Walker & LaBerge, Inc. v. Halligan, No. 49056

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida
Writing for the CourtSUNDBERG; OVERTON; ADKINS
Citation344 So.2d 239
PartiesWALKER & LaBERGE, INC., and Bituminous Casualty Corporation, Appellants, v. Jack HALLIGAN, Appellee.
Docket NumberNo. 49056
Decision Date17 March 1977

Page 239

344 So.2d 239
WALKER & LaBERGE, INC., and Bituminous Casualty Corporation, Appellants,
v.
Jack HALLIGAN, Appellee.
No. 49056.
Supreme Court of Florida.
March 17, 1977.

Ronald S. Webster, or Whittaker, Pyle & Stump, Orlando, for appellants.

Paul R. Stern of Stern & LaRue, Daytona Beach, for appellee.

Page 240

SUNDBERG, Justice.

This cause is before us by virtue of a notice of appeal to review an order of the Circuit Court for Volusia County denying a motion for summary judgment. In denying the motion for summary judgment, the trial court held, inter alia, that Sections 440.10 and 440.11, Florida Statutes (1971), were unconstitutional. Since the court's order was interlocutory in nature, we review this matter by certiorari pursuant to Article V, Section 3(b)(3), Florida Constitution.

On October 6, 1972, appellee was an employee of Economy Electric, the electrical subcontractor on a large condominium project. While working on this project, appellee was injured when struck by a two-ton crate of glass which was either in the possession of appellant Walker & LaBerge, Inc., 1 the glazier subcontractor on the job, or of Terminal Transport, a delivery company. Appellant is accused of negligence in tying together and loading the glass, or in maintaining the dolly upon which the glass was situated. Although the contracts themselves have never been produced, both parties have assumed that Economy Electric and Walker & LaBerge were both subcontractors under Wiggs & Maale, the general contractor which is not a party to this litigation.

Appellee filed a complaint for personal injury damages against appellant alleging that the latter had been negligent in the manner described. Appellant answered that it was immune from liability under Sections 440.10(1) 2 and 440.11(1), 3 Florida Statutes (1971), which were in effect on the date of the accident.

In 1974, prior to the filing of the complaint in the instant action, Section 440.10, Florida Statutes (1973), was amended by addition of the following sentence:

'A subcontractor is not liable for the payment of compensation to the employees of another subcontractor on such contract work and is not protected by the exclusiveness of liability provisions of § 440.11 from action at law or in admiralty on account of injury of such employee of another subcontractor.'

Appellant moved for summary judgment, relying on the law as it existed at the time the alleged tort was committed. The trial judge denied the motion, holding specifically that the 1974 amendment was remedial and therefore should be applied retroactively. Further, he found that if the amendment was not retroactive, the statute would have been unconstitutional as it existed on the date the cause of action accrued. It is from this decision that Walker & LaBerge,

Page 241

Inc. and their insurance carrier have prosecuted an appeal in this Court.

It is a well-established rule of construction that in the absence of clear legislative expression to the contrary, a law is presumed to operate prospectively. Keystone Water Co. v. Bevis, 278 So.2d 606 (Fla.1973); U.S. v. Donnelly's Estate, 397 U.S. 286, 90 S..ct. 1033, 25 L.Ed.2d 312 (1970); Bruner v. United States, 343 U.S. 112, 72 S.Ct. 581, 96 L.Ed. 789 (1952); Claridge Apartments Co. v. C.I.R., 323 U.S. 141, 65 S.Ct. 172, 89 L.Ed. 139 (1944); Haggar Co. v. Helvering, 308 U.S. 389, 60 S.Ct. 337, 84 L.Ed. 340 (1940); Hassett v. Welch, 303 U.S. 303, 58 S.Ct. 559, 82 L.Ed. 858 (1938); Miller v. United States, 294 U.S. 435, 55 S.Ct. 440, 79 L.Ed. 977 (1935); Trustees of Tufts College v. Triple R. Ranch, Inc., 275 So.2d 521 (Fla.1973); H.K.L. Realty Corp. v. Kirtley, 74 So.2d 876 (Fla.1954); Indemnity Insurance Co. of N. America v. The Brooks-Fisher Insulating Co., 140 So.2d 613 (Fla.2d DCA 1962). We have recently had the opportunity to reiterate this rule in the cases of Foley v. Morris, 339 So.2d 215 (Fla.1976), and Fleeman v. Case, 342 So.2d 815. In Foley, petitioner filed a malpractice suit against his physician alleging that respondent left a rubber drain in his body during surgery. Subsequent surgery was necessary to remedy the original negligence. Respondents sought dismissal contending that petitioner's cause of action was barred by the two-year statute of limitations, Section 95.11(6), Florida Statutes (1973), which was effective ten months after the cause of action accrued, and was the law when the case went to trial. Respondents contended that the four-year statute of limitations, Section 95.11(4), Florida Statutes (1975), in effect when the cause of action actually accrued, was not applicable. We looked to the wording of the act itself to find possible support for its retroactive application. That search proved futile. There was nothing in the language of the statute which manifested an intention by the Legislature to do otherwise than prospectively apply the new two-year statute of limitations.

