Florida Supreme Court Approves Changes to Jury Instructions in Products Liability Cases
Recently the Supreme Court of Florida approved proposed changes to the jury instructions in products liability cases. This raises several questions to readers of this blog. What are jury instructions/what are they used for? And, what can we expect with the new changes? Lets go over these questions now.
Purpose of Jury Instructions
The purpose of jury instructions is very simple, but the process to getting there is very complex. The overall purpose of the instructions is to act as a resource for judges during a trial. There are many times during a trial when a judge must instruct the jury on what their role is, and as to what the law is in the case at hand. At those times the judge has jury instructions that he or she can read to the jury, and that the jury can have to read for themselves. The instructions are uniform, so it ensures that in similar cases, similar results arise. Florida has standard sets of jury instructions for both civil and criminal cases. Those instructions cover nearly every imaginable situation that can arise in a case, and offer instructions on how a jury should rule based on the laws of Florida.
The most important time for jury instructions is at the end of a trial when the jury is going to deliberate and come up with a verdict. Before the jury goes to their room and discusses the merits of the case, each side will submit different jury instructions for the court to read. Based on how the case has gone during trial, the judge will determine which instructions he will give and which he will not. Some of the most important fights of a trial take place over which jury instructions will be given. The reason they are so important is because they are the instructions the jury will use to make their verdict. The jury has the evidence presented at trial as well, but the instructions from the judge carry the authority of the judge.
Changes to Products Liability Instructions
One of the important changes to the products liability instructions was regarding Florida’s risk benefit cases involving strict products liability. Under that test, a product is considered unreasonably dangerous when a product is used in a way that is foreseeable by a manufacturer, and the risk of danger of how the product is used outweighs the benefits of the product. What this means is that manufacturers are not only liable for the defects of their products when the products are used as intended, but also when it is reasonable to assume that the product will be misused as well.
Consider, for example, a new addition to the back-side of a car that could reduce gas consumption of the car, but because of how it is installed, it is clear that kids will try and ride there for slow drives. The foreseeability of that misuse may mean that companies will be liable for the danger it presents. In any event, the new instruction approved by Florida’s Supreme Court helps to clarify this particular area of the law for juries in future cases.
Panama City Area Attorney Can Help YouWhen it comes to products liability cases and other injury cases in general, the The Pittman Firm is here to help you. We stay up to date on changes in the law and will fight for victims of negligence, products liability, and other injury cases. Contact us so we can evaluate your case.