TALLAHASSEE (AP) —
The second driver is not automatically solely at fault in rear-end collisions, the Florida Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday as it resolved a pair of conflicting lower court decisions.
The justices unanimously agreed that juries should be allowed to compare the negligence of each driver in a lawsuit regardless of who the plaintiff is and apportion blame accordingly.
They upheld one appellate court ruling that came to the same conclusion in a Seminole County case and quashed another from Palm Beach County.
The 4th District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach had upheld a trial judge’s decision that Maria Cevallos, the rear driver, was solely at fault.
The high court’s reversal of that decision will let Cevallos seek at least partial damages from the middle driver in a three-car rear end crash, Keri Ann Rideout. The defendant allegedly was on her cell phone and suddenly slammed on the brakes before also rear-ending the car in front of her. Cevallos was four car lengths behind Rideout and had slowed her vehicle approaching a hill crest but still wasn’t able to stop in time, courtroom evidence indicated.
“The facts introduced into evidence at trial provided sufficient basis for the jury to conclude that the defendant failed to use ordinary care in operating her vehicle, and that this failure was at least one of the proximate causes of the collision,” Justice Jorge Labarga wrote for the court.