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In July of this year, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals released an opinion in the case of Reider v. Phillip Morris USA, Inc., ruling that the plaintiff did not properly preserve her objection to the jury’s verdict, which awarded her no damages despite finding the tobacco company Phillip Morris was partially responsible for her husband’s death. The Court’s decision focused on the jurisdictional requirement of preservation of issues for an appeal, which the plaintiff had not properly done. If the plaintiff had properly objected after the verdict was given, or properly filed the appropriate post-trial motion, she may have been given a new trial and collected damages for the tobacco-related death of her husband. Although the plaintiff was defeated in this case, other tobacco users and their families may be able to collect damages against tobacco companies by filing a Florida wrongful death lawsuit in federal district court.

The Woman’s Claim Against the Tobacco Company and the Verdict that Followed

The plaintiff’s case against Phillip Morris accused the tobacco company of fraudulent concealment, conspiracy, negligence, and strict liability in contributing toward the 1995 death of her husband, who started smoking in 1968. The case stems from a 1996 class action lawsuit, Engle v. Liggett Group, in which all injured smokers in Florida who started smoking before 1996 were allowed to file suit against tobacco companies based on their lies about the dangers and addictiveness of smoking.

The Florida Supreme Court later decertified the class, which eviscerated the class action lawsuit but left an opening for individual victims to file personal injury, wrongful death, or product liability actions against the tobacco companies under the same legal theory, which is exactly what the plaintiff here did. After a four-day trial, the jury came back with a verdict that Phillip Morris was partially responsible for her husband’s death, but it determined that she was not entitled to any monetary damages. The woman appealed to the Eleventh Circuit.

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Earlier this week in Cape Coral, Florida, one man was killed and another three injured when a pick-up truck slammed through the wall of a billiard hall. According to one local news source, the accident occurred when a pick-up truck drove through a parking space, over a small barrier, over the sidewalk, and through the wall of the billiard hall.

Evidently, the billiard hall was located on Pine Island Road. The deceased accident victim apparently worked at the billiard hall and had gotten off work and was shooting some pool with friends when suddenly a truck came crashing through the wall. The man was pronounced dead at the scene by emergency personnel. Three others were also injured in the accident. Thankfully, they all seem to have only sustained minor injuries and are expected to recover fully.

Police told reporters that they believe alcohol may have been a factor in the fatal accident, but police did not release the blood-alcohol content of the driver. At this point in the investigation, police have not arrested or charged the driver with any criminal offense. However, that may change as the police investigation concludes.

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Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeals handed down a decision earlier this month that will effectively remove the caps on non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, in Florida medical malpractice and personal injury lawsuits. The Court decided that arbitrarily limiting the amount that an injured plaintiff can recover for non-economic damages violated the equal protection clause of the state constitution. As a result of the ruling, plaintiffs in medical malpractice lawsuits can seek and be awarded any amount of non-economic damages that the judge or jury sees fit.

The Case of Susan Kalitan

Susan Kalitan filed a malpractice lawsuit in 2008 against the North Broward Hospital District and several physicians who treated her during an outpatient carpal-tunnel surgery that she had performed in 2008. Kalitan was placed under general anesthesia for the surgery, and after she returned home, she began suffering from an infection in her esophagus and was required to return to the hospital to undergo chest and neck surgery. She was placed in a drug-induced coma for three weeks while recovering.

After the trial, the jury awarded Ms. Kalitan $4.7 million in damages, $4 million of which were non-economic damages for pain and suffering. The award was reduced by $2 million using the limits put into place by a 2003 law, and Kalitan appealed.

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Earlier this month in Osceola County, one adult and one child lost their lives in a fatal single-vehicle accident on the Florida Turnpike. According to one local news source, the accident occurred around mile marker 220 at around three in the afternoon on Thursday, July 9.

Evidently, the vehicle was carrying five occupants when the driver lost control. Investigators are unsure exactly what happened, and thus far they are guessing that either a tire blew out or a tire actually fell off the vehicle. As the driver lost control, the vehicle exited the northbound lanes in which it was traveling and entered the median, where the vehicle flipped over. The car continued to slide into the southbound lanes of traffic, where it ultimately came to a complete stop.

The driver of the vehicle as well as his 15-year-old son both sustained fatal injuries in the accident. Three other people sustained minor injuries and were taken to the hospital for treatment. It is expected that they will make a full recovery with time. Police are still looking into why the vehicle lost control, and whether some kind of manufacturing defect was responsible or whether the accident was a result of driver error.

