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Florida Court Reverses Order Granting a New Trial in a Car Accident Case

October 16, 2019

by Donaldson & Weston

Juries do not always assess damages and liability accurately, and the law affords both plaintiffs and defendants the right to request a new trial if they believe a jury’s verdict is improper. The standard a trial court must apply in determining whether a new trial should be granted is whether the verdict is against the weight of the evidence. If a trial court fails to apply this standard and issues an order granting a new trial on a different basis, it can result in the order being overruled on appeal, as illustrated in a recent case decided by a Florida Court of Appeals. If you were injured in a car accident you should consult with a South Florida car accident attorney as soon as possible to assist you in your pursuit of damages.

Facts Surrounding the Accident

Allegedly, defendant-wife was driving defendant-husband’s car on a day when it had been raining and the roads were wet. She approached an intersection where a car had stopped in front of her and applied her brakes but was unable to stop and consequently hit the car. The plaintiff’s husband was driving the car that defendant-wife struck, and the plaintiff was a passenger in the car. None of the parties involved in the accident went to the hospital following the accident. The plaintiff subsequently filed a lawsuit alleging claims of negligence against the defendants to recover damages for personal injuries sustained in the accident.

Evidence Submitted at Trial and the Jury’s Verdict

The main issues disputed at trial were whether the defendant-wife caused the accident and whether the plaintiff’s alleged injuries were caused by the accident. The plaintiff’s husband, defendant-wife, and another driver testified as to how the accident occurred and the events leading up to the accident. The court also heard testimony from the plaintiff and from both the plaintiff’s and the defendant’s medical experts regarding the plaintiff’s alleged injuries. While it was admitted that the plaintiff suffered from back issues prior to the incident, it was disputed whether the accident caused a new injury, exacerbated an existing injury, or caused no additional harm. The jury found in favor of the defense.

Standard for evaluating a Motion for a New Trial

The plaintiff subsequently filed a motion for a new trial, arguing the verdict was against the weight of the evidence. The court granted the motion. The court’s order granting the motion stated, in part, that the defendant’s response to the motion included testimony that was different than the court’s recollection. The defendants appealed. On appeal, the court noted that the trial court did not find that the jury’s verdict was against the weight of the evidence, which was the standard that should be applied to a motion for a new trial.

The court held that a court must examine all of the evidence and evaluate its weight and credibility when assessing whether a verdict goes against the weight of the evidence. Further, the trial court is required to lists its reasons for granting a new trial in an opinion. Here, however, the trial court granted a new trial because one party believed a witness’s testified in a manner that differed from the court’s recollection. The court found that nothing in the record showed the trial court actually weighed the evidence and its credibility in deciding to grant a new trial. As such, the court found the trial court’s decision to grant a new trial was based on an error of law, and therefore, reversed and remanded for the trial court to conduct a proper review.

Confer with an Experienced South Florida Car Accident Attorney Today

If another person’s negligent driving caused you to sustain injuries in a car accident, you should confer with an experienced car accident attorney to evaluate the facts of your case and potential sources of recovering damages. The South Florida personal injury attorneys of Donaldson & Weston will aggressively advocate on your behalf to help you in your pursuit of compensation. Contact us today at 772-266-5555 or 561-299-3999 for 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 Upholds Arbitration Clause After Car Accident, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, November 20, 2018

Florida Court Addresses Jury Verdict After Car Accident, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, October 19, 2018