Florida Appeals Court Reverses Remittitur for Pain and Suffering in Car Accident Case

In a recent case, a Florida appellate court overturned a lower court’s ruling reducing the amount of money awarded to the plaintiff by the jury. According to the facts of the case, Arnold v. Security National Insurance Co., the plaintiff sustained a number of injuries in a vehicle crash that an uninsured driver caused. The injured driver filed a lawsuit against his insurance company, who provided him with an uninsured motorist policy, seeking damages for his medical expenses in addition to damages for past and future pain and suffering.

At trial, the plaintiff provided testimony from an expert witness in support of the monetary relief that the plaintiff requested. According to the plaintiff’s expert, as a result of the crash the plaintiff experienced a herniated disc in his back that would probably need immediate surgery and ongoing medical treatment.

Following trial, the jury awarded the plaintiff a judgment of roughly $1.5 million. The trial judge ordered a remittitur, which reduced the jury verdict, by nearly $1 million. The court issued the remittitur after finding that the jury’s verdict was excessive and that the plaintiff’s pain and suffering and medical bills were more accurately compensated with an award of $500,000.

The plaintiff appealed the trial court judge’s remittitur to the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeals, arguing that the trial court committed an abuse of its discretion by ordering the remittitur. According to the plaintiff, the trial court based its remittitur on the assumption that the surgery that the plaintiff was going to have to repair his back would result in a diminishment of his future pain and suffering damages. In response, the defense argued that the jury reached its verdict out of passion and that the jury’s reasons for awarding $1.5 million were not related to the injuries that he presented at trial.

According to the appellate court, who summarized the statutory facts that courts must examine when ordering a remittitur, a trial court judge is prohibited from inserting its own judgment for that of the jury unless it is clear that the jury’s verdict was excessive or arbitrary. A trial court judge’s remittitur can be grounded in data sourced from cases that are similar to the case at hand.

Applying the standard to the plaintiff’s case, the appellate court concluded that the record lacked any evidence supporting the trial court judge’s remittitur, especially when it came to reducing the amount of pain and suffering that the jury awarded. Specifically, the order that the trial court judge issued failed to provide an explanation of the remittitur’s necessity or the facts supporting the judge’s decision to reduce the jury verdict’s award. The appellate court reversed the order and remanded the case for further proceedings.

If you or someone you know has been injured by someone else’s negligence, such as in a motor vehicle collision, the skilled car accident lawyers at Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano can help. We have provided seasoned legal counsel to injury victims throughout Southwest Florida, including Naples, Fort Myers, and Cape Coral. As a result, we know just how devastating this time can be for you and your family and how important it is to consult an attorney who will represent you with the compassion and tenacity that you deserve. Call us now at 1-800-283-7442 or contact us online to set up your appointment.

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