Toyota Denied Recovery of Costs

Isabel Magdalena, et al v. Toyota Motor Corporation, et al., 2017 WL 5760268 (Fla. 3d DCA Nov. 29, 2017)

By way of background, the Magdalena family was driving home in Panama when their car hit a tree. The driver’s side airbag in their Toyota Land Cruiser failed to deploy. Because of injuries sustained by the father, he was air lifted from Panama to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Florida. Subsequently, the family filed a lawsuit against Toyota in Miami, Florida.

In Toyota, a Miami court determined proper venue. Venue involves where a case should be heard. The Miami court agreed with Toyota that Panama was the proper venue for the action and dismissed the action. Consequently, Toyota argued that it was the prevailing party and entitled to recover its legal costs under Section 57.041, Florida Statutes. Costs include items such as; filing fees, the transcription costs for depositions, court reporters, and certain expert witness expenses. Items not considered costs are, for example, mileage, research, and copies. On appeal, Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s decision awarding costs to Toyota.

Section 57.041, Florida Statutes, allows costs to be recovered by a party that is granted a final judgment or order of dismissal. The Third District ruled that the trial court erred in finding Toyota to be a prevailing party under the statue. Toyota was not granted a final judgment or a finding on the fundamental issues presented. The only issue resolved, was the procedural issue of venue.  This case highlights that a prevailing party is not determined when a case is transferred or dismissed for venue reasons.

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