Record Evidence Did Not Support Finding of Fraud on the Court – Ford v. Stimpson

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In this products liability case, final judgment  was entered in favor of the defendant following a four-week jury trial.  The plaintiff alleged that the defendant had committed fraud on the court and sought to set aside the final judgment pursuant to Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.540(b)(3).

The trial court granted plaintiff’s motion finding that the defendant (1) had destroyed evidence, (2) made false representations to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), (3) improperly inquired on cross-examination about matters excluded from evidence by a motion in limine, and (4) presented false and misleading testimony through its experts.

After determining that the defendant had committed fraud on the court, the trial court struck the defendant’s answer and affirmative defenses, entered judgment on liability in favor of the plaintiff, and ordered a trial on the issue of damages.  The defendant appealed the trial court’s order.

The Fifth DCA determined that:

Fraud on the court occurs where “it can be demonstrated, clearly and convincingly, that a party has sentiently set in motion some unconscionable scheme calculated to interfere with the judicial system’s ability impartially to adjudicate a matter by improperly influencing the trier of fact or unfairly hampering the presentation of the opposing party’s claim or defense.” citing Cox v. Burke, 706 So. 2d 43, 46 (Fla. 5th DCA 1998).

Reviewing the evidence submitted to the trial court on each of the four instances of purported fraud, the Fifth DCA determined that their was insufficient record evidence to support the trial court’s findings.  The Fifth DCA overturned the trial court’s decision to grant the Rule 1.540(b)(3) motion, thereby effectively reinstating the final judgment in favor of the defendant.

Ford v. Stimpson, 5th District. Case No. 5D11-2787 (April 19, 2013).

Topics:  Evidence, Final Judgment, Fraud, Jury Trial, Trials

Published In: Civil Procedure Updates, Products Liability Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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