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Thomas v. Morris

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

January 11, 2017

COURTLAND THOMAS Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
NICKY MORRIS AND THEIR INSURER SAFEWAY INSURANCE COMPANY OF LOUISIANA Defendant-Appellee

         Appealed from the Caddo Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana Trial Court No. 576842 Honorable Michael A. Pitman, Judge

          DAVIS LAW FIRM By: S. P. Davis Counsel for Appellant.

          W. BRETT CAIN Counsel for Appellee.

          Before BROWN, CARAWAY and LOLLEY, JJ.

          LOLLEY, J.

         Courtland Thomas appeals a judgment of the First Judicial District Court, Parish of Caddo, State of Louisiana, which awarded him $5, 000.00 in general damages and $6, 027.90 in special damages against Nicky Morris and Safeway Insurance Company ("Safeway"). For the following reasons, we amend the trial court's judgment to increase the general damage award to $10, 000.00, and as amended, affirm the judgment.

         Facts

         On October 2, 2013, Courtland Thomas was a passenger in a vehicle owned and operated by Leonard Williams. They were stopped at a traffic light at the intersection of Youree Drive and Kings Highway in Shreveport, Louisiana. When the light turned green, Williams proceeded forward, but quickly came to a complete stop because of traffic. When Williams stopped his vehicle, it was rear ended by a vehicle driven by Nicky Morris, who was insured by Safeway. As a result, Thomas sustained injuries and eventually sought medical attention from Willis Knighton Medical Center ("Willis Knighton") on October 7, 2013. He subsequently was treated by Dr. Majdi Dawud, a chiropractor, from October 15, 2013, through January 22, 2014, for headaches and back and neck pain.

         Thomas ultimately filed suit against Morris and his insurer, Safeway. The parties stipulated to the medical records and bills of Willis Knighton and Dr. Dawud for a total amount of $6, 027.90. Additionally, the parties stipulated that if Dr. Dawud were called to testify, he would state that Thomas's injuries were "more probably than not" due to the collision caused by Morris. After a trial on the merits, Thomas was awarded the stipulated amount of special damages and a general damage award of $5, 000.00. Thomas appeals that judgment.

         Discussion

         On appeal, Thomas raises only one assignment of error, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion in awarding him $5, 000.00 in general damages, when he was treated for his injuries for three months and experienced pain from the date of injury (October 2, 2013) until the date of trial (January 21, 2016). According to Thomas, the trial court erred in limiting his general damages to three months of pain, when he had pain for at least 26 months. Thomas argues that the trial court's reliance on the finding that he had reached "medical maximum improvement" was misplaced because that does not mean he was free from pain or recovered from his injury.

         In the assessment of damages, much discretion is vested in the trier of fact. La. C.C. art. 2324.1. General damages include pain and suffering, inconvenience, the loss of physical enjoyment, and other losses of life or lifestyle that cannot be definitively measured in monetary terms. McGee v. A C and S, Inc., 2005-1036 (La. 07/10/06), 933 So.2d 770; Young v. Marsh, 49, 496 (La.App. 2d Cir. 11/19/14), 153 So.3d 1245.

         There is no mechanical rule for determining general damages. The facts and circumstances of each case control. Guerrero v. Brookshire Grocery Co., 49, 707 (La.App. 2d Cir. 04/29/15), 165 So.3d 1092; Blue v. Donnie Baines Cartemps USA, 38, 279 (La.App. 2d Cir. 03/03/04), 868 So.2d 246. The nature, relative severity and bodily extent of injuries are qualitative factors that must first be considered by the trier of fact in awarding general damages. Young, supra. The duration of a plaintiff's injury symptoms and the duration of treatment are relevant quantitative factors that must also be taken into account. Id.; Caldwell v. ANPAC Ins. Co., 50, 333 (La.App. 2d Cir. 01/13/16), 185 So.3d 846, 848.

         Before an appellate court may disturb such an award of general damages, the record must clearly reveal that the trial court abused its broad discretion in making the award, based on the facts and individual circumstances peculiar to the case under consideration. Youn v. Maritime Overseas Corp., 623 So.2d 1257 (La. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1114, 114 S.Ct. ...


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