A Florida appeals court has clarified a rule governing the state’s appellate procedure regarding money judgments and interest.
Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled Wednesday in a medical malpractice case hinged on Rule 9.340(c) of the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure. The rule holds “if a judgment of reversal is entered that requires the entry of a money judgment on a verdict, the mandate shall be deemed to require such money judgment to be entered as of the date of the verdict.”
Attorneys for Susan Kalitan, the plaintiff in the case, cited the rule in their motion for an amended final judgment, requesting that interest accrue from the date of the verdict rather than the judgment.
The appellate court had previously weighed in on Kalitan’s underlying lawsuit against Dr. Robert Alexander and others for a botched medical procedure that damaged her esophagus. The Fourth DCA ruled favorably to the plaintiff in 2015 by reversing and remanding a trial court’s order to reduce her jury award in adherence to a statute limiting non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases.
Although the trial court complied with the Fourth DCA’s findings, its decision to grant Kalitan’s motion was ultimately nullified following an appeal by the defense.
Read the ruling:
“Rule 9.340(c) is an exception to the general rule that interest runs from the date a judgment is entered,” the court wrote. “The appellate rule exception only applies when reversal on appeal results in the initial entry of a money judgment, not when reversal on appeal requires the modification of a previously entered money judgment.”
The three-judge panel held because their earlier reversal modified an existing judgment — instead of producing one — ”the rule does not apply, and the trial court erred in modifying the final judgment so that interest would run from the date of the verdict.” Wednesday’s ruling orders the lower court to reinstate the provisions of the original judgment. This will include the reduction of the interest rate from 6 percent to 4.5 percent.
One of Kalitan’s lawyers, Scott Schlesinger, was in trial when reached for comment by the DBR. Bryan Hofeld, a litigator with the Schlesinger Law Office in Fort Lauderdale, told the DBR, “We respect the court’s ruling on this issue.” The plaintiff’s appellate attorneys, Philip Burlington and Nichole Segal of West Palm Beach firm Burlington & Rockenbach, declined to comment.
Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer trial lawyer Robert Cousins directed inquiries to the defense’s appellate lawyer Dinah Stein. Stein, a managing partner at Hicks, Porter, Ebenfeld & Stein in Miami, did not respond to requests for comment.