Florida First District Court of Appeals Affirms Judgment for Costs Imposed Jointly and Severally Against the At-Fault Driver and Insurer

After experiencing a injury-causing accident, an injured person and his or her family will almost certainly wish to get every dollar available to help pay for medical expenses and cover the gap left by lost wages.  Florida law allows successful parties to move to receive compensation for taxable cost items if they can show that they served a “useful purpose” in litigation.  No party is entitled to these awards, but the trial court is granted discretion to consider the need of the expense and the reasonableness of the amount. Specific cost items include depositions, expert witnesses, medical records, mediation, demonstrative aids, and travel expenses of witnesses.  An award of taxable costs can help increase the amount of money available to the injured person from the judgment.

In New Hampshire Indemnity Co. v. Gray (Case No. 1D14-3348), the First District Court of Appeals considered an award of taxable costs and ruled in favor of the injured man.  In this case, the injured man was awarded $2.3 million in damages after suffering catastrophic injuries.  The at-fault driver’s insurance company provided his defense, as agreed upon in the insurance contract.  The injured man also sought to obtain taxable costs, serving the attorneys representing the at-fault driver, and was eventually awarded an additional $135,000.  The insurance company appealed the award of costs, arguing that the motion for a final judgment was served on the attorneys representing the at-fault driver but not the insurance company, in violation of Florida Statutes 627.4136(4).  The insurance company also argued that they were not responsible for taxable costs per the insurance policy.

The appellate court pointed to a recent case from the Fourth District, Geico General Ins. Co. v. Williams, 111 So. 3d 240, (Fla. 4th DCA 2013), which concluded that the appropriate time to add a carrier under Florida Statute 627.4126(4) is at the time the final judgment for fees and costs is entered, even though it’s not appropriate to determine the merits of those costs until a special hearing is held regarding the collateral issues of attorney fees and litigation costs.

The appellate court pointed to the policy language of the appellate insurance company in its determination that the supplementary payments section, which included an agreement to pay many items, related to suits involving “interest accruing after a judgment is entered in any lawsuit we defend” and “premiums on appeal bonds and bonds to release attachments in any lawsuit we defend.”  The court concluded that all the items listed in this section fell under the category of “litigation expenses.”

The appellate court looked to other district opinions and the state Supreme Court as part of its analysis, concluding that litigation expenses both fell under most insurance policies and were reasonable expenses for the trial court to consider.  The appellate court concluded that the insurance company, as the entity pursuing the litigation, is determining whether or not to go to trial, so it is is fair for associated costs incurred because of trial to be assessed.

The Florida car accident attorneys at Donaldson & Weston have the experience you need to pursue your personal injury claim.  Our lawyers will tirelessly pursue all remedies available under the law to maximize the damages you deserve.  For a free, confidential consultation, call 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