Second District Court of Appeal Overturns Trial Court Ruling in Controversial Personal Injury Case

JULY 21, 2016:

Being a personal injury lawyer that represents those hurt in car accidents in Florida, proving that the plaintiff sustained a permanent injury from the crash is extremely important to maximize their recovery.  In other words, without presenting expert testimony identifying permanency of injuries from the accident, virtually the only element of damages available are for medical expenses and lost wages.  A damage award including pain and suffering in the past and the future is unavailable to any person that has not successfully presented evidence establishing that the accident has caused a permanent injury.

Recently, the issue surrounding permanency of a plaintiff’s injuries from a car accident was presented before the Second District Court of Appeal for Florida.  In “Ralph Leon James v. City of Tampa,” the trial court granted a directed verdict in favor of the City of Tampa as it relates to the ability for the jury to consider permanency of injury when awarding damages to the Plaintiff.

In “James,” the Plaintiff was hurt when a garbage truck crashed into his car causing serious and allegedly permanent injuries.  The lawyer for the injured Plaintiff presented evidence of permanency in the form of medical testimony by the treating physicians.  Naturally, the defense attorneys for the City submitted evidence of their own to discount any permanent injury sustained by the Plaintiff in the car accident.  Nevertheless, the trial court entered a Directed Verdict in favor of the Defendant, thus precluding the Plaintiff from requesting damages in the form of pain and suffering.

According to “Sims v. Cristinzio,” a directed verdict may only be granted in situations “where no view of the evidence, or inferences made therefrom, could support a verdict for the non-moving party.”  Equally important, when considering a motion for directed verdict, the trial court must “evaluate the testimony in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and every reasonable inference deduced from the evidence must be indulged in favor of the non-moving party.”

Consequently, the trial court in “James” failed to take into account the medical testimony elicited by the personal injury attorneys for the Plaintiff.  In doing so, the Second District Court of Appeal held that the trial court’s entering of a directed verdict in favor of the Defendant was error.  Moreover, the Appeals Court noted that “[i]t follows that the trial court erred in weighing the conflicting evidence on the issue of permanency and in direct a verdict on that issue in favor of the City.”

In light of this holding by the Second District Court of Appeal, Plaintiffs must always present clear and concise testimony or evidence that tends to establish some level of permanent injury.  Naturally, a failure to do so would lead to an adverse verdict for a Plaintiff and the personal injury attorney would not be advocating for the highest possible result for his or her client.

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Brandon Stein

Chief Executive Officer

Brandon Stein, the owner and founder of SteinLaw, is a Florida-based trial attorney who focuses on personal injury cases such as wrongful death, car accident, slip and fall, and a variety of other civil litigation areas. Being a former associate at a prominent Florida Defense Law Firm, Brandon Stein understands the strategy and tactics...[READ BIO]