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There can be Consequences when Voluntarily Dismissing Lawsuit

There can be consequences when you voluntarily dismiss a lawsuit simply because you don’t want to deal with the claim anymore.  Or, you realize there are problems with your claim. Such consequences can arise if there is a basis for the prevailing party to recover attorney’s fees.  Thus, don’t think you can just voluntarily dismiss your case without dealing with attorney’s fees. These are consequences you may need to deal with if you want to voluntarily dismiss your lawsuit. “The general rule is that when a plaintiff voluntarily dismisses an action, the defendant is the ‘prevailing party' within the meaning of...

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Equitable Estoppel SOMETIMES Allows a Non-Signatory the Right to Compel Arbitration

“Where a contract subjects to arbitration claims between certain enumerated parties, that limiting language matters. Under appropriate circumstances, a non-signatory might invoke equitable estoppel to access an arbitration clause, but not to excavate it and fill it with new terms.” Florida Roads Trucking, LLC v. Zion Jacksonville, LLC, 49 Fla.L.Weekly D819a (Fla. 5th DCA 2024). Arbitration is a creature of contract. In Florida Roads Trucking, a non-signatory to a contract tried to compel arbitration of a dispute arguing that the arbitration provision in the plaintiff’s contract with another party should apply. This argument is based on a theory of equitable estoppel: Florida and federal...

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Home Venue Privilege Applies to Government Defendants

 “Governmental defendants in Florida are entitled, absent waiver or exception, to “home venue privilege,” i.e., to be sued in the county where their headquarters are located.” Florida Pace Funding Agency v. Pinellas County, 49 Fla.L.Weekly 660a (Fla. 2d DCA 2024). This home venue privilege is important to governmental entities since it ensures they are sued in their home county, i.e., where their taxpayers and residents will serve on a jury. A remote exception to this home venue privilege is known as the sword wielder exception.  The sword wielder exception allows a plaintiff to sue a government defendant outside of the home county...

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Election of Remedies Doctrine

A recent case out of Florida’s Third District Court of Appeals provides a worthy discussion of the election of remedies doctrine: The Florida Supreme Court has stated: The election of remedies doctrine is an application of the doctrine of estoppel and operates on the theory that a party electing one course of action should not later be allowed to avail himself of an incompatible course. The purpose of the doctrine is to prevent a double recovery for the same wrong. Under Florida law, however, the election of remedies doctrine applies only where the remedies in question are coexistent and inconsistent. . ....

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Enforceable Settlement Does Not Need to be Signed and can be Agreed by Attorneys

“To be enforceable, an agreement must be sufficiently specific, and reflect assent by the parties to all essential terms. . . . Where essential terms of an agreement remain open, subject to future negotiation, there can be no enforceable contract.”  Portner v. Koppel, 49 Fla.L.Weekly D599a (Fla. 4th DCA 2024) (citation and quotation omitted).  This applies to settlement agreements that are governed under contract law principles.  Portner, supra. “Emails between attorneys can constitute an enforceable settlement agreement.” Id. Sometimes, a party may have “buyer’s remorse” and refuse to sign a settlement agreement. This fact alone does NOT mean there is not a...

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Personal Jurisdiction’s Two Prong Inquiry

If you are suing a nonresident defendant, i.e., you are NOT located in Florida, this two-step inquiry to determine whether Florida courts have personal jurisdiction over you--the nonresident defendant--is important: Florida courts conduct a two-step inquiry to determine whether a court has personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant. First, it must be determined that the complaint alleges sufficient jurisdictional facts to bring the action within the ambit of the statute; and if it does, the next inquiry is whether sufficient “minimum contacts” are demonstrated to satisfy due process requirements. The first prong -- i.e., the statutory prong -- … is governed by Florida's...

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Take Time Crafting Your Verdict Form

Take time to properly craft YOUR special interrogatory verdict form. This is the verdict form that goes back with the jury to answer in rendering its verdict. The questions, instructions, and the order of the questions in the verdict form need to flow and make sense. In a recent property insurance coverage dispute, a jury rendered a verdict on a special interrogatory verdict form. The special interrogatory verdict form was, perhaps, not a model of perfection in asking the jury questions to answer.  In answering the verdict form, the jury answered the 5th question “yes” that the insurer established that the damage...

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Attorney’s Fees only Flow to Plaintiff-Payee in Statutory Worthless Check Claim

Florida Statute s. 68.065 is Florida’s worthless check statute – it creates a statutory cause of action against the payor of the worthless check. It further provides a statutory basis for attorney’s fees to the plaintiff-payee that prevails on the worthless check claim.  Fla.Stat. s. 68.065(6) (“Other provisions notwithstanding, the maker or drawer is liable to the payee for all attorney fees and collection costs incurred by payee as a result of the payee’s claim.”). Well, what if the payee loses and the defendant-payor prevails on the worthless check claim – does the defendant get attorney’s fees?  This was the...

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Introduce the Right Circumstantial Evidence for Purposes of “Admission by Party Opponent” Hearsay Exception

One of the exceptions to hearsay is known as an admission by a party opponent. In Florida, this hearsay exception is included in Florida Statute s. 90.803(18): (18) ADMISSIONS.—A statement that is offered against a party and is: (a) The party’s own statement in either an individual or a representative capacity; (b) A statement of which the party has manifested an adoption or belief in its truth; (c) A statement by a person specifically authorized by the party to make a statement concerning the subject; (d) A statement by the party’s agent or servant concerning a matter within the scope of the agency or employment thereof, made during the existence...

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Incorporated Documents (such as an Addendum) Need to be Identified as Incorporated

If you have a document you want incorporated into the contract, make sure the contract specifically identifies the incorporated document.  Otherwise, that document will NOT form the basis of your contract and if that document is not executed, it will NOT affect the enforceability of your contract. By way of example, in Mercado v. Sridhar, 48 Fla.L.Weekly D2188a (Fla. 3d DCA 2023), a buyer and seller entered into a purchase-and-sale contract. The issue was an addendum relating to the seller’s furnishings and a leaseback option that was never executed.  The buyer sued the seller for specific performance when the seller refused...

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