Recently, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit issued an opinion in an appeal involving a negligence and vicarious liability claim by the Plaintiffs-Appellees, the estates of four women who died in a car accident, against the Defendant-Appellant, Discount Rock & Sand, Inc. Following the fatal car accident, the women’s estates sued Carlos Manso Blanco, the driver who rear-ended their car, for negligence, and the estates sued Blanco’s employer, Discount Rock & Sand, Inc., for negligently entrusting the company’s truck to Blanco and for vicarious liability for Blanco’s negligent driving. After the estates and Blanco settled, the district court ordered the estates to file a stipulation of dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a), which they did. Based on the stipulation, the district court ordered the dismissal of the claim against Blanco. The remaining claims against Discount Rock went to trial, and the jury found the company liable and awarded nearly $12 million in damages to the estates. Discount Rock then appealed the judgment.

Facts of the Case

In March 2018, four Spanish citizens vacationing in the Florida Keys were killed in an automobile accident. The four women were traveling northbound on U.S. Route 1 (the Overseas Highway) and stopped near mile marker 79 to turn left into a scenic viewing area. Two vehicles, driven by Cheyenne Del Okeyes and Eduardo Ponce, passed the women’s Nissan Rogue sport utility vehicle on the righthand shoulder. But a third vehicle—a truck outfitted with a large tank holding water and sewage and hauling a port-a-potty—slammed into the Nissan. The truck, which was owned by Discount Rock and driven by its employee, Blanco, propelled the Nissan into oncoming traffic, into the path of a recreational vehicle driven by Daniel Pinkerton. All four women died at the scene.

The women’s estates sued Blanco for negligence and Discount Rock for negligent entrustment and for vicarious liability for Blanco’s negligence. The estates sought compensatory and punitive damages. The estates and Blanco settled, while the remaining claims against Discount Rock proceeded to trial. At trial, the jury found Discount Rock liable and awarded nearly $12 million in damages to the estates.

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In a recent case, the Florida Supreme Court issued an opinion in an appeal involving a certified question about whether a personal injury damages award must be reduced by a payment the plaintiff received to settle a bad faith claim against his uninsured motorist insurance carrier. The two laws at issue in the case were sections 768.041(2) and 768.76(1), Florida Statutes (2012).

The Respondent/plaintiff (Respondent) was badly injured in a car crash. Following the accident, he sued the Petitioner/defendant (Petitioner) bringing a vicarious liability claim based on the Petitioner’s co-ownership of the other automobile involved in the crash. Additionally, the Respondent also sued his own uninsured motorist insurance carrier to recover policy benefits for statutory bad faith damages. The Respondent and his insurer settled prior to the trial for $4 million. The subsequent trial against the Petitioner resulted in a $30 million jury verdict for the Respondent. The Petitioner then asked the trial court to set off the pre-trial $4 million insurance settlement against the damages award, but the trial court denied the motion.

On appeal, the Second District Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of the setoff request. Additionally, it certified a two part question: Is a settlement payment made by an uninsured motorist insurer to settle a first-party bad faith claim subject to setoff under section 768.041(2) or a collateral source within the meaning of section 768.76? The appeals court answered no to both parts of the question, ultimately holding that neither statute authorized a setoff in the present case. The appellate decision explained that writing on a blank slate, it would have found the Petitioner entitled to a setoff under section 768.041(2), but it decided that this Court’s case law precluded that result.

School bus-related crashes killed 108 people nationwide in 2021, up 50% compared to the pandemic-related low number of 54 deaths in 2020, according to National Safety Council (NSC) tabulations of data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). A school bus-related crash is defined by NHTSA as any crash in which a vehicle, regardless of body design, used as a school bus is directly or indirectly involved. This includes incidents involving school children getting in or out of a vehicle.

From 2012 to 2021, about 70% of the deaths in school bus-related crashes were occupants of vehicles other than the school bus, and 16% were pedestrians. About 5% were school bus passengers, 5% were school bus drivers, and 3% were pedal cyclists. Of the people injured in school bus-related crashes from 2012 to 2021, about 30% were school bus passengers, 9% were school bus drivers, and 53% were occupants of other vehicles. The remainder were pedestrians, pedal cyclists, and other or unknown.

