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Florida Court Allows Plaintiff to Amend Complaint to Seek Punitive Damages

Serious slip and fall injuries can take months to recover from and, in some cases, a full recovery may not even be possible. In the event that you or a loved one has been injured in a slip and fall accident, is it vital to reach out to a seasoned Miami injury attorney as soon as possible. The question of fault in these cases can be confusing but, with years of experience, you can trust that we know how to handle even the most complicated Florida personal injury claims.

In a recent case, a Florida appeals court recently issued an opinion in a personal injury claim deciding whether the lower court properly permitted the plaintiff to leave to amend her claim to pursue punitive damages from the defendant. Eventually, the court held that it did not have the power to examine the lower court’s decision.

The facts of the case are as follows. In 2011, a minor child was injured when she fell from an amusement ride known as the “Psycho Swing”at a park in Hollywood. The parents of the child sued those who manufactured, owned and operated the ride for strict negligence. In such cases, the defendant is liable for harm even though he or she did not intend to cause the harm and did not cause it by being reckless or negligent. Among other defendants named in the lawsuit, the company that owned and rented out the swing was named.

The parents of the child complained that, along with other issues, the equipment owner rented out the swing with no safety harness, operation manual or sufficient training. The equipment owners denied responsibility and filed a motion to dismiss the claim.

At first, the plaintiffs claim was only for compensatory damages. However, partway through, they sought to add a claim for punitive damages, which are typically reserved for outrageous conduct. The defendants objected, arguing that the plaintiffs had not made a clear case for extra damages. The court permitted claims for punitive damages and the defendant appealed.

On appeal, the court declined to hear the merits of the defendant’s argument stating that it did not have the authority to do so. The court went on to clarify that, in order to be able to review, a party must be able to demonstrate: the court deviated from the essential requirements of the law; the error led to a “material injury” to one of the parties; and the error could not be rectified in a post-trial motion.

Essentially, the appeals court explained that an appellate court is allowed to review whether a trial judge followed correct procedure surrounding punitive damages but is unable to examine whether there is reasonable evidence supporting punitive damages if all procedural steps were followed. Since the trial court judge properly adhered to the procedural requirements in the case, the appellate court had no jurisdiction to hear the defendant’s arguments.

Slip, trip and fall injuries can be very serious and have long-term consequences for a person’s life. If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your harm. At The Law Offices of Robert Dixon, our skilled Miami slip and fall attorneys can analyze your case and help you figure out your legal options. To learn more, call us at 1-877-499-HURT (4878) or reach out to us online.