Florida State Appellate Court Affirms Personal Injury Award Over $800,000

A Florida personal injury judgment against an aesthetician and a spa was recently upheld by the Fourth District Court of Appeal. In Case No. 4D16-2530, a woman was injured after a facial at a spa went very wrong. The injured customer filled out a form advising she had the skin condition rosacea, which is a chronic inflammation of the face. Prior to the treatment at the spa, the condition was mild with only a rosy flush in her cheeks. The aesthetician performing the facial admitted she did not read the form before the procedure, and if she had been aware of the condition, she would have used a different product or performed a test on a part of her face.

The plaintiff stated her face felt like it was burning during the procedure and continued to burn afterward. The injured woman’s face oozed and remained bright red. During the trial, the injured woman’s face was bumpy and easily turned red whenever the temperature increased or she was out in the sun. The pattern of bumps and redness were in the exact shape of the burn to her face. The woman testified at trial that before the injury, she had smooth skin and never wore makeup. After the incident, people would inquire if she was all right any time her face became red, asking what was wrong. The plaintiff stated that she now has to wear makeup to feel comfortable in public, and she has become more shy and awkward as a result of her appearance.

At trial, the injured woman presented several expert witnesses to the jury to help document the history and worsening of her skin condition. Her treating dermatologist related that her condition was mild and had been improving prior to the facial. Following the peel, he diagnosed her with severe irritant contact dermatitis, prescribing an antibiotic cream. The dermatologist tracked the continued inflammation and hyper-pigmentation in the months after the peel. A plastic surgeon also testified, describing his examination of the plaintiff after the chemical peel. He stated that her face had been permanently damaged because the peel removed the skin’s protective barrier. He opined that the disfigurement and scarring were permanent and that she’d need a lifetime of dermatological care to control the outbreaks of her skin. He stated she could never return to her appearance before the peel.

A third doctor also testified the injured woman suffered significant damage to her skin. He stated the redness would remain and require a lifetime of treatment. This dermatologist and the plastic surgeon both estimated she could benefit from medical treatments to mitigate the damage, ranging in cost from $4,000 to $100,000. The dermatologist also estimated the lifetime cost of treatment at $80-$95 for each office visit for her remaining life expectancy of 48 more years.

The defendants pointed to the woman’s lack of follow-up in the two years before the trial, claiming she was comparatively negligent. The woman acknowledged she did not continue the use of prescribed creams or make office visits because she did not believe it would improve the condition. The defendants also offered their own expert before the trial, who did not treat the plaintiff but only reviewed her records. The trial court granted the plaintiff’s motion to exclude his testimony, agreeing the doctor did not meet the standards necessary for an expert witness because he did not look at her skin condition prior to the peel. The jury awarded her past medical expenses, future medical expenses, past pain and suffering, and future pain and suffering for a total award of $814,694.22. The defendant appealed.

The Fourth District agreed with the trial court’s assessment of the defendants’ collective objections. The court determined there was no abuse of discretion when the defendant’s expert was excluded, finding the trial court had appropriately applied the standards established by Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm. Inc., 509 US 579 (1993), in its assessment of the expert’s analysis. The appellate court also found the defendants failed to offer any evidence sufficient to show comparative negligence or the need for remittitur. The verdict regarding these issues was affirmed, keeping the award intact.

If you’ve been injured, the Florida serious injury attorneys at Donaldson & Weston have the litigation experience you need to help maximize the damages you deserve. Call our office today at 772-266-5555 or 561-299-3999.

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