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Pre-Suit Notice Condition Precedent Requirement before Suing News Media for Defamation Not Extended to Books and Movies

Florida Statute s. 770.01 contains a pre-suit notice condition precedent requirement before a person can sue the news media for defamation.  It provides: Before any civil action is brought for publication or broadcast, in a newspaper, periodical, or other medium, of a libel or slander, the plaintiff shall, at least 5 days before instituting such action, serve notice in writing on the defendant, specifying the article or broadcast and the statements therein which he or she alleges to be false and defamatory.  In a recent opinion, Mazur v. Baraya, 44 Fla. L. Weekly D1795b (Fla. 2d DCA 2019), the issue was whether...

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Attorney’s Fees on Attorney’s Fees

Can I recover my attorney’s fees for litigating the reasonable amount of attorney’s fees I should be entitled to for prevailing in my lawsuit?  This concept is known as “fees on fees.”  It depends. Generally, [i]t is settled that in litigating over attorney’[s] fees, a litigant may claim fees where entitlement is the issue, but may not claim attorney’s fees incurred in litigating the amount of attorney’s fees.  Nonetheless, certain contractual provisions are sufficiently broad to warrant an exception. The Burton Family Partnership v. Luani Plaza, Inc., 44 Fla. L. Weekly D1720c (Fla. 3d DCA 2019) (internal quotations and citations omitted) (finding bylaws created...

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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 within a Medical Record (Double Hearsay)

A medical record is admissible under the business record exception to the hearsay rule. Strong v. Underwood, 44 Fla. L. Weekly D1598c (Fla. 5thDCA 2019).   What about a party's statement within a medical record (double hearsay - hearsay within hearsay)?  Well, that hearsay statement may be admissible if another exception permits its admissibility.  Once such exception that could apply is an admission by a party opponent.  For instance, in Strong, a person driving a motorcycle collided with an SUV.  The motorcyclist sued the driver of the SUV.  An issue on appeal pertained a statement in a medical record by the motorcyclist’s...

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Exculpatory Clauses MUST be Clear and Unequivocal

I am not telling you anything you do not already know, but it is important to read and appreciate the documents you sign. Likewise, it is important to give due consideration to the documents you prepare or have prepared that you want another to sign.  Such documents are intended to have legal effect. By way of example, in Fresnedo v. Porky’s Gym III, Inc., 44 Fla. L. Weekly D1029a (Fla. 3d DCA 2019), the plaintiff sued his gym in negligence claiming he was injured by another person in the gym after this other person attacked him.  The gym relied on a...

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Two Proposal for Settlement Considerations

A proposal for settlement is a vehicle used to create an argument for the recovery of attorney’s fees from the date the proposal is served on forward if the opposing party does not accept the proposal within 30 days.  In certain circumstances, such as when there is there is no basis to recover attorney’s fees, it can be a useful vehicle to create an argument to recover attorney's fees.   There are also strategic reasons to serve a proposal for settlement at a certain point in time in the litigation.  There are definitely strategic issues that must be considered when serving...

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A General Release is Not Absolute

General releases, unfortunately, are not absolute.  A recent ruling from the Third District Court of Appeal in Falsetto v. Liss, 44 Fla. L. Weekly D1340d (Fla. 3d DCA 2019) confirms this point, although, candidly, I have mixed feelings regarding this ruling.    In this case, the Court held that the term “unknown” in a general release is not synonymous with the term “unaccrued;” thus, a release of an unknown claim does not mean a release of an unaccrued claim.  In theory, this makes sense since a future claim should not be barred.  It is one thing if the facts giving rise...

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Asserting Basis for Punitive Damages against Corporate Entity

A defamation claim can serve as a basis to amend a complaint to add punitive damages.   From prior articles (here or here) you know that asserting a basis for punitive damages is not made as of the date the lawsuit is filed.  Rather, a plaintiff must comply with the statutory, procedural requirements and move to amend to assert punitive damages by proffering evidence that there is “a reasonable showing by evidence in the record…which would provide a reasonable basis for recovery of such damages.”  Fla. Stat. s. 768.72(1).   There are times a plaintiff wants to attribute an employee’s defamation of character to...

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Mutuality of Obligation when it comes to Contractual Attorney’s Fees

The recovery of attorney’s fees is a creature of contract or statute.  When a party prays for attorney’s fees in a lawsuit, that prayer for relief is based on a contractual basis or a statutory basis to attorney's fees.  Sometimes, contracts include one-way prevailing party attorney’s fees.  In other words, the contract may provide that if one party (typically, the drafter of the contract) has to enforce the contract, the other party has to pay that party’s attorney’s fees and costs.  But, what if the other party has to enforce the contract or prevails in the other party's enforcement action.  ...

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