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Cooke v. Murphy

Superior Court of Delaware

November 26, 2013

CHRISTOPHER J. COOKE and CONSTANTINE KOUTOUFARIS, Plaintiffs,
v.
GENE GRAY MURPHY, Defendant.

Submitted: September 16, 2013

Upon Plaintiffs' Motion for New Trial. Denied. Upon Defendant's Motion for Costs.

Scott E. Chambers, Esquire of Schmittinger & Rodriguez, P.A., Dover, Delaware; attorney for Plaintiffs.

Arthur D. Kuhl, Esquire of Reger RIzzo & Darnall, LLP, Wilmington, Delaware; attorney for Defendant.

ORDER

WITHAM, R.J.

INTRODUCTION

Before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion for New Trial, which Defendant opposes. Also before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Costs. Plaintiffs challenge Defendant's ability to recover costs, and specifically object to several of the costs sought by Defendant. For the following reasons, Plaintiffs' Motion for New Trial is DENIED and Defendant's Motion for Costs is GRANTED in part.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs Christopher J. Cooke, Jr. (hereinafter "Cooke") and Constantine Koutoufaris (hereinafter "Koutoufaris") (collectively "Plaintiffs") filed a civil action against Defendant Gene Gray Murphy (hereinafter "Murphy") for personal injuries arising out of an automobile accident on September 8, 2010. At the time of the accident, Cooke was driving a vehicle owned by Koutoufaris, with Koutoufaris as a passenger, when Murphy struck the vehicle in a rear-end collision. Plaintiffs originally included State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance (hereinafter "State Farm") as a defendant as well.

A three-day jury trial was held from August 26, 2013 through August 28, 2013. Plaintiffs presented video testimony of their medical expert, Dr. Richard DuShuttle (hereinafter "DuShuttle") on the issue of causation. Murphy presented live testimony from an engineering expert, but Murphy did not retain his own medical expert. On the second day of trial, the Court granted State Farm's motion for a directed verdict.

The jury issued its verdict on August 28, 2013. The jury found that Murphy was negligent in a manner that proximately caused the September 2010 automobile accident. As to Cooke, the jury found that the accident was not the proximate cause of any injury to Cooke. As to Koutoufaris, the jury found that the accident was the proximate cause of Koutoufaris' injuries, but returned a verdict of $0.00.

Plaintiffs subsequently filed the instant Motion for New Trial pursuant to Superior Court Civil Rule 59. Plaintiffs seek a new trial only on the issue of damages, and contend that the jury's verdict as to both Cooke and Koutoufaris is inadequate and inconsistent as a matter of law. Murphy responds that the jury reasonably concluded that Mur phy' s negligence did not cause any compensable injury to either Plaintiff.

Murphy has filed the instant Motion for Costs pursuant to Superior Court Civil Rule 54(d), 10 Del. C. § 5101 and 10 Del. C. § 8906. Plaintiffs challenge Murphy's ability to recover costs on two separate grounds: (1) Murphy's motion is untimely, and (2) Murphy is not a "prevailing party" entitled to recover costs. Plaintiffs also specifically object to several of the costs sought by Murphy.

Standard of Review

A jury's verdict is given "enormous deference" by the Court and, absent "exceptional circumstances, " the amount of damages awarded by a jury is presumed to be correct.[1] On a motion for a new trial, "[t]he Court will only set aside a verdict as insufficient if it is clear that the verdict was the result of passion, prejudice, partiality, corruption, or if it is clear that the jury disregarded the evidence or law."[2]When a plaintiff challenges a jury's award of zero damages, the Court must determine "whether a ...


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