Florida is no exception to the bus crash trends, with some of the most common causes of bus accidents being fatigue, distraction, speeding, and aggressive overtaking. In certain Florida accident cases, punitive damage awards can increase the victim’s compensation significantly. Punitive damages require special permission from the court in addition to evidence that the defendant was grossly negligent or acted with intention or wanton disregard for the safety of others. In Florida, punitive damages are capped at triple the amount of the compensatory damages, resulting in extremely large awards when they are allowed. A recent local news article discussed a serious Florida school bus accident.

In a recent case, the Fifth District Court of Appeal for the State of Florida issued an opinion in an appeal involving a wrongful death case arising out of a single-vehicle crash that resulted from the failure of a fourteen-year-old tire. The Plaintiff/Appellee, filed as the personal representative of the estates of her husband and their son, suing the Defendant/Appellant Discount Tire Co., a retail tire sales and service store. The Appellee claimed during the ensuing jury trial that Discount Tire breached certain industry standards.

In February 2017, the Appellee’s husband took his truck to Discount Tire where he purchased two new tires which were installed on the rear wheels while the older rear tires were rotated to the front. Four months later, while driving his truck on I-95 at highway speeds, the truck’s left front tire experienced a tread separation resulting in a loss of control that led to a crash in which both the Appellee’s husband and their son were killed. In her complaint and at trial, the Appellee asserted that the left front tire that failed was dangerous and likely to fail due to the fact that it was allegedly more than ten years old. She further asserted that Discount Tire was negligent for having serviced that older tire, i.e., rotating it to the front from the rear, and that “industry standards” called for taking tires of that age out of service.

The Appellee’s tire engineer and failure analysis expert testified that the fourteen-year-old tire failed because it was too old. At trial, another of Appellee’s experts testified about Discount Tire’s internal policy: employees at its stores were not to service any tire that was over ten years old. However, he did not identify any existing standards in Discount Tire’s industry regarding older tires that the Appellant had violated in this case.

It is vital to take basic steps to protect yourself when you are driving or riding in a car or on a bike. One simple thing you can do every time you drive is to ensure that you are wearing your seatbelt, especially when you’re in the front of the car. Seatbelts significantly decrease the risk of fetal injuries in the event of a crash, while forgoing a seatbelt while in a car can increase your risk of death in a car accident by as high as 45%. Thousands of drivers in Florida experience severe or fatal accidents annually due to their failure to wear seatbelts.

Automobile accidents involving large vehicles, such as buses, are extremely dangerous. According to a report by the U.S. Department of Transportation, more than 4,100 people were killed in large vehicle crashes last year. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has found that there were more than 500,000 crashes nationwide involving large vehicles, with approximately 107,000 resulting in injuries. Buses are much larger than standard passenger vehicles, averaging 20 to 30 times bigger, creating massive crashes when they impact other vehicles. The difference in the size of the vehicles can prevent bus drivers from seeing smaller cars and bikes, while also resulting in more severe impact when crashes do occur. Most deaths in large vehicle crashes are from occupants of passenger vehicles. Of those killed in such accidents, roughly 82% are people in smaller vehicles.

Florida is no exception to the large vehicle crash trend, with the most common causes of large vehicle accidents being fatigue, distraction, substance-impaired driving, speeding, and aggressive overtaking. In certain Florida accident cases, punitive damage awards can increase the victim’s compensation significantly. Punitive damages require special permission from the court in addition to evidence that the defendant was grossly negligent or acted with intention or wanton disregard for the safety of others. In Florida, punitive damages are capped at triple the amount of the compensatory damages, resulting in extremely large awards when they are allowed. A recent local news article discussed a fatal Florida bus and bike accident.

