The following blog entry is written from a defendant’s position after a jury trial verdict for plaintiff. Reviewing this kind of briefing should help potential plaintiffs and clients better understand how parties in a personal injury case present such issues to the court.
(Please note: the names and locations of all parties have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the participants in this auto accident/personal injury case and its proceedings.)
These above cases dramatically demonstrate the principle that–much as every case is of course different and must be independently decided–awards of non-ecomonic damages in the range of $5.4 million (roughly adjusted for inflation) are limited to truly catastrophic injuries. And while Mr. Ward presented evidence at trial of back, neck, and knee injuries that cause significant pain and require surgery, Mr. Ward has produced no evidence of an injury which leaves him paralyzed or otherwise deprived of control over his life as an individual. In short, his injuries from the automobile acident are not catastrophic, and the jury’s award of damages as if they were is not reasonable. Damages must be reduced substantially by this Court, or a new trial must be ordered. The same is true for plaintiff’s wife’s award.
The Jury’s $1.620 Million Loss of Consortium Damages Award to Ms. Ward Is Excessive
A wife’s loss of consortium is comprised of her own physical, psychological and emotional pain and anguish which results when her husband is negligently injured to the extent that he is no longer capable of providing the love, affection, companionship, comfort or sexual relations concomitant with a normal married life. [Citation.] While triggered by the spouse’s injury, a loss of consortium claim is separate and distinct, and not merely derivative or collateral to the spouse’s cause of action. (Gapusan v. Jay (1998) 66 Cal.App.4th 734, 742.)
The jury awarded a total of $1,620,000 to Ms. Ward for past and future loss of consortium. This amount is exactly 30% of the $5.4 million in non-economic damages awarded to Mr. Ward.
The loss of consortium award to Ms. Ward raises three immediate concerns. First, the jury clearly disregarded the independent nature of Ms. Ward’s claim, by simply giving her a percentage of what it gave to Mr. Ward for his pain and suffering. Second, the determination of Ms. Ward’s loss of consortium claim by way of a percentage of an entirely independent claim belonging to another person constitutes a clear violation of the rule against using mathematical formulas to arrive at a figure for damages. (See above.)
And third, as shown above, the pain and suffering award to Mr. Ward is vastly excessive, and inasmuch as the loss of consortium award was determined solely by reference to the award to Mr. Ward, it too is fundamentally unreasonable.
Additionally, the amount of the award to Ms. Ward is unreasonable on its face. No evidence was presented at trial of any independent psychological or emotional injuries to Ms. Ward. She testified only about the effect that Mr. Ward’s injuries have had on their marriage. Mr. Ward is mobile, lucid, suffers no sexual dysfunction, and while there was evidence that he can no longer work, he does not require day-to-day care or assistance with the basic functions of life. Ms. Ward’s life has, of course, been impacted by the injuries sustained by her husband in the auto accident, but not in a manner that justifies such an enormous award for loss of consortium.
For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.