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Florida Fourth DCA quashes trial court order granting plaintiff leave to claim punitive damages, ruling that plaintiff and trial court failed to adhere to procedural requirements

On August 23, 2017, in Leinberger v. Magee, No. 4D17-1400, the Florida Fourth DCA granted certiorari review and quashed a trial court order granting the plaintiff leave to file a claim for punitive damages in a business tort case. There had been no court reporter present during the hearing on the motion to amend and the trial court did not explain in its ruling the rationale for granting the motion and did not indicate for which counts it intended to allow the punitive damages claim. On certiorari review, the Fourth DCA noted that Section 768.72(1), Florida Statutes requires an affirmative finding by the trial court of a reasonable showing by evidence in the record or proffered by the claimant which would provide a reasonable basis for recovery of such damages. In addition, the Fourth DCA cited the Fifth DCA’s recent decision in Varnedore v. Copeland, 210 So. 3d 741 (Fla. 5th DCA 2017) as framing the other procedural requirements for a motion for leave to amend to seek punitive damages, including (i) attaching the proposed amended complaint to the motion in compliance with Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.190(a); and (ii) submission of a proffer of proof of the evidence supporting the punitive damages claim at least twenty days before the hearing in compliance with Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.190(f).