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Dade County

This action was brought by the female plaintiff, age 23 at the time of injury, against the defendant rental car company under Florida’s Dangerous Instrumentality Act. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant was liable for the negligence of the driver of the defendant’s rental car, who fell asleep at the wheel and caused a head-on collision with an oncoming van. The plaintiff was an unbelted front seat passenger in the rental car at the time of the accident. Two people in the oncoming van were killed and filed a separate action in Michigan which settled prior to trial. The defendant asserted the seatbelt defense.

The plaintiff was a passenger in a rental car driven by her friend (who was not a party to the action). The plaintiff’s friend fell asleep while driving on Interstate 75 in Alabama, causing the car to go out of control, cross a median, become airborne and collide head-on with the oncoming van. The plaintiff, who had been driving the vehicle earlier while her friend slept, testified that her friend had been driving for approximately two hours before the accident occurred.

The plaintiff testified that she tried to grab the steering wheel of the car when it went out of control, but was unable to avoid the collision.

The plaintiff admitted that she was not wearing her seatbelt at the time of the collision and testified that she wanted to be able to turn around to tend to her baby who was in the back seat of the vehicle.

The plaintiff was ejected from the car through the passenger side window.

The plaintiff’s medical experts testified that the plaintiff sustained an ankle fracture in the accident necessitating surgery. She also suffered a femur fracture which was repaired with the use of orthopedic rods. The plaintiff’s orthopedic surgeon opined that the plaintiff sustained a significant permanent orthopedic injury stemming from the accident. The plaintiff also sustained extensive scarring to her face from glass shards. Her psychologist testified that the plaintiff suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression over her disfigurement and that she requires continuing psychological treatment.

The plaintiff’s seatbelt expert opined that the plaintiff’s ankle and femur fractures were caused on impact when the floor of the car buckled. This expert opined that the injuries were sustained prior to the plaintiff’s ejection from the vehicle and, therefore, a seatbelt would not have prevented the injuries. Similarly, the plaintiff’s expert believed that the plaintiff’s facial scaring was a result of the other vehicle invading the passenger envelope of the rental car which also occurred prior to the plaintiff’s ejection from the vehicle.

The defendant’s psychologist conceded that the plaintiff suffers depression related to her facial scarring. The defendant’s seatbelt expert opined that a seatbelt would have prevented the plaintiff’s ejection from the vehicle and that most of her injuries occurred as a result of the ejection.

The case settled prior to trial for a total of $________.

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