It may seem car accident lawsuits are some of the most straightforward types of injury cases.
Unfortunately, that’s not really the case, as there are many complexities and nuances in car accident litigation.
The recent crash case of Cooper v. Thompson, before the Alaska Supreme Court for the second time, is slated to now undergo a third trial.
In this auto collision lawsuit, defendant’s vehicle struck plaintiff’s in December 2008. In the months that followed, plaintiff complained of neck and lower back pain. He had to undergo surgery that next spring.
Around this time, he was dating a woman who had violent tendencies. That summer, the accident victim requested court protection from her. In his injunction request, he indicated she had punched, kicked, stood on and choked him. Although the date of that alleged incident was not specified, plaintiff did indicate it happened after the car accident.
Prior to trial on the car accident case, a hearing was held to determine if information of the domestic violence incident should be admitted into evidence. The court ruled the probative value of the information would be outweighed by unfair danger or prejudice it would present.
Jury returned a verdict in favor of plaintiff, granting him compensatory but not punitive damages. On appeal, both sides argued mistakes with evidence, jury instructions and motions denied. The state supreme court affirmed on most, but refused on exclusion of plaintiff doctor’s causation testimony and a jury instruction regarding “additional harm.”
The case was remanded for a second trial, which occurred in Dec ember 2013. Again, jurors sided with plaintiff, awarding him $1.4 million. This was after trial court ruled the order barring evidence of the domestic violence/related injuries would extend to the second trial.
Again, defense appealed, specifically arguing that the exclusion of this information was improper because it directly went back to causation. The attack by the girlfriend, the court ruled, was relevant because it indicated there could have been other causes for plaintiff’s extensive injuries.
Defense strategy here was to assert the attack by the girlfriend was the result of a new, distinct and separate cause of plaintiff’s injuries, which included cervical disc herniation.
Defendant did not deny fault for the crash, but instead argument the apportionment of fault for plaintiff’s injuries was not correct. The girlfriend had allegedly:
- Punched plaintiff numerous times in the face
- Kicked him numerous times in the ribs
- Awakened him by punching in him in the head
- Choked him while he was lying down
Plaintiff said he had not needed medical intervention for those injuries, and thus, it was not relevant to the pending case.
State supreme court agreed with defense that the issue was relevant, finding the court should not have excluded evidence of the domestic violence attack and injuries. The case was remanded for yet another new trial.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Cooper v. Thompson, June 26, 2015, Alaska Supreme Court
More Blog Entries:
Two Killed in Florence, South Carolina Car Accident, June 26, 2015, Spartanburg Car Accident Lawyer Blog