Court Discusses Personal Injury Plaintiff’s Evidentiary Burden at the Summary Judgement Stage

When a plaintiff files a Florida personal injury case, in many instances the defendant will file a motion for summary judgment claiming that the plaintiff’s case is insufficient as a matter of law. Essentially, in a summary judgment motion, the defendant argues that there are no disputed factual issues in the case and that when the court applies the law, the defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

Thus, to survive a defense motion for summary judgment, a Florida personal injury plaintiff must be able to establish a disputed issue of fact. In a recent personal injury case, the court discussed the plaintiff’s burden to present evidence creating an issue of fact, as opposed to merely calling into question the credibility of a witness’ testimony.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was injured in a car accident. The motorist who struck the plaintiff’s car (“the supervisor”) was on the phone at the time of the accident, speaking to a woman whom she supervises at work (“the employee”). The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the supervisor’s employer, arguing that the employer was vicariously liable for the negligent acts of the supervisor.

The defendant argued that it could not be liable to the plaintiff because the plaintiff presented no evidence that the supervisor was either working or performing work-related duties at the time of the accident. Both the supervisor and the employee testified that they were good friends outside of work and that they were talking about non-work-related issues at the time of the accident. The supervisor also testified that she speaks to the employee on the phone on a weekly, if not daily, basis.

The plaintiff presented evidence of the supervisor’s phone records for the past six months, which showed that the supervisor had never called the employee and had only sent her one text message. The plaintiff argued that this constituted evidence that the supervisor was acting within the scope of her employment, and that the defendant’s motion for summary judgment should be denied.

The court disagreed, explaining that there is a difference between attacking a witness’s credibility and presenting evidence in support of a position. Here, the court explained that the only evidence bearing on the issue of whether the supervisor was acting within the scope of her employment was her own testimony, which indicated she on a personal phone call. The plaintiff did not present any evidence suggesting otherwise. Instead, the plaintiff merely attacked the supervisor’s credibility.

The court stated that “disbelief of a witness’s statement is not proof that the opposite is true.” Thus, the plaintiff’s attack on the supervisor’s credibility was not sufficient to prove that the two women had no friendship at all and that the supervisor was discussing work-related matters while on the phone. The court rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the supervisor’s motivation to lie to protect her job was sufficient to create a disputed fact and affirmed the dismissal of the plaintiff’s case.

Have You Been Injured in a Florida Car Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Florida car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated South Florida personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Friedman Rodman & Frank have extensive experience representing injury victims in all types of Florida car accident cases, including those involving employer liability. To learn more, call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Court Discusses Caterer’s Liability in Recent Food-Poisoning Case, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published September 19, 2018.

Florida Personal Injury Victims and the Importance of Being Careful When Settling a Case, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published October 4, 2018.


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