Jack Reiter Presents Case Involving Critical Jury Instruction Issue before Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal

Miami, Fla. – October 13, 2020 – GrayRobinson, P.A. (GrayRobinson) Attorney Jack R. Reiter, shareholder in the Miami law firm office, and chair of the firm’s appellate practice department, was mentioned in the Daily Business Review article, "With $5 Million Verdict at Stake, South Florida Court to Rule on Jury Instructions." The article discusses how a lawsuit stemming from a fatal shooting resulted in an almost $5 million verdict, and the appeal is set to clarify what instructions jurors should receive for premises liability claims. 

The plaintiff in the case sued the Elks Lodge after her mother was killed during a fight between a friend and a longtime rival outside of the lodge, a charitable organization that rents its premises to third parties for weekend events. The lawsuit accused the lodge of negligent security and claimed it ignored drug use on its property. But the lodge countered that it couldn’t have foreseen or prevented the violence, which stemmed from a historic dispute between two groups of friends.

Reiter, representing the owner of Elks Lodge, Pride of St. Lucie Lodge 1189 Inc., argued before the Fourth District Court of Appeal for a new trial, asserting that jury instructions didn’t explain a Florida law that says defendants aren’t liable for negligence on their property if the person injured or killed was engaged in certain criminal acts. He also argued jurors heard irrelevant and prejudicial evidence, and that the trial court should have given a series of instructions highlighting the difference between an invitee and a trespasser, explaining how a person can lose their invitee status if they engage in violence on a property. By removing text that said the defendants only have a duty to use reasonable care if the deceased lost her invitee status, Reiter claimed the trial court had wrongly focused on general negligence, instead of premises liability principles.

He noted, “In a premises liability case, the only duty a property owner owes to a discovered or known trespasser is to refrain from gross negligence and intentional harm and to warn of known conditions that are not readily observable by others.”