2nd DCA Upholds $1.1M Verdict for Florida Car Accident Victim

A woman who sustained permanent soft-tissue injuries as a result of a rear-end collision has prevailed in her $1.1 million lawsuit, following an appeal to Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal.
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Fort Lauderdale car accident attorneys understand that while the justices did find evidence of judicial error on the part of the trial court, those errors were ultimately deemed harmless.

The issue on appeal had to do with whether the court improperly excluded expert testimony on behalf of the defendant. The defense never denied liability for the crash. However, there was dispute regarding whether the crash was in fact the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.

To counter the plaintiff’s claim, the defense presented the testimony of a board-certified physician in diagnostic radiology, who also specialized in nuclear medicine and interventional radiology. The plaintiff sought to exclude his testimony. At a hearing, the doctor testified that when he read an MRI conducted on the patient some three weeks after the crash, he interpreted the abnormalities he saw near her spine as a chronic, degenerative condition, as opposed to an injury that was brought about by sudden or acute trauma, such as a car accident.

The plaintiff’s counsel argued this testimony should be barred from the courtroom, per FL Statute 90.705. This law holds that if an expert witness does not have a sufficient basis for the opinion offered, then those opinions and inferences should be deemed inadmissible, unless the party offering the testimony can establish the underlying facts or data to support it.

The plaintiff indicated the doctor had failed to produce any medical literature that would tend to support his position that the absence of swelling or hemorrhaging meant no trauma had occurred.

Here, the trial court found this argument to be sufficient, and granted a motion to limit the witness testimony to a significant degree.

The court also agreed with a plaintiff request to limit the testimony of a police officer who responded to the scene. He could not independently recall any details of the wreck, even after being presented with a copy of the crash report. However, he did at the time complete a short-form crash report, as opposed to a long-form, which would indicate no injuries were observed at the scene.

Upon appeal, the justice panel found both decisions to be improper. The expert medical witness should have been allowed to testify as to his opinion, based on more than three decades of experience in reading these types of images. However, the court found the error to be harmless because there was other evidence presented at trial that tended to point to the conclusion this witness had reached. And yet, the jury still found in favor of the plaintiff, which led the justices to believe it was not reasonably probable that inclusion of that testimony would have changed the outcome of the trial.

With regard to the officer’s testimony, the court found the error was harmless because even the plaintiff had testified that she was up and walking around at the scene of the crash. This in and of itself was not an indicator that she had suffered no lasting injuries. As our car accident attorneys well know, sometimes injuries do not immediately manifest themselves.

Just because an injury is latent does not make it any less legitimate.

If you have questions about how to obtain compensation for your car accident injury, contact us today.

Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

Additional Resources:
Zelaznik v. Isensee, June 11, 2014, Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal
More Blog Entries:
Foreseeable Zone of Risk Challenged in Injury Case, May 25, 2014, Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Lawyer Blog