Economic damages include medical expenses (past and future), past lost income, and the loss of earning capacity in the future. In some instances, Florida law allows these economic damages to be offset, or reduced, by or to the amount the victim received from other sources for the same loss. See §786.76 Florida Statutes and Florida Standard Jury Instruction 501.8.
The offset is an exception to the general rule, enunciated in Janes v. Baptist Hospital of Miami, Inc., 349 So.2d 672, 673 (Fla. 3d DCA 1977), that total or partial compensation received by an injured party from a collateral source wholly independent of the wrongdoer does not operate to reduce the damages recoverable from the person who caused the injury. The exception to the rule was established in Florida Physician’s Insurance Reciprocal v. Stanley, 452 So.2d 514 (Fla. 1984). The Florida Supreme Court reasoned (at 515-516):
We believe that the common-law collateral source rule should be limited to those benefits earned in some way by the plaintiff. Governmental or charitable benefits available to all citizens, regardless of wealth or status, should be admissible for the jury to consider in determining the reasonable cost of necessary future care… . The jury should consider those future services available to all, regardless of wealth or status, when deciding on the proper award of future damages. [emphasis added]
The Stanley court took its lead from Peterson v. Lou Bachrodt Chevrolet Company, 76 Ill.2d 353, 29 Ill. Dec. 444, 392 N.E.2d 1 (1979), which held that “[t]he policy behind the collateral source rule simply is not applicable if the plaintiff has incurred no expense, obligation, or liability in obtaining the services for which he seeks compensation.” Peterson, 29 Ill.Dec. at 448, 392 N.E.2d at 5.
In Weaver v. Wilson, 532 So.2d 67 (Fla. 1st DCA 1988), the theory was put to the test. For three months after being bitten by a dog, Appellant Weaver, who was employed by her father’s company, was unable to work. Her father continued to pay her during the three months “because she needed the money.” The question before the First DCA was whether the trial court properly excluded consideration of appellant’s lost wages because of the collateral payments. The appellate court decided against the trial court, reasoning:
The Stanley limitation on the collateral source rule was not intended to apply to benefits paid by the employer and/or parent as a result of appellant’s injuries. These relationships create mutual obligations and liabilities, and the benefits paid to an employee or to a child cannot be characterized as “unearned” in the sense used in Stanley, or as benefits available to all citizens. Therefore, plaintiff was not precluded from receiving damages for lost earnings.
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