Measure of Economic Damages - Elements of Past Damages

Posted Tuesday, June 06, 2017 by Ed Harper

When a plaintiff is injured, most likely they will receive medical treatment. Medical expenses to be recovered must be proven to be reasonable and necessary and proximately caused by an event which resulted from the defendant’s negligent conduct.

WPI 30.07.01 states, “The reasonable value of necessary medical care, treatment, and services received to the present time.”

Provided the plaintiff can present evidence establishing the reasonable value and necessity of their past medical care, treatment, and services, and the defendant provides no controverted evidence, then the undisputed reasonable value of that medical care (doctors care, hospital care, nursing care, etc.) treatment and services should be listed as a undisputed item on the damages instruction to be given.

RCW 4.56.250 (1)(a) – The statute defines economic damages in part as “objectively verifiable monetary losses, including medical expenses.”

See the case Palmer v. Jensen, 132 Wn.2d 193, 930 P.2d 597 (1997).

“When the plaintiff has provided the evidence to establish reasonable care and need for treatment and the defendant provides no evidence to the contrary then there is no legitimate dispute.” (Palmer v. Jensen¸ at 199 – 200)

Here, Palmer asked the appellate court determined Plaintiff had proven these elements reversing the trial court’s denial of her motion for new trial. Palmer argued that the jury’s verdict for the exact amount equal to special damages is inadequate because the award failed to include damages for pain and suffering. Palmer was injured due to a motor vehicle accident on January 30, 1990. Palmer sued for personal injuries, alleging general and special damages. The jury held that Jensen was negligent. Palmer was also found to be 25% contributorily negligent. The jury awarded Palmer damages in amounts equal to her special damages. The awards were then reduced to account for Palmer’s contributory negligence.

The Supreme Court reviewed there was uncontroverted evidence established that showed all of Palmer’s medical treatment was related to the accident, was necessary, and was reasonable. (Palmer, 81 Wn.App. at 150.) The defendant provided no contrary evidence and counsel for the defense could only urge the jury during closing to conclude Palmer had failed to prove her treatment was necessary. The Supreme Court determined that “given that there was no legitimate controversy regarding special damages and that the jury’s verdict is exactly equal to plaintiff’s special damages, we hold the jury verdicts jury’s verdict included no compensation for pain and suffering.” This was a mistake.

The appellate court stated “the medical evidence substantiates Pamela Palmer’s claim that she experienced pain and suffering for over 2 years after the accident. We hold the jury’s verdict providing no damages for Palmer’s pain-and-suffering was contrary to the evidence. The trial court therefore abused its discretion when it denied Palmer’s motion for new trial.” The Supreme Court remanded the case for new trial regarding Pamela Palmer’s damages.

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