Martin v. Hacsi, 2005 WL 1842678 (Fla. 5th DCA August 5, 2005) (Trial Court Affirmed) Counsel for the defendant in a personal injury action filed a motion for enforcement of Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.260(a) based on the plaintiff’s failure to move to substitute a party defendant within 90 days after a suggestion of death was filed. Sumter County Circuit Court Judge Hale R. Stancil granted the motion and dismissed the lawsuit. On appeal, the 5th DCA affirmed, providing some very helpful guidance along the way for plaintiffs trying to figure out what to do when a defendant dies and no personal representative is appointed.
Continue Reading Court says YES to dismissal of personal injury action based on plaintiff’s failure to file a timely motion to substitute a party defendant within 90 days after a suggestion of death was filed

Global Travel Marketing, Inc. v. Shea, 2005 WL 1576244, 30 Fla. L. Weekly S511 (Fla. July 7, 2005) (Fourth DCA Reversed)

In a case that is sure to be of interest to personal injury attorneys (and the probate/guardianship attorneys they work with), the Florida Supreme Court reversed the Fourth DCA and held that an arbitration agreement incorporated into a commercial travel contract is enforceable against the minor’s estate in a tort action arising from the contract. Although not central to the Supreme Court’s ruling, the Court did provide the following helpful summary of current Florida law regarding when legal guardianships must be established to settle a minor’s civil claims:

Under section 2004->Ch0744->Section%20301#0744.301″>744.301(2), Florida Statutes (2004), parents, acting as the natural guardians of their minor children, [FN6] may settle their children’s claims for amounts up to $15,000. A net settlement greater than $15,000 on behalf of a minor requires establishment of a legal guardianship. See § 2004->Ch0744->Section%20387#0744.387″>744.387(2), Fla. Stat. (2004). If a legal guardian and a minor have potentially adverse interests, or if otherwise necessary, the trial court may, for a settlement greater than $15,000, and must, for a settlement greater than $25,000, appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the minor’s interests. See § 2004->Ch0744->Section%20301#0744.301″>744.301(4)(a); Fla. Stat. (2004). A presuit settlement on behalf of a minor requires court authorization, which may be given if the court determines that the settlement is in the minor’s best interest. See § 2004->Ch0744->Section%20387#0744.387″>744.387(1), Fla. Stat. (2004). Settlement of a pending claim also requires court approval. See § 2004->Ch0744->Section%20387#0744.387″>744.387(3)(a), Fla. Stat. (2004).

FN6. For children of divorced parents, “the natural guardianship shall belong to the parent to whom the custody of the child is awarded.” § 2004->Ch0744->Section%20301#0744.301″>744.301(1), Fla. Stat. (2004).

Continue Reading Establishment of legal guardianship not required to enforce minor’s pre-injury arbitration agreement

Beseau v. Bhalani, 2005 WL 1488584 (Fla. 5th DCA June 24, 2005) (Trial Court Reversed) In the underlying wrongful death suit, the defendants prevailed after a jury trial. They then obtained an order awarding attorney’s fees and costs against the personal representative of the decedent’s estate . . . in her individual capacity. Apparently Volusia County Judge J. David Walsh thought this was OK because the personal representative was named “individually” in the complaint’s caption and she never objected. The Fifth DCA made quick work of the case pointing out that regardless of what the complaint’s caption may have said, the body of the complaint made clear that the lawsuit was brought on behalf of the estate, not the individual who happened to be serving as personal representative. And if you’re not a party to the lawsuit, the court can’t assess a judgment against you . . . even if you don’t object.
Continue Reading Court says NO to holding personal representative personally liable for attorney’s fees and costs in unsuccessful wrongful death lawsuit