Shelby County Car Accident Case brings $1 million verdict for plaintiff

by Mandy Hicks

In Barnes v. Saulsberry, a man sued a taxi cab driver and the owner of the taxi cab following an accident on the side of the highway. The man was standing on the shoulder of a Tennessee highway waiting for emergency personnel to arrive following a traffic collision. While the man was outside his vehicle, a taxi cab struck a parked automobile. The parked vehicle collided with the man’s car, which then hit the man. As a result, the man allegedly sustained permanent and disabling harm.

About one year after the automobile accident, the injured man filed a negligence lawsuit against the taxi cab driver and its owner in Shelby County, Tennessee. According to the man, the defendants caused him to suffer numerous broken bones, ongoing pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and more. Following a jury trial, the man received a damages award of $1 million. After unsuccessfully seeking a new trial, the defendants filed an appeal with the Tennessee Court of Appeals in Nashville.

On appeal, the defendants claimed that the jury received faulty jury instructions, the trial court committed error when it refused to enter a directed verdict in favor of the defendants, and the trial court should have granted the defendants’ motion for remittitur. Before considering the defendants’ claims, the court said it was only authorized to overturn the jury’s verdict if no material evidence supported it. In addition, the appellate court stated it would review the trial court’s decisions de novo.

The Court of Appeals examined the allegedly erroneous jury instructions. Since the defendants failed to address the purported error in their motion for a new trial, the court stated the issue was waived pursuant to Rule 3(e) of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure. Similarly, the court disagreed with the defendants’ claim that the trial court should have issued a directed verdict in their favor based on hearsay testimony because the defendants failed to object to the statement at trial.

The Tennessee court turned to the issue of remittitur. In general, a motion for remittitur asks a court to reduce an excessive damages award that was issued by a jury. According to the defendants, the jurors failed to assign a specific amount of damages for each of the injured man’s claims. The defendants also claimed that the jury was clearly confused because the award was not supported by the record. After reviewing the evidence offered at trial as well as the jury instructions, the appellate court dismissed both claims. The court stated the jury clearly separated each category of damages awarded in its verdict. In addition, the court said it was required to affirm the jury’s verdict because there was material evidence to support the damages award.

Finally, the Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s judgment.

If you were seriously injured or someone close to you was killed in a Tennessee motor vehicle accident, you should discuss your case with a seasoned car accident attorney. To schedule a free confidential consultation with a skilled lawyer, call English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley, LLP at (270) 781-6500 today or contact us online. Our attorneys are licensed in both Tennessee and Kentucky.

Additional Resources:

Barnes v. Saulsberry, Tennessee Court of Appeals 2014

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Appeals Court Overturns Negligence Case Against Kentucky Department of Highways Over Lack of Notice: Commonwealth of Kentucky v. Bunch, January 15, 2015, Kentucky Personal Injury Attorneys Blog

Wrong-way driver kills Brownsville man in traffic accident, January 13, 2015, Kentucky Personal Injury Attorneys Blog