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In Lawrence v. Beaulieu Group, 38 Fla. L. Weekly D2225a (Fla. 3d DCA October 23, 2013), Plaintiffs Melanie and David Lawrence filed numerous pretrial motions concerning evidentiary issues, most of which were overruled. During closing arguments, the Lawrences failed to object to the presentation of evidence by the defense which the Lawrences had attempted to exclude in their pretrial motions. Following a verdict for Beaulieu, the Lawrences moved for a new trial. Their motion was denied.

On appeal, the Lawrences asserted that 1) the trial court erred in denying their pretrial motions; 2) Beaulieu's attorney made improper closing arguments; and 3) the trial court erred in denying the Lawrences' motion for new trial.

The 3d DCA held that all of the trial court's rulings were to be reviewed under an abuse of discretion standard because the rulings concerned factual disputes rather than questions of law. In order for there to be abuse of discretion in denying a motion for new trial, evidence at trial must be "clear and obvious and not conflicting."

The 3d DCA held that there was insufficient evidence to find that the trial court had abused its discretion in denying the Lawrences' pretrial motions. The 3d DCA held that the Lawrences had failed to preserve their objections to the Beaulieu's closing argument because the Lawrences failed to make contemporaneous objections.

Finally, the 3d DCA addressed the Lawrences' claim that the trial court should have granted their motion for new trial. In reviewing the trial record, the 3d DCA noted that the evidence presented by each party was in conflict. As the weighing of conflicting evidence is within the province of the jury, the 3d DCA held that there was a rational basis to support the jury's determination that there was no negligence. Consequently, the 3d DCA upheld all of the trial court's rulings.


 

 

This summary was prepared by Ted Copeland of our firm.


Ted Copeland

 

 


38 Fla. L. Weekly D2225a

 

Wrongful death -- New trial -- Trial court did not abuse discretion in denying motion for new trial -- Trial court did not abuse discretion in evidentiary rulings -- Comments during closing argument were not objected to, and did not rise to level of fundamental error -- Trial court properly found that verdict was not contrary to weight of evidence

MELANIE AND DAVID LAWRENCE, etc., Appellants, vs. BEAULIEU GROUP, Appellee. 3rd District. Case No. 3D12-2226. L.T. Case No. 09-29805. Opinion filed October 23, 2013. An Appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County, Jerald Bagley, Judge. Counsel: Curt Obront, for appellants. Lane, Reese, Summers, Ennis & Perdomo and Kevin D. Franz, for appellee.

(Before SUAREZ, LAGOA and EMAS, JJ.)

(EMAS, J.) Appellants/Plaintiffs, Melanie and David Lawrence, co-personal representatives of the estate of Dorvil Lawrence, file this appeal following a jury verdict, and final judgment, in favor of Appellee/Defendant Beaulieu Group, and the trial court's order denying plaintiffs' motion for new trial. Plaintiffs raise numerous claims, including pretrial rulings on motions in limine, evidentiary rulings during trial, improper closing argument, and an assertion that a new trial should have been granted because the verdict was contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence.

Having reviewed the entire record below, we conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in its pretrial rulings on the motions in limine and in its evidentiary rulings during trial. See Jimenez v. Gulf & W. Mfg. Co., 458 So. 2d 58 (Fla. 3d DCA 1984).

Further, Plaintiffs failed to object at trial to those portions of the closing argument they now assert were improper, and failed to raise this claim in their motion for new trial. Even if we were to conclude these comments were improper, they do not, individually or cumulatively, rise to the level of fundamental error, rendering this claim without merit. See Murphy v. Int'l Robotic Sys., Inc., 766 So. 2d 1010 (Fla. 2000).

Finally, the trial court determined that the verdict was not contrary to the weight of the evidence, and upon our review we conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in so finding. Weatherly v. Louis, 31 So. 3d 803 (Fla. 3d DCA 2009). In order to determine that a trial court abused its discretion in denying a motion for new trial, the evidence must be clear and obvious, and not conflicting. Id. at 805 (citing Dewitt v. Maruhachi Ceramics of Am., Inc., 770 So. 2d 709, 711 (Fla. 5th DCA 2000)). Here, the case was vigorously contested and the evidence presented was in conflict. Weighing the evidence and resolving those conflicts is within the province of the jury. There was a rational basis in the evidence to support the jury's determination that there was no negligence on the part of Beaulieu Group which was a legal cause of the death of Dorvil Lawrence. Therefore the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Plaintiffs' motion for new trial.

Affirmed.










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