In the case of USAA v. Robyn Rey, Case Number 2D18-5120 (Fla. 2d DCA August 5, 2020), Florida’s Second DCA held that USAA was not required to present expert testimony to rebut conflicting evidence on causation of injuries resulting in reversal of jury verdict.
Outline of the Case
Ms. Rey sustained several injuries in a car accident. The only injury for which this appeal concerned was the left knee. In particular, her left knee had been injured on at least a couple of prior occasions and she had surgery on the knee two months before the accident.
After the accident, she went to a doctor who provided treatment to her on a letter of protection. This doctor stated that her left knee symptoms had resolved before the accident. There were several statements and records to the contrary.
USAA did not offer expert testimony regarding the left knee in defense of the case. At the close of USAA’s case, the trial judge granted a motion for directed verdict on causation of injuries and instructed the jury that “[Ms.] Rey sustained a permanent injury to her left knee that was caused by the automobile collision of _____ (date).”
Thereafter, the jury returned a verdict of $446,000 and this appeal ensued.
Reasoning of the Court
This case appears to be a typical aggravation of injury claim. Because pre-existing injuries and conditions are so common, the issue of how much a pre-existing injury or condition was aggravated is often a central theme in personal injury cases.
With that being said, the problem with this case was that a directed verdict was entered and the decision of whether the aggravation was caused by the accident or not was taken away from the jury. Directed verdicts are supposed to viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.
In this case, although USAA chose not to present its own expert testimony regarding the left knee, there were inconsistencies in the evidence over whether (or how much) the left knee was aggravated by the accident. Because of that, a jury could have disregarded some or all evidence to arrive at any of the three conclusions:
- the left knee injury was aggravated by the accident but the degree to which cannot be determined (resulting in an award of the entire injury)
- the left knee injury was aggravated by the accident and the degree to which it was caused by the accident can be determined (resulting in a percentage of injury caused by the accident); or
- the left knee was not aggravated by the accident at all.
This is why a new trial is in order. However, all is not lost. The UM policy limits were $50,000. USAA might offer policy limits rather than re-try this case. On the other hand, if a civil remedy notice of insurer violation was filed against USAA and the 60 day deadline to cure has expired, the plaintiff may still pursue a second trial and obtain extra-contractual damages for insurance bad faith.
Talk to a Florida Car Accident Lawyer About Your Case
The plaintiff in this case has some profound legal decisions to make ahead of her. You will likely have some profound legal decisions to make in your own case at one point or another. In order to make the best decisions possible, it is important to have a car accident lawyer helping you.