Jennifer Brea), Plaintiff,v. CENTURY-NATIONAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant. Case No. 18-CC-040610. January 9, 2020. Daryl M. Manning, Judge. Counsel: Timothy A. Patrick,Patrick Law Group, P.A., Tampa, for Plaintiff. Joseph Wolfe, for Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF’S MOTIONFINAL FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

THIS MATTER having come before the court on October 28, 2019on Plaintiff’s Motion for Final Summary Judgment. The court havingconsidered the Motion, the arguments presented by the parties,applicable law, and being otherwise fully advised, finds,

1. This is a consolidated Declaratory action under Florida StatutesChapter 86 seeking a coverage declaration based upon Defendant’srescission of the subject policy. Defendant’s rescission was basedupon an alleged material misrepresentation for a failure by the namedinsured, Jennifer Brea, to list a household member on the insuranceapplication.

2. Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment seeks entry ofsummary judgment arguing that the bold insurance policy applicationlanguage of DRIVER is ambiguous and, as such, must be construedagainst its drafter, the Defendant. Plaintiff further argues that, at theend of 90 days after submission of the claim, the insurer must pay ordeny the claim. Lastly, Plaintiff argues that the Defendant failed to payinterest on the returned premiums and as such, the insured was notreturned to the status quo.

3. Defendant contends that the alleged household members shouldhave been listed on Pages 1 and 5 of the insurance policy application.Defendant’s policy application states:

“DRIVER INFORMATION - Names of all drivers in household, allchildren and all persons that use the vehicles. Coverage is providedonly for the drivers listed below”.

Name of driver (Exactly as shown on Driver’s License)

4. It is undisputed that the alleged household member, JanetContreras, was not involved in the subject accident and did not drivethe insured vehicle at any time.

5. In Better Care Chiropractic Center, LLC (a/a/o Augustin,Cyndia Rose) v. Titan Ins. Co., (9th Jud. Cir., Orange County, CaseNo. 2013-CC-1994-O, April 6, 2017, Faye L. Allen, Judge) [25 Fla.L. Weekly Supp. 180a], the court held that the following policyapplication section language, DRIVER AND HOUSEHOLDINFORMATION, was ambiguous in granting summary judgment forthe Plaintiff and denying summary judgment for the Defendant. Also,Order Granting Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment and

Denying Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment. Florida Pain& Wellness Centers, Inc. (a/a/o Dennis P. Williams) v. AmericanColonial Ins. Co., (Fla. 9th Jud., Orange Cty. Ct., November 16, 2017,Judge Eric H. Dubois) [25 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 815b].

6. The Court finds that language of Defendant’s application forinsurance requests information for DRIVERS, as opposed to house-hold members. As such, the alleged household member was notrequired to be listed on said application for insurance inasmuch as itis undisputed that the household member did not the insured vehicle.

8. Defendant filed an affidavit from John Mejia, its underwritingcorporate representative, in an attempt to support its contention thatthe failure to list the alleged household members resulted in anincreased premium for the subject policy. In response, Plaintiff fileda Motion to Strike Mr. Mejia’s affidavit and attachments based uponthe deposition of Mr. Mejia. During the deposition of Mr. Mejia,Plaintiff inquired as to what documents Defendant had in its posses-sion to support a premium increase regarding the undisclosedhousehold member. Beginning on Page 25, Mr. Mejia referred topremium “quote” documents. Plaintiff requested that these “quote”documents be attached to the deposition transcript. Defendant’scounsel refused to allow said documents to be attached claiming thatsaid documents were privileged.

9. Since a party is not permitted to use this objection as both asword and a shield, the Court will not allow Defendant to rely uponany documents or evidence that the Defendant objected to as workproduct privilege and failed to disclose to Plaintiff on those groundsduring the discovery phase of the case. Heath Diagnostics of Orlando,LLC (a/a/o Tonya Shaw) v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 23 Fla. L.Weekly Supp. 966a (Fla. 17th Jud. Cir. Ct., February 11, 2016, JohnD. Fry, Judge); Defendant shielded itself from discovery of informa-tion that goes to the very heart of this case and is now attempting to usethat same information to defeat Plaintiff’s case at trial. When theDefendant refused to provide the discovery responses, it did so at itsown peril and cannot now rightfully complain that it is barred fromusing its trade secret as a sword. Clear Vision Windshield Repair(a/a/o Richard Voss) v. Government Employees Ins. Co., 23 Fla. L.Weekly Supp. 649a (Fla. 17th Jud. Cir. Ct., May 11, 2015, Robert W.Lee, Judge).

10. As such, there is no evidence in the record that the premiumrate would have been any different with the disclosure of the allegedhousehold member on the insurance application.

