final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
Appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County, Lower
Tribunal No. 15-9471, Antonio Arzola, Judge.
Trybus Kwavnick Peets, and Warren B. Kwavnick and Kelly
Lenahan (Fort Lauderdale), for appellants.
& Wolk, P.L., and Douglas F. Eaton, for appellee.
SALTER, MILLER and GORDO, JJ.
Builders of Miami, Inc. ("Castle Builders") and
Harry Housen appeal a final judgment against them for
$4,376,646.60 and an order denying their motion for new trial
(or, in the alternative, remittitur) following a jury trial
and adverse verdict. The circuit court case was a personal
injury lawsuit in which Stephanie Rohm Quirantes, as plenary
guardian for her mother, Terry Rohm, sought damages from
Castle Builders and Mr. Housen following an automobile
collision in Miami-Dade County.
evidence at trial established that Mr. Housen was driving his
Castle Builders pickup truck at about 50 miles per hour in an
area with a posted speed limit of 30 miles per hour, and that
he failed to stop at a posted stop sign. Ms. Rohm, age 73 at
the time of the accident, was a front-seat passenger in the
sedan struck by the truck. She sustained serious and
permanent injuries in the resultant crash, including brain
injuries (a subdural hematoma, among other injuries). Mr.
Housen and Castle Builders stipulated before trial that: Ms.
Rohm was permanently injured in the accident; she incurred
$947,259.80 in past medical bills; and she had a current life
expectancy of 12.94 years.
the adverse jury verdict, the defense moved for a new trial
or remittitur. The grounds raised in the motion and in this
appeal are (1) allegedly-improper comments during closing
argument by Ms. Rohm's counsel, and (2) the alleged
excessiveness of the verdict, as contrary to the manifest
weight of the evidence.
neither argument persuasive, following our thorough review of
the record. We review the allegedly improper closing argument
and denial of the motion for an abuse of discretion. See
Engle v. Liggett Grp., Inc., 945 So. 2d 1246, 1271 (Fla.
2006). Ms. Rohm's counsel's statements that Mr.
Housen had not admitted running the stop sign until
mid-trial, that his prior testimony "was not the
truth" and that he had not previously apologized to Ms.
Rohm, were objected to and the objections were sustained.
Counsel's statement that Mr. Housen's conduct
"is not just negligence; it's horrible" was
also the subject of an objection that was sustained, and the
trial court provided a curative instruction.
defense counsel reminded the jury of the improper comment
during his own closing argument. We find no abuse of discretion regarding
the trial court's rulings on these statements or in the
denial of the motion for a new trial on these grounds.
defendants' post-trial argument regarding the jury's
allegedly excessive damages award also falls short. Section
768.74(5), Florida Statutes (2018), specifies that the trial
court "shall consider the following criteria" in
addressing a motion for remittitur:
(a) Whether the amount awarded is indicative of prejudice,
passion, or corruption on the part of the trier of fact;
(b) Whether it appears that the trier of fact ignored the
evidence in reaching a verdict or misconceived the merits of
the case relating to ...