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Jury instruction requires new damages trial

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A jury instruction the Indiana Court of Appeals found to incorrectly state the law required the court to remand for a new trial on damages in a negligence suit.
 
The Court of Appeals reversed the $12,500 jury award of damages to Patricia Buhring in her negligence suit against Phillip Tavoletti. Buhring sued Tavoletti following a car accident in which he hit her. She delayed getting medical treatment because she thought she only had minor injuries, but her pain increased over time. She sought medical treatment a month after the accident and had to continue treatment and medical visits as a result of her injuries.

At issue in Patricia E. Buhring v. Phillip V. Tavoletti, No. 45A03-0810-CV-511, is whether the trial court erred when it instructed the jury regarding mitigation and damages. The Court of Appeals determined Tavoletti failed to produce enough evidence of causation to support the giving of the mitigation of damages instruction. Tavoletti argued that Buhring failed to get treatment recommended by her doctor and her delay could have prolonged her injury or prevented healing. He relied on testimony during cross-examination of Buhring's doctor to support his argument.

But Buhring's doctor testified that not everyone's bodies respond to accidents the same way and sometimes people don't feel the effects of an accident until a week later, wrote Judge Elaine Brown. The doctor's cross-examination testimony doesn't establish that Buhring should have received earlier treatment, nor did Tavoletti show Buhring's actions caused her to suffer a discrete, identifiable harm arising from her failure to receive earlier treatment, and not arising from his acts alone, she wrote.
 
The appellate court also found the damages instruction to the jury was at best, misleading, and at worst, an incorrect statement of the law. The jury instruction said, "Damages are designed to compensate an injured person for any damages sustained by her as a direct and proximate result of the negligence of another, and to place an injured person in the same financial position in which she would have been had the negligence not occurred." Placing an injured person in the same financial position isn't a pattern instruction, as the trial court indicated in the instruction, nor is it applicable in a negligence claim. The second half the jury instruction is misleading because it doesn't take into account Buhring's pain and suffering, wrote the judge.

Cases such as Remington Freight Lines, Inc. v. Larkey, 644 N.E.2d 931, 941 (Ind. Ct. App. 1994), held an injured person in tort actions should be placed in the same financial position as if the tort hadn't occurred. The appellate court noted that was a concept that has been criticized and is subject to substantial limitations, wrote Judge Brown.

The Court of Appeals remanded for a new trial on damages because the instruction at issue wasn't a harmless error.

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  1. Poor Judge Brown probably thought that by slavishly serving the godz of the age her violations of 18th century concepts like due process and the rule of law would be overlooked. Mayhaps she was merely a Judge ahead of her time?

  2. in a lawyer discipline case Judge Brown, now removed, was presiding over a hearing about a lawyer accused of the supposedly heinous ethical violation of saying the words "Illegal immigrant." (IN re Barker) http://www.in.gov/judiciary/files/order-discipline-2013-55S00-1008-DI-429.pdf .... I wonder if when we compare the egregious violations of due process by Judge Brown, to her chiding of another lawyer for politically incorrectness, if there are any conclusions to be drawn about what kind of person, what kind of judge, what kind of apparatchik, is busy implementing the agenda of political correctness and making off-limits legit advocacy about an adverse party in a suit whose illegal alien status is relevant? I am just asking the question, the reader can make own conclsuion. Oh wait-- did I use the wrong adjective-- let me rephrase that, um undocumented alien?

  3. of course the bigger questions of whether or not the people want to pay for ANY bussing is off limits, due to the Supreme Court protecting the people from DEMOCRACY. Several decades hence from desegregation and bussing plans and we STILL need to be taking all this taxpayer money to combat mostly-imagined "discrimination" in the most obviously failed social program of the postwar period.

  4. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

  5. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

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