11. At the end of 90 days after submission of the claim, the insurermust pay or deny the claim. Court found terms in application forinsurance were ambiguous. Insurer also failed to pay interest onpremiums and fees. Colonial Medical Center (a/a/o Daunte Draper)v. Century-National Ins. Co., 27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 71a (Fla. 9thJud. Cir. Orange Cty. Ct., Case No. 16-CC-13154-O, March 1, 2019,Faye Allen, Judge) citing to GEICO Indemnity Co. v. Central FloridaChiropractic Care (a/a/o David Cherry) v. GEICO Ind. Co.,FLWSupp 2608CHER (9th Jud. Cir. Orange County [Appellate],Case No.: 2016-CV-000038-A-O, May 11, 2017, Judge Steve Jewett)[26 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 613a] wherein the court stated that thelegislative intent of the Section (4)(i) of the 2013 Amendment was toextend the investigative time period available to the insurer, while alsomandating that the claim must be denied or paid 30 days following theinitiation of the claim.

12. Because the Defendant violated the PIP statute by failing to payor deny the claim within 30 days and did not invoke the additionaltime limitation under Fla. Stat. 627.736(4)(i), they waived their abilityto investigate or deny the claim for material misrepresentation. Assuch, Plaintiff’s Motion for Final Summary Judgment is HEREBYGRANTED.

* * *

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (71)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 980 COUNTY COURTS

Insurance—Personal injury protection—Examination under oath—Failure to attend—Where insurer’s request for EUO was made morethan 30 days after it received medical bills, request was untimely

HILLSBOROUGH THERAPY CENTER, INC. (a/a/o Rolando Perez), Plaintiff, v.PROGRESSIVE AMERICAN INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant. County Court,13th Judicial Circuit in and for Hillsborough County, Civil Division. Case No. 17-CC-045153, Division L. January 6, 2020. Cynthia S. Oster, Judge. Counsel: Timothy A.Patrick, Patrick Law Group, P.A., Tampa, for Plaintiff. Hector Muniz, for Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR FINALSUMMARY JUDGMENT AND DENYING DEFENDANT’S

MOTION FOR FINAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT

THIS MATTER having come before the court on February 7, 2019on the parties’ competing Motions for Final Summary Judgment. Thecourt having considered the arguments presented by the parties, recordevidence filed, applicable statutes and case law, and being otherwisefully advised in the premises, finds:

1. Both parties filed competing motions for final summaryjudgment based upon an alleged failure to appear for EUOs by thenamed insured, Rolando Perez.

2. The undisputed facts reflect the following:a. On July 3, 2017, Defendant received the first set of Plaintiff’s

medical bills.b. On October 4, 2017, Defendant submitted its initial request for

an EUO to occur on October 12, 2017.c. On October 12, 2017, Rolando Perez failed to appear at the

EUO.d. Defendant noticed Plaintiff for a second EUO to occur on

October 25, 2017.e. On October 25, 2017, Rolando Perez failed to appear at the

second scheduled EUO.f. On November 3, 2017, Defendant issued its denial of payment

of Plaintiff’s medical bills, based upon an alleged failure to attendEUOs.

3. Section 627.736(4)(b), Florida Statutes, requires PIP benefits tobe paid within 30 days after the insurer is furnished written notice ofthe fact of a covered loss.

4. Although the Court agrees with the Defendant that attendance atan EUO is a condition precedent to recovering PIP benefits pursuantto Section 627.736(6)(g), Florida Statutes, this does not mean theinsurer has an indefinite period of time to schedule an EUO. SeeCentral Florida Chiropractic Care (a/a/o David Cherry) v. Geico Ind.Co., 24 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 152a (Fla. 6th Cir. Cty. Ct., Orange Cty.,April 22, 2016, Judge Steve Jewett).

5. It is undisputed that Defendant’s request for an EUO was notmade until well outside the 30 day window for payment of the claim.Therefore, such a request is untimely. Bain Complete Wellness, LLC(a/a/o Manuel Ortiz) v. Windhaven Ins. Co., (Fla. 13th Jud. Cir.,Hillsborough Cty., Case No. 17-CC-011964, July 9 2018, JaredSmith, Judge) [26 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 413b]; citing TropicalHealing Power, LLC (a/a/o Brandon Venable) v. Mendota Ins. Co. 19Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 142a (Fla. 13th Jud. Cir., Hillsborough Cty.,May 6, 2011, Herbert M. Berkowitz, Judge) wherein the courtfollowed the 30 day “statutory countdown” for the scheduling an EUObegins when Defendant has notice of the claim of the claim and themedical bills for which Plaintiff seeks reimbursem*nt.

6. If Defendant had requested an EUO prior to the 30 day timeperiod for payment, and Defendant failed to attend said EUO,depending on the facts, Defendant may have a defense for non-payment of PIP benefits due to Plaintiff’s failure to cooperate.However, that is not the case here.

7. Defendant failed to request an EUO within the 30 day timeperiod for payment nor did it pay or deny the claim within the 30 daytime period. As result, Defendant was in breach of its insurance

contract.8. As such, Plaintiff’s Motion for Final Summary Judgment is

HEREBY GRANTED.9. Defendant’s Motion for Final Summary Judgment is HEREBY

DENIED.

