Curious Cases

Editorial Note: These are brief notes on cases I happened to find amusing

In Wener Enterprises v. Mendez, the Fifth District allowed an amendment to add a punitive damages claim where a group of employees of one logistics company spent months on "project satellite," a plan to leave their company en masse for a competitor and take key clients with them. The competitor's executives had presented the project to their board as a way to essentially acquire a competing office without paying the competitor, and actually set a legal reserve to cover anticipated litigation.

Apparently, in some car injury cases, Morgan and Morgan asks members of the jury venire lots of questions about whether they're biased against that firm. Check out Smith v. Lyles.

Editorial note: I'm biased against them, but only because they sued me one time.

A gay employee of a Bible translation company sued for employment discrimination and the Middle District denied the company's motion to dismiss in Ratliff v. Wycliffe Associates.

In Taig v. City of Vero Beach, the Eleventh Circuit rejected a Section 1983 civil rights claim from a person who was surveilled as part of the city's investigation into human trafficking at a massage spa.

Editorial note: the court says "During the 30 days that the officers monitored the video feed, the officers saw 145 customers enter massage rooms, and 142 of those customers participated in sex acts with a masseuse." One wonders what on Earth the other three customers were thinking when they went into this place.

Stand your ground law cases are always interesting. In Burns v. Florida, the Fourth District held that the law applied to protect a person who retrieved a gun and openly chambered a round on their front lawn after a crew of workers refused to leave the property and menaced the person's dog with a chainsaw. The trial court's ruling otherwise would have meant that "the 'castle' our law entitled him to protect was relegated to a defenseless dungeon."

You wouldn't think that criminal defense counsel's refusal to send the client their entire file constitutes a crime against humanity. The Eleventh Circuit agreed. Peers v. Brown.

In Fleming v. Florida, the First District offered a helpful critique of the common voir dire technique of setting up a "gotcha" to "manufacture" a for-cause challenge by asking whether a prospective juror would want to take the stand and testify if they were innocent - saying yes to this question is not enough.

The Second District addressed fee shifting under an offer of judgment in Gladding v. Daher and gave the best opening to a probate opinion that I've seen this year: "Pondering his own mortality, Addie Bundren's father observed that 'the reason for living was to get ready to stay dead a long time.' William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying (1930). Wilfred Desrosiers, a West Virgina coal mine owner and patriarch of the Desrosiers family, ignored this admonition. So, after he died intestate in 1997, family peace collapsed for his lack of planning."

In a sad case involving a minor forced to act as a drug mule, Williams v. Florida, the Fourth District addressed the burdens of proof applicable when a human trafficking victim moves to expunge their criminal record.

Guy gets three years for assaulting police who asked him to move his car off the beach. State withholds statements of his in discovery, surprises him on the stand, objects to efforts to show they weren't his statements, then brings it up in closing. Fifth DCA reverses in Tyson v. Florida because a Richardson hearing was required to determine if the discovery violation prejudiced the defense.

The Eleventh Circuit gives a fascinating 38-page analysis of how to determine if a convict is too intellectually deficient to be put to death for murder. Smith v. Alabama.

In Saunders v. The Baseball Factory, Inc., a youth baseball umpire sued a tournament sponsor after a player punched him in the face - the Fourth affirmed dismissal, holding that merely sponsoring the tournament didn't create a duty to protect the umpire without additional specific risk factors.

The Fourth allowed the Palm Beach Post to move forward with its efforts to obtain the grand jury records from Jeffrey Epstein's 2006 state charges, holding, in CA Florida Holdings, LLC v. Aronberg, that courts have inherent authority under Florida Statutes section 905.27 to release grand jury records.

In KJH v. Florida, the Fifth reminded us that a criminal restitution award cannot include wages lost by a victim who takes time off to testify against the accused.

Editorial note: yep, that's the law, but c'mon, man!

In the "not a surprise" category, United States v. Munson tells us that if you're caught on tape selling heroin and fentanyl, you're a flight risk and a danger to the community and are unlikely to be ought on bail pending trial.

In Florida Bar v. Rush, the Florida Supreme Court suspended a lawyer for three years after they went pretty wildly astray from their client's instructions in trying to negotiate the settlement of an eminent domain case. The facts in this one are just jaw-dropping.

In Florida Farm Bureau v. Worrell, a sad and bizarre case, an "intoxicated and apparently injured" person wandered onto a homeowner's property, broke into their shed, and "left behind blood and what seemed to be feces." The person was later found dead of a blunt-trauma injury outside a neighboring home. The homeowners spent $4,103.85 on an accident restoration and cleaning company and their property insurer denied their claim. The trial court awarded summary judgment to the homeowner and the Fifth affirmed because blood and feces were covered, despite the policy's pollution exclusion.

Editorial note: strictly speaking, the holding applied only to blood and the doodoo was mere dicta, because the "fecal matter, at most, is a concurrent cause of loss." We therefore must continue to wonder whether poop falls within the pollution exclusion of a homeowner's policy.

In Carnevale v. Rogenia Trading, Inc., a party moved to recuse two successive trial judges based on their social media postings. The Third did not recuse the second judge, who "made the best of a messy situation," because a successive recusal motion requires a part to demonstrate actual bias.

Similarly, in Viera v. Viera, the Third upheld denial of four separate recusal motions filed against the same judge by a party representing themself in their own divorce.

Editorial note: don't move to recuse a judge if you can possibly avoid it; certainly don't move to recuse the same judge four times in a row; and, for your own good, don't try to represent yourself in a divorce.

In Fries v. Anderson, the Fourth parsed a 61-page motion for rehearing, which it denied entirely, other than to excoriate counsel for misrepresenting the holding of a case, which "exceeds the bounds of zealous advocacy." In an understated sentence that may or may not have dripped with irony, the court reminded all of us that "it is the practice of this court to read the cases cited in briefs and motions."

In a suit over a sewer lift station, the First extensively discussed sovereign immunity in Emerald Coast Utilities Authority v. Thomas Home Corporation.

Editorial note: don't give your company those initials unless you want a court to call you THC throughout its opinion.

In Vertex Development, LLC v. Pinellas County, the Middle District granted summary judgment to a company that sought to build a cell tower disguised as a 120 cross on church property in Largo, after public comments had caused the zoning board to deny them a permit.