In re Standard Jury Instructions in Civil Cases—Report No. 13–01

Decision Date26 March 2015
Docket NumberNo. SC13–683.,SC13–683.
PartiesIn re STANDARD JURY INSTRUCTIONS IN CIVIL CASES—REPORT NO. 13–01 (PRODUCTS LIABILITY).
CourtFlorida Supreme Court

PER CURIAM.

The Supreme Court Committee on Standard Jury Instructions in Civil Cases (Committee) has submitted proposed changes to the standard jury instructions pertaining to products liability cases, and asks that the Court authorize the amended standard instructions. We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 2(a), Fla. Const.

BACKGROUND

In Case No. SC09–1264, In re Standard Jury Instructions in Civil Cases–Report No. 09–10 (Products Liability), 91 So.3d 785 (Fla.2012), the Court granted preliminary approval to many of the Committee's proposals to amend the instructions pertaining to products liability cases, while withholding authorization to publish and use the new and amended jury instructions. Specifically, the Court did as follows:

First, we provide preliminary approval for publication in the future of the proposals with regard to standard instructions 403.1—Introduction (new); instruction 403.2—Summary of Claims (new); instruction 403.4—Express Warranty; instruction 403.5—Implied Warranty of Merchantability; instruction 403.6—Implied Warranty of Fitness for Particular Purpose; instruction 403.8—Strict Liability Failure to Warn (new); instruction 403.10—Negligent Failure to Warn (new); instruction 403.12—Legal Cause; instruction 403.14—Burden of Proof on Preliminary Issue; instruction 403.15—Issues on Main Claim; instruction 403.17—Burden of Proof on Main Claim; and instruction 403.19—Burden of Proof on Defense Issues.
Second, the following jury instructions are preliminarily approved for publication in the future as modified: instruction 403.9—Negligence; and instruction 403.18—Defense Issues (new).
Last, the Court rejects the following proposals: instruction 403.3—Greater Weight of the Evidence; instruction 403.7—Strict Liability; instruction 403.11—Inference of Product Defect or Negligence (new); instruction 403.13—Preliminary Issue (new); instruction 403.16—Issues on Crashworthiness and “Enhanced Injury” Claim (new); and Model Instruction 7 and Special Verdict Form. Instead, the Court preliminarily approves for publication in the future instruction 403.3, consistent with previously authorized “Greater Weight of the Evidence” standard civil jury instructions.

Id. at 786–87 (footnote omitted). The Court referred the matter back to the Committee as follows:

We refer back to the Committee its proposals with regard to instructions 403.7, 403.11, 403.13, 403.14, 403.16, Model Instruction No. 7 and the Special Verdict Form, and the Committee Notes to each of the products liability standard instructions. We direct the Committee to make revisions consistent with the instructions preliminarily approved by the Court for publication in the future and as set forth in the appendix to this opinion, as well as the Court's decisions in In re Standard Jury Instructions in Civil Cases–Report No. 09–01 ( Reorganization of the Civil Jury Instructions), 35 So.3d 666 (Fla.2010) and In re Standard Jury Instructions in Criminal Cases–Report No. 2010–01 & Standard Jury Instructions in Civil Cases–Report No. 2010–01, 52 So.3d 595 (Fla.2010). We also direct the Committee to conform all instructions, comments, model forms of instructions, verdict forms, and any related material to the actions of the Court in this and prior opinions.

Id. at 787. The Court made it clear that [t]he approvals are only preliminary because this group of instructions must be viewed as a full package before authorization can be provided.” Id. The Court withheld authorization of the preliminarily approved instructions. Id.

Following referral back to the Committee, on April 15, 2013, subsequent to republication of the instructions and receipt of four comments, the Committee filed a report seeking to amend the products liability instructions, but “deferred consideration of the model charges and verdict forms pending final approval of the instructions.” The Committee also advised the Court that it was “continuing to consider some of the issues raised in the comments.” Because the Committee only partially complied with the Court's directions, the Court issued an order directing the Committee to adhere to the Court's directive by proposing jury instructions, model charges, and verdict forms. On March 15, 2014, the Committee published in The Florida Bar News four revised proposals: instructions 403.10 (Negligent Failure to Warn), 403.13 (Preliminary Issue), 403.18 (Defense Issues), and 403.19 (Burden of Proof on Defense Issues). The Committee also published new Model Instruction No. 7. One additional comment addressing various proposals was received by the Committee. The Committee filed its amended report and appendices in this case on June 9, 2014.

