Florida District Court of Appeal Reverses Final Order in Car Accident Case

In personal injury actions, the idea of being “heard” by the court system can be overlooked and taken for granted. Before settlements and judgments can be reached, all of the parties must be notified of the action and given an opportunity to articulate their position before a judge and possibly a jury. In Duarte v. Snap-On, Inc. (2D15-1952), the Second District Court of Appeal addressed whether or not the trial court improperly reached a ruling without an evidentiary hearing in a serious car accident case.

The injured party in this case was the driver of a vehicle struck by a drunk driver operating a semi-truck. The injured driver, his girlfriend, their children, and his grandson were all seriously injured in the accident. The girlfriend, son, and grandson all filed suit and recovered varying sums following their respective settlement agreements. While his case was pending, the injured driver was rear-ended by a separate party, spurring the defendant in the first accident to argue the injuries stemmed from the second accident, rather than the first.

The injured driver was sent interrogatories by both defendants and deposed by the first defendant. The driver was asked whether or not he had been in any other accident, and he provided an answer eventually characterized by the defendants to be misleading and untruthful. The defendants moved to dismiss using this characterization, which was granted by the trial court judge. The driver had eventually provided details of the second accident and asserted that he had difficulty speaking English and remembering things, due to his medication. The trial court agreed with the defendants, even though they failed to present any evidence beyond the allegation.

In its ruling, the appellate court acknowledged that trial courts are given wide discretion to dismiss in the event of fraud upon the court. However, dismissal is seen as an extreme remedy, rather than one to be used lightly. The party moving for dismissal based on fraud on the court must show by clear and convincing evidence that fraud was committed. The appellate court acknowledged that while some testimony leaned toward this characterization, it fell far short of the bar set for dismissal. The court distinguished the case at hand from cited case law, which dealt with the question of whether or not there was an injury. In this case, all of the parties agreed an injury was caused by the defendant in the first accident. The question left was which extent of the damages could be attributed to the first accident, as opposed to the second. The appellate court felt the record was insufficient to warrant dismissal, and it reversed the trial court’s dismissal, remanding the case back to the trial court.

Recovering from a serious car accident should be an injured person’s first priority. Duarte demonstrates the need for knowledgeable and dependable attorneys at your side. The attorneys at Donaldson & Weston are experienced Florida car accident lawyers who will aggressively pursue all avenues of legal relief to try to maximize the damages you deserve. Contact our office today at at 772-266-5555 (Stuart) or 561-299-3999 (West Palm Beach) 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