On May 6, 2009 a Palm Beach County jury returned a Two Million Two Hundred Thirty Thousand Five Hundred and Sixty-Nine dollar ($2,230,569.00) verdict for a Port St. Lucie, Florida couple represented by Scott B. Smith, Esq. and Lance Ivey, Esq. of Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath, P.L. The verdict was obtained against Brandon’s Home Furnishings and Fetterman & Associates, P.A. in a Florida personal injury matter. The Plaintiffs, Robert and Heather Friedrich, brought a personal injury lawsuit against Brandon’s and Fetterman & Associates following a chair collapse accident that occurred on December 19, 2003 in the conference room at the Fetterman law firm in North Palm Beach. The chair had previously been sold to the Fetterman law firm in January of 1998 from the Brandon’s furniture store. The chair suddenly and violently collapsed out from underneath Mr. Friedrich and caused him to fall backwards striking his head on another furniture piece in the conference room that resulted in serious personal injury.
Mr. Friedrich had presented to Fetterman & Associates, P.A. on the day of the chair collapse accident seeking legal counsel regarding a truck accident he had been involved in nine (9) days prior on December 10, 2003 on Interstate 95 in Palm Beach Gardens. While meeting with representatives of the Fetterman law firm to discuss the truck accident the chair accident occurred resulting in his injuries.
Mr. Friedrich ultimately had neck (cervical spine) surgery performed approximately two (2) years following the accident after an extensive pain management program. The evidence showed he had also lost his job of sixteen (16) years following the accident and had incurred medical bills of $208,156.00.
The chair was bought by Fetterman and Associates, P.A. from Brandon’s in January of 1998 when the law firm was moving into its newest office on U.S. 1 in North Palm Beach. The chair had been utilized in the firm conference room up through the day of the accident. Expert witnesses testified that the chair was defectively manufactured, but were unable to identify the manufacturer because the chair had no markings and/or any indication as to where the chair was manufactured.
The total amount of the verdict was $2,230,569.00. The jury found Fetterman & Associates, P.A. 32.5% at fault for the chair collapse accident and Brandon’s 67.5% at fault for such chair accident. Further, the jury found the commercial motor vehicle (truck) accident of 12/10/03 was 25% responsible and the chair collapse accident of 12/19/03 75% responsible for causing the damages suffered by Mr. and Mrs. Friedrich.
Following the verdict the Fetterman & Associates defendant appealed the result. In a 2 – 1 decision, Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeal overturned the verdict and held that a directed verdict should have been entered by the trial court in favor of the defendant because it was not known exactly when the chair began to fail. A dissenting opinion was written by Justice Levine.
Along with appellate attorney Rebecca Mercier-Vargas, Esq., the law firm of Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath filed a petition with the Florida Supreme Court requesting the seven Justices review the case. The high Court of Florida accepted review of the case and remanded the case for reinstatement of the trial court’s final judgment. In so ruling, the Court concluded that the 4th District reweighed the evidence and substituted its judgment concerning credibility of the witnesses for that of the trier of fact. They finished their opinion by stating that the reversal of the trial court’s final judgment and an order for a directed verdict was improper under these circumstances.
As directed by the Florida Supreme Court, the law firm of Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath intends to have the final judgment reinstated and to proceed with collection of the final judgment amount and the substantial interest accrued during the appellate process. This was a very long road to justice for Mr. and Mrs. Friedrich, but all members of LRS&F are very pleased that justice did indeed prevail for them in the end.