Florida Civil Appeals
Florida Civil Appeals Cover A Wide Range of Topics
Civil appeals cover a wide variety of topics in Florida. From breach of contract to equitable distribution in a divorce and even foreclosures, Florida civil appeal cases vary greatly.
But while the subject matter of Florida civil appeals may be very different, the concept of harmless error is important in every civil appeal (and in every criminal appeal, incidentally), regardless of the topic.
Did An Error Occur During Your Florida Trial?
Errors occur in virtually every case. Lawyers and judges are humans, so they make mistakes.
But not all mistakes give you a right to relief on appeal.
In Florida, statutory (section 59.041, Florida Statutes) and common law (Special v. West Boca Medical Center, 160 So. 3d 1251 (Fla. 2015)) provide that only “harmful” errors will result in a reversal by an appellate court.
Errors that are “harmless” will not be corrected on appeal.
So How Do You Know When an Error Is Harmful Or Harmless?
Here is the test from the Special v. West Boca Medical Center case cited above: The beneficiary of the error must prove that there is no reasonable possibility that the error complained of contributed to the verdict.
Here’s How It Works In Practice
In some cases, it’s an easy call.
If a trial court refuses to grant a continuance and forces you to conduct your own trial because your attorney was abducted by aliens on her way into the courthouse, and you lose, you won’t have a hard time convincing an appellate court you’ve experienced harmful error.
On the other hand, let’s say in a 3-week jury trial the trial court refuses to allow in one piece of evidence that supports your position, but admits a bunch of other evidence, and otherwise runs a fairly clean trial.
Even though you may have a case establishing that piece of evidence should have come in (i.e. the judge made a mistake), that judicial error is not necessarily going to engender an appellate victory. You need to evaluate that piece of evidence in the overall scheme of things at trial.
Did another piece of evidence that was admitted support the same argument or position?
If the excluded evidence was cumulative to other evidence the judge allowed in, you aren’t going to win on appeal. But if that piece of evidence was truly a smoking gun, you probably have yourself an argument on appeal.
A good appellate lawyer challenging a trial proceeding will have this in mind from the outset and you should too.
There is no sense wasting your money arguing over an error that is unlikely to be perceived by an appellate court as one that made a difference.
That’s why it’s so important for you to consult a board-certified appellate attorney such as Michael Brownlee.
Consider the following list of some of Mr. Brownlee’s appellate wins:
i. Langley Limited Partnership, LLLP v. School Board of Lake County, 113 So. 3d 995 (Fla. 5th DCA 2013)
- Breach of Contract/Statute of Limitations
ii. Nieto, et al. v. Mobile Gardens Ass’n of Englewood, Inc., 130 So. 3d 236 (Fla. 2d DCA 2013)
- Homeowners Association / Standing to Enforce Regulations
iii. Rutan v. Rutan, 142 So. 3d 1 (Fla. 2d DCA 2014)
- Family Law-Divorce / Equitable Distribution
iv. Paramo v. Floyd, 154 So. 3d 477 (Fla. 2d DCA 2015)
- Default Judgment / Liquidated Damages
v. Boumarate v. HSBC Bank USA, N.A., 172 So. 3d 535 (Fla. 5th DCA 2015)
- Foreclosure / Standing to Foreclose
vi. Rautenberg v. Falz, 193 So. 3d 924 (Fla. 2d DCA 2016)
- Lack of Personal Jurisdiction
vii. Black Bear Reserve Homeowner’s Ass’n, Inc. v. Travelers Casualty and Surety Company of America, et al., 5D16-2024, 2017 WL 2704884 (Fla. 5th DCA 2017)
- Duty to Defend / Interpretation of Insurance Policy
While the civil cases in this list are all different, the key was using a board-certified appellate attorney who knows the appellate rules inside and out.
Click here to view more information about Mr. Brownlee's appellate wins.