Earlier this month, one state’s supreme court heard an appeal in a personal injury case in which the jury found that the defendant was liable for causing the accident but awarded the plaintiff zero dollars as compensation.
Lowman v. State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Company: The Facts
In the case, Lowman v. State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Company, the plaintiff was struck by another driver who did not have insurance. The plaintiff had her own insurance through State Farm. This insurance policy had, among other things, coverage for accidents caused by uninsured motorists. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against State Farm.
Importantly, this case presented only limited issues. For starters, State Farm admitted that the uninsured motorist was negligent in causing the accident. Thus, the only issue for the jury to consider was whether the uninsured motorist’s negligence caused any harm to the plaintiff. In addition, the plaintiff withdrew her claim seeking lost wages, and she also admitted that her medical bill had already been paid. So the only claim in front of the jury was whether she suffered “pain and suffering” as a result of the accident.
At trial, the plaintiff’s own attorney explained to the jury that there was no claim for past medical expenses or for lost wages, and the only claim the plaintiff was making was for pain and suffering. The attorney went further, telling the jurors that “if you think [the plaintiff] is exaggerating, there should be no verdict. If you think she’s a liar, a cheat and a fraud, there should be no verdict.”
After the trial, the jury determined that the uninsured motorist was liable for any pain and suffering caused, but it returned a verdict in the amount of zero dollars. The plaintiff, not satisfied with that result, appealed to a higher court.
On Appeal, the Decision Is Affirmed
The appellate court began its analysis by noting that the general rule is that a jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff but for zero dollars is ambiguous and must be clarified. This is because the award of zero dollars may mean that the jury intended to find in favor of the defendant. It may also be a misunderstanding among jurors who intended to award the plaintiff a greater amount but felt for some reason they were unable to do so.
However, in this case, the court explained, that was not the situation. Here, the plaintiff’s own attorney explained very clearly what the jury was to do if it believed that his client was exaggerating or lying. Since the jury’s verdict seemed to fall into line with what the plaintiff’s own attorney suggested, there was no need to clarify what the jury’s intent was.
Have You Been Injured in an Indiana Accident?
Serious injuries deserve serious representation. And while a full and fair verdict is always hoped for, it cannot always be delivered. However, with a team of dedicated attorneys on your side, you increase your chance of convincing the judge or jury that you are deserving of compensation for what you have been through. Call the skilled attorneys at the Indiana personal injury law firm of Parr Richey Obremskey Frandsen & Patterson, LLP at 888-532-7766 to set up a free consultation with an attorney. Calling is free and will not result in any obligation on your part unless we are able to help you recover the compensation you deserve.
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