Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Justice is served, with a side of bitterness

Well...the jury I was on came in with a verdict after being charged to do so yesterday.

The good news is, Justice was served and the system works.

I was assigned to a civil trial, that was asked to find for the plaintiff and award damages for a rear end collision that occurred in 2003. We sat through two days of testimony, and deliberated for about an hour and a half.

The facts are thus:

Man gets rear ended by a driver who admitted fault. Man did not go to ER, even though his car was undrivable. He immediately, that day, went back to work. Five weeks later, man gets car back, and to date still hadn't seen a doctor. Shortly thereafter, man went to the doctor with the flu, "and oh, by the way, I was in an accident, could you look at my neck?" Man is told to take Advil to reduce inflammation, get an x-ray and use moist heat to loosen the muscles. Man ignores everything but the Advil. Says he's too busy to get treatment and will self medicate.

A YEAR AND A HALF LATER man goes to orthopedic doctor to have knee looked at that he injured with rough housing with his two sons, "and oh, by the way, I was in an accident, could you look at my neck and my back?" Man has three MRI's on lower, mid and upper spine. Diagnosis: arthritis and degenerative disc disease. In 2007, neither expert medical doctor could ascertain that Plaintiff's condition, and oh, by the way - he's 6'8", 295 lbs. and age 48 at this time - was because of the accident. His attorney had thrown the idea out that "maybe $10,000 is to little and $35,000 is too much."

The jury got this and we had to decide this on what we were told and what was probable, but we could not consider the possibilities. We poured over medical bills and through the limited doctor notes we had, looking at dates, charges, observations, direct evidence and circumstantial evidence.

The verdict was that the Plaintiff would receive reimbursement for one doctor's office visit, plus the cost of the three MRI's, and then a cash reward for pain and suffering for $750. Total out the door was well under $4 grand.

We come to find out that this is the second trial for this case, the first one arrived at a zero dollar reward. Under Ohio law, since fault was admitted, Plaintiff was entitled to some form of recognition of his pain and suffering, so the minimum amount that could be awarded was $1.

In meeting with the judge and the defense attorney, the Judge was wonderful. The attorney asked us if she had done something wrong, and we said that we saw this as a victory for the defendant because we awarded actual medical costs for just the three MRI's and the office visit, and we chose the $750 dollar amount to acknowledge his troubles.

We also find out after the matter is settled that Defendant (an insurance company, which we could not be told was a party to this matter) was only offering a total of $750 for everything.

So in the end, the defendant paid more than they wanted and the Plaintiff was $31k shy of what his attorney had loosely suggested. But I think that the Plaintiff still could have won a bigger award IF his attorney had tried to layout the activities that his client couldn't partake of because of the accident. As a side comment, we also noted how the Plaintiff said that he could drive for a half and hour in pain, but he sat in that courtroom for two hours without a fidgit. Juries do pay attention these things.

WORST MOMENT: The amount of energy it took to devote to stay awake and focused on the depositions. I remember every flipping moment of them.

BEST MOMENT: The Jury handed down a "Just" award and worked very well with each other. Each of us brought to the table our own uniqueness and it complimented one and other very well. It was a pleasure to work with these "strangers".

FASHION AWARD: The defense attorney pulled off a somber, respectful, brown suit with a kicky little pleated hem. V-tasteful given the fact that one does not wear high fashion when before the Judge. Bonus points awarded for knowing how to walk to get the fabric to work to her benefit.

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