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A woman in Seminole, Florida was recently arrested for DUI after she crashed her SUV into her house several times. According to a local news article, witnesses reported the woman was drunk and crashed into her garage while trying to back out, and she then drove through her front window and out the back of her home. She then put her car in reverse and backed it through the wreckage, parking on her front lawn. When police arrived at the scene, they found the woman waiting for them, partially naked, in her partially demolished house. The woman was charged with driving under the influence, as well as resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer.

Drinking Alcohol Impairs Judgment

The woman involved in the crash may face serious criminal penalties for her conduct, but she is fortunate that nobody else was injured or killed in the accident. If the witnesses reported the incident accurately, the woman was extremely intoxicated and acting recklessly, and bystanders were endangered by her conduct. When somebody gets behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol, motor skills and perception are reduced, and decision making and judgment are also impaired. This can cause drunk drivers to speed and take unnecessary risks. Drunk drivers are more likely to be in accidents, and accidents involving drunk drivers are more likely to cause serious injury or death.

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Earlier last month in a Jacksonville court, a 34-year-old man was sentenced to 20 years in jail after he was convicted of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death. According to one local news source, the accident took place back on November 10 of last year, at around 12:35 in the morning.

Evidently, the victim was a 37-year-old man who was riding on a scooter in the outside lane of Normandy Boulevard, near Stratton Road. The rider of the scooter was struck from behind by a Nissan Pathfinder. After the collision, the driver of the Pathfinder allegedly failed to stop and check to see if the accident victim was in need of emergency medical treatment.

It wasn’t until a few hours later that the man called Florida Highway Patrol and turned himself in after explaining what happened. As it turned out, he didn’t have a valid driver’s license at the time of the accident.

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Back on New Years Eve of last year, a young boy was struck by a hit-and-run driver and seriously injured as he was playing basketball with his friends. About three weeks after the incident, the driver involved in the hit-and-run was arrested and charged with causing personal injury, a second-degree felony. However, according to a recent news source, the woman was arraigned earlier this month and the charges have been upgraded to reflect the fact that she allegedly fled the scene.

Evidently, the woman now faces second-degree felony charges that could land her in prison for the next 15 years if she is convicted. The woman’s attorney disagreed with the change in charges and told reporters that he hopes to get statements made by his client to police suppressed at trial.

Florida Injury Cases and Suppressed Evidence

In order to prove a case against a defendant in a Florida court, the plaintiff must present evidence supporting their claims. All evidence must meet several hurdles in order to be admissible. The two primary hurdles that all evidence must clear are that the evidence must be relevant and that it must also be probative.

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Earlier this month, the Florida State legislature approved a settlement with the family of a teen who was crushed when the branch of a city-owned tree fell on top of him. Thankfully, the boy lived, although he was permanently paralyzed as a result of the incident. According to one local news source, the family’s settlement was hung up for several months in the State Legislature while it was waiting to be approved.

In Florida, there is a limit on the amount of money a person can receive from a government entity in a personal injury lawsuit. However, the legislature does have the ability to grant an exception to this limit when all the parties agree that there should be a higher amount paid out to an individual.

In this case, the city council was on board with the settlement award. Indeed, the city immediately accepted responsibility for the accident, acknowledging that the tree had rotted out and that the city had received numerous complaints from neighbors but had not yet removed the tree.

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Earlier this month in Tampa, Florida, a teenager who was allegedly involved in an accident fled the scene, and his car was later discovered in a residential swimming pool a few blocks away. According to one local news source, the original accident occurred at the intersection of North Ola Avenue and Country Club Drive.

Evidently, the original accident resulted in only minor injuries. However, after fleeing the scene, the teenager allegedly caused more than $30,000 in damage when he crashed through a fence and drove into a nearby swimming pool. Thankfully, the teen escaped with only minor injuries, and no one else was seriously hurt in either of the accidents.The teen waited outside the pool for police to arrive and was cooperative thereafter.

The teenage driver was cited by police for two counts of reckless driving and one count of fleeing the scene of an accident resulting in minor injuries.

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Earlier last month in Deerfield Beach, Florida, an accident between a pick-up truck and a car resulted in the death of one child and several other children being taken to the hospital with varying injuries. According to one local news source, the accident occurred at around four in the afternoon and took place near the intersection of W. Hillsboro Boulevard and Northwest 2nd Avenue.

Evidently, the passenger side of the car was totally crushed from being hit by the truck. There were four children in the truck:  an 11-year-old, two six-year-olds, and a four-year-old. All children were taken to Broward County Health and admitted as trauma alerts. A short time after admission, one of the six-year-old girls passed away due to the injuries she sustained in the accident. The three other children are expected to make a full recovery with time.

The children’s mother was also involved in the accident, as the driver of the car. She also suffered minor injuries, but according to reports she was more concerned with the wellbeing of her children. She is expected to make a full recovery.

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