Florida is consistently ranked very high on the list of states with the highest number of hit-and-run accidents each year. Through August of 2022, Florida had already reported 52,791 hit-and-run car accidents throughout the state. Additionally, hit-and-run accidents resulted in 11,494 reported injuries and 119 fatalities in Florida in 2022. There are many reasons why a driver may flee the scene after an accident. The primary motivating factor is likely that the driver wants to avoid the legal or financial consequences of the accident. Depending on the cause of the crash, drugs, alcohol, outstanding warrants, texting, or distracted driving, there could be serious legal ramifications, leading to the driver leaving the scene. Other reasons, such as lacking proper insurance, holding a commercial driver’s license, or driving the vehicle without permission, could result in significant financial consequences for the driver, leading them to flee the scene.

Florida drivers and pedestrians should be aware of some of the elements involved in calculating pain and suffering damages after an accident. Such factors can be used to determine the value and compensation in court after a crash or auto accident. (1) the type of injury and seriousness of the harm, (2) the amount of recovery time required, and (3) the necessary treatment required by the injury. These issues are related to each other. For example, generally speaking, if your injury is more serious, the recovery time and treatment required will be more elaborate and will often result in greater compensation. Subsequently, if your injury is relatively minor and there is not a ton of pain associated with it, any damages awarded may be on the lower end. A recent news article discussed a fatal Florida hit-and-run crash that occurred in September 2023.

According to the news article, the incident began when a Chevrolet SUV and a Dodge pickup truck collided at an intersection. A 34-year-old man passing the scene of the crash stopped to help. At that point, a Honda van struck the Dodge pickup truck, knocking it into the 34-year-old and killing him. The driver of the Honda van then left the vehicle at the scene and fled on foot.

Year after year, Florida is one of the states with the most traffic accidents. While it can be difficult to gauge car accident statistics from state to state, one of the most common ways to measure the risk of fatal car accidents across states is the metric of deaths per 100 million miles traveled within a state. Using this statistical format can be helpful to calculate driving risks in a state while controlling for disparities in population between different states, allowing for a more true comparison.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the deaths per 100 million miles traveled within Florida is 1.60, placing it ahead of all but a handful of other states in the country when it comes to drivers and passengers killed in car accidents. Fatalities in Florida car accidents have been rising since 2018, and currently, nearly 40% of all vehicle crashes result in injuries. Crashes occurring on highways can be particularly dangerous due to the higher speed limits on highways, resulting in more serious implications than crashes occurring at slower speeds.

When it comes to vehicle accidents, drivers and passengers in Florida need to be aware of a number of different factors that can be used to calculate pain and suffering damages after a car collision. These factors include but are not limited to the category of injury, the recovery time required for such an injury, necessary medical treatments, and the severity of the crash. These different factors can help pinpoint the necessary compensation in court after a car crash. Many of these elements are related, as the more serious the crash, the more likely the time to fully recover will be longer. A recent news article discussed a recent fatal crash in Poinciana, Florida, from last month.

In a recent case, the District Court of Appeal of the State of Florida Fourth District issued an opinion in an appeal involving a negligence action arising from a car accident. The negligence action occurred between the plaintiffs and the defendant after the defendant hit a golf cart with her car, potentially injuring the plaintiffs in the process. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendant’s conduct amounted to gross negligence and sued. The defendant appealed the trial court’s order granting the plaintiff’s motion to amend their complaint to plead a claim for punitive damages.

The underlying accident occurred in the morning on a residential street located inside a gated country club housing community. A resident had stopped his golf cart on the side of the street to speak with the plaintiffs approximately four to five feet past an intersection. The plaintiffs were standing in the street between the golf cart and the sidewalk when the defendant drove her car around the corner and onto the street with the golf cart and the plaintiffs. In the process of entering the street, the defendant collided with the golf cart and hit both of the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs claimed that one of them suffered from permanent injuries as a result of the crash. Subsequently, they sued the defendant for loss of consortium and later moved to amend the complaint to add a claim for punitive damages based on gross negligence.

In the proposed amended complaint, the plaintiffs alleged that the defendant had a habit of speeding in the community, that she was speeding at the time of the accident, and that she ran the stop sign at the corner of the intersection before turning onto the street where they were standing. In support of the allegations, the plaintiffs submitted their own answers to interrogatories, an affidavit from the golf cart owner, and a proffer of testimony from the resident with the golf cart. The court granted the motion to amend and the defendant timely appealed.

