Court Allows Florida Injury Victim to Pursue Punitive Damages Against Ride Owner

In April 2019, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Florida personal injury lawsuit determining whether the lower court properly allowed the plaintiff leave to amend her complaint to add punitive damages in her claim against the defendant. Ultimately, the court determined that it did not have the authority to review the lower court’s decision.

According to the court’s opinion, a minor child was injured while on a ride called the “Psycho Swing.” The defendant owned the ride. The girl’s parents filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant and several other parties, including the employees operating the ride at the time of their daughter’s injury. The plaintiffs claimed that the ride was missing “crucial safety equipment, safety instructions, etc.” Specifically, the plaintiff contended that the defendant was negligent in renting out the ride without a safety harness or instructions.

Initially, the plaintiffs claim only included a request for compensatory damages. However, after obtaining additional information, the plaintiff’s sought to amend their complaint to seek punitive damages. The court granted the plaintiff’s request, and the defendant appealed the court’s decision immediately.

On appeal, the appellate court refused to hear the merits of the defendant’s argument, finding that it did not have the authority to do so. The court explained that, to trigger the court’s review, a party must be able to show:

  • The court departed from the “essential requirements of the law”;
  • The mistake resulted in a “material injury” to one of the parties; and
  • The mistake could not be corrected in a post-trial motion.

The court explained that the legal mechanism by which the defendant sought review of the lower court’s decision only allowed for an appellate court to review whether the lower court followed the applicable procedural requirements. However, there was no mechanism that allowed the appellate court to review the lower court’s determination that the plaintiff should be granted leave to amend to add a claim of punitive damages.

The defendant argued that the lower court erred when it granted the plaintiff leave to amend without a “reasonable evidentiary basis” for the court’s decision. The court rejected the argument, reasoning that the defendant was asking the court to review the judge’s decision, and not just whether the judge complied with the procedural requirements. Here, the court explained, the trial court properly adhered to the procedural requirements. Thus the appellate court had no jurisdiction to hear the defendant’s arguments.

Have You Been Injured in a Florida Accident?

If you or someone you love has recently been injured in a Florida slip-and-fall accident, contact the dedicated South Florida personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Friedman Rodman & Frank. At Friedman Rodman & Frank, we represent injury victims and their families in a wide range of Florida personal injury claims, including Florida car accidents and premises liability cases. We understand that this is often a difficult time for accident victims and their families, and take care to ensure that the recovery process is as straightforward as possible. To learn more about how we can help you with your situation, call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation today.

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