Belated Friday Florida Update- Bond…… Sufficient Bond

Hello all, hope you had a great weekend.  This one seemed a little short!  Today we will hopefully get two blog posts in, starting with this Florida Law Update that you have been waiting on since Friday!

You know that whenever I blog about a case involving a constitutional analysis, it was a slow week in the appellate courts!  Last week virtually every decision was a 1-page per curiam affirmance, meaning the lower court’s decision was upheld without the need for an opinion.   To the appellant (the losing party who took up the appeal), the PCA is the legal equivalent to this famous part of the Adam Sandler movie “Billy Madison:”

Florida’s First District Court of Appeal did write an opinion in RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Hall, 2011 WL 2685609 (July 12, 2011), in which a tobacco victim’s wife challenged the size of a bond posted by RJ Reynolds on appeal.  The issue on appeal stems from a 1995 suit brought by the State of Florida against 5 big tobacco companies, a suit that resulted in a settlement that required the settling companies to pay $13 billion to the State over a 25 year period.  The revenue generated by the settlement is intended to fund various statewide tobacco education and prevention programs. 

In order to avoid threatening the tobacco companies’ abilities to fund the settlement, the Florida legislature passed a statute regulating the size of the bond that a participating company would have to post while appealing an individual judgment.  Under the normal rules of procedure, an appellant must post a bond equal to the size of the judgment.  Under the statute, however, a matrix was established regulating the size of the bond depending on certain factors. 

As a result of the statute, while appealing, a $15.7M judgment, defendant only had to post a $5M bond.  Plaintiff appealed, arguing that the statute limiting the size of the bond was unconstitutional.

On appeal, the First DCA affirmed, finding that the statute was entitled to a presumption of constitutionality and that the statute did not shift the balance of power between the legislature and the judiciary, who writes the rules of procedure.

The bond is intended to protect the judgment holder in the event that the defendant goes bankrupt during the pendency of the appeal, so I could see the argument raised by the individual in seeing the bond get reduced by 2/3’s.  However, as a citizen, I prefer to see the government funding preserved even if it means that one tobacco victim has to take on “only” a $5M verdict rather than a $15M one. 


 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.

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