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Florida Court Explains a Plaintiff’s Comparative Negligence Is Irrelevant in Recent Intentional Tort Case

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Florida personal injury case discussing the doctrine of comparative negligence as it pertains to allegations involving an intentional tort. Ultimately, the court concluded that a court is prohibited from reducing a plaintiff’s damages based on their own negligent actions if the defendant was found liable for an intentional tort.

Intentional Torts Versus Claims of Negligence

A tort is a wrong act that may result in civil liability. Most torts are the result of the defendant’s negligence; however, tort claims can also be based on a defendant’s intentional act. For example, the claim of fraudulent concealment is an intentional tort. One thing that Florida personal injury plaintiffs should keep in mind is that insurance contracts generally do not cover intentional torts. Thus, even if a plaintiff is successful in a Florida intentional tort claim, the defendant may not have the ability to fully compensate the plaintiff. In this regard, negligence claims may be preferred.

The Facts of the Case

The court’s discussion of the underlying facts of the case was brief; however, the case dealt with a plaintiff’s claim against a tobacco manufacturer — precisely, the plaintiff’s claim that the defendant manufacturer fraudulently concealed harmful effects of their products. The jury found in favor of the plaintiff, but also determined that the plaintiff was partially responsible for her injuries, as she was the one who decided to smoke.

As is typically the case in negligence cases, the court then reduced the plaintiff’s ultimate recovery amount by her own percentage of fault. The plaintiff filed an appeal, arguing that under recent Florida appellate decisions, a plaintiff’s recovery amount cannot be reduced when a tobacco manufacturer defendant was found liable for an intentional tort.

The Appellate Court’s Opinion

The appellate court agreed with the plaintiff, and reversed the lower court’s decision. The court explained that the defendant was found liable for fraudulent concealment, which is an intentional tort. Thus, the lower court should not have reduced the plaintiff’s damages award, even if the jury found that she shared in the fault.

Importantly, this court’s holding is technically limited to the facts presented in this specific case, meaning that the court has not yet extended the ruling to all intentional torts. However, that does prevent a court from extending the holding to similar cases in the future.

Do You Need to Speak with an Attorney?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Florida personal injury lawsuit. As the above discussion illustrates, there are often several types of claims available to a plaintiff, and deciding which claims to bring is a strategic decision best left to experienced injury lawyers. At the South Florida personal injury law firm of Cecere Santana, we have extensive experience handling all types of Florida personal injury lawsuits, and know what it takes to be successful on our clients’ behalves. To learn more, call 800-753-5529 to schedule your free consultation today.

See Additional Blog Posts:

Arbitration in Cases Against Florida Nursing Homes, South Florida Injury Attorneys Blog, November 29, 2018.

Florida Bicyclist Accidents Caused by Distracted Drivers, South Florida Injury Attorneys Blog, published December 5, 2018

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