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Florida 5th DCA reverses $6 million verdict for plaintiff in motor vehicle negligence case

On November 30, 2018, in Araj v. Renfro, No. 5D17-130, the Florida Fifth DCA reversed a $5 million verdict for the plaintiff in a motor vehicle negligence case, remanding the case for a new trial because of the trial court’s error in refusing the defense’s proposed jury instruction relating to the plaintiff’s operation of a scooter on a highway. The evidence established that at the time of the accident, the plaintiff was travelling on his scooter at approximately 28.7 miles per hour on a causeway with a posted speed limit of 55 mph. The scooter had a top speed of 31.7 miles per hour. The defense requested a jury instruction reciting the language of two statutes, sections 316.003(34) and 316.091(2), which forbid the operation of bicycles, motor-driven cycles or any other vehicles “incompatible with the safe and expedient movement of traffic” on limited access facilities, including the roadway on which the accident occurred.

The trial court declined to issue the requested instruction and instead acceded to the plaintiff’s request that a different statute, section 316.193(5), be read, which more generally provides that “[n]o person shall drive a motor vehicle at such slow speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.” The Fifth DCA concluded that the defense was entitled to their requested instruction because it constituted a correct statement of law and addressed their theory of the case.

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