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May 2016

$1 Billion Jury Verdict Protected in Florida’s Supreme Court by Gordon & Rees’ Miami Appellate Team for Homebuilder Client

Miami partner David M. Gersten, with assistance from associate Christopher A. Noel, succeeded in protecting a $1.02 billion jury verdict after five years of bitter litigation and two tiers of appellate challenge by the Appellant, a California real estate developer.

The trial resulted in the third largest jury verdict in the United States in 2013. The jury verdict determined $800 million actual damages and $200 million punitive damages. The verdict arose from defamation and conspiracy claims brought by Gordon & Rees’ client, one of the nation’s largest homebuilders. Appellant first challenged the verdict in Florida's 3rd District Court of Appeal. That appeal resulted in a written decision affirming the $1.02 billion verdict. Thereafter, Appellant sought review in the Florida Supreme Court.

In the Florida Supreme Court, Appellant argued that the Court should exercise its discretionary jurisdiction to review the Third District’s decision claiming the decision conflicted with prior decisions from the Third District as well as decisions from other District Courts of Appeal. Appellant claimed that the Third District did not consider the trial court’s failure to make required findings before imposing discovery sanctions. Appellant also argued that the $200 million punitive damages award was unconstitutionally excessive.

In response, the Gordon & Rees team successfully argued that Appellant failed to establish review jurisdiction in the Florida Supreme Court. Specifically, there was no conflict between Florida's courts of appeal, and there was no issue of great public importance for the Florida Supreme Court to decide. Further, Appellant waived any objection to punitive damages.

In its decision, the Florida Supreme Court: (1) determined that there was no basis for jurisdiction; (2) denied Appellant’s petition for review; and, (3) declined to entertain rehearing.

David M. Gersten