Florida Appellate Court Finds Lower Court Improperly Instructed the Jury on Damages and Orders New Trial in Sanitation Truck Crash Lawsuit

In James v. City of Tampa, the plaintiff suffered injuries when a sanitation truck owned and operated by the City of Tampa backed up and collided with the vehicle in which he was riding as a passenger. Immediately before the impact occurred, the sanitation truck was reversing slowly. The driver of the car in which the plaintiff was riding attempted to back up to avoid being hit by the truck but was unsuccessful. Although the plaintiff stated that the sanitation truck struck his vehicle twice, the City alleged that there was only one impact.

The plaintiff had been involved in another motor vehicle accident roughly four months before the collision involving the City sanitation truck. In the first accident, the plaintiff alleged that the vehicle in which he was riding was “t-boned” by another motor vehicle. He sought medical treatment for the injuries that he sustained in the first accident roughly one month before the crash involving the sanitation truck.

During the trial against the City, seeking damages for his injuries sustained in the sanitation truck collision, the City admitted that the driver of the sanitation truck had been negligent. The City also denied that the plaintiff suffered any permanent injuries stemming from this crash and that he had sustained a minor aggravation of his existing injuries at most.

At the end of the trial, the trial court entered a directed verdict in favor of the City on the issue of whether the plaintiff’s injuries were permanent. According to this instruction, the jury was not allowed to consider whether the plaintiff had incurred permanent injuries that resulted from the sanitation truck collision or the amount of damages he sustained as a result of the collision. Instead, the jury was only to consider the amount of the plaintiff’s past and future medical expenses resulting from the sanitation truck collision and any lost wages as a result of the same. The jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff totaling $3,315.55 in past medical expenses and no award for future medical expenses or prior lost wages. The plaintiff moved for a new trial, and the trial court denied the motion, entering a judgment in the plaintiff’s favor reflecting the jury’s verdict. The plaintiff appealed.

The Florida Second District Court of Appeal reversed the lower court’s ruling, noting that the plaintiff had presented expert testimony from his treating physician and a consulting neurologist, showing that he had been permanently injured as a result of the sanitation truck accident. The same physician had treated the plaintiff following the first accident and again after the sanitation truck accident, giving him sufficient information to make an assessment regarding whether the plaintiff sustained permanent injuries in the sanitation truck accident. Accordingly, the lower court committed a reversible error when it instructed the jury to not consider permanence. The appellate court remanded the case for a new trial on the issue of damages.

At Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, our dedicated Southwest Florida truck accident lawyers understand just how daunting bringing a lawsuit can seem. We will stand by you throughout the process and ensure that you receive the fair and just treatment that you deserve while helping you seek the settlement or the judgment that you need to compensate you for your financial losses. Representing clients throughout Fort Myers, Naples, and Cape Coral, we offer a free consultation to discuss your situation, so call us at 1-800-283-7442 or contact us online today.

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