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Juan Ruiz de Los Santos, et al. v. Dustin Brink, Case No. 5D13-3833 (5th DCA)

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.

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