Florida’s Fifth District Refuses to Consider Unpreserved Liability Issue in Car Accident Case

In Witherell v. Larimer, a young woman apparently struck a male pedestrian while driving her mother’s automobile. As a result, the man filed a personal injury lawsuit against the driver and her mother in a Florida court. At trial, both parties claimed the other was responsible for the injury accident. According to the man, the driver struck him because she failed to pay sufficient attention to the roadway. The motorist countered that the pedestrian contributed to the incident because he was under the influence of alcohol when he crossed the roadway.

After both the pedestrian and the driver presented expert evidence, jurors returned a verdict stating each party was 50 percent responsible for the injury accident. In addition, the jury awarded the man no noneconomic damages and almost $90,000 in past medical bills. The presiding judge and both parties agreed that the noneconomic damages award was inconsistent with the medical expenses awarded to the pedestrian and asked jurors to reconsider their decision. The jury then increased the man’s noneconomic damages award to $1, and the judge entered final judgment in the lawsuit.

Next, the pedestrian filed a motion for additur with regard to the noneconomic damages award. Generally, such a motion asks the court to increase the amount of damages awarded in a lawsuit because the jury’s award was grossly inadequate or would result in a miscarriage of justice. According to the injured man, the jury’s verdict was against the weight of the evidence offered at trial. In the alternative, the man asked the court to order a new trial on the issue of past noneconomic damages. The driver opposed the pedestrian’s motion but failed to ask the court to address both liability and damages in the event of a new trial.

Although the trial court denied the man’s request for additur, it granted his motion for a new trial based on his noneconomic damages. The new jury then determined that the man’s prior past noneconomic damages award was insufficient under Florida law. In response, the driver appealed the jurors’ verdict to Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeals.

On appeal, the motorist argued that the new trial should have examined the issue of liability as well as damages. According to the Fifth District, however, the driver failed to preserve this issue for appellate review. Because of this, the District Court of Appeal of Florida, Fifth District refused to consider the alleged error and affirmed the jury’s verdict.

If you or a family member was seriously injured in a Florida auto accident, an experienced personal injury attorney can help you protect your rights and recover the damages you deserve based upon the severity of your harm. To discuss your car accident case with a diligent lawyer today, do not hesitate to call the dedicated Miami personal injury attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. at (305) 448-8585 or contact us through our website.

Additional Resources:

Witherell v. Larimer, Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 5th Dist. 2014

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Supreme Court of Florida Holds Deceased Worker’s Estate Cannot Recover Tort Judgment from Employer’s Insurance Company, December 10, 2014, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog

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