Justia Trusts & Estates Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Florida Supreme Court
Steele v. Commissioner of Social Security
This case focuses on a Florida statute that concerns the inheritance rights of a child conceived from the eggs or sperm of a deceased person. Kathleen Steele, the appellant, had a child named P.S.S conceived through in vitro fertilization using her deceased husband's sperm. She sought survivor benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA), claiming P.S.S. was entitled to such benefits as a child of Mr. Steele. The SSA denied the application, and the decision was upheld by an administrative law judge and a federal district court.On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit certified two questions to the Supreme Court of Florida. The court only addressed the first question, which asked whether P.S.S was "provided for" in the decedent's will within the meaning of Florida Statute § 742.17(4).The Supreme Court of Florida ruled that "provided for" in this context means that the will must give something to the child as contemplated by the decedent when the will was made. The court found that Mr. Steele's will did not contemplate the possibility of children being conceived after his death nor did it provide any inheritance rights to such children. Therefore, the court concluded that P.S.S was not "provided for" in Mr. Steele's will within the meaning of the statute and was not eligible for a claim against the decedent's estate. The court did not address the second question certified by the Eleventh Circuit as the answer to the first question was determinative of the case. View "Steele v. Commissioner of Social Security" on Justia Law
Tsuji v. Fleet
The Supreme Court approved the decision of the First District Court of Appeal affirming the trial court's judgment concluding that this negligence action was untimely filed, holding that Fla. Stat. 733.710(1) extinguished the claim at issue in this case.Petitioners, who were injured in an accident by Thomas Morton, sued Morton's estate for negligently operating the car and his employer, the Lewis Bear Company (LBC), for vicarious liability under the doctrines of respondeat superior and dangerous instrumentality. The trial court ruled (1) section 733.710(1) barred Petitioners' action against the estate because they failed to file their claims within two years of Morton's death; and (2) because the Estate could not be held liable, LBC could not be held vicariously liable. The court of appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) because Petitioners' claims against the estate were filed beyond section 733.710(1)'s deadline and did not qualify under an exception, they were barred; and (2) the court of appeal correctly held that section 733.710(1)'s statute of non claim exonerated LBC from vicarious liability for Morton's negligence. View "Tsuji v. Fleet" on Justia Law
Ruble v. Rinker Material Corp.
Plaintiff, individually and in her capacity as the personal representative of the estate of Lance Ruble, sought to amend the original complaint filed in this action before Respondents served an answer to that complaint. The trial court dismissed Plaintiff's amended complaint, and the court of appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed based on its holding in Capone v. Phillip Morris USA, Inc. (Capone II) and Boca Burger, Inc. v. Forum, holding (1) when an injured Plaintiff in a personal injury action dies, the personal representative of the decedent's estate is not required to file a separate wrongful death action but may be added as a party to the pending action and thus may file an amended pleading that alleges new claims and causes of action; and (2) the right of a plaintiff under Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.190(a) to amend a complaint once before the service of a responsive pleading is absolute, and a trial court has no discretion to deny that amendment. Remanded. View "Ruble v. Rinker Material Corp." on Justia Law
Capone v. Philip Morris USA, Inc.
Frank and Karen Capone filed an action against Philip Morris USA, a tobacco manufacturer, alleging several claims. After Frank died, Karen, in her capacity as personal representative of Frank's estate, sought to amend the complaint to add a wrongful death claim. Karen also filed a motion to substitute herself as a party plaintiff. The circuit court denied Karen's motions and dismissed the entire action, concluding that the personal injury action in this case could not be amended to include a wrongful death action. Although the circuit court, upon reconsideration, granted Karen's previously-filed motions, it vacated that order, finding Karen's motion for reconsideration was not timely served. The court of appeal affirmed, holding that the original personal injury action filed by the Capones could not be amended after Frank's death to include a wrongful death claim. The Supreme Court quashed the decision of the Third District, holding that upon the death of a party plaintiff in a personal injury action, the personal representative of the decedent's estate may be added to the pending action as a party and thus may file an amended pleading that alleges new or amended claims and causes of action. Remanded. View "Capone v. Philip Morris USA, Inc." on Justia Law
Laizure v. Avante at Leesburg, Inc.
A nursing home patient (Decedent) signed an agreement providing for arbitration of disputes arising out of treatment and care at the nursing home. Decedent subsequently died, allegedly through the nursing home's negligence. Through Decedent's personal representative, Decedent's survivors (Plaintiffs) subsequently brought a cause of action for deprivation of rights under the applicable nursing home statute and, alternatively, a wrongful death action. At issue on appeal was whether an arbitration agreement signed by the decedent requires his estate and heirs to arbitrate their wrongful death claims. The court of appeal concluded that the estate and heirs were bound by the arbitration agreement but certified a question to the Supreme Court. The Court approved of the court of appeal's decision and answered that the execution of a nursing home arbitration agreement by a patient with capacity to contract binds the patient's estate and statutory heirs in a subsequent wrongful death action arising from an alleged tort within the scope of the valid arbitration agreement. View "Laizure v. Avante at Leesburg, Inc." on Justia Law
Shotts, etc. v. OP Winter Haven, Inc., et al.
Petitioner, as personal representative of her uncle's estate, filed a complaint against respondent alleging negligence and breach of fiduciary duties. Respondent moved to compel arbitration based on an agreement petitioner had signed on her uncle's admission. The court held that the district court erred in failing to rule that the court, not the arbitrator, must decide whether the arbitration agreement violated public policy. The court also held that the district court erred in failing to rule that the limitations of remedies provisions in this case violated public policy, for they undermined specific statutory remedies created by the Legislature. The court further held that the district court erred in ruling that the limitations of remedies provisions that called for imposition of the American Health Lawyer Association rules was severable. The court finally concluded that the United States Supreme Court's recent decision in Rent-A-Center, West, Inc. v. Jackson was inapplicable. View "Shotts, etc. v. OP Winter Haven, Inc., et al." on Justia Law
Hill v. Davis, Etc.
This case arose when respondent, a resident of New York, filed a petition for administration asserting that he was entitled to be appointed personal representative of the estate of the decedent because he was the decedent's stepson and was nominated as personal representative in the will. At issue was whether an objection to the qualifications of a personal representative of an estate was barred by the three-month filing deadline set forth in section 733.212(3), Florida Statutes, a provision of the Florida Probate Code, when the objection was not filed within the statutory time frame. The court held that section 733.212(3) barred an objection to the qualifications of a personal representative, including an objection that the personal representative was never qualified to serve, if the objection filed under this statute, except where fraud, misrepresentation, or misconduct with regard to the qualifications was not apparent on the face of the petition or discovered within the statutory time frame. Accordingly, because fraud, misrepresentation, or misconduct was not alleged in relation to the objection to the personal representative in this case, the court approved the decision of the First District Court. The court also held that, to the extent that the decision of the Third District Court in Angelus v. Pass involved allegations of fraud or misrepresentation not revealed in the petition for administration, the court approved the result in Angelus. However, the court disapproved Angelus to the extent that it held section 733.212(3) did not bar objections that a personal representative was never qualified to serve.