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Vella v. Salaues

Florida Court of Appeals, Third District

October 16, 2019

John Vella, Appellant,
v.
Gabriel Salaues, et al., Appellees.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

          An appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County Lower Tribunal No. 16-6586, Michael A. Hanzman, Judge.

          Law Offices of Vincent Duffy, P.A. and Vincent J. Duffy; Arthur J. Morburger, for appellant.

          Kubicki Draper, P.A. and Michael C. Clarke, and Andrew T. Lynn (Tampa), for appellees.

          Before FERNANDEZ, MILLER, and GORDO, JJ.

          MILLER, J.

         Appellant, John Vella, challenges a summary final judgment entered in favor of appellees, Gabriel and Ivana Salaues. On appeal, Vella contends the lower tribunal erred in denying leave to file an amended complaint, and summary judgment was prematurely entered, in light of pending discovery. For the reasons explicated below, we discern no error and affirm.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND TRIAL COURT PROCEEDINGS

         In 2015, Mauricio Berestan employed Vella to assist him in performing contracted restoration and repairs on an inboard vessel owned by the Salaueses and docked behind their residence in North Miami Beach, Florida. The Salaueses did not actively oversee or supervise the contracted tasks.

         On January 22, 2015, while reinstalling a generator inside the engine room, Vella detected the odor of gasoline. Berestan assuaged any concerns and directed Vella to continue executing the reinstallation. Shortly thereafter, an explosion occurred on the craft. Consequently, Vella sustained significant burns on his face and body.

         In early 2016, Vella filed suit against Berestan and the Salaueses, asserting a claim of negligence.[1] Vella theorized that the Salaueses owed and breached a duty to ensure both the vessel and generator were maintained in a reasonably safe condition. Later that year, Vella amended his complaint, alleging vicarious liability against other parties. Following the closure of the pleadings, the lower tribunal issued an order, scheduling the matter for trial on June 25, 2018, some seven months later. The court imposed firm discovery deadlines.

         On May 1, 2018, the Salaueses filed a motion for summary judgment. The motion was scheduled for hearing on June 21, 2018. Two weeks prior to the summary judgment hearing, Vella filed a motion for leave to file an amended complaint, seeking to add a theory that the Salaueses engaged in negligent hiring practices. The trial court denied leave to amend, along with a subsequent ore tenus motion for continuance of the summary judgment hearing, and, ultimately, granted summary judgment in favor of the Salaueses. The instant appeal ensued.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         "The granting or denying of [amendments to the pleadings or] a motion for continuance is within the discretion of the trial judge and a gross or flagrant abuse of this discretion must be demonstrated by the complaining party before this court will substitute its judgment for that of the trial judge." Stern v. Four Freedoms Nat'l Med. Servs., Co., 417 So.2d 1085, ...


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