Miami Trio Wins Published Appellate Ruling

Miami Managing Partner Todd Ehrenreich, Partner Seth V. Alhadeff, and Associate Ravika Rameshwar recently convinced a Florida appellate court to grant their petition to quash a circuit court order allowing the plaintiffs to amend and add a claim for punitive damages in a wrongful death suit.

The underlying matter is a wrongful death suit brought by the parents of an eight-year-old boy who died as a result of head injuries he sustained when a metal gate fell on him at his home. His parents sued the companies that owned, managed, or maintained the residence where the incident occurred. 

After filing their complaint, the plaintiffs sought to amend the complaint to add a claim for punitive damages but failed to attach a proposed amended complaint to their motion. In their motion, they included the facts required to assert claims against corporate defendants but did not specifically distinguish the purported acts of each corporate entity. The trial court granted the plaintiff’s motion, and only the defendants we represented appealed. 

In the petition for writ of certiorari, the petitioners raised two procedural issues: whether the respondents failed to attach an amended complaint and whether the respondents failed to proffer any evidence of corporate conduct by the petitioners that warranted punitive damages. The appellate court found in favor of the petitioners on both issues. 

The appellate court said that attaching a proposed amended complaint is required by the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure. Additionally, the court agreed that attaching an amended complaint to a motion to amend a complaint for punitive damages could help avoid shortcomings in the motion, such as the lack of differentiation among the corporate defendants and the attribution of intentional misconduct or gross negligence of individual employees to each corporation. The court also found that the respondents proffered no evidence that the alleged corporate actor held a managerial role and, therefore, there was no evidence of corporate misconduct that warranted punitive damages.

Based on the shortcomings in the record, the appellate court found that the trial court erred in allowing a claim for punitive damages and granted the corporate defendants’ petition to quash the order allowing the plaintiffs to amend and plead punitive damages. 

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