Wicker Smith wins admitted liability tender rejection case


The trial was held in September 2021, following a rear-end collision that occurred in February 2018. The plaintiff was a 59- year-old male who claimed the accident aggravated unspecified conditions in his neck and caused exacerbation of a preexisting herniation of his L4/5 intervertebral disc to worsen. Because of his claimed injuries, the plaintiff underwent a one-level discectomy and fusion with medical specials totaling approximately $300,000 and had lost wages over $200,000. The trial lasted five (5) days in Alachua County, Florida.

At the trial, the plaintiff’s treating physician testified that he would likely require an adjacent-level fusion in the future, and the plaintiff’s counsel presented additional testimony from a life care planner that included the adjacent-level fusion and physical therapy. The defendant’s retained neurologist testified that the plaintiff’s injuries should have resolved with twelve (12) weeks of conservative treatment, and the defense radiologist testified there was no evidence of acute injury. The defendant’s retained biomechanical engineering expert also testified that had the accident caused the herniation, the herniation would have been in the opposite direction of the plaintiff’s herniation. In closing argument, the plaintiff’s counsel requested an award of over $2.1 million, including past and future medicals, lost wages, and pain and suffering. In opposition, the defendant’s counsel pointed out the inconsistencies with the plaintiff’s injuries and that the majority of the plaintiff’s treating physicians treated him under Letters of Protection, giving them an interest in the outcome of the case. After deliberations, the jury awarded only $15,262.47 in past medicals, less than 1% of what was requested, and declined to award any future medicals, lost wages, or pain and suffering damages. A pre-trial proposal for settlement was served, under which the defendant should be deemed the “prevailing party” thus entitled to fees and costs. The defendant was represented by E. Holland “Holly” Howanitz and Tara S. Floyd.

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