* * *

Arbitration—Trial de novo—Timeliness of motion—Motion for trialde novo must be made within 20 days of service of arbitrator’sdecision—Five-day mailing period not added to deadline wherearbitrator’s decision was served by email—Trial court required toenter judgment in accordance with arbitrator’s decision where motionfor trial de novo was not timely filed

STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff, v.SHEVRON MONTGOMERY, Defendant. County Court, 17th Judicial Circuit in andfor Broward County. Case No. 19-10379 COCE (53). March 4, 2020. Robert W. Lee,Judge. Counsel: Odlays Nodarse-Buscemi, Miami, for Plaintiff. Benjamin Hyman,Miami, for Defendant.

FINAL JUDGMENT ON ARBITRATOR’S DECISIONIN FAVOR OF PLAINTIFF

THIS CAUSE came before the Court for consideration of thenotice of filing Arbitration Award filed by Russel Lazega, Arbitrator,and the Court’s having reviewed the docket, the entire Court file, andthe relevant legal authorities; and having been sufficiently advised inthe premises, the Court finds as follows:

This case was submitted to mandatory arbitration. The arbitratorserved his decision by email and U.S. mail on February 6, 2020.Under Rule 1.820(h), Fla. R. Civ. P., a motion for trial de novo mustbe “made” within 20 days of the “service” of the arbitrator’s decision.Under Florida law, “a party has the right to move for a trial withintwenty days after service of the arbitrator’s decision. If no motion fortrial is timely served, then the trial court must enforce the decision ofthe arbitrator and has no discretion to do otherwise” (emphasis added).Bacon Family Partners, L.P. v. Apollo Condominium Ass’n, 852So.2d 882, 888 (Fla. 2d DCA 2003) [28 Fla. L. Weekly D1795a]. Seealso Johnson v. Levine, 736 So.2d 1235, 1238 n.3 (Fla. 4th DCA1999) [24 Fla. L. Weekly D1456a]; Klein v. J.L. Howard, Inc., 600So.2d 511, 512 (Fla. 4th DCA 1992). The Court lacks discretion todeny entry of a judgment in accordance with the arbitrator’s decisionwhen the parties fail to timely request a trial de novo or otherwise failto dispose of the case of record within the de novo deadline. SeeConnell v. City of Plantation, 901 So.2d 317, 319 (Fla. 4th DCA2005) [30 Fla. L. Weekly D1154b].

A five-day mailing period is not added to this deadline because thearbitrator served his decision by email. See Rules 1.090(a), 2.514(b).The parties’ request for trial de novo was therefore required to be filedno later than February 6, 2020. The 20-day deadline is, however, a“bright line” deadline. Stowe v. Universal Property & Cas. Ins. Co.,937 So.2d 156, 158 (Fla. 4th DCA 2006) [31 Fla. L. Weekly D1859a].No motion or request for trial de novo has been filed.

As a result, the Court is required to enter judgment in accordancewith the Arbitrator’s decision. See Gossett & Gossett, P.A. v. Fleming,10 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 839b (Broward Cty. Ct. 2003). Accordingly,the Court has this day unsealed the Arbitrator’s decision. In theCourt’s view, the Arbitration Decision clearly reflects that thearbitrator appropriately considered the parties’ arguments, as well astheir submitted stipulations and evidence. Rules 1.820(c), 11.060(d).The Court referred the entire case to arbitration. The parties advisedthe arbitrator that only a single issue existed which needed to bearbitrated. The arbitrator rendered a decision on that issue in favor ofPlaintiff. As a result, the Court concludes that the parties havestipulated that there are no other issues to be tried. As a result, it ishereby ADJUDGED THAT:

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (72)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

COUNTY COURTS 27Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 981

The Plaintiff shall recover from the Defendant, SHERVONMONTGOMERY, the sum of $2,997.77, which sum shall hereafterbear interest at the rate of 6.83% per annum. The Plaintiff retainsjurisdiction to consider an award of interest.

* * *

Labor—Unpaid wages—Action by fitness coach against limitedliability company that owned franchise location where plaintiff workedand against individual managing members asserting claim for unpaidwages—Partial summary judgment granted in favor of plaintiff oncertain claims against LLC, as plaintiff provided summary judgmentevidence supporting her prima facie case and defendants did notdemonstrate disputed issue of material fact—Genuine issues ofmaterial fact exist as to remaining items sought by plaintiff—Piercingcorporate veil—Genuine issues of material fact remain as to personalliability of individual defendants

NAOMI BETH GRAFF, Plaintiff, v. JJAK OTF, LLC, a Florida Limited LiabilityCompany, d/b/a Orange Theory Fitness; ANDREA O’BRIEN; and JOHN O’BRIEN,Defendants. County Court, 17th Judicial Circuit in and for Broward County. Case No.19-21354 COCE (53). January 13, 2020. Robert W. Lee, Judge. Counsel: Peter Solnick,Aventura, for Plaintiff. Ephraim Roy Hess, Fort Lauderdale, for Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PARTPLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

