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Hobgood v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co.

Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

December 17, 2014

KATHLEEN HOBGOOD
v.
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY; JORDAN ZARA; GENERAL INSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA; AND PROGRESSIVE SECURITY INSURANCE COMPANY

Page 1245

APPEAL FROM CIVIL DISTRICT COURT, ORLEANS PARISH. NO. 2011-03240, DIVISION " G-11" . Honorable Robin M. Giarrusso, Judge.

Terry B. Loup, Matthew Hemmer, MORRIS BART, L.L.C., New Orleans, LA, COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT.

K. Randall Evans, Jaimie A. Tuchman, EVANS & CLESI, PLC, New Orleans, LA, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE.

(Court composed of Judge Terri F. Love, Judge Daniel L. Dysart, Judge Rosemary Ledet).

OPINION

[2014 0581 La.App. 4 Cir. 1] Daniel L. Dysart, Judge.

Page 1246

In this action for damages arising out of an automobile accident, plaintiff appeals a jury verdict in her favor on the basis that the awards for general and special damages are insufficient and should be increased and that the jury's failure to award the full amount of her medical expenses, in addition to all future medical expenses, was manifestly erroneous. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

BACKGROUND

On April 23, 2010, plaintiff, Kathleen Hobgood, was involved in an automobile accident with defendant, Jordan Zara. According to her Petition for Damages, on that date, plaintiff's vehicle was rear-ended by Mr. Zara's vehicle. Plaintiff sued Mr. Zara and his insurer, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (" State Farm" ), and two uninsured/underinsured motorist carriers - General Insurance Company of America (" GICA" ) and Progressive Security Insurance Company (" Progressive" ) -- for her personal injuries, including a herniated disc in her lower back, and damages related to same.[1]

[2014 0581 La.App. 4 Cir. 2] Prior to trial, the parties stipulated that the accident was caused solely by Mr. Zara; accordingly, the only issues for trial were the nature of the injuries plaintiff sustained in the accident and the amount of damages to which plaintiff was entitled. A trial before an Orleans Parish jury took place from January 6-9, 2014, resulting in a verdict in plaintiff's favor in the sum of $111,000.00, representing the following:

Past medical expenses .... $69,000.00

Future medical expenses.... $12,000.00

Past lost wages ....$1,000.00
General damages....$25,000.00
Loss of enjoyment of life....$1,000.00

On January 15, 2014, the trial court rendered judgment in accordance with the jury's verdict. Plaintiff then filed a Motion to Tax Costs which was granted by judgment dated March 25, 2014. Plaintiff timely appealed the judgment.

DISCUSSION

Standard of review

A jury's factual findings are subject to the manifest error standard of review by an appellate court. Johnson v. Mike Anderson's Seafood, Inc., 13-0379, p. 12 (La.App. 4 Cir. 6/11/14), 144 So.3d 125, 134, citing Green v. K-- Mart Corp., 03-2495, p. 3 (La.5/25/04), 874 So.2d 838, 842. As we reiterated in Hammond v. Rahsaana, 13-1202, p. 5 (La.App. 4 Cir. 2/26/14), 135 So.3d 1207, 1210-11,

Page 1247

quoting Rabalais v. Nash, 06-0999, p. 4 (La.3/9/07), 952 So.2d 653, 657:

It is well-settled that a court of appeal may not set aside a trial court's or a jury's finding of fact...unless it is clearly wrong.... To reverse a fact-finder's determination, the appellate court must find from the record that a reasonable factual basis does not exist for the finding of [2014 0581 La.App. 4 Cir. 3] the trial court, and that the record establishes that the finding is clearly wrong. Mart v. Hill, 505 So.2d 1120, 1127 (La.1987). Where the jury's findings are reasonable, in light of the record reviewed in its entirety, the court of appeal may not reverse. Even where the court of appeal is convinced that it would have weighed the evidence differently to reach a different result, reversal of the trial court is improper unless the trial court's ruling is manifestly erroneous, or clearly wrong.

It is equally well-settled that, where there are two permissible views of the evidence, a fact-finder's choice cannot be manifestly erroneous or clearly wrong; thus, an appellate court " must be cautious not to re-weigh the evidence or to substitute its own factual findings" for those of the trial court. Id., quoting Eisenhardt v. Snook, 08-1287, p. 6 (La.3/17/09), 8 So.3d 541, 545. As a reviewing court, we must resolve the issue of whether the fact-finder's conclusion was reasonable. Id., 13-1202, pp. 5-6,135 So.3d at 1211, citing Stobart v. State through Dept. of Transp. and Development, 617 So.2d 880, 882 (La.1993).

With these principles in mind, we turn to plaintiff's assignments of error, addressed in the order in which they were raised, after first outlining pertinent testimony and medical evidence adduced at trial.

Medical testimony and evidence

According to plaintiff, immediately after the Friday, April 23, 2010 accident, she was " shaken" but began to have back, neck and left arm pain over the weekend. She was able, however, to return to her employment as the administrative assistant to attorney Morris Bart on Monday. She then began treating with ...


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