Earlier this March, a Nebraska appellate court handed down a written opinion in a case where the jury concluded that the defendant insurance company was responsible for covering the costs associated with injuries the plaintiffs had sustained, yet awarded the plaintiff no damages. The court ultimately determined that, while a jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff awarding no damages is usually considered vague and must be clarified, that was not an issue due to the specific facts presented in this case and the verdict was affirmed.
Lowman v. State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Company
The Lowmans were involved in a car accident that was caused by an underinsured motorist. Because the motorist's insurance was insufficient to cover all of the plaintiffs' expenses, they filed a claim with their own insurance carrier, under the underinsured motorist provision of their policy.
Prior to the case going to trial, the insurance carrier admitted that the underinsured motorist was at fault, so the only issues for the court to determine were causation and damages. Additionally, the Lowmans withdrew their claims for decreased earning capacity and they also admitted that all their medical expenses had been covered. Thus, the only issue remaining was whether they endured any pain and suffering after the accident.
During the trial, the plaintiffs' attorney told the jurors there was no claim for medical expenses in front of them, and the sole claim being made was for pain and suffering. He continued to tell the jurors that If you think [the plaintiff] is exaggerating, there should be no verdict. If you think she's a liar, a cheat and a fraud, there should be no verdict.
Subsequent to that, both parties rested and the jury was sent back to deliberate. Not long after, the jurors returned with a verdict. The jurors decided that the defendant insurance company was liable for the injuries sustained by the plaintiff, but they also awarded the plaintiff no money damages. The plaintiffs appealed to the higher court, arguing that the zero-dollar verdict was ambiguous. Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that it is not proper to have a zero-dollar verdict in favor of the plaintiff, and pointed to relevant case law in support of their position.
Despite the case law presented by the plaintiffs, the appellate court disagreed with them and pointed to the fact that the plaintiffs' very own attorney had explained that the jury should return 'no verdict' if the jurors did not believe the plaintiff. As a result of the ruling, the plaintiffs will be stuck with the zero-dollar verdict and will not be permitted to file the case again.
Have You Sustained Injuries in an Illinois Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been involved in any kind of Illinois accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation based on the other party's negligence. Of course, having dedicated counsel by your side throughout the process is extremely important to your case's ultimate success. The attorneys at Cavanagh Law Group have decades of combined experience representing clients in all kinds of personal injury cases, and know what it takes to be successful in Illinois courts.