Pin It

Stern Rebuke of RI Jury Verdict, Judge Adds 420+k damages

Rhode Island Car Accident TrialEight years after a serious rear-end Rhode Island automobile accident, there was finally a negligence trial on the merits in Providence Superior Court. After a seven day hardly fought personal injury jury trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the auto accident victim and her RI Personal Injury Attorney in the amount of “$193,584 and finding that defendant was 75 percent at fault in causing the accident.”*  Donna Rose v Christopher Cariello

However, this 7 day RI Automobile Collision Trial did not decide the cause of action.

The injury claim is destined for either  a new trial on damages only or an injury settlement by the tort lawyers. The presiding Justice of the Providence car crash trial, Associate Justice Brian P. Stern, was very displeased with the paltry sum awarded by the jury and believed the amount was ““inadequate,”. He believed that it “shocks the conscience of the court.”  especially considering that “The plaintiff’s total medical expenses amounted to $269,000.” Id.

A Stern rebuke of the miserly jury

In what amounted to a stern rebuke of the penny pinching and shockingly low jury verdict, the judge essentially tacked on more damages to the award by granting “an additur of $428,416 to the jury award for a total award of $622,000” The justice reasoned that the meager jury award “does not cover [p]laintiff’s medical  bills, lost wages or any pain and suffering.” id.

Judge adds on to an unfair verdict amount

At the end of the day, the judge did not believe that the jury verdict was just and fair and therefore, ” … he granted an additur of $428,416 to the jury award for a total award of $622,000 and alternatively, if defendants rejected the additur, granted plaintiff’s motion for a new trial on the issue of damages only.” Id. Not surprisingly, the defendants’ RI Insurance defense Automobile Accident lawyers rejected the additional sum added to the verdict and sought a new injury trial.

Read the RI motor vehicle accident Supreme Court case here: Donna Rose v Christopher Cariello http://www.courts.ri.gov/Courts/SupremeCourt/Opinions/12-59.pdf  Read Justice Brian Stern’s  lower court decision here: http://www.courts.ri.gov/Courts/SuperiorCourt/DecisionsOrders/decisions/06-0650.pdf  See Justice Stern’s twitter page here: https://twitter.com/ribuscal

Interest on negligence verdicts

(Editor’s note: with the 25 percent reduction this  jury award was in reality much less.  At first blush $193,000 sounds like a decent sum but this injured victim had 2 surgeries, was permanently disabled and had $269,000 of medical bills! Interestingly, the victim will get nearly 100 percent interest as a result of the 12 percent per year interest on all injury awards.

§ 9-21-10  Interest in civil actions. “(a) In any civil action in which a verdict is rendered or a decision made for pecuniary damages, there shall be added by the clerk of the court to the amount of damages interest at the rate of twelve percent (12%) per annum thereon from the date the cause of action accrued,.. ”  The judge and jury are not permitted to consider interest in making their determinations pursuant to RI law. Unfortunately, this interest will be taxable even though the amount for medical bill and pain and suffering will not be taxable see http://www.lawyersource360.com/tax-attorneys/)) Even with the added amount the amount would be reduced by 25 percent.)

Additur

The issue before the Top Tribunal in the Ocean State was not a referendum on the “additur” by the jurist but rather was an analysis of whether the judge properly granted the Rhode Island Liability defense attorney’s motion for a new trial. The Rhode Island Supreme Court sitting in Providence stated “The defendants filed a notice of appeal to this Court on February 10, 2012, and thereafter, on February 23, 2012, rejected the additur granted by the Superior Court. Because defendants rejected the additur, it is not an issue on appeal before this Court.”

(Editor’s Note:* Rhode Island and Providence Plantations is pure comparative negligence state http://www.rhodeislandpersonalinjuryattorneyblog.com/2010/09/compartive-negligence-ri/  and this means that the $193,584 verdict would be reduced 25 percent as a result of the Plaintiff being 25 percent at fault for the wreck according to the jury.)

