WHAT IS A CONTINUING TORT?
EFFS v. SONY PICTURES HOME ENTERTAINMENT, INC., No. 3D15-1139 [August 10, 2016]
Effs claimed a 25% ownership interest in a motion picture he helped produce in 2005. Behind Effs’ back, other participants met with Sony and entered into a licensing agreement that gave Sony exclusive distribution rights. Distribution payments commenced in October 2005 to the others. In May 2007, Effs’ counsel emailed Sony asserting that Effs had participation rights in the movie. In March 2012, Effs brought suit against Sony for tortious interference with a business relationship.
The trial court granted Sony’s motion for summary judgment premised on the expiration of the statute of limitations. Holding out the “continuing tort” doctrine, Effs appealed arguing that each distribution payment furthered the tort and therefore only the last of said payments triggered the start of the statute of limitations time period. Effs’ argument was rejected and the dismissal affirmed.
Although the appellate court recognized that a cause of action finally accrues when the tortious conduct ceases, it pointed out that it is the tortious act, not the harmful effects of the act, that triggers the start of the limitations period. It was the act of the licensing agreement, not the payments under that agreement, that were tortious. The payments were deemed merely harmful effects. It is believed by the court that their analysis of the continuing tort doctrine, in the context of an action for tortious interference in a business relationship, is one of first impression in Florida.
Rex Russo has extensive appellate experience. He has appealed administrative action decisions, judgments of Florida's county and circuit courts, Bankruptcy Court judgments, and Federal District Court judgments. Appeals have been taken as far as the Florida Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court.