Misapplication Conflict Jurisdiction Limited to Cases Involving Substantially Same Controlling Facts
Misapplication conflict jurisdiction was discussed and limited from the time of the creation of the courts of appeal in 1957. In the landmark opinion of Ansin v. Thurston, 101 So. 2d 808, 811 (Fla. 1958), Justice Drew, writing for the Supreme Court of Florida, stated:
A limitation of review to decisions in "direct conflict" clearly evinces a concern with decisions as precedents as opposed to adjudications of the rights of particular litigants.
Similar provisions in the court systems of other states have been so construed:
"A conflict of decisions . . . must be on a question of law involved and determined and such that one decision would overrule the other if both were rendered by the same court; in other words, the decisions must be based practically on the same state of facts and announce antagonistic conclusions." 21 C.J.S. Courts 462.
In Nielsen v. City of Sarasota, 117 So. 2d 731, 734-35 (Fla. 1960), Justice Thornal wrote for the Supreme Court of Florida:
We do not here suggest that if we had been charged with the responsibility of the Court of Appeal in the instant case we would have arrived at the same conclusion which they reached.
In fact, it is altogether possible that we might have arrived at an entirely different conclusion as to the ultimate effect of the circumstantial evidence and the justifiable inferences to be drawn therefrom. Cf. Majeske v. Palm Beach Kennel Club, 117 So. 2d 531 (Fla. 2d DCA 1959).
Such a difference of view, however, is not the measure of our appellate jurisdiction to review decisions of Courts of Appeal because of alleged conflicts with prior decisions of this Court on the same point of law.
While conceivably there may be other circumstances, the principal situations justifying the invocation of our jurisdiction to review decisions of Courts of Appeal because of alleged conflicts are:
(1) the announcement of a rule of law which conflicts with a rule previously announced by this Court, or
(2) the application of a rule of law to produce a different result in a case which involves substantially the same controlling facts as a prior case disposed of by this Court.
Under the first situation the facts are immaterial.
It is the announcement of a conflicting rule of law that conveys jurisdiction to us to review the decision of the Court of Appeal.
Under the second situation the controlling facts become vital and our jurisdiction may be asserted only where the Court of Appeal has applied a recognized rule of law to reach a conflicting conclusion in a case involving substantially the same controlling facts as were involved in allegedly conflicting prior decisions of this Court. Florida Power & Light Co. v. Bell, 113 So. 2d 697 (Fla. 1959).
When our jurisdiction is invoked pursuant to this provision of the constitution we are not permitted the judicial luxury of upsetting a decision of a Court of Appeal merely because we might personally disagree with the so-called "justice of the case" as announced by the Court below.
In order to assert our power to set aside the decision of a Court of Appeal on the conflict theory we must find in that decision a real, live and vital conflict within the limits above announced.
This analysis was followed and reaffirmed in Mancini v. State, 312 So. 2d 732, 733 (Fla. 1975):
Our jurisdiction cannot be invoked merely because we might disagree with the decision of the district court or because we might have made a factual determination if we had been the trier of fact, Kincaid v. World Insurance Co., 157 So. 2d 517 (Fla. 1963).
As pointed out in Nielsen v. City of Sarasota, Fla., 117 So. 2d 731, our jurisdiction to review decisions of courts of appeal because of alleged conflicts is invoked by:
(1) the announcement of a rule of law which conflicts with a rule previously announced by this court or another district, or
(2) the application of a rule of law to produce a different result in a case which involves substantially the same facts as a prior case. In this second situation, the facts of the case are of the utmost importance.
Therefore, in our historic precedent we limited "misapplication jurisdiction" to cases which involve "substantially the same controlling facts" as a prior case disposed of by the Supreme Court of Florida.