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The below content previously appeared in the July 2021 issue of the Broward County Bar Association’s Barrister magazine. 

By Debra P. Klauber, Esq.

Florida Supreme Court finds that an insurer has standing to maintain a legal malpractice claim against counsel hired to represent the insured.

There is no question that a law firm retained by an insurance company to represent the insured is in privity with the insured who is the true client. But the Florida Supreme Court also held that the law firm can be sued for legal malpractice by that insurance company where the insurer is contractually subrogated to the insured’s rights under the insurance policy. The court also clarified that the decision to allow such a legal malpractice claim to proceed supports Florida public policy. Arch Ins. Co. v. Kubicki Draper, LLP, SC19-673, 46 Fla. L. Weekly S155 (Fla. June 3, 2021).

Employer not vicariously responsible for actions of an employee traveling to or from work, even where the employee is working out of state and driving an employer-provided rental car.

In this case arising out of an automobile accident, the appellate court upheld a summary judgment in favor of the employer on the issue of respondeat superior. In doing so, the court expressly rejected the argument that an employer’s vicarious responsibility for an employee to a third party is somehow dependent on whether the employee is driving to the work site from a temporary residence as opposed to his or her usual abode. Even though the employee was working out of state at the time of the collision, and driving a rental car provided by the employer, he was still on a morning commute to work at the time of the accident and thus the employer was not responsible. Indoneisia Peterson vs Mohamed Ibrahim and Cisco Systems, Inc. 2D20-244, 46 Fla. L. Weekly D1248 (Fla. 2d DCA May 28, 2021).

Third District clarifies when the statute of limitations begins to run in legal malpractice action.

The statute of limitations in a legal malpractice action begins to run from the rendition of the final order on appeal and ends two years later. If the losing party appeals an appellate decision to the Florida Supreme Court, that two-year time limit begins to run after the supreme court resolves the appeal or petition for review. Juan Francisco Vega, vs Andrew Franklin Rier, 3D20-1859, 46 Fla. L. Weekly D1233 (Fla. 3d DCA May 26, 2021).

School Board entitled to sovereign immunity in claim for inadequate security at school basketball game.

The plaintiff was injured while attending a high school basketball game when he fell in a crowd. He alleged that the school board failed to provide adequate security and crowd control. The school board argued that the decision about the number of necessary police and security personnel for each sporting event was a planning-level decision for which it was protected by sovereign immunity. The trial court disagreed, but the Fourth District reversed, finding that the number and placement of security personnel is, indeed, a planning-level decision. School Board of Broward County vs Sebastian McCall Jr., 4D19-104, 46 Fla. L. Weekly D1144 (Fla. 4th DCA May 19, 2021).

Private security company entitled to sovereign immunity for services provided at county facility where county maintained control over the contracted work.

Where the county contracted with a private security company to provide services at various government facilities, and the county maintained control over the quality, hiring, training, and removal of the security guards, the court held that the security company was entitled to sovereign immunity. Simply put, the court found that the security company and its officers were agents of the county, and that liability was limited by the sovereign immunity statute.  Kevin Lovelace vs Broward County and G4S Secure Solutions (USA), Inc., 4D20-1434, 46 Fla. L. Weekly D1081 (Fla. 4th DCA May 12, 2021).

Trial court properly quashed subpoena attempting to depose former counsel in a pending case.

In this lawsuit, after his termination from employment, the former employee sued his employer for unpaid wages, commissions and bonuses. The employer sought to depose the employee’s former counsel about presuit communications involving a post-termination meeting. Given that the deposition of opposing counsel in a pending case is extraordinary and rarely justified, and the fact that the employer failed to allege or establish that there was no other way to obtain the information, the appellate court upheld the order quashing the subpoena. Central Concrete Supermix, Inc. vs Jose A. “Pepe” Cancio, Sr., 3D21-274, 46 Fla. L. Weekly D1022 (Fla. 3d DCA May 5, 2021).