Tennessee Jury Award of Damages Significantly Less Than Medical Bills Overturned by Tennessee Court of Appeals

Posted on Nov 28 2015 12:03PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

Sometimes juries make interesting decisions that need to be sorted out by the Tennessee Appellate Courts.  The recent case of Khadijeh Naraghian v. Darryle K. Wilson, No. W2014-02002-COA-R3-CV, 2015 WL 7012526 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2015) dealt with an automobile accident that occurred in Shelby County Tennessee.  In this case, the plaintiff alleged the defendant struck the plaintiff’s vehicle in the rear causing a neck injury to the plaintiff due to the accident.  Liability for the accident was disputed based upon the theory of alleged comparative fault of the plaintiff.  Regardless, there were approximately $13,440.00 of medical bills that were not contested by the defendant by any substantive counter medical proof. 


Ultimately, the jury found in favor of the plaintiff and awarded a total of $7,831.67.  The jury also found the plaintiff was 44.58% at fault for the accident and therefore the trial court reduced the award to $4,340.31.  The question on appeal was whether the jury award was disproportionate to the amount of damages actually proved at trial.


The Tennessee Court of Appeals found the award was not appropriate based on the evidence and therefore the award of damages was reversed.  The Court noted that it was basically undisputed that the plaintiff incurred approximately $13,440.00 in medical expenses.  The plaintiff asserted the jury cannot simply arbitrarily disallow part of the medical expenses that were incurred as a result of the injury.  The Tennessee Court of Appeals agreed.  The Court found the following:


As we have already stressed, there was no evidence in this case rebutting the necessity or reasonableness of the charges billed by Dr. Burford. His testimony was essentially unimpeached. Because we cannot reconcile the jury's verdict with the undisputed evidence that was presented, we must vacate the trial court's judgment and remand this matter for a new trial.


Id. at 5. 


This case is certainly interesting because it shows that a jury cannot disregard competent uncontested proof on the amount of damages (specifically medical bills).  When medical bills and expenses are established at trial and no party contests the amount of the medical bills or the reasonableness and necessity of the medical treatment, the jury cannot simply reduce the clearly established damages on their own.  The Tennessee Court of Appeals found that “because the jury damages verdict is not at or above the lower limit of the range of reasonableness, we hereby vacate the trial court’s judgment on the jury’s verdict and remand this matter for a new trial.” Id. at 5.


This is certainly an interesting case for both the plaintiff and defense perspectives.  From a defense perspective, it may be better to agree to an additur for an award that is below the clearly established medical bills when dealing with a jury award less than the damages proved at trial.  Otherwise, there is a risk of a new jury trial after an expensive appeal.  On the plaintiff’s side, it is certainly appropriate to file an appeal in a case like this based on this established precedent.  The bottom line is that a jury cannot disregard medical bills that are clearly established by the plaintiff when determining the appropriate damages in a case.


Follow me on Twitter at @jasonalee for updates from the Tennessee Defense Litigation blog.

TAGS: Jury Issues, Damages, Post Judgment Motions
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Jason A. Lee is a Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC. He practices in all areas of defense litigation inside and outside of Tennessee.

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Tennessee Defense Litigation Blog
Jason A. Lee, Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC
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E-mail: jlee@burrowlee.com