DISCUSSION

The Committee proposes amendments to instructions 403.1 (Introduction), 403.2 (Summary of Claims), 403.7 (Strict Liability), 403.8 (Strict Liability Failure to Warn), 403.9 (Negligence), 403.10 (Negligent Failure to Warn), 403.11 (Inference of Product Defect or Negligence), 403.12 (Legal Cause), 403.13 (Preliminary Issue), 403.14 (Burden of Proof on Preliminary Issue), 403.15 (Issues on Main Claim), 403.16 (Issues on Crashworthiness and “Enhanced Injury” Claims), 403.17 (Burden of Proof on Main Claim), 403.18 (Defense Issues), and 403.19 (Burden of Proof on Defense Issues). In addition, the Committee proposes new Model Instruction No. 7 with an accompanying Special Verdict Form. Having considered the Committee's amended report, the comments, and the Committee's responses to the comments, we authorize the Committee's proposals for publication and use.

With regard to the Committee's proposals which had previously been rejected by the Court, we make the following observations. Instruction 403.7 (Strict Liability), as amended, provides separate definitions for manufacturing defect and design defect, and retains both the consumer expectations and risk/benefit tests to define a design defect. Instructions 403.11 (Inference of Product Defect or Negligence), 403.13 (Preliminary Issue), and 403.16 (Issues on Crashworthiness and “Enhanced Injury” Claims) do not include actual instructions, but the Committee includes Notes on Use for 403.11, Notes on Use for 403.13, and Notes on Use for 403.16, respectively.

CONCLUSION

We authorize for publication and use those instructions to which the Court previously gave preliminary approval, and to the extent the Committee did not propose additional changes to those instructions, they are fully engrossed in the appendix to this opinion.1 In addition, we authorize the amended instructions, as set forth in the appendix to this opinion, for publication and use. New language is indicated by underlining, and deleted language is indicated by struck-through type. In authorizing the publication and use of these instructions, we express no opinion on their correctness and remind all interested parties that this authorization forecloses neither requesting additional or alternative instructions nor contesting the legal correctness of the instructions. We further caution all interested parties that any comments associated with the instructions reflect only the opinion of the Committee and are not necessarily indicative of the views of this Court as to their correctness or applicability. The instructions as set forth in the appendix shall become effective when this opinion becomes final.

It is so ordered.

LABARGA, C.J., and PARIENTE, LEWIS, QUINCE, POLSTON, and PERRY, JJ., concur.

CANADY, J., concurs in result.

APPENDIX

403 PRODUCTS LIABILITY

403.1 Introduction

403.2 Summary of Claims

403.3 Greater Weight of the Evidence

403.4 Express Warranty

403.5 Implied Warranty of Merchantability

403.6 Implied Warranty of Fitness for Particular Purpose

403.7 Strict Liability

403.8 Strict Liability Failure to Warn

403.9 Negligence

403.10 Negligent Failure to Warn

403.11 Inference of Product Defect or Negligence (reserved)

403.12 Legal Cause

403.13 Preliminary Issue (reserved)

403.14 Burden of Proof on Preliminary Issue

403.15 Issues on Main Claim

403.16 Issues on Crashworthiness and “Enhanced Injury” Claims

403.17 Burden of Proof on Main Claim

403.18 Defense Issues

403.19 Burden of Proof on Defense Issues

403.1 INTRODUCTION

Members of the jury, you have now heard and received all of the evidence in this case. I am now going to tell you about the rules of law that you must use in reaching your verdict. [You will recall at the beginning of the case I told you that if, at the end of the case I decided that different law applies, I would tell you so. These instructions are (slightly) different from what I gave you at the beginning and it is these rules of law that you must now follow.] When I finish telling you about the rules of law, the attorneys will present their final arguments and you will then retire to decide your verdict.

NOTES ON USE FOR 403.1

1. When instructing the jury before taking evidence, use instruction 202.1 in lieu of instruction 403.1. See Model Charge 1.Instruction 403.1 is for instructing the jury after the evidence has been concluded. Use the bracketed language in instruction 403.1 when the final instructions are different from the instructions given at the beginning of the case. If the instructions at the end of the case are different from those given at the beginning of the case, the committee recommends that the court point out the differences, with appropriate language in the final instructions, including an explanation for the difference, such as when the court has directed a verdict on an issue.

2. Fla.R.Civ.P. 1.470(b) authorizes instructing the jury during trial or before or after final argument. The timing of instructions is within the sound discretion of the trial judge, to be determined on a case-by-case basis, but the committee strongly recommends instructing the jury before final argument.

3. Each juror must be provided with a full set of jury instructions...

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