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Cutler Rader Wins Appeal And Makes New Law
By: Cutler Rader, P.L.
At the trial level, the jury returned a verdict of over $1,000,000 for an auto accident which caused a one-level disk herniation, three epidural injections and $340 in plaintiff’s vehicle property damage. That verdict was featured on the first page of the Daily Business Review. The defendant and the insurer, United Automobile Insurance Company, appealed the verdict, arguing in part that it was excessive considering the injuries.
In addition, against Rader’s objection at the trial level, the trial court allowed the jury’s significant lost earnings award to be setoff, or reduced, by the amount the plaintiff received for unemployment compensation. The basis for Rader’s objection was that the collateral source statute (F.S. 768.68), which must be narrowly construed, did not allow for such a set off. Plaintiff cross-appealed the trial court’s set off.
The Fourth District Court of Appeal reviewed both arguments, and upon finding that the verdict was supported by competent evidence, affirmed the damages.
In addition, the appellate court, on an issue that was surprisingly one of first impression, reversed the set off for unemployment compensation, essentially accepting the arguments made by Rader at the trial level. According to the fourth district, “because unemployment compensation benefits are not specifically listed in section 786.76 and cannot be interpreted as a collateral source under any of its provisions, the trial court erred in setting off those benefits from the final judgment. We therefore reverse and remand the case to the trial court to eliminate the set-off for these benefits.”
Rader said that he was pleased that the appellate court looked closely at the evidence in finding that the size of the verdict was appropriate. “My client was seriously hurt and deserved –and received from an impartial jury- full compensation”
“We’re also delighted,” he added, “that the appellate court stuck to the rigid requirements of statutory construction of the collateral source rule. The judges stuck to the plain reading of the rule and, as a result, the setoff was reversed.”
Defendants have moved for rehearing on both issues.
Mr. Rader, a Martindale-Hubbell AV rated attorney, is a partner at Cutler Rader, P.L. in Deerfield Beach where he represents people and their families in personal injury, wrongful death, medical malpractice and defective product cases.
For more information on Attorney Andrew Rader of CutlerRader, P.L., at ARader@CutlerRader.com or call 954-913-2273
Cutler Rader, PL