Florida Court Overturns Verdict in Favor of Plaintiff Due to Trial Court’s Error in Refusing Jury Instruction

Many car accidents are not caused solely by the negligence of one party but occur due to a combination of factors. Under Florida law, if a party who is injured in a car accident is partially at fault for causing the accident, he or she is not barred from recovering damages, but any damages awarded will be adjusted proportionately to his or her degree of fault.

Recently, a Florida court of appeals overturned a verdict in favor of a plaintiff who was injured in a car accident, where the trial court refused to instruct the jury regarding the plaintiff’s unlawful operation of his vehicle. If you or a loved one were harmed due to a South Florida car accident, you should consult a knowledgeable car accident attorney to help you analyze any detrimental evidence that may be introduced against you.

Evidence Introduced at Trial

Allegedly, the plaintiff was injured while operating a scooter on a causeway. Evidence introduced at trial established that he was operating the scooter at approximately 30 miles below the posted speed limit and below the average speed of motorists on the causeway. During the trial, the defendants requested a jury instruction regarding Florida statutes which prohibited the use of any motor-driven cycle on a limited access facility and defining a limited access facility as a street or highway designed for traffic. The court rejected the defendants’ request, and the jury issued a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, awarding him $6,000,000. The defendants appealed, arguing the trial court abused its discretion in refusing their requested jury instruction. On appeal, the court reversed the verdict and remanded the case for a new trial.

Review of Trial Court’s Refusal to Provide Requested Jury Instruction

On appeal, the court stated that the requested jury instruction contained a correct statement of the law, the instruction was essential for the jury to decide the issues in the case, and the facts in the case supported the necessity of providing the jury with the instruction. Specifically, the court noted that the instruction was supported by the evidence and addressed the defendants’ defense that the plaintiff was unlawfully operating his scooter on the causeway, which was a limited access facility, at the time of the accident.

The court elaborated that the trial court’s error in judgment was highlighted by the fact that plaintiff’s counsel stated in his closing argument that the plaintiff was lawfully operating his scooter at the time of the accident. The court noted that the jury only assessed 25% of the fault for the accident to the plaintiff but likely would have attributed greater fault to the plaintiff if it considered he was illegally driving the scooter on the causeway at the time of the accident. As such, the court found that the trial court’s error could not be considered harmless and remanded the case for a new trial.

Confer with a Skilled South Florida Car Accident Attorney

If you suffered injuries or property damage in a car accident, you should confer with an experienced car accident attorney to assess your options for seeking compensation.  The South Florida personal injury attorneys of Donaldson & Weston will aggressively advocate on your behalf to help you in your pursuit of any damages you may be able to recover. Contact us today at 772-266-5555 or 561-299-3999 to set up a free and confidential consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Florida Court of Appeals Quashes Substituted Service of Process as Improperly Obtained, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, December 4, 2018

Florida Court Addresses When Car Accident Victims Can Be Awarded Attorney’s Fees, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, October 26, 2018

Florida Court Hears Motorcycle Accident Case, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, September 11, 2018

10 Best 2015
The American Trial Lawyers Association
Florida Justice Association
Martindale-Hubbell
The National Trial Lawyers
Super Lawyers