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In re Standard Jury Instructions In Civil Cases-Report No. 17-02

Supreme Court of Florida

November 2, 2017

IN RE: STANDARD JURY INSTRUCTIONS IN CIVIL CASES-REPORT NO. 17-02.

         NOT FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE REHEARING MOTION AND, IF FILED, DETERMINED.

         Original Proceeding - Supreme Court Committee on Standard Jury Instructions in Civil Cases

          Rebecca Mercier Vargas, Chair, Supreme Court Committee on Standard Jury

          Instructions in Civil Cases, West Palm Beach, Florida; and Laura K. Whitmore, Vice Chair and Subcommittee Chair, Filing Subcommittee of the Supreme Court Committee on Standard Jury Instructions in Civil Cases, Tampa, Florida, for Petitioner

          PER CURIAM

         The Supreme Court Committee on Standard Jury Instructions in Civil Cases (Committee) has submitted proposed changes to the standard jury instructions and asks that the Court authorize the amended standard instructions for publication and use. We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 2(a), Fla. Const.

         The Committee filed its report proposing to amend civil jury instructions 502.2 (Wrongful Death Damages: Elements for Estate and Survivors), and 601.2 (Believability of Witnesses). The Committee published its proposals in The Florida Bar News. No comments were received pertaining to the proposal to amend instruction 502.2, while three comments were received pertaining to the proposal to amend instruction 601.2. Upon consideration of these comments, the Committee did not revise its proposed amendments, and the Court did not publish the Committee's proposals.

         Because subparagraphs (d) (Damages of surviving spouse), (e) (Damages by surviving child), and (f) (Damages by surviving parent of child) of instruction 502.2 do not precisely explain that survivors' pain and suffering damages are to be measured from the date of the decedent's injury, instruction 502.2 is amended to add the language "[from the date of the injury]" to the above-identified subparagraphs to clarify when survivors' pain and suffering damages should be measured.

         The proposal to amend instruction 601.2 derives from criminal instruction 3.9 (Weighing the Evidence), which explains that it is proper for a lawyer to talk to a witness about what testimony the witness would give if called to testify. Civil instruction 601.2 is amended to provide that "[It is entirely proper for a lawyer to talk to a witness about what testimony the witness would give if called to the courtroom. The witness should not be discredited just because the witness talked with a lawyer about [his] [her] testimony.]" In addition, the Committee added a new Note on Use for 601.2, which states that "Witness talked to lawyer. This may be given if requested as either a substantive or a curative instruction whenever there is testimony that a witness spoke to or met with an attorney for one of the parties. This instruction is not meant to prohibit or limit argument by counsel of the general considerations set forth in 601.2a."

         Having considered the Committee's report, the comments submitted in response, and the Committee's reply thereto, we authorize the Committee's proposals for publication and use as set forth in the appendix to this opinion. New language is indicated by underlining. In authorizing the publication and use of these instructions, we express no opinion on their correctness and remind all interested parties that this authorization forecloses neither requesting additional or alternative instructions nor contesting the legal correctness of the instructions. We further caution all interested parties that any comments associated with the instructions reflect only the opinion of the Committee and are not necessarily indicative of the views of this Court as to their correctness or applicability. The instructions as set forth in the appendix shall become effective when this opinion becomes final.

         It is so ordered.

          LABARGA, C.J., and PARIENTE, LEWIS, QUINCE, CANADY, POLSTON, and LAWSON, JJ., concur.

          APPENDIX

         502.2 WRONGFUL DEATH DAMAGES: ELEMENTS FOR ESTATE AND SURVIVORS

         ELEMENTS FOR ESTATE:

         In determining the damages recoverable on behalf of (decedent's) estate, you shall consider the following elements:

         a. ...


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