Correction: An Aug. 27, 2010 article that originated in the Daily Business Review identifies Michael V. Laurato of the Austin & Laurato PA law firm in Tampa as being the trial attorney who made the improper arguments that led to the personal injury/negligence case of Christian Kowalski v. Giani Fasani, et al being reversed and remanded for a new trial by the Third District Court of Appeal of Florida. Laurato was not present at any time during the trial.
A Florida state appeals court erased most of a jury award due to an attorney’s inflammatory and prejudicial language while representing a man injured when granite fell on his head in an elevator.
It was the second time this month that the 3rd District Court of Appeal issued reversals and chided attorneys for inflammatory arguments.
The three-judge panel agreed with defense arguments that Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Peter Adrien abused his discretion by denying a motion for new trial based on opening and closing remarks by a plaintiffs attorney who was not identified by the court. The panel also ruled Adrien, who lost his re-election bid Tuesday, failed to eject an unjustified claim for future medical expenses.
In 2005, Christian Kowalski was riding an elevator in a building where he worked when a piece of granite tile fell on him. He filed suit against the building owner, 420 Lincoln Road Associates Ltd., and granite installer Giana Fasani.
The defendants admitted liability. At trial, a jury awarded $413,434 in damages for past and future medical expenses, past and future pain and suffering, and future wages.
Writing for the unanimous panel, Judge Barbara Lagoa said the plaintiffs attorney’s theme in arguments was to disparage the defendants as greedy, arrogant and callous corporate types who had no intention of compensating Kowalski for his injuries.
In trial, the plaintiffs attorney said the defendants kicked Kowalski “out on the street like a dog”; complained of “corporate arrogance and corporate greed”; and called defense attorneys “slick” talkers, according to the opinion released Wednesday.
He also made improper comments about the value of life, asking jurors to compare his client to a Picasso painting that “no one would argue with paying $80 million to replace,” the court said. After the plaintiffs attorney implied the defendants had tampered with evidence, Lagoa noted that besides being prejudicial, the claim was irrelevant since the defense conceded liability.
Lagoa cited the court’s Aug. 4 decision that threw out a $1.4 million award in a motorcycle collision based on arguments by Miami attorney Ronald M. Simon.
In the latest case, the panel affirmed the jury decision on $30,000 in future lost earnings but ordered a new trial on the questions of past medical, and past and future pain and suffering.
Judges Linda Ann Wells and Leslie Rothenberg were on the panel with Lagoa.
Defendants were represented by Thomas McCausland of Conroy Simberg Ganon Krevans Abel Lurvey Morrow & Schefer in Hollywood and Scott A. Cole and Alejandro Perez of Cole Scott & Kissane of Plantation. They declined comment.