Legal Updates

PORT EVERGLADES DREDGING  The U.S. District Court in Miami is the scene for a lawsuit filed by environmentalists and recreational divers who are challenging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to dredge Port Everglades.  The suit alleges the decision was made without the required review of the health of the coral reefs within the dredging area.

FLORIDA VOTING  A U.S. district court judge ruled in favor of voter rights groups by extending Florida’s voter registration deadline in response to Hurricane Matthew.  An additional week of registration was added.  The same judge also ruled that the law governing vote-by-mail ballots was invalid.  Voters whose vote-by-mail ballots are rejected due to non-matching signatures will now have the opportunity to correct their signature.

FLORIDA DEATH PENALTY CASES  The Florida Supreme Court has issued a ruling against the State in regards to the application of the death penalty by juries.  In 2016, the Legislature tweaked the law regarding the imposition of the death penalty in response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.  The Florida Court reviewed the new law and determined that the death penalty decision must be unanimous, not just a super majority of the jury.

PERSONAL INJURY PROTECTION SUIT  Insurers throughout the state are awaiting a ruling from the  Florida Supreme Court in a muddled case regarding fee language in personal injury protection policies.  Allstate sued an MRI facility claiming that language in their policies was clear and policyholders should have known that the company was limiting medical payments for persons involved in accidents.  The 4th District Court of Appeal ruled in favor of policyholders in 2015, while the 3rd District Court of Appeal recently ruled in favor of Allstate.  Oral arguments were heard before the Supreme Court on September 1st.

CHINESE DRYWALL  Florida’s Supreme Court has declined to take up an appeal from a couple who were forced from their home by fumes emanating from drywall imported from China.  The 2nd District Court of Appeal had ruled against the couple saying they had not provided evidence that water intrusion caused by weather conditions contributed to the problem.  The issue involved a home insurance exclusion from damages caused by imported drywall.  It is estimated that up to 10,000 homes in the U.S. are contaminated by the defective drywall.

DOCTOR MALPRACTICE IN DIAGNOSIS  The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that doctors may be liable if their patients commit suicide.  The case involved a woman who had a phone conference with a doctor’s office concerning her depression.  The doctor changed her anxiety drug prescription without personally discussing her symptoms or side affects with her.  The next day, the woman committed suicide.  The Court ruled there is a standard level of care, and should a physician not abide by the standard, they are subject to liability.

PROPERTY INSURER LEGAL FEES  The Florida Supreme Court has awarded attorney fees to a plaintiff who successfully won a case related to home damage by a sinkhole in Marion County.  The insurer’s consultant concluded the damage was not related to a sinkhole.  After two other experts sided with the couple, the insurance company agreed to pay for the damages.

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