Submitted: August 22, 2017
L. Becker, Esquire
Nicholas E. Skiles, Esquire
BY JURY DEMANDED
Abigail M. LeGrow, Judge
Plaintiffs' Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law and
Motion for a New Trial: DENIED
is a personal injury action in which the plaintiffs, a
long-time couple, were involved in two car accidents. The
drivers of the other vehicles were uninsured or underinsured.
After a two-day trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor
of the defendant, finding neither accident was the proximate
cause of either plaintiffs injuries. The plaintiffs now have
moved for judgment as a matter of lawand for a new trial. For the
reasons that follow, both motions are denied.
plaintiffs, Iraida Pabon and David Jwanisik (the
"Plaintiffs"), were involved in two motor vehicle
accidents, one on November 26, 2011 and the second on August
26, 2012. At the time of the accidents, Ms. Pabon was insured
by the defendant, GEICO Corporation ("GEICO").
GEICO denied Ms. Pabon's claim for injuries allegedly
sustained in the November 2011 accident and Mr.
Jwanisik's claim for injuries allegedly sustained in the
August 2012 accident. Plaintiffs thereafter brought suit against
issues at trial revolved around both causation and damages.
To prove their claims, Plaintiffs relied on their own
testimony as well as their doctors' expert opinions. Ms.
Pabon testified that she injured her right knee in the
November 2011 accident, and Mr. Jwanisik testified that he
injured his neck and back in the August 2012 accident. The
jury also heard video deposition testimony of Dr. Mahoney,
Mr. Jwanisik's treating chiropractor, and Dr. Raisis, Ms.
Pabon's treating physician. Dr. Raisis testified that Ms.
Pabon's knee problems causally were related to the
November 26, 2011 accident, and Dr. Mahoney testified that
Mr. Jwanisik will experience ongoing pain and require ongoing
care to his neck and back as a result of the August 26, 2012
accident. GEICO's defense consisted of cross-examining
Plaintiffs and their medical experts and submitting medical
records into evidence. In other words, GEICO did not present
its own expert on the contested issues of causation or
the close of their case, Plaintiffs moved for a directed
verdict on the proximate cause issue, contending the evidence
presented as to causation uniformly showed that each
Plaintiff suffered some injury in the accident for which
damages were sought. The Court denied Plaintiffs' motion,
finding GEICO solicited testimony on cross-examination that
cast doubt on the experts' credibility, specifically that
each expert did not have certain information available to him
when he rendered his opinion. That testimony was a sufficient
evidentiary basis from which the jury could conclude that the
experts' opinions were not reliable. As the experts'
testimony was the only available evidence of causation,
Plaintiffs failed to meet their burden. At the close of all
the evidence, Plaintiffs did not renew their motion for a
directed verdict, and the jury returned a verdict for GEICO,
finding the automobile accidents were not a proximate cause
of either Plaintiffs injuries.
Plaintiffs now seek judgment as a matter of law under
Superior Court Rule 50(b) and a new trial under Rule 59. Rule
50(b) states: "Whenever a motion for a judgment as a
matter of law made at the close of all the evidence
is denied or for any reason is not granted, . . . [s]uch a
motion may be renewed by service and filing not later than 10
days after entry of judgment." Plaintiffs did not so move
at the close of all the evidence. By failing to renew their
motion for a directed verdict at the close of all the
evidence, Plaintiffs failed to comply with Rule 50(b) and are
unable to move for judgment as a matter of law at this
time. Accordingly, Plaintiffs' motion for
judgment as a matter of law is denied.
Plaintiffs also have moved for a new trial under Rule 59.
Plaintiffs argue the jury was not free to disregard the
experts' medical testimony because all the experts agreed
that Ms. Pabon and Mr. Jwanisik were injured in the November
26, 2011 and August 26, 2012 accidents, respectively.
Plaintiffs rely on the Delaware Supreme Court's holding
in Maier v. Santucci that "once the existence
of an injury has been established as causally related to the
accident, a jury is required to return a verdict of at least
minimal damages." Plaintiffs further argue that
Christina School District v. Reuling is
dispositive here. In Reuling, the Delaware Supreme
Court upheld the lower court's direction of a verdict on
proximate cause where the defendant presented no affirmative
medical evidence contradicting the plaintiffs evidence.
Although procedurally proper, the Motion for a New Trial is
denied.A jury's verdict is presumed correct,
and the Court will not disturb the jury's conclusion
"unless the evidence preponderates so heavily against
the jury verdict that a reasonable juror could not have
reached the result." Determining witnesses'
credibility is the exclusive province of the
jury. "It is settled law that, when an
expert's opinion is based on a patient's subjective