When Are Damages Excessive or Inadequate in Florida Personal Injury Trials?

A Florida jury may not award greater damages than what is supported by the evidence presented at trial. Under Section 768.043(2), trial courts must consider several factors in trying to determine whether damages awarded by the jury are excessive or inadequate after a trial.

These factors include consideration of:

• whether the award is motivated by prejudice or corruption,
• whether the trier of fact obviously ignored the evidence,
• whether the trier of fact considered improper elements into account or speculated,
• whether the amount awarded is reasonably related to the injury suffered,
• whether a reasonable person would logically see the evidence supports the award.

In a recent case, a plaintiff sued an amusement park after getting shot by a third party while leaving the park. While the jury was deliberating, it asked to look at the present and future value tables for the plaintiff’s medical expenses. An economist had prepared the future medical expenses table based on a report by the plaintiff’s expert on future care. The report stated that the plaintiff would need to use a dorsal column stimulator every five years for the remainder of his life.

The economist prepared a summary of the costs of the dorsal column stimulator and valued the costs of using the stimulator as required by the report at a present value of $497,681.00. At trial, the plaintiff’s expert changed his mind and testified as to only two dorsal column stimulators over the remainder of his life. Therefore, since the economist had assumed 10 payments, his summary of costs bore little relationship to the evidence.

Nonetheless, the jury requested a review of this summary. The attorneys realized there was a discrepancy between the testimony and the calculation by the economist. They tried to correct the summary themselves and inaccurately adjusted the chart. The math was wrong and the defense counsel noted an objection that he did not think the adjustment was correct.

The jury found for the plaintiff and the final judgment included future medical expenses in the total amount listed on the economist’s summary. The jury relied on the inaccurate modifications rather than the evidence presented at trial.

The defendant moved for remittitur. Remittitur is a judge’s ruling reducing the amount of damages. The trial judge in this case did not grant the remittitur. The defendant appealed on multiple grounds including the amount of damages, but also foreseeability and proximate cause.

The appellate court explained that a trial court must consider whether the jury ignored the evidence in reaching a verdict and whether the amount awarded had a reasonable relationship to the amount of proven damages. In this case, the appellate court remanded the case with instructions to reduce the award of damages for future medical expenses by $212,834.00 – the amount that the lawyers stated were corrected, but were actually inaccurate.

The resulting total award was $1, 048,996.00. The appellate court affirmed the judgment with respect to the other issues.

If you are severely injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, you may have a viable personal injury claim. You should consult with a personal injury attorney about your case. Unlike insurers, your own attorney owes you a duty of care and loyalty. If you are seriously injured on the job or elsewhere, contact the experienced Florida personal injury attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank toll-free for a free consultation at (877) 448-8585.

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