TIME THE PLAINTIFFS SPENT ATTENDING TO MATTERS “RELATED” TO AN ACCIDENT, NOT RECOVERABLE AS BUSINESS INTERRUPTION DAMAGES, BECAUSE THE TIME SPENT WAS NOT TIED TO A LOSS OF BUSINESS INCOME.
P&G Trucking of Brandon, Inc. v. Camacho, 45 Fla. L Weekly D2023 (Fla. 4th DCA August 26, 2020):
While driving a truck owned by defendant P&G, and leased by another, the defendant driver caused an accident causing property damage but no injuries. The plaintiff sued for negligence, seeking damages for the total losses of the tractor that was hit, as well as the citrus topper, loss profits, inconvenience, and administrative costs. The defendant admitted fault, but contested causation and damages.
Prior to trial, defendants moved for partial summary judgment on the plaintiffs’ claim for inconvenience and administrative damages, arguing that they were not recoverable. The trial court denied the motion.
Defendants renewed their motion, seeking a directed verdict at trial which was also denied. At trial, the damages were relabeled “business interruption” damages, and the jury ultimately found for the plaintiffs, awarding those damages.
The court said there are no Florida cases specifically addressing the availability of business interruption damages in the context of negligence actions. It looked to insurance law, noting that business interruption insurance is generally intended to return to the insured’s business the amount of profit it would have earned had there been no interruption of the business, or suspension of its operations.
In this case, the time spent by the plaintiff overseeing clean-up of the accident scene, figuring out damages and compensation for it, traveling to meetings with administrators relating to pre-existing contracts, and searching for a replacement operator were not tied to the plaintiffs’ loss of business income. The court noted that the fact that the plaintiffs themselves originally labeled those damages as “inconvenience damages” and “administrative costs” further buttressed the conclusion.
Even if such damages could be considered business interruption damages, the loss of time in the case was not recoverable as an element of damages because that specific harm was too remote, and not proximately caused by the defendants’ negligent act. Accordingly, the court reversed the award for business interruption damages and remanded with instructions for the trial court to deduct those amounts from the final judgment.