Louisiana Jury Awards No Damages Because of Preexisting Injuries, Can an Appeals Court Fix the Ruling?

courthouse_alabama_building_226689-scaledEveryone wants to emerge victorious after their day in court, but occasionally the jury will refuse to award the judgment you deserve. When a person loses their case at trial, they can appeal it to a higher court.  The appeal process allows for a narrow reconsideration of a case to assure that the lower court got to the correct answer; if the appeals court finds that the lower court did not get the correct answer, they can amend the lower court’s judgment, including the calculation of damages. 

Preexisting medical conditions aggravated by an accident do not preclude an injured party from recovering damages and medical expenses from the person who hit them. Ms. Kimberly Guidry has such preexisting medical conditions and was involved in an accident that aggravated those preexisting medical conditions. At trial in the 15th Juridical District, the jury found awarded no damages, no medical expenses, and no lost wages to Kimberly. 

Kimberly had presented medical expert testimony that showed her injuries were aggravated by the accident, but the jury awarded her nothing. With this denial, Kimberly appealed to the Third Circuit Court of appeals. She claimed the jury committed “manifest error” in their findings and that the trial court had committed a “legal error” in failing to grant her a new trial due to this adverse ruling. Kimberly’s case helps answer the question; “If a Louisiana Jury awards no damages because of preexisting injuries, can an appeals court fix the ruling?”

The court of appeals must follow a strict test when considering if they can overturn a jury’s factual findings. First, the court of appeals must find that there was no reasonable factual basis from which a jury could reach the conclusion they did. Then, the court of appeals must further establish that the jury’s ruling was clearly wrong when considered in relation to the facts of the record. Cole v. Allstate Insurance Co.

The test that the appeals court used to consider overruling jury factual findings boils down to this: did the jury have a reasonable basis for their finding? If the facts of the case do not show that the jury had a reasonable basis for their finding, the court of appeals can overturn their decision and decide on the award of damages on their own. In this case, the court of appeals determined that there was no reasonable basis on which the jury could base their finding, therefor they overturned the jury’s decision and rendered one of their own. With this, the court of appeals must follow further tests when considering how much damages to apply. 

There is no one way that the court of appeals can determine damages; each award requires individual examination of the facts and circumstances of the underlying case. Bailey v. LeBlanc. The court of appeals looked at similar instances in which a person with preexisting conditions, such as Kimberly, was further injured due to the crash and what award the juries in those cases awarded. The court of appeals decided to award Kimberly general damages, past medical expenses, and six months of advance payment so that she could recover. 

A jury can decide against you, but that is not the end of the road. Preexisting medical conditions aggravated due to an accident or workplace injury do not limit the amount you can recover to cover your bills. Juries are central to our judicial system, but sometimes they get it wrong. As a result, our legal system has created a legal pathway to overturn adverse jury decisions to favor the injured party. This appeals process is detail oriented and complex, but a skilled lawyer can navigate the legal waters to secure a favorable judgment. 


Written By Berniard Law Firm Writer: Ethan W. Seitz

Additional Berniard Law firm articles: What is the Standard to Overturn a Jury’s Decision About Compensation in Personal Injury Cases, How Much Do Juries Award in Mesothelioma Lawsuits in Louisiana?

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