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Third DCA rules that trial court erred in admitting evidence of intoxication of at fault driver in compensatory phase of UM trial

On January 4, 2017, in GEICO General Insurance Company v. Dixon, No. 3D13-3005, the Florida Third District Court of Appeal reversed a trial court ruling and remanded for a new trial because the trial court had erroneously allowed the introduction of evidence proving the at fault driver's intoxication in the compensatory phase of the trial against GEICO (the plaintiff's uninsured motorist "UM" insurer) and the at fault driver. Prior to trial, GEICO and the at fault driver admitted liability for the accident and the trial court ruled as a matter of law that the at fault driver was punitively liable. Consequently, the only issues to be resolved at trial were the amounts of compensatory and punitive damages. Although the trial court granted GEICO's motion to bifurcate the proceedings on these issues, the court nevertheless allowed the plaintiff to offer evidence and argument about the at fault driver's intoxication during the compensatory phase. The Third DCA ruled that the admission of evidence regarding the defendant's sobriety was irrelevant and prejudicial because both defendants had admitted liability and the trial court had already ruled as a matter of law that the at fault driver was liable for punitive damages. On a separate issue, the Third DCA ruled that there was an insufficient evidentiary basis for the jury to determine with reasonable certainty, both future medical expenses and future loss of earning capacity.