Third Circuit Court of Appeals Shoots Down Lafayette Woman’s Claim Damages Were Too Low

Plaintiff Sherrie Lafleur was injured in an April 2007 rear-end collision on Ambassador Caffery Parkway in Lafayette. Mrs. Lafleur was waiting for a traffic signal when Brenda Nabours drove her vehicle into the rear of Mrs. Lafleur’s vehicle. The low-impact collision caused no damage to Mrs. Nabours’ vehicle and no structural damage to Mrs. Lafleur’s car.

Mrs. Lafleur filed suit against Mrs. Nabours (and Mrs. Nabours’ insurer Shelter Mutual Insurance Company) claiming that she suffered a severe neck injury as a result of the accident. Shelter admitted liability for the collision and the case proceeded to trial without a jury on the issues of causation and damage. The trial court found the debilitaing injuries claimed by Mrs.Lafleur were not a result of the collision and actually predated the accident by many years. The trial court awarded the medical damages incurred by Mrs. Lafleur from the date of the accident through August 2007 in the amount of $5,457.97. The court found Mrs. Lafleur failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that her remaining medical treatment was necessitated by the Collision. The trial court also awarded general damages of $10,000. Mrs. Lafleur appealed the award claiming both the calculations for special and general damages were abusively low and contrary to the evidence.

Special damages are awarded to repay you for financial losses you have suffered. In Lousiana, the amount of special damages awarded is a finding of fact subject to the manifest error standard of review. Under this standard, the appellate court looks to whether the factfinder’s conclusion was a reasonable one not whether the trier of fact was right or wrong. If the conclusion was reasonable, a reviewing court may not reverse even though convinced it would have weighed the evidence differently. Where the factfinder’s determination is based on its decision to credit the testimony of one of two or more witnesses, that finding can virtually never be manifestly erroneous.

The appellate court found the evidence at trial showed that since 1990 Mrs. LaFleur complained of neck pain, headaches and tingling in her left arm — the same complaints she had after the collision. At trial, Mrs. LaFleur attempted to minimize similar symptoms she experienced before the collision. The trial court did find that Mrs. LaFleur did have a degenerative neck condition that was temporarily aggravated by the collision, however, this aggravation was resolved by August 2007 when Mrs. Lafleur traveled to Italy for ten days.

Mrs. LaFleur argued the trial court erred in dismissing the testimony of Dr. Appley that Mrs. LaFleur’s symptoms were caused by the accident as there was no evidence of record to rebut that claim. The appellate court held it was not manifest error to dismiss Dr. Appley’s testimony as it was based on the incomplete medical history provided by Mrs. LaFleur. The appellate court found no manifest error in the trial court’s award of special damages.

Mrs. LaFleur’s argument that the court erred in awarding only $10,000 in general damages was also found to be without merit. The trial court is vested with great discretion in awarding general damages and the appellate court will not inacrease such an award absent a finding of abuse of discretion. No such abuse of discretion was found in this case. Therefore, the appellate court upheld the trial court’s damage awards.

The trial court has great power in weighing evidence and awarding damages, therefore, it is vital when involved in a car accident to immediately contact an experienced attorney so you can recover the money you deserve. If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident that may have been caused by someone else, call the Berniard Law Firm today.

Call toll-free at 1-866-574-8005 and speak with a lawyer who can help you decide how to pursue your case.