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Florida Third DCA rules that Florida’s “two-issue” rule precluded appellate review of trial court’s admission of expert testimony because jury’s general verdict could have been founded on theories of liability not addressed by expert testimony

On April 28, 2021, in Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., v. Spearman, No. 3D18-2188, the Florida Third DCA reversed a $20.3 million final judgment for the plaintiff in a personal injury cases filed by a cruise ship employee who suffered a hand injury on the job, remanding the case to the trial court to reconsider the defendant’s remittitur motion. The Third DCA concluded that the trial court had failed to consider the factors set forth in paragraph (5) of Florida’s remittitur statute, Fla. Stat. § 768.74(5). The trial court instead had simply stated that it was “a firm believer of the jurors’ work,” and that it did not “have a sufficient grasp of the CRPS syndrome [the plaintiff’s medical condition] to pass judgment on it.”On a separate issue, the Third DCA ruled that it was barred from considering the defendant’s argument objecting to certain expert testimony that was admitted at trial, finding that Florida’s “two-issue” rule adopted by the Florida Supreme Court in Colonial Stores, Inc. v. Scarbrough, 355 So. 2d 1181 (Fla. 1977) precluded review of this argument. The two-issue rule provides that where there is no proper objection to the use of a general verdict, reversal is improper where no error is found as to one of two issues submitted to the jury on the basis that the appellant is unable to establish that he has been prejudiced. The two-issue rule is based on the principle that reversal is improper when no error is found as to one of the issues that can independently support the jury’s verdict. The plaintiff’s two causes of action, Jones Act negligence and un-seaworthiness, presented four theories of liability—defective design; negligent training; failure to warn, and negligence by a nurse in overriding a mechanical control. The general verdict form required the jury to resolve the two causes of actions but did not require the jury to indicate which alternate theories were resolved in favor of which party.