Negligence plaintiffs who obtain a favorable jury verdict are not entitled as a matter of law to future noneconomic damages, according to Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal.
The case originated from a four-car collision that caused the plaintiff serious, permanent injuries. After a trial, the jury awarded the plaintiff more than half a million dollars in damages, including $450,000 for future medical expenses. However, the jury awarded nothing for future noneconomic damages. The plaintiff requested a new trial, arguing that the evidence at trial and the jury’s verdict proved that, as a matter of law, she should be entitled to future noneconomic damages.
To prove a negligence case at trial in Florida, the plaintiff must establish that:
- The defendant owed him or her a duty of care;
- The defendant failed to abide by the required standard of care;
- The breach proximately caused the plaintiff’s injuries; and
- Actual damages were incurred.
In most cases, if the plaintiff can prove that the defendant failed to behave reasonably given the circumstances, the first two elements are met. Proximate causation is a complex concept that courts still work to clarify, even though its roots in the legal system are very old. Generally, however, if the defendant is a person who ran a stop sign, drove drunk, or committed some other unsafe act that caused the accident, there is sufficient causation.
The last component of a negligence claim is that there must be some damages or injury to the plaintiff. In court, the term “injury” goes beyond a physical malady. Compensable injuries include past and future economic damages, such as medical bills and lost wages. The amount of these damages is easily calculated and proven in court. Noneconomic damages are those that are less tangible or easily calculated. Successful plaintiffs are entitled to compensation for their pain and suffering, emotional distress, disfigurement, loss of life enjoyment, and other injuries of this sort.
The plaintiff in the case before the Second District argued that, given the jury’s award of money for future medical bills and the evidence of her serious injuries, she should have received an award for future noneconomic damages. The trial court agreed, granting a new trial, but the Second District reversed. The appeals court held that Florida law does not support the plaintiff’s argument, and therefore the trial court was incorrect in granting a new trial. The correct standard for granting a new trial is whether the verdict was contradicted by the manifest weight of the evidence at trial.
If you were injured in a car accident, you have a right under Florida law to seek compensation for your physical, emotional, and financial injuries — both those that occurred in the past and those that are expected in the future. The Southwest Florida negligence attorneys of Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano have significant experience trying cases in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, and throughout the region. We can help you seek the compensation you deserve. To schedule a free case evaluation, call (800) 238-7442.