Due process is an important element in both the civil and criminal branches of the judicial system. No court can hear from one side alone without providing the other side notice and an opportunity to also be heard. The Second District Court of Appeal issued an opinion on this issue in a recent case (Case No. 2D15-1952). In this lawsuit, the plaintiff was seriously injured after an inebriated truck driver slammed into his car at 60 miles per hour. The other passengers were also seriously injured but had settled their individual claims prior to the appeal of this action. The truck driver was driving a company truck at the time of the accident. Liability was not contested, but the cause and extent of the damages for the injured man were hotly debated.
The injured man claimed a variety of damages that included pain and suffering, past, present, and future loss of earnings, and medical expenses. The injuries were mainly for his back and arm. To further complicate matters, the man was in another car wreck four years after the accident. The defendants accused the injured man of not completely answering the discovery responses with the candor required in court proceedings. The company defendant asked for the names of the medical providers who treated him. The man first answered in April 2012, a month after the second accident, and identified eight providers between January 2008 and April 2012. In 2013, he amended his answers to include several other providers, including a radiology center and a chiropractic center, between March and June 2012. The driver-defendant asked a similar set of questions in the later part of 2013, and the injured person again identified most of the providers but left out the radiology center and chiropractic center. He also answered the question of whether or not there were other accidents after the first one with “Not that I remember.”
During his deposition, he did mention being rear-ended but did not consider it an accident. He said that he was stopped at a stop sign, and a pick-up “touched us and took off quickly.” The injured man said that the car suffered minimal damage, but his back hurt much more following this event. Soon afterward, the company moved for the trial court to dismiss the injured man’s lawsuit, alleging the injured man testified falsely about the severity of the accident and failed to disclose his visits to the radiology and chiropractic centers. The motion included the written interrogatory answers and the deposition transcripts for this lawsuit. It also included a deposition for the second accident that included the injured man’s descriptions of the second event as an accident with a very fast impact. The court did not have a formal hearing on the matter and ruled solely on the documents submitted by the company. While the man briefly defended himself, he was not given an opportunity to be fully heard and present documents. The injured man appealed the dismissal.
In its review, the appellate court noted that the trial court does have a right to dismiss when a fraud is committed upon the court. However, without a full hearing with evidence, the court felt that it could not support the actions of the trial court. The court cited Myrick v. Direct Gen. Ins. Co., 932 So. 2d 392, 392 (Fla. 2d DCA 2006), which establishes that a movant must prove fraud on the court by clear and convincing evidence. The heightened standard exists to help strike a balance between allowing injured parties to have their day in court and preventing fraud on the court. The court felt that while the company submitted evidence to support the motion, what was presented was insufficient for a dismissal. The decision was reversed, and the injured plaintiff was allowed to continue his negligence action.
The Florida rear-end collision attorneys at Donaldson & Weston can aggressively push back against defendants’ attempts to limit your damages. Our lawyers understand the tactics employed by opposing parties and will seek to maximize the damages you deserve. Call today at 772-266-5555 or 561-299-3999 for a free, confidential consultation.
More Blog Posts:
Florida District Appellate Court Reviews Future Medical Expenses in Multi-Car Accident Case, Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, November 28, 2016
Federal Circuit Court of Appeal Declines to Find Equitable Tolling in Slip and Fall Case, Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, October 21, 2016