3rd DCA Takes Opportunity to Emphasize that on Appeal, “LIGHT MOST FAVORABLE” is not a Reference to a Florida Sunrise

Posted on May 30, 2016

In the subject case, Hall v. Hall, 2016 Fla. App. LEXIS 6352 (Fla. 3d DCA, 2016), the Third DCA began its opinion in jest, stating, “The ‘light most favorable’ is not a reference to a Florida sunrise.” It went on to point out that appellants are obligated to provide a statement of facts and to interpret the evidence in the light most favorable to sustaining the conclusions of fact, citing its longstanding precedent, Turner v. Lorber, 360 So. 2d 101, 104 (Fla. 3d DCA 1978). 

In the subject case, Samuel and Yassin Hall (“Appellants”) appealed an order of the probate court with regard to an undue influence claim and petition to revoke the probate of a will and trust. After a two week trial, the court had denied the petition. The Third DCA took up the case on their appeal, “only to reiterate a fundamental tenant of appellate advocacy,” that on appeal, appellants are obligated to provide a statement of facts which interprets evidence in the light most favorable to sustaining the conclusions of fact. Applying that standard to the subject case, the Third DCA noted that Appellants failed in that regard; the presentation of the record by Appellants in their initial brief in the case was not a summary of the evidence in the light most favorable to the trial court’s findings.

For example, the trial court found that Appellants were not credible, and this conclusion was supported by inconsistencies in their testimony. The undue influence claim regarding the decedent’s testamentary capacity was rejected based on the testimony of those present at the execution of the challenged documents and expert testimony following a review of medical records and videotape of the decedent. Appellee’s expert regarding mental capacity was a board-certified physician with an M.D. degree from Yale University, a residency at Harvard, and board certification in geriatric psychiatry, serving as medical director of Miami Jewish Health Systems and as an associate professor at the University of Miami Medical School.

Further, the record, when viewed in the required light, established that the challenged documents were properly executed, that they were prepared at the request of the decedent, and that they were not actively procured by Appellee (a daughter) serving as personal representative under the will. The Appellee established that she was not a substantial beneficiary under the trust. Thus, the Third DCA noted that the trial court properly denied Appellants’ petition for revocation of probate of will and trust and properly denied a subsequent rehearing.

If you or anyone you know is in need of representation in actions involving Guardianship, Probate and/or Trust Disputes, or questions pertaining to such proceedings, please contact The Law Offices of Glenn M. Mednick, P.L., at (954) 315-1154 or gmednick@mednicklawgroup.com.

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