Plaintiffs’ Failure to Object to Potentially Inconsistent Damages Award Prevents Appellate Review

Earlier this month, an appellate court in Alaska issued an opinion in a car accident case brought by the driver and passengers of one vehicle against the at-fault driver of another vehicle. In the case, Small v. Sayre, the court imposed a strict but consistently applied rule of appellate procedure that prevents an appellate court from reviewing issues to which no party objected during trial. Thus, as a result of the court’s most recent opinion, the plaintiffs will not be permitted to proceed with their appeal, and they will be stuck with the award.

The Facts of the Case

The Smalls and their young daughter were idling at a traffic light when they were rear-ended by the defendant. After the accident, each of the Smalls suffered various medical conditions they attributed to the accident. Notably, Mrs. Small was told that she would need surgery for her herniated disc, but she had not yet had the surgery performed due to the cost. About a year and a half after the accident, the Smalls filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant.

At trial, the defendant conceded that he was negligent in the operation of his vehicle but contested causation. Essentially, the defendant admitted that he was at fault for the collision but argued that his negligence – and the subsequent accident – was not the cause of the plaintiffs’ medical conditions.

After a jury trial, the defendant was determined to have caused Mr. and Mrs. Small’s injuries but not the injuries of their young daughter. The following damages were awarded:

  • Mrs. Small was awarded $2,000 for past economic damages and $4,000 for past non-economic damages. No future damages were awarded.
  • Mr. Small was awarded $4,000 in past non-economic damages only.

No objection was made at the time regarding the potential inconsistency of the jury’s verdict and award amounts.

The Smalls decided that they wanted to appeal several issues. Specifically, they wanted to appeal the jury’s failure to award Mrs. Small compensation for the future medical expenses she will incur when she has the surgery. The Smalls also appealed the seemingly inconsistent decision to award Mrs. Small compensation for past medical expenses but not award Mr. Small the same.

The defendant’s argument was simple. The appellate court cannot review these claims on appeal because they were not raised below. Indeed, the court agreed with the defendant and dismissed the plaintiffs’ appeal, noting that it was incumbent upon the Smalls’ attorney to lodge the proper objection at the time so that the trial judge could rule on the issue. Since no objection was made, the decision was considered final.

Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Car Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any kind of Maryland car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. As you can see from the above discussion, the attorney you select to represent you is a critical decision that can have lasting consequences. An attorney’s failure to make a necessary argument or objection, or a failure to file a required document, can result in your case being dismissed without ever being fully considered. Call 410-654-3600 today to set up a free consultation with a dedicated and experienced personal injury attorney at the Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers. With decades of experience handling personal injury matters, we understand that diligence, dedication, and preparation are key to a case’s success, and we take every effort to make sure all of the aspects of our clients’ cases are thoughtfully prepared.

More Blog Posts:

Court Allows Plaintiff’s Bad-Faith Claim Against Insurance Company to Proceed, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published December 2, 2016.

Head-On Collisions on Maryland Roads May Increase as Winter Approaches, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published December 9, 2016.

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