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Florida Fifth DCA rules that trial court erred by failing to apply collateral source setoff for Social Security disability payments to personal injury jury verdict

On February 2, 2018, in Oswald Woudhuizen and Power Design v. Smith, Case No. 5D17-575, the Florida Fifth DCA ruled that trial court erred by failing to apply a collateral source setoff for Social Security disability payments received by the plaintiff to a personal injury jury verdict. The jury in the motor vehicle negligence case had awarded the plaintiff $50,000 in past lost earnings, but the trial court denied the defense’s motion for a setoff of $93,569.40 in Social Security disability benefits that the plaintiff had received since the accident. The trial court opined that it was likely that the jury awarded $50,000 for the first year after the crash and concluded that any claim that the verdict duplicated the Social Security disability payments, which were paid later, was too speculative. The Fifth DCA noted that the operative statute, Section 788.76, Florida Statutes, does not require a claimant to prove that each dollar of a collateral source was actually awarded by a jury, but simply states that the award is to be reduced by the amounts paid from the collateral source. The court concluded: “[w]e have no authority to require a line by line itemization in every verdict before giving effect to section 768.76(1) where the Legislature has declined to do so.”

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