RI top court sustains trial judge’s decision overturning jury verdict

The Rhode Island Supreme Court sustained the Judges granting of a new Rhode Island  rear end automobile collision trial stating “We cannot conclude based on our review of the evidence that the trial justice was clearly wrong in his determination that the jury’s award of damages was inadequate.” Id.

However, the RI Top Court gently chided the RI Car Crash Judge Commentary concerning the jury verdict. The highest court reasoned that “He was not required to further support his decision. While he might  have refrained from such suppositions..”Id.

The RI Supreme Court seemed displease with the trial judge’s speculating the reasons for the jury’s verdict.  The Top Court stated “The trial justice went on to suggest reasons for the inadequacy of the award, finding it likely that either the jury erroneously considered plaintiff’s  health insurance coverage or that the jury disregarded the testimony as to the potential for exacerbation of a preexisting condition and, consequently, undervalued the severity of the injuries sustained by plaintiff.”

(Editors note: Rhode Island has adopted the “collateral source rule” which posits that the jury is not allowed to consider other sources of reimbursement for medical and hospital bills such as med pay, workers compensation and health insurance reimbursements http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/uncategorized/litigation-products-2011-rhode-island.authcheckdam.pdf )

Facts:

The car crash occurred on Route 95 highway in Providence. The injured victim was operating her motor vehicle when she was rear ended by a motor vehicle driven by the defendant. “She was slowing down in order to change lanes when her car was struck from behind by a car operated by defendant Christopher Cariello”. At trial, state police officer Simon Liu, who investigated the accident, testified that the accident occurred when defendant’s vehicle struck plaintiff’s vehicle from the rear while traveling in the right lane of Route 95.” “The plaintiff testified that, after being struck, “[her] car lunged forward” and that “[her] head went way back.” Id.

– Seriously injured victim was transported to emergency room  at RI Hospital after the auto collision.

-A couple of days after the Providence vehicular Car wreck she visited emergency room at Memorial Hospital in Pawtucket complaining of neck and back pain.

– She treated with numerous medical providers, chiropractors for several years.

-The plaintiff underwent two surgical procedures on her spine, the first in April 2005 and the second in March 2008.”Id.

The expert neurologist

“The plaintiff’s second expert witness, Dr. Edward Feldmann, a neurologist, testified as to plaintiff’s injuries. He stated that he reviewed plaintiff’s medical records and also examined her professionally on April 30, 2011. He summarized plaintiff’s medical history, noting that she had no history of lower back pain prior to the accident in 2003 and that her back pain, as a result of damage to a disc of her spine, prevented her from working. He further stated that her medical records revealed that plaintiff had degenerative disc disease, which he characterized as being common to the general population and often asymptomatic, and which likely preexisted the accident. Doctor Edward Feldmann also explained that asymptomatic degenerative disc disease could be made symptomatic as a result of trauma. He diagnosed plaintiff as suffering from an injury to the spinal disc and nerve roots, a condition called radiculopathy, as well as from lumbosacral disc disease. He opined, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that the injury was caused by the accident in September 2003. He also concluded it to be more likely than not that plaintiff’s injury was permanent and that it would be unlikely that plaintiff would ever be able to return to work.” Id.

Victim rendered “helpless and hopeless.”, pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life

“She testified that, prior to the accident, she had been largely self-sufficient, able to do her own shopping, house-cleaning, and laundry, as well as working full-time in a mailroom. She explained that, after the accident, she was no longer able to be self-sufficient and was not able to return to work because of the pain. Kevin Cordeiro, a longtime friend of plaintiff’s, corroborated plaintiff’s testimony, averring that, before the accident, plaintiff had been an active person but that now she was unable to perform everyday tasks, could no longer drive, and was in pain. The plaintiff’s sister, Linda Shippee, also testified that “she [plaintiff] can’t walk and exercise. She used to go shopping more. She used to get out more.” The plaintiff’s brother-in-law, Willie Detonnayo, summarized plaintiff’s life after the accident as being “helpless and hopeless.” Id.