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City of Boca Raton v. Basso

Florida Court of Appeals, Fourth District

April 4, 2018

CITY OF BOCA RATON, Appellant,
v.
CLAIRE L. BASSO, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit, Palm Beach County; Jeffrey D. Gillen, Judge; L.T. Case No. 2014CA005849XXXXMB.

          Anne K. Reilly and Matthew H. Mandel of Weiss Serota Helfman Cole & Bierman, P.L., Fort Lauderdale, for appellant.

          Adam M. Balkan of Balkan & Patterson, LLP, Boca Raton, for appellee.

          KLINGENSMITH, JUDGE.

         After Claire Basso was arrested for driving under the influence ("DUI"), she filed a lawsuit against the City of Boca Raton ("the City") for false arrest and false imprisonment. She prevailed on the false imprisonment claim, and was awarded $32, 000 in damages. Although she obtained this judgment against the City, the trial court nevertheless ordered Basso to pay $6, 117.04 in court costs to the City. We affirm the trial court's $32, 000 final judgment entered against the City, but reverse the court's final judgment on costs, and remand for the trial court to award Basso all of her taxable costs incurred in this case.

         On the night of September 12, 2013, Basso was pulled over for an expired license tag. As the officer approached her vehicle, he saw a half-empty wine bottle, two unopened beer cans, and smelled alcohol on Basso's breath. After Basso underperformed on the roadside sobriety exercises, she was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol.

         Basso was transported to the Boca Raton Police Department just after midnight, where she was given a breathalyzer test that registered .000. Although the officer admitted he had "no proof" that she was under the influence of any drugs and she appeared "lucid" while answering questions, Basso was not released from police custody until approximately 10:00 a.m. that morning.[1]

         Basso initially sued the City for false arrest, but later amended her complaint to add a false imprisonment claim. After three days of trial, the jury found that while the City had probable cause for initially arresting Basso, it did not have probable cause for her continued restraint. In other words, the City prevailed on the false arrest claim, but Basso prevailed on the false imprisonment claim. The jury awarded her $32, 000 in damages.

         Thereafter, the City filed a motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict ("JNOV"), and argued Basso did not present sufficient evidence to support the jury's finding that probable cause "evaporated" between her initial arrest and her continued detention. This motion was denied and the court entered final judgment in Basso's favor.

         Both parties then filed post-trial motions for costs. The City alleged it was entitled to costs because it prevailed on the false arrest claim. Basso, on the other hand, contended that she was entitled to costs because she was awarded $32, 000 after prevailing on the false imprisonment claim.

         The trial court ordered, "[The City] is entitled to recover its claimed costs in their entirety on the false-arrest count and [Basso] is entitled to recover her claimed costs in their entirety on the false-imprisonment count." In pertinent part, the final judgment on costs provided:

1.Per the Court's Order on May 11, 2017, [Basso] is entitled to $2, 494.83, which are her costs incurred in her claim for false imprisonment (Count II).
2.Per the Court's Order on May 11, 2017, [the City] is entitled to $8, 611.87, which are its costs incurred in defense of ...

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