NO DEPARTURE FROM THE ESSENTIAL REQUIREMENTS OF LAW IN GRANTING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO AMEND COMPLAINT TO ASSERT A CLAIM FOR PUNITIVE DAMAGES.
Levin v. Pritchard, 43 Fla. L. Weekly D2425 (Fla. 3rd DCA October 31, 2018):
The plaintiff notified his employer of his intention to retire. Plaintiff and the employer then executed a separation agreement. While the plaintiff still worked for the defendant, he was granted units in an equity plan, and upon retirement was awarded over one million dollars for those units.
Two years later, a national beer distributor, approached the employer about an acquisition which the employer had rejected earlier in 2010 and 2012. This time, though, the parties entered into an agreement to enable the employer to be acquired by a much bigger company. When the retiree plaintiff learned of the acquisition, he sued his employer and other corporate defendants because he had not been notified of the acquisition attempts before he retired. He claimed he would not have retired had he known that because his equity plan units would have been worth much more.
The plaintiff filed a motion to amend his complaint to add punitive damages, which the trial court ultimately granted.
The defendants petitioned for certiorari, seeking to quash the trial court’s order alleging the court failed to comply with the requirements of section 768.72. The court explained how its review is limited to whether the trial court complied with the procedural requirements of section 768.72, and further observed that it was not permitted to review the sufficiency of the evidence considered by the trial court. Finally, certiorari relief is only appropriate when the record establishes that the trial court applied the incorrect law; certiorari relief is not available to remedy an incorrect application of the correct law.
Plaintiff’s motion to amend contained a detailed table outlining the record evidence and sworn declarations that provided the basis for his punitive damages claim. The trial court conducted two hearings. The trial court also applied the correct law.
While the court said it might disagree as to whether there was sufficient evidence to provide a reasonable basis for the punitive damages claim, it also said “its narrow standards of review prevented it from quashing the trial court’s order on that basis.”