Earlier last month, an appellate court in Alaska issued a written opinion in a personal injury case affirming a trial court’s decision to deny the plaintiff’s post-trial motion after a jury found in favor of the defendant. In the case, Long v. Arnold, the court held that the trial court’s jury instructions properly summed up the applicable law and that the lower court was correct to deny the plaintiff’s post-trial motion. The case illustrates how important it is for a personal injury attorney to diligently and aggressively argue that fair instructions be provided to the jury before it is sent back to deliberate.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff in the case, Long, was driving her car on an Alaska road when the defendant pulled out in front of her, cutting her off. As a result of the defendant’s sudden decision to pull in front of her, Long steered her car off the side of the road and into some roadside bushes. Evidence presented at trial suggested Long was traveling at about 10 miles per hour at the time of the accident. Her car naturally came to a stop without hitting any stationary object.
Initially, Long did not believe that she had suffered any injury as a result of the accident. However, two days later while on a flight, she discovered that her back was bothering her. She then filed a personal injury claim against the driver of the vehicle who had cut her off.
After the trial but before the judge sent the jury back to deliberate, the judge provided the jury with the following instructions regarding the issue of whether the defendant’s negligence was the cause of Long’s injuries: “Negligence is a substantial factor in causing harm if … the negligence was important enough in causing the harm that a reasonable person would hold the negligent person responsible. The negligence cannot be a remote or trivial factor.” The jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant, and Long appealed.
Specifically, Long challenged the instructions given by the trial judge, claiming that the instructions created an “elevated burden.” However, the appellate court disagreed and affirmed the trial court’s decision to include the instructions. The court explained that, when taken as a whole, the instructions were adequate and properly summed up the state’s law of causation. Furthermore, the court noted that elsewhere in the instructions, the court told the jury that it must find each element “by a preponderance of the evidence,” which is the proper standard in civil cases. As a result, the trial judge’s decision, as well as the jury’s verdict, will stand.
Have You Been Injured in an Indiana Car Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been a victim of another person’s negligent driving, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The Indiana car accident and wrongful death attorneys at the law firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse have the experience and dedication you need to feel comfortable placing your case in their hands. We understand that a personal injury case is more than a set of facts and has a significant real-life impact on our clients’ lives. We do everything in our power to make the recovery process as stress-free as possible, ensuring top-notch representation throughout the entire process. Call 888-532-7766 to set up a free consultation to discuss your case today. Calling is free, and we will not bill you for our time or services unless we are able to help you obtain the compensation you deserve.
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