A district court of appeal does not have the authority to overrule a decision of the Supreme Court of Florida. In the event of a conflict between the decision of a district court of appeal and the Supreme Court of Florida, the decision of the Supreme Court shall prevail until overruled by a subsequent decision of the Supreme Court.
The court granted a petition for writ of certiorari from the Fourth District Court of Appeal, (Florida), to consider the certified question: "Whether or not the court should replace the contributory negligence rule with the principles of comparative negligence?" The appellate court rendered a decision establishing comparative negligence and supported a petition for writ of certiorari that its decision involved a question of great public interest.
In Florida, will a plaintiff in an action based on negligence be denied any recovery because of his contributory negligence?
Noting that an 1886 case specifically held the contributory negligence rule to be the law of Florida, and that it had uniformly been followed by Florida courts ever since, the court held that the appellate court had exceeded its authority in attempting to overrule all precedent of the court in the area of contributory negligence. Nevertheless, the court answered the certified question affirmatively and held that a plaintiff in an action based on negligence would no longer be denied any recovery because of plaintiff's contributory negligence. The court applied its opinion to cases already commenced, but did not apply its opinion as to those cases in which trial had already begun or in which verdict or judgment had already been rendered, unless the applicability of comparative negligence was appropriately and properly raised during some stage of the litigation.