Texas Court of Appeals Affirms $0 Damages Jury Verdict, Despite Defendant’s Admission of Fault

When an east Texas car accident case is tried in front of a jury, many things can happen. The jury may be sympathetic to the injured party and award him or her a generous amount of compensatory damages. Alternatively, the jury may decide that the plaintiff was at fault in the accident and enter a defense verdict. Another thing that can happen – although it is less common – is for the jury to agree that the defendant caused the accident but award absolutely no monetary compensation to the plaintiff.

Facts of the Case

In a recent decision (Case No. 08-15-00067-CV; Court of Appeals for the Eighth District of Texas), the plaintiff was a man whose car was struck by a vehicle driven by the defendant. At the time of the crash, the defendant was attempting to move over into the plaintiff’s lane in order to avoid a firetruck that he believed was about to turn onto the road. Both vehicles were damaged during the accident but were still driveable. The defendant admitted that he was at fault in the accident, and his insurance company paid the plaintiff for the damage to his vehicle.

The plaintiff later filed suit against the defendant, seeking reimbursement for $15,234 in medical bills, resulting from some 55 physical therapy treatments beginning about a month after the accident. He also sought compensation for past physical pain and mental anguish, future physical pain and mental anguish, past physical impairment, future physical impairment, and past medical care expenses. The jury determined that the defendant’s negligence was the proximate cause of the accident but awarded $0 in damages to the plaintiff.

Holding of the Court

The appellate court affirmed, despite the plaintiff’s insistence that the jury’s verdict was so against the great weight and preponderance of the evidence as to be “manifestly unjust.” The plaintiff argued that the trial court should have corrected or modified the final judgment to award damages for his past medical expenses and other damages, but the court of appeals disagreed, finding that the jury had discretion to enter a $0 damages verdict. In so holding, the court reiterated prior caselaw to the effect that a jury has great discretion in considering the parties’ evidence on the issue of damages. While a court can overturn a jury’s finding on damages, this should happen only when the verdict is clearly wrong and unjust.

Since the plaintiff presented only subjective evidence of soft tissue type injuries, the court concluded that the jury was entitled to enter a $0 damages award. The court also noted that there was conflicting evidence on the issue of causation, such that the jury could have doubted that the injuries alleged by the plaintiff were, in fact, caused by the defendant’s negligence.

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If you or a family member needs to talk to an attorney about an auto accident anywhere in east Texas, call 903-531-9300 to schedule a free consultation with Earl Drott Law. We have over 30 years of experience helping those who have been injured or lost loved ones due to others’ negligent or reckless driving.

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