Can a Jury Award Economic but Not Noneconomic Damages in a Personal Injury Case?
There are generally two kinds of compensation that a personal injury victim can seek in Connecticut: economic damages, which refer to a person’s quantifiable out-of-pocket costs, such as medical bills and lost wages, and noneconomic damages, which cover “nonpecuniary losses,” such as pain and suffering and emotional distress.
Under Connecticut law, a jury has the discretion to award only economic damages. In a 2000 decision, the Connecticut Supreme Court said a trial judge could, but was not required to, set aside a jury verdict awarding some economic damages but zero noneconomic damages. The judge must review the evidence and decide whether the plaintiff failed to prove some element of his or her case. “That decision should be made,” the court said, “not on the assumption that the jury made a mistake, but, rather, on the supposition that the jury did exactly what it intended to do.”
Postgame “Melee” Victim Receives Only $5,000 in Compensation
More recently, Connecticut’s intermediate appellate court upheld a jury’s decision to award only economic damages in a personal injury claim arising from what the court described as a “melee” following a youth basketball game. The plaintiff and the defendant were parents of two of the players. The plaintiff’s son claimed the defendant’s son had kicked him.
A series of “confrontations” between the plaintiff and defendant followed, according to court records, which led to a “lot of pushing and pulling” between the parties and several bystanders in the parking lot. During this altercation, “the defendant’s hand made contact with the plaintiff’s glasses,” knocking them off and causing the plaintiff to stumble and fall. Shortly thereafter, the plaintiff felt a “pop” in his shoulder.
This was later diagnosed as a torn rotator cuff, which required surgery. The plaintiff sued the defendant for damages. At trial, the plaintiff presented evidence that his economic losses – medical bills and lost wages – came to about $61,000. The defendant did not contest these figures but maintained there was insufficient proof his actions caused the plaintiff’s injuries.
The jury ultimately returned a verdict for the plaintiff but awarded him only $5,000 in economic damages and zero noneconomic damages. The trial judge refused to set aside the verdict, and the appellate court rejected the plaintiff’s appeal. The appeals court said that “the jury reasonably could have concluded that the defendant caused the plaintiff to suffer some, but not all, of the alleged injuries, and that he did not cause the rotator cuff tear.”
Need Help from a Connecticut Personal Injury Attorney?
Assessing damages in personal injury claims is often complicated by the facts of the particular case. An experienced Waterford-New London, Connecticut personal injury lawyer can assist you in presenting the strongest case possible to a jury to ensure you receive the maximum award permitted by law.
Contact Polito & Harrington LLC today if you have been injured through someone else’s negligence and need to speak with an attorney right away.