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MOTOR VEHICLE TORTS: Jury’s $507,706 Award Failed to Shock Court’s Conscience

Case:  Ekenbarger v. Holloway

Court:  Hartford J.D., at Hartford

Doc. No.: CV 09-5034064S; Court Opinion By:  Stengel, J.T.R.

Date:  Jan. 26, 2012

A court may consider “whether the jury’s award falls somewhere within the necessarily uncertain limits of just damages or whether the size of the verdict so shocks the sense of justice as to compel the conclusion that the jury [was] influenced by partiality, prejudice, mistake or corruption,” pursuant to Saleh v. Ribeiro Trucking LLC, a 2011 decision of the Connecticut Supreme Court.  The plaintiff’s complaint alleged that in 2009 the defendant failed to stop at a stop sign and collided with the plaintiff, who made a complete stop and then continued into the intersection. A jury awarded the plaintiff $11,009 in economic damages and $714,285 in non-economic damages, reduced 30 per4cent for the plaintiff’s negligence to $507,706.  The defendant moved to set aside and for remittitur.  The court found that the jury reasonably could have credited the testimony of the plaintiff, the plaintiff’s witness and the plaintiff’s expert, Michael Shanok, an engineer who estimated that the defendant traveled faster than 25 miles per hour in the intersection.  The defendant’s witness became confused and uncertain after her testified that the defendant stopped.  The 47 year old plaintiff, who used to run regularly, testified that she is unable to run anymore and that her sleep is often disrupted, because she experiences pain.  The plaintiff’s doctor rated the plaintiff with a 17 percent permanent partial disability to her cervical spine. Evidence in the record supported the jury’s award, which failed to shock the court’s conscience.  “A reasonably jury could have found, wrote the court, “that the plaintiff suffered severe and permanent injuries as a result of her collision with the defendant and that she would continue to suffer from those injuries for the remainder of her life.”  The court denied the defendant’s motion to set aside or for remittitur.