[SUPREME COURT OF FLORIDA]

Oral Argument Press Summaries
November 2-6, 1998

The following summaries are drawn from briefs and lower court judgments. They are meant to provide a general idea of facts and issues presented in cases, and should not be considered official court documents. Facts and issues presented in these summaries should be checked for accuracy against records and briefs, available from the Court, which provide more specific information.

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[ETCHING: SUPREME COURT OF FLORIDA]
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Florida Supreme Court Oral Arguments
Monday, November 2, 1998

Arrive early. Times & order of appearance are tentative and subject to change with no notice. Cases may be postponed due to exigent circumstances.

Case Time Facts & Issues Place of Origin
Musculoskeletal Institute v. James Parham

Nos. 91,966, 92,382 & 92,451

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9:00 Parham, an assistant state attorney, suffered injuries in a slip-and-fall in the Hillsborough County Courthouse, requiring surgery completed on Jan. 29, 1991. Parham sued his physicians for malpractice on April 17, 1995, contending that his suit was not barred by either the 2-year statute of limitations or the 4-year statute of repose because he had filed for legal extensions. The trial judge dismissed the suit, but the Second District Court reinstated it. The District Court also certified a question asking the Supreme Court whether extensions of time apply to a statute of repose. Hillsborough County
Robert Jeffrey Trease v. State of Florida

No. 89,961

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Approx. 9:40 Trease persuaded his girlfriend, Hope Seigel, to arrange a date with Sarasota auto dealer Paul Edenson. They planned to learn whether Edenson had a safe so they could steal it. On Aug. 17, 1995, Seigel went to Edenson's house. Later, Seigel opened the door for Trease, who knocked Edenson to the floor. Trease then shot Edenson in the head and slit his throat, killing him. After his capture, he was convicted of murder and the jury recommended the death penalty 11-to-1. This is his direct appeal.  Sarasota County
Sybil Eppler v. Tarmac America, Inc.

No. 91,066

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Approx. 10:40 Under Florida law, the driver of a vehicle that rear-ends another vehicle is presumed negligent, subject to some exceptions. Eppler's vehicle was rear-ended by a cement truck during the rush hour of Sept. 27, 1994, near the intersection of Southside Blvd. and Baymeadows Rd. Eppler said she was hit when the redlight here turned green but before she started moving forward. The cement truck driver said Eppler started to move, then suddenly stopped. Eppler's vehicle was rammed forward into the vehicle ahead, whose driver said he had not started moving when he was hit. Eppler sued the cement truck's owner, Tarmac, but the jury at trial said Tarmac was not negligent. Eppler appealed, but the First District rejected her arguments. However, the district court certified the question to the Supreme Court.  Duval County

 
 

Florida Supreme Court Oral Arguments
Tuesday, November 3, 1998

Arrive early. Times & order of appearance are tentative and subject to change with no notice. Cases may be postponed due to exigent circumstances.

Case Time Facts & Issues Place of Origin
Timothy "Pete" Smith v. Donald D. Welton

Nos. 92,930 & 92,973

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9:00 Homeowners in Okaloosa County challenged their 1995 property tax bill under a recent Florida constitutional amendment capping annual tax increases at 3%. The property appraiser contended that portions of their property, through oversight or mistake, had escaped taxation in prior years, and the increases merely reflected a more accurate appraisal. He argued that a Florida statute gave him authority to increase assessments in this manner despite the 3% cap. The homeowners argue that the higher assessments violate the 3% cap and that the statute is unconstitutional. The trial court agreed with the homeowners, and on appeal the First District Court affirmed the ruling. The property appraiser appeals. Okaloosa County
Raymond Michael Thompson v. State of Florida

No. 81,927

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Approx. 9:40 The victim, Jimmy Savoy, was an old friend and associate of Thompson's. Savoy allegedly stole some $600,000 from Thompson before fleeing to another state. Witnesses said that Thompson then put out an open contract on Savoy. In March 1982, Thompson and his associates located Savoy in South Florida, abducted him out to sea, tortured him, wrapped him in chains, shot him in the head, and dumped him in the ocean. One of the associates testified against Thompson, leading to the latter's conviction and death sentence in 1986. His conviction was affirmed on appeal. Thompson now challenges the validity of his death sentence. Broward County
Walter L. Stone v. Georgene Wall 

No. 92,499

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Approx. 10:30 In 1987 Walter Stone and his wife divorced in Virginia. In 1994 while their minor daughter was visiting Stone at his Mississippi home, his exwife informed him she was dying of brain cancer. He let the daughter-identified only as S.P.S.-return and stay with her mother until the latter died. The mother said that, on her death, she wanted custody of S.P.S. to go to her half-sister, but Wall said he would take custody as the child's father. Several of the the mother's relatives allegedly conspired to remove S.P.S. to Colorado, with part of the conspiracy allegedly occurring in Florida. (One of the relatives was a resident of Florida.) The father sued them under state law, though the case was heard in federal court because of its interstate nature. The federal judge dismissed the case. On appeal, the federal Eleventh Circuit Court determined that there was no controlling case law and certified the question to the Florida Supreme Court. Dade County

Virginia

Colorado

Mississippi


 
 

Florida Supreme Court Oral Arguments
Wednesday, November 4, 1998

Arrive early. Times & order of appearance are tentative and subject to change with no notice. Cases may be postponed due to exigent circumstances.

