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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. From his recent appearance on WRTV to this story here, Frank is everywhere. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, although he should stop using Eric Schnauffer for his 7th Circuit briefs. They're not THAT hard.

  2. They learn our language prior to coming here. My grandparents who came over on the boat, had to learn English and become familiarize with Americas customs and culture. They are in our land now, speak ENGLISH!!

  3. @ Rebecca D Fell, I am very sorry for your loss. I think it gives the family solace and a bit of closure to go to a road side memorial. Those that oppose them probably did not experience the loss of a child or a loved one.

  4. If it were your child that died maybe you'd be more understanding. Most of us don't have graves to visit. My son was killed on a state road and I will be putting up a memorial where he died. It gives us a sense of peace to be at the location he took his last breath. Some people should be more understanding of that.

  5. Can we please take notice of the connection between the declining state of families across the United States and the RISE OF CPS INVOLVEMENT??? They call themselves "advocates" for "children's rights", however, statistics show those children whom are taken from, even NEGLIGENT homes are LESS likely to become successful, independent adults!!! Not to mention the undeniable lack of respect and lack of responsibility of the children being raised today vs the way we were raised 20 years ago, when families still existed. I was born in 1981 and I didn't even ever hear the term "CPS", in fact, I didn't even know they existed until about ten years ago... Now our children have disagreements between friends and they actually THREATEN EACH OTHER WITH, "I'll call CPS" or "I'll have [my parent] (usually singular) call CPS"!!!! And the truth is, no parent is perfect and we all have flaws and make mistakes, but it is RIGHTFULLY OURS - BY THE CONSTITUTION OF THIS GREAT NATION - to be imperfect. Let's take a good look at what kind of parenting those that are stealing our children are doing, what kind of adults are they producing? WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS TO THE CHILDREN THAT HAVE BEEN RIPPED FROM THEIR FAMILY AND THAT CHILD'S SUCCESS - or otherwise - AS AN ADULT.....

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