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Florida Fourth DCA rules that insufficient evidence of aggravation of preexisting condition was presented at motor vehicle negligence trial to allow for jury instruction on issue

On June 6, 2018, in Sanchez v. Martin, No. 4D17-1731, the Florida Fourth DCA reversed a judgment in favor of the plaintiff in a motor vehicle negligence case, concluding that the trial court erred in instructing the jury on aggravation of a preexisting condition. The plaintiff’s expert had argued that the plaintiff’s three herniated disks were caused by the accident. The expert acknowledged on cross-examination that plaintiff suffered from a condition that could cause various back problems but claimed that this condition was related an area of the back above the location of the herniated disks. The defense expert claimed that the plaintiff had not suffered from a permanent injury and that the herniations were degenerative in nature and not caused by an acute traumatic event. Although the defense expert denied there was any aggravation of a preexisting condition, he acknowledged that a preexisting condition could make a person more susceptible to injury. The defense also elicited from a treating physician than an MRI showed a degenerative condition but no traumatic disk herniations. Like the defense expert, the treating physician acknowledged on cross-examination that trauma from an automobile could aggravate a preexisting spine problem. The Fourth DCA concluded that the defense’s presentation of evidence of a preexisting condition to rebut plaintiff’s claim that the accident caused the injury did not open the door to a jury instruction on aggravation of a preexisting condition. The Fourth DCA noted that the plaintiff admitted in his appellate brief that he never believed or suggested that this came from the aggravation of a preexisting condition.