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Thompson v. Sanders

Superior Court of Delaware, New Castle

May 14, 2015

JANICE THOMPSON and MARY HARVEY, Plaintiffs,
v.
LAUREN A. SANDERS Defendant.

Submitted: February 13, 2015

Upon Plaintiffs' Motion for New Trial or, in the Alternative, Additur: DENIED in part, and GRANTED in part.

Heather A. Long, Esquire, Kimmel Carter, Roman, Peltz & O'Neill, P.A., 56 W. Main St., 4th Floor, Newark, Delaware 19702, Attorney for Plaintiffs.

Patrick G. Rock, Esquire, Heckler & Frabizzio, 800 Delaware Avenue, Suite 200, Wilmington, Delaware 19899, Attorney for Defendant.

OPINION

Jan R. Jurden, President Judge

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiffs Mary Harvey and Janice Thompson sued Defendant Lauren Sanders for personal injuries allegedly sustained in an automobile accident caused by Defendant. A two-day jury trial was held in October 2014. Defendant admitted that she was negligent in causing the accident, and at trial the only issues left for the jury to decide were what injuries were proximately caused by Defendant's negligence and the amount of damages, if any, to which Plaintiffs were entitled.

The jury heard testimony from the Plaintiffs and four medical experts. Dr. Madgy Boulos testified for Harvey and Dr. Kevin Hanley testified for the defense on Harvey's claims. Dr. Peter Bandera testified for Thompson and Dr. Andrew Gelman testified for the defense on Thompson's claims.

At the close of evidence, the Court granted Harvey's motion for judgment as a matter of law because it was undisputed that Harvey suffered a lumbar and cervical strain as a result of the car accident.[1] The Court denied Thompson's motion for judgment as a matter of law. On October 28, 2014, the jury entered a zero dollar verdict as to both Plaintiffs.

Plaintiffs filed a timely Motion for New Trial, or in the Alternative, Additur pursuant to Superior Court Civil Rule 59 on November 10, 2014, [2] arguing that no reasonable jury could have returned a verdict of zero dollars based on the uncontradicted medical evidence that they sustained some physical injury in the accident.[3] In response, Defendant argues that because both Harvey's and Thompson's expert medical opinions were contradicted and based substantially on the Plaintiffs' subjective complaints, the jury could (and did) properly disregard the Plaintiffs' expert medical opinions.[4]

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Superior Court Civil Rule 59(a) provides that a new trial may be granted for "any of the reasons for which new trials have heretofore been granted in the Superior Court."[5] Historically, this Court has exercised its "power to grant a new trial with caution and extreme deference to the findings of a jury."[6] Consequently, the Court "will not set aside a jury's verdict unless the evidence preponderates so heavily against the jury verdict that a reasonable juror could not have reached the result."3

"In a personal injury suit, if a plaintiff conclusively proves an injury worthy of compensation resulting from the defendant's tortious conduct, the plaintiff is entitled to at least some amount of damages."[7] In determining whether an injury resulted from the defendant's conduct, "a jury may reject an expert's medical opinion when the opinion is substantially based on the subjective complaints of the patient."[8] Additionally, "when medical experts differ on objective findings, the jury is free to believe whichever expert they find more credible."[9] However, where uncontested medical testimony links an injury to its proximate cause and is ...


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