Louisiana Themis Member Guy Perrier and Nathan Gaudet of Perrier & Lacoste (P &L) scored another victory for a national trucking company, its insurer and driver in federal court. The plaintiff, who brought suit individually and on behalf of her three year old son, was the executive director of a non-profit company in the business of providing meals to under-privileged school children in her rural community. She alleged the defendant driver backed into her vehicle, causing her to undergo a two-level cervical fusion. She was still treating at the time of trial, two and one-half years later.
Before trial, the defense was able to keep the case in federal court, persuade the Court to allow into evidence a letter sent by the plaintiff’s counsel to the insurer involved in a later accident in which she appeared to blame some of her damages on the later accident. The defense persuaded the Court to exclude an admission of liability found in an email from its insurer to the plaintiff’s counsel as well as the criminal and employment-related discipline history of the truck driver. Finally, on motion for partial summary judgment by the defense, the Court dismissed all claims of direct negligence against the trucking company.
During the weeklong trial, the plaintiff demanded over $3,500,000 including a lifecare plan detailing nearly $2,000,000 in future medical costs and over $1,000,000 in future wage loss. The defense, attacked the plaintiff’s credibility by eliciting an admission the plaintiff filed fraudulent tax returns. The jury found the plaintiff 50% at fault, and after a reduction for her fault, the plaintiff was awarded $8,500 in general damages and $117,500 in past medical specials. The jury made no award for wage loss or future medical despite the testimony of numerous plaintiff’s experts. The jury awarded no damages to the minor child.
Plaintiff filed a Motion for New Trial, arguing general damages of $8,500 for a cervical fusion is “inconceivably low” and she had “newly-discovered” evidence of a second police officer. The Court agreed with the defense, holding the jury was entitled to rely on the evidence presented by and argument of the defense in awarding $8,500 in general damages and the police officer’s statement was not newly-discovered evidence because the plaintiff, in the exercise of due diligence, should have identified it prior to trial.