No Contest Ruling Means Damages in Marrero Car Accident Case

On May 8, 2007, in Marrero, Louisiana, two cars were sitting at the intersection of Ames and Lapalco Boulevards. One car carrying a couple sat ahead of a truck carrying one individual. The man driving the truck’s foot slipped off the clutch and the truck rolled into the back of the car. The couple said that the truck hit the car with such force that they jumped out of their seats. Their trunk and bumper had also been slightly pushed in, where there were no damages to the vehicle prior to the accident. The police arrived to document the accident and no injuries were reported on either side.

However, shortly after the accident, the couple experienced a variety of medical issues. While soreness and bruising is common after accidents, the couple experienced a much more serious version of injuries following the accident. The woman claimed roughly $13,000 in medical bills while the man claimed roughly $19,000 after the accident.

During trial, the man driving the truck admitted that this foot slipped off the clutch and he ran into the back of the car. Therefore, the court awarded a directed verdict that concluded that the man in the truck was 100% at fault, and therefore 100% liable, for the accident. The only issue that remained for the jury to decide was how much the couple should be awarded for damages. However, the jury came back with an award of $0.00 for the couple.

The couple asked that the judge grant a JNOV, or a judgment notwithstanding the verdict, which the judge declined to do. A JNOV allows the judge to override the jury’s decision and make a decision of his or her own. A JNOV is only allowed in the rare circumstance that a jury declares a final decision that is so contrary to the evidence or law so as to be completely incorrect.

In this case, the jury awarded no damages despite the fact that the driver of the truck was 100% liable, and the truck driver did not argue that the injuries the couple suffered were not related to the accident. While the jury may have thought that the injuries were not related, they are not allowed to make that conclusion without the other side presenting evidence that supports that conclusion.

In addition, Louisiana uses the Housley presumption, which states that if there are no injuries prior to the accident, but there are injuries after the accident, then the jury can presume that the injuries were caused by the accident. However, since neither side complained that the jury did not see or consider that point of law, the Court of Appeals could not consider that issue.

However, the Court of Appeals still found error based on the liability issue. Since the jury did not award damages even though the truck driver was 100% at fault, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit for the State of Louisiana declared that the lower court erred in not allowing damages and rejecting the use of the JNOV.

When the Court of Appeals decides that the lower court obtained an incorrect result, then the Court of Appeals can correct the error. In the area of damages, the Court of Appeals will consider what other courts have awarded for similar injuries and determine the amount of damages from that information instead of having a new trial. This type of ruling saves both time and money for the parties. For example, this court considered the following injuries and awards resulting from car accidents:

Where the injured had a contusion to her left shoulder and cervical strain, which was still in pain three years later, the court awarded $25,000.
Where the injured suffered from neck and back pain and migraine headaches, which continued 15 months later, the court awarded $15,000.
Where the injured suffered from a laceration to her arm and injuries to her knee and back, which continued two and a half years later, the court awarded $30,000.
Where the injured suffered from a soft tissue injury lasting over two years, the court raised the jury award of $5,000 to $15,000 because it found the $5,000 award to be abusively low.

In light of these cases, the Court of Appeals determined that the lowest amount that they could reasonably award is $15,000. Therefore, the Court of Appeals raised the damages amount to $15,000, plus all of her medical expenses, for the woman, and awarded $15,000 to the man, plus all of his medical expenses. Since the other side did not argue that the injuries could have resulted from any other cause, the court was justified in raising the damages award.

If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident and are still suffering from pain sometime after, you should contact The Berniard Law Firm to see if you may have a legal claim for relief.

Call 504-527-6225 today.