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Texas Federal Court Reviews Jury Award for Future Mental Anguish and Future Physical Pain in Truck Crash Case

Texas personal injury victims not only have to prove that a defendant is liable for their injuries but also the extent of the victim’s damages. In a recent personal injury case on appeal, the court considered the standards for awarding certain damages under Texas law, and whether the $2.8 million award could stand.

In that case, another truck crashed into the plaintiff’s truck. The plaintiff filed a negligence claim against the driver and his employer, a trucking company. The crash caused the plaintiff back injuries, requiring him to undergo back surgery and causing him continuing pain. The case went to trial and the jury found in favor of the plaintiff and awarded him over $2.8 million in damages. The jury awarded damages in the amounts of: $150,000 for past physical pain, $120,000 for past mental anguish, $94,243 for past medical expenses, $200,000 for past physical impairment, $1,000 for past disfigurement, $15,000 for past lost wages, $1 million for future physical pain, $140,000 for future mental anguish, and $1.1 million for future physical impairment.

On appeal before a federal appeals court, the defendants argued there was no support for the future mental anguish award and that the future pain award was excessive. The court first considered which standards applied. Federal law in the jurisdiction allows a verdict at 150% of the highest inflation-adjusted recovery in a published decision involving comparable facts. In contrast, Texas does not use a maximum recovery rule, and instead looks at whether the evidence would allow a reasonable, fair-minded jury to come to reach the verdict that the jury reached. However, in a case that is “so factually insufficient or so against the great weight and preponderance of the evidence as to be manifestly unjust,” strong deference to the jury’s verdict is not necessary.

The federal appeals court held that there was no evidence to support an award of future mental anguish, and that the award for future pain and suffering was excessive, remanding the case for a remittitur determination. The court did not state whether the federal standard or state standard should be applied, but rather decided that under either standard the award of $1 million for future physical pain was excessive. The court noted that the plaintiff experiences a “burning” and “tingling” sensation and numbness, is forced to perform an hour of stretching every morning, takes ibuprofen about once a week, and likely will have permanent pain. The court held that the pain was significant but did not warrant a $1 million award because the pain could mostly be managed by stretching and taking an over-the-counter medicine. The court remanded the case to the trial court to determine the amount warranted. The court also decided that there was insufficient evidence to support the award of future mental anguish and vacated that award.

Speak with a San Antonio Injury Lawyer

If you have been injured and believe someone else was at fault, proving damages in addition to liability is essential. The attorneys at Carabin Shaw have been fighting for the rights of accident victims for over 25 years in Texas auto accident cases, worksite accident cases, and more. With offices in San Antonio and across Texas, we can meet with individuals to review their cases and provide legal advice. Call us at 800-862-1260 or use our online form to set up a free appointment.