Appeals Court Upholds Jury Verdict Assessing 50-50 Fault Split in Two-Car Accident
A driver who was displeased with a jury verdict finding her 50% at fault for an auto accident where she was injured failed to achieve a better result on appeal. The Tennessee Court of Appeal stated that it can throw out jury verdicts only if they run contrary to all of the evidence at trial and that, in this driver’s case, both she and the other driver offered valid evidence of the opposing driver’s fault, which gave the jury ample grounds for finding the two drivers equally to blame for the accident.
Leona Salyer and Courtney Linnen were involved in an auto accident in Sullivan County when each driver attempted to turn onto a westbound road from opposite directions of Highway 11-E. Salyer was executing a right turn from the southbound direction, while Linnen was turning left from the northbound direction.
Salyer sued Linnen for her injuries. At trial, the Bluff City police chief testified that Linnen told him that she hit Salyer. Each driver testified that she never saw the other until the collision. Linnen denied telling the police chief that the accident was her fault. Salyer claimed she was in front of Linnen but could not explain how her car’s damage was in front while Linnen’s was in the back. The police chief’s report was excluded from evidence at trial.
At the trial’s conclusion, the jury found each driver 50 percent at fault for the accident. Salyer appealed this outcome, claiming that the jury’s decision was contrary to the evidence presented at trial and that the court wrongfully excluded the police chief’s report regarding the accident.
Salyer’s appeal was unsuccessful. The problem she faced was that overturning a jury verdict requires meeting a very high burden. If any material evidence exists that would support the verdict, the jury’s decision stands.
In Salyer’s case, each driver testified that she had a green light when she began making her turn, and each driver stated that she did not see the other driver until the impact. Based upon this evidence, the jury had enough proof to decide that each driver was equally at fault for making her turn and striking the other.
Additionally, the exclusion of the police report did not warrant overturning the outcome. Both sides agreed at trial that the report was inadmissible, and the court allowed the police chief to use the report to refresh his memory when he testified.
In the end, Salyer had presented enough evidence from which the jury could have found Linnen entirely at fault, but Linnen also offered valid proof showing that Salyer shared responsibility. The jury was within its rights as the trial’s fact-finder to credit Linnen’s evidence and decide each woman was 50% at fault.
Pursuing recovery for your injuries resulting from an auto accident involves acting promptly to ensure that you can secure and then present all the evidence that best supports your case. For representation from an attorney familiar and experienced in auto accident cases, consult the Law Office of David S. Hagy, PSC today.
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