Wald v. Grainger, 64 So. 3d 1201, 1203-04 (Fla. 2011)

This case was originally about the causation and permanency of the plaintiff’s injury due to an auto accident. Where many times deciding who is at fault for an auto accident seems to be the main issue needing resolution, there are lawsuits that are taken to trial where fault has already been determined. Here, the Florida Supreme Court looked at a case which initially involved deciding whether or not the impact of the collision caused the alleged permanent injuries of the plaintiff to the lawsuit.

The plaintiff in the case, Howard Wald, was involved in an auto accident with Sam Gus Felos, who took responsibility for causing the accident. Mr. Ward claimed that the collision caused him injuries to his several areas of his body, but only sought damages for the pain in his neck and back. The reason for Ward not seeking damages for the other injured areas of his body was because he did not receive long-term, permanent injury to those regions of his body.

At trial, there were two separate doctors who testified regarding the plaintiff’s sustained injuries, including those he was not seeking damages for. The plaintiff’s treating physician testified that his injuries to his neck and back were permanent and related to the accident. The defense counsel had an expert witness of their own who testified to the contrary, claiming that neither the neck nor back injury of the plaintiff was permanent, or due to the collision.

The trial judge awarded a directed verdict to the plaintiff on the issue of his un-contradicted injuries; the jury returned with a verdict and awarded him one million dollars. The defendant ultimately won an appeal from that decision because he had claimed that the judge wrongfully ruled on a question meant for the jury, and because there was no reference of ‘permanency’ found within the instructions to the jury.

Wald, the original plaintiff to this lawsuit, sought review by the Florida Supreme Court on the appellate court’s decision to overturn his award. The issues presented by Wald to the court for review were:

  • Whether permanency is a jury question; and
  • Whether the jury can reject un-contradicted expert testimony

In May of 2011, the Florida Supreme Court decided on the issues presented before them. The court held that:

  • a jury is not free to reject undisputed expert testimony of permanent injury;
  • a lack of pain in person’s permanently injured portion of the body does not preclude awards of noneconomic damages, where there was evidence of sensitivity and discomfort; and
  • the defendant in this case failed to preserve an appellate challenge to the verdict form and jury instructions

When it was all said and done, Wald’s original verdict and award from the jury was upheld, and the appellate court’s reversal was overturned. The big thing to gather from this case is that there are many clerical problems that may present themselves in a lawsuit. Here, there was an appeal on an issue that was completely uncontested by the parties, but the way that the judge handled the situation, caused there to be an appealable issue.

If you have been involved in an accident and have questions that need to be answered, then please contact the Fort Lauderdale injury lawyers at Madalon Law for your free consultation.