California Court Affirms Judgment in Favor of Defendants Because Plaintiff’s Injuries From Multiple Car Accidents Had Healed, and Ongoing Medical Issues Were Unrelated to Accidents

In a personal injury lawsuit following two motor vehicle collisions, an injured plaintiff appealed the jury’s award of damages. A California Court of Appeal, in an unpublished opinion, upheld the jury award for past pain and suffering, with no future economic or noneconomic damages awarded. The court focused on the fact that the plaintiff’s alleged injuries stemming from the car accidents had likely healed, and any ongoing medical complaints were unrelated to the accident.

On February 3, 2012, Ms. Tent was traveling from Malibu to Oxnard for her work as a code enforcement officer, and her vehicle was rear-ended by one defendant in the injury lawsuit.  Later, returning to Malibu, she was rear-ended again by a different defendant. Both defendants admitted their liability for the accidents.

Ms. Tent sought damages for the neck and back injuries that she claimed resulted from the collisions. She waived her claim for past medical costs, and the issue was whether she was entitled to damages for past lost earnings, future lost earnings, future medical expenses, past noneconomic loss, and future noneconomic loss.

The record revealed that Ms. Tent suffered previous issues with her neck, shoulder, and lower back. Following the motor vehicle collisions, Ms. Tent underwent chiropractic treatment and physical therapy. Medical experts on behalf of the defendants opined that Ms. Tent did not suffer an acute injury, and she had a new fracture and ongoing progressive degenerative changes following a fall.

Regarding work, Ms. Tent continued to work full-time for over two years after the accidents. Her job duties did involve lifting heavy boxes.

The jury awarded Ms. Tent $135,000 for past noneconomic damages but did not award future economic or noneconomic damages. Ms. Tent filed a motion for a new trial, or alternatively, a request for additur. The trial court denied the motion after a hearing, and Ms. Tent appealed.

Ms. Tent requested that the appellate court reverse the trial court’s order that denied her motion for a new trial. But the appellate court stated that Ms. Tent waived her challenge to that ruling by not properly providing an adequate record to the court showing an error.

The court stated the rule that the question of damages is one that rests in the discretion of the trial judge. Since the appellate court had not seen or heard witnesses, it did not have the power to judge credibility.  An appellate court’s power to intervene stems from facts that suggest passion, prejudice, or corruption by the jury, or situations in which the evidence shows that the award was insufficient as a matter of law.

Here, the court stated the record did not show passion or corruption by the jury. The evidence showed that the jury weighed the evidence and decided that Ms. Tent’s injuries from the accidents had healed, and her ongoing health problems were unrelated to those accidents.

Both Dr. Frecker and Dr. Fan testified that Ms. Tent’s strain injury lasted a few months and was then healed through chiropractic treatment and physical therapy.  The appellate court reiterated the rule that expert witness testimony alone is considered substantial evidence.

The appellate court went on to state that the record revealed Ms. Tent worked for two years following the car accidents, and her doctor’s recommendation for disability took place after the car accidents, apparently due to a fall.  The evidence could lead a jury to reasonably conclude that future medical expenses would be the result of this fall, rather than the injuries suffered in the vehicle collisions. The appellate court stated that since substantial evidence supported the jury’s verdict, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by upholding it.

In sum, the court affirmed the judgment and the order denying the motion for a new trial.

The car accident attorneys at Sharifi Firm provide legal representation to victims and their families throughout Southern California in personal injury claims for compensation. We offer a free consultation and can be reached by calling 866-422-7222 or completing our online form.

More Blog Posts:

California Appellate Court Holds Jury Reasonably Rejected Plaintiffs’ Accident Claims, Based on Finding that Testimony was not Credible, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, September 13, 2016

California Court Finds Substantial Evidence Supported Jury’s Finding that Defendant’s Negligence Did not Cause Plaintiff’s Injuries in Rear End Collision, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, August 4, 2016

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