While we have had Florida Supreme Court approved standard jury instructions for civil and for criminal cases, there not an approved set of business jury instructions for many years. The Business Litigation Committee undertook to fill that void and began publishing its set of jury instructions in Business Litigation in Florida, a Florida Bar manual that covers all aspects of business litigation. While many on the Bench and in the Bar found these instructions helpful, many were also aware the lack of standard approved instructions hampered the resolution of commercial cases and made business litigation more complicated than it should have been. In order to remedy this problem, the Florida Supreme Court created a committee to draft an original set of jury instructions (the “Committee”), which committee was initially chaired by Judge Thomas Smith. The Committee was comprised of judges and trial attorneys and was charged by Justice Fred Lewis with drafting an original set of instructions for the bench and bar. The Committee broke out into several subcommittees to study and draft instructions, and finally decided to follow the California set of business jury instructions as a model in drafting Florida specific instructions. After permission was received, the Committee began its work in earnest. Noting that some preliminary and general instructions would be the same for both civil and business jury instructions, the Committee requested permission to and received approval from the Florida Supreme Court to place some of the civil jury instructions into the commercial set of instructions. A complete set was submitted and the Florida Supreme Court approved the set on June 6, 2013. In re Standard Jury Instructions – Contract and Business Cases, 116 So. 3d 284 (Fla. 2013).
The Committee continues its work on instructions by researching new areas that may need standard instructions, reviewing new areas of law and decisions, and ensuring that its instructions are in accord with Florida law. Membership in the Committee is by appointment by the Florida Supreme Court, and applications are typically taken in January of each year.
The Florida Supreme Court approved instructions for Contract and Business Cases can be found here: http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/contract-business-jury-instructions/instructions.shtml.
The Committee will be taking applications for new members in January of 2016. The following instructions are currently pending for publication and submission to the Florida Supreme Court for consideration:
1) Form 416.3 Model Form of Verdict for Contract Formation
2) 416.4 Breach of Contract – Essential Factual Elements
3) Form 416.4 Model Form of Verdict for Breach of Contract
4) 416.20 Interpretation – Construction Against Drafter
5) Form 416.25 Model Form of Verdict for Affirmative Defense – Mutual Mistake of Fact
6) 416.25 Affirmative Defense – Mutual Mistake of Fact
7) Form 416.32 Model Form of Verdict for Statute of Limitations Defense in a Breach of Contract Case
8) 416.34 Claim – Promissory Estoppel