Case Time Facts & Issues Place of Origin
State of Florida v. Carol Leigh Thompson

No. 92,831

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* CASE OF THE MONTH *

http://www.firn.edu/supct/cyber/

9:00 Thompson was sentenced to life in prison as a violent career criminal following her conviction for the armed robbery of a person over the age of 65. She challenged the statute authorizing this sentence on grounds that it violated a provision of the Florida Constitution forbidding legislation in a single bill that embraced more than one subject. The trial court denied the request, but on appeal the Second District agreed that the statute was unconstitutional. The District Court reasoned that the bill enacting the statute also enacted a separate statute allowing victims of domestic violence to sue their attackers, which it concluded were different subjects. The State appeals. Hillsborough County
William M. White v. State of Florida N/A THIS CASE RESCHEDULED FOR FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 6, 1998 Orlando

Orange County

Robert Larkins v. State of Florida

No. 91,131

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Approx. 10:30 Larkins was convicted of the Aug. 30, 1990, murder of Roberta Faith Nicolas at a Circle K store in Bowling Green during a robbery. He was convicted and sentenced to death in 1991. The Supreme Court later sent the case back to the trial judge for a proper evaluation of mitigating evidence in a new sentencing proceeding. He was again sentenced to death and appeals. Bowling Green

Hardee County

Robert Thomas v. State of Florida

No. 91,020

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Approx. 11:10 In April 1996, 18-year-old Monye Elvord and a friend Imara Skinner were abducted by Thomas and another man in a parking lot near the Jacksonville Superdome. Later, the two assaulted Elvord, and Thomas took Skinner aside and killed him. At trial, Thomas was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in accordance with an 11-to-1 jury recommendation. He appeals. Duval County

 
 

Florida Supreme Court Oral Arguments
Thursday, November 5, 1998

Arrive early. Times & order of appearance are tentative and subject to change with no notice. Cases may be postponed due to exigent circumstances.

Case Time Facts & Issues Place of Origin
Andrew Richard Lukehart v. State of Florida

No. 90,507

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9:00 Lukehart was tried and convicted for the Feb. 25, 1996, murder of a minor child Gabrielle Hanshaw. The victim was one of two children of 22-year-old Misty Rhue, who lived on Epson Lane. Lukehart was Rhue's boyfriend. The day of the killing, Lukehart mysteriously fled the house in Rhue's car, and Gabrielle was missing. Lukehart later turned himself into police, gave several inconsistent stories, but finally said the baby had died when he accidently dropped her on the floor, causing her to strike her had. He led police to a pond where Gabrielle's body was found. Experts said the injuries were inconsistent with an accidental fall. The jury at trial recommended the death penalty 9-to3, and the judge sentenced him to die. He appeals. Duval County
St. Mary's Hospital v. Charles Phillipe

Nos. 91,895 & 91,896

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Approx. 10:00 Charles Phillipe's wife Juslin died while giving birth to their daughter Ecclesianne, who later was found to have suffered severe brain damage. Medical providers admitted liability and agreed to arbitrate damages without going to trial. The arbitrators awarded a large sum, including more than $1 million in noneconomic damges. The Fourth District Court reduced this sum to $250,000, but left intact other damage awards and costs of nearly $3.75 million. Both sides appealed. Palm Beach County
Dirk Franzen, M.D. v. Henry E. Mogler

Nos. 91,894 & 91,934

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Approx. 10:50 The child of Henry & Donna Mogler died after being treated by Dr. Franzen. The physician admitted liability and submitted the case to arbitration without going to trial. Arbitrators awarded more than $1.4 million, including $500,000 in noneconomic damages. The Fourth District Court reduced the latter award to $250,000 but left other damages intact. Both sides appealed. Palm Beach County
State of Florida v. American Tobacco Co.

Nos. 93,148, 93,195 & 93,633

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Approx. 11:30 In February 1995, the State entered into a contingency agreement with several law firms to recover Medicaid expenses paid for tobacco-related illnesses. The contingency provided that the firms receive 25 percent. After the firms sued national tobacco companies, the State settled all claims for an amount estimated at $11.3 billion over 25 years. The settlement included an attorney's fees clause that differed from that in the contingency agreement. The trial court struck the clause in the contingency agreement on grounds it violated Bar rules. The firms went to the Fourth District, which stayed the trial judge's order pending appeal. The Fourth District later reversed, but before it did so, the Legislature appropriated all of the proceeds paid in settlement. The trial court ordered a portion of this money transferred to the court's registry pending appeal. On May 26, 1998, the Fourth District certified the case to the Supreme Court with the following question: "Are the funds derived from the tobacco settlement subject to disbursement by the trial court?"  Palm Beach County

Statewide impact

Florida Supreme Court Oral Arguments
Friday, November 6, 1998

Arrive early. Times & order of appearance are tentative and subject to change with no notice. Cases may be postponed due to exigent circumstances.

Case Time Facts & Issues Place of Origin
William M. White v. State of Florida

No. 88,686

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9:00 White, a member of a motorcycle gang called the Outlaws, was convicted and sentenced to death in 1978 for the murder of Gracie Mae Crawford. White and some companions had met Crawford at an Orlando nightclub, and allegedly attacked her because she liked African-Americans. His appeal was denied by the Florida and U.S. Supreme Courts. He now challenges the validity of his death sentence. Orlando

Orange County


 

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