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Florida Appeals Court Affirms Punitive Damages in Pedestrian Accident Lawsuit

The First District Court of the State of Florida recently issued an opinion in response to a defendant’s petition for certiorari review of a punitive damages claim. The case arose following an incident where the defendant was driving under the influence of alcohol and marijuana. According to the court’s opinion, the defendant ran his car into the plaintiff and several other pedestrians. The defendant pled guilty to the claims, and the plaintiff amended his complaint to add a claim for punitive damages. The trial court granted the plaintiff’s motion to amend his complaint, and the defendant appealed.

Under Florida law, a party may ask the court for certiorari relief if the party believes that the trial court failed to comply with appropriate procedural requirements. The party must establish that the trial court departed from the law’s requirements, which resulted in a material injury to the case, and the error cannot be corrected on appeal.

In this case, the defendant argued that the trial court erred in allowing the plaintiff to claim punitive damages. The defendant claimed that the plaintiff did not abide by the evidentiary requirements of a punitive damages claim. Further, the defendant argued that the court failed to make the appropriate findings that the plaintiff met the punitive damages evidentiary standard.

Florida’s punitive damages statute, section 768.72(1), provides that plaintiffs who wish to file a claim for punitive damages must present evidence that provides a reasonable basis for recovery. The law allows plaintiffs to amend their complaint to claim punitive damages, and the court should liberally construe the evidence that the party presents. Punitive damages are generally only awarded when the defendant engaged in particularly egregious behavior, such as driving under the influence or intentional and reckless driving.

Here, the defendant argued that the court failed to make an express or affirmative finding of an evidentiary basis for the claim. The plaintiff provided evidence of the defendant’s criminal case, a copy of sentence recommendations, and a report and deposition of the responding officer. The court concluded that this evidence was sufficient and that the statute does not require affirmative or express findings. Ultimately, the court found that the trial court complied with the procedural requirements; therefore, they denied the defendant’s petition.

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If you or someone you love suffered injuries or died in a Florida car accident, contact the reputable attorneys at Friedman Rodman Frank & Estrada, P.A. The attorneys at our law firm have an extensive history of successfully resolving cases on behalf of Florida injury victims. Our attorneys handle injuries on behalf of pedestrians, passengers, motorists, slip and fall victims, and many other injured parties. We use our training, experience, and litigation skills to effectively resolve these cases and pursue fair awards of compensation for our clients. Compensation in Florida personal injury cases, typically includes payments for medical expenses, property damage, ongoing medical treatment, pain and suffering, and funeral and burial costs. Contact our office at 877-448-8585 to schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney at our law firm.

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