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Florida Second DCA reverses trial court order granting plaintiff new trial in motor vehicle negligence case, finds that trial court abused its discretion by acting as a “super-juror” and disregarding the jury’s verdict

On March 11, 2020, in Valenty v. Saraiva, No. 2D18-4002, the Florida Second DCA reversed a trial court’s order granting a new trial to the plaintiff in a motor vehicle negligence case. The trial court had determined that the jury’s verdict for the defendant was against the manifest weight of the evidence because "it was undisputed that Mr. Valenty (the defendant) caused the accident by crossing into Mr. Saraiva's lane of traffic." The Second DCA assumed that that the trial court had in fact concluded that Mr. Valenty's liability for the accident was undisputed. The Second DCA disagreed, noting that liability had been disputed during the trial, with the defendant claiming that the plaintiff had caused the accident by performing an unsafe maneuver on his motorcycle. The Second DCA acknowledged that in applying the deferential standard of abuse of discretion, "it takes a stronger showing of error in order to reverse an order granting a new trial than an order denying a new trial,” but concluded that this deferential standard does not grant the trial court license to operate "as a super-juror by disregarding a jury's verdict simply because the judge would have rendered a different one had it been the judge's choice to make."