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Youngblood v. Villanueva, Case No. 2D12-4724 (2nd DCA)

In Youngblood, the Second DCA reversed a judgment entered in a wrongful death action finding that (i) the trial court improperly applied Section 324.021(9)(b)(3), Fla. Stat., to limit Youngblood’s liability for noneconomic damages at $100,000, and (ii) the trial court improperly set off the settlement amounts received from other defendants against the noneconomic damages awarded to the Estate.

Youngblood had consigned his uninsured vehicle to Teddy Aponte of Extreme Auto Sales with instructions to sell the vehicle. Youngblood testified that he never wanted to see the vehicle again after handed the keys to Aponte, and he gave no time limit in which to sell the vehicle. Aponte was driving the vehicle for personal use when he struck and killed the decedent. Therefore, Youngblood argued Aponte’s actions constituted theft or conversion which exempted him from liability. The jury rejected this argument. The jury awarded $9,043.75 in economic damages and $190,000 in noneconomic damages. The trial court capped the noneconomic damages at $100,000, by applying Fla. Stat. 324.021(9)(b)(3). Section 324.021(9)(b)(3) provides, in relevant part:

“The owner who is a natural person and loans a motor vehicle to any permissive user shall be liable for the operation of the vehicle or the acts of the operator in connection therewith only up to $100,000 per person and up to $300,000 per incident for bodily injury and up to $50,000 for property damage. If the permissive user of the motor vehicle is uninsured or has any insurance with limits less than $500,000 combined property damage and bodily injury liability, the owner shall be liable for up to an additional $500,000 in economic damage only arising out of the use of the motor vehicle.”

The Second DCA, however, found Section 324.029(9)(b)(3) to be inapplicable. The Second DCA relied upon Ortiz v. Regalado which found Section 324.021(9)(b)(3) to be inapplicable as between co-owners of a vehicle. The Second DCA additionally looked to Fla. Stat. 265.565(2)(b) for guidance – Section 265.565(2)(b) defines “loan” as property in possession but not accompanied by a transfer of title or not accompanied by evidence that the lender intended to retain title to the property and return to take physical possession of the property. The Second DCA found that Youngblood did not intend to retake possession, and should a sale occur, the scenario would certainly not constitute a “loan.” Thus, Section 324.021 was inapplicable and noneconomic damages should not have been capped.

The Second DCA additionally found error in the trial court’s setting off settlement amounts against noneconomic damages awarded, pursuant to Fla. Stat. 46.015 and 768.041. Noting that the Florida Supreme Court in Wells v. Tallahassee Memorial Regional Medical Center specifically held that sections 46.015 and 768.041 do not apply to noneconomic damages, the Second DCA found that settlements with other defendants should not have been set off against the noneconomic damages awarded in this case.


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