Court Allows Evidence of Other Settlement in Florida Car Accident Case – Jackson v. Albright

There is a wide range of evidence that may be put before a jury in a Florida car accident case. In Jackson v. Albright, the Fourth District Court of Appeals considered evidence related to a plaintiff’s settlement of an unrelated lawsuit.

Ms. Douglas was injured in a three-car accident in Florida in March 2001 when her car was rear-ended by a vehicle driven by Mr. Albright. She sued Albright for negligence, alleging that she suffered a herniated disc in her back and neck strain as a result of the accident. She claimed that she saw a chiropractor and orthopedic surgeon in the months after the accident and also went to physical therapy sessions, which she later discontinued because of ongoing pain. A neurosurgeon ordered an MRI that revealed the disc injury in November 2003. Although he recommended she undergo a cervical discetomy, Douglas did not have the surgery until roughly five years later.

According to Albright, his car was bumped from the side by another vehicle and pushed into Douglas’s automobile. He later entered photo evidence showing that the vehicles sustained only slight damage and testified that Douglas said she was OK following the crash. Douglas also drove herself home after the accident, according to the court. To combat Douglas’s claim that she postponed the surgery because she didn’t have money to pay for it, the trial court allowed Albright to question her about a settlement she received in a separate, unrelated case. Following trial, a jury returned a verdict in favor of Albright.

The Fourth District affirmed the trial court’s decision to allow the questioning about Douglas’s settlement in the other case. The appeals court found that the trial judge did not abuse his discretion in ruling that Douglas “opened the door” to this line of questioning by claiming that she didn’t have the resources to pay for treatment for the injuries sustained in the car accident.

“The concept of opening the door allows admission of otherwise inadmissible testimony to explain or limit evidence previously admitted,” the court explained, citing its 2011 decision in Siegel v. State. It also distinguished the matter from the Second District Court of Appeals’ 2000 ruling in Leslie v. Higgason, a case in which that court said the amount of a plaintiff’s settlement from separate litigation was not admissible. In Leslie, the Second District said the two cases at issue were both personal injury matters, which could have lead the jury to believe that the plaintiff was seeking double recovery for the identical injury.

The present matter raised a different scenario, according to the Fourth District. “In this case, however, it was made clear that the earlier case was not a personal injury case but was a recovery of an entirely different type of lawsuit,” the court explained
This is just one example of the types of evidence issues that often arise in car accident law suits. That’s why it is important to have a competent, experienced attorney in your corner. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, contact the South Florida car accident lawyers at Anidjar & Levine. From offices in Ft. Lauderdale, we serve clients throughout the area, including in Boca Raton, Coral Springs and Pompano Beach.

Related blog posts:

Florida Court Rules on Medication Records Access in Car Accident Case – Poston v. Wiggins

Fraud and Newly Discovered Evidence in Florida Car Accident Cases – Casteel v. Maddalena

Court Defends Right to Lawyer in Florida Car Accident Cases – Howard v. Palmer