Tennessee Appellate Court Upholds Verdict Against Uninsured Motorist Carrier in Car Accident Case

by Mandy Hicks

Most drivers carry at least some uninsured/underinsured motorist protection, but many do not understand the difficulties that may arise when it comes time to make a claim under this coverage. Unfortunately, simply having an accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist does not automatically result in a payout by the insurance company, even when the insured’s injuries are catastrophic or fatal.

Instead, the insured person (or his or her family, in the event of a wrongful death), must negotiate a settlement with the insurance company or proceed to trial against the uninsured person and obtain a verdict. Even then, the insurance company has a right to appeal the verdict on the grounds that it was improper or excessive. This is exactly what happened in the recent Tennessee case of Monypeny v. Kheiv.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were a husband and wife who were involved in a motor vehicle collision near Wolfchase Mall in Memphis in 2012. Both were in their 80s at the time of the accident. They filed suit against the driver who hit them, asserting claims of common law negligence and violation of several state statutes and local ordinances. The wife died not long after the suit was filed, and her children from a previous marriage were substituted as plaintiffs. They added a claim for wrongful death and loss of consortium. The couple’s uninsured motorist carrier entered an appearance in the suit because the defendant driver was not insured.

The case went to a jury trial, and the jury found the husband 15% at fault and the defendant driver 85% at fault. After reducing the jury’s verdict to reflect the finding of comparative fault and the statutory cap on non-economic damages, the trial court entered judgment for $1,026,884.10 for the husband and $1,152,371.36 for the late wife’s claim. The children were also awarded $382,500 for loss of consortium of their mother.

The Appellate Court’s Determination

The insurance company appealed the jury verdict, asserting various errors. (The husband died from other causes, and his children were substituted as appellees.)

The insurance company tried many arguments to make its case. The arguments were the following:

  • the company should have received a directed verdict;
  • the trial court mishandled the scope of cross-examination;
  • there should have been a mistrial due to an improper closing argument;
  • the trial court’s ruling concerning notations on medical records was erroneous;
  • the appellees’ attorneys were guilty of wrongdoing;
  • the jury instructions were not proper;
  • the trial court erred in its decision concerning admission of medical bills from a long term assisted living facility;
  • the verdict was excessive;
  • the trial court incorrectly applied the non-economic damages caps;
  • the insurance company was entitled to additional credit for medical and death payments, and
  • the trial court erred in its decision concerning discretionary costs.

Finding that there was material evidence to support the verdict, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s order against the insurance company and rejected the numerous arguments against the finding in the case.

To Speak to an Experienced Car Accident Attorney

Car accident cases can be much more complicated that they initially appear, even when the case is against your own insurance company. To speak to a knowledgeable and dedicated member of our legal staff about your car or truck accident case, call English, Lucas, Priest, and Owsley today at (270) 781-6500. Our team of Bowling Green accident lawyers represents clients throughout Tennessee and Kentucky, and we welcome the opportunity to discuss the facts of your particular case with you. The first appointment is free, and many cases are accepted with a contingency fee arrangement.

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