THIS CAUSE came before the Court on January 9, 2020 forhearing of the Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment, and theCourt’s having reviewed the Motion, the entire Court file, and therelevant legal authorities; having heard argument; having made athorough review of the matters filed of record; and having beensufficiently advised in the premises, the Court GRANTS IN PARTand DENIES IN PART the Plaintiff’s Motion, and finds as follows:

Background:The Plaintiff is a fitness coach who for several years worked at the

Orange Theory Fitness location in Weston. The Defendant JJAKOTF, LLC was the owner of the franchise location (“JJAK”), and theDefendants Andrea O’Brien and John O’Brien were managingmembers of JJAK. The Plaintiff alleges that she worked as a coach forseveral years under a “tiered” payment agreement where she wouldget paid per class taught, depending on the number of participants.This agreement was not in writing. The Plaintiff further alleges thatshe was required as a condition of her continuing relationship withJJAK to do several additional tasks for which she was not paid. Thesetasks are grouped into the following areas: (1) attending monthlymeetings; (2) reviewing the fitness training protocol for the day; (3)arriving early and staying late for each session to set-up and clean-upthe fitness area, and to mingle with clients; (4) completing webinarand other after-hours educational assignments; (5) attending commu-nity outreach events; and (6) participating weekly in at least twofitness sessions conducted by other coaches. She seeks $4,372.50 inclaimed unpaid wages. The Plaintiff filed “summary judgmentevidence” supporting her prima facie claim.

At the hearing, the Defendants did not deny that the Plaintiff haddone these tasks. They, however, raised three points at the hearing.First, that all these tasks were included as part of the “tiered” amountshe was paid for each class. Second, because the Plaintiff worked forfour years without taking issue with the arrangement, she cannot nowclaim that her compensation agreement was something different. Andthird, that the Defendants Andrea and John O’Brien cannot be heldresponsible because the Plaintiff has failed to allege or provideevidence that the “corporate veil” should be pierced. Finally, theDefendants urge that this is not a statutory “unpaid wage” case,arguing that Florida Statute §448.08 (2019) does not create a discretestatutory claim for unpaid wages. Rather, the Defendants suggest thatif Plaintiff prevails, this is merely an action for breach of contract.

The Court notes that Florida law provides for a discretionary awardof attorney’s fees when a party prevails “in an action for unpaid

wages.” The Court concludes that whatever one may call the action inthis case, it is clearly an “action for unpaid wages,” thus triggering theapplication of Florida Statute §448.08. See, e.g., Hingson v. MMI ofFla., Inc., 8 So.3d 398, 400 (Fla. 2d DCA 2009) [34 Fla. L. WeeklyD588a] (claim for “breach of employment agreement” triggeredapplication of statute); Crockett v. United Indian River Packers, Inc.,12 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 472a (19th Cir. App. 2004) (statute appliedto “action for unpaid wages”); Wade v. Solomon, Ginsberg & Vigh,P.A., 16 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 345b (Hillsborough Cty. Ct. 2008)(“action to collect unpaid wage” triggered statute); Walker v. Jackson-ville Stallions, LLC, 14 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 384c (Duval Cty. Ct.2007) (action in which defendant “failed to pay wages” triggeredstatute); and Laloi v. Progressive American Ins. Co., 4 Fla. L. WeeklySupp. 805a (Palm Beach Cty. Ct. 1997) (referring to statute’sapplication to “litigation over collection of wages”).

The Defendant filed its response and “summary judgmentevidence” on January 7, 2020 at 4:54 p.m., just minutes before thedeadline set forth in Rule 1.510(c), Fla. R. Civ. P. Through an error infiling—which may lie at the feet of the Clerk of Courts—the exhibitswere not attached to the Defendant’s Response. They were filed about4 hours later, at 8:51 p.m. Importantly, however, with one exception,the documents referred to in the timely-filed Response were alreadyof record. The Court finds that notice of reliance on these documentswas accordingly timely under Rule 1.510(c) (requiring that the“adverse party [. . .] identify [. . .] any summary judgment evidence onwhich the adverse party relies”). However, the “Unsworn Declarationof Andrea O’Brien” attached as Exhibit 1 to Defendant’s Response isunavailing as not being timely served and filed as required by rule.However, even if it were, it fails to meet the requirements of Rule1.510 that “summary judgment evidence” be by affidavit, notunsworn declaration. When Florida law specifically requires that an“affidavit” be submitted, such as the summary judgment rule, adeclaration or verification will not suffice. See Defense Control USA,Inc. v. Atlantis Consultants Limited Corp., 4 So.3d 694, 698 (Fla.DCA 3d DCA 2009) [34 Fla. L. Weekly D391a] (when statute or ruleof procedure require an affidavit, verification cannot be used instead).

