Daniel Carpenter got drunk at a golf tournament, took a cart on a joyride on a public road, ran a red light, crashed into a car, fell onto the street and, while kicking and screaming, had to be wrestled to the ground by cops.
The embarrassing episode landed Carpenter in jail – and it has now cost him $182,429 awarded by a jury in a wholly unrelated car-crash lawsuit.
A Miami-Dade appeals court on Wednesday threw out the verdict in Carpenter’s case because jurors were not told the full details of his golf-cart shenanigans, which came one month after he was supposedly injured in a car crash on Interstate 95 in September 2009.
In a unanimous decision, a three-judge panel ruled that the jury could have questioned Carpenter’s credibility and even found that his injuries were caused by his physical struggle with police — not by the earlier car wreck on I-95.
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Carpenter, then a yacht captain from Boca Raton, had sued a man named Anthony Maniglia for hitting his car while changing lanes on I-95 at night. The next day, Carpenter complained of neck and back pain, but a visit to the chiropractor showed no evidence of any significant injuries, according to the Third District Court of Appeal opinion.
Lawyers for Maniglia, a retired doctor, said the accident was nothing more than a “minor fender bender.”
But one month later, Carpenter — despite the recent accident — played in the golf tournament. During the tournament, Carpenter took the golf cart on a ride, without permission, and collided with a car.
“Carpenter got into a physical altercation with the police at the scene, which included fighting, kicking, and wrestling on the ground,” Third DCA Judge Vance Salter wrote in the opinion.
Carpenter was charged with battery on a law enforcement officer. It was not until after the golf-course episode that MRIs led to spinal surgery for Carpenter.
At trial for the I-95 car crash, jurors heard only that Carpenter played in the tournament, had drank alcohol and played “bumper cars” on the first tee. But Circuit Judge Sara Zabel would not allow jurors to hear about the golf cart crash itself, the fall to the pavement or the fight with police.
Jurors also never heard that Carpenter hid the golf-cart episode from his chiropractor. “Carpenter’s failure to mention the recent golf cart incident to his chiropractor may have affected the jury’s evaluation of Carpenter’s credibility,” Salter wrote.
The appellate court ordered a new trial be held.