In a recent case, the First District Court of Appeals in Florida issued an opinion in an appeal involving a benefits dispute between a rental car employee (the Employee) and Normandy Insurance Company (Normandy) on behalf of his employer, Value Car Rental, LLC. The Employee filed a petition for benefits after he was shot seven times at close range by an unidentified shooter while at work for Value Car. The parties stipulated that the shooting occurred in the course and scope of the Employee’s employment with Value Car, so the only issue in dispute was whether the injuries he sustained in the shooting arose out of the work he performed for Value Car. At trial, the Judge of Compensation Claims (JCC), found that the injuries sustained by the Employee arose out of the work he performed for Value Car, and subsequently awarded him benefits. Normandy appealed the decision to the appellate court, which disagreed with the JCC decision, setting the JCC order aside.

The Employee worked as the general manager of the Value Car in the Orlando International Airport Holiday Inn. The business was near the airport and an industrial park. The premises of the car rental business consisted of a kiosk desk inside the hotel atrium and an office in a separate building next to the hotel swimming pool. One night, the Employee was walking from the kiosk desk to the office building with the last rental agreement of the night, he was shot seven times by an unknown assailant. Video footage captured the incident, and showed the assailant shooting the Employee, beginning to walk away, before shooting him several more times. The assailant did not attempt to rob or take anything from the Employee. Despite his injuries, he made it to the hotel lobby, where a hotel guest came to his aid, he stated that “Robert shot me” and said the police should look for a blue Mustang. The Employee petitioned for workers’ compensation benefits, including indemnity and medical benefits. Value Car and its insurance carrier, Normandy, denied that the Employee was entitled to benefits.

Following the decision to award the Employee benefits by the JCC, Normandy appealed. The Normandy appeal argued that the JCC finding was not supported by competent, substantial evidence. The appellate court opinion stated that a two-pronged analysis dictated whether the Employee could be compensated under the Workers’ Compensation Law. The first prong states that there must be “an accidental compensable injury . . . arising out of the work performed in the course and scope of employment.” The second prong states that “for an injury to arise out of and in the course of one’s employment, there must be some causal connection between the injury and the employment or it must have had its origin in some risk incident to or connected with the employment or that it flowed from it as a natural consequence.

In a recent case, the District Court of Appeal of the State of Florida Second District issued an opinion in an appeal involving the City of Tampa’s (the City) motion to dismiss a citizen’s action against the city for negligence and loss of consortium. The suit resulted from an incident where the citizen was struck by a vehicle while cycling on a bike lane in Tampa. The cyclist was struck between the traffic lanes of West Cleveland Street in Tampa.

The trial court found in favor of the plaintiff, the citizen, in issuing the nonfinal order denying the City’s motion to dismiss the action. After the plaintiff filed a second amended complaint, the City moved to dismiss, arguing that the plaintiff failed to state a cause of action in that the plaintiffs challenged the design of the bike lane, which would be a planning-level decision for which the City is immune from suit. The trial court held a hearing on the motion and ultimately denied it, determining that the second amended complaint contained adequate allegations to state a cause of action. The City then appealed. On appeal, the City argued that the trial court erred in denying the motion because the plaintiff failed to sufficiently allege that the City had a duty to warn of a specific danger to cyclists and that therefore it is sovereignly immune from suit.

The appellate decision stated that Sovereign immunity is an affirmative defense that is not properly asserted in a motion to dismiss unless “the complaint itself conclusively establishes its applicability.” Further, the opinion stated Liability cannot be imposed when the government exercises its discretionary, planning-level function; however, operational-level decisions are not so immune. To that point, the appellate court stated that, while the City’s actual design and construction of the bike lane may have been a planning-level decision immune from liability if the execution of that planning-level decision created a dangerous condition, the City’s failure to warn users of the bike lane about that dangerous condition would be an operational function that is not immune from liability. Subsequently, the appellate court held that the plaintiff’s second amended complaint was sufficient to open the courthouse door at the motion to dismiss stage because the facts pleaded did not conclusively establish that the claims were barred as a matter of law, ruling against the defendants and affirming the trial court decision.

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