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Inc. v. Lieupo

Florida Court of Appeals, First District

April 18, 2018

Simon's Trucking, Inc., Appellant,
v.
Charles A. Lieupo, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of any timely and authorized motion under Fla. R. App. P. 9.330 or 9.331.

          On appeal from the Circuit Court for Hamilton County. William R. Slaughter, II, Senior Judge.

          Jason Gonzalez and Amber Stoner of Shutts & Bowen LLP, Tallahassee, for Appellant.

          Frank A. Shepherd of Gray Robinson, P.A., Miami, for Amicus Curiae Florida Justice Reform Institute, in support of Appellant.

          Peter D. Webster of Carlton Fields, Tallahassee; Michael J. Damaso, II, and Jackson W. Adams of Wooten Kimbrough, P.A., Orlando, for Appellee.

          WOLF, J.

         Appellant, Simon's Trucking, challenges a judgment entered in favor of Charles Lieupo, appellee, awarding him damages for personal injuries that the jury found he suffered after a tractor-trailer owned by Simon's Trucking was involved in an accident. Simon's Trucking argues the case should never have gone to trial because the Florida Supreme Court held that the statutory cause of action created by section 376.313(3), Florida Statutes, under which Lieupo filed his claim, does not permit recovery for personal injuries. We agree and reverse, though we certify a question of great public importance asking the supreme court to clarify the issue.

         I. Facts

         Lieupo filed a complaint against Simon's Trucking, alleging it was strictly liable for injuries he suffered after one of its tractor-trailers was involved in an accident while transporting batteries, spilling battery acid onto the highway. Lieupo alleged he responded to the scene to tow away the truck and came into contact with the battery acid, which caused him serious personal injuries. He filed his complaint under section 376.313(3), Florida Statutes, which imposes strict liability for the discharge of certain types of pollutants.

         Simon's Trucking argued that Lieupo could not seek recovery under section 376.313(3) because that statute did not permit recovery for personal injury. The trial court rejected this argument, and the case proceeded to trial.[1] The jury found the battery acid caused Lieupo's injuries and awarded him a total of $5, 211, 500 in damages. This appeal follows.

         II. Analysis

         The sole issue before this court is whether section 376.313(3) permits recovery for personal injury.[2] This question of statutory interpretation presents a pure question of law, reviewed de novo. Hardee Cty. v. FINR II, Inc., 221 So.3d 1162, 1165 (Fla. 2017), reh'g denied, SC15-1260, 2017 WL 3015682 (Fla. July 17, 2017).

         We conclude that the supreme court's decision in Curd v. Mosaic Fertilizer, LLC, 39 So.3d 1216 (Fla. 2010), precludes personal injury claims from being brought under section 376.313(3), but we certify a question ...


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