Florida Court Overturns Judgment in Car Accident Case Due to Doctrine of Collateral Estoppel

In Government Employees Insurance Company v. Kisha, a couple purchased a motor vehicle insurance policy that included uninsured motorist coverage (“UIM”). Both members of the couple were named insureds on the automobile policy. After the couple was involved in a traffic wreck, each claimed UIM benefits under the policy. The insurer denied both of their claims due to non-payment of policy premiums. According to the insurance company, the couple’s policy was not in effect when the collision occurred.

Next, the wife filed an action seeking a declaratory judgment in a Florida court. The woman argued the auto insurer waived its right to cancel the couple’s policy and was estopped from denying coverage as a result. Although he offered testimony in his wife’s case, the husband did not join the lawsuit. Following trial, a jury returned a verdict in favor of the wife. The husband then filed his own declaratory judgment action. Additionally, he asked the court to enter a Motion for Entry of Judgment based on the doctrine of collateral estoppel. As a result, the trial court issued a judgment in the man’s favor.

Later, Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal reversed and remanded the wife’s case for a new trial. As a result, the insurer asked the appellate court to reverse the husband’s judgment as well. According to the insurer, reversal in the husband’s case was required because the judgment on which he relied was reversed. In addition, the husband conceded that reversal of his wife’s judgment required reversal of his own.

The appellate court stated the doctrine of collateral estoppel was created in order to conserve judicial resources and prevent a party from relitigating the same issues in a later case between the same parties. In order to rely on collateral estoppel, the issues in a case must have been fully litigated and a valid final judgment rendered. Since the wife’s case was remanded for a new trial, Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal held the husband’s case should be reversed.

Despite the court’s agreement regarding reversal of the husband’s judgment, the auto insurer argued it should also be allowed to relitigate the man’s case no matter the outcome of his wife’s new trial. The insurer claimed it would be unfair to allow the man to utilize the doctrine of collateral estoppel because he chose not to properly join in his wife’s case in an effort to obtain a tactical advantage. Since the insurer failed to raise the argument at the trial court level, the appellate court refused to consider the insurance company’s argument.

Ultimately, Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal reversed the prior judgment and remanded the husband’s case.

If you were seriously injured in a South Florida traffic collision, you need an experienced personal injury attorney advocating on your behalf. To discuss your right to recover damages with a knowledgeable Miami car accident lawyer today, call the seasoned advocates at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. at (305) 448-8585 or contact us through our website.

Additional Resources:

Government Employees Insurance Company v. Kisha, Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 5th Dist. 2015

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Florida Court of Appeals Overturns Denial of Workers’ Compensation Benefits Related to Employee’s PTSD, May 29, 2015, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog

Florida Court of Appeal Orders Juror Interview Following Car Accident Verdict, May 26, 2015, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog

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