Donna Nelson v. Michael Vitko, et al

  • Court: Florida State, Duval County, Fourth Circuit Court
  • Case Number: 2019-CA-007564
  • Filed: October 23, 2019
  • Judges: Michael  Sharrit
  • Case Type: Auto Negligence Case
  • Cause: Negligence

Parties Involved

  • Plaintiff(s):Donna Nelson
  • Counsel for Plaintiff: Matthew Jordan Grossman | Brandi Alexis Gartrell


  • Defendant(s): Michael Vitko | State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company
  • Counsel for Defendants: Cindy Kinslow-Coats| James Douglas Morgan | James Conor Durstein
  • Expert witness for Defendant(s): Gerard M. Gerling, M.D. |


Verdict Information

  • Verdict Date: May 16, 2024
  • Total damages awarded to Plaintiff: $434,381.04
    • Past economic damages: $33,781.04
    • Future economic damages: $75,600
    • Past non-economic damages: $100,000
    • Future non-economic damages: $225,000

 About the Case


Donna Nelson, a resident of Jacksonville, Duval County, Florida, filed a lawsuit against two defendants: Michael Vitko, also a Jacksonville resident, and State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, a foreign profit corporation doing business and selling motor vehicle insurance policies in Duval County.

The lawsuit arose from a motor vehicle collision that occurred on July 13, 2018, in Jacksonville. Nelson was driving a 2015 Honda CR-V eastbound on 5300 San Juan Avenue when Vitko, operating a 2004 Chevy Silverado (VIN 2GCEC13T741382093, Florida tag O1GJD), negligently operated and maintained his vehicle. Vitko’s negligence caused multiple collisions, one of which directly involved Nelson’s Honda CR-V.

Before this incident, Nelson had purchased an automobile insurance policy numbered 422202559B from State Farm. This policy included uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. At the time of the July 13th collision, Vitko met the legal definition of an uninsured/underinsured motorist under Nelson’s State Farm policy, Florida Statute 627.727, and relevant case law interpretations.


As a direct and proximate result of Vitko’s negligent driving, Nelson sustained serious and permanent bodily injuries. These injuries caused her to endure pain, suffering, impairment, disability, disfigurement, mental anguish, loss of life enjoyment, aggravation of pre-existing conditions, and the need for medical care, treatment, and expenses. Nelson also suffered a loss of earnings, diminished ability to earn money in the future, and an overall loss of her ability to lead a normal life. Her injuries were determined to be permanent within a reasonable degree of medical probability.

Despite Vitko’s uninsured/underinsured status obligating State Farm to compensate Nelson for her injuries under her policy, State Farm refused to honor its obligations and failed to pay Nelson the monetary damages she was owed.


Nelson demanded judgment against both defendants for damages exceeding $15,000 exclusive of interest, costs, and attorneys’ fees. She also sought other relief deemed proper by the court and a jury trial on all triable issues. The key legal issues included negligence claims against Vitko, uninsured/underinsured motorist claims against State Farm, compensation for personal injuries and damages, potential insurance bad faith by State Farm, and a dispute over the interpretation and obligations under Nelson’s automobile insurance policy.

Jury Verdict

The jury found that Nelson was also negligent and apportioned 30% of the negligence to Vitko and 70% to Nelson.

Regarding damages, the jury awarded Nelson $33,781.04 for past medical expenses and $75,600 for future medical expenses related to the collision. They concluded that Nelson sustained a significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function, significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement, or an injury that was permanent to a reasonable degree of medical probability as a result of the collision.

For Nelson’s pain and suffering, disability, physical impairment, disfigurement, mental anguish, inconvenience, aggravation of a pre-existing condition, and loss of enjoyment of life, the jury awarded her $100,000 for past damages and $225,000 for future damages.

Court Documents: Available upon request