Lack of Citation Inadmissible in Florida Jet Ski Accident Case

Evidentiary rules for personal injury cases can be complicated, which is why having an experienced attorney on your side can make all the difference in your case. At the Law Offices of Robert Dixon, our Miami accident attorneys are well versed in virtually all aspects of negligence law and can put this knowledge to use in your case.

In Soto v. McCulley Marine Services, Inc., a man was jet skiing over the July Fourth holiday weekend in 2009 when he was tossed from the vehicle and sucked underneath nearby moored vessels. The man became trapped under a barge and ultimately drowned to death despite wearing a flotation device at the time of the incident.

Near the site of the accident, a dock was being used for storage and a preparation area for an artificial reef project maintained by the County of Manatee.

The personal representatives of the man’s estate filed a lawsuit against multiple defendants, including the county. The plaintiff alleged that the drowning was caused by the defendants’ negligence when the captain situated the barge and tugboat in a way that when the man fell off the jet ski, he was sucked under the vessels and drowned. Furthermore, the plaintiffs said that the captain should have known that the area where the vessels would be was a popular area for jet skis during the holiday weekend. As a result, the captain should have moored the vessels elsewhere or provided a warning to jet skiers about the potential danger caused by the ships’ arrangement. Lastly, the plaintiffs argued that the captain violated a U.S. Coast Guard regulation and negligently obstructed a waterway, as well as failing to have sufficient crew to attend the vessel during the holiday.

During trial, jurors posed many questions. One notable question was whether or not the captain had been cited for breaking a law. Despite the estate’s objection to this question being answered, the trial court informed the jurors that the captain had not received a citation. The trial court denied the estate’s motion for a mistrial.

The jurors ruled that the man’s death was not caused by the defendant’s negligence. The estate appealed.

The Florida Second District Court of Appeal reviewed the case and noted that the major flaw in the case was the juror’s question regarding the citation being answered. The court explained that it is well established in the law that the failure to receive a citation is not admissible in negligence lawsuits. This information is inadmissible in jet ski cases in the same way that a citation or the lack of one is inadmissible at trial in automobile accident cases. Since evidence of the lack of citation highly prejudiced the plaintiff, a new trial was required. Thus, the case was remanded.

If you or a loved one has been harmed by another’s negligence, it is important to seek the help of a qualified Miami boat accident attorney who can assess the merits of your case. At the Law Offices of Robert Dixon, we have years of experience helping injured clients recover the compensation they deserve for their harm. You can rest assured that you will have diligent legal representation at every step of the way. To learn more, feel free to call us at 1-877-499-HURT (4878) or contact us online today.

More Blog Posts:

Jet Ski Accidents in Florida, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blawg, February 3, 2016

Florida Court Rules in Tobacco Company Case, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blawg, February 3, 2016

Misdiagnosis, Delayed Diagnosis, or Failure to Diagnose in Florida, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blawg, February 3, 2016

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