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Florida Fifth DCA reverses trial court, finds that summary judgment for the defendants in a motor vehicle negligence case was improper where eyewitness testimony conflicted with video evidence

On July 12, 2019, in Lopez v. Wilsonart, No. 5D18-2907, the Florida Fifth DCA reversed a trial court’s summary judgment for the defendants in a motor vehicle negligence case after concluding that there was conflicting evidence as to whether the defendant driver negligently operated his vehicle. The defendant driver had been driving a semi-truck in the center lane of a three-lane eastbound highway when he was rear-ended by a pick-up truck driven by the decedent whose estate was the plaintiff in this action. The defendant driver’s deposition testimony that he at all times was traveling in the center lane was corroborated by dashboard video.  However, a witness to the collision testified that the defendant driver’s semi-truck had suddenly swerved into the left lane immediately prior to the accident.  In granting the motion for summary judgment, the trial judge relied upon two cases in which courts relied upon video evidence that blatantly contradicted witness testimony.  See Scott v. Harris, 127 S. Ct 1769, 1776 (2007) (applying federal summary judgment standard and concluding that no genuine issue of material fact existed where video footage blatantly contradicted motorist’s version of events) and Wiggins v. Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, 209 So. 3d 1165 (Fla. 2017) (holding that in a first-tier certiorari review of driver’s license suspension hearing, the trial court did not err in rejecting  a police officer’s testimony which was rebutted by video evidence).  The Fifth DCA pointed out that neither of these precedents involved a summary judgment determination under Florida law and that the federal standard for summary judgment differs in important respects from the Florida standard. The Fifth DCA decision appears to set a clear precedent that even compelling video evidence is not sufficient to support a summary judgment under Florida law if there is conflicting testimonial evidence.

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