Friday Florida Law Update- The Tipsy Coachman Rule

Hello all, TGIF, and welcome to your timely for once Florida law update!  Today we feature a picture of a stagecoach to highlight an opinion from the Florida Supreme Court this week employing one of my favorite legal doctrines — the “tipsy coachman rule.”  The TCR applies when an appellate court agrees with the ruling of the lower court, but disagrees with the reasoning that the lower court used to get there.  It’s kind of like when you’d get a math paper back with some points taken off because you didn’t properly show your work!

The underlying facts of Public Health Trust of Miami-Dade Co. v. Acanda, 2011 WL 2473007 (Fla. June 23, 2011), are tragic.  Acanda is a negligence action stemming from a family’s loss of a premature newborn five days after it was born.  The child’s family sued the state-run facility for medical negligence.  In an affirmative defense, the State claimed that Plaintiff failed to plead that it served the Florida Department of Financial Services, a statutory requirement in civil actions against the State.  Defendant did not pursue the argument again until trial, when it moved for directed verdict at the close of Plaintiff’s case.  Plaintiff immediately served a copy on the DFS upon receipt of the motion for directed verdict.  The trial court denied Defendant’s motion, and Plaintiff eventually was victorious at trial. 

On appeal, the Third District Court of Appeal affirmed.  However, the Third DCA focused on a controversy of whether the Plaintiff had actually closed its case in chief at the time of Defendant’s motion for directed verdict, suggesting that if Defendant had waited until the close of Plaintiff’s case, its Motion would or should have been granted. 

The Florida Supreme Court had none of that.  Undergoing a moderate statutory analysis, the Court held that service on the DFS is not a required element of a negligence claim, and Plaintiff’s failure to do so cannot be employed as a “gotcha” tactic at trial.  The Court also noted that Defendant’s affirmative defense was illogical, in that service of the Complaint occurs after the filing, meaning that Plaintiff could not reasonably plead that it has served the Complaint on the DFS since that would be a logistical possibility.

The only question left by the opinion is whether the ruling rendered the statutory requirement as a virtual nullity.



 THE COMMENTS ON THIS BLOG DO NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE.  NOR DO THEY CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP.  They are provided for informational purposes only.  Actual legal advice can only be provided after consultation with an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

Explore posts in the same categories: Florida Law Updates

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