Women and Justice: Court: Supreme Court of Florida

Domestic Case Law

Byrd v. Richardson-Greenshields Securities Supreme Court of Florida (1989)

Employment discrimination, Sexual harassment

Female employees brought allegations of assault, sexual battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent hiring and retention of employees. The Florida Supreme Court considered whether the workers’ compensation statute provided the exclusive remedy for a claim based on sexual harassment in the workplace. The Court found that applying the exclusivity rule of workers’ compensation to preclude all tort liability would abrogate the overwhelming public policy interest in outlawing and eliminating sexual discrimination in the workplace. The Court distinguished workers’ compensation, which addresses purely economic injury, from sexual harassment laws, which are concerned with more intangible injuries to personal rights.  

State v. Hickson Supreme Court of Florida (1994)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

After stabbing her husband in self-defense, Hickson was charged with second-degree murder. As a defense, Hickson sought to admit evidence that she suffered from battered-spouse syndrome. The Court held that expert testimony concerning the battered-spouse syndrome was admissible. The expert was permitted to testify about the syndrome in general or to answer hypothetical questions based on facts in evidence. If the defendant desired to present testimony from an expert who had examined her in order to opine directly about her case, the defendant would be required to submit to an examination by the state’s expert.  If the defendant chooses to have the expert testify generally about the syndrome or answer hypothetical questions, the state will not be allowed to have the defendant examined by the state’s expert but may produce its own expert to testify about generalities and hypotheticals.

Ward v. State Supreme Court of Florida (2008)

Sexual violence and rape

The state sought involuntary commitment of the defendant as a sexually violent predator under the Jimmy Ryce Act. The Act, enacted in 1999, provided for civil commitment procedures for “all persons currently in custody who have been convicted of a sexually violent offense . . . as well as to all persons convicted of a sexually violent offense in the future.” The defendant had been convicted of rape in 1969 and 1976. In 2004, he was sentenced to prison for burglary charges. He argued that the Act did not authorize his commitment since he had not been convicted of any sexually violent offense since the effective date of the Act. The trial court disagreed and the Florida Supreme Court affirmed, finding that the “current confinement period need not be for a sexual offense as long as the individual has been convicted of a sexually violent offense sometime in the past.”