35 So.3d 666 (Fla. 2010), SC09-284, In re Standard Jury Instructions In Civil Cases-Report No. 09-01 (Reorganization of the Civil Jury Instructions)

Docket Nº:SC09-284, SC09-296, SC09-299, SC09-300, SC09-301, SC09-302, SC09-303, SC09-304, SC09-306.
Citation:35 So.3d 666, 35 Fla. L. Weekly S 149
Opinion Judge:PER CURIAM.
Party Name:In re STANDARD JURY INSTRUCTIONS IN CIVIL CASES-REPORT NO. 09-01 (Reorganization of the Civil Jury Instructions). In re Standard Jury Instructions in Civil Cases-Report No. 09-02 (Greater Weight of the Evidence, Negligence, Believability of Witnesses and Closing Instructions). In re Standard Jury Instructions in Civil Cases-Report No. 09-03 (Jury D
Attorney:Tracy Raffles Gunn, Chair, Supreme Court Committee on Standard Jury Instructions in Civil Cases, of Gunn Appellate Practice, Tampa, FL, Judge James M. Barton, II, Vice Chair, Thirteenth Judicial Circuit, Tampa, FL, Larry S. Stewart, Chair, Book Reorganization Subcommittee, Miami, FL, Judge Ralph ...
Judge Panel:QUINCE, C.J., and PARIENTE, LEWIS, CANADY, POLSTON, LABARGA, and PERRY, JJ., concur.
Case Date:March 04, 2010
Court:Supreme Court of Florida
 
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35 So.3d 666 (Fla. 2010)

35 Fla. L. Weekly S 149

In re STANDARD JURY INSTRUCTIONS IN CIVIL CASES-REPORT NO. 09-01 (Reorganization of the Civil Jury Instructions).

In re Standard Jury Instructions in Civil Cases-Report No. 09-02 (Greater Weight of the Evidence, Negligence, Believability of Witnesses and Closing Instructions).

In re Standard Jury Instructions in Civil Cases-Report No. 09-03 (Jury Deadlocked).

In re Standard Jury Instructions in Civil Cases-Report No. 09-04 (Burden of Proof on Defense Issues).

In re Standard Jury Instructions in Civil Cases-Report No. 09-05 (Medical Malpractice Insurer's Bad Faith Failure to Settle).

In re Standard Jury Instructions in Civil Cases-Report No. 09-06 (Probable Cause-Malicious Prosecution and False Imprisonment).

In re Standard Jury Instructions in Civil Cases-Report No. 09-07 (Intentional Tort Exception to Exclusive Remedy of Workers' Compensation).

In re Standard Jury Instructions in Civil Cases-Report No. 09-08 (Professional Negligence).

In re Standard Jury Instructions in Civil Cases-Report No. 09-09 (Punitive Damages).

Nos. SC09-284, SC09-296, SC09-299, SC09-300, SC09-301, SC09-302, SC09-303, SC09-304, SC09-306.

Supreme Court of Florida.

March 4, 2010

Original Proceeding-Standard Jury Instructions in Civil Cases Committee.

Tracy Raffles Gunn, Chair, Supreme Court Committee on Standard Jury Instructions in Civil Cases, of Gunn Appellate Practice, Tampa, FL, Judge James M. Barton, II, Vice Chair, Thirteenth Judicial Circuit, Tampa, FL, Larry S. Stewart, Chair, Book Reorganization Subcommittee, Miami, FL, Judge Ralph Artigliere, Chair, Errors and Omissions Subcommittee, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Joseph H. Lang, Jr., Chair, Supreme Court Filing Subcommittee, of Carlton Fields, P.A., Tampa, FL, and Judge Lucy C. Brown, Chair, Plain English Subcommittee, Fifteenth Judicial Circuit, West Palm Beach, FL; John F. Harkness, Jr., Executive Director, and Jodi Beth Jennings, Bar Liaison, The Florida Bar, Tallahassee, FL, for Petitioner.

PER CURIAM.

The Supreme Court Committee on Standard Jury Instructions in Civil Cases (Committee) has submitted proposed changes to the standard civil jury instructions and asks that the Court authorize the instructions for publication and use.1 We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 2(a), Fla. Const.

BACKGROUND

In 2006, the Committee embarked on the most comprehensive review and evaluation of Florida's standard civil jury instructions since the first publication in 1967. Previously, the Committee has maintained the original numbering system and either assigned the next available number or added new instructions to a " Miscellaneous" section when seeking authorization for additional instructions by the Court. In addition, because the book has only been available in paper format in the past, the Committee had attempted to

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minimize the number of pages to be republished by using cross-references and directing users to insert other instructions in various locations.

As a result of the manner in which revisions of the standard civil jury instructions have been perfected over the years, use of the current book has become rather difficult. Following extensive review and revision, the Committee submitted its report in case number SC09-284, proposing the reorganization of the standard civil jury instructions and amendments limited to plain English modifications to make the instructions easier to understand. The Committee also submitted a number of reports that extended beyond reorganizing and rewording the civil instructions, seeking amendment of substantive aspects of some standard civil instructions under the reorganization format.2 The Committee presented the book reorganization to the bench and bar in a notice published in The Florida Bar News on April 15, 2008, inviting comment and identifying the web address on The Florida Bar's website for access to the entire reformatted book. Proposed amendments to specific instructions were published separately. As discussed below, we authorize the Committee's proposals with the exception of the proposed modification to the standard civil instruction defining " greater weight of the evidence."

