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Tennessee Court Upholds $250K Damages Award for Grocery Store Customer Injured in Bathroom Fall

Law Office of David S. Hagy, PLC

Personal injury cases that do not involve large awards for medical expenses or loss of income (earning capacity) may nonetheless result in a substantial verdict. There are many steps to achieving a truly positive result in your personal injury case, but conveying the extent to which an injury or disability has affected your day-to-day life — even in the absence of substantial economic damage — can result in a large verdict. In the case of one man recently injured in a grocery store bathroom, he and his legal team presented strong enough evidence to convince a jury, and the Court of Appeals, that he should receive a quarter-million dollar judgment for the harm he suffered.

The plaintiff, in February 2012, went to a Maryville, Tennnessee grocery store with his wife. The man stopped to visit the store’s men’s room. In the course of rising from the toilet, he lost his balance and reached for the handrail. As he grabbed it, the handrail came away from the wall, and the man fell, hitting his head. The evidence showed that the grocery store was aware of the defective handrail and thus liability was not strongly contested.

After the incident, the man experienced substantial problems with symptoms that included migraines, light sensitivity, nausea, and vomiting. He presented testimony from his treating physicians regarding his headaches and related problems, and was able to tie those conditions to the head injury he sustained in the fall. The plaintiff asked the jury to award him $250,000 in compensatory damages. The jury returned its verdict: the defendant was found liable and the plainitff was owed damages in the amount of $350,000. But, since the plainitff had only asked for $250,000, the judge entered the judgment of liability but reduced the damages award to $250,000 pursuant to Tennessee law which restricts jury awards to the amount sought in the pleadings.

The store appealed the $250,000 damages award as unreasonably large. In a case in which a defendant attacks a damages award on appeal, even after the trial judge has reduced the award “to conform to the complaint,” the law requires the defendant to show that there was “no material evidence” to support an award of that size. In other words, in situations like this, it comes down to the strength of the evidence that has been provided to the courts.

In this case, the plaintiff had proof that he had been a successful TV and video producer but was forced to abandon that career field because his accident-related injuries made performing that type of work impossible (bright lights). Even though the plaintiff found a new career and success in it, the evidence showed that he still struggled with migraines intermittently and had to retreat to a “cool, dark space” until the migraine pain passed. Having put this evidence on the record in his trial, it was impossible for the Court of Appeals to say that there was “no evidence” supporting the $250,000 award, so the trial court’s judgment stood.

Every step of the civil litigation process, from pre-trial to trial to post-trial, can be tricky and contain pitfalls that can stymie you in your pursuit of justice for the harm you’ve suffered. That’s why you need experienced personal injury counsel representing you at every step along the way. The diligent Tennessee premises liability attorneys at the Law Office of David S. Hagy, PSC have been providing skilled and determined advocacy for injured people in Tennessee for many years and are here to discuss how we can help you with your case.

Reach us online or call (615) 975-7882.

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