Rehearing Denied December 27, 2019
from the Circuit Court for Orange County, Renee A. Roche,
Morris and Crystal Eiffert, of Eiffert & Associates, P.A.,
Orlando, for Appellant.
C. Flowers, of Kubicki Draper, Ocala, for Appellee.
this rear-end auto collision case, Lynn Fonger appeals the
trial courts judgment entered after a jury returned a
verdict in favor of the rear vehicle operator, James Nall.
Because we conclude the trial court erred in denying Fongers
motion for directed verdict, we reverse.
morning of the accident, Nall was driving to work on Old
Winter Garden Road. It was sunny and clear. As Nall
approached the intersection with Killington Way, he noticed
Fongers vehicle directly in front of him and a tan sedan in
front of Fonger. Nall testified that although the light was
green, for no apparent reason, the tan sedan came to a
complete stop just short of the intersection. Nall and Fonger
applied their brakes almost simultaneously. Fonger stopped
short of the tan sedan, which then proceeded through the
intersection, but Nall failed to stop in time and rear-ended
Fongers car. After the trial court denied Fongers motion
for directed verdict as to Nalls negligence, the jury found
Nall not liable, and the court entered judgment on the
argues that Nall failed to present evidence sufficient to
rebut the presumption of negligence by the rear driver in a
rear-end collision, entitling him to a directed verdict as to
Nalls negligence. We review the trial courts ruling on a
motion for directed verdict de novo, Andrews v. Direct
Mail Express, Inc., 1 So.3d 1192, 1193 (Fla. 5th DCA
2009), viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to
Nall as the non-moving party on the motion for directed
verdict. See Tenny v. Allen, 858 So.2d
1192, 1195 (Fla. 5th DCA 2003).
well established that a rear-end collision creates a
rebuttable presumption that the rear driver was negligent.
Clampitt v. D.J. Spencer Sales, 786 So.2d 570,
572-73 (Fla. 2001). If left unrebutted, the presumption
requires a directed verdict reflecting the rear drivers
negligence. See id. at 573. To rebut this
presumption, the rear driver must come forward with evidence
or some explanation that " fairly and reasonably tends
to show that the presumption is misplaced or that the real
fact is not as presumed. " Birge v. Charron,
107 So.3d 350, 360 (Fla. 2012) (quoting Eppler v. Tarmac
Am., Inc., 752 So.2d 592, 595 (Fla. 2000)). Once such
evidence is produced, the presumption is rebutted "and
all issues of disputed fact regarding comparative fault ...
should be submitted to the jury." Cevallos v.
Rideout, 107 So.3d 348, 349 (Fla. 2012).
in this state have generally recognized four situations to
rebut the presumption: "(1) a mechanical failure in the
rear drivers vehicle, (2) the lead drivers sudden stop, (3)
the lead drivers sudden lane change, and (4) the lead
drivers illegal or improper stop." Douglas-Seibert
v. Riccucci, 84 So.3d 1086, 1088-89 (Fla. 5th DCA 2012).
Here, Nall contends that the evidence of Fongers sudden stop
rebutted the presumption of negligence and supported the
trial courts denial of the motion for directed verdict.
also well established that a sudden or abrupt stop, without
more, will not rebut the presumption of the rear drivers
negligence. Clampitt, 786 So.2d at 575; Pierce
v. Progressive Am. Ins., 582 So.2d 712, 714 (Fla. 5th
DCA 1991). This is so because each driver has a duty to
remain alert and to follow the vehicle in front of him or her
at a safe distance. See
§ 316.0895(1), Fla. Stat. (2017) (providing that "[t]he
driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle
more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due
regard for the speed of such vehicles and the traffic upon,
and the condition of, the highway"). In principle,
"the law requires all drivers to push ahead of
themselves an imaginary clear stopping distance or assured
stopping space or adequate zone within which the driven
vehicle can come to a stop." Clampitt, 786
So.2d at 575 (quoting Lynch v. Tennyson, 443 So.2d
1017, 1020-21 (Fla. 5th DCA 1983) (Cowart, J., dissenting)).
Rear drivers must be prepared to stop suddenly and to
anticipate sudden stops by vehicles in front of them.
Therefore, to rebut the presumption of negligence in a
rear-end collision through evidence of the lead drivers
sudden stop, the rear driver must show that the stop was
"not expected, i.e., abrupt and arbitrary, and in a
place not reasonably expected." Wright v. Ring Power
Corp.,834 So.2d 329, 331 (Fla. 5th DCA 2003); see,
e.g., Eppler, 752 So.2d at 595-96 (holding that
lead drivers slamming on brakes in bumper-to-bumper traffic,
without warning and for no reason, was irresponsible,
dangerous, and not reasonably expected, and ...