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Prior Accidents, What Effect Do They Have On Your Lawsuit?

by | Oct 11, 2016 | Lawsuit

In Diaz v. Home Depot, the Third District Court of Appeals held that a Plaintiff who is in a lawsuit must reveal a prior accident. If she does not, the lawsuit may be dismissed and the Plaintiff cannot refile her lawsuit.

The underlying case arose when Eileen Diaz sued Home Depot alleging she was injured in one of its stores when a fire extinguisher fell from the wall above her and hit her in the neck and shoulder. Diaz alleged she suffered permanent injuries to her neck and shoulder and sought both economic and noneconomic damages. In the course of discovery, Home Depot questioned Diaz about her injuries, as well as whether she suffered any prior neck or shoulder injuries. At each point, Diaz denied that she previously suffered any injury to her neck or back, and denied that she was ever involved (either before or after the Home Depot incident) in a slip and fall accident or a motor vehicle accident that required medical treatment.

However, after obtaining Diaz’s medical records, Home Depot discovered that just nine months prior to the Home Depot incident, Diaz had, in fact, been involved in a motor vehicle accident, was treated for neck and upper back injuries at a local ER. Additionally, the medical records revealed that, less than seven months before the Home Depot incident, Diaz visited the emergency room again, complaining of neck pain and back pain. The medical history reflects that Diaz stated she passed out two days earlier, fell backwards and hit concrete. Diaz described her pain level as eight out of ten. She was at the hospital for more than six hours, diagnosed with a neck sprain, and was prescribed Percocet upon her discharge.

Finally, the medical records revealed that eight months after the Home Depot incident (and less than two months after filing the instant lawsuit), Diaz was involved in a single-car accident which required her to go the Homestead Hospital emergency room. According to the history provided by Diaz to the nurse, the accident occurred two weeks earlier. At that time, Diaz was driving a car at 120 miles per hour when it struck a divider and spun several times. The windshield on Diaz’s car broke, and there was a prolonged extraction of Diaz. Diaz was not wearing a seat belt, but was not ejected from the vehicle. However, she was not ambulatory at the scene of the accident. Diaz reported that she suffered severe pain to her right side for two weeks, and felt a knot to the same area that is growing worse. She described her pain level as ten out of ten. She also reported to the nurse that she had chronic neck pain since 2009.

As expected, Home Depot filed a motion to dismiss Diaz’s complaint. The trial court conducted a hearing, at which Diaz testified and several documents were admitted in evidence. The court granted Home Depot’s motion to dismiss, finding that Diaz provided false and misleading testimony.

Diaz appealed the order dismissing her complaint which did not allow her to refile against Home Depot and A.B. Fire Equipment since the court had found fraud on the court . The Third District Court of Appeal affirmed the lower court’s findings were amply supported and case law supported the dismissal where plaintiff such as Diaz concealed per pre-existing injuries during deposition stating she had not received medical treatment for her back prior to the accident, etc.

Non-economic damages, also known as “general” damages, are a type of monetary award granted in personal injury lawsuits. Economic, or “specific” damages, which reimburse victims for their out-of-pocket losses resulting from the injury, non-economic damages compensate for non-monetary losses, which are not readily quantifiable.

Discovery is a pre-trial procedure in a lawsuit in which each party, through the law of civil procedure, can obtain evidence from the other party or parties by means of discovery devices such as a request for answers to interrogatories, request for production of documents, request for admissions and depositions. Discovery can be obtained from non-parties using subpoenas. When a discovery request is objected to, the requesting party may seek the assistance of the court by filing a motion to compel discovery.



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