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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. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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