A Cook County auto accident case will be retried on damages after an Illinois Appellate Court decision to grant plaintiff’s motion in Kiggins v. Mather, No. 1-08-1753. At the original personal injury trial the plaintiff had received a verdict of $49,711 for medical expenses and lost earnings. However, the original verdict did not return any damages for disfigurement, loss of normal life, or pain and suffering.
In Illinois, the amount of damages awarded is typically left up to the jury’s discretion. The jury is given judge-approved jury instructions so that the jury can make an informed decision regarding its verdict. Oftentimes if a party disagrees with the verdict their appeal focuses on the content of these jury instructions. For example, in Ready v. United/Goedecke Services, Inc., No. 108910, the Appellate Court considered issues regarding the sole proximate cause jury instruction.
However, in Kiggins, the issue was not the jury instructions, but the jury’s decision itself. Kiggins argued that he should have been awarded damages for pain and suffering and disfigurement. The basis for this argument was that he had suffered more than a minor injury as a result of the auto accident and as such was entitled to additional non-economic damages.
The personal injuries referenced occurred after plaintiff was hit by the defendant’s car while crossing the street. The plaintiff was taken to the emergency room following the crosswalk accident and treated for abrasions and lacerations. The plaintiff continued to seek medical treatment and presented expert testimony at trial stating that he suffered from traumatic brain injury and post-concussive syndrome.
In support of his appeal the plaintiff referenced Snover v. McGraw, 172 Ill.2d 438 (1996), which stated that if a plaintiff only suffers minor injuries then a jury may elect to award only medical expenses without including any pain-and-suffering damages. Upon reviewing this case the Appellate Court sided with Kiggins and stated that his injuries did not meet the level set out as ‘minor’ by Snover.
In Snover the plaintiff only suffered abdominal pain and returned to normal physical activity just days after the accident. However, in Kiggins there was ample evidence to support that the plaintiff had sustained a brain injury and there were no claims that he returned to his regular activities shortly after the auto accident. Therefore, the court held that Kiggins should receive a new trial on damages.
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