Determining Damages in Tennessee When the Jury’s Verdict Exceeds the Amount Requested

It is a well-established principle of the law that damages are, in most instances, for the jury to decide. When a plaintiff and a defendant have a jury trial, and a jury finds the defendant liable, the jury will then address the amount of damages that the plaintiff should receive. Typically, a jury’s award will follow logically from the evidence presented at trial, or the request for damages that the party has made. However, on some occasions, a jury’s damages may seem excessive, or too low, in relation to the evidence presented. When this happens, one or both parties may request to have the damages amount changed by arguing that the current amount is not supported by the material evidence. A recent case before the Tennessee Court of Appeals addressed a request for a damages reduction in a negligence case.

In Glasgow v. K-VA-T Food Stores, Inc., Mr. Glasgow was visiting a Food City grocery store in Tennessee when he had to go to the bathroom. When he attempted to stand after using the bathroom, he lost his balance and went to grab onto a handrail next to the toilet. The handrail ripped out of the wall, and Mr. Glasgow fell over, hitting his head in the process.  Over the following months and years, Mr. Glasgow continued to experience terrible migraine headaches that resulted in nausea, vomiting, and extreme aversion to light.  At trial, K-VA-T did not dispute that it was at fault, but it disputed the amount of damages that Mr. Glasgow had suffered. Mr. Glasgow presented evidence that he was forced to delay his schooling because of the migraines that he experienced and, ultimately, to change careers from television and video production because he could not handle the exposure to bright lights that he experienced in that field.  He also testified that he continues to experience migraines that interfere with his life and his profession.  Mr. Glasgow further presented evidence from his treating physicians that he had not experienced migraines prior to his fall and that such migraines were likely the result of a concussion he experienced during the fall, which could affect him for the rest of his life.

At the close of the evidence, the jury found in favor of Mr. Glasgow and awarded him $350,000.  However, he had claimed damages of only $250,000 in his pleadings and at trial. On this basis, the trial court reduced the jury’s award to $250,000. K-VA-T Stores appealed, arguing that Mr. Glasgow’s damages award should have been reduced even further because it was not supported by the evidence. Specifically, K-VA-T Stores argued that the award was excessive, given that Mr. Glasgow was still gainfully employed and could enjoy work and leisurely activities, albeit with occasional migraines. They contended that an award of $100,000 would fairly compensate Mr. Glasgow for his losses. In contrast, Mr. Glasgow argued that his life had been significantly affected by his migraines and the trajectory of his career permanently changed, so the court’s award was appropriate.

Here, the Court of Appeals held that their review was solely limited to whether or not the material evidence supported the court’s damages award of $250,000. In so doing, they were required to consider all of the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict. Given the fact that Mr. Glasgow had presented evidence that he had to change his career and abandon a previously successful path in television production, and that he continues to suffer regular migraines that impair his daily activities and cause him emotional and physical distress, the Court of Appeals determined that there was material evidence to support the award by the trial court.

Juries are notoriously unpredictable. They often reach unexpected conclusions and opinions during the course of a trial. As a personal injury plaintiff, this can mean that a jury’s damages award may be appropriately high or devastatingly low.  If you feel that a jury’s award is not supported by the weight of the evidence, you can attempt to get the award altered or fight back against a defendant’s efforts to do so as well.

If you are concerned about your claim for damages at trial, experienced Tennessee premises liability attorney Eric Beasley is the skilled and effective advocate that you need in the courtroom. For more information or to discuss the circumstances of your case, contact the Law Office of Eric Beasley today at 615-859-2223.

Related Blog Posts:

Sixth Circuit Denies Negligence Claim for Lack of Physical Injury, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, September 21, 2016

The Risks and Rewards of Jury Trials for Personal Injury Claims, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, August 4, 2016

Tennessee Supreme Court Reverses Course on Damages Caps, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, November 5, 2015