In Coddington v. Nunez, Florida’s Second District Court of Appeals takes on important expert evidence issues in a St. Petersburg car accident case.
Mr. Nunez sued Mr. and Ms. Coddington, alleging that they were responsible for the crash, in which the vehicle they were driving collided with Nunez’s car. According to the court, the Coddingtons were traveling north on 21st Street in St. Petersburg when they stopped at a stop sign at the intersection of 30th Ave. Mr. Coddington, who was driving, turned left on to 30th Ave. and struck Nunez’s car, which was approaching on 30th Ave. from Coddington’s left side. Nunez was seriously injured after being thrown from his car.
At trial, the Coddingtons argued that Nunez was at least partly responsible for the accident because he was allegedly speeding at the time, claiming that Mr. Coddington did not see any cars approaching when he stopped at the sign before attempting to make the turn. The Coddingtons also said Nunez contributed to his injuries by failing to wear a seatbelt. A jury ultimately found that Nunez suffered $600,000 in damages, but that he was also 25 percent responsible for these damages. As a result, the jury awarded him $488,500.
The Second District reversed the decision on appeal, however, finding that the trial court wrongly precluded certain testimony from the Coddingtons’ expert witness. Specifically, the trial court barred the expert – James Wheeler – from presenting video simulation evidence showing a reconstruction of the accident based on the weights of the cars and the distances they traveled after impact. Wheeler was set to testify that Nunez was likely driving 57 miles an hour (in a 35 MPH zone) at the time of the collision. The trial court also precluded him from testifying that Nunez would have been thrown from the vehicle in a different direction had he been wearing his seat belt.
While the appeals court said the trial court didn’t err in prohibiting the video simulation evidence, noting that it included two different car models than those at issue in the case and that it was unclear whether the video would have shown Nunez’s car slamming into the palm tree – it nevertheless said that the trial judge should have allowed Wheeler’s underlying testimony, describing his conclusion that Nunez was speeding at the time of the crash. “All of the opinions excluded by the trial court were formed using scientifically accepted calculations involving the weight of the vehicles and the distance they traveled under the particular facts of this accident,” the appeals court said.
Additionally, the court said Wheeler’s testimony regarding whether Nunez was wearing his seat belt was properly offered to rebut Nunez’s claim that he was indeed belted in at the time of the crash. As a result, the Second District reversed the decision and remanded the case for a new trial.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident in Florida, contact the South Florida car accident lawyers at Anidjar & Levine. From offices in Ft. Lauderdale, we serve clients throughout the area, including in Pompano Beach, Boca Raton and Hialeah. Call us toll-free at 800-747-3733 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
Related blog posts: