ST. BRENDAN HIGH SCHOOL, INC., et al., Petitioners,
Magali NEFF, et al., Respondents.
of Original Jurisdiction - Prohibition. Lower Tribunal No. 18
Patrick Fitzgerald & Associates, P.A., and Roberto J. Diaz
and Maura Fitzgerald Jennings; Gaebe Mullen Antonelli &
DiMatteo, and Joseph M. Winsby and Michael A. Mullen, for
Levy; James J. Traitz, for respondents.
SALTER, SCALES and LINDSEY, JJ.
Brendan High School, Inc. ("St. Brendan") and the
Archdiocese of Miami, Inc. ("Archdiocese") petition
for a writ of prohibition to preclude the circuit court from
exercising subject-matter jurisdiction over two counts in a
pending lawsuit. The petition (and the motion to dismiss in
the circuit court) invokes the ecclesiastical abstention
doctrine. We deny the petition.
recently-decided appeal from a non-final order in the same
circuit court case, we briefly described the lawsuit:
St. Brendan, a private Catholic high school in Miami-Dade
County, Florida, expelled high school student, Michelle Neff,
when her parents, Magali and Herbert Neff, filed a personal
injury action against the school after Michelle was injured
while performing community service at Good Hope Equestrian
Training Center, Inc., an organization listed on St.
Brendans approved community service list. St. Brendan
maintains that filing the suit against the school violated
school policy, specifically certain school handbook
St. Brendan High Sch., Inc. v. Neff (St. Brendan I),
275 So.3d 220, 221-22 (Fla. 3d DCA 2019) (footnote omitted).
Neffs first amended complaint ("Complaint")
consists of ten counts. Count IX alleges that St Brendans
administrative withdrawal (disenrollment) of their daughter
breached their enrollment agreement such that she should be
readmitted as a student and provided "whatever
remediation is necessary in order for [her] to become current
with regard to her academic studies."
alleges that St. Brendans disenrollment of the Neffs
daughter inflicted severe emotional distress upon her and
seeks a judgment for money damages. St. Brendan and the
Archdiocese moved for the dismissal of counts IX and X based
on their contentions that the students disenrollment was
based on the Neffs prosecution of a lawsuit against St.
Brendan in violation of the Parent-Student Handbook
("Handbook") provisions and the religious teachings
and standards imposed by the Handbook.
Brendans and the Archdioceses motion to dismiss included
their contention that the trial court lacked subject-matter
jurisdiction based on the First Amendment to the United
States Constitution and case law comprising the
"ecclesiastical abstention doctrine" or, as it
sometimes also known, ...