In Bonner v. Deyo, a woman filed a personal injury lawsuit against a driver who rear-ended her vehicle at a stop-light and the owner of the allegedly at-fault automobile. In her complaint, the woman sought damages for head, neck, and other injuries she claimed to have suffered in the collision as well as reimbursement for her medical costs. Her husband also asked the court to award him financial compensation for his loss of consortium. Prior to trial, the parties agreed that the injured woman’s medical and vehicle repair bills were both authentic and admissible. Despite this, the defendants denied a number of material allegations included in the hurt woman’s complaint.
At trial, the defendants admitted to liability for the injury wreck. As a result, the only issue for the jury to decide was the amount of damages merited for the injured woman’s pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, medical expenses, and her husband’s loss of consortium claims. After listening to testimony from the injured woman, her spouse, and the at-fault driver, jurors issued a damages award of about $3,500 in medical expenses in favor of the hurt woman. In addition, the jury ordered zero non-economic damages for the woman’s pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life. Jurors also chose to award her husband nothing for his loss of consortium claim.
The trial court entered judgment in the case and the woman filed a motion seeking either additur or a new trial. In general, additur allows a court to increase the damages awarded by a jury where the amount that was initially awarded was inadequate or would constitute a miscarriage of justice. According to the woman’s request, the jury’s award of zero non-economic damages went against the weight of the evidence. Although the trial court refused to order a new trial, the court suggested an additur of $10,000. The defendants accepted the award under protest and later appealed the case to the Tennessee Court of Appeals at Jackson.
On appeal, the defendants argued that the trial court committed error when it suggested that the injured woman receive an additional award of $10,000 despite the jury choosing to award her zero non-economic damages. According to the appeals court, Tennessee law allows a trial court judge to order additur despite a jury being tasked with awarding damages under the state’s Constitution. Next, the court said appellate review of such an award typically involves three steps: examining the trial court’s reasons for the additur, reviewing the adjustment to ensure it does not “totally destroy” the jury’s verdict, and inspecting the evidence to determine whether the adjustment was supported by the record.
After examining the facts of the case, the Tennessee Court of Appeals stated the record demonstrated that the trial court disagreed with the jury’s zero non-economic damages award and the additur was not so large as to destroy the jury’s verdict. Additionally, the appellate court found that although the evidence indicated mitigating factors may have affected the non-economic damages award issued by the jury, the amount of the additur was reasonable based on the trial court record. Because the trial court’s additur was supported by the evidence and was not so large as to totally destroy the jury’s verdict, the Court of Appeals of Tennessee affirmed the trial court’s additur of $10,000 for the woman’s non-economic damages.
If you were injured in a Knoxville car accident, you may be eligible to recover financial compensation for your harm. To discuss the facts of your case with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney today, please call the Hartsoe Law Firm, P.C. at (865) 524-5657 or contact us online.
Bonner v. Deyo, Tenn: Court of Appeals 2014
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