The plaintiff suffered significant brain injury when his motorcycle collided
with a motor vehicle owned by defendant Santos and being driven by defendant
Pereles. Following trial, a jury rendered a verdict in excess of $25 million.
After consideration of comparative negligence and collateral source setoffs,
the trial court entered judgment in excess of $12 million. On appeal,
defendant Santos argued that the judgment against him should not have
exceeded $600,000 pursuant to Fla. Stat. 324.021. The Fifth District agreed.
Fla. Stat. 324.021 provides that a natural person who owns a motor vehicle
and loans it to a permissive user shall be liable for the operation of
the vehicle only up to $100,000 per person and $300,000 per incident for
bodily injury. If permissive user of the motor vehicle is uninsured or
has insurance with limits less than $500,000 combined property damage
and bodily injury liability, the owner is liable for up to an additional
$500,000 in economic damages. The
Santos court found that the defendant Santos was responsible based solely on vicarious
liability, and the defendant Pereles has insurance with less than $500,000
combined property damage and bodily injury liability. As a result, Santos’
liability was limited to $600,000. The Fifth District ruled that the judgment
should reflect that amount; otherwise, the judgment may unfairly encumber
Santos’ real property, slander his credit and require him to further
litigate the issue.