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Poole v. DeFranko

Florida Court of Appeals, Third District

December 18, 2019

Taylor Poole, M.D., et al., Appellants,
v.
Deborah DeFranko, 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. 16-16511, Jose M. Rodriguez, Judge.

          Hicks, Porter, Ebenfeld & Stein, P.A., and Dinah Stein and Mark Hicks; Law Office of John D. Kelner, and John D. Kelner (Davie); Burt E. Redlus, P.A., and Burt E. Redlus, for appellants.

          Forman Law Offices, P.A., and Theodore S. Forman (Delray Beach); Burlington & Rockenbach, P.A., and Philip M. Burlington and Adam Richardson (West Palm Beach), for appellees.

          Holland & Knight, LLP, and Mark K. Delegal (Tallahassee); William W. Large (Tallahassee), for Florida Justice Reform Institute as amicus curiae.

          Boyd & Jenerette, P.A., and Kansas R. Gooden (Jacksonville); Saalfield Shad Law Firm, and Travase L. Erickson (Jacksonville), for Florida Defense Lawyers Association as amicus curiae.

          Grossman Roth Yaffa Cohen, P.A., and Rachel W. Furst, for Florida Justice Association as amicus curiae.

          Before EMAS, C.J., and SALTER and GORDO, JJ.

          SALTER, J.

         Dr. Taylor Poole and the medical practice of Poole & Villani, M.D., P.A. (collectively, "Dr. Poole"), appeal a final judgment entered following a jury verdict in favor of Deborah DeFranko and her husband, Myron Siegel, in a medical malpractice lawsuit. After the entry of the verdict, Dr. Poole moved the trial court to enter a final judgment in conformance with sections 766.207 and 766.209, Florida Statutes (2018), reducing the damages awarded for noneconomic damages to the maximum amounts allowed by those provisions.

         The trial court denied Dr. Poole's motion, ruling that "sections 766.207(7)(k) and 766.209(4)(a), Florida Statutes are unconstitutional as they violate the Florida Constitution's guarantee of equal protection under the law," citing article I, section 2 of the Florida Constitution. We reverse and remand for the entry of an amended final judgment reducing the jury's award to Ms. DeFranko from $450, 000.00 to $350, 000.00. We affirm the verdict and separate judgment awarding $50, 000.00 to Mr. Siegel.

         "The constitutionality of a statute is a pure question of law . . . subject to de novo review." Bean v. Univ. of Miami, 252 So.3d 810, 815 (Fla. 3d DCA 2018) (quoting City of Ft. Lauderdale v. Dhar, 185 So.3d 1232, 1234 (Fla. 2016)). Additionally, as set forth in Lewis v. Leon County, 73 So.3d 151, 153-54 (Fla. 2011):

Although our review is de novo, statutes come clothed with a presumption of constitutionality and must be construed whenever possible to effect a constitutional outcome. "[S]hould any doubt exist that an act is in violation . . . of any constitutional provision, the presumption is in favor of constitutionality. To overcome the presumption, the invalidity must appear beyond ...

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