Florida Court Reverses a Directed Verdict in a Negligence Case

Negligence requires a plaintiff to prove multiple elements. In other words, the plaintiff must not only show that the defendant violated the applicable standard of care, but also that the defendant’s departure led to the plaintiff’s harm. As such, in most cases, negligence is an issue that must be decided by the jury. This was illustrated in a recent Florida car accident case in which an appellate court vacated the trial court’s order issuing a directed verdict in favor of the plaintiff, as the issue of causation was disputed. If you were hurt in a car accident, it is advisable to speak to a proficient Florida personal injury attorney to assess what damages you may be able to pursue.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant’s driver, who was operating a tractor-trailer, was employing a back-up maneuver to deliver goods to a business on a highway. The maneuver caused the truck to be placed into a jackknife position on the road. The delivery took place in the early morning hours, and the defendant had the lights on the vehicle illuminated. The plaintiff was traveling down the highway at the same time when he suddenly approached the truck. He was unable to stop in time to avoid a collision and ultimately suffered extensive injuries.

Allegedly, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant, setting forth claims of negligence. At trial, the defendant conceded that the driver negligently maneuvered the truck. He argued, however, that the plaintiff could have been at fault for the accident, and the evidence presented to the jury would ultimately determine the issue of liability. Following the close of the plaintiff’s case, the court issued a directed verdict stating that the defendant proximately caused the plaintiff’s harm. After the trial concluded, the defendant appealed.

Proving Proximate Cause

On review, the appellate court noted that directed verdicts are rarely appropriate in negligence cases. Rather, they should only be granted where the evidence of record, when viewed in a light that is most favorable to the opposing party, shows that a reasonable jury could not find that there is a material factual dispute, and therefore judgment should be granted in favor of the moving party as a matter of law.

Here, the court found that the trial court erred in ruling on the issue of proximate cause, as the plaintiff’s comparative fault was disputed. In other words, the court explained that because of the nature of the doctrine of comparative negligence, situations in which directed verdicts are appropriate are infrequent, especially when a plaintiff’s negligence is at issue. As such, the court reversed the trial court ruling and remanded the matter for a new trial.

Confer with a Dedicated Florida Attorney

Even if a defendant admits to acting carelessly, a plaintiff must prove the defendant’s acts caused the plaintiff’s harm. If you suffered injuries in a car accident, you may be owed damages and should speak to an attorney. The dedicated Florida personal injury attorneys of Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, P.A. are proficient at helping injured parties prove liability in civil lawsuits, and we can set forth compelling arguments on your behalf. We can be reached via the form online or at 800-283-7442 to schedule a meeting.

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