Florida Fifth District Court of Appeals Reviews Judgment Interest from Medical Malpractice Wrongful Death Case

When a person dies due to the negligence of another, the idea of being “made whole” again through civil recovery is thrown out the window. In all personal injury lawsuits, the injured person seeks more than just financial recovery. They seek accountability through the civil court system. This is especially true in wrongful death lawsuits. Family members or an estate can pursue funeral expenses in addition to the pain and suffering the injured person may have endured between the injury and the death.  After any settlement or judgment, interest on the award may be calculated, since the injured party was without that money during this time period.

In a recent opinion, Shoemaker vs. Sliger, filed by Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeals, a doctor who had been sued for medical malpractice along with other defendants appealed the interest calculated for the verdict awarded to the estate of the deceased patient. The damages calculated were over $7.5 million, which was reduced by the jury finding that the doctor was 40% at fault. The final judgment ultimately granted was $1,386,260. The defendants pushed for the application of Florida’s statutory $500,000 cap on non-economic damages, which was granted by the trial court judge.

The estate appealed, and the Fifth District reviewed the non-economic damages reduction to the estate. The court of appeals initially ruled against the estate, but the Florida Supreme Court later determined that the cap was unconstitutional, which caused the court of appeals to reverse its prior ruling against the estate. The jury verdict was reinstated. The estate moved to award interest from the date of the jury verdict two and a half years before, but the defendants opposed that motion, arguing that the date for calculating when the interest began was incorrect.

The court of appeals, in its analysis, disagreed with the trial court’s award of interest from the date of the jury verdict. The court agreed that under normal circumstances, the the interest on a money judgment begins to accrue on the date that the trial court enters a judgment fixing the amount of the monetary award. However, if there was no entry of a money judgment, and an appeal commences, resulting in a reversal, Florida rule 9.340(c) sets the post-trial interest date as the date of the mandate issued by the court of appeal rather than the date of the verdict.

In this case, there was a monetary judgment awarded. The court of appeals pointed out that case law does not support waiting until the entry of an appellate order, or the appellant would have a greater incentive to appeal at the cost of the injured person. While the Fifth District disagreed with the defendants that the interest should be calculated from the date of the appellate order, it also disagreed that the interest should be calculated from the date of the jury verdict. The court reversed the trial court’s ruling, setting the interest to be calculated from the date of the original judgment.

The Florida wrongful death attorneys at Donaldson & Weston can aggressively pursue all of the damages that may be available to you. For a free consultation, contact our office at 772-266-5555 or 561-299-3999.

More Blog Posts:

Florida District Appeals Court Reviews Notice Requirements for Insured to Receive Personal Injury Protection Benefits, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, October 13, 2015

Knowing How a Rejection of Uninsured/Underinsured Auto Insurance Coverage in Florida Affects You and Your Family, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, October 6, 2015