Texas Appeals Court Reduces $845,914 Jury Verdict Against Armored Car Company and Driver by $32,857 on Appeal

adding machineMost east Texas truck accident cases are ultimately settled out of court, although this sometimes happens literally “on the steps of the courthouse.” When an agreement cannot be reached, however, it is a jury that usually decides the case.

When a jury trial is required in an automobile accident case, a party aggrieved by the jury’s findings has a right to appeal the trial court’s judgment entered thereon. While most jury verdicts are affirmed on appeal, the higher courts do sometimes rule that a reversible error occurred in the court below.

Facts of the Case

In a case recently decided by the Third District Texas Court of Appeals (No. 03-16-00696-CV), the plaintiff was a woman who sought compensation for damages suffered after her car was struck by an armored truck driven by one of the defendants and owned by the other. The case was tried to a jury, which found in the plaintiff’s favor and awarded her $840,914 in compensatory damages and $5,000 in exemplary (i.e., punitive) damages.

The defendants sought review from the court of appeals, arguing that the trial court had erred in allowing the plaintiff’s medical experts to testify that the plaintiff’s medical conditions were caused by the
accident, that there was insufficient evidence to support the jury’s award of compensatory damages, that the evidence was insufficient for a finding of gross negligence, and that the trial court had been wrong to admit certain evidence at trial.

The Court’s Ruling

The court of appeals affirmed the compensatory damages award to the plaintiff, conditioned upon a remittitur of $27,856.88 as to the award for past medical expenses. The court went on to reverse the portion of the judgment that had awarded exemplary damages to the plaintiff, based on the finding that the defendant driver was grossly negligent.

In so holding, the court of appeals found that the testimony of the plaintiff’s physician failed to provide a reliable basis to support his opinion that a synovial cyst suffered by the plaintiff was related to the accident at issue. Since the testimony in question was conclusory or speculative, the court found that the jury should not have awarded the plaintiff compensation for the medical expenses associated with the removal of the cyst. The court otherwise found that the plaintiff had provided ample evidence to support his claims of serious personal injuries following the accident, including a traumatic brain injury.

As to the issue of gross negligence resulting in exemplary damages, the appellate court found that there was insufficient evidence for the jury to have found that the defendant driver’s conduct, while clearly negligent, posed an “extreme degree of risk.” Thus, the exemplary damages should not have been awarded by the lower court.

How to Get in Contact with an Established East Texas Truck Accident Attorney

Earl Drott Law has 30 years of experience assisting injured people in seeking fair compensation following an east Texas car or truck accident. If you’ve been hurt, or if someone you love has been killed, by a negligent or reckless driver, call us at 903-531-9300. There is no charge for the consultation, and no legal fees are due until your case is over. The sooner you call, the sooner your case can get started!

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Texas Appeals Court Rules That Insurance Company Did Not Have to Pay Punitive Damages Award in Car Accident Case