In Pages, the 3rd District Court of Appeal addressed the application of
Florida’s Stand Your Ground law in a civil suit. Dr. Pages, a plaintiff
in the case, was involved in an altercation with the defendant, Tapia.
The Court explained that, during the dispute, Dr. Pages rushed towards
Tapia’s wife in an aggressive manner. Tapia therefore rushed at
Dr. Pages, throwing him to the ground, at which time Dr. Pages hit his
head. Tapia was charged with felony battery, and as part of a negotiated
plea, Tapa pled guilty to misdemeanor battery and was adjudicated guilty.
Dr. Pages then brought suit against Tapia in civil court for assault and
battery. Tapia asserted immunity under Florida’s Stand Your Ground
laws, as Fla. Stat. 776.032(1) provides immunity from criminal prosecution
and civil action. The trial court dismissed the Complaint finding Tapia
was entitled to immunity under Florida’s Stand Your Ground laws,
and the plaintiffs appealed.
The Third District noted that Florida’s Stand Your ground laws provide,
in Fla. Stat. 776032(1), that an individual is immune from criminal prosecution
and civil action if that individual uses force permitted by any of the
following statutes: Fla. Stat. 776.012, 776.013 and 776.031. Fla. Stat.
776.012 provides that a “person is justified in using force, except
deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably
believes that such conduct is necessary defend himself or herself or another
against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force.” Fla.
Stat. 776.013, title “Home protection; use of deadly force; presumption
of fear of death or great bodily harm,” provides that a “person
who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any
other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and
has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including
deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so
to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another.”
The plaintiffs argued that Tapia was precluded from seeking immunity under
Florida’s Stand Your Ground laws because his adjudication of guilt
in the criminal matter established that Tapia was engage in an unlawful
activity at the time of the incident.
The Third District ruled that even without determining whether Tapia’s
guilty plea rendered his actions an unlawful activity under Florida’s
Stand Your Ground laws, the trial court’s dismissal should be affirmed
because Fla. Stat. 776.012 permitted Tapia to use non-deadly force when
he reasonably believed such force was necessary to defend himself or his
wife from Dr. Pages’ imminent use of force. The Third District noted
that Fla. Stat. 776.013 requires that the individual seeking immunity
not have been engaged in an unlawful activity at the time of the incident,
that requirement is not present in Fla. Stat. 776.012. The Third District
ruled that Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, Fla. Stat. 776.032,
expressly provides alternative bases for immunity under the Standard Your
Ground law. The Court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal, because
a finding had been made that Tapia reasonably believed that his actions
were necessary to defend his wife from Dr. Pages’ imminent use of force.