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Purpose of Opening Statements

  We’ve all seen movies that reflect the power of an opening statement.   Remember the movies “The Devil’s Advocate” or “Philadelphia” or “A Few Good Men?”   All of these show powerful opening statements with a purpose.  Remember the movie "My Cousin Vinny?"  This movie does not reflect a powerful opening statement with a purpose, although it sure is funny!   “The purpose of opening statements is to outline what an attorney expects the evidence will establish, and control of opening statements is within the trial court’s discretion.” Bush v. State, 809 So.2d 107, 118 (Fla. 4th DCA 2002). The opening statement allows a party’s...

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Inconsistent Verdict Form – Make Sure to Timely Object

The verdict form is a very important aspect of civil jury trials. This is the form the jury fills out during deliberation to determine liability and damages. Previously, I explained the difference between a general verdict form and a special interrogatory verdict form and the importance of timely objections to the verdict form.  Be sure to consider and review (and, object, if need be) the type of verdict form submitted to the jury as well as the verdict form filled out by the jury (especially with a special interrogatory verdict form). With a special interrogatory verdict form, there is the possibility...

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Applying the Tipsy Coachman Doctrine

In a previous article, I discussed the appellate doctrine known as the tipsy coachman doctrine, which stands for the principle that an appellate court can affirm a trial court even if the trial court reached the right result (supported by the record) but for the wrong reasons. This doctrine allows an appellee (party prevailing in the trial court and responding to appeal) that is arguing to affirm the trial court’s ruling to present any argument on appeal supported by the record even if that argument was not raised in the trial court. Dade County School Board v. Radio Station WQBA,...

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Pinning the Poor Against the Rich at Trial…Nope due to the Presumed Prejudice!

We all like to root for the underdog and want the underdog to succeed. In this regard, there is something compelling about pinning the poor against the rich. We perhaps seek redemption for the poor. So, how does this play out in a jury trial? The answer is it does not and should not. Why; because of the presumed prejudice to the rich and the tendency to punish the deep pocket. By eliciting this evidence, a party is exposing itself to a mistrial. “Florida has a long-standing rule that no reference should be made to the wealth or poverty of a party,...

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Admissions Against Party Opponent (Hearsay Exception) Does Not Need to be Based on Party’s Personal Knowledge

An admission against a party opponent is an important exception to the hearsay rule. I previously discussed this hearsay exception in detail because it is an exception that routinely applies in order to admit testimony / evidence at trial. Recently, the case of Jones v. Alayon, 2015 WL 1545005 (Fla. 4th DCA 2015) discussed the applicability of this exception. This case was a wrongful death action brought by the decedent’s daughter as personal representative of the estate stemming from an automobile accident caused by an off-duty police officer that originally fled the scene of the accident. The jury awarded the plaintiff...

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A Civil Action – Great Movie Regarding “Proving Your Case”

The movie A Civil Action is a great movie about the trials and tribulations of a lawsuit and, importantly, the challenges in proving YOUR case.  Enjoy these clips and please check out the movie.     Please contact David Adelstein at [email protected] or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1....

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Purpose of a Motion in Limine to Exclude Evidence

In order to avoid prejudicial or irrelevant evidence from being introduced to the jury by the adverse party, a party will file a motion in limine to exclude this evidence. “Generally, the purpose of a motion in limine is to prevent the introduction of improper evidence, the mere mention of which at trial would be prejudicial.” Buy-Low Save Centers, Inc. v. Glinert, 547 So.2d 1283, 1284 (Fla. 4th DCA 1989). Stated differently: “The purpose of a motion in limine is to exclude irrelevant and immaterial matters, or to exclude evidence when its probative value is outweighed by the danger of...

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Proving Affirmative Defenses and the Affirmative Defense of Comparative Negligence

  When a defendant is sued, the defendant will typically assert affirmative defenses (or defenses to the claims asserted by the plaintiff).  Just like a plaintiff has the burden of proof to prove its claims against a defendant, the defendant has the burden of proof to prove its affirmative defenses. The recent opinion in Bongiorno v. Americorp., 40 Fla L. Weekly D760c (Fla. 5th DCA 2015) exemplifies that a defendant that asserts an affirmative defense has the burden of proving that defense.   This case was a personal injury negligence case. The defendant argued that the plaintiff’s negligence contributed to her negligence, i.e.,...

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Considerations Involving Proposals for Settlement / Offers for Judgment

There needs to be a contractual or statutory basis in order to be entitled to recover your reasonable attorneys' fees at trial. See Cadenhead v. Gaetz, 677 So.2d 96, 97 (Fla. 1st DCA 1996). This means either the contract needs to support a basis for the party to recover attorney’s fees (such as a prevailing party attorneys’ fees provision or a contractual indemnification provision that authorizes attorneys’ fees) or there needs to be a statute that authorizes you to recover reasonable attorneys' fees. Absent these bases, there is generally no basis to recover attorneys' fees. However, there is a vehicle under...

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Using Demonstrative Aids or Exhibits at Trial

It is common to use demonstrative aids or exhibits at trial. These are exhibits (e.g., models, diagrams, charts, photographs, etc.) that are used to help explain or illustrate testimony or other evidence. The operative word is “help” because these exhibits need to help explain the testimony and help the trier of fact in understanding the testimony. These exhibits, however, are for demonstrative purposes only and do not constitute substantive evidence. No different than evidentiary exhibits, the probative value of a demonstrative exhibit must outweigh any prejudice to the adverse party. Regarding the use of demonstrative evidence, the Florida Supreme Court stated: “Demonstrative...

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