Appeals court rules lower court can rehear $1.9 million negligence case

By Charmaine Little | Apr 6, 2017


DAYTONA BEACH -- An appeals court panel ruled last week that a Florida man's $1.9 million negligence award can be retried.

A lower court jury initially awarded Alvaro Avila $1.9 million, which included roughly $1.3 million in future pain and suffering. But the Orange County judge in that case deemed the award too high and attempted to lower it to $250,000. When neither party agreed, that judge ordered a new trial to reconsider the future pain and suffering damages.

In an opinion released March 31 by the Fifth District Court of Appeals, the majority affirmed the trial court's call for a new trial on the noneconomic damages.

In his dissent on the appeals court ruling, Senior Judge Bruce W. Jacobus argued that the lower court judge did not have a right to deem the jury's award too high.

“A jury has wide latitude on the determination of damages," he wrote. "Unless there is something that influences the jury outside the record, in my view, this verdict should stand.”

Jacobus also pointed out in the opinion that the amount of damages does not exceed the total a jury can determine when it comes to the high price of the ruling.

He cited the case of Bould v. Touchette, which states, “The verdict should not be disturbed unless it is so inordinately large as obviously to exceed the maximum limit of a reasonable range within which the jury may properly operate.”

The judge reiterated that he would have reversed the original judge's order calling for a new trial and called on the trial court to accept the jury’s decision in the case.

The majority did not issue an opinion explaining their ruling.

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