Denise Isensee, a Florida woman, was awarded a jury verdict for $1,165,452.60 for injuries she incurred after being rear-ended in a car accident in Pasco County. The defendant’s insurance company, Allstate, appealed the judgment to Florida’s 2nd District Court of Appeal, complaining that the trial judge erred by 1) limiting the testimony of the defense expert, Dr. Michael Foley; 2) limiting the testimony of the police officer who responded to the scene; and 3) allowing the jury to watch a 15-minute video of Ms. Isensee undergoing surgery.
A significant shift in the law has just made it more difficult for the injured to get justice in Florida. The change occurred quietly this week when a Florida appellate court was asked to consider the dismissal of a Miami woman’s case against her employer for causing her to deliver her child prematurely—twenty weeks early.
Maria Franco Perez, 26, was employed by Bell South during a time when she was diagnosed as having a high-risk pregnancy with her first child. Her obstetrician, Dr. Isidro Cardella, specifically asked that she be given frequent bathroom breaks to accommodate her constellation of medical conditions.
Bell South Telecommunications fired her for “nonperformance”; two days later she suffered a placental abruption while giving birth to Osmany Anthony Perez. She sued Bell South, and Dr. Cardella testified that the stress from her work at Bell South caused her to deliver prematurely. As her treating physician, he based his opinion upon his education and his experience of more than 20 years of practicing obstetrics.
Winning a personal injury cases in Florida almost always depends on the use of expert witnesses. Our personal injury lawyers in Miami frequently hire expert witnesses to testify on subjects ranging from how and why an accident occurred (accident reconstructionists), to the injuries themselves (orthopedic surgeons, neurologists, and radiologists), and the cost of medical care and time lost from work (economists and life-care planners).
It reads like a John Grisham novel, only it is true. As a Board-Certified Civil Trial Lawyer in Miami who sues Carnival cruise lines, I have read thousands of appellate case decisions and opinions–and I have never seen one quite like the case of E.I. DuPont De Nemours & Company, Inc., vs. Claire J. Sidran, et al one of the most important fraud court cases.
The case was filed in 1992, when I was just a first-year lawyer, on behalf of a family-owned nursery in South Florida against DuPont, claiming that it made a defective plant fungicide called Benlate. The lawyers for the nursery are a father-and-son team, who took on DuPont in what can only be described as a crusade.
I have only once met the father, Ed Ratiner, but his son Bobby was my University of Miami School of Law classmate, and we share a very close mutual friend; however, I have never met Bobby. A lengthy and detailed appellate opinion was released this week from Florida’s 3rd District Court of Appeal recounting the odyssey of this case—stemming from its initial filing in 1992 through several trials, verdicts for and against the plaintiffs, appeals, and hearings that included the production of over 5 million pages of documents, depositions, and Florida bar grievances filed against both Bobby Ratiner and the lawyer from DuPont.