46 Fla. L. Weekly D194a
FRED MEYERS and NINIBETH MEYERS, Appellants, v. BONNEVA SHONTZ, Appellee. 2nd District. Case No. 2D19-1294. Opinion filed January 20, 2021. Appeal from the Circuit Court for Pinellas County; Pamela A.M. Campbell, Judge. Counsel: Elizabeth C. Wheeler of Elizabeth C. Wheeler, P.A., Orlando, for Appellants. Robert W. Hitchens of Hitchens & Hitchens, P.A., St. Petersburg, for Appellee.
(KELLY, Judge.) Once again, this case comes to us on appeal from the trial court’s order granting Bonneva Shontz’s motion for a new trial. In Meyers v. Shontz, 251 So. 3d 992 (Fla. 2d DCA 2018) (Meyers I), we reversed because the trial court applied an incorrect legal standard when evaluating Ms. Shontz’s motion. Id. at 1000. We remanded with instructions for the trial court to reconsider the motion. Id. at 1005. On remand, the trial court entered an order that did not satisfy the requirements of rule 1.530(f) of the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure,1 and as required by the rule, we relinquished jurisdiction for the trial court to enter an order specifying its reasons for granting a new trial. See Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.530(f); Prime Motor Inns, Inc. v. Waltman, 480 So. 2d 88, 89 (Fla. 1985). We are now able to review the new trial order, and once again, we reverse.
In Meyers I, the trial court granted a new trial without finding that the jury’s verdict was against the manifest weight of the evidence as to causation.2 Meyers I, 251 So. 3d at 999. We addressed this issue in Meyers I:
The second facet of the trial court’s order that shows that it failed to apply the correct legal standard to Ms. Shontz’s motion for new trial is that the order explicitly says that the trial court did not consider the issue of causation. The special interrogatory upon which the jury decided the case asked both whether Ms. Meyers was negligent and whether any negligence by Ms. Meyers was a legal cause of loss to Ms. Shontz. As a matter of logic, then, the jury was entitled to decide the case in the Meyerses’ favor on the basis of negligence, causation, or both. No one knows how the jury sliced the onion on these two issues because both were lumped into a single question. What that means here is that the legal standard governing Ms. Shontz’s new trial motion — which mandates consideration of whether the verdict is against the manifest weight of the evidence — required the trial court to consider not only the evidence on the issue of negligence, but also the evidence on the issue of causation. See, e.g., Hernandez v. Gonzalez, 124 So. 3d 988, 990 (Fla. 4th DCA 2013) (affirming order denying new trial where negligence was conceded and causation was disputed but where the jury answered a special interrogatory incorporating both issues in the negative). By deciding that it did not need to consider causation at all, the trial court again applied the wrong legal standard to Ms. Shontz’s motion for a new trial.
251 So. 3d at 1002. Despite our guidance, the trial court again expressly declined to address the issue of causation. As we explained in Meyers I, absent a finding that the verdict was against the manifest weight of the evidence as to causation, the trial court could not properly grant a new trial. The trial court had the opportunity to make that finding, and it did not. Accordingly, we reverse the order granting a new trial and remand for reinstatement of the jury’s verdict. See Van v. Schmidt, 122 So. 3d 243, 260-61 (Fla. 2013) (“[I]f the only way that the trial court could have reached the result of granting a new trial was based on the legal error, then the appellate court could properly reverse the trial court’s order and remand for reinstatement of the jury’s verdict.”).
Reversed and remanded with directions. (MORRIS, J., Concurs. ATKINSON, J., Concurs in result only.)
1Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.530(f) states, “All orders granting a new trial shall specify the specific grounds therefor. If such an order is appealed and does not state the specific grounds, the appellate court shall relinquish its jurisdiction to the trial court for entry of an order specifying the grounds for granting the new trial.”
2It also failed to consider the totality of the evidence in determining whether the verdict was against the manifest weight of the evidence as to Ms. Meyers’ negligence. Id. at 1004-05. We instructed the court to reconsider this aspect of its order as well. Because our conclusion that the court’s failure to find the verdict was against the manifest weight of the evidence regarding causation is dispositive, we do not reach the issue of whether it properly exercised its discretion regarding the issue of negligence.* * *