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Reversal for a New Trial on Damages

Caryn L. Bellus, Bretton C. Albrecht and Stephen M. Cozart | June 1, 2017

Caryn L. Bellus and Bretton C. Albrecht, of the Miami office, prevailed in getting a $1.6 million judgment reversed for a new trial on damages. Haney v. Sloan, 211 So. 3d 372 (Fla. 1st DCA 2017). This was an admitted liability auto accident case tried by Steve Cozart, of the Pensacola office, in which permanency of Plaintiff’s neck injury was also admitted. However, the defense disputed Plaintiff’s claims related to her alleged back injury and TMJ issues. In addition, the defense maintained that a substantial portion of Plaintiff’s claimed medical expenses and alleged damages were caused by a subsequent, unrelated car accident. However, the trial court granted Plaintiff a directed verdict on past medical expenses,over defense objections.

The court then instructed the jury that all of Plaintiff’s past medical expenses were caused by the subject accident. Plaintiff’s counsel argued in closing that the jury should use the sum determined as a matter of law for the past, $130,577.18, to determine what to award
Plaintiff for future medical expenses and pain and suffering. The jury then returned a verdict awarding Plaintiff $1,630.577.18, in total damages. Caryn and Bretton utilized post-trial motions to preserve and set up the issues for the appeal.

On appeal, Caryn and Bretton argued that the trial court erred in directing a verdict on past medical expenses, when there was evidence that a significant portion of Plaintiff’s damages were caused by the subsequent, unrelated car accident. They further asserted that the error left the jury with the indelible impression that it had no choice but to award Plaintiff all of her claimed damages - past and future --- and that it could not attribute any portion to the subsequent accident. They therefore argued that a new trial on all elements of damages was required. Following oral argument, the 1st District Court of Appeal agreed and reversed for a new trial on damages. In addition, because the judgment on the verdict was reversed, the court also reversed the judgment awarding Plaintiff attorneys’ fees and costs under her proposal for settlement.

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