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TN Court Tosses $69,000 Car Accident Judgment


It’s a basic principle of personal injury law in Tennessee that if someone negligently causes a car accident, he or she is liable for the victim’s medical expenses. This includes the costs of treating a pre-existing injury aggravated by the accident. Of course, when there is evidence–or possible evidence–of a victim’s preexisting condition, the defense may try and exploit that to argue they are not responsible for the injury at all.

Trial Judge Erred in Excluding Plaintiff’s Pre-Accident Medical Records

On August 29, 2018, the Tennessee Court of Appeals ordered a new trial in a personal injury case after the defendant objected to a ruling by a trial judge that excluded certain medical evidence. Specifically, the defense wanted the jury to see medical records prepared by two healthcare facilities that treated the plaintiff prior to the accident. The defense maintained these records would show the plaintiff’s post-accident complaints of pain and suffering were really a preexisting condition not caused by the defendant’s negligence.

The trial court excluded records from both facilities. But the Court of Appeals held that records from one of the facilities was admissible. The issue here revolved around the legal standard for verifying the authenticity of records used as evidence in court proceedings. Tennessee rules require an affidavit from the authorized “custodian” of the records, in this case the healthcare facility. One of the facilities provided such an affidavit, meaning its records were admissible into evidence and could be “used in any manner” by the defense.

The next question for the Court of Appeals was whether or not the trial judge’s error in excluding the admissible records justified a new trial. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff and awarded her approximately $69,000, which included damages for her medical expenses, physical pain, and mental suffering. The award of medical expenses was for the full amount requested by the plaintiff, the appeals court noted. So if the jury had known about the medical records, it might have reached a different conclusion. As the Court explained, “Although the exacerbation of an injury is compensable, a defendant has the right to put on proof that the injury is an exacerbation of a pre-existing condition.” In this case, the jury only heard evidence that the plaintiff’s injuries were solely the result of the accident. Given this the Court of Appeals decided to “reverse the trial court’s judgment on the jury’s verdict” and order a new trial.

Call a Gatlinburg Personal Injury Lawyer Today

As you can see, personal injury cases do not necessarily end with the jury’s verdict. Savvy defendants will exercise their right to appeal, and in cases like the one above, their arguments will prevail. And the more complex the underlying claim, the more things that can go wrong during retrial.

This is why it is essential to work with a knowledgeable Gatlinburg car accident lawyer who can help you litigate your case from start-to-finish. Contact the offices of Fox, Farley, Willis & Burnette, Attorneys at Law, if you need help with a personal injury claim today.




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