Winning a favorable verdict in a Florida auto accident lawsuit isn’t necessarily the last word in the matter. This can be good or bad, depending on which side of the courtroom you’re sitting. A series of post-trial motions can alter the verdict, resulting in less compensation, more compensation or a new trial altogether.
When a defendant asks that the amount of damages be lowered, this is known as a remittitur. When a plaintiff asks for higher damages, this is known as an additur. Trial court judges usually will not disturb a verdict unless there is credible evidence that the jury’s award is grossly excessive or that there has been some gross error in awarding damages. Trial courts have a lot of discretion when it comes to these matters, but of course, it’s not without limit.
In the recent case of GEICO v. Isaacs, Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s ruling not to disturb the jury’s damage award, finding a remittitur request from the defendant should have been granted.
According to court records, plaintiff suffered injuries in a Florida car accident. Subsequently, she filed a lawsuit against GEICO, her uninsured motorist carrier, in seeking compensation for past and future medical expenses, as well as pain and suffering. Fault in the crash was not disputed. The question was how much plaintiff should receive.
It should be noted that when it comes to medical expenses after an injury, only those that are “reasonably certain” to be incurred at some point in the future are recoverable, and there has to be some evidentiary basis on which jurors can, with reasonable certainty, determine the amount of those expenses. Testimony or evidence that indicates certain treatments might possibly be needed in the future aren’t enough to warrant an award for medical expenses.
At this trial, a treating physician asserted plaintiff was rack up about $2,000 in future medical expenses annually and she would also at some point need to undergo shoulder surgery, which was going to cost anywhere from $40,000 to $50,000. That, the appeals court noted, was the only competent evidence presented regarding an award for future medical expenses.
Jurors awarded plaintiff a total of $750,00 for medical expenses and pain and suffering as a result of the auto accident. The judge ordered a $60,000 set-off for previous payments she had already received from collateral sources. The damage award included $360,000 for future medical expenses.
Insurer moved for a remittitur and a new trial, arguing the amount awarded by the jury for future medical expenses was excessive and also defied the weight of the evidence.
The appellate court reviewed the record and held that the motion for remittitur, with regard to the issue of future medical expenses, should have been granted. Specifically, the court took issue with the lack of evidence relating to plaintiff’s life expectancy. This was in addition to the fact that the award for future medical expenses “far exceeded what the evidence supported.” The case was remanded for a new trial solely on the issue of plaintiff’s life expectancy relating to the $2,000-a-year in medical expenses. The court affirmed the $50,000 for plaintiff’s shoulder surgery, but the court needs to make a finding on plaintiff’s life expectancy to determine how much more she should receive.
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GEICO v. Isaacs, Dec. 7, 2016, Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeal
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