NO ABUSE OF DISCRETION IN TRIAL JUDGE DISMISSING PLAINTIFF’S CASE FOR FRAUD ON THE COURT.
Willie-Koonce v. Miami Sunshine Transfer, 43 Fla. L. Weekly D6 (Fla. 3rd DCA December 20, 2017):
A woman hired Miami Sunshine to drive her and her luggage to a cruise ship in Miami. As she was removing her luggage from the trailer, the vehicle and trailer began backing up, running over her and pinning her under the axle.
There is no dispute that she sustained serious injuries including a 10-day hospital stay for treatment of a fractured femur. The treatment included implanting a titanium rod and several screws to repair the bone. This was followed by extensive physical therapy.
In the plaintiff’s answers to interrogatories and deposition testimony she testified she now has a permanent limp, and that she needs a cane to get around and when she walks even few steps to her car without it she limps. She testified that she could not walk without the cane, could not carry large boxes, had not tried to carry heavier bulky items, and had to use a handrail to walk up steps.
Prior to her testimony, the defendant had been surveilling the plaintiff for seven hours. She was videotaped moving into a townhome in North Carolina, and the video shows her walking continuously up and down the steps without using a cane or the handrail and carrying large and bulky items (of indeterminate weight).
In response to the motion to dismiss her claim, the plaintiff could not explain how the video could be consistent with her claims and prior testimony.
The court then found that this clearly injured plaintiff repeatedly lied under oath in both her deposition and the evidentiary hearing, and that her deception was intended to interfere with the judicial system’s ability to impartially adjudicate the case.
The court rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the surveillance only went to limitations on her damages. The court said that the record presented precisely the egregious misconduct that warrants dismissal, and that the existence of the video provided clear and convincing evidence of an intention to deceive the court.
In conclusion, the court stated that although the result “may seem rough justice” courts must deal firmly and publicly with a litigant’s fraud on the very judicial system the litigant is asking to render justice. The court then quoted a statement in Latin of Roman law “That punishment may come to a few, the fear of it should affect all.”