We all make mistakes, and, if lucky, are presented with the opportunity to fix them. The same principle can be said for an error in a money damage determination. When a party to a lawsuit believes that the jury or trial court erred in its damage award decision, the party has the ability to appeal. A recent court case out of the Second Circuit Court of Appeal for Louisiana discusses the requirements that are needed to overturn a money damage determination.
The case involves a car accident involving Holly Swayze. Ms. Swayze suffered multiple injuries from the accident and accumulated a sizable amount of medical bills. As a result of the injuries and medical bills, Ms. Swayze filed a lawsuit. At trial, Ms. Swayze testified that prior to the accident she lived without physical limitations. But after the accident, she started experiencing neck and back pain. To alleviate her pain, Ms. Swayze tried self-help and physical therapy, but those treatments only mitigated, not solved, her pain problem. This attempt to alleviate her pain cost Ms. Swayze $12,700.04 in medical bills.
Ms. Swayze’s primary physician, Dr. Coleman, also testified at trial. Dr. Coleman testified that he had been treating Ms. Swayze for ten to twelve years and had no records of her complaining about neck and back pain. He also recalled that Ms. Swayze complained of numbness in her right arm after the accident. Dr. Coleman also testified that Ms. Swayze did suffer from a genetic bone disease and that Ms. Swayze took medication for this condition. Dr. Coleman further explained that those who suffer from this condition normally do not experience any symptoms until they endure an aggravating injury.
The trial court awarded Ms. Swayze $22,700.04 in damages, which represented $7,700.04 for medical expenses and $15,000 in general damages. The defendant in the lawsuit, disagreeing with the trial court’s determination of damages appealed the decision.
On appeal, the Second Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s damages determination. The Second Circuit noted that the burden of proving a causal connection between an accident and an injury falls on the plaintiff. Satisfying this burden often requires a combination of medical records and testimony that it was more probable than not that an injury was caused by a particular accident. The Second Circuit also emphasized that any recovery for medical charges must be limited to the expenses directly resulting from that accident. See Ward v. Davidson, 125 So.3d 1236 (La. App. 2013). It also held that the trial court has great discretion in determining damages and that the trial court’s determination will not be overturned absent a trial court’s abuse of discretion. See La. C.C. art. 2324.1 (2016). The Second Circuit noted that trial testimony established that the onset of Ms. Swayze’s back pain began after the accident and that the pain was caused by the accident. No medical evidence presented at trial contradicted this testimony. Therefore, the Second Circuit held that the trial court did not err in its damages determination.
Ms. Swayze’s case illustrates the importance of proper medical documentation. With the help of this documentation and her excellent attorney, Ms. Swayze was able to receive the money she deserved.
Written by Berniard Law Firm Blog Writer: Sean E. Acosta
Additional Berniard Law Firm Articles on Personal Injury: What is the Standard to Overturn a Jury’s Decision About Compensation in Personal Injury Case