The question for the Court is whether any of the Defendant’ssummary judgment evidence demonstrates a “genuine issue as to anymaterial fact.” Rule 1.510(c). Moreover, even if the Plaintiff is notentitled to a final judgment, the Court must specify whether any “facts[. . .] appear without substantial controversy,” which facts are“deemed established” at any further proceeding in the case. Rule1.510(d).

Court’s Ruling:As to the liability of the Defendants Andrea and John O’Brien, the

Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate its entitlement to judgment. TheDefendants have raised a “failure to pierce the corporate veil” defense,and the Plaintiff has failed to rebut this defense. Further, the Plaintiff’sreliance on Article X, §24(b) of the Florida Constitution is misplaced,as the instant case is not a “minimum wage” case. Therefore, it isirrelevant how the word “employer” is defined under the Federal FairLabor Standards Act. While the Court agrees that the record suggeststhat the Defendants Andrea and O’Brien may be entitled to summaryjudgment in their favor because of these issues, these Defendants havenot moved for summary judgment.

As to the Defendant JJAK, the Court finds that there are no genuineissues of material fact as to the Plaintiff’s claim for unpaid attendanceat mandatory meetings ($425.00), unpaid attendance at mandatorycommunity outreach events ($20.00), unpaid participation inmandatory webinar and other online assignments ($172.50), unpaidparticipation in training and workout sessions ($1,040.00), andbonuses ($20.00). In each of these instances, the Plaintiff providedsummary judgment evidence supporting her prima facie case, and innone of these instances did the Defendants demonstrate a disputedissue of material fact. (See Def. Resp. to Plaintiff’s Statement of

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (73)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 982 COUNTY COURTS

Undisputed Facts, etc., ¶¶12(g), 20, 22-23, 26, 38). Therefore, thePlaintiff is entitled to a partial summary judgment in the amount of$1,677.50 against the Defendant JJAK.

As to the remaining items sought by Plaintiff (required pre- andpost-session tasks, such as review of workout program, set-up of class,clean-up, mingling with clients, etc.), the Court finds that the summaryjudgment evidence demonstrates genuine issues of material fact. Forthese items, the Plaintiff has not established without material disputethat these items were not included as part of the “tiered” compensationagreement. First, the Court agrees with the Defendant that thePlaintiff’s inaction in waiting four years before taking issue with thecompensation structure (see Plaintiff’s Affidavit ¶¶29 - 30) is someevidence that she knew the agreement included these tasks. Second,the Defendant has pointed out Plaintiff’s own statements in herdeposition that can be read as suggesting she knew these tasks wereincluded in her compensation agreement, and further that it was neverdiscussed whether she would be paid for these additional tasks (seeDef. Resp. ¶¶12, 12(i), 14, 16). Third, in her amended answer toDefendant’s Interrogatory No. 3, the Plaintiff did not claim that shespent any time preparing for class (see Def. Resp. ¶12(a)). Moreover,a co-worker testified that it only took her 5 minutes to do a task thePlaintiff asserts took more time. Fourth, the requirement to completeCPR training is arguably no more than an underlying requiredcredential.

Concerning the requirements of Rule 1.510(d), as to the remainingissues for which summary judgment has not been entered, the Courtfinds the following facts to be established without substantialcontroversy, and these facts are deemed established in any furtherhearing or other proceeding in this case:

1. The Plaintiff Naomi Graff was employed as a coach/trainer atOrange Theory Fitness in Weston, Florida (“OTF Weston”). In hercapacity as a trainer/coach, she taught group workout classes.

2. Plaintiff was required to teach each class using a templateprovided by Orange Theory Fitness.

3. OTF Weston agreed to pay Plaintiff for each class based on a payscale tied to how many participants attended the session.

4. In addition to teaching her class, the Plaintiff was required to doadditional tasks, including: (a) reviewing the template prior to thescheduled class which provided the workout of the day and how it wasto be conducted; (b) arriving before each class between 15-30 minutesearly to set up the weight and demo stations, music, and workouttelevision; to ensure that the studio was clean; to welcome newmembers to explain the workout; to contact new members by tele-phone; to video the prior class and post the session to social media; (c)staying after a class for between 15-30 minutes to clean up the studio,put away the equipment and weights, take out the trash, clean eachtreadmill, rower and TRX straps, mingle with participants about theirresults, and turn off monitors; and (d) completing CPR training.

5. For the tasks set forth in paragraph 4 above, the Plaintiff isseeking $2,695.00.

6. There was no specific communication between the Plaintiff andOTF Weston whether the additional tasks were or were not includedin her compensation arrangement.

7. The Plaintiff resigned on April 23, 2019 and at that timedemanded what she believed to be her unpaid wages. At that time, shehad worked at OTF Weston for more than four years.

Accordingly, it is herebyORDERED and ADJUDGED that the Plaintiff’s Motion for

Summary Judgment is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PARTas set forth above. Further, however, there remain genuine issues ofmaterial fact as to the personal liability of the Defendants Andrea andJohn O’Brien, and as to the tasks set forth in paragraph number 4above.

