The Morgantown personal injury lawyers at Cranston & Edwards, PLLC recently obtained a jury verdict in excess of $625,000 for a personal injury victim and obtained an important result from West Virginia Supreme Court in the case of Liston v. Kenney.
Cranston & Edwards, PLLC represented the plaintiff, a 57 year old resident of Monongalia County who suffered significant personal injuries in an auto accident on April 6, 2010. The plaintiff was stopped at a stop light when he was rear-ended by the defendant, who failed to brake at all before slamming into the plaintiff's vehicle. The defendant had consumed "a number of alcoholic beverages" before the crash and was found with a BAC of 0.328% an hour after the collision. He pleaded no contest to first-offense DUI.
The plaintiff's seat was broken by the force of the impact and he suffered serious, painful and permanent bodily injuries which required medical treatment.
The defendant had $100,000 in liability insurance coverage under his automobile policy with State Farm. After State Farm refused to pay the policy limits to settle the plaintiff's claims, Cranston & Edwards, PLLC filed suit on the plaintiff's behalf in the Circuit Court of Monongalia County, West Virginia. The case moved forward into a two-phase jury trial that was handled by Cranston & Ewards, PLLC attoreny J. Bryan Edwards: the first phase of the trial to determine the amount of compensatory damages that the plaintiff was entitled to recover for his injuries; the second to determine whether and to what extent the defendant should pay punitive damages.
Significant Jury Verdicts
On September 21, 2012, the jury returned their verdict for the first phase of the trial. The plaintiff was awarded compensatory damages totaling $325,272.92. The second phase of the bifurcated trial then commenced.
On October 9, 2012, the jury returned a $300,000.00 punitive damage award against the defendant.
Defendant’s Appeal Denied and Jury Verdicts Upheld by West Virginia Supreme Court
The defendant and his liability insurance company, State Farm, appealed the jury verdicts, raising two issues of consequence:
- The defendant argued the trial court erred in applying the collateral source rule to exclude evidence, testimony and argument relating to medical expenses that were discounted or written off by the plaintiff's medical providers.
- The defendant argues that the trial court erred in the punitive damage phase by allowing the jury to hear plaintiff's counsel's questions suggesting that additional coverage may be available to the defendant to pay the jury's excess verdict.
In a 29 page opinion filed on June 4, 2014, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals denied all of the arguments made by the defendant and his insurance company, and upheld the jury verdicts that had been obtained for the plaintiff in the circuit court.
One of the significant rulings made in by Court in the case, which is of critical importance to all West Virginia personal injury victims, is the Court's rejection of the defendant's attack on the collateral source rule. In this regard, the Court ruled: "Where an injured person’s health care provider agrees to reduce, discount or write off a portion of the person’s medical bill, the collateral source rule permits the person to recover the entire reasonable value of the medical services necessarily required by the injury. The tortfeasor is not entitled to receive the benefit of the reduced, discounted or written-off amount." This ruling means that a defendant who negligently injures another person is not allowed to reduce his liabiltiy by attempting to benefit from the innocent victim's collateral source benefits. As a consequence of this case, it is now clear in West Virginia that a plaintiff who is injured through negligence of a defendant is entitled to recover the full amount of his medical bills.
More Information About the Case
The official court ruling by the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia provides all the above information, affirming our firm's verdict and also providing important rulings for personal injury victims with regard to the collateral source rule in Syllabus Points 4 through 7.
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