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Inlet Condo. Ass'n v. Childress Duffy, Ltd., Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

June 19, 2015, Decided

No. 13-14064

Opinion

 [*534]  PER CURIAM:

This appeal requires us to decide whether Florida's judgmental immunity doctrine, which provides malpractice immunity to attorneys making "[g]ood faith tactical decisions or decisions [ ] on a fairly debatable point of law," Crosby v. Jones, 705 So. 2d 1356, 1358 (Fla. 1998), applies to a law firm's decision [**2]  not to use a particular expert witness at trial in support of a hurricane damage claim. Although the post-Crosby decisions of Florida's intermediate courts of appeal do not appear to apply the doctrine consistently, we affirm because the district court's ultimate ruling is supported by the Florida Supreme Court's articulation of the doctrine and the interpretation and application of the doctrine by the Third District Court of Appeal, whose precedent would have governed had this diversity case been filed in state court.

In 2007, Inlet Condominium Association, represented by Childress Duffy Ltd., filed a breach of contract lawsuit against Citizens Property Insurance Company seeking to recover for damages allegedly caused by Hurricane Frances in September of 2004. Inlet's windstorm policy with Citizens had a coverage limit of $21.9 million and a deductible of $1.095 million. Before the suit was filed, Inlet and Citizens had failed to settle their differences; Inlet had demanded a total of $4.6 million, but Citizens had only offered $750,000. When Inlet did not recover all the damages it sought at trial, it filed this legal malpractice action against Childress Duffy.

Inlet, located in [**3]  New Smyrna Beach, was built in the 1980s and opened in 1986. Its six elevators were installed by Otis Elevator Company. According to Otis, those elevators have an average lifespan of 20 years. Since August of 1999, Inlet had a maintenance and service contract with Otis. That contract covered general repairs  [*535]  to the elevators necessitated by normal wear and tear.

Inlet's elevators, including their vents, were damaged during Hurricane Frances in September of 2004. After Hurricane Frances, and between October and December of 2004, Otis repaired Inlet's elevators to get them back to functioning capacity. Those repairs cost Inlet a little over $56,000.

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615 Fed. Appx. 533 *; 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 10362 **; 2015 WL 3798474

INLET CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATION, INC., Plaintiff - Appellant, versus CHILDRESS DUFFY, LTD, INC., Defendant - Appellee.

Notice: PLEASE REFER TO FEDERAL RULES OF APPELLATE PROCEDURE RULE 32.1 GOVERNING THE CITATION TO UNPUBLISHED OPINIONS.

Prior History:  [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. D.C. Docket No. 1:12-cv-21711-MGC.

Inlet Condo. Ass'n v. Childress Duffy, Ltd., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 190541 (S.D. Fla., Sept. 4, 2013)

Disposition: AFFIRMED.

CORE TERMS

elevators, immunity, good faith, tactical decision, Hurricane, district court, repairs, claim for damages, point of law, trial court, malpractice, summary judgment, damages, reasonable standard, unsettled area, doctrine of immunity, modernization, driver, opined, legal expert, settlement, breached, appellate court, intermediate, allegations, decisions, storm, summary judgment motion, grant summary judgment, legal malpractice

Civil Procedure, Preliminary Considerations, Federal & State Interrelationships, Erie Doctrine, Torts, Malpractice & Professional Liability, Attorneys, Defenses, Specific Immunities, General Overview, Trials, Jury Trials, Province of Court & Jury, Elements, Duty, Legal Ethics, Client Relations, Duties to Client, Effective Representation, Summary Judgment, Opposing Materials, Accompanying Documentation, Burdens of Proof, Nonmovant Persuasion & Proof, Appeals, Reviewability of Lower Court Decisions, Preservation for Review, Summary Judgment Review, Remedies, Damages, Punitive Damages