final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
Appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County Lower
Tribunal No. 14-31429, Rosa I. Rodriguez, Judge.
Aptheker, Rosella, & Yedid and Eric J. Horbey (West Palm
Beach), for appellant.
Richards, Parker & Colonnelli, W. Todd Boyd and Yvette R.
Lavelle, for appellees.
SALTER, EMAS and LOGUE, JJ.
Rebecca Willie-Koonce, plaintiff below, appeals an order
dismissing her personal injury suit against Miami Sunshine
Transfer & Tours Corporation ("Miami Sunshine")
for fraud on the court. We affirm, finding that the trial
court did not abuse its discretion after considering a
highly-probative surveillance video and the testimony of Ms.
Willie-Koonce regarding her claimed limitations after her
September 2014, Ms. Willie-Koonce hired Miami Sunshine to
drive her and her luggage to the cruise ship dock in Miami.
As she was removing her luggage from the trailer pulled by a
Miami Sunshine vehicle, the vehicle and trailer began backing
up, running over Ms. Willie-Koonce and pinning her under the
axle of the trailer. There is no dispute that Ms.
Willie-Koonce sustained serious injuries, including a ten-day
hospital stay for treatment of a fractured femur. The
treatment included implanting a titanium rod and several
screws to repair the bone, followed by extensive physical
therapy to regain as much of her pre-injury mobility as
months after the accident, Ms. Willie-Koonce sued Miami
Sunshine and the individual operator of the vehicle which
towed the trailer for negligence. During pretrial discovery,
Ms. Willie-Koonce provided sworn answers to interrogatories
and deposition testimony that included statements that she
had a "permanent limp, " that she needs a cane to
get around, and that when she walks a "few steps"
to her car without a cane, she limps. She also testified that
she could not walk without a cane carrying large boxes, had
not tried carrying heavy or bulky items, and had to use a
handrail to walk up steps without a cane.
to her at the time, apparently, Ms. Willie-Koonce had been
surveilled for some seven hours in March 2016, and videotaped
for much of that time, by a defense investigator. She was
videotaped while moving into a townhome in North Carolina,
and the videotape clearly shows her walking continuously up
and down steps without using a cane or handrail, carrying
large and bulky items (of indeterminate weight) without
assistance, up and down the front steps without using a cane
or a handrail. The videotape of Ms. Willie-Koonce shows her
walking to the back of her automobile, opening the trunk, and
carrying packages (again, without the assistance of another
person) into the townhome without using a cane or limping.
Sunshine and its driver filed a motion to dismiss the case
for fraud on the court, citing Ms. Willie-Koonce's sworn
responses and contrasting it with the surveillance video
evidence. They argued that Ms. Willie-Koonce had lied
regarding her allegation that her injury is continuing and
permanent, with concomitant future damages claimed by her as
Willie-Koonce filed a response in opposition to the motion to
dismiss for fraud on the court, and the trial court conducted
an evidentiary hearing on the motion in September 2016. As
part of that hearing, Ms. Willie-Koonce testified regarding
the surveillance video and her prior testimony, but was
essentially unable to explain how the video could be
consistent with her claims and prior testimony. The following
month, the trial court granted the defendants' motion in
a final order of dismissal that included findings of fact and
conclusions of law. Among the findings were:
The Court finds that the record evidence establishes that
Plaintiff repeatedly lied under oath, both in deposition and
at the evidentiary hearing, regarding issues material to the
prosecution of Plaintiff's claims, to wit: her physical
activities, abilities, and limitations, and that this
deception was intended to interfere with the judicial
system's ability to impartially adjudicate the case by
improperly influencing the trier of fact and unfairly
hampering the Defendants' ability to ...