St. Martin Parish Accident Shows Review Standard for General Damages

On May 22, 2006, Patricia Case was driving on Oday Road following a tractor driven by Barry Frederick, an employee of Burt Oubre of Burt Oubre Farms. She then decided to pass the tractor at the same time that Barry Frederick was turning left across Mrs. Case’s path. The two vehicles collided.

Following the collision, Mrs. Case “experienced back pain radiating into her legs.” Utimately, Mrs. Case received lumbar microdiskoctomy and laminectomy from Dr. Louis Blanda in 2007. Dr. Blanda testified that Mrs. Case would have some permanent restrictions on her activity level. For example, Mrs. Case was determined to not be able to participate in lifting involving objects over 50 pounds. Dr. Blanda also testified that the surgery was a minimally invasive procedure; in his opinion, Mrs. Case should be
able to return to work within limitations.

The Cases sued Frederick, Oubre, and Shelter Insurance Company for the injuries they sustained in the crash. Mrs. Case was awarded $49,998.00 in general damages. She then appealed the award, arguing that the trial court’s ruling was “manifestly erred in awarding $49,998. in general damages.”

The Third Circuit identified that the fixing of general damages by a jury is discretionary. Then the Third Circuit reviewed the abuse of discretion standard for general damages, noting

“Our jurisprudence has consistently held that in the assessment of damages, much discretion is left to the judge or jury, and upon appellate review such awards will be disturbed only when there has been a clear abuse of that discretion.”

In examing the trial record, the court observed that Mrs. Case suffered a herniated lumbar disc caused by the accident. Because she continues to suffer periodic back pain, the surgery that she received was invasive. Since, per the case of Este v. State Farm, the aggravation of a pre-existing, asymptomatic, spondylosis and bulging disk can be awarded a minimum of $75,000.00 in general damages, the court concluded that “an active herniation fo a disk with surgical intervention warrants a general damage award of $100,00.00;any amount below that would be considered an abuse of the jury’s vast discretion.” Accordingly, the court amended the general damage award to $100,000.00 in favor of Mrs.Case.

This case shows how heavily the appellate court relies on previous cases to test whether the award is an abuse of discretion. Clearly, while the plaintiff suffered more but was awarded less compared to the previous ruling, this is a clear abuse of discretion.

By hiring a highly skilled attorney you can be assured that extensive legal knowledge and skill will be utilized to make sure that relevant precedent is utilized in your favor. A solid attorney will understand what is required to amend the damage award in the client’s favor and will be able to assess the likelihood that a court will be able to do so as well. The Berniard Law Firm has had extensive success using the law to earn our clients the judgments they deserve and will be happy to educate callers on their legal rights regarding any matter of law they might be looking for more information on.