As if having car troubles was not bad enough, imagine also losing your toe in the process. Well, that exact scenario happened to Valerie Babin. After her vehicle broke down in Gonzales, Louisiana, Ms. Babin called American Towing Enterprises to tow her vehicle. An American Towing Enterprises’s employee, Floyd Russo, arrived to help Ms. Babin. At this point, Ms. Babin’s day went from bad to worse. As Mr. Russo partially loaded the vehicle onto the truck’s flatbed, Ms. Babin went to turn off her vehicle’s emergency flashers. At the same time, Mr. Russo lowered the truck bed, which landed on Ms. Babin’s foot, crushing her big toe. Despite attempts to save her big toe, Ms. Babin eventually required surgery to remove it.
Ms. Babin filed a lawsuit against Mr. Russo and American Towing Enterprises. At trial, the court awarded $673,380.35 in damages, finding Mr. Russo and American Towing Enterprises 60% at fault and Ms. Babin 40% at fault. When the injured individual is found partially at fault for his or her injury, his or her damages are reduced by the amount he or she was at fault. In Ms. Babin’s case, her fault reduced the total amount of damages to $404,028.21. Ms. Babin appealed the trial court’s determination of damages, claiming that the awarded amount was insufficient. Conversely, Mr. Russo and American Towing Enterprises appealed the trial court’s determination claiming that the amount awarded was excessive.
The Louisiana Court of Appeals (“the Court”) was tasked with determining whether the damages were insufficient or excessive. The Court examined two types of damages, general damages, and special damages. General damages often include mental or physical pain, suffering, inconvenience, loss of gratification or intellectual or physical enjoyment, or other losses of lifestyle. McGee v. A C And S, Inc., 933 So. 2d 770, 774 (La. 2006). The goal of general damages is to make the injured party whole. In other words, put the injured party in the same position he or she was at prior to the injury. Special damages are damages that the injured person will experience in the future. Ms. Babin argued that at minimum she should have received $400,000 for general damages and $557,028 in special damages for future medical care. The Court found that the trial court’s determination of general and special damages was reasonable. When addressing the amount of special damages for future medical care, the Court noted that the trial court awarded Ms. Babin $223,77.00 based on the testimony of two doctors at trial. When seeking future medical expenses, “the appellate record must establish that future medical expenses will be necessary and inevitable.” Bass v. State, 167 So. 3d 711, 716 (La. 2014). In addition, future medical expenses will not be supported when there is not medical testimony. The Court found the trial court’s determination of special damages was reasonable and disregarded the defendants’ argument that the awarded amount was unsupported by evidence. Lastly, the Court examined the loss of future wages. The loss of future wages requires the trial court to determine how much work the injured party will miss in the future because of his or her injury. For Ms. Babin, the trial court determined that Ms. Babin will lose $81,735.00 in future wages. The Court also found this amount reasonable.
After the long litigation process, Ms. Babin ended up receiving $404,028.21 for the loss of her big toe. Her case illustrates the difficulty in determining damages and the reluctance of an appellate court to overturn the trial court’s determination of damages. When faced with an injury, an individual needs the help of a good lawyer who can determine and argue the accurate valuation of damages.
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