In Fleeman, five condominium unit owners joined by the lessee condominium association, of which they were members, brought suit against the lessor. Their complaint requested a declaratory judgment that an escalation clause in their lease was void under Section 711.236, as created by Chapter 75--61, Laws of Florida (now codified as Section 711.231, Florida Statutes (1975)). It was asserted that the statute was enacted to curb a practice which the Legislature thought inimical to this state's economy because of its inflationary nature. That practice was to insert in leases, for condominium recreation facilities or management contracts, rental escalation clauses tied to commodity or consumer price indexes. The lessor attacked the statute insofar as it operated retroactively, both as being without the ambit of the statute and as an impairment of the obligation of contract in violation of the United States and Florida Constitutions. Article I, Section 10, United States Constitution; Article I, Section 10, Florida Constitution. In finding for the appellant-lessor, we stated:

'. . . Appellees urge us to discern an intent for retroactive application (i) from the statute's proscription against the 'enforcement' of escalation clauses as well as their mere inclusion in leases and management contracts, and (ii) from the action of the House of Representatives in tabling a substitute amendment to the proposed legislation which would have expressly made the law prospective in operation. We decline to divine legislative intent for an issue as important as retroactive operation either from one ambiguous reference in a declaration of legislative purpose or from one attempt to amend the proposed law in one chamber of the...

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85 practice notes
  • Hapney v. Central Garage, Inc., No. 90-00475
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • February 1, 1991
    ...2d DCA 1990). Included in this category are statutes governing the burden of proof in civil actions. Walker & LaBerge, Inc. v. Halligan, 344 So.2d 239 (Fla.1977); Stein v. Miller Indus. Inc., 564 So.2d 539 (Fla. 4th DCA 1990); see also, Dep't of Agric. & Consumer Servcs. v. Bonanno, 568 So.......
  • Senfeld v. Bank of Nova Scotia Trust Co. (Cayman) Ltd., No. 83-854
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • May 1, 1984
    ...of these rules of statutory construction applies where the statute is solely remedial or procedural, Walker & LaBerge, Inc. v. Halligan, 344 So.2d 239 (Fla.1977); City of Lakeland v. Catinella, 129 So.2d 133 (Fla.1961); McCord v. Smith, 43 So.2d 704 (Fla.1949); Department of Transportation ......
  • Cauley v. City of Jacksonville, No. 57756
    • United States
    • Florida Supreme Court
    • July 16, 1981
    ...insurance system, each of which alters and restricts the means of traditional tort recovery. See Walker & LaBerge, Inc. v. Halligan, 344 So.2d 239 (Fla.1977) (workers' compensation); Lasky v. State Farm Insurance Co., 296 So.2d 9 (Fla.1974) (no-fault). Substantially the same constitutional ......
  • Brown v. City of Clewiston, No. 87-5503
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • July 13, 1988
    ...absence of clear legislative expression to the contrary, a law is presumed to operate prospectively." Walker & LaBerge, Inc. v. Halligan, 344 So.2d 239, 241 (Fla.1977). The exception to this "rule" arises only when "the nature of the [new or amended] statute [ ] involved was inherently proc......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
85 cases
  • Hapney v. Central Garage, Inc., No. 90-00475
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • February 1, 1991
    ...2d DCA 1990). Included in this category are statutes governing the burden of proof in civil actions. Walker & LaBerge, Inc. v. Halligan, 344 So.2d 239 (Fla.1977); Stein v. Miller Indus. Inc., 564 So.2d 539 (Fla. 4th DCA 1990); see also, Dep't of Agric. & Consumer Servcs. v. Bonanno, 568 So.......
  • Senfeld v. Bank of Nova Scotia Trust Co. (Cayman) Ltd., No. 83-854
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • May 1, 1984
    ...of these rules of statutory construction applies where the statute is solely remedial or procedural, Walker & LaBerge, Inc. v. Halligan, 344 So.2d 239 (Fla.1977); City of Lakeland v. Catinella, 129 So.2d 133 (Fla.1961); McCord v. Smith, 43 So.2d 704 (Fla.1949); Department of Transportation ......
  • Cauley v. City of Jacksonville, No. 57756
    • United States
    • Florida Supreme Court
    • July 16, 1981
    ...insurance system, each of which alters and restricts the means of traditional tort recovery. See Walker & LaBerge, Inc. v. Halligan, 344 So.2d 239 (Fla.1977) (workers' compensation); Lasky v. State Farm Insurance Co., 296 So.2d 9 (Fla.1974) (no-fault). Substantially the same constitutional ......
  • Brown v. City of Clewiston, No. 87-5503
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • July 13, 1988
    ...absence of clear legislative expression to the contrary, a law is presumed to operate prospectively." Walker & LaBerge, Inc. v. Halligan, 344 So.2d 239, 241 (Fla.1977). The exception to this "rule" arises only when "the nature of the [new or amended] statute [ ] involved was inherently proc......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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