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Leading Questions Forming Basis of Appeal

During a direct examination at trial, a party will always tiptoe on the fine line of asking the witness leading questions in order to elicit the desired testimony.  Leading questions, in most circumstances, are objectionable during direct examination because it allows the lawyer asking questions to basically testify while leading the witness to the answer he or she is seeking.   Look, a lawyer will ask leading questions if he/she can get away with it—until the trial court sustains objections.  But, just because a trial court sustains an objection does not necessarily mean the lawyer will stop asking leading questions during direct...

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Avoiding the Mistrial

If you prevailed at trial, there is nothing worse than a mistrial. Talking about taking the wind out of your sails. It happens. Unfortunately. Boyles, Personal Representative vs. Dillard’s Inc., 41 Fla.L.Weekly D1709a (Fla. 1st DCA 2016), is a case where the defense prevailed, but on appeal, the court granted a mistrial for multiple (or cumulative) reasons, only two of which will be discussed below. Both reasons, however, could have been avoided. A. Closing Argument   First, during closing argument, the defense counsel tried to attack the credibility of the plaintiff’s trial testimony by bringing up what the plaintiff testified to during her deposition....

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Appealing Trial Court’s Interpretation of Contract

Many disputes turn on the interpretation of a contract, contractual term, or written document. When the trial court rules on the interpretation, there will typically be a party that disagrees with the court’s interpretation. In these instances, this party will appeal the trial court’s interpretation. There is a value to appeal because the appellate standard of review is de novo meaning the appellate court will review the trial court’s record anew without giving deference to the trial court’s interpretation. The interpretation of a written contract is a question of law and the appellate court construes the contract under a de novo...

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Illegality of Contract as Affirmative Defense

There is an affirmative defense known as “illegality of contract.”   Under this defense, the defendant is claiming that performance under its contract became illegal to perform; thus, the defendant should be excused from further performance. Just like any affirmative defense, the burden is on the defendant to prove the illegality of contract. See Novak v. Gray, 469 Fed. Appx. 811, 813-14 (11th Cir. 2012) (defendant has burden of proving defense of illegality of contract). An example of the application of this defense can be found in the dispute between a commercial landlord and its tenant in Lucas Games, Inc. v. Morris...

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Asserting Punitive Damages (or Appealing the Decision to Allow for Punitive Damages)

So, you are interested in pursuing punitive damages. Then you MUST comply with the requirements of Florida Statute s. 768.72. This statute provides in relevant part: (1) In any civil action, no claim for punitive damages shall be permitted unless there is a reasonable showing by evidence in the record or proffered by the claimant which would provide a reasonable basis for recovery of such damages. The claimant may move to amend her or his complaint to assert a claim for punitive damages as allowed by the rules of civil procedure. The rules of civil procedure shall be liberally construed so...

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Just Say NO! to Frivolous Claims! Otherwise 57.105 May Apply!

As a lawyer, it is important to examine your client or prospective client regarding the facts of their case. In this manner, it is important to conduct legal research to support legal arguments, especially arguments applied to the facts. The bottom line is that you want to make sure you are NOT filing a frivolous claim or defense, which is typically one that (a) is NOT supported by material facts necessary to support the claim or defense or (b) NOT supported by the application of the law. See Fla. Stat. s. 57.105. If you do, you could be exposed to sanctions—be liable...

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Challenging Standard for Granting Directed Verdict

If there is a jury trial, there will be a motion for directed verdict. But, the standard for granting a motion for directed verdict is challenging; if the directed verdict is granted, an appeal will be filed arguing the trial court’s error in granting the directed verdict. James v. City of Tampa, 2016 WL 3201221 (Fla. 2d DCA 2016) was a personal injury action. The issue at trial was whether the plaintiff’s injuries from a car accident constituted a permanent injury (as this issue impacted damages to be awarded to the injured plaintiff). At the conclusion of all of the evidence, the...

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Appeals Regarding Personal Jurisdiction

In a matter where a commercial landlord sued its tenant’s personal guarantors as the result of the tenant’s breach of the lease, the guarantors moved to dismiss the lawsuit based on personal jurisdiction. Check here for more on this matter. A trial court’s ruling on personal jurisdiction is an immediately appealable ruling--a trial court’s determination relating to personal jurisdiction is an immediately appealable non-final order (non-final order meaning the order does not finally dispose of the lawsuit). See Fla.R.App.P. 9.130(a)(3)(C)(i). A determination on personal jurisdiction is an important issue. If a court grants a motion to dismiss based on lack of personal...

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Know the Best Evidence Rule

I previously discussed the best evidence rule.   Check out the article for more information on this evidentiary rule. It is important to know the best evidence rule when litigating negotiable instruments or even contractual disputes.  You do not want to try such a dispute without understanding the application of the best evidence rule. The recent mortgage foreclosure case of Rattigan v. Central Mortgage Company, 41 Fla. L. Weekly D1312a (Fla. 4th DCA 2016) is an example of the application of the best evidence rule. In this case, the lender at trial failed to introduce the written loan modification to a promissory note...

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“Other Products” Evidence to Support Alternate Causation Theory

The recent case of Arizona Chemical Company, LLC v. Mohawk Industries, Inc., 41 Fla. L. Weekly D1213a (Fla. 1st DCA 2016) is a case I discussed regarding lost profit damages. Check out that article here. But, this case also raised an interesting trial and appellate issue involving “other products” evidence to support an alternate causation argument, such as when a specific product or manufactured component fails. This case involved a manufacturer of a specific brand of carpet suing the manufacturer of resin that was used in manufacturing the failed carpet brand. The carpet manufacturer claimed that the resin failure caused an...

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