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Meadowbrook Meat Co., Inc. v. Michael Catinella, et al., Case No. 2D13-1295 (2ndDCA)

In Meadowbrook, the Second DCA affirmed the trial court's order granting a new trial after the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant in a slip and fall case. Following entry of the verdict, the plaintiff moved for a new trial arguing that the defendant had destroyed evidence and committed various discovery violations, and that two jurors had engaged in misconduct by failing disclose material information. The trial court granted the motion.

On appeal, the Second DCA noted that the trial court has broad discretion in deciding whether to override a jury verdict on the ground that the verdict is contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence. The Second DCA further noted that an order granting a new trial is subject to a heightened abuse of discretion standard. It takes a stronger showing to reverse an order granting a new trial than an order denying a new trial. The applicable standard with respect to an order granting a new trial is whether reasonable persons could differ as to the propriety of the trial judge's action. If they could, then the order is reasonable and not an abuse of the judge's discretion.

The Second DCA noted that the trial court's order was lengthy and detailed. The trial court found that during the course of the case, the defendant had destroyed evidence, requiring the court to give the jury an adverse instruction, and the defendant had violated a number of court orders, engaged in systematic material, willful discovery violations to the prejudice of the plaintiff. The trial court additionally found that two jurors failed to disclose litigation history that was relevant and material. The Second DCA additionally noted that the defendant did not argue that the trial court's findings were not supported by the evidence; rather, the defendant argued that the trial court's findings did not warrant a new trial. The Second DCA concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion, and affirmed the trial court's ruling.

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