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Florida Third DCA rules that trial court applied erroneous legal standard to review of plaintiff’s motion to add punitive damages claim

On October 21, 2020, in Rodriguez v. Scurtis, No. 3D20-890, the Florida Third DCA granted a defendant’s certiorari petition for relief from a trial court order which had permitted the plaintiff to add a punitive damages claim to his complaint.  The trial court stated in its order that it was restricted to determining whether the statutory procedural requirements of the punitive damages statute, Fla. Stat. § 768.72, had been met by the plaintiff, citing Robins v. Colombo, 253 So. 3d 94 (Fla. 3d DCA 2018).  The Third DCA pointed out that the excerpt from Robins relied upon by the trial court sets forth the standard for appellate review, not trial court review.  Section 768.72 requires, as a prerequisite to allowing a claim for punitive damages to be added to a complaint, a reasonable showing by evidence in the record or proffered by the claimant which would provide a reasonable basis for recovery of such damages.  Expressing no opinion on the merits of the motion, the Third DCA remanded the case to the trial court to apply the correct legal standard.