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Denial of Motion for New Trial Affirmed

Caryn L. Bellus and Barbara Fox | September 4, 2019

Caryn L. Bellus and Barbara Fox, of the Miami office, obtained a hard fought victory for the Ranching and Agriculture industry in Carnahan v. Norvell, 2019 WL 1781647 (Fla. 4th DCA Apr. 24, 2019). Following a jury trial handled by outside counsel, the jury returned a complete defense verdict of no liability in favor of a cattle owner whose animals strayed onto public road and caused an automobile accident. The Plaintiff sought a new trial and after its denial, appealed. In a rare written opinion affirming the lower court denial of a new trial, the Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed.

For the first time in many years, the Fourth District Court addressed Florida’s Warren Act, Section 588.15, Florida Statutes, and affirmed that it does not impose strict liability on an owner for accidents caused by straying livestock, absent a showing that injuries are due to the owner’s intentional, willful, careless or negligent actions in permitting the livestock to ‘stray upon’ public roads. Specifically, the court held that the mere incidence of livestock on public roads was insufficient to demonstrate the required negligence. Of equal legal import, the Fourth District held that to demonstrate such negligence, not all incidents of cattle straying from the premises are admissible but rather only incidents which are substantially similar. Further, in a holding which has far reaching implications across the board, the Court held that in order for a party to properly preserve error as to the exclusion of evidence, it must proffer to the court the specific evidence which it seeks to introduce and cannot later rely on evidence which was found in record but not specifically referenced before the trial court.

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