* * *

Insurance—Personal injury protection—Coverage—Medicalexpenses—Exhaustion of policy limits—Payment using 2007 MedicareLimiting Charge was proper and did not constitute gratuitous paymentor bad faith—Having exhausted benefits in payment of valid timelybills, insurer is not liable for further payments to medical provider

SPINE & EXTREMITY REHABILITATION CENTER, INC., a/a/o Abisai Tores,Plaintiff, v. STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY,Defendant. County Court, 19th Judicial Circuit in and for St. Lucie County. Case No.562019SC000400AXXXHC. December 11, 2019. Daryl Isenhower, Judge. Counsel:Joshua Costello, Schiller, Kessler & Gomez, PLC, Ft. Lauderdale, for Plaintiff. MelissaMcDavitt and Madison O’Connell, Conroy Simberg, West Palm Beach, forDefendant.

FINAL JUDGMENT AND ORDER GRANTINGDEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR FINAL SUMMARY

JUDGMENT REGARDING EXHAUSTION OF BENEFITS

THIS CAUSE having come before the Court for hearing onNovember 18, 2019 upon Defendant, STATE FARM MUTUALAUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY’s Motion for FinalSummary Judgment based upon Exhaustion of Benefits. The Court,having read the submissions by the parties, having heard argument ofcounsel and being otherwise duly advised in the premises, makes thefollowing findings of fact and conclusions of law:

FINDINGS OF FACT1. The subject action involves a claim for personal injury protec-

tion insurance benefits filed by Plaintiff, SPINE & EXTREMITYREHABILITATION CENTER, INC. (hereinafter “Plaintiff”) asassignee of ABISAI TORES (hereinafter “Claimant”) againstDefendant, STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSUR-ANCE COMPANY (hereinafter “Defendant”), arising out of a motor-vehicle accident that occurred on September 13, 2017.

2. Plaintiff alleges that State Farm has failed to make payments forPIP benefits allegedly owed to it for services rendered to the Claimantarising from an automobile accident occurring on September 13,2017.

3. On the date of the accident, the Claimant was covered by apolicy of automobile insurance which provided, inter alia, $10,000.00in personal injury protection benefits and no medical paymentscoverage with State Farm. Claim number 59-1418-K40 was assignedto the claim for benefits.

4. At hearing the parties agreed the 9810A policy of insuranceproperly elects the schedule of maximum charges for reimbursem*nt.

5. Plaintiff submitted its insurance claims forms for treatment ofClaimant, accompanied by medical records, for dates of service fromOctober 23, 2017 through March 30, 2018.

6. The Claimant sought treatment with several other medicalproviders as well, who in turn submitted bills to State Farm for thattreatment. State Farm had an obligation to evaluate all the billsreceived from all of the medical providers Abisai Torres treated withfollowing the subject accident, and render payment subject to FloridaStatute 627.736 and the policy of insurance.

7. State Farm reimbursed Abisai Torres’ medical providers withvalid claims, including the Plaintiff, in accordance with FloridaStatute 627.736 and the 9810A policy of insurance.

8. On or about April 10, 2018, State Farm issued a payment to thePlaintiff. By virtue of that payment of benefits, State Farm exhaustedall remaining benefits under the PIP portion of the subject contract ofinsurance between State Farm and Abisai Torres. As of April 10,2018, State Farm issued payment in the total amount of $10,000, thefull amount available under the subject policy of insurance.

9. It is undisputed Defendant paid the total $10,000.00 of PersonalInjury Protection Benefits under the subject policy of insurance.

10. Defendant moved for summary judgment on the grounds that

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (74)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

COUNTY COURTS 27Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 983

the $10,000.00 in available Personal Injury Protection Benefits wereproperly exhausted.

11. Based on these facts, this Court has determined that Defen-dant’s motion for summary judgment should be granted.

CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

A. EXHAUSTION OF BENEFITS12. As a result, based on the record evidence presented in this case,

the benefits under the Policy were legally limited to $10,000. Since the$10,000.00 limit has been paid out, Defendant had no additionalliability to Plaintiff when this case was filed, and continues to owe noadditional liability to Plaintiff. See Simon v. Progressive Exp. Ins. Co.,904 So. 2d 449 (Fla. 4th DCA 2005) [30 Fla. L. Weekly D1156b];Progressive Am. Ins. Co. v. Stand-Up MRI of Orlando, 990 So. 2d 3(Fla. 5th DCA 2008) [33 Fla. L. Weekly D1746a], and Sheldon v.United Services Auto. Ass’n, 55 So. 3d 593 (Fla. 1st DCA 2010) [36Fla. L. Weekly D23a]. Absent a finding of bad faith, an insurer is notliable to pay any further PIP Benefits in excess of policy limits.Progressive Am. Ins. Co. v. Stand-Up MRI, 990 So. 2d 3 (Fla. 5thDCA 2008) [33 Fla. L. Weekly D1746a].

