Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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The Supreme Court held that chapter 2013-107, section 1, Laws of Florida, which revised section 90.702, Florida Statutes, which the Court previously declined to adopt to the extent it was procedural, infringes on the Court’s rulemaking authority. After developing mesothelioma, Plaintiff filed this personal injury action claiming that sixteen defendants caused him to be exposed to asbestos. The trial court awarded Plaintiff $8 million in damages apportioned to certain defendants. At issue on appeal was the admission of expert causation testimony. The Fourth District Court of Appeal reviewed the admission of the experts testimony under Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. 509 U.S. 579 (1993), found that the trial court failed properly to exercise its gatekeeping function as to three experts, and reversed for a new trial as to R.J. Reynolds and remanded for entry of a directed verdict for Crane Co. The Supreme Court quashed the decision below, holding (1) Frye v. United States, 293 F. 1013 (D.C. Cir. 1923), not Daubert, is the appropriate test for Florida courts to determine the reliability of expert testimony before allowing it to be admitted into evidence; and (2) because the causation of mesothelioma is neither new nor novel, the trial court’s acceptance of the expert testimony was proper. View "DeLisle v. Crane Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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In this action filed by Petitioner seeking attorney’s fees, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Fifth District Court of Appeal concluding that the proposals for settlement in the underlying case were ambiguous and therefore unenforceable. Petitioner sued Respondents for negligence and then served a separate proposal for settlement on each Respondent. Neither Respondent accepted Petitioner’s respective proposal. After securing final judgment, Petitioner filed a motion for attorney’s fees under Fla. Stat. 768.79 and Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.442. The trial court granted the motion, finding that the proposals for settlement were sufficiently clear and unambiguous. The district court reversed, concluding that the language in the proposals were ambiguous. The Supreme Court quashed the decision below, holding that Petitioner’s offers to settle his claims against Respondents were unambiguous and that Petitioner’s entitlement to attorney’s fees was actualized after he submitted sufficient offers and obtained satisfactory judgments in his favor. View "Allen v. Nunez" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court quashed the decision of the district court in favor of Plaintiff, an independent contractor, in this complaint alleging that Caterpillar Financial Services Corporation was liable for injuries Plaintiff sustained from C&J Bobcat and Hauling, LLC’s agent’s negligent operation of a multi-terrain loader because the loader was a dangerous instrumentality, holding that loaders are dangerous instrumentalities. The trial court found that loaders are not dangerous instrumentalities and granted summary judgment in favor of Caterpillar. The Supreme Court quashed the decision below and handed the case for an order granting summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff, holding that a loader is a dangerous instrumentality as a matter of law. View "Newton v. Caterpillar Financial Services Corp." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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A jury made a multimillion-dollar noneconomic damages award to an adult child whose mother died of lung cancer after finding through special interrogatories that the decedent’s addiction to cigarettes was a legal cause of her death. The Fourth District Court of Appeal overturned the award, making a “sweeping statement” that “no matter” what the evidence shows, “an adult child who lives independent of the parent during the parent’s smoking-related illness and death is not entitled to [a] multi-million dollar compensatory damages award.” The Supreme Court of Florida quashed that decision. The Fourth District misapplied the abuse of discretion standard to the trial court’s denial of a motion for remittitur and created of a bright-line cap on the amount of noneconomic damages a financially independent adult surviving child may be awarded for the wrongful death of a parent. Precedent entitles both a jury’s verdict and a trial judge’s ruling on a motion for remittitur to great deference. Neither the Legislature nor the Florida Supreme Court has established a cap on the amount of noneconomic damages a survivor may recover in a wrongful death action. View "Odom v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co." on Justia Law

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In this wrongful death medical malpractice action, the Supreme Court quashed the decision of the First District Court of Appeal affirming the trial court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s action and remanded with instructions to reinstate Plaintiff’s complaint, holding that the trial court erred in dismissing Plaintiff’s complaint where the record established that Plaintiff’s presuit expert was qualified and that Defendants did not suffer prejudice for any alleged noncompliance with discovery. Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) where the facts regarding a presuit expert’s qualifications are unrelated, the proper standard of review of a trial court’s dismissal of a medical malpractice action based on its determination that the plaintiff’s presuit expert witness was not qualified is de novo; (2) before a medical malpractice action can be dismissed based on a trial court’s finding that the plaintiff or plaintiff’s counsel failed to comply with the informal presuit discovery process for medical malpractice actions, the trial court must find that such noncompliance prejudiced the defendant; and (3) Plaintiff’s presuit medical expert in this case clearly met the statutory requirements for medical experts, and Plaintiff complied with the necessary discovery. View "Morris v. Muniz" on Justia Law