DISCUSSION

1. Reorganization and Updating Wording

Reorganization of the standard civil jury instructions is based upon the delineation of separate sections, which include oaths, preliminary instructions, evidence instructions, substantive instructions, damages, general substantive instructions, closing instructions, and supplemental matters. Each of the substantive areas-i.e., General Negligence; Professional Negligence; Products Liability; 3 Insurer's Bad Faith; Defamation; Malicious Prosecution; False Imprisonment; Tortious Interference with Business Relationships; Misrepresentation; Outrageous Conduct Causing Severe Emotional Distress; Civil Theft; Contribution Among Tortfeasors; Claim for Personal Injury Protection Insurance (PIP) Benefits (Medical Benefits Only); Intentional Tort as an Exception to Exclusive Remedy of Workers' Compensation; and Unlawful Retaliation 4-are organized into separate sections and include pertinent standard instructions which are reproduced within each substantive section or, where necessary, tailored to the specific substantive area.

The basic " template" used in the reorganization of the substantive law instructions includes an introduction instruction, an instruction with a simple summary of the case, instructions with the rules, and instructions on the issues with the applicable burden of proof. The substantive sections generally include instructions covering the following areas: Introduction; Summary of Claims; Greater Weight of the Evidence; Clear and Convincing Evidence; Legal Cause; Preemptive Charges; Burden of Proof on Preliminary Issues; Issues on Claim (also designated Issues on Main

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Claim or Issues on Plaintiff's Claim); Burden of Proof (also designated Burden of Proof on Main Claim or Burden of Proof on Claim); Defense Issues; and Burden of Proof on Defense Issues.

The amended standard civil instructions also include a number of plain language modifications which attempt to simplify the instructions to increase juror understanding, by changing nonessential " legalese" to its plain English equivalent. For example, the following substitutions are included in the amended instructions: " before/after" for " prior/subsequent" ; " like" for " same" ; " the" for " such" ; " amount" for " degree" ; " incident in this case" for " incident complained of" ; " decide" for " determine" ; " was caused by" for " chargeable to" ; and " because" for " on account of."

Under the amended instructions, in the exercise of its discretion, the trial court may choose to instruct the jury at the beginning of the case as to substantive matters, prior to the introduction of evidence. To that end, we authorize introductory instructions under section 200 and initial instructions for each substantive section. We reiterate that the decision as to the timing of instructing the jury rests solely with the trial judge.

The amended instructions also conform with the Court's prior amendments to various civil rules of court and its authorization for publication and use of a number of standard civil jury instructions upon review of recommendations made by the Jury Innovation Committee. See In re Amends. to the Fla. Rules of Civil Proc., 967 So.2d 178 (Fla.2007).5

Finally, with regard to the reorganization and modification of the standard civil jury instructions, we decline to authorize the proposal to amend the definition of " greater weight of the evidence." Instead, we reauthorize the substance of former standard civil jury instruction 3.9, " Greater Weight of the Evidence," which is now designated as, or included in, instructions 401.3, 402.3, 404.3, 405.3, 406.3, 407.3, 408.3, 409.3, 410.3, 412.5, 413.3, 503.1b(1), b(2), b(3), b(4), and c(1), and 503.2b(1), (b)(2), (b)(3), and (b)(4).6

2. Substantive Amendments

The Committee also proposed substantive changes to a number of standard civil jury instructions, including the following:

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401.3, Greater Weight of the Evidence; 401.4, Negligence; 401.23, Burden of Proof on Defense Issues; 402.4c; Medical Negligence, Foreign Bodies; 402.4d, Medical Negligence, Failure to make or maintain records; 402.9, Preliminary Issues-Vicarious Liability; 406.4, Probable Cause; 407.8, Defense Issues; 601.2, Believability of Witnesses; 700, Closing Instruction; and 801.3, Closing Instructions, Jury Deadlocked. The Committee's proposals also include the following new instructions: 402.11d, Issues on Main Claim-Negligence of health care facility to assure comprehensive risk management and competence of medical staff; 402.12, Issues on Claim of Attorney Malpractice Arising Out of Civil Litigation; 404.5, Medical Malpractice Insurer's Bad Faith Failure to Settle; 414.5, Intentional Tort Exception to Exclusive Remedy of Workers' Compensation; and 503.1b(4), Punitive Damages-Bifurcated Procedure-Vicarious liability for acts of employee where employee is not a party or is not being sued for punitive damages. Because these instructions as set forth in the appendix to this opinion are fully engrossed, we briefly describe the amendments to the instructions under the new numbering system that we authorize for publication and use.

In Re: Standard Jury Instructions In Civil Cases-Report No. 09-02 (Greater Weight of the Evidence, Negligence, Believability of Witnesses and Closing Instructions), No. SC09-296

As explained above, we reject the Committee's proposal to amend the Greater Weight of the Evidence instruction. Rather, we authorize for publication and use the substance of former instruction 3.9 as...

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