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Florida Supreme Court Upholds Strict Liability Verdict Based on Defendants’ Failure to Immediately Object to Inconsistent Verdict

Earlier this month, the Florida Supreme Court heard a case about a man who fell to his death off of a 13-foot ladder made and sold by the defendants. In the case, Coba v. Tricam Industries, the Florida Supreme Court denied the defendants’ request to set aside the jury verdict in the amount of roughly $1.5 million.

ladder-993863-mThe Case at Trial

The evidence showed that Coba fell off a ladder that was manufactured by one of the defendants and sold in the retail store of another defendant. Coba’s estate sued both the manufacturer and the retailer under the theories of strict liability and traditional negligence. The strict liability claim alleged that there was some kind of design defect in the ladder and that those who “designed, manufactured, marketed, distributed, or sold” the merchandise should be held liable.

The traditional negligence claim was explained to the jury as follows: “Negligence is the failure to use reasonable care, which is the care that a reasonably careful person would use under like circumstances.”

After the evidence was presented, the jurors were asked to answer the following questions to help guide them:

  • Was there a design defect that was the cause of Coba’s death?
  • Was there negligence on the part of the defendants that was the cause of Coba’s death?

The jury determined that there was not a design defect to support a product liability theory but that there was negligence on the part of the defendants that led to Coba’s death. The jury then determined that the defendants were 20% at fault for the accident and that Coba was 80% responsible. The jury determined that the total damages were roughly $1.5 million, and, after they were reduced according to Coba’s own negligence, his estate was awarded about $350,000.

The defendants did not object to the verdict initially. However, they later asked the judge to set aside the verdict “because there could be no finding of a negligent design without finding that a design defect contributed to the fall, and the jury determined that there was no defect.” The judge determined that the defendants waived their objection by not bringing it when the verdict was rendered.

The Defendants Appeal and Lose

The defendants asked the Florida Supreme Court to make an exception to the general rule requiring an objection be made at the time of the alleged error. Specifically, the defendants asserted that, since the nature of the error goes to the “fundamental nature” of the verdict, they should not be required to object immediately.

The Court, however, after a lengthy discussion of previous case law, disagreed and rejected the “fundamental nature” exception. Thus, parties are required to object at the time a verdict is announced if they believe that it was contrary to the evidence.

Have You Been Involved in a Florida Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been involved in any kind of Florida accident and believe that you may have a case against the negligent party, contact a dedicated Florida personal injury attorney to discuss your case. As you can see, personal injury law can be complex, and claims can be inadvertently waived if an unwary party overlooks a deadline or procedural requirement. Call 800-753-5529 to set up a free consultation with a dedicated Florida personal injury attorney today. Calling is free, and we will not bill you for our time unless we are successful in your case.

See More Blog Posts:

Miami Lakes Car Accident Claims Three Lives Earlier this Month, Cecere Santana Injury Lawyers Blog, published April 26, 2015.

Major Ice Cream Manufacturer Recalls All of Its Products Amidst Listeria Fears, Cecere Santana Injury Lawyers Blog, published April 29, 2015.

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