Gunderson v. Franks (Personal Injury)

In Gunderson v. Franks (2018AP981), the Court of Appeals District IV upheld a jury verdict on damages to a plaintiff involved in a vehicle accident. The plaintiff challenged the jury’s decisions on future damages and whether the court should have provided instruction on the collateral source rule.

Plaintiff Gunderson was injured in a vehicle accident caused by defendant Franks. Franks stipulated to her own negligence, so the question left for the jury was the extent of damages owed to Gunderson. The jury awarded Gunderson damages for past medical expenses, future medical expenses, past loss of earning capacity, and past pain and suffering. The jury did not award any damages for future loss of earning capacity, future pain and suffering, or loss of society and companionship of Gunderson’s son.

Gunderson appealed the jury’s verdict, arguing that

  1. The awarding of future medical expenses but not future pain and suffering was inconsistent.
  2. The jury should have been instructed on the collateral source rule, which provides that damages from the tortfeasor cannot be limited by outside benefits the plaintiff receives. In this case, Gunderson argued that instructions on the collateral source rule were necessary because the jury heard evidence about possible Social Security payments Gunderson received.
  3. There was insufficient evidence to support the award of $0 for future loss of earnings.

The appeals court upheld the verdict. The court found that

  1. The verdict was not inconsistent because there was evidence that Gunderson’s preexisting injuries could account for his future pain and suffering.
  2. Jury instructions on the collateral source rule were not necessary because the jury did not hear clear evidence that Gunderson did receive or would later receive Social Security payments.
  3. The jury heard evidence that Gunderson had extensive preexisting injuries, so the verdict awarding no future loss of earnings due to the accident was supported by credible evidence.

Defendant Franks had also filed a cross-appeal challenging the sanctions against her for failing to preserve data from the accident. The appeals court upheld those sanctions.