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ProveMyFloridaCase.com > Search results for "harmless error"

Improperly Admitting Hearsay can still be Harmless Error

I have discussed the hearsay rule (the evidentiary exclusionary rule and the numerous exceptions) ad nauseam and will continue to do so because it is such an important aspect of a civil trial. There will invariably be an objection under the hearsay rule during trial. The trial court will either sustain the objection or overrule the objection, perhaps under an exception to the hearsay rule. What if a trial court makes a mistake—it happens—and overrules a hearsay objection and admits hearsay evidence? As previously mentioned, an appellate court will review the admission of evidence under an abuse of discretion standard of...

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Recipient of Trial Court’s Error Needs to Prove Harmless Error

I previously discussed that the “no reasonable possibility test” is the harmless error test in civil trials. This means that even if the trial judge committed an error, the recipient of the error (generally the appellee) has to prove that the error was harmless in that there was no reasonable possibility that the error contributed to the verdict (against the appellant). Here is a case where the trial court committed error but the appellee that prevailed at trial was unable to establish that the error was harmless. Thus, the error committed by the trial court was deemed to be reversible error entitling...

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Harmless Error and the “No Reasonable Possibility” Test

The terms “harmless error” and “reversible error” are well known terms in the trial and appellate world. In a nutshell, a harmless error is an error committed by the trial judge that does NOT impact the fairness of the trial; a reversible error is an error that does impact the fairness of the trial.  A party appealing a trial judge’s ruling (appellant) aims to establish that the trial judge’s ruling, etc. amounted to reversible error. The party responding to the appeal (appellee) aims to establish that there was no error, but if there was, it was harmless. If an error amounts to...

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Trial Court’s Error is Harmless when there is No Reasonable Possibility Error Contributed to Verdict

Just because the trial court committed an error does NOT mean the error constitutes reversible error warranting a new trial. The trial court's error could very well be harmless error. When it comes to a trial court's error, the recipient of the error should prove that "there is no reasonable possibility that the error contributed to the verdict." Maines v. Fox, 41 Fla.L.Weekly D1062a (Fla. 1st DCA 2016) quoting Special v. W. Boca Med. Ctr., 160 So.3d 1251, 1256-57 (Fla. 2014). The trial court's error is harmless if the recipient of the error proves there is no reasonable possibility that the...

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Preserving an Objection for Appeal

Preserving an objection for appeal.  Preserving an objection for appeal.  Preserving an objection for appeal.  Repeat again and again, because this is important.  The lack of preservation of an objection is demonstrated in a criminal trial, Pierre v. Florida,  43 Fla.L.Weekly D1110b (Fla. 4th DCA 2018), which involved man wearing a ski-mask attempting to kill his ex-wife.  Of course, his ex-wife and son saw his face, but there was other evidence to support the attempted murder.   The jury found that the man was guilty of attempted murder. An issue on appeal dealt with the scope of an expert's testimony that tied...

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Know Your Standard of Appellate Review Regarding the Admissibility of Evidence

The standard of appellate review regarding the trial court’s admissibility of evidence is an abuse of discretion. See Vavrus v. City of Palm Beach Gardens, 927 So.2d 992 (Fla. 4th DCA 2006); Castaneda ex rel. Cardona v. Redlands Christian Migrant Ass’n, Inc., 884 So.2d 1087 (Fla. 4th DCA 2004).  Naturally, a party needs to preserve this issue by objecting to the admissibility of the evidence.  If a trial court sustains an objection and excludes the evidence, the party trying to introduce the evidence should make a proffer / offer of proof.  On the other hand, the standard of review for the trial court’s...

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Application of the Business Records Exception to the Hearsay Rule

Hearsay (an out-of-court statement offered at trial for the truth of the matter asserted) is inadmissible at trial. But, there are exceptions to this exclusionary hearsay rule to allow such evidence / testimony to be admissible at trial. Previously, I wrote about one exception known as the business records exception contained in Florida Statute s. 90.803. The business records exception is commonly relied on in business disputes in order to admit business records as evidence.   What if there is an appeal concerning the admissibility of evidence introduced at trial under an exception to the hearsay rule?   Standard of Appellate Review   Whether evidence is...

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Striking an Affirmative Defense

I recently discussed the property insurance coverage dispute, American Integrity Insurance Company v. Estrada, 44 Fla. L. Weekly D1639a (Fla. 3d DCA 2019), which deals with an insured’s forfeiture of post-loss policy obligations in a property insurance policy.    Yet, in a different context, this case deals with a trial court striking a defendant's (insurer) affirmative defense and precluding the defendant (insurer) from amending its affirmative defense prior to trial. “The standard of review of an order striking an affirmative defense is abuse of discretion. An order denying a defendant’s motion to amend its affirmative defenses is also reviewed for an abuse of...

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Hearsay can Only be Admitted for Another Purpose if Such Purpose is a Material Issue

Sometimes, a party will try to introduce hearsay by arguing that that the document/testimony is not being offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted (hearsay), but instead, is being offered for another purpose. This is an avenue to admit evidence that would otherwise be excluded under the hearsay exclusion.  This was the situation in the employment litigation case, Mootry v. Bethune-Cookman University, Inc., 41 Fla. L. Weekly D146a (Fla. 5th DCA 2015). In this case, the University terminated a tenured professor for cause and the professor sued. At trial, the University offered into evidence a report prepared by an...

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State of Mind Hearsay Exception

Sometimes hearsay statements are introduced at trial not to show the truth of the matter asserted by the out-of-court statement, but to prove a certain state of mind of the person that heard the out-of-court statement. In this situation, the out-of-court statement would be admissible and not considered hearsay. Florida Statute 90.803(3)(a) provides the following hearsay exception: (a) A statement of the declarant's then-existing state of mind, emotion, or physical sensation, including a statement of intent, plan, motive, design, mental feeling, pain, or bodily health, [is an exception to hearsay] when such evidence is offered to: Prove the declarant's state of mind,...

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