Florida Appellate Court Rules New Trial Not Appropriate in Car Accident Case

In Smith v. Lllamas, the Second District Court of Appeal of Florida ruled on the question of whether a motion for new trial was appropriately granted in an auto accident case. The case arose from a car collision that occurred in 2008, when a man and woman were each traveling in opposite directions on a two-lane road.

The woman was turning left when the cars crashed. The man sued her, alleging personal injuries in his neck and knees. The woman raised comparative negligence as her defense.
At trial, the parties presented conflicting expert testimony on the man’s neck injury. The neurosurgeon who treated the man said it was a permanent injury and that although he had undergone surgery, he did not expect the surgery to fully eliminate his neck pain. The orthopedic surgeon who testified for the woman said he didn’t think the injury arose from the car accident and that he would have recommended a more conservative approach than surgery.

The parties also presented conflicting evidence with respect to the knee injury the man alleged. The orthopedic surgeon who treated the man said the injury was caused by the accident and permanent, but that the basis for his opinions was partially from the history given by the man. He admitted there were inconsistencies in what the man had told him. For example, the man had gone to the chiropractor immediately following the accident, rather than the emergency room even though he claimed he was bleeding. He didn’t seek treatment for his knees until eight months after the accident. Also, he didn’t consistently report knee pain to his doctors–even four days after the accident.

The jury found the woman solely liable and awarded the man past medical expenses in the amount of $37,000 without apportioning the award between his neck and knee injuries. They found the injuries weren’t permanent and awarded him nothing for his future care and pain and suffering.

The man filed a motion for new trial arguing that the verdict didn’t follow the weight of the evidence, which in his view showed he suffered permanent injuries to his knee and neck. He argued that based on the evidence, the jury should have awarded him damages for pain and suffering and future medical expenses. The trial court ordered a new trial and the woman appealed.

The appellate court reviewed the trial court’s grant of a new trial for an abuse of discretion, noting that where there was conflicting evidence, the weight to be given each piece was a question for the jury. The question before the jury was whether the man sustained permanent injuries in the accident.

The appellate court reasoned that the parties to this lawsuit presented conflicting evidence on the question of permanent injuries and that the jury could have concluded the man didn’t sustain a knee injury in the accident, since his history was inaccurate and he didn’t seek treatment for eight months. Accordingly, the appellate court ordered the verdict to be reinstated.

We have represented many plaintiffs in personal injury cases involving motor vehicle accidents like the one described above. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car collision, call the experienced South Florida car accident attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank at 877-448-8585.


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