Holding: The 5th DCA held that the trial court abused its discretion in denying defendant’s
motion for remittitur or new trial, and erred in denying a set-off amount
for which the plaintiff’s healthcare provider released its lien
and waived any right to subrogation or reimbursement.
Facts: The plaintiff was involved in an automobile accident. He testified that
his hourly wage as a plumber after the accident fluctuated and that he
feared he would not be able to find another manual labor job should he
be laid off. The jury found the defendant 100% liable for the accident
and awarded him $10,000 for past lost earnings and $260,000 for lost earning capacity.
Loss of Earning Capacity: The appellate court determined that the plaintiff offered insufficient
evidence to support the jury’s award for loss of earning capacity.
The plaintiff’s testimony proved he continued to work at the same
hourly wage as before the accident. Moreover, his testimony regarding
future job secured “amounted to pure speculation and does not serve
as a proper basis for award of lost earning capacity.” Put another
way, the plaintiff failed to demonstrate that he “was completely
disabled from further gainful employment” or that he “was
unable to work to the same age [he] would have otherwise.” Citation
omitted. Despite showing he suffered permanent injuries, he failed to
introduce “a monetary standard against which the jury [could] measure
any future loss.” Citation omitted.
Therefore, the trial court abused its discretion by denying the defendant’s
motion for remittitur and new trial as to loss of earning capacity.
Collateral Source Set-Offs: The defendant requested that the trial court set-off $25,000 in payments
provided by the plaintiff’s healthcare provider for which it released
its lien and waived subrogation. The trial court denied on the basis the
defendant that could not argue for additional set-offs after presenting
expert testimony to challenge the reasonableness of the plaintiff's
medical bills, which resulted in the jury awarding a reduced award for
past medical expenses. However, the defendant did not ask for the jury
for the $25,000 set-off reduction. Because this amount was considered
a collateral source, and it was undisputed that the healthcare provided
released its lien and waived subrogation, the appellate court reversed
and remanded for the trial court to enter a set-off in the amount of $25,000.
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