13. It is undisputed that State Farm paid the available $10,000.00in PIP Benefits under the policy for valid claims submitted by theClaimant’s numerous medical providers. Because payment was madein accordance with the No-Fault Statute and 9810A policy, State Farmcannot be held liable for the Plaintiff’s bills beyond the exhaustion ofbenefits, absent a finding of bad faith. There is no bad faith arisingfrom State Farm’s payment of the insured’s medical bills in theordinary course of treatment and submission of those bills.

B. BAD FAITH14. “An insurer does not act in bad faith when it processes the

plaintiff’s bill in accordance with then-existing law. If an insurer hasan objectively reasonable basis under Florida law for reducing ordenying the provider’s charge(s) in the manner that it did, then itpossesses the reasonable proof that is necessary under subsection(4)(b).” Emergency Physicians, Inc. d/b/a Emergency ResourcesGroup, a/a/o Thomas Losoncy v. Auto-Owners Ins. Co., 24 Fla. L.Weekly Supp. 832b (7th Jud. Cir. December 6, 2016) (citing VirtualImaging Svcs., Inc. a/a/o Yudi Vigoreaux v. United Svcs. Auto. Ass’n,18 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 491a (Fla. 11th Jud. Cir. February 2, 2011);and Wellness Assoc. of Fla., Inc. a/a/o Daniel North v. USAA CasualtyIns. Co., 18 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 1056a (Fla. 15th Jud. Cir, July 26,2011)). When an insurer takes a legal position based on the applicablestatute, bad faith does not exist if there is no binding case law on theissue, even if there were non-binding County Court opinions support-ing the alternative. Pembroke Pines MRI, Inc. a/a/o BrianSchoedinger v. USAA Casualty Ins. Co., 17 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 479a(Fla. 17th Jud. Cir. March 29, 2010).

15. It is undisputed that Plaintiff has not alleged bad faith by StateFarm in its processing of the claim in any pleading, including Plain-tiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment. Thus, absent an allegation ofshowing of bad faith, State Farm is not liable for bills in excess ofpolicy limits.

C. FLORIDA STATUTE 627.736(5)(A)(2)16. Plaintiff contends that payment for at the 2007 Limiting Charge

under Medicare Part B to an MRI provider was voluntary and/orgratuitous, as it exceeded the amount State Farm was obligated to payunder the policy and Florida Statute.

17. However, Florida Statute 627.736(5)(a)(2) is silent as towhether an insurer should apply the participating or non-participatingfee schedule when the 2007 fee schedule is higher than the applicable-fee schedule for the service year in which the services are rendered.

The current version of the PIP Statute Florida Statute§627.736(5)(a)(2) states:

[T]he applicable fee schedule or payment limitation under Medicareis the fee schedule or payment limitation in effect on March 1 of theservice year in which the services, supplies, or care is rendered and forthe area in which such services, supplies, or care is rendered, and theapplicable fee schedule or payment limitation applies to services,supplies, or care rendered during that service year, notwithstandingany subsequent change made to the fee schedule or payment limita-tion, except that it may not be less than the allowable amount underthe applicable schedule of Medicare Part B for 2007 for medicalservices, supplies, and care subject to Medicare Part B. For purposesof this subparagraph, the term ‘service year’ means the period fromMarch 1 through the end of February of the following year.” (Empha-sis added.)

Prior to 2012, Florida Statute §627.736(5)(a)(3) stated,“[T]he applicable fee schedule or payment limitation under Medicareis the fee schedule or payment limitation in effect at the time theservices, supplies, or care was rendered and for the area in which suchservices were rendered, except that it may not be less than theallowable amount under the participating physicians schedule ofMedicare Part B for 2007 for medical services, supplies, and caresubject to Medicare Part B.”

18. It is undisputed the Legislature replaced the “participating”with “applicable” when describing which fee schedule to use if the2007 fee schedule is higher than the service year.

19. It is also undisputed the statute does not explicitly prohibit ofthe 2007 Limiting Charge for determining the proper reimbursem*nt.

20. As such, it appears the Legislature indicated multiple feeschedule amounts are proper for reimbursing a claim, other than justthe Participating Physician Fee Schedule.

21. There is ambiguity as to the proper fee schedule amount aninsurer should utilize in reimbursem*nt when the 2007 fee scheduleis higher than the applicable service year fee schedule.

22. Any ambiguity should be resolved in favor of the insured or theinsured’s assignor’s (medical providers) State Farm Mutual Auto Ins.Co. v. Menendez, 70 So.3d 566, 570 (Fla. 2011) [36 Fla. L. WeeklyS469a].

23. Because the payment at the 2007 Limiting Charge did notexceed its obligation under the statute, the payment was neithervoluntary nor gratuitous.

POLICY LANGUAGE24. At hearing, the parties agreed the 9810A policy of insurance,

applicable to this claim, properly elected the schedule of maximumcharges.

