In the course of discussing trucking accidents, especially those involving serious personal injury or death, we often think of the continuum of the process as spanning from when the initial complaint is filed through settlement or, in some cases, jury trial. However, the case doesn’t always end after a jury has entered its verdict, even when the plaintiff prevails.
A recent New York case offers a glimpse into the types of issues that defendants may raise in appealing decisions where the jury decides in favor of the plaintiff.
The case, BAKALOR v. JB HUNT TRANSPORT, INC., Dist. Ct., SD NY (2013), arose out of a fatal accident, in which the deceased was hit by a tractor trailer being driven by a professional driver employed by the defendant. Following a four day trial, the jury rendered a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, the decedent’s estate, and granted the plaintiff $500,000 for the pain and suffering of the decedent, and an additional $12,081.20 for funeral and burial expenses. The defendant subsequently moved for reversal, or a new trial.
In order to successfully defeat the jury verdict, the court held, the defendant would have to show that the jury entered its decision on some erroneous basis. However, the court found that the evidence relied upon, notably by a videotape of the accident, which showed the decedent walking across the street and being struck by the tractor trailer, supported the finding that the decedent was struck in the crosswalk when the pedestrian crossing light was blinking red and he still had the right of way. Other evidence and findings clearly supported the jury’s decision that the defendant was negligent.
The defendant then specifically challenged the jury’s award of $500,000 for conscious pain and suffering. However, the court found that the evidence was sufficient regarding witnesses reportedly hearing the decedent’s bones breaking on impact, and perceiving that following the collision, the decedent was seen bleeding from the nose, shaking with his eyes open, and appeared to be “trying to talk or he was, he was just like, from the pain.” This was in addition to other evidence suggesting that the decedent was conscious and aware of his pain and suffering. The amount did not necessarily deviate from what was reasonable compensation, and was in accordance with similar awards in cases with similar circumstances and injuries.
Due to a rejection of all the issues raised by defendant, the motion was denied.
The underlying law in this case differs somewhat from Maryland. For example, the claim for the decedent’s suffering and funeral expenses would likely be brought as a survivorship claim, and would likely be accompanied by a claim for wrongful death. Survivorship claims have a specific limitation regarding an award for funeral expenses and, like wrongful death claims, also have a specific limitation for non-economic losses. There is no statutory limitation on economic damages, such as lost wages, etc.
Thus, for example, Maryland law specifies that non-economic damages may not exceed $500,000, but the cap increases by $15,000 every year (beginning October 1, 1995). Thus, depending on when the accident occurs, the total award for non-economic damages falls somewhere in the mid $700,000s. Additionally, Maryland law specifies that total recovery in a wrongful death case cannot exceed 150% of the cap.
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a trucking accident that occurred in the Maryland or Washington D.C. areas, contact the experienced trucking accident attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC today. You can reach us by calling 1-800-654-1949 or through this website, in order to schedule your initial complimentary consultation.
More Blog Posts:
The Concept of Punitive Damages in Trucking Accident Cases, Maryland Trucking Accident Lawyer Blog, published December 2, 2013
Court of Appeals Denies Reversal in Fatal Multiple Truck-Vehicle Collision, Maryland Trucking Accident Lawyer Blog, published November 28, 2013