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Pages v. Seliman-Tapia, Case No. 3D12-3432 (3rd DCA)

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.

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