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Suzanne Vazquez v. Milady Martines, Case No. 5D13-1465 (5th DCA)

In Vazquez, the defendant in an automobile accident case appealed a final judgment entered in favor of the plaintiff. The Fifth District addressed two issues on appeal.

First, the defendant argued the trial court improperly permitted that during three years of litigation, the “defense or its agents” paid nearly $700,000 to experts in the case. The defendant argued that the evidence was irrelevant because she did not have a direct relationship with any of the experts, and that advising the jury of payments by the defendant’s representatives or agents implied the existence of insurance. The Fifth District disagreed. The court noted that a party may attack the credibility of a witness by exposing potential bias. A jury is entitled to know the extent of the financial connection between the party and the witness. Whether the party has a direct relationship with any of the experts does not determine whether discovery of the doctor/law firm relationship or doctor/insurer relationship is allowed. Evidence of bias may be found in the financial ties between all of the litigant’s agents, including the litigant’s law firm or insurer and the expert. Therefore, the Fifth District ruled that the trial court did not err in permitting such evidence.

The Fifth District reversed, however, the jury’s award of future medical expenses. The court noted that only those medical expenses that are reasonably certain to be incurred in the future are recoverable. There must be an evidentiary basis upon which the jury can, with reasonable certainty, determine the amount of those future medical expenses. A mere possibility that certain treatment might be obtained is not enough. In Vazquez, the experts all testified that the plaintiff did not need future surgery or follow up treatment, and while the plaintiff may seek over the counter drugs or therapy, neither would be beneficial. Therefore, the Fifth District found that the award of future medical expenses was not supported by competent evidence.

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