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Civil Practice – Damages – Personal Injury – Jury Instructions – Insurance

By: South Carolina Lawyers Weekly staff//September 25, 2023//

Civil Practice – Damages – Personal Injury – Jury Instructions – Insurance

By: South Carolina Lawyers Weekly staff//September 25, 2023//

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At plaintiff’s personal injury trial, there was a single brief mention of insurance, unrelated to the issue of damages. Both at the charge conference and after the deliberating jury sent a note saying it “needed to know what insurance has paid for/from both parties,” plaintiff unsuccessfully asked the court to charge the jury that it could not consider insurance coverage. Instead, the trial court responded to the jury’s note by reminding them, “You are to consider only the evidence presented during this trial.” Under the circumstances, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in declining to give the instruction requested by plaintiff.

We affirm the $18,500 judgment for plaintiff.

We are unable to see how plaintiff was prejudiced by the circuit court’s refusal to give the requested charge. The jury heard plaintiff’s testimony that he incurred medical bills in the amount of $8,008.58, lost wages of approximately $11,000 to $12,000, and is unable to enjoy activities he enjoyed prior to the accident. And, although plaintiff testified that he wanted to seek additional treatment from a neurologist but could not afford the required up-front payment, the jury also heard him admit on cross-examination that he had not sought treatment since Dr. Hunt released him to return to work in April 2016, almost four years before his January 2020 jury trial. Finally, the damages related to the lost wage claim were hotly disputed— plaintiff’s W-2s from 2015 to 2018 were admitted into evidence and showed a $3,389.00 decrease in his 2016 wages. Thus, evidence supports defendants’ argument that the verdict was well within the range of the trial evidence.

It would be possible to interpret the evidence in this case to find plaintiff’s economic damages totaled $11,397.58, including $8,008.58 in medical bills and $3,389.00 in lost wages as reflected by his 2015 and 2016 W-2s. Plaintiff presented no medical evidence of future impairment, and his claims of ongoing pain and suffering were contradicted by evidence that he had returned to work, had not received treatment since April 2016, and told his physical therapist around that same time that he was “great” and had “nothing to complain about.” For these reasons—and despite the jury’s insurance inquiry—we are unable to find the verdict demonstrates the jury failed to follow the court’s instruction to “consider only the evidence presented during this trial.”

Because the undisputed medical bills and disputed lost wages figure can be accounted for within the jury’s $18,500 verdict and the trial evidence supports the jury’s award, the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in denying plaintiff’s motion for a new trial nisi additur or new trial absolute.


Nelson v. Harris (Lawyers Weekly No. 011-072-23, 9 pp.) (Stephanie McDonald, J.) Appealed from Lexington County Circuit Court (Donald Hocker, J.) Patterson McWhirter, Matthew Rosbrugh, Melissa Garcia Mosier, Kerri Brown Rupert and Amanda Nicole Pittman for appellant; John Martin Grantland, Wesley Brian Sawyer, Rogers Edward Harrell and Sarah Elizabeth Caiello for respondents. South Carolina Court of Appeals

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