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Ezequiel Lugo Obtains Appellate Verdict In Automobile Negligence Case

August 10, 2020

Ezequiel Lugo obtained an appellate opinion in an automobile negligence appeal that reversed a final judgment after a jury verdict for the plaintiff.

At trial, the plaintiff relied on a treating doctor’s testimony that she sustained a permanent injury as a result of the accident.  The defense did not call an expert witness to rebut the testimony of the plaintiff’s doctor.  Instead, the defense relied on the plaintiff’s history of prior injuries, medical records disputing the treating doctor’s testimony, the plaintiff’s lack of candor with the treating doctor, and impeachment evidence that included a letter of protection.

The plaintiff moved for a directed verdict based on the argument that the jury could not reach a defense verdict without testimony from a defense expert rebutting the testimony of the plaintiff’s treating doctor.  The trial court agreed with this argument and entered directed verdict for the plaintiff on the issues of causation and permanency.  The trial court also instructed the jury that the plaintiff sustained a permanent injury caused by the automobile accident.  The jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff in the amount of $446,000. 

The defense appealed.  Ezequiel Lugo argued that directed verdict was improper because there was evidence from which the jury could render a verdict for the defendant. 

The appellate court agreed with Ezequiel and explained that the absence of a defense expert to rebut the testimony of the plaintiff’s treating doctor was not fatal to the defendant’s right to have the issues of causation and permanency decided by a jury.  The appellate court noted evidence of prior injuries as well as the medical records that cast doubt on the treating doctor’s opinion.  The appellate court also stated that the jury could reasonably question the credibility of the plaintiff’s treating doctor “even if only because he was providing his services under a letter of protection.” 

The case is United Services Automobile Association v. Rey, No. 2D18-5120, 2020 WL 4492304 (Fla. 2d DCA Aug. 5, 2020)

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