Enterprise Leasing Co. South Central, Inc. v. Hughes, No. 1D01-4821.

CourtCourt of Appeal of Florida (US)
Writing for the CourtLEWIS, J.
Citation833 So.2d 832
PartiesENTERPRISE LEASING CO. SOUTH CENTRAL, INC., Appellant, v. William W. HUGHES, Jr., etc., Appellee.
Decision Date12 December 2002
Docket NumberNo. 1D01-4821.

833 So.2d 832

ENTERPRISE LEASING CO. SOUTH CENTRAL, INC., Appellant,
v.
William W. HUGHES, Jr., etc., Appellee

No. 1D01-4821.

District Court of Appeal of Florida, First District.

December 12, 2002.


833 So.2d 833
B. Richard Young of Young, Bill & Fugett, P.A., Pensacola, for Appellant

R. Waylon Thompson of Manuel & Thompson, P.A., Panama City; Joel S. Perwin of Podhurst, Orseck, Josefsberg, Eaton, Meadow, Olin & Perwin, P.A., Miami, for Appellee.

LEWIS, J.

Enterprise Leasing Company South Central, Inc., appellant, challenges the trial court's finding that Chapter 99-225, Laws of Florida, violates the single subject rule under Article III, Section 6 of the Florida Constitution. Because each of the sections within Chapter 99-225 naturally and logically connect with the subject expressed in the title, we hold that Chapter 99-225 does not unconstitutionally violate the single subject rule. In addition, appellant contends that section 324.021, Florida Statutes (2000), which limits the liability of short-term motor vehicle lessors, does not deny access to courts, deny the right to a jury trial, violate the equal protection clause of the Florida Constitution, or violate the due process clause of the Florida Constitution. We agree. Accordingly, we reverse.

I. Factual Background

Appellant leased a motor vehicle to Earnest and Chris Jordan. Subsequently, on February 24, 2000, the vehicle driven by Chris Jordan crossed the center line and collided with the vehicle being driven by William W. Hughes, Sr. William W.

833 So.2d 834
Hughes, Sr. died immediately upon impact. Martha Hughes, his passenger, died seventy-eight days later from complications due to the accident

William W. Hughes, Jr., appellee, as personal representative of the estates of William W. Hughes, Sr. and Martha Hughes, filed a wrongful death action against appellant on June 30, 2000. Appellee alleged that appellant was liable for Jordan's negligence under the dangerous instrumentality doctrine. Subsequently, appellant filed a Motion to Limit Damages Pursuant to Section 324.021, Florida Statutes. It asserted that it was only liable to appellee for the statutory maximum of $220,000.

In appellee's response to appellant's Motion to Limit Damages Pursuant to Section 324.021, appellee argued that section 324.021 was unconstitutional. Appellee claimed that Chapter 99-225, which amended section 324.021, violated the single subject rule of the Florida Constitution. Appellee also claimed that section 324.021 denied access to courts, the right to a jury trial, as well as equal protection to the most seriously injured claimants and to the physically handicapped. In addition, appellee contended that the statute denied due process.

On July 3, 2001, appellant offered $134,000 in settlement of appellee's claims on behalf of William W. Hughes, Sr.'s estate. Appellee accepted the offer. Appellee proceeded to trial on claims raised on behalf of Martha Hughes' estate. A jury awarded appellee $176,594.36 for medical and funeral expenses as well as $180,000 in past and future pain and suffering to the survivors. Thereafter, the trial court denied appellant's Motion to Limit Damages Pursuant to Section 324.021. The trial court found that Chapter 99-225 violated the single subject rule under Article III, Section 6 of the Florida Constitution. This appeal follows.

As appellant raises constitutional questions, this Court reviews the trial court's order de novo. See, e.g., Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. v. Fla. Gaming Ctrs., Inc., 731 So.2d 21, 24 (Fla. 1st DCA 1999). When a trial court has declared a state law unconstitutional, the appellate court must begin the review process with the presumption that the law is constitutional. See id.; see also Dep't of Ins. v. Keys Title and Abstract Co., 741 So.2d 599, 600 (Fla. 1st DCA 1999). The party challenging the law has the burden of showing beyond a reasonable doubt that the law is unconstitutional. See Chicago Title Ins. Co. v. Butler, 770 So.2d 1210, 1214-15 (Fla.2000).

II. Single Subject Rule

Appellant first argues that the trial court erred in finding Chapter 99-225 in violation of the single subject rule. We agree. Article III, Section 6 of the Florida Constitution provides, in pertinent part, that "[e]very law shall embrace but one subject and matter properly connected therewith, and the subject shall be briefly expressed in the title." The purposes of the single subject rule are to prevent `log-rolling' legislation, or putting two unrelated matters in one act, and to prevent surprise of provisions in the act which were not indicated by the title and which might be overlooked and carelessly and unintentionally adopted. See State v. Canova, 94 So.2d 181, 184 (Fla.1957). An act may be as broad as the Legislature chooses provided that the matters involved in the act have a natural or logical connection. State v. Johnson, 616 So.2d 1 (Fla. 1993); Chenoweth v. Kemp, 396 So.2d 1122 (Fla.1981), receded from on other grounds by Sheffield v. Superior Ins. Co., 800 So.2d 197 (Fla.2001). The test for determining whether legislation meets the single subject

833 So.2d 835
rule is "whether the provision is a necessary incident to the subject expressed in the title or tends to make effective or promote the object of the legislation." Tormey v. Moore, 824 So.2d 137, 141 (Fla.2002)

