Florida Court Allows Plaintiffs to Amend Claim to Seek Punitive Damages

In April of 2019, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Florida personal injury case discussing whether the plaintiffs were properly allowed to amend their complaint to add a claim for punitive damages against the defendant. Ultimately, the court concluded that the trial court followed the required procedures when granting the plaintiffs leave to amend, and that the appellate court did not have jurisdiction to reconsider the lower court’s substantive legal decision once it determined the procedures were followed.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiffs were the parents of a young girl who was seriously injured when she fell from a ride called “Psycho Swing.” The safety harness was not installed on the ride at the time of the girl’s injury. The plaintiffs filed a personal injury claim against several parties, including the defendant, which was the company that owned the ride and leased it to the company that was operating it when the plaintiff was injured. The plaintiffs claimed that the ride was missing crucial safety equipment and was being operated without the instruction manual.

Initially, the plaintiff sought punitive damages from all other defendants but not the defendant involved in this appeal. However, the plaintiffs soon after requested a second hearing, seeking leave to amend their complaint to add a claim for punitive damages against this defendant. The court considered evidence from the first hearing, as well as deposition testimony from the creator of the ride who stated, among other things, that providing the swing to another company without the safety harness was “unconscionably something that you shouldn’t do.” After hearing all the evidence, the court determined that there was a reasonable basis for the plaintiffs’ claim for punitive damages. The defendant filed an immediate appeal.

The appellate court rejected the defendant’s appeal, concluding that it did not have jurisdiction to review the lower court’s ruling. The court explained that its ability to review the lower court’s decision was constrained to ensuring that the lower court followed the necessary procedures when allowing the plaintiff leave to amend; and the court did not have the power to review the lower court’s legal determination that there were “reasonable grounds” for a claim of punitive damages.

The appellate court explained that all steps were followed by the lower court. First, the plaintiffs properly requested leave to amend. Second, the plaintiffs must serve the necessary parties with notice that the plaintiff was seeking to add a claim for punitive damages. And third, that the court makes a finding that there was a “reasonable showing by evidence, which would provide a reasonable evidentiary basis for recovering such damages if the motion to amend is granted.”

Having determined that the lower court followed all necessary protocol when granting the plaintiffs leave to amend, the court rejected the defendant’s appeal.

Have You Been Injured in a Florida Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Florida accident, you may be entitled to financial compensation through a Florida personal injury lawsuit. At the law firm of Frankl Kominsky, we represent injury victims and their family members in all types of injury cases, including Florida premises liability lawsuits, product liability claims, and car accident cases. To learn more, call 561-660-9562 to schedule a free consultation today.

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