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Florida First DCA rules that trial court was not required to make express findings when ruling on plaintiff’s motion to amend complaint to assert punitive damages claim, certifies conflict with Third, Fourth and Fifth DCAs

On August 19, 2020, in Watt v. Lo, No. 1D19-2994, the Florida First DCA denied the certiorari petition of a defendant in a motor vehicle personal injury action.  The defendant sought to quash the order of the trial court allowing the plaintiff to amend his complaint to add a count for punitive damages.  The defendant argued that the order should be quashed because the trial court did not make express findings when it ruled on the motion. The applicable statute and the procedural rule require a claimant to make an evidentiary showing that provides a reasonable basis to support a claim for punitive damages. § 768.72(1), Fla. Stat.; Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.190(f). However, the First DCA concluded that there is no requirement for the trial court to make express or affirmative findings when determining whether a claimant has made the required showing to permit a punitive damages claim to proceed. The Court certified conflict with rulings by the Third, Fourth and Fifth DCAs. See Cat Cay Yacht Club, Inc. v. Diaz, 264 So. 3d 1071, 1075 (Fla. 3d DCA 2019); Petri Positive Pest Control, Inc. v. CCM Condominium Ass’n, Inc., 174 So. 3d 1122, 1122 (Fla. 4th DCA 2015); and Varnedore v. Copeland, 210 So. 3d 741, 747–48 (Fla. 5th DCA 2017).