25. The policy, as indicated below, mirrors the No-Fault Statute’slanguage regarding the applicable fee schedule for reimbursem*nt.

26. The 9810A policy of insurance, of which Plaintiff’s seeksreimbursem*nt under states in part:

We will pay in accordance with the No-Fault Act properly billed anddocumented reasonable charges for bodily injury to an insured causedby an accident resulting from the ownership, maintenance, or use ofa motor vehicle.

. . .We will limit payment of Medical Expenses described in the InsuringAgreement of this policy’s No-Fault Coverage to 80% of a properlybilled and documented reasonable charge, but in no event will we paymore than 80% of the following No-Fault Act “schedule of maximumcharges” including the use of Medicare coding policies and paymentmethodologies of the federal Centers for Medicare and MedicaidServices, including applicable modifiers

. . .For purposes of the above, the applicable fee schedule or paymentlimitation under Medicare is the fee schedule or payment limitation ineffect on March 1 of the year in which the services, supplies, or care

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (75)

Headnotes and indexes are copyrighted and may not be duplicated by photocopying, printing,or other means without the express permission of the publishers. 1-800-351-0917

27 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 984 COUNTY COURTS

is rendered and for the area in which such services, supplies, or care isrendered, and the applicable fee schedule or payment limitationapplies throughout the remainder of that year, notwithstanding anysubsequent change made to the fee schedule or payment limitation,except that it will not be less than the allowable amount under theapplicable schedule of Medicare Part B for 2007 for medical services,supplies, and care subject to Medicare Part B.

(9810A Policy Form, Ex. 1 at 14-16 (underlining added)).27. Identical to the No-Fault Statute, the 9810A policy does not

specify whether the “participating” or “limiting” amount should beutilized when the 2007 fee schedule is higher than the applicableservice year fee schedule and instead uses the word “applicable”.

28. Like the No-Fault Statute, the 9810A policy does not expresslyprohibit the “Limiting Charge” payment.

29. Based on the ambiguity, State Farm paid the Insured’sproviders at the highest possible rate in accordance with policy ofinsurance, which was the 2007 Limiting Charge amount.

30. State Farm’s payment to the Insured’s providers did not exceedits contractual obligation and thus were not voluntary or gratuitous.

CONCLUSIONIt is undisputed that benefits totaling $10,000.00 were exhausted

by payment to legitimate claims of the Claimant’s providers. It is alsoundisputed that State Farm is not liable for benefits in excess of the$10,000.00 under the policy absent a finding of bad faith, which hasnot been alleged in the pleadings.

There is no logical basis for an allegation of bad faith (and Plaintiffhas not asserted a bad faith claim) by Defendant in processing of theClaimant’s medical bills. The payments made to each of the Claim-ant’s providers did not strategically or prematurely exhaust benefitsnor did Defendant gain by these payments. Even if State Farm had

paid less to any one of the Insured’s providers, it would have still paida total of $10,000.00 in benefits available under the policy. StateFarm’s payment of the less than $100.00 disputed amount to oneprovider over another would not have achieved any more positiveresult for State Farm and thus cannot logically be considered bad faith.

Plaintiff’s assertion that payment at the 2007 Limiting Chargeamount exceeded State Farm’s contractual and statutory obligation isnot supported by the evidence. At the time of State Farm processed theinstant claim and at present, there is a lack of binding clarificationfrom the Courts as to the use of the 2007 Limiting Charge. Thus, StateFarm had a reasonable basis to process the bills in the manner it did.

Because the Statute and Policy are ambiguous and fail to addresswhether the “participating” or “limiting” amount should be utilizedwhen the 2007 fee schedule is higher than the applicable service yearfee schedule, State Farm must resolve the dispute in favor of theinsured’s medical providers by providing the highest allowableamount under the statute and policy. As such, State Farm’s paymentsat the 2007 Limiting Charge amount have not exceeded its statutoryor contractual obligation and thus were not voluntary or gratuitous.

ORDERED and ADJUDGED, as follows:1. That Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment is hereby

GRANTED and Plaintiff’s Motion is DENIED.2. That judgment be and hereby is entered for Defendant, that

Plaintiff take nothing by this action and that Defendant go hencewithout day.

The Court reserves jurisdiction to determine attorney’s fees andcosts.

* * *

Pages 917-984 - [PDF Document] (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Annamae Dooley

Last Updated:

Views: 6665

Rating: 4.4 / 5 (45 voted)

Reviews: 92% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Annamae Dooley

Birthday: 2001-07-26

Address: 9687 Tambra Meadow, Bradleyhaven, TN 53219

Phone: +9316045904039

Job: Future Coordinator

Hobby: Archery, Couponing, Poi, Kite flying, Knitting, Rappelling, Baseball

Introduction: My name is Annamae Dooley, I am a witty, quaint, lovely, clever, rich, sparkling, powerful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.