Recently, the West Virginia Supreme Court upheld a jury award that had been given to a driver injured by a car accident in 2009.
In Arthurs v. Pownell, in 2009, Lindsey Arthurs’s car struck Eilene Pownell’s while at an entrance ramp to Interstate 79 in Westover, Monongalia County. Pownell’s car was stopped at the end of the entrance ramp due to heavy traffic, and the impact of Arthurs’s car forced Pownell’s car into the lane, where it faced the oncoming traffic. Pownell suffered a shoulder injury and was later taken by ambulance to Ruby Memorial Hospital. When the shoulder injury did not heal on its own, Pownell had surgery in February 2010, followed by a prescribed physical therapy regiment. Even so, Pownell continued to experience pain and a limited range of arm motion, and ended up having a follow-up procedure in October 2010 to remove scar tissue.
Pownell later filed a lawsuit against Arthurs, who denied that Pownell’s shoulder injury was a direct and proximate result of the vehicle accident. Instead, Arthurs argued that Pownell had a pre-existing shoulder injury and that Pownell’s actions amounted to contributory negligence. Pownell presented evidence that she had suffered damage specifically caused by the accident and that treatment for the damage amounted to $62,236.21, as well as lost wages in the amount of $5,710.43 due to her taking so much time off of work to recuperate.
Finally the case was submitted to the jury without instructions, and in June 2012, the jury awarded Pownell $50,500, representing $38,000 in special damages for medical care and lost wages and $12,500 in general damages for pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life. Overall, the jury found Arthurs 80 percent responsible for the accident and Pownell 20 percent.
After the trial, Pownell moved for a new trial on damages, arguing that the damages awarded did not fully compensate her for her losses. The circuit court ordered a new trial, noting that Arthurs never contested the amount of the medical bills or disputed that Pownell lost wages. Arthurs then appealed to the West Virginia Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court stated that to determine whether there was sufficient evidence to support a jury verdict, a court should (1) consider the evidence most favorable to the prevailing party; (2) assume all conflicts in evidence were resolved by the jury in favor of the prevailing party; (3) assume as proved all facts that the prevailing party’s evidence tended to prove; and (4) give the prevailing party the benefit of all favorable inferences that may reasonably be drawn from the facts proved.
Using this as a framework, the Supreme Court determined that there was sufficient evidence to support the jury’s verdict. That was because while Arthurs did not contest the medical bills, she did question whether the accident was responsible for all of the damage caused. The jury had properly weighed and analyzed the evidence, returning a verdict in Pownell’s favor. As such, the circuit court judge had abused his discretion by ordering a new trial.
The Wolfe Law Firm has been providing legal services for nearly 25 years. Located in Elkins, West Virginia, the firm provides services in the areas of personal injury, criminal defense, bankruptcy, and mediation. If you are looking for an experienced West Virginia personal injury attorney, contact us today.