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Under federal law, the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) may only reach the past medical expenses portion - and not the future medical expenses portion - of a Medicaid recipient’s tort recovery to satisfy its Medicaid lien. Florida’s Medicaid program, administered by AHCA, paid $322,222 for Juan Villa’s medical care after Villa was injured in an accident. Villa settled with an alleged tortfeasor for $1 million. AHCA calculated the presumptively appropriate amount of its lien at $321,720 and asserted a lien in that amount against Villa’s settlement. An administrative law judge affirmed AHCA’s lien amount. The First District Court of Appeal affirmed, concluding that both Florida law and the federal Medicaid Act allow AHCA to secure reimbursement for its Medicaid expenses from the portions of Villa’s third-party settlement recovery allocated to both past and future expenses. The Supreme Court quashed the decision below, holding that the federal Medicaid Act prohibits AHCA from placing a lien on the future medical expenses portions of a Medicaid beneficiary’s third-party tort recovery to satisfy its Medicaid lien. View "Giraldo v. Agency for Health Care Administration" on Justia Law

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For a claim to sound in medical malpractice, the act from which the claim arises must be directly related to medical care or services, which require the use of professional judgment or skill. This case arose out of an action brought by Denise Townes on behalf of Cinnette Perry, and Perry, individually, against the National Deaf Academy, by and through its employees, for injuries Perry sustained while she was a resident at the Academy. Perry was injured when the Academy’s employees attempted to physically restrain her with a Therapeutic Aggression Control Techniques (TACT) hold. The trial court granted summary judgment for the Academy, concluding Townes alleged medical malpractice claims, rather than negligence claims, and failed to comply with the medical malpractice presuit requirements. The court of appeals reversed, holding that Townes’s claims sounded in ordinary negligence because the employees’ actions were “not for treatment or diagnosis of any condition” and did not require medical skill or judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Townes’s claims did not arise from medical malpractice because the administration of a TACT hold was not directly related to medical care or services. View "National Deaf Academy, LLC v. Townes" on Justia Law

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The comparative fault statute, Fla. Stat. 768.81, does not apply to Engle progeny cases in which the jury finds for the plaintiff on intentional torts such that the compensatory damage awards in those cases are not subject to reduction. The instant case was an Engle progeny case. Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant. The jury found that Plaintiff was a member in the Engle class because her husband died from lung cancer caused by his addiction to cigarettes and awarded Plaintiff $10.5 million in compensatory damages and $30 million in punitive damages. The trial court reduced the jury’s compensatory award by Plaintiff’s husband’s comparative fault and entered final judgment awarding Plaintiff $7.87 million in compensatory damages and $30 million in punitive damages. The court of appeal concluded that the punitive damages award was unconstitutionally excessive and rejected Plaintiff’s cross-appeal regarding the trial court’s reduction of compensatory damages, finding that Plaintiff had waived the intentional tort exception by arguing comparative fault of the smoker to the jury. The Supreme Court quashed the decision below, holding (1) Plaintiff did not waive the intentional tort exception; (2) the punitive damages award was constitutional; and (3) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendant’s motion for remittitur. View "Schoeff v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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The Stand Your Ground law does not confer civil liability immunity to a criminal defendant based upon an immunity determination in the criminal case. In reaction to Plaintiff attacking him without provocation, Defendant struck Plaintiff’s face with a cocktail glass, resulting in permanent loss of sight in Plaintiff’s left eye. Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendant, alleging battery and negligence. Defendant asserted the affirmative defense of immunity under the Stand Your Ground Law. Defendant then filed a petition for writ of prohibition, arguing that the circuit circuit lacked jurisdiction over him based upon the circuit court’s conclusion that Defendant was immune under the Stand Your Ground Law in a criminal case involving the same facts and parties. The court of appeal granted the petition, ruling that Fla. Stat. 776.032 guarantees a single Stand Your Ground immunity determination for both criminal and civil actions. The Supreme Court quashed the court of appeal’s decision, holding that the Stand Your Ground law does not confer civil liability immunity to a criminal defendant who is determined to be immune from prosecution in the criminal case. View "Kumar v. Patel" on Justia Law

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A party that has had judgment entered against it is not entitled to seek equitable subrogation from a subsequent tortfeasor when the judgment has not fully been sustained. Benjamin Hintz was injured when his scooter collided with an automobile driven by Emily Boozer. The car belonged to Boozer’s father, Otto, who was insured by Allstate. Petitioner, guardian of Hintz’s property, filed suit against the Boozers. The jury found the Boozers liable for Hintz’s injuries, ultimately awarding Petitioner $11,179,189. Allstate paid $1.1 million, its policy limit, but the Boozers did not pay the remainder of the judgment. Following the personal injury verdict, Petitioner filed a separate medical malpractice suit against medical provider defendants, alleging that Hintz’s injuries were exacerbated by medical negligence. Allstate and Emily Boozer filed complaints claiming they were entitled to equitable subrogation from the medical provider defendants. The trial court dismissed the complaints with prejudice. The Fifth District Court of Appeal reversed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case to reinstate the dismissal of the equitable subrogation claims, holding that the Fifth District erred in holding that Respondents could assert claims for contingent equitable subrogation without first paying the judgment in full. View "Holmes Regional Medical Center, Inc. v. Allstate Insurance Co." on Justia Law