Contrary to appellee's representation at oral argument, the title of Chapter 99-225 is "An act relating to civil actions." See ch. 99-225, at 1400, Laws of Fla. Chapter 99-225 contains thirty-six sections, and each of these sections reflects either a substantive or procedural change in a civil action. The Legislature raised the burden of proof in certain circumstances, provided new defenses, established presumptions, limited recovery of damages, and required alternative dispute resolution in certain instances. The individual sections in Chapter 99-225 promote the unexpressed goal of the act, which is to control some of the perceived excesses of civil litigation. This is most readily apparent in sections 15 to 19, which expanded the immunity from liability for defendants. In addition, sections 20 and 23, which place limits on the recovery of damages, exhibit an intent to restrain any excesses of civil actions. Although the act does not contain any legislative findings or expressed intent, section 33 of Chapter 99-225 provides evidence of the Legislature's intent to control civil litigation. Section 33 requires the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability to contract for an actuarial analysis to determine the:

expected reduction in liability judgments, settlements, and related costs resulting from the provisions of this act. The analysis shall be based on credible loss cost data derived from settlement or adjudication of liability claims accruing after the effective date of this act. The analysis shall include an estimate of the percentage decrease in such judgments, settlements, and costs by type of coverage affected by this act, including the time period when such savings or reductions are expected.

Ch. 99-225, § 33, at 1428, Laws of Fla. Although the title of the act is broad in its coverage, each section of the act is logically and naturally connected to the subject expressed in the title. The sections are necessary incidents to this subject and promote the object of the act.

The supreme court has rejected single subject challenges even when an act is lengthy, containing multiple sections and seemingly different topics. As long as all of the sections within the act can be unified under one umbrella of legislative intent, the Florida Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the act. For instance, in State v. Lee, 356 So.2d 276, 278 (Fla.1978), the supreme court reviewed Chapter 77-468, Laws of Florida, which contained forty-four sections addressing both tort reform and insurance. The appellees in Lee argued that the act contained "at least two separate subjects, insurance and tort reform." Id. at 282. Only a few sections of the act specifically addressed tort litigation; the remaining sections related to increases in automobile insurance rates and related insurance problems. Id. The supreme court concluded that, although the act was "broad and comprehensive," the matters therein were naturally and logically connected. Id.

Similarly, in Smith v. Department of Insurance, 507 So.2d 1080, 1083 (Fla.1987), the supreme court reviewed the Tort Reform and Insurance Act of 1986, Chapter 86-160, Laws of Florida. The act...

To continue reading

Request your trial
18 practice notes
  • Bush v. Holmes, Case No. 1D02-3160 (FL 8/16/2004), Case No. 1D02-3160.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • August 16, 2004
    ...Program is constitutional and would reverse. This constitutional issue is reviewed de novo. See Enter. Leasing Co. S. Cent. v. Hughes, 833 So. 2d 832, 834 (Fla. 1st DCA 2002). When a trial court has declared a state law unconstitutional, the appellate court must begin the review process wit......
  • Vargas v. Enterprises Leasing Co., No. 4D07-3929.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • October 31, 2008
    ...v. General Motors Acceptance Corp., 572 So.2d 1363, 1367 (Fla. 1990) (citing Folmar with approval); Enterprise Leasing Co. v. Hughes, 833 So.2d 832, 838 (Fla. 1st DCA 2002) (holding that § 324.021(9)(b)2 "merely limits the liability of short-term lessors.... The statute reduces responsibili......
  • Phillips v. Mirac, Inc., Docket No. 121831, Calendar No. 4.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • July 6, 2004
    ...retains the ability to recover fully from the lessee or operator of the vehicle. [Enterprise Leasing Co. South Central, Inc. v. Hughes, 833 So.2d 832, 838 (Fla.App., I note that I do not consider the possibility of complete recovery from the negligent party to be a constitutional prerequisi......
  • Bush v. Holmes, No. 1D02-3160
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • November 12, 2004
    ...Program is constitutional and would reverse. This constitutional issue is reviewed de novo. See Enter. Leasing Co. S. Cent. v. Hughes, 833 So.2d 832, 834 (Fla. 1st DCA 2002). When a trial court has declared a state law unconstitutional, the appellate court must begin the review process with......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
18 cases
  • Bush v. Holmes, Case No. 1D02-3160 (FL 8/16/2004), Case No. 1D02-3160.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • August 16, 2004
    ...Program is constitutional and would reverse. This constitutional issue is reviewed de novo. See Enter. Leasing Co. S. Cent. v. Hughes, 833 So. 2d 832, 834 (Fla. 1st DCA 2002). When a trial court has declared a state law unconstitutional, the appellate court must begin the review process wit......
  • Vargas v. Enterprises Leasing Co., No. 4D07-3929.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • October 31, 2008
    ...v. General Motors Acceptance Corp., 572 So.2d 1363, 1367 (Fla. 1990) (citing Folmar with approval); Enterprise Leasing Co. v. Hughes, 833 So.2d 832, 838 (Fla. 1st DCA 2002) (holding that § 324.021(9)(b)2 "merely limits the liability of short-term lessors.... The statute reduces responsibili......
  • Phillips v. Mirac, Inc., Docket No. 121831, Calendar No. 4.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • July 6, 2004
    ...retains the ability to recover fully from the lessee or operator of the vehicle. [Enterprise Leasing Co. South Central, Inc. v. Hughes, 833 So.2d 832, 838 (Fla.App., I note that I do not consider the possibility of complete recovery from the negligent party to be a constitutional prerequisi......
  • Bush v. Holmes, No. 1D02-3160
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • November 12, 2004
    ...Program is constitutional and would reverse. This constitutional issue is reviewed de novo. See Enter. Leasing Co. S. Cent. v. Hughes, 833 So.2d 832, 834 (Fla. 1st DCA 2002). When a trial court has declared a state law unconstitutional, the appellate court must begin the review process with......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT