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Tennessee Court of Appeals Orders New Trial Where Jury Verdict Was Not Supported by the Material Evidence in Shelby County Car Accident Case

In Naraghian v. Wilson, a woman was apparently injured in a Shelby County, Tennessee rear-end motor vehicle collision. About one year after the crash, the woman filed a negligence lawsuit against the purportedly at-fault driver in the Circuit Court of Shelby County. In her complaint, the hurt woman sought damages from the motorist for her injuries and property damage. In response, the other driver claimed he was not liable for the woman’s harm because she caused the traffic wreck. According to the motorist, he struck the woman from behind after she stopped for no reason at a green light.

During a jury trial, the woman testified that her automobile was hit when she came to a complete stop at a red light. Although she did not seek medical treatment immediately, the woman stated she began suffering from increasing pain in her neck, shoulders, and head. A few days after the crash, the injured woman sought treatment at a local hospital. The hospital apparently performed x-rays, provided the woman with prescription pain medication, and advised her to seek additional medical treatment if her pain continued. The woman eventually sought treatment for her injuries with a chiropractor.

At trial, the defendant’s lawyer apparently insinuated that the woman lost her job due to an arrest. The woman’s attorney objected to the line of questioning, and the trial court judge stated curative jury instructions needed to be discussed. The trial record, however, did not state whether an objection to curative instructions was made or if the jury was so instructed.

Next, the woman’s chiropractor testified that the woman suffered from whiplash as a result of the traffic wreck. The chiropractor also stated he treated the woman for about four months, which resulted in chiropractic expenses that exceeded $13,000. The defendant’s counsel did not dispute the necessity for, or the reasonableness of, the woman’s chiropractic bills.

The jury ultimately returned a verdict of about $7,800 in favor of the hurt woman. Although jurors stated the defendant driver was responsible for the rear-end crash, they found that the woman was almost 45 percent responsible for her injuries. The trial court then denied the injured woman’s motion for a new trial and entered a reduced judgment of approximately $4,300 in the case.

On appeal to the Tennessee Court of Appeals, the hurt woman argued the jury verdict was disproportionate to the amount of damages she demonstrated at trial, the jury’s finding of comparative fault was not supported by the evidence, and a curative instruction regarding the woman’s alleged prior arrest should have been given to the jury.

After examining the evidence included in the record, the appellate court ruled that the woman’s first error claim was dispositive and merited a new trial. The court said a damages award in a personal injury action is intended to make the injured party whole again. Instead, the appellate court found that the jury’s damages award was disproportionate to the medical costs incurred by the woman. Since the jury award was unreasonable, it was not supported by the unchallenged material evidence, and the award appeared to be the result of a compromise, the Tennessee Court of Appeals reversed the judgment in the case and remanded the lawsuit for a new trial.

The caring attorneys at the Hartsoe Law Firm, P.C. are available to help car accident victims in Knoxville and throughout Eastern Tennessee recover the damages they deserve based on the severity of their injuries. To discuss your accident claim with a skillful Tennessee personal injury lawyer, call the Hartsoe Law Firm, P.C. today at (865) 524-5657 or contact us through our website.

Additional Resources:

Naraghian v. Wilson, Tenn: Court of Appeals 2015

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Knoxville Appeals Court Overturns Summary Judgment in Premises Liability Action Filed Against Hospital, October 28, 2014, Knoxville Injury Lawyer Blog

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