The Week In Torts – Cases from June 2, 2023
The transcript tells all.
FLORIDA LAW WEEKLY
VOLUME 48, NUMBER 22
CASES FROM THE WEEK OF JUNE 2, 2023
COURT REVERSES TRIAL JUDGE’S ORDER GRANTING NEW TRIAL—HOLDS THAT RECORD DID NOT SUPPORT THE NEED FOR SUCH RELIEF.
Smith v. Lyles, 48 FLW D1079 (Fla. 6th DCA May 26, 2023):
In this case involving a plaintiff represented by Morgan & Morgan, both the plaintiff and defendant had been stopped at a red light, as both were waiting to make a right-hand turn.
The plaintiff was first in line to make the turn and the defendant was immediately behind him. When the light turned green, the plaintiff began moving his car forward. He testified that he saw another car coming from the left, which forced him to stop suddenly, and caused the defendant’s car to strike his.
During the trial, a juror asked a question about what date the plaintiff had retained his attorneys. Additionally, during the defendant’s own testimony, he testified that the plaintiff was at fault and “spike stopped” because he had seen advertisements run by Morgan & Morgan.
The Sixth District agreed that the defendant did make a statement like that of some sort, but concluded that the record did not support what the trial court put in its order.
Additionally, the trial court ruled that the accident reconstruction expert could not give medical opinions, and then concluded that the expert’s testimony violated the order. Despite the trial court’s ruling, the court found that the testimony plainly did not violate the trial court’s ruling on the motion in limine, notwithstanding what the order said.
In looking at a trial court’s order granting a motion for new trial on the ground that the verdict is contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence, the trial court’s role is to assess the totality of the evidence presented at trial and intervene only when the evidence is manifestly weighted to the movant’s side. In deciding whether the evidence was manifestly weighed against the verdict, the trial court must examine all the evidence, giving consideration to its weight and credibility. Here, the plaintiff’s attorneys submitted the order.
If a trial court grants a new trial on the grounds that the jury’s verdict is contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence, the court’s order must state its reasons with specificity so the decision can be reviewed.
In reviewing the order, the appellate court concluded that the only reason cited for granting the new trial, was the testimony about Morgan & Morgan, which led the trial court to find that a defense verdict (no liability and no causation) required a new trial.
The court explained that there was conflicting evidence regarding the plaintiff’s explanation for why he had to stop, and the defendant testified differently than the order captured.
The court reminded us that the mere occurrence of an accident does not give rise to an inference of negligence and a reasonable jury could have concluded that the defendant acted reasonably and therefore was not negligent. The court then stated that even if the defendant was negligent, the jury under these facts could have found that the negligence was not the cause of any injuries to the plaintiff, because there was ample evidence in the record from which a jury could have concluded that the plaintiff’s injuries were caused by his preexisting conditions rather than the accident.
BECAUSE PLAINTIFFS HAD NOT ABUSED THE PRIVILEGE TO AMEND, AND AN OPPORTUNITY TO AMEND WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN FUTILE ON ITS FACE OR PREJUDICIAL TO THE DEFENDANT’S, THE TRIAL COURT SHOULD HAVE ALLOWED THE PLAINTIFFS TO FILE AN AMENDED COMPLAINT.
Crawford v. Monroe County, 48 Fla. Law Weekly D1049 (Fla. May 24, 2023):
Dismissal with prejudice is a severe sanction which should only be granted when the pleader has failed to state a cause of action, and it conclusively appears that there is no possible way to amend the complaint to state a cause of action.
In this case, dismissal without prejudice, and a new single amended complaint would have moved the matter towards resolution by cutting through the procedural morass and allowing consideration of a pleading.
The court remanded with instructions that the plaintiff could amend, but specifically noted it was taking no position on the merits of any claims.