Linde v. Linde

Linde v. Linde, 199 So.3d 1102 (Fla. 3d DCA 2016)

While it is rare that a guardianship proceeding ends with a restoration of the ward's rights, F.S. 744.464 provides a process for doing so.  In this decision, the Court considered what evidence can be introduced at a hearing under F.S. 744.464, as compared to the evidenced used to make an initial determination of incapacity under F.S. 744.331.

At the hearing to restore the ward's capacity, the trial court (1) granted an injunction which prevented the court-appointed independent physician from having communications with the ward's temporary guardian and (2) granted the ward's motion in limine to prevent the temporary guardian from presenting evidence of the ward's prior medical history and background.  The temporary guardian appealed.

The Court held that F.S. 744.464 which governs restoration proceedings differs from initial proceedings of incapacity under F.S. 744.331.  F.S. 744.331 requires examining committee members to have access to previous examinations of the person when making their initial determination of a person's capacity.  F.S. 744.464 does not contain the same requirement.  It simply states that upon the filing of a suggestion of capacity, the trial court must immediately appoint a physician to conduct an examination of the ward.  The Court failed to read the requirements of F.S. 744.331 into F.S. 744.464, and held that it was appropriate for the trial court to prohibit communications with the temporary guardian, especially since the trial court also established a mechanism for the independent physician to get all of the information he needed.

The Court also held that the trial court's preclusion of evidence not directly related to the ward's current capacity was appropriate.  It found that even though historical evidence may have some probative value for a trial court determining a ward's current capacity, it was not an abuse of discretion for the trial court to preclude such evidence. 

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