Sometimes judges and juries make mistakes that prevent injured parties from obtaining the relief they deserve. Both judges and juries can be swayed by arguments and make rulings that seem contrary to the weight of the evidence presented at trial. In such a situation, it is important to have an excellent attorney on your side to assert your rights and present you with proper avenues of appeal. Kimberly Guidry found herself in just this position after the trial court awarded her no damages for injuries she sustained in a car accident in Erath, Louisiana.
Ms. Guidry was injured in a three car accident while a passenger in her brother’s pickup truck. The accident occurred when Karl Creduer ran a red light, striking another person’s vehicle. This other vehicle then crashed into a Ms. Guidry’s brother’s pickup truck. Ms. Guidry and her brother were both injured in the accident. Ms. Guidry was taken to the hospital in an ambulance due to complaints of pain in her back and knee. At the hospital, doctors took X-rays of Ms. Guidry, placed her in a cervical collar, and gave her prescription medicine for her injuries.
After leaving the hospital, Ms. Guidry saw three separate doctors in hopes of alleviating the pain caused by the accident. Through these doctor visits, it was determined that Ms. Guidry had pre-existing arthritis and pre-existing degenerative conditions in her spine and knee. These ailments arose prior to the accident. According to the doctors, the accident aggravated these ailments.
Ms. Guidry brought a lawsuit against Mr. Creduer, his employer, and the employer’s insurance company seeking compensation for her medical expenses, lost wages, future earnings, and general damages. Mr. Creduer was indisputably within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident, thus making his employer liable for his actions. Both sides stipulated that Mr. Creduer was solely at fault for the accident and that Ms. Guidry had accumulated $26,244.22 in medical expenses due to the accident.
At trial, Ms. Guidry testified that she had not been in pain before the accident, despite the presence of her pre-existing conditions, but following the accident had injuries that prevented her from working. Ms. Guidry’s doctors and a vocational specialist agreed with her testimony. Ms. Guidry also presented an economist who discussed her lost past and future wages because of the accident. The defense also presented testimony from a doctor and a vocational specialist. Both defense witnesses argued that Ms. Guidry’s lost wages were due to her pre-existing conditions, rather than as a consequence of the accident. The defense also pointed out Ms. Guidry did not disclose her pre-existing conditions with the doctor who examined her for the defense.
After a three-day trial, the jury found that Ms. Guidry was not entitled to any damages. Ms. Guidry appealed the trial court’s decision. She argued that the jury had clearly erred in assessing the evidence and that the trial judge had erred in failing to grant her a new trial when the jury’s verdict went against all the evidence that indicated the accident caused her injury. The Louisiana Court of Appeal for the Third Circuit agreed with Ms. Guidry and reversed the jury’s verdict, awarding her damages for past lost wages, medical expenses, and general damages.
Ms. Guidry argued on appeal that if a person is in good health before an accident, any subsequent injuries are presumed to have occurred because of the accident. See Housley v. Cerise, 579 So.2d 973, 980 (La. 1991). The defense countered, arguing significant evidence showed that Ms. Guidry was not in good health at the time of her accident because she had pre-existing conditions. The Court of Appeal agreed with the defense, holding that Ms. Guidry was not entitled to the presumption because she had pre-existing conditions and suffered from symptoms of these conditions prior to the accident. While Ms. Guidry failed to meet the conditions required for the presumption, the Court of Appeal held that this failure does not mean that Ms. Guidry’s claim fails. The Court of Appeal pointed to the well-established principle that a defendant “takes his victim as he finds him and is responsible for all natural and probable consequences of his tortious act.” Lasha v. Olin Corp., 625 So.2d 1002, 1005 (La. 1993). The fact that a defendant injures a plaintiff who was already suffering from pre-existing conditions does not relieve the defendant of responsibility for aggravations of those injuries caused by the defendant’s conduct. The Court of Appeal found that Ms. Guidry clearly and indisputably established that her injuries were aggravated by the car accident and that even the defendants’ examining doctor admitted as much. Thus, the jury erred in awarding Ms. Guidry no damages. After finding that the jury erred in awarding zero damages, the Court of Appeal exercised its discretion in assessing and awarding the appropriate damages. It found that Ms. Guidry was entitled to $9,574.50 for past lost wages, $26,244.22 for her medical expenses and $25,000.00 in general damages. The defendants were also ordered to pay the costs of the appeal.
Ms. Guidry’s case is an excellent example of how a good lawyer can be of vital importance when a case is erroneously decided at the trial level. With the help of an excellent lawyer, nd an objective appellate court, injustice like the situation that Ms. Guidry faced can be remedied.
Additional Sources: CALVIN JOSEPH GUIDRY, ET AL. VERSUS LAFAYETTE HEALTH VENTURES, INC., ET AL.
Written by Berniard Law Firm Blog Writer: Aaron Ochse
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